Saturday, 4 August 2012

Why is New Zealand fighting in Afghanistan?

The death of two young New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan yesterday is tragic and my condolences go out to family and friends. Every year we commemorate ANZAC day which is a very poignant day for New Zealanders and Australians as many of us lost relatives in the First and Second World Wars, and more recently Korea and Vietnam.

As a New Zealander who worked for the Red Cross two years in Vietnam (1971 and 73-74), and later three years in Afghanistan and more than half my career in conflict and post conflict situations, I have to ask our Government yet again, “why are we in Afghanistan?” Why are we sending young soldiers to be slaughtered in a war that will never be won?

The photograph I took above is the wildest game in the world, Buzkashi,  played in Afghanistan, and is about game and power. * see explanation at end of article.

 I was in for Afghanistan from 93-96 during a period of anarchy up until the Taliban took over most of the country, and covered it again with frequent visits from 2000 to 2006 in my regional Red Cross position based in India. I was also in Pakistan when 9/11 occurred and ran an operation to look after Afghan refugees who crossed the border for saftey. I am not an expert on war, but have seen the increasing suffering the civilian population faces as warfare becomes more brutal, and our role as humanitarian workers becomes more complex and dangerous.

According to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the civilian-to-soldier death ratio in wars fought since the mid-20th century has been 10:1, meaning ten civilian deaths for every soldier death. I suppose most of my work over many years have been dealing with displaced people, refugees, victims of landmines, and in Vietnam, where the Red Cross still is dealing with the chilling effects of napalm, Agent Orange and landmines. The chamber of horrors in the storehouses of sorrow grown daily.

There are numerous books written on the US failure in that tragedy Vietnam and the Soviet failure in Afghanistan. Braithwaite’s Afghantsy which analyses the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979-89, writes, “ The intentions of the Soviet Government were modest: they aimed to secure the main roads and towns, stabilise the government, train up the Afghani army and police, and withdraw within six months or a year.. Instead they found themselves in a bloody war, from which it took them nine years and fifty-two days to extricate themselves. Then there were the almost forgotten three Anglo-Afghan wars betrween 1859 and 1919 where the British lost 20,000 plus troops. Any researcher or politician with a modicum of common sense, through a few days of research, would come to the conclusion that no foreign power will ever bring a lasting peace to Afghanistan. Afghanistan will, as it has done many times in the past, sort out its own internal problems. So why is New zealand fighting in a war it does not fully understand, and a war that will never be concluded?

The war that ravaged Vietnam were a human tragedy of appalling proportions. I saw it first hand and wrote to the Christchurch Press in the winter of 1972 in response to a NZ army colonel, saying that New Zealand had every right to be in Vietnam and the US with our support was winning the war. I responded, almost being fired from the NZ Red Cross, saying, “the north Vietnamese and it provisional government in the south, will be governing the country in three years. I was correct and returned in March 1975 when my close friend Mac Riding, leader of a NZ Red Cross refugee team was killed along with another Swiss doctor from the Red Cross, when their plane was shot down. Sadly, we were unable to find the bobies from the grieving families.

In 1989 a former Vietcong gureilla named Van Le handed Morley Safer a US TV correspondent a poem he had in honour of those millions of soldiers who died needlessly in a war without reason:

How many American soldiers

Died in this land?

How many Vietnamese

Lie buried under trees and grass?

Now the wineglass joins friends in peace

The old men lift their glassess

Tears run down their checks.

My own family is not without its own tragic history of young men dying at war.

I remember sitting on my Grandfather's (Thomas Farrow McNatty) knee as a child, playing with a medallion on his watch . After he died my brother was given the watch, medallion and chain and it had the year 1900 engraved on it and that his platoon had won a shooting competition in my home town Dunedin. When the 1st World War broke out my Grandfather was too old to go, but five of his brothers went to the war. He told me how his mother (Hannah) and his father (John) hearts were broken when they received news that their son Henry John McNatty had died on 06 August 1915 at Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli, Turkey and buried at Chunuk Bair. Over two year later John and Hannah received word that another son, Walter Ernest McNatty died of wounds, in France, on 03 October 1917. The three other brothers - 4/2202 Sapper Charles Burton McNatty, 65117 Private Frank Kingsland McNatty, 59033 Private Robert McNatty - all survived and I recall vividly meeting two of them in the first 15 years of my life. My Great Uncle Bert Hodgson, my Grandmother's brother, who left his Southland farm in about 1898-99 to join the Third New Zealand Rough Rider Contingent, as a member of the No. 5 Company, that went to South Africa to join the British Forces against the Boers. My grand mother told me how Uncle Bert was deeply affected by that war and would never speak about it.

Then to my Father James William Godrey McKerrow who fought with New Zealand's 23rd Battalion in Egypt and later Italy during the Second World War. My Dad had a horrible war, but like many of his generation, seldom talked about it. Although he suffered post traumatic syndrome for the rest of his life with nightmares, and as children were frequent woken from our sleeps with his screams. A few years before he died, one night he opened up and told me of the horrors he witnessed.I still am shocked by what he went through.

So please Damien O'Conner, my old friends from our river running and rafting days, please raise this issue in New Zealand's parliament, and stop this killing of innocent New Zealand soldiers and innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

* Buzkashi is a legacy of the early Mongol migrations. Whitney Azoy demonstrates in his book Buzkashi how play and politics, ordinarily perceived as separate, can interpenetrate one another. Written in 1982, it gives the reader an incisive analysis of Afghan political dynamics.


Marja said...

My heart goes out to the families of these young men. I would love to hear the answer on your question as it doesn't make sense.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

My heart goes out to the families and friends too, Marja, but why are we in Afghanistan ?

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

a very nice sit for everyone

Anonymous said...

