May the lesser evil win

I haven’t said much about this election to date; in fact I haven’t said much lately at all. Today is election day here in Australia, the one opportunity that arrives every three years (aside from the very occasional referendum) where we as Australians have a chance to take part in our quasi-democratic process.

There are two major contenders for Government and Prime Minister respectively; John Howard and the Coalition (Liberal Party + National Party); or Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party. Personally I’m voting Greens, whose preferences in turn will go to the Labor Party of Kevin Rudd. The reason I’m voting Greens is because they are the only party with a clear moral compass.

The greens really want to tackle climate change. They want a fair foreign policy which would promote global harmony and would work towards decreasing tensions internationally as opposed to the inflammatory policies of the past. They want better rights for indigenous Australians and refugees. They support sustainable development.

They may not appear to be “economic conservatives” as is the catch-phrase of today, but what does it matter? They don’t have to be economically conservative because they realise they are not going to get in power because the vast majority of Australians are only concerned with what they can see is effecting their own worlds right now. Typically we believe ourselves a “lucky country” immune to all of the struggles which face other nations around the globe such as poverty, starvation, disease, malnutrition and war.

Perhaps we are a lucky country. Perhaps we have not experienced real war in Australia (aside from the British invasion) and it seems a far off issue meant only for backwards nations in far-off lands. Perhaps we do have a strong economy due to the Mining & Resources industry which comes from the rich earth beneath our feat.

But how does all of this give us the right to ignorance and exploitation of our lands and Indigenous people? How does this give us the right to exploit other lands and their people? How does this justify supporting the US political scheme for world dominion? How does this justify our rigid support for the oppression of the Palestinian people who are stuck under the thumb of Israeli extremists ?

What has happened to you Australia? What has happened to the country with world-leading dedication to humanitarian issues and whose pride was in it’s open attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers? Why must you guard your borders like a war-zone and send refugees back to almost certain suffering? Why must you help occupy a country like Iraq and yet refuse to take your share of the large number of refugees created by that conflict? Why must you buy into the politics of fear and worry more about “national security” than about the suffering it causes to others?

The greens have got my vote because they care about these issues; and if you gave two shits’ about them you’d vote greens too. The only problem with that is there’s not enough of us who give a shit to actually elect the greens to power.

Interaction is awesome.

I got a response out of my last post. Some may think it was a little bit tow-the-line media regurgitation because I was talking about the good ol’ timetable. In some ways I guess those someone’s are right. Part of my reason behind writing the post was because it IS the topic of discussion and I do have opinions on it.

It’s got to be done right, but my friend is also right in asking who am I to say when is right?

I guess I am not in the position to say “when” is right but I can sure tell what is right and what is wrong.

Right would be an eventual end to the military occupation of a sovereign nation whose people have an absolute right to self-determination (elections without outside interference).

Wrong would be a withdrawal that leaves the civilians of said sovereign nation without the ability to achieve said self-determination (ie, under a dictatorship or in conditions that do not allow fair elections to be held).

Right would be leaving said civilians with access to the basic technologies and living conditions expected by any developed nation; electricity, water, sewerage, healthcare and education.

Wrong would be destroying a nations infrastructure and leaving them crippled after invading on the promise of a better future and then not deliver on that promise.

Right would be ensuring the country has a governmental system which can sustain itself; which can provide basic law, order and municipality services for its people and.

Wrong is not caring enough to find out what needs to be done to achieve those ends.

Right is approaching the local populations and asking what YOU can do for THEM to make THEIR lives better and in turn encouraging them to cooperate with both yourself and each other.

So if we are going to set a timetable it needs to include all those things which are RIGHT and none of those which are WRONG; but it also needs a SENSIBLE timeline to ensure all those involved that not only is there an end-goal, but there IS enough time to achieve it.

Mayhap I was too fast to say that the label of “occupation” must end by 2010; but then again maybe I’m not. In ideal circumstance it’s probably not too much to ask. But nothing is ever ideal and what’s going on in Iraq today is no exception.

A (withdrawal) timetable is necessary.

A timetable for withdrawal from Iraq is a necessity. Any kind of political advancement depends on it. Iraqi citizen bloggers will tell you the same. In fact it is they who convinced me of this.

But what kind of withdrawal timetable can the US set to begin a feasible large-scale withdrawal from Iraq?

The Coalition leadership is unwilling to leave Iraq until political stability has been achieved and headway is being made towards reconciliation (if at all) and this isn’t going to just “happen”. Only a change of government could break the political deadlock Iraq is currently experiencing and it’s clear the current government won’t be uprooted on the US clock. Not under current US doctrine for reshaping the Middle East anyway.

So it seems we are to wait for a new set of Iraqi elections. But the next set of elections are not due for many years to come. The last elections were held in December 2005 but the first session was not held until March 16. 2006 and according to the Iraqi constitution “The electoral term of the Council of Representatives shall be four calendar years, starting with its first session and ending with the conclusion of the fourth year.”

The next elections must be held “forty-five days before the conclusion of the preceding electoral term”. Thus the next elections are due January 29, 2010.

The US must start to significantly draw down combat forces long before this point if the next round of elections are to be considered any more legitimate than the last. Not all Iraqi communities will accept elections until the shroud of “occupation” is eliminated.

This means that by 2010 the coalition needs to reduce combat forces in Iraq down to a level which no longer constitutes an occupying force. Combat forces should begin seriously returning home by Christmas 2008 and be replaced by investment in real reconstruction programs.

Which means employing Iraqi contractors to build the new electrical grid and coming good with the promises of new generators and power plants to supply it. It means facilitating the return of displaced persons to their homes, especially those with skills in construction, health, education and other essential services.

This timetable MUST be set during the US election campaign. Only a strong timetable can begin to give direction to what is otherwise an open-ended, bloody occupation. Such a plan can act to reassure Iraqi and American civilians that there will be an end to this horrific occupation and that Iraq is not going to be the launching platform for future oil-wars in Iran and the Middle East. Perhaps it would even act to prevent unnecessarily escalation of tensions in the region.

However to believe any of this can actually happen is probably being overly optimistic; I’m not setting the doctrine for coalition forces and I’m sure as hell whoever is probably isn’t going to even listen to what I’ve got to say. Still, someone’s got to say it.