MAPW draws attention to health costs on 10th anniversary of Afghanistan War

On the tenth anniversary of the Afghanistan war, MAPW members across Australia spoke out on the human and health costs of the war.

MAPW Vice-President Dr Sue Wareham OAM, in the Canberra Times, and online at the ABC's The Drum, questions the logic of reasons given for entering the war, and points out that “War kills, maims, destroys infrastructure, creates waves of refugees and divides communities. It provides the cover needed for human rights violations to flourish.” (You can join the lively on-line debate!)

Afghanistan: The wounds you haven't heard about for 10 years, was a special feature produced by nationally broadcast public radio program The Wire. “For some, [the 10-year milestone] . . . is a reminder of the forgotten effects of the fighting. Injuries, both mental and physical, continue to have their lasting effects on everyone involved in the war - including civilians." The Wire spoke to Sue Wareham, to MAPW member and psychiatrist experienced in working with survivors of war, Dr Peter Wigg; and to Afghan refugee Said Dileri.

MAPW Vice-President Dr Margaret Beavis, writing in Online Opinion, put forward detailed statistics on deaths and injuries, and compared the costs of war with the costs of providing basic infrastructure: “Ten years on from sending troops to Afghanistan, it is time to draw breath, and reflect on the human and health costs of war.

Our members were also prominent on the letters pages. For example:

Member Michelle Fahy had this letter in the Canberra Times:
Today marks ten years since the start of the war in Afghanistan. We hear a lot about the 29 Australian soldiers who have been killed there, and rightly so. But we hear very little about the hundreds of our soldiers returning from service in Afghanistan who have lost limbs, been physically disfigured for life in other ways, or suffer deep and ongoing psychological trauma due to their experiences. On this day, I think it’s important that we also reflect on the very great price these soldiers, and their families and friends, have paid, and continue to pay, for serving in Afghanistan.

Member Dr Sally Attrill had the following letter published in the Hobart Mercury:                                                                                                                                Last week marked 10 years of Australian military involvement in Afghanistan. What has been achieved? 29 Australian soldiers have died, many more injured. Estimates of Afghanistani civilian deaths are 12-14,000, more than 7,000 coalition troops are dead. We are not observing a successful transition to peace. Taliban insurgency is growing, partially in response to foreign occupation. Risk of terrorist attack in Australia has increased. Australian expenditure in Afghanistan is estimated at $7 billion. This money would surely be better spent on health, education and humanitarian aid.

MAPW President, Dr Jenny Grounds, wrote in The Age:
Fighting the wrong front-line battle:
Announced as it was on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, the right for women to work on the frontline does not fill the heart of this feminist with joy. Too many women (and civilian men and children) have died, been injured or displaced from their homes as a direct result of the presence of the coalition of the willing in Afghanistan and Iraq. A recent report from the UN estimates 8832 dead and 100,000 refugees in the past four years. If Australian women are to be sent to war, this should only be for the defence of Australia against a direct military threat. A more urgently needed reform would be achieved with the passage of the Defence Amendment Bill calling for any proposal for Australian troops to go to war to be debated and approved by both houses of Parliament. This, along with working within the framework of the United Nations on such life and death matters, would prevent such a tragically wasteful decade being repeated.

MAPW Vice-President Dr Margaret Beavis wrote in The Australian:
TEN years on from the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, the costs are becoming obvious.
Not only are there military casualties, there are also estimated to be between 12,000 and 14,000 civilians dead, and 300,000 internally displaced. Read on, at The Australian.