An A-Z of war

Scott Burchill, Lecturer in International Relations at Deakin University, Victoria, gives his version.

WAR ISSUE, September 27, 2001


1. Recommendations


2. One liners


3. Scott Burchill’s A to Z of the war ahead


4. John Avery on why we don’t need an address to the nation

5. Sean Richardson on the reasons for our �k nee-jerk pacifism�, Piers Denton on why he doesn’t give a damn about collateral damage and Barry Cott erell on the legal alternative to war.


6. Zainab Al-Badry on conscription


7. B ill Grace on the nightmare scenario


8. J Nalbandian and Rick Pass on double standards.




Peter Kelly: I have come to a page about the problems faced by Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The perils of waiting in line instead of catching a boat, any boat, to anywhere.


David Davis: �A great old friend in the Midwest provided a link re the re scue workers. I just wish some people would remember more this part of it. No one deserves this. http://www.agapenetwork.o=rg/tribute.htm


Rachel Crowley: See for the latest pieces by Christopher Hitchens.

Greg Weilo recommends http://atlantaserbs.netfirms.c=om/Sept11th/Similarities/similarities.shtml for startling comparative pictures of Belgrade and New York post-bombings.




Brian Bahnisch: When the terrorists struck New York President Bush was reading a story to school children in Florida. He will know he has won when he can sit down and read a story to school children in Baghdad, Teheran or Kabul. That should be his aim.





Scott Burchill, Lecturer in International Relations, Deakin University, Victoria


An A-Z of hypocrisy and amnesia


A is for anti-American, a pejo rative term bestowed on anyone who criticises the government in Washington or who may seriously inquire into the causes of hostility towards the US in the Middle East and Central Asia.


A close cousin of anti-Indonesian, a description u sed by the Jakarta lobby and other opponents of independence for East Timor to defame critics of the Suharto dictatorship.


B is for blowback, a termed originally coined by the CIA which, according to Chalmers Johnson, “refers to the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people. What the daily press reports as the malign acts of ‘terrorists’ or ‘drug lords’ or ‘rogue states’ or ‘illegal arms merchants’ often turn out to be blowback from earlier American operations.”


C is for, an excellent online resource of critical articles on the 11 September atrocities and their aftermath.


C is also for President Bush’s “crusade” against terrorism, a term that is sure to go down well in the Islamic world.


is for deaths. Expect a lot.


E is for “excesses”, the outer limits of criticism for Washington’s cheerleaders who yearn for the good old Cold War days (Greg Sheridan). Also described as “peccadilloes” in an effort to minimise their impact by comparing them with other crimes.


F is for Robert Fisk, journalist for The Independent (UK) and author of Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War. One of the better informed and more independently-minded commentators on the Middle East.


F is also for ‘freedom fighters’, the ter m coined by the Reagan administration in the mid 1980s to describe the mercenaries, known as contras, employed by Washington to terrorise Nicaragua under the rule of the Sandinistas. Once also an affectionate term for the Western backed Afghani mujaheddin, out of which the Taliban emerged.


G is for grievances. Apparently the victims of US foreign policy throughout the Middle East and Central Asia have none.


G is also for globalisation and the infinite flexibility of neo& #45;liberal economists. With the US economy in trouble, no-one is talking about the “invisible hand” of the free market, instead “[it is now necessary to] accelerate the flow of government spending into the economy” (Paul Krugman).


H is for the hysteria which produced this gem: “It is appalling that among such people there is a clear thread of sympathy for the mass murderers of the World Trade Centre. You can hear it in the kind of comments and questions on their favoured organisation, the ABC. There is a continual implication that, in some way, the Americans deserved it. There is a note of admiration for the perpetrators. The Yanks, they say by implication, in some ways brought it on themselves” (P.P. McGuinness). No evidence. No quality control at the Sydney Morning Herald. Hysterical in both senses of the word.


is for the International Criminal Court, proposed in the Rome Statute, but opposed by Washington. The most appropriate jurisdiction in which to prosecute those who perpetrated these crimes.


I is also for intelligence failure. Given the CIA and other Western intelligence organisations helped to establish and maintain the Bin Laden network for as long as it served Western interests during the Cold War, it seems extraordinary that no prior knowledge of an attack on such as scale was gained.


is for justice, normally associated with a legal process but now being redefined as the right to “strike back” at innocent Afghanis whom it is acknowledged are already the victims of a repressive, fanatical regime.


K is for killings. See deaths.


L is for Osama bin Laden, a recipient of CIA money and Pakistani political patronage who used to be regarded as a Western intelligence “asset” before turning on his paymaster.


L is for the long bow being stretched beyond rational limits in this nugget: “The irrationality of the amorphous groups who take part in protests against events like CHOGM is not so far in kind, though as yet, thank goodness, very far in practice, from the motivations of the destroyers of the World Trade Centre” (P.P. McGuinness). No comment required.


M is for moral equivalence, an ingenious Cold War device recently resuscitated and thrown at ‘the Left’, which implies that efforts to explain the causes of the attacks are equivalent to condoning them.


M is also for “mistakes”, the inevitable by-product of Washington’s blunderi ng efforts to do good work in the Middle East (William Shawcross), also described as “the unintended consequences of a nation’s foreign policy” (Michael Scammell) when the crimes cannot be concealed from the public.


N is for news and wires stocks which will be the first to rebound in the market.


O is for the 1993 Oklahoma City bombing and the legal process which brought the person responsible – Timothy McVeigh – to justice. There were immediate cries t o bomb the Middle East before it was discovered that the perpetrator was a homegrown terrorist. Surprisingly, there were no attempts to bomb Montana or Idaho where the ultra-right militias are based.


P is for Colin Powell who in 1993 told President Bill Clinton: “We do deserts; we don’t do mountains.”


Q is for Al Qaeda (the Base), Bin Laden’s terrorist network which is said to have cells operating in more than 60 countries. What responsibility for their establishment do Washington, Islamabad and Riyadh share?


R is for retaliation against the 11 September attacks, a word that can only be accurately used if it is assumed that these terrible events have no pre-history which might expla in them.


S is for Saudi Arabia, which is described in the West as a “moderate” Arab state, meaning it complies with the interests of Western oil companies. This is despite the fact that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded on Wahhabism, a fundamentalist strain of Islam, which inspired the “fanatical” Taliban regime in Afghanistan.


S is also for the self-delusion of commentators who claim that the US was targeted because it is a “ray of hope” in the great struggle between “good and evil” (Thomas Friedman) and because of its high moral standards, “it is hard for most Americans, steeped in the humane, liberal values of Western civilisation, to understand the massacre of innocents” (Doug Bandow).


is for terrorism, defined as politically motivated violence directed against, but never by, the West. Terrorism is a disease independent of political motivation.


U if for United Nations, to be bypassed yet again by the United States in the resolution of an international conflict.


U is also for unilateralism, the preferred foreign policy posture of the Bush administration (eg Kyoto protocols, ABM treaty, Biological Weapons Convention) until it suddenly realised the importance of multilateral co-operation for its “war on terrorism”.


V is for vengeance, not normally associate d with civilised behaviour.


W is for Western state terrorism. No such concept.


is for X-Files types conspiracies currently circulating in cyberspace. The truth is much more frightening.


Y is the closest the West seems to want to get to asking why the atrocities occurred. According to the editor of The Age, “it is not a sufficient explanation of mass murder to say that the murderers were motivated by a desire to avenge or overcome what they believed to be a great injustice, and that this desire was so great that they were even prepared to sacrifice their own lives.” Does this mean that trying to understand why these terrible events occurred is a waste of time? Or that we should not distinguish between cause and justification?


Z is for zealotry of the crazed religious kind, a reassuring but foolish and flawed explanation of why the 11 September atrocities occurred.





John Avery is a razor-sharp contributor whose piece on the need to isolate extremist muslims from mo derate forces was the first Webdiary piece published on the War (see Tragedy). Yesterday, he responded to my plea for an address to the nation by the Prime Minister in Why is Howard not addressing us?. That plea was inspired by an email from Brigadier Adrian D’Hage in More on war fever. An email exchange ensued. Here’s the debate.


John Avery in Darwin


Unexpectedly, the terrorist attacks in the US, in their vivid and immediate impact, proved conclusively the psychological nature of modern politics. You, Margo, were shattered and weeping. Who was not? Who had calculated our feelings? How forcefully politics today imposes itself on each of us, so directly and personally, through the real-time media.


So I was moved to respond to your startling plea with some threads of political psychology I left hanging some weeks ago. Then, in an email, I said that sections of the media were reluctant to acknowledge John Howard’s political “brilliance and daring” as evidenced by his audacious, risky initiatives on East Timor, gun control, the GST and the Tampa business. (See Ain’t Howard clever) in the Webdiary archive.)


This was not to recommend these policies or John Howard’s characteristics. It was to note a psychological resistance on the part of some sections of the media. I see this as part of a dialectic of recognition in political leadership (for which I owe Hegel and Freud).


The first fact is that John Howard has not so much as glanced (as distinct from turning his back) to that cultured and credentialed class that includes the ‘resistant’ sections of the media. His witholding of either recognition or love, his perpetually turned face, is a bitterly received narcissistic insult that cuts deeply into media egos, who trade in the modalities of recognition.


They would love to have somebody to love, who loves them, tied to them as firmly as a flattering image in a mirror. Instead they have “little Johnny”, the diminutive, the deaf, the loosed imago, anchored elsewhere. They resist, therefore, seeing his non-dimin utive characteristics as a politician.


Very different was Paul Keating, for example. Even before reaching government he impressed artists, writers, journos and the like that his long face would occasionally incline to them. John Howard’s face never has. His face shows to the people Philip Adams’ recently disparaged �dimocracy”, people not distinguished mainly by culture or credentials. I’m not sure who they are either, except by recent reports they have become more numerous.


What void do you wish to be filled by John Howard “addressing us” now? What reassurances do you seek? What secrets of the future do you think he might be able to reveal? What oracular opportunities might he present?


MARGO: Interesting question. This if off the top – I need to think more about it. Something about needing to make sense of ourselves to ourselves, establish our place in the big picture. The need for a mettanarrative. America has it. The words of its presidents, the knowledge of its history, the setting out of its core ideals in the constitution. And what have we? We’re so young we haven’t worked it out yet. I feel we need a unified, coherent story from the PM in the context of this crisis.


JOHN: But how un-postmodern, if you will forgive me for saying so. Why do we need the PM’s story? He doesn’t know the st uff you want him to say. Bush does more because its his game. It’s part of the politician’s job to manage events as they happen and are about to happen, and not to make long speeches about what they think the future might hold and how they will respond in the future. No one knows exactly how they will respond to a situation when it actually does happen, though they might make sensible plans. If the horses were about to bolt, somehow, well okay he’d have to do it. But they are not – I suspect they ar e like him, watching things unfold in their uncertain fashion. Word will not contain events.




Sean Richardson


Today it’s 15 days since September 11. I know that this forum and the SMH’s letters page aren’t statistically representative of community views and I further annoy myself by having a preference for JJJ on the wireless – once again, not exactly “mainstream” comment. Nevertheless it seems many people are trying to justify a do-nothing response to the attack which to me seems completely unjustifiable.


Most commonly, pacifist wr iters assume that the US lead response will consist of mindless acts of revenge, carpet bombing directed at Afghani children, and that the danger represented by Al Qaeda and their loyal hosts, the Taliban, will go away if we ignore it.


Where, I wonder, does this knee-jerk pacifism come from? My conclusion is that much of Australia’s popular cultural assumption s are still grounded in the 60s, and our attitude to all things military in the Vietnam War. I know I’ll start to sound like the old rooster in Chicken Run, but BACK IN MY ARMY DAYS this was enormously obvious in the Army’s pathetically desperate need for good PR: “Richardson, take off your rank and give it to that female soldier. Now look like you’re in charge, Janelle.” Click click, newsflash! Sisters doing it for themselves! Female soldier in command of infantry exercise! Army not really a bunch of blokey professional killers like in those Nam movies and protest songs!


