Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan’

Australia sharing US bathtub of pyrotechnical toys.

September 19, 2021

IMG_2472 three wise ducks

Back in in 1956 we thought we were escaping the aftermath of wars and conflict and bade farewell to Europe still smoldering and smarting from two world wars. Soon after arriving we did sense that the main influence in Australia was that of America. It’s sprawling architecture and above all the commercialization of almost everything possible and saleable. My dad could not get over the abundance of ugly signage portrayed on almost everything capable of supporting signs. Suburban shops lining the strips often next to railway lines or main roads were groaning with signs and everything was sign-written in the most garish colors as ‘special’. At one stage a locally produced car The Holden was named Special.

After a while we got used to it together with the endless advertisements hailing the benefits of all sorts of headache powders. Indeed looking at old photographs one has no trouble seeing buses and trains advertising Bex powders and Vincent APC. which in those days had phenacetin to give it an extra bite but also damaging the kidneys of tens of thousands of people, especially women who became addicted. They were advertised as giving one a lift in wellbeing. We wondered why headaches were so common and accepted as normal. It was supposed to be all happy and sundrenched.

We got on with turning into Australians as good as any but of course also retained proudly our own heritage excluding the horrors of conflict and bombs.  However through the decades it became clear that Australia seemed to be drawn to the American way of things to a point that no matter what conflict or wars the US engaged in, Australia was keen to nurture those wars by slavishly sending in their troops as well. True we are part of alliances although also often claiming sovereignty. We followed the US to war in Vietnam,  Iraq, Afghanistan. All now looked back upon as totally wasteful and unnecessary.

But, still we keep on repeating he same with now ordering nuclear underwater boats.  Bowing to the US again and what for? We could be the Switzerland of the Pacific , remain friendly with everyone. Be a go-between if tensions arise between different countries. The aim in ordering those boats is to threaten China. Why do that? Businesses are queueing up to enter China and do business. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans and Americans are now living in China, not wishing to miss out on the excitement that is unfolding in China. We are totally out of whack with the reality of the unfolding of history.

It is China’s turn. Nothing will stop that.

IMG_2474 Spring

Land ahoy, or the end of Lockdown.

September 8, 2021

The figures are dazzling


The figures on new infections,  number of deaths, those in hospital and those in Intensive Care  Units with a finale of those under ventilators followed by a dazzling display of high tech visuals giving stretched-out a moving image of green lines across a blackboard backdrop of both single and double vaccinations are given in daily front line news. There is no escape and we are locked-downed into this while wearing masks and staying the distance between humans that still move on legs.  

There was a moment whereby the news would shift away from all those numbers and graphs when the Taliban (Afghan people) took control of Taliban Country ( Afghanistan). Alas it did not take long for the news to revert again to the previous diet of pandemics presented by sweaty newsreaders and beady eyed politicians. Not a sliver of positivity was allowed to enter the news and even the Paralympics did not really cut through the thickness of Covid and stretched out patients with blaring ambulance’s sirens. Still, the Afghanistan and Paralympic diversion was nice while it lasted

In the meantime the parks are full of people walking their dogs and children. The proliferation of tricycles and mopeds a noticeable addition to the usual tangle of dog leads and poop filled garbage containers which the councils had the foresight to enhance the public parks with. Our way of dealing with dog droppings would have to be the best in the world as well as our civic obedience in accepting lockdowns week in-week out, months in – months out. A remarkable example of the normally anti-authoritarian Aussi. Almost overnight dogshit has left our footpaths and public areas and no one bats an eyelid watching the melancholic task of a dog owner carefully wetting his fingers and opening the plastic bag, turning it inside out and then stoop down to deftly pick up the shit and reverse the procedure under the curious and watchful eye of the dog, and carry the filled bag to home or the nearest garbage bin. The dog must really be pleased how he managed to train the owner so well

IMG_1263lake Alexandra

Anyway, the end of lockdowns will now happen when between 70 and 80 % of people including children above 12 years have been fully vaccinated, which is projected to be around the middle of November. In the meantime my strategy is to continue walking and walking, talking with my friends at the local Bradman Cricket oval. A world famous oval as shown by the busloads of Pakistanis , Indians Afghanis and many other cricket loving tourists that came here by the thousands during the pre Covid era.

