Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Aussie Digger Dead

It was bound to happen eventually, and now Australia has its first ‘death in action’ in the ‘war on terror’. The soldier was killed and another severely injured in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan.

Australia Defence Association executive director Neil James said; "Australia has been very lucky until now and we are sharing the pain our partners the Canadian, the British and the Americans have been feeling for some time in Afghanistan."

He’s right of course; even given a great deal of skill the Australian troops have been lucky to avoid higher casualty numbers. On the eve of an election campaign that single death is going drive the so far sleeping issue of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the forefront.

According to the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney 64 per cent of now oppose Australia's military contribution to the Iraq occupation. Afghanistan fairs better with only 50% opposed, but neither have been seen as big issues.

In fact, the belief that Afghanistan is a human rights issue has ensured that even those opposed to the action have been very low key about it. Both major parties are committed to our continued presence there, while Labor has signalled quitting Iraq.

I expect that, ironically, the death will raise the noise on moving our troops out of Iraq, but support for the Afghanistan action might well increase. The actions are predicated on totally different imperatives. The reconstruction projects in Afghanistan are delivering real results, unlike those in Iraq.

But the Australian public will be demanding more than reconstruction, there will be increasing calls for the Taliban to be neutralised and the Bin Laden nonsense be finally dealt with.

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