After John Howard took Australia to war in Iraq, he was scarcely held to account. Instead, he was re-elected | Paul Daley

On the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Paul Daley maps out the events leading up to Australia’s involvement and the consequent fallout

Two decades after the US-led “coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein, Australia seems to have drawn few lessons from the folly of its participation.

The preservation of the US-Australia alliance, the primary reason for the conservative Howard government’s participation, still largely impels Australia’s foreign and defence policies. If evidence of this was needed exactly 20 years after the invasion, witness this week’s $368bn commitment to the Aukus submarine deal which consequently provokes China into greater potential adversarialism against Australia alongside its joined-at-the-hip ally, the US.

Continue reading...
All wars horrify us, but it seems not equally so | Letters

Readers respond to an article by Nesrine Malik about how the invasion of Ukraine has been viewed differently to other conflicts across the globe

Nesrine Malik’s comment has one further compelling dimension to it: seeing this horror in Ukraine and all conflicts through the eyes of children (Let the horror in Ukraine open our eyes to the suffering of war around the world, 1 March). Fright, despair and bewilderment are etched on every face that appears on TV or in the papers. Adults should be ashamed of what we are doing to these innocents all over the world. Malik is right. We are appalled by what is happening in Ukraine, yet appear to ignore or be indifferent to other conflicts.

Millions of children are frightened and starving to death in Afghanistan because of sanctions imposed upon a new government. Millions are frightened and starving in Yemen, where western arms support allows Saudi Arabia to cripple food supplies. Children in Syria are frightened and hungry as the civil war drags on. Iraq is failing and the children suffer. In Africa, starvation and fear permeate the continent in places such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan. And everywhere the faces of children are a fierce and damning testimony to adult behaviour.
Michael Newman
Shefford, Bedfordshire

Continue reading...
There Will Be No More Night review – chilling meditation on modern warfare

Éléonore Weber’s documentary, air-strike footage of pilots on night missions, could work well in a gallery

This hypnotic meditation on modern warfare from Éléonore Weber is an experimental cine-essay that feels closer to a gallery installation than a documentary. Watching it is a bit of a test of concentration: 75 minutes of helicopter airstrike footage from American and French missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clip after clip of pilots following what’s on the ground hundreds of metres below. Who is that in their crosshairs: a Taliban fighter holding a Kalashnikov or a farmer with a rake? Farmers know that they get mistaken for fighters, so run and hide their tools when they hear helicopters. Which of course makes them look suspicious.

In the cockpit, we hear American voices: “Request permission to engage.” “We got a guy with an RPG.” This is the notorious video WikiLeaks dubbed Collateral Murder, a US airstrike filmed from an Apache helicopter in 2007. The rocket-propelled grenade launcher turned out to be a camera tripod belonging to a Reuters photographer, who was one of a dozen civilians killed in the attack. It’s impossible to watch and not think of computer games. “Kill! Kill! Kill” we hear in another video – you can almost feel the itch to shoot everything that moves.

Continue reading...
Al-Qaida: the terror group that learned the secret of longevity

Twenty years after 9/11, 33 years after it was first conceived, and against all the odds, the terrorist group survives

In the summer of 1988, a dozen or so men gathered in the sweltering Pakistani frontier town of Peshawar. Across the border in Afghanistan, the war was reaching a bloody climax, as hundreds of thousands of local mujahideen took on the Soviet occupiers and their local auxiliaries.

The men, who probably met in one of the guesthouses that acted as offices and hostels for foreign visitors to Peshawar, were all from the Middle East. Most had been in Pakistan for several years but had played only a very marginal role in the bloody war raging to the west. But a handful had been with their de facto leader, a wealthy Saudi Arabian called Osama bin Laden, when he had fought off a Soviet attack on a base inside Afghanistan a year earlier.

Continue reading...
Britain’s military must learn from its mistakes

Britain’s armed forces are dodging responsibility for failings in Afghanistan and Iraq, argues Prof Paul Dixon. RC Pennington fears military history is doomed to repeat itself. Plus letters from Margaret Phelps, Diana Francis and Jim Golcher

Simon Akam is right, the military does want to ignore its failure in Afghanistan (Britain’s military will want to ignore its failure in Afghanistan. It must face reality, 22 August), but it does so by deflecting responsibility on to the politicians.

There is also a strong reluctance to publish books and articles that are critical of the military, even by those who served. All three books cited by Akam are by journalists who are ex-military.

Continue reading...
After the chaos in Kabul, is the American century over?

The ‘forever war’ has finished with a debacle. If this marks the end of American interventionism, what will take its place?

A few months ago there were US bases all over Afghanistan where you could immerse yourself in Americana, buy Coke and Snickers bars from vending machines and watch live sport on TV.

Now the outpost has shrunk to one side of Kabul airport, a chaotic remnant of a 20-year stay where rearguard troops are trying to salvage the last scraps of dignity and honour, seemingly tossed aside by the political leadership in Washington, by trying to extract American stragglers and Afghan allies. Those allies, once inspired by talk of democracy, women’s rights and the free press, are now faced with the awful life-and-death dilemmas of preserving evidence of their work for or with the US-led coalition, in the hope of last-minute salvation, or destroying it, in a bid to escape execution.

Continue reading...
The abandonment of Afghanistan is shameful | Letters

Jane Ghosh thinks we have left behind devastation and despair, Trevor Curnow looks at parallels with Vietnam, while Daniel Peacock expresses concern for a generation of women and girls. Plus letters from Martin Harris and Caroline Willcocks

The history of western interference after the second world war in countries throughout the world has been one of unmitigated failure for which we all bear a share of shame (UK and US send troops to aid evacuation from Afghanistan as Taliban advance, 13 August).

Western powers have invaded countries thousands of miles away in the name of “democracy” and achieved a vacuum of power that has swiftly been filled by the very forces they went to evict. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. We have left behind devastation and despair while never learning the lessons of each disaster. If people want a one-party state, why does the US and its poodles think it has a duty or right to impose a very flawed system of democracy on other nations? Hubris followed inevitably by nemesis.
Jane Ghosh

Continue reading...
‘Maestro of humanity’: Italian surgeon Gino Strada dies at 73

Tributes paid to doctor whose NGO set up world-class hospitals in war zones such as Iraq, Yemen and Sudan

Tributes have been paid to Gino Strada, the Italian surgeon and “maestro of humanity” known for setting up world-class hospitals for the victims of war, who has died aged 73.

The medic, who in 1994 co-founded the humanitarian organisation Emergency to provide free, quality healthcare for those injured in conflict, died on Friday in France, reports said.

Continue reading...
The Observer view on US and Nato withdrawal from Afghanistan | Observer editorial
This shabby, half-hidden retreat by western forces abandons a nation to mayhem, civil war and terror

The conflict in Afghanistan – America’s longest war – is at an end, or so President Joe Biden is expected to declare this week. At an end, too, is Britain and Nato’s military involvement, dating back to the invasion that followed the 2001 al-Qaida attacks on the US. Except the conflict is not over. In truth, it is intensifying. What’s changed is that the western allies are, in effect, washing their hands of it.

By setting an unconditional US withdrawal date of 11 September shortly after taking office, Biden triggered an unseemly military scramble for the exit that has been joined by all residual Nato forces, including most UK troops. It now appears the vast majority will have left by today, without ceremony or fanfare, almost by the back door. The fourth of July is American independence day. It may also come to be remembered as deserting Afghanistan day.

Continue reading...
‘We have more in common than what separates us’: refugee stories, told by refugees

In One Thousand Dreams, award-winning photographer Robin Hammond hands the camera to refugees. Often reduced by the media’s toxic or well-meaning narratives, the portraits and interviews capture a different and more complex tale

Robin Hammond has spent two decades crisscrossing the developing world and telling other people’s stories. From photographing the Rohingya forced out of Myanmar and rape survivors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to documenting the lives of people in countries where their sexuality is illegal, his work has earned him award after award.

But for his latest project the photographer has embarked on a paradigm shift: to remove himself – and others like him – from the process entirely. Instead, as part of an in-depth exploration of the refugee experience in Europe, the stories of those featured are told by those who, arguably, know them best: other refugees.

Continue reading...
Italy announces €222bn package – as it happened

We are closing this live blog now. You can stay up to date with all coronavirus developments below:

We are closing this live blog now. You can stay up to date with all coronavirus developments below:

The US is determined to repay India for the help it sent early in the pandemic, President Joe Biden tweeted Sunday night.

Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need.

Continue reading...
Conflicts since start of US ‘war on terror’ have displaced 37m people – report

Study focuses on post-9/11 wars in which US initiated combat or took part in military operations

Conflicts with US military involvement have displaced at least 37 million people since the beginning of the “war on terror” nearly two decades ago, a report has estimated.

The invasion of Iraq and the decades of instability that have followed in the country have uprooted at least 9.2 million so far, the costliest of the eight US military operations that were included in the report by Brown University’s Costs of War Project.

Continue reading...