The Satchel Review - 1 September, 2012

What sadness, what sorrow this week with news of the fallen Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, and then to think a further 100 asylum seekers sailing for our shores were to perish at sea.

And all this, so much to take in, as we approached Father's Day, made a last grab for the Darrel Lea Dad's Bag, and keenly cheered on our Paralympians to heroic personal feats. All the while, a father likely in great distress as Pakistani leaders gathered to denounce the blasphemy laws that have seen a Christian girl with Down Syndrome await trial in a maximum security jail.

The two lead stories on The Australian's front page on Friday painted the juxtaposition between the dark day for our armed forces – the very worst since Vietnam, as far as casualties go – and the plight of the 100 men, women and children feared dead at sea off the coast of Indonesia. 

Three of our soldiers were ambushed by an Afghan soldier entrenched with the allied side and shot dead, with two wounded in the fight. What they are calling a surprise "green on blue" attack occurred as they relaxed at a patrol base north of Tarin Kowt. A mere two hours later, two Australian soliders were killed in a helicopter crash during a late-night raid on a Taliban position.

The despondency was palpable as senior army officials reported the news, offered condolences and explained the issues in the simplest terms. The number of "green on blue" attacks (where the blues are NATO personnel and the greens are their counterparts in the Afghan National Army) this year has exceeded last year's total: 42 coalition lives lost in the seemingly futile pursuit of establishing order in the war-ravaged country before full withdrawal of troops next year.

Calls for our soldiers to "come home now!" were met by parental suggestions that the boy's were proudly serving their country, so please don't discount their bravery just now with talk of the stupidity of war. Army morale is understandably low, and the troops stationed there now nonetheless have a job to do.

Retired Australian Army general Jim Molan posted at The Drum, "They will accept the risk on our behalf, and they will successfully get away with it several thousand times a day across all of Afghanistan. But as is happening now, every now and again, it will go bad and more will be killed by their brothers in arms."

What to make of bailing out when the going gets tough? The Afghan government needs all the help it can get. Easy to say when it is not your son laid slain, but not in vain, as Aussie soldiers live, train and fight with ANA soldiers day and night.

"The Afghan people are so grateful of the contribution of Australian people and especially the troops performing their duties in difficult conditions," pleaded presidential spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi. "That is why millions of people in Afghanistan are living in relative security, and going to school."

Of the surviving asylum seekers pulled from the latest wreckage, at least six Afghan men were pulled from the sea by the merchant vessel Bahrain. Early Wednesday morning, calls for help were made to Australian authorities, casting aspersions on the role that Indonesia might play in the ongoing policing and rescue operation in Indo-Australian waters.

All this despite new measures taken by the Australian government on the asylum seeker issue. And as the case of Rimsha Masih, 11 years old, casts aspersions on mob Islamic rule in Pakistan where strict blasphemy laws are frequently used to frame innocents by lodging false allegations in order to settle scores. In January last year, leading politician Salman Taseer was murdered after deriding the "black law" and calling for the release of a Christian woman and mother of five, Asia Bibi, convicted under it (she remains behind bars).

I did read the story this week of the lawyer, Horatio Gates Spafford, who, after losing his four children at sea, wrote the hymn "All Is Well With My Soul" as he sailed over the very area where they were lost; at the intersection where loss must hope meet. "Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come; Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul."

See also: Call for Mercy

Girl With a Satchel


Sarah Ayoub said...

What beautiful lyrics! I hope Rimsha Masih (whose surname in Arabic is literally Christ/Christie/Christian) will be ok. God hear the prayers of Christians in the Middle-East, who are suffering daily and whose stories rarely ever make the western media.