I wonder if there will be any sort of  post Lockdown effect or hangover. Will some people need counselling to get used being close to others again, able to converse and use speech and gestures needed to renew social intercourse. Have some of us become addicted to ‘keeping space and away from each other’? We are told that masks will probably stay. Oceans already are awash with plastic and no doubt those blue mouth masks being discarded in our sewage and on the streets will find themselves being entangled in turtles and fish, mammals and wash up on our shores. How long does it take for those masks to disintegrate?

Covid has a lot to answer for but the end is nigh.

Veterans and victims of war.

November 5, 2018

IMG_0162 silvercrested cockatoo.JPG

Silver crested white peace-cockatoo.


There is a bit of a fight going on. First the news that $500.000.000 was going to be spent on extending/renovating the Canberra War Museum. Some thought it was a lot of money. I think so too. The next item set in the same league, was to give veterans a bit of leg-up when boarding aeroplanes.  A boarding priority and recognition on all flights would be given to all veterans booked on Virgin airways. Qantas is refusing to follow. All our passengers are ‘special’ Qantas announced. A chorus of protests regarding this latest news in Australia is raising its head. “Public acknowledgement of veterans during in-flight announcements is described as “embarrassing”, “tokenistic”, and “faux American”. . Many  veterans are saying they would not dream of boarding an aeroplane before anyone else.

Helvi and I visited the Canberra War museum soon after our first arrival back in 1965. While impressed, we have never felt like re-visiting. The horrors of war that were personally experienced as a child does that. Queueing up at food kitchens for potato peeling soup. Living without electricity, water or warmth for five years. The Hunger Winter of 1944/45. The sound of bombs, the shattering of windows. The bodies lying about. They are memories that still haunts today.

After WW2 the Americans did give financial help to re-build Europe. It was called the Marshall plan. If half a billion is to be spent as a consequence of wars, past and present, why not consider giving it to help re-build countries ravaged by recent wars. Countries like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. I sometimes wonder what we are doing there. Those millions of refugees?

Someone mentioned that a war museum reflects the soul of a nation. What about a peace museum?


Living in a Hell called Nauru.

October 26, 2014

untitled Nauru Detention Camp

Open letter: Living in the hell called Nauru.
Identity withheld

I am writing as a mother in Nauru house of detention. After 10 months of being detained on Christmas Island, my three-member family was brought here: myself and my husband and my son who is not yet three. As I knew we were going to be forcefully taken to Nauru, I felt sadness and spent all the night crying in misery. Any time I looked into face of my son, I asked myself, what is his sin to be punished harshly like this? What wrong we have done to receive such treatment? Just as I heard an officer saying that we were going to be transferred to Nauru, I suddenly felt all the miseries in the world. I kept crying all the time we were leaving.

We were put in isolation on Christmas Island. They checked us for nearly 10 hours with no break – they kept searching our bags and threw half of our items away. We were not allowed to wear shoes. They did not let us to tie our hair. They checked behind ears, inside nose, beneath tongue and hair. Big bully officers. My little son was scared and kept crying.

Do you know what the meaning of hopeless and helpless is? Do you know what is the meaning of I got tired of being alive?

After 10 hours of inspection, we were put into a bus accompanied by a large number of officers and then onto an airplane. The journey took eight hours. My son neither ate nor slept for 24 hours. You may not believe that my son really didn’t sleep for 24 hours, but he felt such anxiety.

For the complete article, press the link.

Love lost.

July 23, 2014

Lost love

Lost love

“I am so sorry to hear about your loss, Bettina”. “Ah, don’t be.” “Thank God he is gone, the miserable man”. And with that, the Bettina with the massive battle ship chin dismissed the passing of her husband of over forty years. Sometimes, people hide their grief with putting up a brave front. I don’t think she was in that category, having known both of them for over twenty years.

Sometime during the seventies both Bettina and husband Bob in their wild and impetuous youth travelled Europe in a left hand drive large bus converted to a camper wagon. You now see them everywhere, sometimes with bicycles or even a boat strapped at the back or on the roof. I saw a camper wagon recently that even towed a small car to buzz about in. And no doubt used, through the help of a GPS satellite system, to guide the happy travellers to the nearest Aldi or Woolworth emporium, to stock up on the essentials, including butter and lamb chops with continental parsley.