Vietnam was, of course, a misguided effort. No matter how well soldiers carried out their orders, a loss is a loss, and Vietnam was unwinnable with a nuclear China and the USSR diligently turning up to all meetings of the UN Security Council. The sixties was in many ways the foundation era of our modern popular culture. Not just rock ‘n roll, but also attitudes to government, the “me” generation, feminism and so on. Vietnam was an important part of the shaping of all of these social movements. Our interest in winning that war was so obtuse that a young man facing service could honestly say “I’m patriotic and no coward, but what’s the point?”


Unfortunately, the Vietnam era mindset seems to be so entrenched that many of us now assume that any and all military actions are merely the result of bellicose old fools wanting to play with their expensive war toys. This was never really the case except in the imaginary world of pop-culture.


Australians were actually worried by the “domino effect”, a fear stemming from the same territorial paranoia behind our ridiculous reaction to the Tampa crisis, and our soldiers in Vietnam were professional and well lead. Nevertheless, people seemed not just surprised but amazed when General Cosgrove and his troops, especially 3 RAR, did such a professional and effective job in East Timor.


Within a couple of months of them getting home, however, back bench politicians and civil servants were talking about disbanding 3 RAR because one soldier was allegedly beaten up by others. Down with generals! Post September 11, western journalists are again engaging in the Lionel Hutz response: lionizing the enemy and assuming the coalition soldiers will be a bunch of hapless wimps. As Lionel said when his opposition confidently didn’t bother to make an opening argument: “Ooooh, they’re gonna win!”


With ‘Nam firmly in their subconscious, many journos want to be the clever one who’s first to point out that the “war” is a lost cause, and any amount of wrong headed strategic misconceptions will do to justify that assumption. The Hutz Brigade firmly refuse to acknowledge, for example, that the Taliban are mostly Pakistanis, not Afghanis. They interview tough talking extremists in Pakistan and assume the Afghans have been spoken for. They conveniently forget the active resistance to Taliban rule within the country. They dopily equate the war on terrorism with the USSR’s attempt to install a marxist government in Afghanistan.


One of the good things about democracy is the difficulty of riling people up for a serious fight, and this is no doubt partly because 51% of voters are not burdened with testosterone. Nevertheless, Australian feminists who make the 60s equation of women’s rights and an anti-war stanc e should remember something: all reports smuggled out of Afghanistan would indicate that women in that country will be crossing their fingers, hoping that the Taliban is ousted and replaced by a more moderate, indigenous government.


The West’s comparatively respectful and equal treatment of our women is one of the things Osama hates about us. Sanctions, you say? You know damn well that it will be the women and children who suffer the deprivation, while the Taliban’s men with guns enjoy whatever wealth and medicine is still around.


Finally, the “me generation”. Frankly, much of the let’s-pretend&a mp;#45;it-never-happened writing I’m seeing smells to me like the worst type of gutless NIMBYism. Oh sure, we l ove being in this society, free to choose our spiritual beliefs or lack thereof, free to make love not war with whatever consenting adult we desire, free to sing rock ‘n roll, to strip down to speedos and bikinis right next to each other on our beloved beaches, free to associate, free to slag off the government. But when this way of life is not just threatened but attacked, it’s “can’t someone else take care of it?”


No, they can’t. On Tuesday the Herald published an interview with a Pakistan based extremist who welcomed war with the US, qualifying his statement with “our war is not with the American people, but their government”. Many of the terrorist-apologists seem to have bought this line, blaming the US for the attack.


Bollocks. Are those 6,800 high level US government decision makers buried in the rubble? No they bloody well are not. Not only are they almost all former private citizens, many are not American. Not a few are our compatriots. This fight is not based on some esoteric theoretical threat like the domino theory. A major, extraordinarily destructive attack has been made against civilian targets on the continental home soil of our most important ally.


As has been pointed out, our capability to provide concrete military assistance is limited. Nevertheless, enough with the knee-jerk, Vietnam era assum ption that we’re on the side of the bad guys. If you really are so committed to the ideal of pacificism that you’re prepared to let terrorists hold sway in this world, well I disagree, but that’s your right. Unlike an Afghani, you’re entitled to your opinion. The rest of you are just looking for excuses to get out of doing the chores.


Piers Denton


Unlike I presume most of your contributors I work with my hands, albeit well manicured (I am a hair stylist), I also am not interested in religion of any order and have no qualms about ‘collateral damage’. You see I hate the Taliban as I hate all prescriptive religions. Anything that stops me sleeping with men and women, taking recreational drugs and buying porn and in general enjoying my life is my enemy. And so the Taliban is most profoundly so. My lack of religious moral concern for the welfare of people I don’t know and can never know may seem odd to bleeding heart liberals, but why should it? Do you stop and consider the pain involved in your meat consumption? Why should I, or the world in general, feel pain that people far away, who threaten our lifestyle, may die. I am reminded of Orson Welles speech in the Third Man, “Would you care if one of those ants stops.” In reality not a jot.


Barry Cotterell in Brisbane, Queensland


The United States of America is a country which will not subject its citizens to an International Court of Justice yet it claims the right to sentence others to death without trial or even proof of wrong doing.


Whoever was responsible for the New York and Washington terrorist attacks should be brought to justice. However, that involves bringing the accused before a court of law where they can receive a fair trial and, depending upon the evidence proving their involvement in these crimes and the extent of that involvement, they should be sentenced by an impartial judge to whatever punishment is appropriate for the crime of which they are found guilty.


The Taliban are refusing to hand over bin Laden to the USA who want him “dead or alive”. The USA are saying only that he is the “prime suspect”.


This is not the language of justice but of the lynch mob.

When you add to this, the threat to “take out”, meaning to kill, anyone associated with the “prime suspect”, how can any of this be called justice?


Australia should not join the lynch mob, but should call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice before an International Court of Justice.




Zainab Al-Badry


Lately, I started hearing and reading in the media about conscription. I have to confess that my English wasn’t good enough to know the meaning of this word so I had to look it up in the dictionary. I was horrified. Wars have destroyed my country. My my two brothers and hundreds of thousands like them have no choice but to abide by the Dictator’s rules (the alternative is too horrible to be mentioned). I have one son and I want to say this: There is absolutely no reason in my mind that justifies sending him to war. I am sure many people will say this is a different situation and we have no choice but to defend our country. I will say this to them, YES we do have choice and that is not blindly following the American path. All that we are going to get out of this war is the dead bodies of our beloved ones. The ends DO NOT justify the means.




If I strip away the America’s rhetoric, I find I support America’s ACTIONS so far. The Coalition building is awe 5;inspiring. To hear the Russian President say �we are all to blame� as Russia and the Yanks find themselves o n the same side in the never-ending Afghanistan wars is breathtaking. To see the intelligent, sensitive support for Paki stan’s president and his evident need for a softly-softly build-up triggers that strange word ‘hope�. I was impressed by the European Commission’s guarantee to Pakistan that Europe would fully fund aid to Afghan refugees who cross the border. The refusal of the United States to strike quickly with rage, and instead put terrible pressure on the Taliban through closure of the borders is spot on. Now the northern alliance retakes territory in the north as the Taliban retreats to Kabul, where some civilians already starve. One can imagine, in optimistic moments, that the Taliban will not have the capacity to hold out even without an American strike. Here the Taliban is South Vietnam and we’re with the North. My sister Gay Alcorn is reporting in the Herald a battle of wills between Colin Powell – who to me is a a genuine hero in this crisis – ; and the hawks shows the situation is unstable. But the signs are good. I hope I don’t regret recording this impression. Here, Bill Grace outlines what could happen if the Coalition doesn’t play this delicate game exactly right.


Bill Grace


What we see unfolding in the wake of the US attacks may well be catastrophic, not only for the poor innocent wretches who remain on the wrong side of the barbed wire bordering Afghanistan, but for the whole world. Robert Fisk’s article (re-printed from the Independent in the SMH on 22nd September) should be mandatory reading for all those politicians in t he West who are blindly following the US into war.


The incredible shock, outrage and horror of September 11 is understandable in human response terms but cannot justify actions that may afflict the world for decades to come. This is not a proposal to go soft on terrorism or a naIve “peace

now” line. It is a plea to rationally identify the likely scenarios that will flow from the proposed retaliation. A very plausible one goes like this:


* US swings support behind the Northern Alliance and attacks the Taliban


* Taliban invokes jihad against US and their allies (already done)


* Taliban uses foreign aid workers as shields (or worse)


* Millions of internally displaced Afghans, trapped inside borders, slowly starve to death


* Growing numbers (albeit low percentages) of radical Muslims sign up to the jihad throughout the Middle East, Pakistan and in other Muslim communities around the world


* Muslim communities around the world split between radical and moderate groups, causing further instability and hostility in countries like Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia and Malaysia


* Pakistan supports US attacks, becomes destabilised, economy

collapses, civil war ensues


* Hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in Pakistani camps are cut off from aid


* Citizens of the US, UK, Australia and other countries involved in US retaliatory actions are targeted by terrorists at home and abroad


* Biological (and perhaps nuclear) weapons are involved


* Innocent, peaceful muslim citizens in western countries also suffer terror (how else can you describe fire-bom bing mosques?)


If anything like this happens, the danger to the West of terrorism will increase, not decrease. Even if new restrictive security measures reduce the percentage of successful incidences of terror, the rapidly increasing number of incidences will push the annual death tolls up.


As we speak young, angry men throughout the muslim world, livid at talk of a “crusade” and inaccurate reporting of the identity of the hijackers are joining what they perceive as a war against Islam.


The reality is there are reasons why the US is so hated by the perpetrators of this most awful crime. Everyone who should know, including Howard and Beazley, knows the reasons. The US’s role in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan et al over the last 20 years is the basis of the hatred. As Robert Fisk points out, there has been plenty of terror and not much democracy handed out in the region under the auspices of US influence, if not directly by them. It is misleading and disingenuous to grieving Americans to pretend the US has not played a large part in creating this monster, including training Bin Laden himself.


The West, including Australia, has been party to this by either directly participating (the humanitarian disaster in Iraq) or by neglect. Until now the US has incurred the wrath of the aggrieved parties. However if Australian forces join the US now in an indiscriminate attack then I fear we, along with others, will also become targets.


It is only when the US acknowledges (and cares) that its policies have ramifications beyond US domestic politics that it will modify its approach and so mollify its critics. This is the key to reducing terrorism. It is the duty of political leaders to say loudly to George Bush:


* We grieve with you over this appalling tragedy


* We will support all lawful actions to bring the perpetrators to justice and reduce the risk of future attacks


* We will not blindly support or participate in actions that may lead to regional (if not global) instability and misery and starvation for millions


* We will not support actions that are likely to actually increase the risk of terrorism, and broaden its targets


It is also the duty of the media to insist that Howard enunciates to the public exactly what role Australia intends to play before it happens, not after. We should also hope the Opposition will play a constructive role in such a debate, although recent events seem to indicate this won’t happen.


There may be only a brief period for sanity to prevail over the understandable, but counter-productive, push for revenge. Let’s fill the space with calm and reasoned d ebate about what is a sensible and sustainable strategy.




J Nalbandian


This is news that does not usually interest the Western Media and is unreported in the western wires. This is from a Lebanese paper on the net. What other country can use the airspace of its neighbouring country without its authority. Israel can because Lebanon is weak. Is it fair? Is it just? As it is not reported in the western media nobody will know and they can continue doing it with impunity.




President Lahoud (Lebanon’s president) has directed the government to complain to the United Nations about Israel’s resumption of the sonic war against Beirut and other major population centers in Lebanon, calling the aerial incursions a “flagrant act of terrorism.”


Thirty-two fighter jets b roke in waves into Lebanon’s airspace Monday, staging thunderous supersonic runs over the capital and other Lebanese cities, Lahoud said at the extraordinary session of the cabinet last evening.


