LIAM DUNCAN: So the Government's put this blanket suspension on processing the claims of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, saying that the situation in Afghanistan may be changing. If the situation is changing to the point where we would suspend processing these claims, then why do we still have troops in Afghanistan?
US Ambassador JEFF BLEICH: Yes, there's a hot war going on. The question is whether people are fleeing Afghanistan because they have a well founded fear of persecution by the current Karzai government [doesn't he mean the Taliban?] or whether they're leaving for other reasons, economic or others, because of the conflict which is occurring there and I'm not going to weigh in on that.
TONY JONES: Let's go to this questioner down the front.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: In regards to the refugees coming to Australia, I think perhaps we should reframe this debate. Instead of focusing on border protection to focussing on addressing the root cause of the conflict - the root cause of the refugees, which is the conflict in Afghanistan. I mean estimates range between 30 and 60,000 civilians have been killed by US allied forces, so don't you think that Australia should focus on addressing that situation rather than “border protection”.
TONY JONES: Yeah, okay, Tanya Plibersek?
TANYA PLIBERSEK: How you take a country from years of oppression under a Taliban government through the birth of democracy and all of the complications that they've suffered in that moved to democracy to a period of peace is a very complicated question. I mean, I think everyone supports a peaceful outcome there sooner rather than later, but if you've got, you know, the single bullet, the silver bullet that gets us there, I'd be very surprised.
[Actually Tanya, we've got lots of silver bullets, plus gun-ships, drones, special ops, dudgeons, assassination squads…]
TONY JONES: takes another question from the audience:
BRIAN CONCANNON: Yeah, I'd like to ask the panel their thoughts about the slaughter of civilians and two journalists in Iraq by US soldiers in a helicopter. I'd like to know your thoughts. Do you think it was accidental or an expected casualty of war or possibly something more sinister?
TONY JONES: Jeff?
JEFF BLEICH: Oh, you know, I saw the footage that you're referring to and it's tragic and disturbing and I think the - you know, I don't know any of the answers to the questions that you're asking and because there was an investigation three years ago and the conclusion was that although there were mistakes made that it wasn't intentional and that it was a - I think the secretary of the Defence said, you know, it was one of these things that happens in the fog of war. What I can tell you is that the current administration is committed to two things: one is stressing the protection of civilian life and the second is transparency. If we make a mistake, people are going to know about it.
TONY JONES: Transparency, that's an interesting idea, transparency, because the US military tried to stop this video being shown. Tried very hard - because of the internet, they were unable to do that. Do you think in the end it was a good thing that it was shown?
JEFF BLEICH: You know, I think in the end people understand the consequences of war and this is graphic. I think it's hard on the families, I think it's hard on the people who were involved to see this but at the same time I understand that there is a - that it has increased public awareness and it has increased all of our commitment to, again, protecting civilian life and to assuring that if mistakes happen that we deal with them and we're honest about them.
TONY JONES: Let's hear from [Rupert Murdoch journalist] Greg Sheridan.
GREG SHERIDAN: Well, Tony, I would say that I agree with Kevin Rudd 100 per cent that throughout history, overwhelmingly, the United States has been a force for good, and I think the United States military overwhelmingly has been a force for good. Every American soldier I've known, and I've known a lot of American soldiers, has been a very fine human being and I can't tell you the number of occasions in south east in tsunamis in Aceh and all over the world where the happiest sight on the horizon is a US soldier. But any large body of men and women under extreme stress will make, sometimes, terrible mistakes and that happens in Iraq.
[And in Afghanistan too, Greg, almost every day. This one happened while you were talking: Read it in the Huffington Post, because it won't be in your newspaper:
"Afghans burned tires and chanted "Death to America" after U.S. troops fired Monday on a civilian bus near Kandahar, killing four people and wounding more than a dozen. Afghanistan's president accused NATO of violating its commitment to safeguard civilian lives. Nearly 200 Afghans blocked the highway where the shooting occurred, burning tires, firing weapons and chanting "Death to America".]
TONY JONES: Let me put this to you: some commentators compared the [WikiLeaked] video to the first photos that came out of Abu Ghraib of the torture of prisons by American Troops. Could this have the same sort of impact in terms of public perceptions about the war?
GREG SHERIDAN: I don't think so, partly because the debate is a little more mature now [ie we are hardened to the slaughter] and understand that individual human beings make terrible mistakes but that doesn't of and in itself invalidate a whole thing - a whole enterprise. The other thing is that one of the lessons of Abu Ghraib is that they did come out in the American system - in the American justice system, in the New York Times, and I tell you what, that didn't happen much when Soviet troops were in Afghanistan. [Numerous Abu Ghraib images are still embargoed, hardly anyone has been held to account for the abuses and not not a single US torturer from the former administration has been prosecuted].
