Afghan pullout: ASPI lines up to run interference for its defence sponsors

It is hardly surprising that the head of a defence lobby group like the Australian Strategic Policy Institute — which claims to be an independent, non-partisan think-tank — would be a trifle perturbed at the thought that a major arms market was going to be disturbed.

Peter Jennings, a former member of the Australian department of defence, was out early on Tuesday morning, calling US president Joe Biden’s decision to pull American forces out of Afghanistan by September 11 this year “his first big blunder in office”.

“This could cost the US dearly in future years and should give America’s friends and allies pause to ask if Biden has the grit for the tough road ahead,” wrote a clearly ruffled Jennings, not mentioning whether he expected the Americans to spend another 20 years in a country which has never allowed itself to be subjugated by any foreign force.

Had Jennings bothered to inform himself, he would have noticed that the great British empire, the Soviet Union, Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great all had to cut and run from Kabul at some point in time. Anyone with a modicum of reasoning would come to just one conclusion: the Afghans like living in their own mess and will never tolerate a foreign power running the show.

But then Jennings wouldn’t have been looking for logical arguments when he wrote this piece; he was doing his duty to gaslight for his sponsors, the many companies that give him money year in and year out so he can raise the temperature in any part of the world possible and make it possible for them to keep selling weapons that kill and maim in order to build on their already gigantic profits. Of which ASPI gets its mite.

What makes Jennings’ effort hilarious that he makes it plain that he thinks the Americans should not have left Vietnam either! Sure, his propaganda appeared in a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch, but even then this kind of argument is some kind of a joke.

Afghanistan watchers recognised very early on that the moment the Americans and their hangers-on quit the country, the Taliban would return to power. There is no question of these militants waiting for what Jennings calls a “green light” from the US to retake power.

The US went into Afghanistan to exact revenge for the 2001 terrorist attacks. That should have been the extent of the mission. Defence contractors wanted the troops to stay on because it meant a string of orders. Money for human lives – it’s the be-all and end-all of the killing industry.

But then Jennings needs his money. He has held out the begging bowl to many companies and succeeded in exacting his pound of flesh: shipbuilder Austal, US defence contractor Lockheed Martin, US defence supplier Northrop Grumman, Swedish defence company Saab, the Australian arm of American defence contractor Raytheon, MBDA Missile Systems, French defence giant Thales, Jacobs, a global provider of technical, professional, and scientific services, and Naval Group, the international design and build partner for Australia’s Future Submarine Program.

Jennings wrote a glowing op-ed in February 2016 on the Naval Group under the headline “Vive Australia’s choice of a French submarine”. Two months earlier, Paris had bestowed its highest national decoration, the National Order of Légion d’Honneur, on — no prizes for guessing — Jennings.

It appears that Jennings is of the view that Afghanistan should always be led by some foreign nation or the other. That’s accounts for his pouring scorn on the Biden’s words, “only the Afghans have the right and responsibility to lead their country”. Of course, Jennings is a great fan of democracy – provided it does not get in the way of boosting the ASPI budget. One has to wonder how he sleeps at night.

The US has more than 800 bases around the world, set up to guard access to resources that the Americans would like to exploit now or in the future. Afghanistan, over 20 years come October this year, has given the Yanks no joy.

But Jennings wants his pound of flesh, else his baby ASPI will struggle for funds. It would have been nice if the famous song from Dire Straits — Money for Nothing — was a reality in Jennings’ life. Sadly, the military industrial complex only deals in money for something.

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