“This must be registered with the United Nations as a flagrant act of terrorism against Lebanon’s sovereignty, which requires international solidarity to confront and condemn,” the president said.


Instructions were sent out to Lebanon’s U.N. ambassador Selim Tadmori to lodge the complaint with the U.N. secretariat and ask that it be distributed to the members of the Security Council as an official document.


Sonic booms rattled Beirut’s population as the Israeli jets buzzed the capital twice on Monday. Similar sound-cr ashing sorties were staged over Sidon, Tripoli, Baalbek, Tyre and Nabatiyeh, police reported.


Rick Pass


In response to Andreas Perdana in More War Stories, he is quite right that the US did not explode any nuclear weapons in conflicts since WWII, but not for want of trying. In every major conflict since then the US has come close to going nuclear. In Korea Macarthur demanded the right to use atomic bombs against China should it enter the war. In Vietnam, significant factions within US administrations argued for the use of nuclear weapons.


During the Gulf War when Powell was head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he was directed by the administration to take a team into a sealed room and come up with a nuclear option. At the time he said to them that this was not an option that they should even be considering but was essentially told to shut up and do it.


However Andreas is right when he says that there are a great many conflicts between yellow/brown/black people that we in the West tend to ignore. On my part, I would hope that this is not a reflection of ‘white superiority sympathies’ as he calls it but rather a simple acknowledgement of power. Its about realpolitik.


Take a couple of the examples offered by Andreas; the Chinese massacred in Indonesia in 1965-66 and genocide in East Timor from 1975 onwards. On the surface it may look like it is racially inspired, or ethnic, or cultural or religious, but that’s not really a credible explanation. Look deeper and the real causes are economic and political. Look again and you will find that the West is not the disinterested observer that one might imagine.


The million or so Indonesians massacred as Suharto’s New Order consolidated power were not exclusively Chinese but anyone from the left. Labour, peasants, political organisations. Western involvement went so far as to include providing detailed death lists to the regime containing thousands of names which were systematically crossed off as they were slaughtered, to the accompanying loud cheers and encouragement of the US government.


As for East Timor, I don’t think at this late date there can be any doubt as to the absolute involvement and culpability of Western nations, most prominent amongst these being the Commonwealth of Australia. It was within the power of our government to stop Indonesian involvement in East Timor before it ever became an issue, but we chose not to.


The point is not that atrocities committed by brown/yellow/black people against whites or against each other are in some way less meaningful than atrocities committed by whites. That is why I wrote that “We need to admit that murder is murder. A war crime a war crime. A crime against humanity a crime no matter who is committing it.” But to say that and no more is to ignore the very real power that we in the West possess.


Apartheid did not come to an end because black South Africans suddenly found out is was a rotten system. It came to an end when the West decided to use its enormous political and economic power to make it happen. East Timor was not liberated because the the Timorese woke up one morning to discover that they were being brutally oppressed, they worked that out from day one. It was liberated because the East Timorese wouldn’t ‘go quietly into that good night’. They kept fighting and campaigning and protesting until we in the West couldn’t ignore them any more. The whole point of their quarter century long struggle was to get us to sit up and notice. The day that the we in the West turned our collective attention on East Timor their freedom was assured.


The point I’m trying to make is that while I do tend to hold white folks to a higher standard than yellow/brown/black folks this is not because of their race or colour or creed. (I would hold wealthy sophisticated nations like Malaysia and Singapore, the elites in all nations and multinational corporations to similar standards.) I hold them to a higher standard because history, for reasons too complex to expand on here, has seen white nations end up effectively holding the vast majority of the world’s wealth and power. Our nations, are the rulers of the world, whether we want to admit that or not. Our people are not, on the whole poor, dispossessed, marginalised, or downtrodden. Our children are, on the whole, not illiterate, starving and diseased. We have all of the advantages the world has to offer. We have no excuses.


Yet at the end of the day we end up no better, and sometimes worse than our poor brown neighbours. Just a couple of weeks ago when we turned our backs on our international obligations and refused to accept the Tampa asylum seekers it was East Timor which stepped forward to offer them refuge. Jose Ramos Horta said that throughout the dark years other nations had given aid to the Timorese people and even though East Timor had been utterly destroyed and had scarcely anything to offer it was the only decent thing to do. Embarrassing, isn’t it.

Left, right … how politics will march forwards

Yesterday’s edition featuring Greg Weilo’s discussion on left and right these days has attracted some fascinating replies, as did my piece on where Australian politics goes from here. The topics are, as contributions will show, inextricably connected. I particularly recommend a compelling contribution by Christopher Selth, the former head of international equities at Bankers Trust, who sets out where we are and the challenges to come.


The National Library has completed its initial archive of Webdiary in its Pandora archive of nationally significant web publications. You’ll find it at 21852


TAMPA EDITION, September 27, 2001


1. One liners


2. Christopher Selth, Geoff Honour, Michel Dignand on left and right.


3. Robert Lawton, Rob Staszewski, Russell Ayres, Margaret Paterson, OL, Humphrey Hollins on politics post-Tampa


4. Mark Kelly on the latest Ruddock twist and Michael Walton on mandatory sentencing.




John Clark: John Howard deserves to win the election by virtue of the fact that he is capable of making a stand whereas the Labor party is as usual all over the place, desperately trying to retain the support of the chardonnay left while also appeasing the expectations of the traditional working class who support Howard’s recent objectives.


Rusri Ratnapala: I am surprised that the government has not yet cynically dubbed their policy against asylum seekers arriving by boat “Operation Infinite Compassion”.


Nina Clemson: So Greg Weilo is left wing on economic issues and right wing on social issues. Isn’t that the definition of National Socialism? As in, I believe in Socialism, but only for those in my Nation.


John Boase: A corollary of multiculturalism has been the development of new kinds of racism, the imported variety. It would be simplistic to assume Anglo racism is the only kind around and naive to assume only Anglos are opposing the boat people.


Beveley Rogers: Why can’t Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Lybia and Jordan be prevailed upon to take a share of the desperate people fleeing Afghanistan. Why have offers of refuge een so few from Muslim countries.




Christopher Selth


In response to Greg Weilo’s view of left and right, I am not sure whether or not Greg is confused about the appropriate labels to apply to his position. He is either naive or disingenuous with respect to the label appropriate to his positioning on the political spectrum. More significantly, the underlying politics of his position reflects the deep fissures in our society that the tragedy in New York is opening up.


I would like to respond to the underlying philosophical points Greg raises before coming back to labels. The two issues are, however, very linked.


Firstly, one must distinguish between underlying belief systems, and the strategies adopted by political parties. This distinction can be seen either as reflecting the notorious disconnect between politicians and voters, due to the cynical pursuit of power, or alternatively as the disconnect between high principle, or abstract theory, and its application to the practicalities of government.


A further problem appears from the difficulties, if not bankruptcy, of left and right wing economic theories in generating convincing practical outcomes. Marxism and Socialism, and Economic Rationalism no longer offer the political machines of left and right easily saleable policy stances. Note, so-called Economic Rationalism is in f act the pure application of a brand of capitalist, neo-classical economic theory. It has become clouded with the realiti es of practical, rational, economic policy.


Political parties need to be understood in terms of the electoral base to which they appeal, and the strategies they need to adopt in order to get over the line, to win elections. So-called left wing parties have two traditional constituencies; the working class, which tends to be economically left wing, but culturally conservative; and the liberal humanist intelligentsia, which is more economically rational in orientation, but culturally very liberal.


The right wing parties have a parallel fault line. One constituency is old money and small business. There are a number of sub groups here, including owners of businesses that are often local monopolists, but tend to be averse or incapable of taking on global challenges, farmers, and small businesses. These groups tend to favour state intervention to protect their positions from globalisation and the stresses of change. Their politics can ironically parallel the socialism of the working class, but for powerfully different reasons. Their cultural politics tend to conservatism.


The other group comprises global capitalists and technocrats. This group is not defending its position, it is seeking to expand its wealth. It is confident and pro-globalisation and economic rationalism. It is culturally liberal humanist.


You can see in this matrix the divides that have been evident within the Australian political landscape for some time. It is why the Labor Party has resisted homosexual law reform, and why the Coalition has locked in the positions of Kerry Packer, Qantas, and parts of the agricultural lobby, rather than promoting free trade. Left and right wing parties pursue policies in stark divergence from some simplistic understanding of their supposed underlying support base.


This is why right wing parties tend to push socially conservative and populist policies that appeal to the working classes. It will transfer votes from the traditional left to the populist right. It is key to winning a parliamentary majority. In America these were the so called Reagan democrats.


Pauline Hanson undermined the Australian right wing’s ability to claim this ground. That’s why she was so dangerous. This was why the Tampa was such a crucial turning point for John Howard. Behind this rhetoric, however, the right has little interest in the broad agenda of the working class, other than protecting jobs when it simultaneously protects the economic interests of its support base.


The globalist faction in the right, witness Peter Costello, is invariably outraged by this positioning.


The old left was interested in pushing its liberal humanist agenda to win middle class champagne socialist support, whilst being careful of not alienating its working class base. This was the Gough Whitlam strategy. You can see how long Labour stayed out of power in Australia and the UK as a result.


The new left added to its arsenal by embracing elements of economic rationalism. This was particularly the case as Marxism and Socialism were seen as failing to deliver under the pressure of global capital and change. It owed few favours to old money. The more sophisticated members of the new left, such as Paul Keating, saw that the only way to improve job prospects in the nation longer term was by making the economy more efficient. This would also win middle class votes.


The problem was that the short term pain would always leave it at risk with its traditional voting base. That is what ultimately brought Labor down. It is why Kim Beazley is so scared of declaring his hand. He is castrated by these internal tensions.


Both sides are constantly doing deals that alienate part of their traditional support base. This is reality. It is a clear outcome of the structure of our electoral process and parliamentary system.


An interesting insight on these issues can be found in the work of the now dead US sociologist, Christopher Lasch. His last book before he died, The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy is particularly thought provoking. The core thesis in this book is that the global technocracy, visible in all our major cities, working for globally focused organisations, have more in common with each other than the culture of their particular national hinterland.


I think there is a great deal of truth in this proposition. People like me, educated affluent technocratic elitist bastards, have more in common with our class compatriots in London, Paris or New York, than we do with the average man of our particular economic hinterland. In Sydney this can be metaphorically conceptualised as the difference of culture and beliefs between inner city and coastal dwellers, and the suburbs.


Lasch comments that this global class tends to be socially liberal humanist. He notes the irony that the elite might support gay rights, but at the same time feel it is for the best that inefficient industries be shut down, even at the expense of jobs and communities This is what Greg would refer to as left wing, social ideology. At the same time it is economically rationalist, which Greg identifies as right wing economic philosophy.


The important question that arises is what is the motivation behind the elite’s espousal of these values? Is it legitimate compassion, or a self-serving identification with the fashionable causes of the day, a champagne socialism that can go hand in hand with the process of personal enrichment?


It is the new religion of the upper class, which John Howard often, to his chagrin, runs up against. The have nots of our society often feel these values are hypocritical. Despite all of this, many of these values are of great merit. The irony is that it is this great Western tradition that George W. Bush keeps saying we are fighting for.


Lasch’s work is filled with dark irony. It transcends the distinction of left and right. It hits the fault line on which Greg sits. Whilst Lasch unquestionably has captured a key thread, he does not reach any conclusions. It is a provocative piece.


The attack on liberal humanism, and economic rationalism and globalisation, reflect a common factor, fear of change, fear of the unknown. Human history has seen at these moments objective analysis give way to extremism and hysteria. Legitimate criticisms from both sides are lost. We are at risk of being swept away by this tide. Extremist politics are on the rise.


