Dear Prime Minister Julia Gillard,
I first heard the news yesterday afternoon at around three o’clock. It was Triple J’s hourly news headlines, where I so often do hear snippets of news for the first time – in fact it’s just about the only news I ever see or hear these days, although calling that hourly compilation of articles-in-brief that passes for a news bulletin “news” is probably stretching it. More like elongated headlines I think, but I digress.
“A dark day for Aussie troops”, the newsreader started, in forlorn tones. My curiosity was piqued. “Australia’s worst day since Vietnam”, she went on. Oh my buggery bollocks this sounds bad, I thought to myself. “Five Australian troops have been killed in Afghanistan…”, came the eventual clarification.
What? Hang on, did I miss something there? Five? From all the dramatic hoo-hah at the head of the bulletin, I was fully expecting to hear that twenty troops, or fifty, or a hundred, or even an entire company had been slaughtered or blown up or something. But five? And not just five, but three in one incident involving some random Afghan National Army rogue who went postal and two others in a random helicopter crash.
And then, dear Prime Minister, there you were, looking and sounding as regal as ever. “This is news so truly shocking that it’s going to feel for many Australians like a physical blow” you said, in your usual scripted, single-tone kind of way.
Really, Julia? A “physical blow”? I don’t want to sound callous here, but as sad as I’m sure this is for their families and friends, my reaction to the news was actually more of an exceedingly detached and internalised ‘oh that’s sad’, like the way anyone would shrug their shoulders at learning of any inevitability. When did the death of a soldier in a war zone become such a bone-chillingly unexpected outcome? They’re all there with their high-powered weapons, amidst others with their own high-powered weapons along with various largely indeterminate positions on the whole state of play – is the death of one or multiple soldiers under such conditions really so shocking?
You can label them the ‘International Security Assistance Force’ all you like. The reality is that we’ve been up to our ears in this thing for nearly 11 years Julia. In fact we’ve been at it for so long now that I think the average Australian on the street, if asked to explain why our troops were even still there, would probably struggle to respond in any coherent fashion.
And throughout, a total of 38 Australian troops have been killed. 38 troops in 11 years.
To put that toll into some perspective, more than 100,000 Australian soldiers were killed during the ten years of World Wars I & II.
None of which is intended to take away from the pain and grief felt by those left behind after the deaths of our 38 troops. Of course it’s sad. It’s awful. That they had to be there at all was bad enough. For this last five to be picked off by a crazy terrorist and a random chopper malfunction is even more sad.
But Prime Minister Gillard, please – enough of the melodramatic yet still ever more monotone speeches. The repeated words and phrases. The welling-up of the eyes. The histrionics. The overly dramatic references to the emotional response of a nation that you can’t possibly know the true extent of, let alone speak for. Please, feel free to express whatever degree of your own sympathy, or the Government’s sympathy, you feel is needed, but please don’t tell the waiting media – and, consequently, the very public you seek to represent – that we’re essentially a nation of emotional cripples, utterly brought to its knees by the revelation of this latest chain of unfortunate events.
Because, dear Prime Minister, you seem to be forgetting one very key thing here: they were soldiers! They went into a war zone. Soldiers in war zones die. It’s happened throughout the course of history and will continue to happen for as long as human beings are stupid enough to believe that war, weapons, death and destruction is the way to resolve anything.
But Ms Gillard it’s more than that, isn’t it? They were soldiers sent into a war zone by one of your predecessors. They were soldiers who were still in that war zone because neither you nor any of your predecessors have had the balls to just make the call to get them all the hell out of there!
Those five soldiers died, Julia Gillard, because of you. Thanks to you and the decisions of you and your Government and your predecessors and their respective Governments. Plain and simple. No need to embellish it with dramatic statements, tears and quivering lips coz that’s just about the sum of it.
So quit it with the melodrama Julia! No more tears (enough is enough)! If it’s so dreadfully upsetting, do what you’ve thus far singularly failed to do and get them all out. Just because the United States believes it has a God-given right to be the saviour of everyone and everything, to poke its nose into the affairs of every other nation on the planet and to take offensive action whenever certain countries aren’t playing the game the way the US believes it should be played, Australia should not be hog-tied to the same approach simply for the benefit of the political agenda.
If Afghanistan is still as dangerous as yesterday’s situations imply, we simply ought not to be there at all.
Again, Prime Minister, I hasten to add that I’m not trying to sound purposefully cold or even particularly obtuse about this. Fact is, I’m not a supporter of war of any kind, nor for any reason. Never have been, never will be. But I’m even less a fan of disingenuous melodrama.
Next time the thought strikes you Julia, save it for the election trail… or is that what you were doing?
With thanks & moist regards,