Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


The Benefits of War: Abbott’s “Discrete Settlement” Program

The Benefits of War: Afghan Helpers and Abbott’s “Discrete Settlement” Program

by Dr. Binoy Kampmark
June 1, 2014

The Abbott Government has made a point to shock more than awe in its short time in office. (It is hard to be awed by the Prime Minister, whose behaviour has been expected.) It has taken the program of the previous Labor government further in chastising and banishing asylum seekers. It has created seemingly insuperable legal barriers in arriving, legitimately, to Australia. It has grovelled and fawned before US power interests while dismissing concerns of unwarranted mass surveillance. It has taken the hammer to affordable education, proposed increases in the costs of medical services and funnelled more money into defence.

Then came the announcement, made in somewhat hushed tones, that 500 Afghans, many of them involved in interpreting duties for the Australian Defence Force, have been resettled in Australia. For Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, “This policy reflects Australia’s fulfilment of its moral obligation to those who provided invaluable support to Australia’s efforts in Afghanistan.”

The move is tantamount to saving a group of individuals from slaughter in an uncomfortable historical situation. (One interpreter awaiting his departure to Australia was killed in a Taliban attack last year.) It is axiomatic occupations breed collaborators and necessary opportunism. Others do not necessarily take kindly to the effort. A collaborator is fodder for those who feel that the book of grievance needs to be balanced in the wake of the occupier’s departure. Local scores will always be settled.

While many Afghans who have fled their ruined state are finding themselves in Australia’ broader Pacific network of camps, those who assisted the very forces of the Coalition occupation have been given flowers of welcome, a smorgasbord of gifts from housing to medical services. Fortress Australia, on this occasion, will make a grand dispensation – you helped us fight a war that we lost, or at never rate never won, and now, we will repay you.

It is a fact that has escaped commentary in Australian media and political sources. These people, surely, would never have needed resettlement had the mission, if you want to call it that, been competently, and successfully, executed. There would be schools, institutions, a peaceful regime of order. Instead, in what can only be an admission of veiled defeat similar to Iraq and Vietnam, those helping foreign forces must leave in fear. The Taliban forces are closing in.

The Abbott government’s approach to the relocation program is similar to the amenable police agency who relocates individuals under a witness protection program. There might be a cloud over your reputation, and your life – after all, we helped put it there. “Many of these employees,” explains Defence Minister David Johnston, “were placed at significant risk of harm by insurgents in Afghanistan, due to the highly visible and dangerous nature of their employment.” While it happily defames Afghans who arrive by boat, slandering their credentials and condemning them for non-existent offences on the high seas, the Abbott government will give those complicit in Australia’s war effort a helping hand.

This is not to draw a fine line under matters of allegiance – all is fair, and unfair, in brutal love and vicious war. Conflicts produce pressing interests in survival. Constellations of loyalties form, less to do with genuine fidelity than the need to get by. (How quickly did the Australian authorities forget those Afghan recruits they trained who fired and killed their own personnel.) Children need to be fed; the family needs protection.

It is, for all of this, fitting to point out the instinctive hypocrisy in dealing with a war torn country whose refugees are treated under different regimes. Those loyal to the occupation program have stolen a march. Those fleeing that very same conflict have received the opprobrium of their receiving country. That this distinction be drawn by governments who were childishly keen participants in the invasion, and continued occupation, of Afghanistan, suggests a greater picture on where culpability lies.

The Abbott government has taken the steps of its predecessors, following an Australian history that distinguishes between good and bad immigrants, even if they come from the same loose ethnicity. In the late 1930s, there was a fear that only “bad” Jews were heading for Australia’s shores, the sort of unassimilable central and eastern Europeans who might, according to authorities, rile an otherwise well-tempered populace. No Sir John Monash among them. He, after all, was one of us.

An electorate hardened and fed on the rhetoric of turning back boats might well be puzzled with such gestures of “humanitarianism”. As if making a point, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews was keen to point out that the arrivals were good future citizens who had fought the good fight. “Many have already commenced employment of vocational training opportunities and their children are enrolled in school.”

A curious unfolding of events has taken place. Afghans subjected to the withering, and fictitious label, of “queue jumper” will no doubt be puzzled by the momentous leap made by those warm with Australian Defence personnel. Some get the steaming, brutal conditions of Manus Island, with privatised security forces and psychologically wearing facilities. Others get accommodation, health services and household assistance. War always pays, for some.

*************

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Myopia Of The Business News

Listening to the business news is a bit like eavesdropping on the radio transmissions from space aliens. There is no discernible connection between the concerns of the captains of these space ships – the bank economists and the finance house spokesmen – and the concerns of ordinary listeners back on Planet Earth. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Clinton, Sanders, Trump And Cruz

Come November, the world will have a new US president-elect and the least unlikely winner still looks to be Hillary Clinton. Right now though, the polls are showing a rocky stretch ahead for her in the immediate future. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Sean Penn And El Chapo - Vanity, Hollywood And Reportage

Leaving aside Sean Penn’s personal history with drug use, let alone alleged efforts to get a slice of celebrity in portraying a drug lord, the furore surrounding his interview with El Chapo is instructive in a few respects. One is worth noting: the blind rage it has provoked with some US political figures and advocates who show how utterly lacking in understanding they are of their own liberal market system... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Podemos, And Spain’s Election Stalemate

By hard grassroots effort, it convincingly rejected the fragmented, individualising forces that had shaped political life for the past few decades – instead, it organized its supporters on the basis of their common, communal experience via collective decision-making aimed at rolling back (a) the austerity-driven cutbacks in public services and (b) the home evictions of those unable to meet their mortgage payments. More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Merkel, Refugees And The Cologne Attacks

Huge pressure was already on Angela Merkel’s shoulders prior to the New Year celebrations. When it came in its waves of chaos on the eve, the security services in Cologne were found wanting. The police document from Cologne, leaked to Der Spiegel, speaks of chaos and lack of control. More>>

NZ Media In 2015: ‘Digital First’ Strategies Put Journalists Last

Journalism in New Zealand is threatened by the constant culling of editorial jobs and current affairs programmes… Additionally, journalists investigating issues which are in public interest have become under scrutiny as seen most clearly in the cases of Nicky Hager and Heather Du-Plessis Allen. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news