Today is the day that we remember our old soldiers. You don’t need me to add to the mountains of respectful words that get written about Anzac day every year. I too am grateful to those who fought and died, in whatever war, to defend their countries and their ideals. But perhaps we should now add a new element to Anzac day. Make it a day to also consider our current soldiers and how they are being used.
Case in point, Afghanistan. For myself, I could accept the argument for sending defence force engineers for reconstruction. But I’ve never been comfortable with the SAS involvement. And now the circumstances surrounding this deployment are growing murkier and murkier. We’re stuck in America’s stalled war, and America itself seems to have no exit strategy. Six New Zealand soldiers have died in that Afghanistan, with one of them (Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell) killed in combat. The SAS has conducted what appear to be revenge counterattacks against those responsible for O’Donnell’s death, amidst disputed accusations that civilians were also killed in that action (see Pablo at Kiwipolitico on this). There are further accusations that the SAS has been handing over Afghanis for torture, with our incoming Govenor General Jerry Mateparae apparently implicated in the scandal.
So, what are we doing in Afghanistan? Defence Minister Wayne Mapp doesn’t seem to know, his answers on Q+A yesterday were hoplessly confused and evasive (go read the transcript). Whatever mandate we had to send troops in 2001 seems to have long since evaporated in quagmire and controversy. In my opinion it is well past time to call it a day, and bring the troops home.