JEFF BLEICH: And, you know, if I can pick up on Tanya's point - you know, Tanya was saying, look, this is a tough conflict. It's not one that anyone invited. The Taliban took hold. They worked with Al-Qaeda, a terrorist network…
TONY JONES: Our questioner has his hand up again. And I'd just like to get a microphone to him. In the meantime, I want to hear from Tanya Plibersek on this issue.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: Wafle, waffle, waffle.
TONY JONES: I just want to go back to our questioner briefly.
BRIAN CONCANNON: Yeah, from the footage I saw, it was pretty obvious the cameras weren't guns at all. I believe the soldiers just used it as an excuse to outright murder them.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: Waffle, waffle, waffle
JEFF BLEICH: At the same time we shouldn't have the worst things that happen in a conflict colour our entire view of the conflict. We need to have some perspective on this, which is...
TONY JONES: And, yet, that's what happened with Abu Ghraib, because it seemed like we were getting information that no one knew about that took a layer away from basically the spin that you hear from politicians or the military, usually, and suddenly you see something raw and as it really is. Could that footage be similar?
JEFF BLEICH: No, I think, as Greg Sheridan said, we're more mature [hardened] about the situation right now. I think people understand that there is an effort right now to draw down Iraq. That we are establishing a more effective government and that it is a completely different world there now than it was three years ago…
[A few days ago five massive bombs hit apartment buildings across Baghdad, killing at least 39 people and wounding more than 130 .It was the fourth attack with multiple casualties across Iraq in five days, a spate of violence that has claimed more than 100 lives since Friday.]
TONY JONES: Let's just quickly hear from Joe Hockey on this. Did you see the footage, first of all, and, if so, your reaction to it...
JOE HOCKEY: Yeah. Look, I have...
TONY JONES: ...as a member of the government that actually took Australia to war.
JOE HOCKEY: Yeah, look, I have seen the footage. It's very disturbing footage. It reminds us of the price of war, which hasn't changed since the beginning of humanity, but what it should do is make us more vigilant and it should make us more transparent and I agree with Tanya it's actually good that the footage got out, because it reminds everyone that there is a very real cost to war.
TONY JONES: We've got one other person with their hand up. We'll hear from you and then we'll quickly move on.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: The history of US foreign policy has often been one of trying to reconcile America's political values with the reality of exercising a great power's power and so I'd like to hear the panel's view on how well America has done this in recent history and whether the Obama Administration is doing a better job of reconciling these competing values?
JEFF BLEICH: My view is that the United States tries to do that right thing. That has been the greatness of the country. Yeah, we make mistakes and we have had periods that we regret but over the long haul the motivations of the American people, the motivations of our leaders have always been to try and accomplish a better world...
JOE HOCKEY: Hear, hear.
JEFF BLEICH: ...a safer world, a cleaner world, a stronger world…
JOE HOCKEY: Hear, hear…
[A world where politicians refuse to count the dead and injured, and are barely aware that 4 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes and …. but why go on?]
JOE HOCKEY: Hear, hear…
|Afghan troops killed  ||8,587 || |
|Afghan troops seriously injured  ||25,761|
|Afghan civilians killed  ||8,309 || ||Afghan civilians seriously injured  ||14,956|
|U.S. troops killed  ||914 || ||U.S. troops seriously injured  ||2,742|
|Other coalition troops killed  ||647 || ||Other coalition troops seriously injured  ||1,941|
|Contractors killed  ||75 || ||Contractors seriously injured  ||2,428|
|Journalists killed  ||9 || ||Journalists seriously injured  ||unknown|
|Total killed |
|18,541 || ||Total injured |
# Casualties in Iraq:
|Iraqi troops killed  ||30,000 || ||Iraqi troops seriously injured  ||90,000|
|Iraqi civilians killed  ||815,411 || ||Iraqi civilians seriously injured  ||1,467,740|
|U.S. troops killed  ||4,376 || ||U.S. troops seriously injured  ||31,616|
|Other coalition troops killed  ||318 || ||Other coalition troops seriously injured  ||2,290|
|Contractors killed  ||933 || ||Contractors seriously injured  ||10,569|
|Journalists killed  ||141 || ||Journalists seriously injured  ||unknown|
in Iraq: http://paksiasat.com/2010/04/07/casualties-in-afghanistan-iraq/