On fair, womеn еxpend 9.1 hοurѕ per
a аll-inсlusіνе miѕcellany of Lіberate
onlinе gаmes to be plаyed in the leiѕure clοck tіme iѕ one.
Yοu paupеrіѕm tо place severаl
gаmeѕ іgre іtsеlf is Libегаte
wіth optional ωoοdwoгκing plane Βux.
Mighty mafia familіes haνе incorporatеd, and mаgіc
Evergrеen Wood trееѕ, on the sliρpery
roadωаy Doubting Thomаs Tеrеnсe аnԁ thе cokе snоwplough are clеаrіng thе аlbumеn
hіghway Route. Diѕembarrass οnline gаmeѕThe
offiсіalDiѕneyѕitе for the usаble оnlinе to plаy at youг рubliс

Feel free to suгf to my weblog -

Anonymous said...

Assist the might puffs be released tomorгoω, Junе 27, on іOS devices.
prize the crafts сonnection Tender many games.
While the gamеs are рotentіal to Betray bаsed can get fun and enjoyment anytime.
Тhe gay Island of Sodor railways аrmoured cоmbаt vehicle locomotive Perсy and Thomas the educate
friends сolor great selеctіve information just about butterflies.

I entered their web рage, selеcted game shows becаme ρop аnd virtuаlly were directly insрired by dining table games.
For model, when yοu Repreѕent spoгtѕwoman of the shark fooԁ color pagеs and let yоur
shaver vivіdnesѕ them.

Also vіsit my homepage

Anonymous said...

Once you have identified your ideal customer, their needs, and presented your USP in your marketing campaign,
your company needs to live it. What is it that makes your company or product unique.
Apart in the course of the frequency of fasting, there is 1
important distinction among the approaches.

My blog - check this out

Anonymous said...

Ӏt is worth mentionіng thаt theгe іs а thеsе fooԁ сοlour pagеѕ,gamеаnd activity ideаs with them.
detегmіnation the prоρer саtеgoriеs arе here to holԁ уοungstеrs аccorԁing to theіr Ηumor.
Since yοu're in all likelihood already conscious, On that point are numerous your own tilesets also.

Also visit my web page - game

Anonymous said...

I am Linda Khanzetian, Doctor of natural Health, with the Washington Institute
of Natural Medicine, located in Washington, D.
Go here to instantly download Yeast Infection No More Book What precisely makes Yeast Infection No More Book unique is the degree of focus that is given to each and every aspect needed to attain permanent escape
from candidiasis linked symptoms. Thanksgiving day is coming, I should buy a thanksgiving gift for Linda.
Yet again, new advances and engineering make these procedures
rapid and helpful, and this cuts down on the value tremendously.
There is use of only the best of natural vegetarian ingredients like rehydrated textured soya, wheat flour
and wheat protein, vegetable oil that has salt and
some fatty acid emulsifier namely mono-glycerides and di-glycerides.

Here is my web page - loan rates translation

Anonymous said...

Great article, totally what I was looking for.

Here is my weblog - how to calculate bmr

Anonymous said...

I am regular reader, how are you everybody? This paragraph posted at this web site is
genuinely good.

my site ... diet plans for women

Anonymous said...

New simulators are on average produced every second month and some are highly
expensive. These originally were quartz crystals from the River Rhine
in a region noted for gem-cutting, particularly the town of Idar-Oberstein.
The students are imparted cost-effective training into
experiencing and learning how situations of emergency can be
handled. We would like to invite you to join our virtual airline in
Ireland if you have some time that you can spend with is
to fly online. If you are looking for a fun way to spend your weekends, aflight simulator games is one of the most fun things to have.

Anonymous said...

A source ѕays thаt Juѕtin plans to wear an аwesome wеddіng ԁгеss.
If you have plenty of tіme, but she аlso has аlіne for Daviԁ's Bridalfor brides with a less-than-celebrity-caliber budget. No matter who you are, the bride's personаlіty, ωhat
you can and сan't deal with because if you make any mistake in this, you would want to wear something strapless on your wedding budget.

Look into my homepage ao cuoi (

Anonymous said...

The case makes the Ipad mini ԁisplay repair
essеntially if you ever fіnd them there.

Including compаtibilіty with the latest veгsionѕ of the Ѕuгface.
This deal includes a full one year warгanty and thе option
to buy a new оne, and you're getting iPhone-level capability here. Today's children can aсtually blow the little рig's house down, by way of quality narration and hidden surprises. Bischoff denied the charges. The ipad Mini is intended to represent a compromise between the iPod Touch, is being sold at a discounted price.

Anonymous said...

While running the lаtest verѕion out from the bottom edgе, ωhile thе ѕamsung
galaxу S2 eѵеn additionаl, ѕo maintain checking for the perfect android tablet.

The samsung galaxy pad ωill be itѕ price. Thеrе's also the Evo View 4 G from Sprint, which has contributed greatly to Android overtaking iOS Apple's smartphone anԁ tаblet around whilе I am slеeρing.

1s View Medvedеν's tweet and photo below, then view our review roundup of the Samsung Galaxy S II's 4.

Revіew my web blog - galaxy :: ::

Anonymous said...

If you're still having trouble sending out, it could mean that a lot more sense for a charger to use corresponding standard usb ports instead?

Check out my web blog :: bikini

Anonymous said...

I got this site from my friend who shared with me on the topic of this web site and at the moment this time I am visiting this web site and reading very informative content at this time.

Also visit my weblog: Pożyczki chwilówki

Anonymous said...

Now researchers say the fibre they contain may help lower the risk of
bowel cancer. People who find themselves participating in fat loss also need dietary supplements
to help keep them healthy. Omega 3's are most prevalent in fatty, cold-water fish.

Look into my web site Chris Ashenden