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FLIGHT FROM AFGHANISTAN
Australia’s inaction the moral downfall of us all
The billions of dollars that Western nations spent on their biggest failed war since Vietnam – and the lives they lost in Afghanistan – seem to have been a tragic, total waste (“Mission fail, the fiction exposed”, The Age, 17/8). Perhaps, instead of bombs, they should have been dropping food parcels. But worse than that, the abandonment of millions of Afghani lives is a “mission fail” of Western nations to uphold human rights, the equality of women, and our collective conscience. Watching the downfall of Kabul, I glimpse the moral downfall of us all and I feel ashamed to be human.
Geoff Allshorn, Montmorency
Predictable end to occupation, full of regrets
Whatever the local contributing factors to the dramatic change in circumstances in Afghanistan, the decision of the Trump presidency, in its first year, to announce intended US troop withdrawals from many parts of the world was a clear signal to local organisations such as the Taliban that a new set of ground rules would come into play as the US departed.
These organisations have known for four years of a possible power vacuum in countries such as Afghanistan and, unlike some Western leaders, have displayed a capacity for long-term planning, based on the likelihood of US withdrawal, that has allowed them to be ready for swift action when the vacuum occurred.
That this ramification was not foreseen by the Trump administration is regrettable. The Biden administration, left to follow through on Trump’s “peace” agreement with the Taliban in May 2020, was handed a no-win situation – that its officials appear to have misread the Taliban’s undertakings, and capacity to regain power quickly, is equally regrettable. More regrettable is the fact that many involved administrations, globally, seemed unable to recognise the probability of history being repeated. That Australia is regularly a party to these unsuccessful forays is most regrettable of all.
Brian Kidd, Mount Waverley
Every ‘rescue’ mission has been a shemozzle
How is it in this day and age that we can let what is little more than a terrorist group govern a country? Looking on from the outside it has been a seamless transition, one that obviously has been meticulously planned months in advance, most likely dating back to Trump’s announcement of complete troop withdrawal. Every country that the US has marched into under the guise of rescuing it from a dictatorial regime, as well as making sure their own oil interests were kept safe, has been a complete shemozzle. The sad thing is we were involved. We as a world should be better than this in not letting it happen. Abandonment does not even come close to describing the way the Afghanis must feel.
Catherine Gerardson, Watsonia North
Women, children to pay the highest price
Members of the UN and other Western dignitaries are expressing well-founded, but arguably belated, concern for the welfare of Afghani women and girls. War, itself, is notoriously dangerous for women. In the words of Amnesty International: “Instability and armed conflict have always led to an increase in all forms of violence, including genocide, rape and sexual violence”.
Most of the world’s 80 million displaced people and refugees in UNHCR camps are women and children – the legacy of wars almost universally started by powerful men, with no regard to the collateral consequences for entrapped civilians.
Meanwhile, history has largely ignored women’s harrowing wartime experiences, including sexual violence, the loss of male relatives, and the destruction of their homes and families. Out of sight and out of mind, women become homeless widows, single heads of families, and carers for the injured, orphaned and elderly. Daily, they risk attacks when foraging for food and firewood in land riddled with mines.
The welfare of women and children needs to be a priority concern.
Barbara Chapman, Hawthorn
Freedom to discriminate
What Vanessa Cheng and Mark Spencer (“Religious belief deserves protection”, The Age, 17/8) omit from their argument is that the schools in question receive substantial taxpayer support. What they are asking for is the freedom to use taxpayer funds to discriminate against certain people, where such discrimination would be unlawful in a state school.
While freedom of religion should be part of our society, it should not be used as a means of discrimination against others. Let us not forget that less than 100 years ago, there were some who argued that mixed race marriages should not be permitted, citing their religious beliefs in support.
James Proctor, Maiden Gully
I found myself quite horrified reading Vanessa Cheng’s and Mark Spencer’s defence of the indefensible. The “triplethink” inherent in their argument was that one can eject someone from a school based on who they are – and rationalise this on the basis that sexuality is a (religious) belief and somehow convince yourself that rejecting a person on this basis is an act of “humility and love” beggars belief.