The question confronting us is: Can we integrate liberal humanism with a new paradigm in economic management? Economic policy needs to balance the dynamic drive of capitalism, with appropriate measures to reduce the shock waves and to humanise the process. Regrettably most such strategies in recent times have been hijacked by traditional interest groups: old money, old unions, and old farmers. The power of governments to act in the face of global forces is itself suspect.


A new economic philosophy and social philosophy is required. We must move forward, not backward. The conservative chest beating post the World Trade Center attack risks the worst outcome.


Greg’s thinly veiled piece emphasises this point. It is not hard to decipher. Greg groups all elements of the community that are not part of his pure national core as dangerous; homosexuals [of which I am proudly one!!!], feminists, pro-abortion groups, multi-cultu ralists. On this front he calls himself a Nationalist. On the economic front, he calls himself a Socialist. A national socialist?


Is it by accident that Greg says that left wing extremists have been running things for the last 50 years, ie the post war period? Fifty years ago there was another National Socialist who was arguing the same thing. His name was Adolf Hitler.


I am afraid that the fight is just beginning against this conservative backlash. I agree with Margo that a new opposition movement is needed. It needs to do more than just say bigotry is wrong. It must address the philosophical and political roots of this problem. It must be a broad movement. It must be self critical to avoid the accusation of elitism. This must be more than just the liberal humanist intelligentsia saying how awful everyone else is.


Geoff Honnor


I was slightly amazed at reading a “right winger” post – it whacked onto my forehead Margo. I certainly don’t fi t my perception of what right wing might be – Heffernan? Abbott? Pell? Bronwyn Bishop? God have mercy. But then what the hell is the currency of “right” and “left” 12 years after the Iron Curtain rusted away? And might the answer to that question not tell us something about the tectonic shifts underway in our political landscape?


For example – Greg Weilo proceed with caution – I’m a 40 something, unreconstructed homosexual, with a haircut that wouldn’t get me in the backdoor of the Melbourne Club and an affinity for history, politics, sex and all night dance parties. My work over the last few years has been in the Australian community-based response to HIV/AIDS. I’d consider myself to be socially progress ive, supportive of a much greater degree of market regulation, deeply sceptical of anyone who claims to have the truth, the way and the light, and well to the left of all 298 factions of the ALP – although I concede that Heffernan, Abbott and Bronw yn Bishop probably are as well.


Given that I’m an adult with a reasonable education and an interest in the world around me, I’m capable of reaching an independent viewpoint on any one of a number of issues without checking to see whether it fits some antideluvian notion of left or right.


I’ve a strong feeling that I’m not alone. In fact we could be the new politics. Watch this space.


Michel Dignand in Wagga Wagga, NSW


It’s inevitable that people who think along similar lines tend to converse with each other. The more we agree, the closer we bond; the less we agree, the more likely we are to push off and find someone to talk to with views closer to our own.


So who might read Webdiary? They have to have access to a computer and they have to be drawn to the Herald site, then

stumble eventually, as I did, through the gateway of the land of free discussion. That’s going to limit the readership for a start.


All postings demonstrate a level of literacy far higher than that in the general population, so bang goes another big chunk of the possible readership.


And then we look at the left/right question. It’s easy to fall into simple traps here, but in my fairly wide experience well-educated, widely-read and well-travelled people tend to lean towards the left. Or maybe it’s the other way round, that people who lean towards the left are well-educated, widely-read and well -travelled!


The other intelligent people are either so self-centred that they couldn’t give a toss , or hard-nosed business people who are, perhaps, too busy to care about others.


I enjoyed Greg Weilo’s thoughtful and thought-provoking piece, and I suppose I can grudgingly see where he’s coming from. But frankly, I c an’t see myself sharing his position on what I consider to be the fence.


In my view a leftie is someone who cares about others in society. And a right winger is someone who doesn’t.


I’m not a bleeding heart, but I still care about others in society. I can’t imagine being a leftie in some things and right-wing in … it just doesn’t add up. There is a divide, hard and sharp. So if I’m right, there goes another large section of the potential readership. Those who agree, please put your hands up.


To even things up, the Herald should get Paddy McGuinness (arch idiot and scowling, self-centred bigot that he is) to start his own version of Webdiary. Now THAT would be something I wouldn’t go near.




Robert Lawton in Adelaide


Thank you for returning to solutions, rather than ventilations, in Retrospective Hansonism.


I was never worried about the PM letting Pauline speak out, in 1996 and after. In my view it was better to have her obsessions discussed openly in Parliament than merely muttered to mates in workplaces, around evening TV, on talkback or in the pub. I had heard enough of her kind of stuff after leaving my Whitlamite family home in the early 80s to know that it drove many (if not most) people’s attitudes to immigration, welfare, Aboriginal people and the economy.


We all know that this country is insecure and xenophobic: the question is, as Lenin said, What Is To Be Done?


Shall we allow the populist tail to wag the executive dog? As long as preference deals rule, the parties will suck up to the crucial minors. Richardson did the dirty work in 1989/90 and saved Labor with “the environment” at an election that even the Peacock-led Liberal/Nationals could have won. Ten years on, Ruddock/Van stone did the same thing with immigration and welfare policies, when it seemed that even the Beazley-led ALP might grab sufficient marginals to take office.


Taking mandatory preferencing away from the voting process will possibly wipe out One Nation and even the Greens. It will certainly harm the Democrats. But it will at least make the majors face their party rooms with homegrown cant, rather than cant bought elsewhere.


As much as I loathe the ALP Caucus’ attitude to the anti-asylum seekers laws just passed, I understand the appeasement attitude behind it and know that optional preferen tial voting would work to cut out the straightforward adoption of policy offensive to decency and humanity, in order to buy votes from bigots.


Rob Staszewski


Your point yesterday about optional preferrential voting is noted, though don’t you think it is but a small, though perhaps essential, part of a thorough review of our electoral practice that is desperately needed? The two party system is no longer an adequate representation of our pluralist selves.


It would be interesting to hear from those amongst us who are disenchanted with their current electoral options. So Kim has let the side down and little Johnny has retreated to a mythical fifties that exists only in some tepid xenophobic fantasy. What now?


We may be far better governed if our representatives in parliament were truely representative of the various threads of concerns that form our social milieu. That they would then have to OPENLY form alliances with other representatives if they wish to hold power does not really cause me any great concern. Suitable electoral reform may radically alter our current excuse for political practice. Scary? Perhaps, but I don’t mind admitting that there are aspects to little Johnny that scares the bejasus out of me.


By the way, I caught M. Fraser on Late Night Live this week. The old bastard sounded positively statesmanlike at times. Recently he has started to make a bit of a habit of it. Having one’s prejudices challenged from time to time must be good for the soul.


Russell Ayres in Canberra


I heard you yesterday on Late Night Live arguing that people disaffected with the ALP will nevertheless preference them ahead of the Libs, therefore their impact will be minimal in the House of Representatives. As you acknowledged, the Senate could be a very different story.


Last week my partner and my son (who votes for the first time in the forthcoming election) wrote to our local member Bob McMullan to say we intend not to vote Labor because of the stance they have taken on the Tampa and refugees. We also wrote to the ALP Senator for the ACT, Kate Lundy, saying the same thing.


This, for us, was a serious step. We once would have been described as ‘dyed in the wool’ Labor voters. Now we are swinging voters – a breed I once felt considerable contempt for as political flotsum, tossed around by whatever happened last week. It was also a serious step because we know both Bob and Kate to some degree and respect them in many ways. But the Party simply can no longer command our respect, let alone our loyalty.


And that takes me to your argument about preferences in the House of Representatives. While you are right that the preferences of voters like us will eventually flow through to Labor in most instances (depending on the strength and discipline of the protest vote) this misses the point.


Even if Labor wins the next election, its support in terms of primary votes will almost certainly be diminished. And people who give their first preference to someone other than whoever wins the election do not, regardless of what happens further down the preferencing list, feel in the slightest sense that they have elected the person who did win. So where does that leave any sense of legitimacy for government?


Maybe we are going to have to have a House of Representatives proportional representation system and forgo the idea of majority government now that we no longer have anything like half the voters supporting any party.


Margaret Paterson


The passage of the migration bills was a gross and disgusting betrayal of principle by both the ALP and the Coalition parties. Since we have to preference either ALP or Coalition on our House of Reps ballot papers, many people will consider that spoiling their papers will be their only alternative. How many of us will be able to stomach voting for parties so focussed on gaining votes that they will enthusiastically betray their principles without qualm?


O.L. (surname witheld on request)


The recent policy position adopted by Kim Beazley and the ALP is just the latest indication of how populist Beazley and his ilk have become over the previous three years and how devoid of vision and policy direction the ALP is.


I notice that some of your colleagues in the press gallery have started making comparisons between Kim Beazley and John Hewson. While there may be some electoral similarities, Dr. Hewson was by far the better leader. He had the courage and the honesty to propose a vision that was relatively unpopular to the electorate because he considered it best for Australia. He knew that it would be necessary to sacrifice votes but he nevertheless stuck to his longstanding convictions and presented Fightback anyway.


Kim Beazley, by contrast, has sacrificed any vision he had for the country and adopted a position designed to win votes. I supported Dr. Hewson in 1993 with enthusiasm. I will vote for Kim Beazley in 2001 only because he is the lesser of two evils.


It wasn’t always like this. There was a period when I had profound respect and admiration for Kim Beazley and his strong commitment to his principles. That was during the 1996-1998 period when he actually appeared to have a vision. I can rememb er his strong dedication to opposing the Wik legislation. Despite indications that the Wik legislation was overwhelmingly popular within some sections of the community, Beazley persevered to take a strong position against the proposals of the Howard government. He may have taken a relatively unpopular stance but he emerged looking like a strong and competent leader. And the ALP came out as a party prepared to advance the principles of social justice, tolerance and compassion above electoral populism.


Contrast this with the performance of Kim Beazely and the ALP over the course of the last few weeks. What we have seen is an Opposition Leader obviously badly advised by his political strategists and frightened to even sneeze in case he does something that will jeopardize his chances of becoming Prime Minister.


He could have pointed out that the majority of asylum seekers have genuine cases to be considered. He could have strongly contradicted Mr. Reith’s, Mr. Ruddock’s and Mr. Slipper’s assertions about the strong connections between boat people and terrorism. He could have come out very strongly against the increasingly pro-Hanson position of the Howard government. But no.


After muddling around for a few days, he comes out fully in favor of the government’s position and vows to endorse whatever the government proposes in relation to boat people. He has done almost nothing to contradict the ridiculous stereotypes advanced by Ruddock and friends. Obviously he is incapable of showing any commitment to social justice, tolerance or compassion if it means he could lose votes.


When the ALP came within an inch of victory in 1998, Beazley had the perfect opportunity to sell himself to the electorate as a leader and a visionary. He has done neither. What we have seen is an Opposition Leader whom continuously whinges and whines about what the government does but does not present any credible alternative for voters.


His advisers obviously considered that they could capitalize on unpopularity over the GST and the Howard government and win votes without presenting a credible vision. Unforeseen circumstances have revealed the shortcomings of such a strategy. Now Beazely is floundering like a fish out of the water.


I doubt the ALP will win the election. Whitlam and Bob Hawke were elected because they presented voters with a credible vision and a perception of strong leadership. Hawke could have won an election, even in hostile circumstances like now, because he gave the impression of being a leader. Beazely just looks like another Neil Kinnock or Arthur Calwell.


Howard doesn’t deserve to win this election but his government has managed to stir up enough prejudice and fear that he will. Beazley will let him.


Humphrey Hollins in Perth, Western Australia


As a working class man I may not have the flair and wordsmith skills of your more educated correspondents but I like to think that I can hit the spot over here in the bigoted west. It is hard to find a person in the street here who has not fallen for the propaganda and hates the refugees and muslims in general. We are an immature, pathetic little country led by a matching PM

and opposition leader.


This is what I got into the West Australian this morning. You would not believe the torrent of hate mail that is published here.


“I’ll come clean. I am a bleeding heart and a do gooder and despite having no religion, I do believe in Christian values.Therefore, I am prepared to take an Afghan refugee into my home, providing all those who litter these pages with their bigoted views do something in return.


�Take your old mum or dad out of the hos pital or nursing home where they are accomodated at the taxpayer’s expense or take a homeless person off the street. Fair enough?”




Mark Kelly in Townsville, Queensland


No flies on the Coalition. Hot on the heals of Paul Keating’s commentary on Lateline last night of our handling of the immigration issues as ‘sublime bordering on ridiculous’, Mr Ruddock’s office have piously trotted out the following statement this morning…….


“The Federal Government has called on the international community to help ease the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, says Pakistan needs more assistance to cope with the expected influx of refugees.


�He has told Channel Seven that Australia has already made a significant contrib ution to the $30 million of aid being provided by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Our contribution of $14 million [is] an effective 50 per cent increase in the total resources that they have available,” Mr Ruddock said.”


Seems a bit rich to be trumpeting such generosity – I just can’t help wondering if the $150M plus that has been spent ch asing boat people around the Top End and housing them on Pacific Islands could not have been better utilised. Our government’s ignorance of the regimes in Central Asis has been breathtaking, and sharply bought into focus by the terrible recent event in New York. I fear an era of ‘NIMBY. driven chequebook aid’ is upon us with a vengence.


MARGO: The transcript of the Keating interview is not yet on the net. See

Michael Walton in Newtown, Sydney


Derek in Retrospective Hansonism raised a valid question on mandatory sentencing and I’ll give him the debating point, though not for the reasons he offered.


A cursory glance around some Internet sites revealed that mandatory sentencing has become a fact of state criminal law. Some Australian states impose a mandatory minimum sentence for wilful murder. There are also mandatory sentencing regimes for drink-driving. The very fact that such laws exist demo.strates that it is inaccurate to claim that an aversion to mandatory sentencing is an accepted tenet of our society. And so Derek scores the “axiomatic” point.


Nevertheless, there is still considerable opinion that mandatory sentencing is both unconstitutional and in breach of international law. Interestingly enough, it is the UN document that Derek uses to make his point, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is most often cited against mandatory sentencing.


For example, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in its “Briefing Paper: Human Rights and International Law Implications of Migration Bills” suggests that the (new) Border Protection Bill could breach Articles 9 and 14 of the ICCPR.


Opinion on the constitutionality of mandatory sentencing centres on the principle of the separation of powers and the right (or otherwise) of the legislature to mandate minimum terms of sentencing.


During the recent NT mandatory sentencing debate, NSW Judge G.F.K. Santow wrote that in his opinion mandatory sentencing could be challenged in the High Court as a breach of separation of powers because “these mandatory sentencing regimes undermine the integrity of the court’s sentencing processes”. This is the basis for the claim that mandatory sentencing is an attack by the legislature on the judiciary.


To the best of my knowledge the issue of mandatory sentencing has never reached the High Court for its opinion. And, for the sake of comparison, I couldn’t find any reference to the US Supreme Court reviewing mandatory sentencing laws either. So, to use an ABC-like pun, the jury’s still out on this one: at least until the High Court rules or a referendum is fought a nd won on the question.


I am opposed to mandatory sentencing as a matter of principle. I cannot put it any better than the former High Court Chief Justice Brennan, who said that “…a law which compels a magistrate to send a person to gaol when he doesn’t deserve to be sent to gaol is immoral”. It’s that simple. Mandatory sentencing has the potential to snare people it was never intended to snare, and the judge has no discretion to rectify such mistakes: the mandatory penalty must be applied.


As for the “it’s the will of the people” argument, just because the people demand a thing, it does not follow that what they demand is just. And that is why I believe that we need a strong, independent and unfettered judiciary – to provide those legendary “checks and balances” on legislative and executive power. After all, that is what the rule of law is all about.


As I see it, the federal parliament, in the absence of any opposition, has this week assumed the power to mandate minimum penalties for certain offences. There was no review, no consultation, very little public debate: the power was just assumed. I am deeply suspicious of governments assuming new powers in this manner.


All of this was done in the name of getting tough on people smuggling. But, in the case of the new mandatory penalties, we’ll be locking up poor Indonesian sailors, not the big guys. Some justice! If we were serious about catching the Mr Bigs, we’d start by signing the Protocol on the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (2000).


But, as we’ve seen, the introduction of mandatory sentencing in federal law was not the only disturbing innovation passed through parliament this week. We are further restricting refugees’ access to our territory and our courts; introducing yet another class of humanitarian visa; legislating that everything the government did re Tampa was absolutely and unquestionably legal – no ifs and no buts.


I’m aghast that most people have fallen for it. A direct electionist, I am seriously reconsidering my views in the light of the attitude of Australians to asylum seekers. I was kidding myself when I said that Australians would never elect John Laws or Alan Jones as President.


And as for the Labor Party and the politics of supporting all this legislation, I hope they realise that if the government is returned later this year, the whole cynical exercise was futile. they would have ditched their principles for nothing.

Retrospective Hansonism

Covering Pauline Hanson’s 1998 election campaign revolutionised my perspective of politics and journalism, and the Webdiary is a product of that experience. By the end of it, I saw the phenomenon as a scream by Australians locked out of the public discourse who felt powerless and betrayed.

Since then, an extraordinary transformation has taken place in Australian politics. Back in 1998, in a bitter and emotional Canberra press conference just before the Queensland poll which made her a star, Hanson delivered her immigration policy. She wanted five year temporary visas for refugees and she wanted to send the boats back and wave goodbye. Every political party abhorred these policies, with Phillip Ruddock being particularly vehement.

Less than three years later, the Coalition has implemented three-year temporary visas for refugee boat people and turned back boats, with it’s first legislative attempt to cement the turn-back policy, the border protection bill in its original form, allowing government to actually bomb the boats. Today, for the first time, Labor, Coalition and One Nation Senators crowded together on the “yes” side of the Senate chamber, when they voted seven revolutionary migration bills into law without consultation, committee hearings and after imposing a guillotine to prevent debate on amendments.

On the other side the Democrats, the Greens and Brian Harradine represented the new oppressed minority in Australia.

I’ll never forget phoning Ruddock when in 1999 he announced the three-year temporary visa policy in response to Iraqis taking to boats. I said, in disbelief, “But that’s Pauline Hanson’s policy”, and quoted his words of condemnation less than two years before. His defence was that, unlike the Cambodian boat people- who were often economic refugees and were sent sent home, most of the Iraqis WERE refugees, so he had to deter them.

One interesting question arising from this decisive shift in Australia’s self-definition and core values is what will the new oppressed minority do? How will they register their scream of protest at their effective disenfranchisement?

Personally, I have changed my mind on compulsory preferential voting federally, and now believe that optional preferential voting is a must. This issue explores this question, among others.

The Tampa crisis and its aftermath has been an extraordinary time for the Webdiary. Before the story broke, readership had settled at about 9,000 unique visitors a month. An unprecedented surge when Tampa broke saw readership soar to 23,000 in August, and the introduction of a strong Norwegian readership to the usual mix of Australians at home and abroad. The conversation between Australians and Norwegians on the Webdiary was the most exciting aspect of this story for me. So far this month, with the New York bombing, readership is 35,000 so far for September, and Americans have joined the Webdiary conversation. And in a surprise for me the Tampa debate did not fall away, but became intertwined with the terrorist debate.

The increase in emails caught me short, and I am still working out how to present the Webdiary in this new environment without overloading readers. I have also been forced to make value judgments about what I will and won’t publish. I also plan to run emails which best express a particular point of view to avoid repetition, and to try to keep to one issue a day. (Another war issue tomorrow). When the news settles down – whenever that is – I’ll formulate the editorial principles I’ve created on the run and publish them on the Webdiary. New readers will find the charter for the Webdiary in the entry “What’s the point?”

Some months ago, Webdiarists debated our plans to redesign the Webdiary. Those plans collapsed when we took a 25 percent budget cut in June. After the election, we hope to make incremental design changes over time to make the Webdiary easier for you to navigate and easier for me to produce.

For Melbourne pro-boat people readers, the city’s arts community will present “The Big Sing” at Melbourne Town Hall on October 14 at 2pm. The press statement says: “The Big Sing is a concert – epic in scale – featuring more than 250 singers and musicians drawn from many of Melbourne’s finest choirs, performing music composed in the 18th to 21st centuries, drawn from all over the World. The music celebrates the richness and strength of Melbourne’s culturally diverse Artistic Community, and affirms the Artistic Community’s concern and support for refugees who have found haven in Australia, as well as those who continue to seek refuge here.”


1. One liners

2. Greg Weilo celebrates the demise of the left but wonders what left/right means these days.

3. Dell Horey, Donald Brook, Charles Richards, Alan Kerns and Jim Tsihlis on the implications of the new refugee politics.

4. ‘Derek’ defends the new policy.

5. Roger Franklin in New York has a spray at me and Webdiary.


Trevor Foster: How ironic: Heartless Howard claims ‘Beazley has no ticker’. Unfortunately for the whole country he is so right on this one.


Greg Weilo wrote to me a few days ago: “I suspect that it won’t be long before your side of politics starts telling everybody to ignore “international opinion”. It looks like the days of left wing extremists are numbered, but you have had a good run over the past 40 or 50 years, so you shouldn’t be too upset.”

I had already published an anti-war piece by Greg, and replied: “Hey Greg, I thought you were on the left on the war!”

This is his response.

Greg Weilo in Adelaide

Please let me explain. These left/right labels tend to get people confused, and this will probably occur more frequently in future. I prefer not to use these labels because of this confusion, but if people insist then I loosely classify myself as left-wing on economic issues and right-wing on social issues, according to the historical definitions.

In other words, I am a nationalist and diametrically opposed to the prevailing political establishment. In contemporary Australian politics, both Liberal and Labor are right-wing on economic issues: free trade, economic rationalism, globalisation, corporate welfare, exploitation of the third world countries. My beliefs on these issues are closer to the anti-globalisation protesters. Does that make me left-wing?

Traditional Labor recognised that importing cheap labour reduced living conditions for union members, and they were opposed to mass immigration. I would have been a hard core ALP voter up until the mid 1950s, if I was alive then. Does that make me left-wing?

Both Labor and Liberal are also socially left-wing, despite the media-driven outrage at Howard’s token effort to tighten up the illegal immigration laws. I agree that Howard is only making changes for the short term electoral benefit. In reality he is only shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic with regards to immigration policy, and his so-called “draconian” laws will have little real impact.

Remember how the media classified those “evil” 3-year protection visas as “draconian” policy? Well it seems that the illegal immigrants disagreed, as they continue to come in increasing numbers. The new laws will not stop the illegal immigrants either. They will not even slow them down, I’m certain of that.

Anyway, both Labor and Liberal are pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, pro-immigration, pro-feminist, and pro-multiculturalist. In any historical context, they are both far left-wing on social policies. Any social policy differences are minor, and exaggerated by the media.

Almost all journalists in Big Media seem to be socially left-wing. Some “left-wingers” seem to sit on the fence on right-wing economic policies. Maybe this is to please their bosses; media moguls and their henchmen (aka editors). Maybe the silence on right-wing economic policies is the price paid to achieve left-wing social policies (the ends justify the means?).

The media outrage over Howard’s immigration laws indicates a broken unwritten agreement. Journalists are just not used to any opposition on their social policies – they have previously achieved whatever they demanded.

The contemporary ALP just uses mass migration as an extrapolation of their ethnic branch stacking activities, taken to the national level. The ALP has recognised that most of their support base is on a low income, so they keep as many people as possible living in poverty to maintain their constituency. They are motivated by power.

The Liberals want free trade on labour to increase the bottom line corporate profits on their share portfolios. They are motivated by greed.

