I still, just, support the war in Afghanistan. I still regard the probable consequences of withdrawal in defeat by the Western powers as highly undesirable. I even believe that, for troops in proper strength and with proper equipment, the difficulties of campaigning there can be overrated.
As Kipling put it in the 19th century, a raw British regiment, after suffering an ignominious retreat, returned to discover that "an Afghan being attacked is much less formidable than an Afghan attacking."
But I wish our governments would make some more efforts to explain why we are there, why we are supporting the present regime, and where we are hoping to go in terms of strategic objectives.
It has recently been reported from Afghanistan that a one-legged Afghan Red Cross worker and physiotherapist, Said Musa, 45, is shortly to be hanged by the government, or what passes for the government, for having converted to Christianity.
No defense lawyer will represent him. Some were reported to have dropped the case after receiving death threats. He has been held for about eight months in Kabul prison and reportedly tortured.
He was arrested last May while trying to find sanctuary in the German Embassy following renewed waves of persecution of Christians. He is said to have been offered a reprieve if he denied Christianity but has refused to do this. All this has been known in the West for some time.
The case raises several points. First, where are the protests from that oft-referred-to force, the moderate Muslims? In a fairly long search of the Internet, I have seen no evidence of activity from them on this matter. Yet even from mere considerations of Realpolitik and for the sake of their image before the rest of the world, one would think that they would make some protest.
Second, where are the protests from secular humanists? Again, I have searched and found none. Where are the marchers who turned out for the Viet Cong and more recently for Hamas in innumerable Western capitals?
Third, where are the protests from the major Christian church leaders? The likes of the caprine Archbishop of Canterbury, for example, or the World Council of Churches, generally more than ready to jump on any trendy political bandwagon? I am not suggesting protests by them would have any effect on the Afghan government, but the bigger churches are in a strong position to put pressure on Western governments if they care to.
The Pope did make a protest in careful and diplomatic language to the government of Egypt just before the present upheavals began there about the murder and persecution of Copts, asking for the protection of religious minorities. The Egyptian government's response was to break off diplomatic relations with the Vatican and a group of Egyptian Muslim theologians broke off scheduled talks with Vatican theologians. Futile as it was, the Pope's action suggested the Vatican had some understanding of the word "honor." Compare the indifference that Western governments have shown in the Said Musa case with the exertions by the British and/or Scottish governments to have the Lockerbie mass-murderer freed.
The Said Musa case has drawn some protests from some evangelical Christian groups. One group has published an extremely moving and courageous letter from Said Musa on the Internet. Yet for the most part the matter has been observed, like innumerable other recent cases of the persecution of Christians, with reactions ranging from rabbit-in-the-headlights paralysis to indifference. Western governments could not only protest but offer Said Musa and other persecuted Afghan Christians and other non-Muslims sanctuary. Heaven knows, there are too few of them left alive now to affect the demography of any host country.
Another question which this matter presses home to us is: What are we doing allying in war with these barbarians? What evidence have they given us that they are actually a better government than the Taliban would be? How does propping them up as a government in Afghanistan, even if we win the war there, benefit us or humanity? I believe it does, but please remind me why. It is true that we may be stopping the Taliban from taking over Pakistan and getting their hands on Pakistan's nuclear weapons, but are there other ways of achieving that?
Personally, I am not a pacifist. I supported the war in Vietnam when doing so was a lonely business. I believe that for Australia the American alliance must be the cornerstone of our foreign policy and it must be supported with deeds as well as words. In brief, I have supported the commitment of Western troops to Afghanistan up till now.
I also know we must at times ally with odious regimes, as we did in World War II. But that is a matter of occasional and deplorable necessity. In World War II the democracies allied with the Soviet Union because their survival, and that of civilization, were at stake. In Vietnam we were defending what was, despite its faults, a civilization within our common understanding of the term.
The Said Musa case is one of those landmark beacons which throws a glaring light on where we are and what we are doing.
It is hard to see any need at the present time to spend our soldiers' lives in defense of a regime that stinks to high heaven of vile savagery, a regime which plainly cares nothing for our values and plainly cares nothing even for what we think of it, and which in fact shows by its deeds that it regards the Judeo-Christian West and its ideas and values as abomination and a mortal enemy.