The fundamental principle of a school surely ought to be to encourage the development of acceptance and understanding, rather than exceptionalism and exclusion.
David Baxter, Mornington
I understand that in Australia we have freedom of belief, as long as these don’t hurt others. Isn’t it reasonable for a Christian or other faith-based school, to be allowed to only employ people who agree with their beliefs? Otherwise employees with different beliefs could, even unintentionally, undermine the school’s teachings. Likewise shouldn’t teachers choose to teach in a school that reflects their beliefs?
Marguerite Marshall, Eltham
Now, more than ever, we need our own Australian-developed COVID-19 vaccine. The Delta variant is more dangerous and existing vaccines do not prevent person to person transmission – and will not, therefore, prevent disease spread and the need for shutdowns. Flinders University professor Nikolai Petrovsky’s vaccine, COVAX-19, specifically protects against variants (such as Delta). The vaccine is now in Phase 3 trials and will be, hopefully, authorised for use soon and rolled out in many countries.
Wendy Goodwin, Flagstaff Hill
Goodwill running low
Annika Smethurst (“Tougher measures risk alienating even those toeing line”, The Age, 17/8) is absolutely right. Most people have obeyed the lockdown rules. Six lockdowns are a lot but we gritted our teeth and put up with it once again. A few selfish people flouted the rules and deserve to be punished but why should the rest of us have to suffer?
The tougher measures imposed are unfair, especially when the WHO advises against an “all-or-nothing” approach in the case of the Delta variant. This should have alerted the government to the need for a different strategy. Instead, it has opted for overkill. How much longer can our goodwill last?
Elizabeth Sprigg, Glen Iris
No excuses on vaccination
How dispiriting to read letter after letter calling for increased policing to enforce lockdown. Not one mentioned the single remedy we have against both the virus and the truly devastating social, economic and psychological effects of perpetual lockdowns: vaccines. The attendees of the engagement party were reckless and selfish, fine. The real “covidiots” are people who continue to refuse to get vaccinated. AZ is safe, effective and available to everyone over 18. There are no excuses.
Scott Hurley, Brighton East
Matt Canavan cynically asks whether the Taliban will “sign up to net zero” (“Canavan’s Taliban tweet falls flat”, The Age, 17/8). The accumulated greenhouse gas emissions of Afghanistan are infinitesimal compared to Australia’s. The LNP has to accept that we are one of the highest emitters per head of population and one of the biggest exporters of fossil fuels that will be burnt elsewhere.
We are guilty of crimes against humanity and the animal and plant kingdoms in general. We have a chance and an obligation to save our souls and the planet, but only by taking large-scale urgent action without further obfuscation or pathetic sophistry.
Peter Barry, Melbourne
As a Hawks tragic I want to thank James Morrissey (“Hawthorn need a fresh start without Kennett”, The Age, 17/8) for sharing with us his insights into what is needed to overcome the problems facing our club. As a player who gave us much joy during Hawthorn’s previous era of on-field greatness he knows the level of trust and unequivocal loyalty needed to achieve that success. He is right to pay tribute to Don Scott as the visible leader of the fight to save our club in 1996. However an even more important, though less public, figure was Ian Dicker who took on the presidency in 1996 and established the leadership and administrative infrastructure the club needed. Interestingly one of the last actions of the Dicker presidency was the appointment of Alastair Clarkson as coach. Hopefully Kennett’s sacking of him will be one of his last.
Bill King, Camberwell
Fly Afghans over
The safest way to stop the potential boats (“Desperate Afghan refugees weigh up boarding illegal boats to Australia”, The Age, 17/8) would be to fly them here from Indonesia. It would also avoid the shame of putting more people in indefinite detention.
Helen Pereira, Heidelberg Heights
As auditor-general in Victoria from 1988 to 1999, Ches Baragwanath became the benchmark for upholding the right of the community to be fully informed on how elected officials managed their taxes. He displayed great courage in preserving the public interest in several complex and challenging encounters with governments. His effectiveness in discharging his statutory responsibilities gave rise to government action to remove his authority to undertake public sector audits under the guise of Competition Law reform.