If it really comes to the crunch, I believe social issues take precedence over economic issues. As an example, I don’t especially like the GST, but ultimately it is just an accounting issue that can be easily reversed. On the other hand, multiculturalism strikes at the heart of our national identity and social cohesion, and policy mistakes in this area are extremely difficult to resolve without bloodshed. Multiculturalism is a self evident failure, as has been proven all over the world throughout history.

I only need to mention places like Yugoslavia, Israel, Fiji, Aceh, India/Pakistan (especially prior to separation), Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Congo, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ireland. Race riots are also now on the increase in Britain, Europe & the US. Australia will soon join this club.

Multiculturalism doesn’t work, it never has, and it never will. Every time there is a conflict anywhere in the world, there will be some tribes in Australia that will want to make an issue of it here. The current religious/racial conflict with Muslims in Australia would not be occurring if there were no Muslims here.

That doesn’t mean that I “hate” Muslims either. They deserve their own homeland, with the freedom to determine their own destiny, without interference from the UN or the USA or anybody else. If the US and UN left these people alone, and were not applying economic sanctions every 5 minutes, they would not need to leave their own countries and come to Australia.

In fact, one of the best quotes on multiculturalism comes from a black Muslim, fully revered by Big Media: “Bluebirds like to be together, eagles hang out with eagles, sparrows stick with sparrows, buzzards go with buzzards. They’re all birds, but they go with their own. It is against God’s law to integrate. It’s only nature, not hatred, to keep people among their own kind. A man has to be a fool to want to live in any other culture but his own.” – Muhammad Ali.

Do my opinions on social issues make me a right-winger?

Hopefully all of the above explains why I have mixed opinions on the war. I have sympathy for the innocent victims who were murdered, and I can understand the motivation for revenge by the American people. At the same time, I believe that the attack was provoked by the foreign policy of their own hypocritical government (and its predecessors).

The trouble is, most Americans don’t even know what their government’s foreign policy is, and most of them wouldn’t care what it was if they did know. Even if they did care, there is not much that they could do about it – both Republicans and Democrats have similar foreign policies.

The main problem is that the “terrorists” chose the wrong targets, and they killed the innocent instead of the guilty. The Western world now looks like it will repeat the error in response.

Journalists have a tendency to over-simplify complex issues, and to complicate the simple issues. The media is always telling me that my views are motivated by “hate” or “racism”, but I know that that’s not true. If more journalists went into receive mode more often, rather than being permanently stuck in transmit, they would understand, even if they still did not agree.

I’m not holding out much hope for this. Most Big Media journalists hate uncensored public feedback. It’s “populist”, only encouraged by the despised “shock jocks”. Webdiary shows some promise, as it sometimes allows some token protests from people like me, but most of the published feedback is from the mutual admiration club of (small “L”) liberals.

I’m not complaining, any chance to explain an opposing view can only help calm an escalating conflict, but I do wonder why 77% of Webdiary feedback isn’t in favour of better immigration laws.

I suppose that it must be very disconcerting, after years of accusing others of being extremists, to realise that the real extremist is oneself.


Dell Horey

A couple of years ago I saw a Brecht play, “Measures Taken” at Newcastle University. Four undercover agents in China were working to politicise the workers, to get them to revolt against their exploitation. One of the four stopped to help one man who was pulling a barge up a river in atrocious conditions. In doing so, he put the whole campaign in jeopardy and risked exposing all of them.

It seems to me that Beazley and the ALP are facing the dilemma that Brecht so clearly exposed. Do you sacrifice everything to offer support for a few – when even that support is unlikely to help in the long run? A classic situation for a democratic socialist party.

I think that the hardest path for Beazley to take is the one that he has chosen. It it is probably one he has taken lightly – he is an intelligent man and knows his history. He could easily win the “moral hero” badge by taking a “principled” stand and go down in history as a failed Opposition leader who was beaten by someone willing to play the race card for all it is worth. He would win loads of accolades for himself from those who are critical now, but at what cost? Choosing to play Howard’s game would not only rip the ALP apart but it would do the same for Australia.

It could be that the people who currently feel threatened by the thought of refugees “flooding” into the country would be placated by the words of one man or one political party in the three weeks before a Federal election, and that the PM and his side-kicks would refuse to feed the fear that is almost palpable in the community, but I doubt it. There is some evidence that some people are reconsidering their views but it is a mere trickle – what magic words would get people to listen?


I don’t believe that we in any sort of climate that will enable a rational debate about migration in Australia. Mosques have been burnt down, buses have been stoned, Islamic schoolgirls have been out off trams, women have been spat and abused. I want our leaders to claim things down, to defuse the situation. It is the only responsible thing to do.

People are not listening to rational argument, they feel that they are being denigrated in some way, and if we want them to start listening to us, we have to listen to what they are saying and do something to address their fears, no matter how irrational they may be.


The refugees must be made safe (and those on the Tampa are now out of danger) but it would not be safe for them if a race election was held in Australia in the next few months. There is plenty of evidence to support the proposition that Howard is prepared to notch up the rhetoric. I think that Beazley has done what he had to do.

Can you paint the scenario post the rejection of the legislation in the Senate? I have been appalled at the things that I have heard people prepared to say on radio talkback. Overcoming the fear in the community needs a long-term solution and it is not going to happen in the next few weeks. We need to the debate in safe terms – it should be about population, about the detention centres (their cost), our overseas aid programs and about the contribution that migrants and refugees have already given to Australia.

Donald Brook

In these remarks I mean by ‘we’ mainly those lifetime Labor voters who are appalled at the prospect of the upcoming Liberal/Labor coalition. Depending on our age, we began by believing that the Labor party would transform the world. We moved reluctantly toward the opinion that Labor was, at least arguably, the best option available. This gave way to the gloomy recognition that it was, when it came to the crunch, the lesser of the evils.

All around one hears ‘How shall we vote, now that we know it is not even that?’ I suggest that if we are to be politically realistic we need to know how many of us there are. Do we have any political clout at all, or should we turn to the cultivation of our gardens?

The only way to find out is for every last one of us, by deliberately advertised strategy, to vote Green. If there are only a few of us this will make no difference. If there are a lot of us it will not make the difference that the Greens will for government. But what it will do is show by the numbers that there we do have significant voice, and might even begin to think seriously again about political engagement.

Charles Richards

In disgust in the recent ALP support for the government’s line on refugee policy and Kim Beazley’s constant weak leadership and unwillingness to put up a alternative to the Howard government, I have decided to stop supporting the ALP and switch to the Greens. I have also decided to join my local Brunswick Green branch.

In these days of very right wing politics and constant pandering to One Nation by Howard and Beazley, someone like myself – who would been regarded as centrist a few years ago – is now regarded a raving left winger.

Alan Kerns in Cairns, Queensland

Does not the litany of parliamentary malpractice described in your first paragraph in An impotent parliament sound rather like fascism? Can the behaviour of the major Parties be surprising in the light of their successful anti-democratic conspiracy in Tasmania in 1998, the Parliamentary Reform Act, whose sole purpose was to exclude the fairly large minor party, the Tasmanian Greens, from representation in Parliament?


The major parties are dedicated to holding the reins of power, not to democracy, not to representing the diverse range of interests in our society. The irony is that even when they hold the reins of power, they dare not stray beyond the narrow path that the selfish powers-that-be will tolerate. To do so would amount to electoral suicide because the mass media, largely owned by the selfish powers-that-be, would attack them like a pack of monstrous dogs.

Andrew Murray’s lament about our anti-democratic political system was touching. If he and his Party want to do something about it, why dont they put proportional representation at the forefront of their platform, rather than keep it buried in the fine print and hardly ever mentioned?

Hare-Clark does not go far enough. The rationale of exclusively geographic electorates has to be challenged – such electorates exclude many important minority interests from ever being represented in parliament. Just think, we have more than 12 million voters. 0.5% of 12 million is 60,000 voters. Is there any good reason why an interest group of 60,000 voters across the nation should not have the right to direct representation in a national parliament?

Why do members of parliament support something they personal oppose on moral grounds? Because they will be politically dead meat if they don’t. The reality is that almost all Party politicians serve their Party (or else!) and their Party serves the powers-that-be (or else!). Integrity is in hiding because it knows that if it shows its head, its head will be kicked in. This ain’t democracy!

Any chance of other correspondents contributing their ideas on this issue which is perhaps the most important of all issues – that we are governed by a system which is effectively under the control of selfish minority interests who see the common good as a threat?

Jim Tsihlis

I must say, you sound very tired and defeated in the Webdiary these days, but don’t give up on it. The commentary that goes on here has completely fixated me ever since the Tampa sailed into view! I love to see the differences between the participants, their slants, their angles, the stereotypes they have about each other (I must admit at being very disappointed at not seeing “trendy inner city type” and “Aussie Battler” as boxes I could have ticked in the recent Census!).

I just wanted to say how much I love the irony that in the year that we commemorate the centenary of Federation the Federal Parliament is considering legislation as introspective and discriminatory as the first piece of legislation passed by the Federal Parliament in 1901, the White Australia legislation.

After all it was one of the flaunted ambitions of Federalists of the time to achieve a restrictive migration policy, in fact it was put forward as one of the arguments in favour of Federation! It was also a very popular policy as well, and supported across the parties (strongly by the ALP to protect “white jobs”), just as this legislation is today.

How nice, indeed how quaint that literally nothing has changed in 100 years! Well after all, Federation-era houses are all the rage and now Federation-era legislation is vogue as well!

Actually I really believe it is all part of the Centenary celebrations! Do you think they will be making any T-Shirts about it?



Mandatory sentencing

Various writers have objected to minimum sentencing for people smugglers on the grounds of interference with the judiciary. This principle seems to be held up as axiomatic. But where does it really come from? An absolute truth of the universe? God? The constitution? Federal law? State law? The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?

It seems somewhat arbitrary that people are prepared to accept that parliament makes laws to determine what specific acts are illegal and to determine the maximum sentence where an illegal act has been performed, but not that parliament makes laws to determine the minimum sentence.

Our society should have an opinion on how minimum sentences are determined and perhaps the outcome of that debate should be in the constitution, but it isn’t!

For what it’s worth, the above mentioned Covenant provides a little substance for the debate by ruling out punishment that is “cruel, inhuman or degrading”. On those criteria I opine that minimum 3 years jail is eminently reasonable. And it’s certainly much more humane to place in detention a few people smugglers rather than their cargo by the hundreds.

And another thing. You wrote in An impotent parliament: “Indonesia has already noted that some of the young men who get the boats over here earn a pittance and have no idea they are doing anything illegal.”

Ignorance of the law is no defence and I’m sure you know that. But if the perpetrators really do not know it’s illegal, perhaps there is a case for Australia spending some money on education in Indonesia before the boats leave.

But here’s a thought experiment. An Australian navy boat (or coast guard boat if one is of the Labor persuasion) pulls along side a boat carrying illegal immigrants, half way between Australia and Indonesia. An officer informs the Indonesian crew in the Indonesian language that if they were to enter Australia, they would be committing a crime. Do you think the crew would turn back?

The process

You did, however, highlight a serious failing of our democracy viz. that a member of parliament would vote for something when s/he has clearly indicated disagreement with it. Labor has the worst record for promulgating this but the Libs are not averse to it.

In my radical interpretation this is already unconstitutional, but I would very much welcome its being made unambiguous. Whether this would necessitate secret voting in parliament is an open question.


J.R Franklin in New York

I’m asking you to make a logical leap.

Q: If the boat people had money and gambled it in an effort to gain an advantage over those who lacked it (that would be Afghans still waiting to be processed in the refugee camps, Margo), do they deserve to be rewarded?

A: Well ….(long silence)…. OK, let’s just leave this space blank, since you’ll no doubt want to fill it with the sophistries, jesuitical contortions, and evasions that seem to be your stock in trade.

