Nicholas Brody writes: Re. “The steady and widespread erosion of support for the Afghan conflict” (yesterday, item 1). Thanks to Bernard Keane for injecting some reasonable commentary on the NATO war in Afghanistan.

One issue: Bernard writes “The 2001 attack on the Taliban, their removal and the occupation of the country was justified morally and legally.”

Although I understand your desire to contrast it with the war on Iraq, there is no way the invasion was justified morally and legally. The initial justification of the war was to find Osama Bin Laden. The Taliban asked for evidence of his involvement in the crimes of 9/11, the US refused to give evidence, and they invaded. Certainly not in line with international law.

Also, congrats on Crikey funding the polling of Australian support for the war — however, please focus your reporting on what the Afghan people think. Who gives a f-ck what Australians think?

Ben Hall writes: Nice piece. I am half way through reading Sun Tzu and just got to the bit about how wars should never be protracted due to the cost on the invader. And that only stupid leaders wage a long drawn out campaign. But today this no longer seems to be the case as no-one is going in and conquering. There is just occupation and a long drawn out war.

As most commentators say “it’s complicated”. Yes it is, but that doesn’t mean you need to hang around and let people get killed. If you don’t have a strategy, then get out, come back home and regroup and don’t go back until you have something concrete to do. Odds are once they left, they wouldn’t return — so why stay?

Pretty normal government behavior, unless someone comes up with something better we just continue to do what we have always done — because they can, because someone else is paying the bills and doing the work.


John Richardson writes: Re. “Israel in the dock — but what do Israelis think?” (yesterday, item 13). So, Israeli opposition parliamentarian, Nitzan Horowitz, believes that one reason why Israel is vilified in world opinion is that “people have higher expectations of us than many other countries as we are a liberal democracy.”

Perhaps this political ubermensch would be better informed if he heard voices closer to home …. like the 96 year old Haganah veteran, Dov Yirmiya, who penned the following on the Gush Shalom website last week ….

“I am one of the remaining veterans of the Haganah, who had served in the British Army and thereafter were among the initiators of the Ha’apala [illegal immigration] of Holocaust survivors, struggling with the forces of victorious Great Britain for the right to arrive at the shores of this country.

Its warships and soldiers, those who had just fought and defeated the worst of all enemies, went over to attacking with fury and hatred our cockleshell boats which set to this country from the shores of Italy, full of survivors of the Nazi hell. The warships chased after them, closed around them, sometimes actually crushing them — and shot at them, killing and wounding many of their passengers.

And now I have observed with horror and a broken heart the repetition of the same scenes — but with the roles reversed. It is the soldiers and sailors of the force which boasts of being the ‘Israeli Defense Forces’ who are now the pursuers and killers. There is no limit to the disgrace, the cruelty and the hypocrisy which wrap our criminal acts with words of lie and malice.

I am depressed to the bottom of my heart … how could we have fallen so low??? How did we become an unjust and cruel people, turning from persecuted to persecutor?

Yes! It could have been expected! For 19 years we have ‘contented ourselves’ with a system of a military government over the Arab minority which remained with us after the War of Independence, dispossessing and discriminating them. There followed the 43 years of intoxicating nationalist bravado, which spread through our people like an addictive drug after our victory in 1967, which brought the Greater Israel movement to the power which it since then holds in Israel.

Our golden opportunity as victors, to make peace with the Palestinian people, vanished at once. The fascist Zionist regime, governing in the style of the Italian in North Africa, violent conquest and rapist settlement of the land of Palestine and its people… But with the latest move, the tragicomic charge of the ridiculous Zionist ‘armada’ in an effort to tighten its stranglehold on an enclave of a million and half miserable Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, our arrogant little people have clearly gone too far.

The huge burden of injustice and mad villainy with which Sicarii Israel is loaded brings about quick disaster. Already in the foreseeable future it is about to finally destroy Israel’s chances of survival. The ‘Mene Mene’ of destruction is already inscribed in blood on our walls. Woe to our children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to whom we leave such a legacy…”

What’s that saying about those who don’t learn from history?

Prime ministerial citizenship:

Gavin R. Putland writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). According to yesterday’s tips and rumours, “If Julia Gillard ever takes over as PM while Tony Abbott is Liberal Party leader it will be the first time since the Great War (1916) that both major Australian parties have been led by UK-born people.”

So what?  Kevin Rudd is the first Australian Prime Minister to have been born an Australian citizen. All his predecessors were born before the passage of the Australian Citizenship Act 1948, and were consequently born as British Subjects whether they were born in Australia or the UK.

That doesn’t cover Johan Cristian (“Chris”) Watson, who was born in Chile to an Irish Kiwi mother and a German Chilean father and was never naturalized, wherefore he was never eligible to be an MP, let alone a PM!

Climate change:

Steve O’Connor writes: The eccentric climate-change contrarian Christopher Monckton is easy to dismiss as having little credibility. He’s been accused of bending the facts to suit his purpose and has elevated name-calling to an art form, yet in a recent tirade against Professor John Abraham I believe he wrote something quite profound:

“[most scientists] have no more expertise in predicting or even understanding the strange behaviour of the complex, non-linear, chaotic object that is the Earth’s climate than the man on the Clapham omnibus.”

Perhaps unintentionally, he articulates the uncomfortable thought that’s been lurking in the back of my mind for some time: our planet’s future is governed by policies largely informed by crude computer simulations which are in turn programmed with heroically-optimistic assumptions.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey