It was a bit strange listening to Key’s interview on RNZ yesterday morning about deploying the SAS to Afghanistan. He kept on awkwardly saying ‘the people of Afghanistan’ rather than just ‘the Afghans’ or ‘the Afghanis’*. The reason soon became clear: “[if they take any prisoners] they’ll be handed over to the Afghanistanian government…. I am confident the Afghanistanian government will honour their commitment [to the Geneva Conventions]”
It would be easy to make cracks about Bushisms and textses but this is actually serious. Call me old-fashioned but I like important decisions to be made by people who have familiarised themselves with the facts. Listen to Key’s interview and it’s clear that he hasn’t. If he had put his mind to the situation in Afghanistan he would know the name of the people living there.
Listen to the interview and it’s clear he actually has bugger all idea what is going on in that country – he thinks it’s an achievement that Bamiyan has a governor (… um, all the provinces do) and can’t describe the military situation in any detail: “the Taliban is, you know, creeping in it’s involvement around the country “. His argument for downgrading and eventually withdrawing the PRT rather than maintaining it or copying the model elsewhere is that it is successful and “ultimately, there are other things that we would like to redeploy this people to do”(umm… in which countries?). He trusts the Karzai Government to obey the Geneva Conventions in regard to any prisoner the SAS captures and hands over to them – which is either hopelessly naive or willful blindness. Not a person in a position to be making a decision on which lives rest.
OK. Enough about Key. Should we be sending the SAS back? I think on balance no. The way to prevent extremists winning is not to go around killing them, that just leads to more extremists and a lot of dead people. The PRT model is the way to go. As Mao (unarguably a very successful guerrilla leader) said, “the guerrilla is the fish and the people are the sea”. Going around killing people’s relatives because they are Taliban (or in the way) just makes the environment for the Taliban more hospitable; reconstruction and peace-building poisons the water for them.
*(which is technically not correct but common enough to appear in dictionaries)