What is worse than today’s shocking revelations in The Australian that our troops kept four suspected militants in a dog pen overnight is Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s justification of this breach of the Geneva Convention.

It did not occur to any of the soldiers involved to think of the human rights and dignity of the 70 year old “suspect” held in the pen who was released the next day.

It does not occur to Joel Fitzgibbon that our international reputation and the safety of our own troops in Afghanistan and other tragic theatres of war would be better served with an apology, an admission of error and a memo to all soldiers to treat “suspects” and captives in a humane manner. One might add, the same manner that we would like to be treated!

And what are we doing in Afghanistan anyway?

Did we not learn the expensive lessons that have been learnt by every nation that has invaded Afghanistan and lost throughout history, the last of which being the Soviets whom we, in the West helped to defeat in Afghanistan?

Do we need to add our name to the list of failed invaders of Afghanistan?

It would seem, not only failed invaders, but ones that show gross disrespect for human dignity and readily defend breaches of the Geneva Convention.

We are in Afghanistan and in Iraq on a resource grab, in doing so, we should not lose sight that our invasion is affecting the lives, or in some cases, ending the lives of human beings and depriving others of their liberty.

In his thoroughly referenced book Afghanistan, the Genesis of the Final Crusade, Abid Ullah Jan adds an element of appeasement to the far right Christian fundamentalists who continue to justify and celebrate the bloodied invasions of the neocons.

We have already lost two of our sons in Afghanistan, the last things that our fighting men and women need is to aggravate the Afghan population and create more propaganda against them.

With the coalition tolls increasing in recent months, this ministerial justification of on-the-ground inhumanity will serve to embolden the insurgency and convince more and more ordinary Afghans to view our presence as nothing short of occupation with all the inhumanities that are generally associated with occupations.

We need our government to reflect on its position in this small global village, we cannot pretend to be the good cops when we brazenly breach the international conventions, we cannot pretend to be bringing freedom if we are taking away people’s lives and dignity and abusing their basic human rights.

With such a ridiculous attitude, we should consider whether Mr. Fitzgibbon is the right person to be holding the post of minister of defence.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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