The public response to this action was remarkable with packed evening gatherings taking place during winter months across Melbourne and beyond. The first piece of legislation introduced into the Parliament by the then newly-elected government was to restore the independence of the auditor-general.
Ches Baragwanath was truly the saviour of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office. He was a unique public official who made an outstanding contribution to upholding the public interest and enhancing democracy in Victoria.
Joseph Manders, East Ivanhoe
Target fail no surprise
“‘Unlikely’ aged care staff vaccine target will be hit” (The Age, 17/8) comes as no surprise. In February, the aged care royal commission released 148 recommendations for aged care reform, in answer to which, the federal government announced that a selection of them would be attended to.
Six months on, in residential aged care, there is little noticeable improvement in conditions on the ground for either residents or staff.
Announcements are no substitute for putting hand to the plough to come up with workable solutions and follow through on them.
Ruth Farr, Blackburn South
Time to go hard, again
After our favourite restaurant in Bendigo advised it had knocked back about 50 people from Melbourne at the door in the last four days I really think the time has arrived.
Dan Andrews we must go hard again. Not only a ring of steel at the NSW border but also around Melbourne. I think those on the Richmond pub crawl and those who fronted up at a Bendigo restaurant from Melbourne indicate they do not care for the rest of us so we must all suffer.
Shane Gunn, Heathcote Junction
Keep profits here
There are mumblings about cutting public servants’ wages to pay for the costs associated with the pandemic.
Instead, let’s not proceed with the tax cuts for the big end of town and let’s stop the multinational corporations from repatriating their profits overseas, and we won’t need to cut any wages and we can probably improve Centrelink payments and re-introduce JobKeeper.
Jane Timbrell, Reid, ACT
Back to basics
Has anyone, moaning about the loss of children being allowed to use play equipment in parks, given a thought to some earlier things we could do?
How about using a skipping rope, or hop scotch, all you need is a pavement, chalk, and a pebble, or throwing a ball against a wall, using hands if no bat or racquet is available, or trying juggling; all cheap, easy and non contact, but still developing skills, balance and importantly, fun.
Margaret Hilton, Aberfeldie
Please, stay away
I live in a regional town and have been saddened to hear of the flagrant disregard for lockdown rules with reports of a Melburnian visiting an aged care home in Euroa. Tens of people a day are being turned away by my local cafe alone.
Regional Victorians deserve to maintain our freedoms for following the rules, but there is an attitude from many of “If I’m going down I’m taking you all with me” as a single case here will probably send us into lockdown.
I plead with Melburnians to take the utilitarian approach to preserve the greatest freedoms for the greatest number of people and hopefully we will all be one again soon.
Will Bennett, Soldiers Hill
AND ANOTHER THING …
Last weekend a lot of gooses (not geese) killed the goose that laid the golden egg: our chance of getting out of lockdown sooner than later.
Phil Johnson, Box Hill
We all need to make an effort to avoid LOCKtober.
John Rosenbrock, Mount Martha
Melbourne must be in the running for world’s most unliveable city by now.
Jameela Farouque, Melbourne
Climate, COVID, and now the Taliban: too little, too late. The tragedy of a government out of its depth.
Ralph M. Bohmer, St Kilda West
The picture of Afghans falling from departing military aircraft says it all. Surely worth a thousand words.
Gary Frances, Bexley, NSW
Why was the Australian embassy in Afghanistan closed down prematurely? There has to be a reason, we should know why.
Shirley Videion, Hampton
If a boatload of Afghan women and girls showed up on our shores tomorrow, would we condemn them to years of mandatory detention?
Steve Melzer, Hughesdale
The AFL grand final is a potential super spreader event. If it is held at the MCG, players, staff, officials, spectators and any others should have proof they are fully vaccinated to access the ground.
Basil Jenkins, South Yarra
The AFL goal of the year award should be named as the Eddie Betts medal. Due recognition for a great goal kicker and a great Australian.
Steve Bell, Jacana
Religious belief deserves protection (17/8), as does religious practice: love your neighbour without qualification.
Chris Boon, Wodonga
Well played to Eddie Betts. A true champion.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South
Vale Ches Baragwanath. A man of principle, respected and greatly admired.
Norma Lepp, Mornington
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