Thanks for Webdiary, though. Whenever I need a reminder of how shoddy logic and shrill self-righteousness make poor substitutes for reason, your daily handiwork is but a mouse click away. Sitting here in New York, about four miles from where 6,000-odd bodies remain buried under the World Trade Center, I can do with a good laugh.

And that’s just what you gave me in the Web Diary edition that ran under the head Warmongering. I’d just returned from a memorial service for the father of one of my son’s Little League friends, a fireman killed as he tried to save innocent people downtown. Why did he have to die, my son asked? Why did two other kids who go to his school also lose a parent apiece?

All I had to do was show him Webdiary. It was “warmongering,” apparently, and all George Bush’s fault. My son also felt better when I told him the sound of sobbing at the memorial service was really America’s chickens coming home to roost, as so many of your favoured correspondents tirelessly remind us.

And thanks, too, for those audio snatches you include on the site. The one where you claim that a Tampa refugee was suffering from rabies is a gem. How’s he doing, by the way? Or did you just make it up, another example of the contempt in which you hold traditional journalism’s respect for truth?

Finally, even if I ignored everything else on Webdiary, that extended interview you did with the Canberra radio station would justify the effort required to log on. In reading Webdiary these past few weeks, I’ve wondered what sort of journalist – a word I use loosely in your case – would eschew any and all pretence at balance.

That Canberra interview answered my questions. After hearing you say, maybe half-a-dozen times, how you were “coming up” and “making a name” for yourself, it became clear that Webdiary isn’t about truth, or honest debate, or truth, or Australia, or politics. It’s all about Margo.

At least I now know the basis for your world view.

MARGO: Thanks for reading.

War issue

1. One liners

2. John Miner, Sean Richardson and Alan Kerns on whether we need an address to the nation

3. Geoff Honour comprehensively responds to the lefties among us and Michael Kelly bites back.

4. Michel Dignand with a tale from another front.

5. Mary Michael Booth contributes an American perspective from an Australian vantage point.

6. David Shanahan on calls for conscription

7. John Wojdylo replies to his critics.


Marc Pengryffyn, Katoomba, NSW: I’m wondering how long till someone starts calling for conscription. They can call it the ‘Die-for-the-Dole’ scheme.

Mark Chambers: “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.” – John Stuart Mill. Good to know nothing’s changed in the past 100 years.


John Miner

I was deliberately not keeping up with this topic because I couldn’t see the validity of comments on a phoney war. Nobody knows what the USA is doing, nobody knows what is expected of Australia, nobody knows what Australia’s response will be (or can be – Gerard Henderson was spot on today in the Herald).


However, your comments about the absence of any explanation to the nation was absolutely valid. According to his web site, John Howard has addressed the nation on New Year and Christmas, on Commonwealth Day once – and on sending troops to East Timor. His most recent address was on tax reform.


Does he really rate tax reform higher than sending forces into a war? How unexpected this commitment is can be gauged from the issues raised by Gerard Henderson, and from the PM’s speech when he presented the response to the Defence White Paper.


Hey, it was less than ten months ago!


Sean Richardson


People are increasingly perplexed by Honest John’s lack of leadership in the current crisis. He’s had a lot of reassuring words for the citizens of the USA (dutifully ignored by that country’s media), but none for us. Why would anyone be surprised?

Howard can be accurately described as highly intelligent, cunning, politically astute. But a leader? He’s the opposite – a [poll] follower. As the saying goes, “a bunch of school kids might follow him out of a burning building, but only out of idle curiosity.” As for Beazley, I’m still waiting for him to disprove that “ticker” remark.

I’m sure we can all remember a politician who was in the habit of telling us things we really didn’t want to hear. In those distant days when we thought ourselves impregnable, this was called “arrogance”. Personally, and it may just be my non-snaggy nature, I don’t mind a bit of arrogance in a leader, as long as they’ve got their eyes on the ball (the game being the national interest). Remember the pre-referendum, tabloid poll which identified an unlikely popular preference for First President of the Republic of Australia? Would that it were so!

Come back PJ Keating, I miss you!


Alan Kerns in Cairns, Queensland

You wrote in Why is Howard not addressing us: “I cannot comprehend why the Prime Minister has not given an address to the nation, to tell us why we’re in, what our interests are, our state of readiness, what is expected of us.”

Is a democracy a system where THE LEADER tells the people what our interests are? That sounds like the antithesis of democracy to me.

Could it be that existing political systems could only accurately be described as anti-democratic? I accept that we are lucky in the sense that we live in one of the least anti-democratic states – but let us not accept the dishonest doublespeak that we live in a democracy. I have been a voter for more than 40 years. Not once in that time have I ever been represented at any level of government by a person of my choice to represent my views.


And unless the electoral system changes to allow minority interest groups direct representation in a sovereign parliament, I never will be represented by a person of my choice. In my opinion, this is the main reason for the widespread alienation of Australians from our political system. And the apparent reality that most people don’t seem interested in doing anything about it testifies to the depth of both the ignorance and the apathy of our people.


If the Australian interest is to follow whatever the USA decides to do, hoping that the response will be ‘calm but lethal’, then I declare myself, in deep disgust, to be unAustralian.


Geoff Honnor

I’m frankly over being told that George Bush is a terrifying bellicose, opportunistic warmongerer by the same people who chuckled derisively at his complete inadequacy to preside over anything. You can’t have it both ways, so what is it? Otto von Bismarck or Daffy Duck?

He’s certainly no Einstein but he seems able to encompass the notion that the savage, pre-meditated murder of nearly 7,000 people can simply be owned as evil. Without sanctimonious apologia. Man’s inhumanity to man doesn’t offer a rationale for mass slaughter; just a convenient evasion for those who get off on it. I have no sense of him wanting war for the sake of it. Who would?

I’m also a little tired of being lectured about the need to distinguish my fellow Australians, who happen to be Muslim, from people butcherers who clearly aren’t. No matter what perverted religious fantasy they dwell in. I don’t believe for one minute that the vast majority of adult Australians are in any doubt about the fact that physically assaulting people because they might happen to share racial/ethnic/religious backgrounds with terrorists, is always wrong. Morally, ethically and legally.

I’m pretty certain that Australians accept and understand that such acts are vile, and utterly unacceptable. And they don’t need the media to tell them the difference between right and wrong. They are raised from birth to understand that there is no justification for random, disassociated violence against people. A small proportion of people are stupid and hence don’t get it but the criminal law is pretty much unforgiving of stupidity. And so it should be.

But saying no to violence while protecting those who don’t, has always been more problematic. Many people of Irish descent, Australians, Americans, etc, have tacitly supported the IRA – while deploring terrorist violence – because the IRA is portrayed as representing southern, republican, Catholic, legitimate Irishness, unlike their simplistically defined “oppressors.” And I speak from the perspective of Irish-Catholic descent.

This sentimentalist, whiskey-sodden, begorrah and begosh fantasy has been responsible for financing the murderous activities of the IRA – and fuelling the response of their equally revolting “Protestant” adversaries – for generations. Without that “I don’t approve of how you do it, but understand why you do it,” support, the IRA and the Unionist terrorists would evaporate in a trice. Relatively few people become terrorists, but those who do rely totally on the tacit acquiescence – or at least non-opposition – of the populations from which they’re drawn and with whom they identify.

Of course, murdering people in cold blood has nothing whatsoever to do with “Christianity”, under any circumstances and the people who do so can’t under any circumstances be understood in a ‘Christian” context. I’ve nothing but contempt for the view that history (or more usually a carefully constructed version of history) somehow justifies or explains a psychopathic killer blowing human beings to smithereens in Belfast – or New York.

But just as it’s always taken a rare and brave Irish Catholic to stand up and totally disown the IRA and all their evil works or a rare Serbian to disown Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo or Croatia, so it takes a rare Muslim to totally and publicly disown Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaera.

Confining oneself to deploring the results of “freedom-fighters” methods isn’t enough. Nothing excuses September 11. Not history, not socioeconomic inequality, not tribal, religious or ethnic difference. The irony is that the perpetrators and those who offer them protection place themselves outside our common humanity whilst simultaneously working to ensure that they’re protected by our blinkered inability to perceive that.

I’m a little exasperated with the constant refrain about the US needing to take stock of why so many of the world’s people “hate” the US. Take stock maybe, but the world’s people don’t hate the US. At best – and providing green cards aren’t on offer – those interested in doing so can induce hate for a manufactured abstraction called “the US”. Institutionalised hatred is a learned behavior usually offered as camouflage for less obvious agendas. It has to be taught.

And I’ve yet to be convinced that simply sharing our wealth is the answer. Especially when there seems to be no commensurate appetite for sharing our socioethical infrastructure. Perhaps the heavy priority given to economic disparity masks a mass yearning for strong democratic institutions, but……………..

“Sharing” in any broad, socially inclusive sense seems to be the sole preoccupation of woolly-woofter liberal democracy. If there is a single national entity outside the Euro/American/Australasian sphere that has opted for the sort of liberal democratic niceness that we arrogantly assume to be the natural order of things, it’s news to me. Most of the world lives with a social structure that, broadly, gives primacy to the notion of clan over any collective sense of the people and their wellbeing and views the nation state as either the spoils of clan/caste ascendancy or the means of its oppression.

Can anyone recall the last televised shot they saw of teeming masses demanding their fair share of liberal democratic infrastructure? Me neither. (Margo: Indonesians under Suharto? Chinese pre-Tainanmen Square? Burmese post the putch?) Nor can I recall them demanding a standard of journalistic integrity and accountability similar to that of, say, the US. The catalogue of American darkness and blunder in its international dealings is there for the whole world to rightly deplore because no nation has ever devoted itself so single-mindedly to enshrining the principle of free expression.

In contrast, sections of the Pakistani media today suggested that September 11 was a Zionist plot. Proof? No Jews were on the flights. What explains this unusual take? Not “history”. At this point, “history” deserves a break.

Unfortunately, people steeped in the belief that hatemongering is always wrong are inevitably going to be at a disadvantage when confronted by those who perceive that belief to be a convenient and strategic weakness and use it as such. Hence ten years after Saddam Hussein unleashed the dogs of war – and was defeated – he successfully portrays “the US” as the villain. His refusal to comply with US ultimatums, trading on a liberal democratic squeamishness for killing that he doesn’t share, results in UN sanctions. These are in turn blamed for killing “1 million Iraqi babies.” Ergo, terrorism is “justified” against the US.

There is not the faintest shred of evidence to suggest that Saddam feels any more remorse about dead babies, in any quantum, than he does about killing adults. But he’s absolutely right about who does. In Sydney, an anti-war, (i.e anti-US), rally featured posters claiming some sort of moral-basis parity between the Gulf War and September 11. “Gandhi and Mandela demand we turn the other cheek” read another. News to Nelson Mandela no doubt.

“Death to America”, “Holy War”, these aren’t morality-based ethnoreligious precepts taken in with mother’s milk. They’re slogans-as-symbols carefully constructed – and manipulated – by people who consciously and cynically pervert religion for their own ends. Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, bin Laden – all owe far more to the spiritual inspiration provided by Mein Kampf than they do to the Quraan. And to the spin-doctoring skills that provide the moral imprimatur of the exact reverse.

Terrorists always share a vampire-like horror of light being shed upon their real motivations. And an utter contempt for the notion of a shared humanity. To treat with them as if they do might well be the road to a golden future, but it looks more likely to be a pathway back to Munich circa 1938.

Peter Kelly

Bush Jr has said he will pump $US 30 billion to keep the airline industry flying. He will use Keyensian economic policies to keep the US economy from going into recession. These are policies that the US, through the international instruments like the IMF, WTO and World Bank it controls would never tolerate of other nations. I wonder why there is so much resentment of the US by other countries?

The US will now allow its agencies to assassinate foreigners. It will repeal a ban on the CIA using those involved in human rights violations in its work. Bush Snr has said that the rights enjoyed by Americans do not have to extend to foreigners in the field of covert operations. So the US will use unsavoury people and unsavoury means to defeat terrorism. Something does not make sense. There is a smell of double standards here. I wonder why there is so much resentment of the US by other countries?