Bettina and husband Bob, (while in their youth) travelled overland back to Australia where they lived in a large house near the water. It must have been quite an adventure when Afghanistan and Burma were hardly on the well trodden traveller’s route. You would often see Bob and wife with their large grey converted left hand drive vehicle driving around the place with Bob never missing a friendly wave.

He used to regale their travel adventures to us but his Bettina would butt in ‘ oh, nonsense Bob, it wasn’t like that’ and than impose her version of it. He just used to smile and let her do the talking. He did love her, or at least allowed her the freedom to dominate him in conversations.

While on their return journey, they had filled their bus up with Afghan tapestries and carpets which they sold to anyone keen on a bargain. It were the days of so many young couples with children setting up camp in the inner city of Sydney. A true beginning of city living instead of the mind boggling boring but well promoted ‘dream’ of living in the suburbs.

As the years went by, as they seem to so relentlessly, Bob became profoundly deaf and conversations became stilted and awry. A great pity. He was always the friendly giving man and his wife the shouting over the top with such a large chin to accept (in a round-a-bout way). In any case, a long standing marriage were both no doubt had found their levels of comfort and acceptance of each other. True love?

I sometimes thought of Bob waking up and turning towards his Bettina and see the familiar large chin jutting above the sheets. He loved her, that’s for sure, and accepted her as lovingly as any caring husband would. Millions of couple all over the world do this. Hundreds of millions more likely.

And then, Bob died suddenly. Towards the last few years he had a long white beard and often stood silently next to his beloved Bettina. He was now as deaf as a bucket of sand and could not converse as before even though he would sometimes still break out and, while still smiling, mention bits about Afghanistan. Bettina now mostly had the full attention of the audience.

“Thank God he is gone” is what she said. (after forty years)

The Afghan Lady

September 15, 2012

The Afghan Lady

Posted on November 23, 2009by

The Afghan Cafe was the opposite of ‘The bitches Milk-bar’.  She was so beautiful, it made grown men weep.  She could be seen above her counter at the back of her small cafe, in the semi darkness of a cosily lit up area. She was Afghani, dark skinned with large kohl eyes which would look out and scan the passing scene for possible customers, or possible future husband. It was situated on a very busy street but away from the main shopping centre. We were told by a friend of a friend that her brother had put her there in the business to earn some money and hopefully also find a suitable partner. At the time, around the late eighties the only connection to Afghanistan were the thousands of Afghan camels roaming the North and North West of Australia as a result of those early goods and telegraph services between Southern Australia and Northern territory by camel trains led by their Afghan camel drivers. We knew of course that the development of outback Australia would have been very difficult if not impossible if not for those early Afghans coming to Australia as early as the 1830’s.

Whatever the motive, the beautiful eyed single Afghan lady sat in this restaurant cafe from late afternoon till the last of the customers would leave. The restaurant’s fare was genuine Afghan dishes. They were always tasty but not too spicy, more sweetish than chilli with raisins and dates, much use of lemon juice and yoghurt.  The cafe- restaurant was small and seated perhaps not much more than twelve or fifteen people. We loved going there and then all of a sudden it was closed and it became a laundry. She would have found a partner. This is what we all thought and hoped. She was too beautiful to be sitting there forever. Or did she go back to Afghanistan?

Like this:

Slippery Values.

April 22, 2012

Once again, there is turmoil in Australia. The Panadeine Forte might again be called upon to relieve a huge headache for the Government hoping to survive the latest scandal. Over 30 soldiers have now lost their lives In Afghanistan. Our surviving soldiers are now being called back one year earlier. What a dreadful mistake, was it not, to get involved in yet another useless war? No wonder our Government is having a headache. It should never have happened in the first place. Then there are all those unresolved issues about which the UN and UNHCR have been pointing the finger at us for a number of years. Is our dreadful treatment of the boat people finally coming home to roost with the suicides and compulsory detainment of refugees including children in hellish camps on a lonely island or amongst the dust bowls of the outback?

The future of aged care is going to cost billions; our carbon pricing might cost more than the tax revenue it is supposed to deliver from the CO2 emitters. The Euro zone problems might well affect our banks. What will lurk next around the corner for Australia? It just never stops.

Hang on; the headache is not about those issues at all. It is to do with rumours of an open shower door and strange cab fares with hints of sexual misdemeanors by a man who was given the task of doing funny shouting ‘order and order’ during sittings of parliament.  Forget about the drowning of ‘children overboard’ or the Australian Wheat Board shenanigans. They are mere bagatelles. What really gets a head of steam is our distaste for anything to do within our under- pants. Oh, the scandal of someone being asked to leave the shower door open and, and… the crosses in text-messages. Oh, no… What… crosses… that’s kisses isn’t it? Very dirty. What next?

The opposition is in heaven. An open shower door, gee, that must spell the death knell for Labor now.  Abbott must be going through the yellow pages getting quotes from furniture removalists with the plates being wrapped up in old copies of Murdoch’s The Australian.

Nothing is more disheartening than to see Australian politics blown up to what is at present occurring. Our indignation is being fanned by an opposition relying more and more on blown up paper bags. An entire government is now hanging on by a threat of fried air, a non scandal. This is at best a mere little quarrel between two people, nothing to do with Governing or running a country.

What does it say about the opposition that refuses to engage on real policies and prefers to focus on someone’s supposedly predilection for open shower doors in private? What depth can they still sink to? What about an unpaid parking ticket or bending over in private to pick up the cake of  soap from the shower floor? Should we get suspicious of someone coming home with a bunch of flowers? Perhaps the AFP should be permanently on stand-by outside Parliament house, just in case.

I would have thought that the abuse by Mr T Abbott on a man dying of asbestos induced fibrosis (Bernie Banton) a few years ago was far more telling of the character of a politician than Mr Slipper supposedly asking for a shower door to be left open.

You wonder where all this silly stuff comes from? Is it just a follow up from those Anglo Private School tactics? You know, it starts with a nick name and sniggering in the showers, those masters with repressed sexuality, next, if taken a bit further, a solid stint at bullying the weaker. Shit happens, they say then afterwards.

The moral of all this is?  Never leave a shower door open in Australia. It could bring the Government down.

The safer Chinese Umbrella

April 2, 2012

It is rather intriguing why we would feel so happy to have America’s defense force positioning itself inside Australia’s territory. It seems bizarre and frightening to have a nation’s armed forces, much better known for guns, warring and fighting than for peace, within our borders. I have yet to learn about China’s involvement in any wars around the globe. Where is the rationale that we should fear the East, while America’s drones are flying around bombing terrorist suspects at random?

I am surprised that no article has a yet appeared on the ABC’s Drum questioning the wisdom to do so. There almost seemed to be an air of jubilant acceptance about it. A nice strip on a Cocos Island has been eyed off for drones to be used. It was all taken in our stride. Could we not have stayed out of this alliance involving troops and drones on our soil? What will our neighbors think of us? They might well close the curtains even tighter.

I know that China is economically invading the world but we are not against that at all, in fact we love to sell them anything we can dig up. No probs. There seems to be an accepted belief that America will forever be the savior of the world, a kind of almost omnipotent force of good and benevolence. The evidence coming from the locals in Afghanistan is less lofty in their praise for America’s spreading of sweetness and goodness…

Surely, the best option is not to have any foreign troops on our soil. But…, if we must, would it not be more logical to invite the Chinese to grace our shores with their presence. Surely, with their proven record not to get involved so easily into the world’s trouble spots it would serve us much better. There would be less chance of us getting involved in useless fighting at the drop of a hat.

America has an obsession with safeguarding the world from itself, and at the same time ensuring that our soldiers continue risking their lives in areas too far for our own good. What threat has Iraq or Afghanistan ever posed to Australia?

We now are almost incapable of looking after the casualties of all that fighting. A report on our treatment on refugees could not be starker in how we failed even in providing the most basic care. Over five hundred children in detention. What have they done? We are lucky that no one has mentioned ‘The Hague’ yet. There is still time though.

The UNHCR has often mentioned our inhumane treatment of refugees and the indigenous. Last week Chris Bowen was trying to bumble his way through Emma Alberici questioning of our appalling and dreadful treatment of refugees. He was still defending it. Even Asio admitted that identity checks can be done in most cases within a few days. So, why detention for over a year?

The reason it seems: so that the message will go back to those refugee countries. “Think twice before coming here”. “We will detain you and treat you so badly that you’ll rue the day your leaky boat ever landed near Australia.

Australia has now achieved that dubious distinction. It is the last country of choice by refugees. Some distinction, isn’t it? We finally achieved it. How utterly devoid of humanity we have become.

