The Waste of War – the 10th Anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, 7 October 2011

To mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, Renegade Activists prepared a leaflet setting out some of the uses to which $21.3 billion could have been put, this being the sum of increased military spending over the last ten years compared with 2001 levels. A lolly was attached to each “as a taste of what you could have been enjoying”: it was calculated that $21.3 billion would provide “19 712 lollies for every man, woman and child in Australia”.
More seriously, people attending a vigil in the City Square were asked to consider how this sum could have been better spent – or wasted, if they preferred – while two peace activists, Simon Moyle and Jessica Morrison, took turns reading out the names of Australian servicemen and some of the thousands of Afghan civilians killed in the war. There was also an attempt to drop a banner from the balcony of the adjacent hotel, partially thwarted by security guards but still making its point.
Footage from the event, including some of the responses, can be seen on EngageMedia:
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link to video

Click on image for video

Attendance was not large, with the rain not helping, but a good many leaflets were distributed. Among those who did attend were representatives of MAPW Australia, and Greens federal MP Adam Bandt, who also addressed the gathering.

See also Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition

Here is part of the text of the leaflet:

The Waste of War

During the past ten years successive Australian governments have invested in a major expansion of Australia’a offensive military capacity and engaged in two destructive wars, all at an estimated cost of $21.3 billion in increased spending above 2001 levels (Age, 10/9/2011). The results of this have been disastrous, with 29 Australian servicemen losing their lives alongside at least 137 000 Iraqi and Afghani civilians. Millions of refugees have been forced to flee both countries, and despite all the talk of “war on terror” car bombings and terrorist-style attacks on civilians have increased (Guardian, 14/9/2011). Although the waste and scams involved in the government’s insulation scheme were deplorable they pale into insignificance alongside those of the military. Investment in the Collins class submarines, most of which cannot even leave port, has been over $6 billion since 1989 (Australian, 15/9/2011) whilst projected spending on new NH-90 helicopters will top $3 billion despite German Army reports showing they have major defects (Sydney Morning Herald, 2/3/2010).

Spent Properly $23.1 billion could have bought

15712 new school buildings
3 234 133 fully installed solar power systems
6 999 671 cataract operations
1 521 428 571 clean water filter jars for Cambodian villagers
88 750 000 000 meals for the Horn of Africa

Imagine what further cuts to 2001 military spending levels could have also paid for?

International Day of Protest against killing of Hazaras in Pakistan – Melbourne, 1 October 2011

Main banner outside State Library - Systematic Genocide of Hazaras must stop in Quetta, Pakistan

Melbourne’s Hazara community joined with others across Australia and around the world in protests condemning ‘the silent genocide of Hazaras in the name of religion and to urge the international community, the UN and the Australian Government to end their silence on this brutality’ (Media release from the Australian Hazara Foundation). In pouring rain a crowd of close to 2000 packed the lawns of the State Library to hear a succession of speakers, mostly from the community itself but also including guest speaker Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, who earlier provided the following background:

The Hazaras are a minority people in Afghanistan. They have been historically persecuted and driven off their lands. Many have fled to Iran where they are exploited and Pakistan where they are being killed daily. Nearly 100% of Afghanis coming to Australia for protection are Hazaras.

Hazara history is a story of massacres and flight to survive. Most recently Lashkar e Janghvi, a banned Sunni militant outfit, claimed responsibility for this recent assault and in June 2011, issued this warning:

“Just as our fighters have waged a successful jihad against the Shia-Hazaras in Afghanistan, our mission [in Pakistan] is the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shias and the Shia-Hazaras, from every city, every village, every nook and corner of Pakistan. Like in the past, [our] successful Jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta is ongoing and will continue [in the future]. We will make Pakistan their graveyard — their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers.”

They have claimed responsibility for recent attacks. On 31st August, 2011, on the occasion of Eid, as Hazaras were celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Lashkar e Janghvi carried out their threat. They attempted a mass casualty suicide bombing of the biggest mosque in Quetta. They were stopped by Hazara community members, 11 of whom were killed, including a 4 year old girl and a 70 year old man. http://hazaranewspakistan.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/11-hazara-killed-in-attack/

On 20th September 29 people were pulled out of a bus separated from other bus passengers based on their Hazara ethnicity and then shot dead. http://tribune.com.pk/story/256419/gunmen-attack-bus-in-balochistan-20-killed/

All Hazaras are now being targeted not just men, political activists or businessmen, but women are shot at on buses whilst going to the market and young boys are shot at on motorbikes by masked men. The leader of Lashkar e Janghvi is free in Pakistan, making speeches against the Shia community, planning his next assault on the Hazaras.

The Hazara community is deeply fearful that a genocide is next. Australian Hazaras across Australia are grieving for family members lost in these attacks and violence and are asking their Australian friends to support them in condemning this violence against their people both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. http://www.hazara.net/persecution/sept20attack.html

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Young woman with placard - We will fight together for our Rights
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The parallel post on Melbourne Indymedia includes a short flash video clip of the rally during one of the speeches.
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Vigil in Support of Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers – 21 March 2011

On the 21st March, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, with international supporters, planned to plant trees and hold a candlelight vigil in Kabul, Afghanistan. They had asked people around the world to also hold vigils in support. In Melbourne, a small group of peace activists held banners and handed out leaflets outside St Paul’s cathedral…

Among them were army veteran Chip Henriss and Jessica Morrison, recently returned from Afghanistan (see http://jesspeacepilgrim.wordpress.com/):

Jessica and Chip with another peace activist

The leaflet featured a statement by Abdulai, a fifteen year old Afghan boy whose father was killed by the Taliban.(http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/2011/02/i-wish-to-live-without-wars-an-afghan-boy/):

“I see the unchanging system of the rich and powerful in which my world is violently collapsing and human hope for a decent life leaves my heart. So, in solidarity with the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Gaza, the Middle East, North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and with the people of the world, I will walk for peace; I will light my candles; I will plant my trees.”

See further http://www.livewithoutwars.org/lwwarsproject.html

The reverse of the leaflet set out “Reasons to end the Afghanistan War” – see report on a “Peak Hour vigil for Peace” on this site for 14 Sept 2010

There was a ‘wish bucket’:

Large basket decorated with wishes

… and Bob Dylan contributed: