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We have entered the fourth year of killing Afghanis, but we are the ones who are dying. Saddam Hussein is finally in the dock, but we too are guilty. Last night on Australia’s feisty current affair show, Dateline (SBS, Oct 19/05), footage was screened of American soldiers near Kandahar burning the bodies of two of its “enemies”. Flames crackle, limbs jerk, a GI remarks on the gushing of blood from an enemy mouth. In a despondent daze I watch the scene from a suburban couch, toying with pasta. If this sparks a hue and cry, I realise, it won’t make a speck of difference. Atrocities are a motif of today’s terror wars, but no-one of note is ever held to account. When a mighty nation invades countries bereft of air force, navy, or high tech weaponry, it must get boring for the troops. How to let off steam? Bomb a few wedding parties, spray civilians at will, kick down the doors of hovels at midnight, ramp up the torture….

In the early weeks of the 2001 Afghan invasion, Operation Enduring Freedom, SBS showed footage of a CIA guy directing an air strike on a mud built compound holding numerous “Taliban” prisoners, but it didn’t provoke a peep. Neither did a 2002 doco on the apparent role of American soldiers in the suffocation, shooting, torture & secret burial of “up to 3000” prisoners held in steel containers. (Google Massacre at Mazar-i-Sharif by Jamie Doran). Anyway, so here we are today still strutting our stuff on foreign soil, while the locals continue to endure operation freedom. After the Taliban barbecue scene, psy-ops swings into action. Loudspeakers are aimed at the distant hills, where the “bad guys” lurk. In a local dialect, the message is blasted to an elusive prey: “You call yourself Taliban but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family….You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burnt. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be…"

Mesmerised on the couch, I am trying to imagine the Taliban huddled in caves, quaking in their frilly underwear. "You attack and run away like women”, continues the voice of freedom, “Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are..."

And so it continues, this unconscious revelation of frustration at the enemy’s agility. What have our two country’s become? Australian forces are also in the area, but far too wary to be caught on camera. While the diggers may not yet have shred the last vestiges of shame, it doesn’t mean that they are not involved in shameful acts.


As far back as May 2002, Australian Defence Minister, Robert Hill, gloated on TV that our troops had “killed 300 Al Qaida”. However, the London Times Online, May 10/02, revealed how a “small number of armed men, probably Afghans, stumbled across a six-man team of Australian SAS, who were searching a cave complex for weapons. Surprised, the locals raised their weapons and were shot in the chest” … by the Australians. A subsequent search of a nearby village produced an ancient Lee Enfield which was taken as a trophy. The caves contained livestock. The men who our soldiers shot in the chest were shepherds, according to the report. (In 1966, when I overlanded through Afghanistan, the farmers still carried flintlocks and their hospitality was heart-melting). For more on Aussie troops in action see <> Remember, it was an Australian Major attatched to the Pentagon who helped try to hide the crimes at Abu Ghraib. <> Aussies have witnessed torture sessions at the “BIF”, that nasty jail near Baghdad airport. How futile to hope that the “Anzac spirit” or Government denial will shield us from the consequences of our complicity in the serial atrocities for which this era will be remembered and despised.

Psy-ops in Kandahar is not limited to abusive broadcasts and flesh fuelled bonfires. The opening scene of the Dateline doco is the most shocking of all, because of its depiction of everyday cultural sadism. Blasting from the military vehicles patrolling the towns and the countryside, is a barrage of ear shattering rock. Raggedy children look up amazed, even scared, as Humvees bristling with machine guns throb through the streets, forcing camels & buses off road, while Fleetwood Mac bursts across the Hindu Kush. What’s going on here, apart from incredible bad manners?


According to the Dateline narrator, it is all part of a psy-ops scheme to keep the Taliban on edge, but it is also a projection of the New American Century. Those who are bullied into rocking around the clock are Afghani citizens, whose own cultural traditions are exterminated, as they are groomed to join the shopping religion of their occupiers. Probably not a single citizen of Kandahar had a hand in flattening the World Trade Centre, but how many are still paying the price?

A price so many of us are paying. In the most bellicose nations of the ever diminishing Coalition of the Willing, freedom, honour and truth have diminished. Mental illness, obesity and depression is soaring. Democracy has lapsed into shadow puppetry and lying by skillful means is taught on the news. On Constitution Day in Iraq, US helicopters and warplanes bombed two villages near Ramadi, the military claiming to have killed 70 “insurgents”. But an Iraqi doctor reported 20 people killed -- including six children -- and 25 wounded. All the dead were civilians, he said. Such dumb acts of cruelty have been common from the first day of the invasion.

Last week a UN Human rights investigator, Jean Ziegler, accused the US-led coalition of driving citizens out of settlements that were about to be attacked by cutting off supplies of water and food. <>)

Mr Ziegler, a Swiss-born sociologist, said "a drama is taking place in total silence in Iraq, where the coalition's occupying forces are using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population”. He told a press conference in Geneva, "This is a flagrant violation of international law”. But don’t worry, a US military spokesman in Baghdad has denied the allegations. We are the good guys, remember. Big Mac, i-Mac, Fleetwood Mac – the world is within our grasp. Syrians and Iranians should stock up on ear plugs. Ends.
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Richard Neville has been a practicing futurist since 1963, when he launched the countercultural magazine, Oz, which widened the boundaries of free speech on two continents. He has written several books, including Playpower (71), the bio of a global (more...)
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