No, I think we should invite our friendly China to consider landing to our North. I am sure they would in no time develop it into a very lively, friendly and prosperous part of our continent. With all that water about, the NT would soon be a food basket for the hundreds of millions surrounding us. That’s right; we could, with Chinese ingenuity become the bread basket of Asia.

Food instead of drones.

Cowboys and Indians: shooting at Detainees

March 31, 2011

Find More Stories

21 March 2011

Police fired tear gas and synthetic bullets at a group of 250 asylum seekers who had burned down accommodation buildings

Cowboys and Indians: shooting at detainees


Gerard Oosterman

Gerard Oosterman

TV footage shows tear gas and ‘soft’ bullets tracing through the night sky, aimed at the rioting Christmas Island boatpeople, fired by armed police force from the back of trucks.

One wonders how long it will be before we will finally admit that the present way of handling and treating boat people is not working, and that our detention or care for those unfortunate people with families is cruel in the extreme?

Don’t we care, is that why we now shoot them? For how much longer will the UN commissioner point out our failures?

The overcrowding, the isolation and the length it takes to process the claims are given as the main cause for the riots.

Of course dealing with people landing on our shores has often been accompanied by riots. Back in 1952 it took 200 soldiers to restore order at Bonegilla Migrant camp. Three young men had committed suicide. The reasons for the riot then were the same as the present discontent today: overcrowding and inhumane living condition.

The Nissan hut migrant camps have long disappeared… only to be replaced with a more modern variety, but with still the same aim: to provide housing but also to isolate and to keep detainees separate, away from ‘normality and if possible from scrutiny.

What more proof do we need that the process is de-humanizing? Why do we persist in our punitive way of dealing with boat people and refugees? The detainees are desperately trying to tell us something. Why are we not listening and taking it in? They have done nothing wrong. Why are they being detained and separated from other people and normality? While violence and riots are not tolerable, neither are keeping people detained who have done nothing unlawful.

Rest assured though that TV footage of the shootings has raced around the world and that our treatment of detainees would have sunk a notch lower, if that was still possible. The tension amongst the asylum seekers is never far from the surface. Mix that in with isolation, the despair of endless waiting for progress about their claims, the utter boredom, heat and cold, the sheer deliberate forbiddingness of surroundings, jail-like architecture, fences, guards and you have created very tortuous conditions that no one could possibly accept as normality.

The response by our Immigration Minister Chris Bowen must be very encouraging to the detainees when he stated that the fire arms used were a bit like shooting ’mini bean bag pellets’ coming from ’gun-like weapons’. They might cause a bit of bruising, he added.

However, David Manne of the Refugee Legal Centre said police had used a modified shotgun ‘that can cause serious injury or death’.

With just a few thousand trickling in per year, we can hardly claim to be overwhelmed by boatpeople and as we have some experience in settling migrants for some decades it is indeed surprising the whole issue has became so unmanageable.

What is the problem and why can’t we settle them in normal circumstances in assessing their status? I mean, Australia is an Island and after harrowing and hazardous boat journeys, they are hardly likely to jump on a boat again and escape. Escape from what? What Governmental stupidity and obstinacy prevents them to not just do what most countries are doing and simply have them living amongst other people, letting them work, earn money, go shopping and process their applications. European countries are coping with thousands of refugees on a daily basis. We have trouble with a few thousand a year, spend hundreds of millions to keep them detained and separated from a functioning society. Why?

How often does the UNHCR have to put to Australia that we are in breach of basic Human Rights by keeping them in detention when no crime has been committed?

Of course, the real reason apart from the ingrained xenophobia by some of political parties’ leaders and the usual ramping up by hysterical coterie of radio and other media flotsam is the risk of losing votes. It’s all about that, isn’t it?  Let human suffering continue but not risk upsetting the voters who for years have been indoctrinated with ‘our shores’ are under siege from hordes of ‘illegal queue jumpers’. We mustn’t be seen to take sides of humanity and change course midway, must we?

Is it still preferable to continue to de-humanize a few thousand boat people than to losing voters and an election?

Come on Australia. Enough is enough. Our minister for immigration looked genuinely uncomfortable discussing the riots on Christmas Island. It shows he still has a heart. Perhaps over half the population still have hearts as well. We can’t shoot boat people just because they happen to have come to our shores and need a leg up from misery and wars.

They want a leg up from their misery, not to be shot at.