The cycle of imperial arrogance followed by payback followed by retaliation continues and Americans continued to be absolutely astonished that not everyone likes them. The US will supply the northern Mujihadeen with weapons and training paid for by guess what? More heroin. I predict now that the anti US terrorists of 2015 will graduate from the class of 2001 of the CIA school of counter terrorism, Campus of Afghanistan in the tradition of Osama Bin Laden.


Michel Dignand in Wagga Wagga, NSW

I know it was a surprise to you, that someone as old as me could have such ‘small l’ liberal ideas. (Michel’s last piece was in Why is Howard not addressing us?)

I spent the Christmas of 1961 in St. Petersburg just across the bay from Tampa, Florida. You’ll notice the appropriateness of the reference, but I’m not going to labour it. I was, actually, the Bo’sun’s Mate on the warship H.M.S. Whirlwind at the time. The only war we were attending was the USA’s war, which went on and on and on, against Cuba. Has it ended yet? No, not yet.

You need to know that we were, surrealistically, tied up on a wall that was literally on the campus of the University of South Florida. We didn’t know that. But on Christmas eve, from no-where, maybe thirty or forty students of the University, mostly young women, came down at sunset and sat on the grassy bank beside our warship, and, very quietly, began to sing Christmas carols for us.

There are two sides to this story: firstly, many of us cried and tried to hide our tears that night, as soft voices made us look into our hearts and wish that we were home with our families; and secondly, very many of us got laid that night, cementing an alliance that had much to do with youth and little to do with education.

Americans are not, you know, evil people. Many of them are stupid, even more of them are uneducated. Most of them are repressed. Ten percent of them are in jail. Very few of them know or care about anything that

relates to anything outside their own county. That’s county, not country. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

But are Australians much different? It would be nice to believe that we were better educated than that. That we lived in a real democracy. That we understood.

And it could have been so; but we voted instead for the barbarians who cut our education budgets and gave the money to the rich. And we voted instead for the barbarians who cut our health budgets and gave that money, too, to the rich. And we cut our legal budgets, worst of all, maybe; and we gave that, too, to the very, very rich. Some of them were lawyers.

You won’t, I know, have missed the point: we cannot continue as we have been. The ONLY way forward is through education. First we must educate ourselves so that Australians start to think, and to think logically: if ‘this’, then logically ‘that’.

Secondly we need to do what we can to educate others. We could start with America.

Thirdly, we need to begin to help others (and there are a vast number of ‘others’) to become educated, to think for themselves.

Imagine, as John Lennon might have said, what might happen then!


Mary Michael Booth, an American in NSW

As I have continued to watch the events unfold since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I am saddened to see many countries’ leaders back down on their support of any actions the United States may take. I understand their reluctance. Many are concerned about the global economy. Others are concerned about their already war-riddled countries. Still others are concerned about religious differences. What I don’t understand is how they can distance themselves so quickly. Thousands of people were killed in the attack and they came from at least 60 countries. Are those lives so cheap?

Whatever bin Laden might say to the contrary, the attack on U.S. soil was not aimed at solely the United States. The attack was made against the world. He is putting us all on notice that none of us are safe from his judgment of us. This time, according to bin Laden, it was because the United States dared to step on the holy ground of his native Saudi Arabia. The way I understood it, the Saudi Arabian government deemed it necessary to allow the United States to use their land to help a country that was being overrun by a petty dictator. Perhaps my understanding is incorrect. After all, I only get news from the United States and Australian perspectives.

But I ask you all this: What happens if your country does something that bin Laden doesn’t like? China has stood up and said that while they would not provide troops to any action, bin Laden wouldn’t be allowed sanctuary in their country – bold words from the neighboring Chinese. What happens if bin Laden doesn’t like that response? He’s shown that he has the manpower and financial backing to make a long distance strike. China could be in danger of retaliation even now.

As to the concerns of the global economy, what’s to stop bin Laden from kidnapping executives and other notable public figures for ransom? Will that not affect the economy?

As to concerns about the already war-torn impoverished countries, I have watched war break out in pockets since I was a child. I have watched in horror as “ethnic cleansing” was performed because of one person’s perception of the “perfect race.” I have watched in fear for you as one man after another slaughters his opposition because he believes he has the right to rule. I only know that when the U.S came to your aid as requested, we were criticized for not “minding our own business.” What is to stop bin Laden from preventing the aid of the United States or any other country should you ask? In the future, your countries’ very lives may be at stake.

As to the differences of religious beliefs, I have watched in desolation after each country has fought for religious freedom. The Islamic beliefs are being perverted to meet the designs of a false prophet. What is to stop bin Laden from forcing us all to bend to his might?

If none of this sounds familiar, look back into history. You only have to go back a few decades. A monster arose in the 1930’s and almost had the world under his thumb in less than ten years. If that is the world in which you want to live then I am going to fight you with every fibre of my being. If that is not the world in which you want to live but you cannot get past your religious differences, then perhaps you can provide aid in other ways – such as ensuring no financial aid is available. If you cannot provide military aid because you are a peaceful nation, then perhaps you can help by providing information.

I realize that I am considered privileged because I lived in the United States. I am doubly privileged because I lived amongst the diversity of the people of the world who come to live in the country in which I was born. While we are not perfect in our acceptance of others, we continue to try. While we don’t always agree with each other, we have the right to disagree. While we may not speak the same language, sorrow, concern, support and love are understood in any language.

As I watched all of you and your children put flowers at our embassy sites around the world, I only know that if we do not become a world united against terrorism, there will be no world for our children to inherit.


David Shanahan

I see that the National Servicemen’s Association is calling for the “immediate introduction” of conscription to meet our (as yet completely undefined and unrequested) obligations to the “War Against Terrorism”. You’d think an organisation made up of men who were forced to go to war (and most of them to a tragedy like Vietnam) would be the first to demand the complete elimination of conscription under almost any circumstances, wouldn’t you?

But no, not these boyos – just as hazing in boarding schools and the military seems to gain new supporters from it’s previous victims, they just can’t wait to force more young men and women to take up arms against their wills and die on foreign shores. Just to show they’re no wimps on the opposition benches in this time of national crisis Labor MP Roger Price is also claiming we will have to consider conscription or using the Army Reserves.

If this is really a national crisis, a war against pure evil, a real threat to our nation and it’s people, we will have no need of conscripts – the young men and women of Australia will volunteer their lives to protect their country as they always have. If on the other hand they view it as yet another stupid pointless and unwinnable excursion on the far side of the planet that has nothing to do with Australia or Australians then they will quite rightly refuse to have anything to do with it.

Any country that has to force it’s citizens to go to war to defend it against a legitimate threat to it’s survival does not deserve to survive. Any government that forces it’s citizens to sacrifice their lives on the government’s say so certainly does not deserve to survive.

Old soldiers never die, young ones do.



John Wojdylo in Germany answers his Webdiary critics

Polly Bush ( see Taking on terrorism: The paths ahead) I want to hear your deepest, uncensored reflections. I want authenticity, I want to know your mind. I want the connections between one sentence and the next in your text to be carefully considered – in no way reckless. I want you to imagine the reason and the milieu in which your interlocutor’s sentences were written. And I want your sentences to be meaningful to you. When I write, you will receive no less.

It’s best to avoid word-game logic, it’s usually too trite to convey anything meaningful, as in:

Polly: I don’t really know what’s been happening on Australian TV,’ (he says) and yet he asserts, ‘the expert discussions on German television have gone way beyond what is possible on Australian TV’. Is it possible that Wojdylo himself is blinded by this fear of not knowing?

No. I don’t have to be aware of what’s currently happening in the media to have an idea of what’s possible in it. We can deduce characteristics of a medium that will still be there when we’re not looking at it. I should have mentioned that I read transcripts of any TV programs I can find (4 Corners, 7:30 Report), but I’m not going to clutter up my prose by listing every possible variation and making my writing invulnerable to every possible objection. The reader must be credited with intelligence.

Actually, I’ve spent decades thinking about Australian culture, probably every day of my life, in one way or another, formulating what I see as its strengths and limitations, once in a while trying to hold up a mirror to my fellow Australians, often learning from them, but at other times trying to alert people to runaway-trains of thought that inevitably lead to the problems they are trying to avoid.

One typical characteristic is people shying away from the mirror, feeling threatened by it, by any negative portrayals of their land. Opposite to the Japanese, say, who generally crave mirrors, maybe too much. This already tells us something about how an Australian sees him or herself, about the Australian character. There are always exceptions, but the exceptions prove the rule.

Another typical reaction is to cite 10 counterexamples to any “characteristic”, and “explain it away” very quickly – without a second of thought . Most people I’ve talked to in many countries don’t do this – they take on board what you say, broaden your understanding by explaining something you didn’t realize before, or just give reasons why it isn’t so.

Or, a variation: mention X as a characteristic of, say, the legal system, and somebody will immediately say that the legal system has nothing to do with the rest of Australia. As if the legal system is hermatically sealed from the rest of the Australian mind, and not a creation of it. We create our society in our image; and the image contains our flaws. Are we permitted to talk about flaws in Australian society?

My legal system example comes from a debate that has been percolating along for about half a decade, led mainly by Evan Whitton. My contribution is the assertion that his observation about Australia’s adversarial system has profound resonances in Australian culture and politics:

Evan Whitton (The Law Report, 24/3/1998): “… it’s the only trade in the world that says the truth doesn’t matter. It’s got an adversary system that obscures the truth; trials are run by lawyers and they don’t have much interest in truth and justice. It’s got a series of rules for concealing evidence from jurors; it puts the innocent in prison and keeps the guilty out; and it’s run by a cartel of lawyers and untrained judges.”

Now, who are the “innocent in prison” in Nauru and Australia? And how did they get there? The society that shapes, and is in turn shaped by, the legal system, has deemed that “there is a definite link between the boatpeople and terrorists”. Our values, our mindset have put them there. Or, more precisely, the isolationalist mindset, together with a dereliction of duty in searching out the truth, has, and this surfaces in various nations in various eras. There’s nothing intrinsically Australian about it; except we have an Australian version of it now, with Australian flavour, and it must be criticized.

What does Whitton mean by “the truth”? He means the kind of unbroken train of logic that I described: “Certainly no long, logical trains of explanation, or simulations. This is one of the traits that, for me, typifies Australia. We shun “getting on the inside” of a situation. Our society, our adversarial legal system (where a logical chain of events is almost never presented), our debates, our conversations, proceed as a series of disconnected snapshots from the “outside”. The surface view. Trains of logic are almost never followed through from beginning to end. We pay for it psychologically. In the absence of logical sense, our imaginations are free to latch onto any horrors that infiltrate our consciousness. I suspect that because of the aesthetic, surface, view so common in Australia, because Australia’s public figures are small people, fear is rampant now in Australia.”

Polly: Wojdylo’s German television example of going “way beyond” is a flight simulation to give the audience an “inside” view of the terrorist attacks, which according to Wojdylo provides “faith in the future”.

Actually, if you reread the text properly, there are two television examples, each consisting in a discussion involving a number of experts and an audience: during one of them, a computer simulation is presented. The simulation “gets in on the inside” of the flight’s last seconds. It’s extremely unpalatable for people who are not used to seeing “interior logic” and using this way of thinking to gain knowledge. Polly agrees. Thanks!

My claim is that the “inside” view – symbolised, and partly constituted, by the simulation – can provide understanding that is much nearer the truth than the “outer” view, when social or political conditions (e.g. racist-charged public atmosphere) preclude any proper formulation of the “outer” view.

Then we know that we’re not confronted anymore by total darkness: note that the terrorist pilot of the aircraft told the passengers, “We’re heading back to the airport” to calm them down. The abyss causes fear; illuminating some of it, quells fear. We have “faith in the future” in the sense that we are in a fit state to face the reality and take the next step. The question is: how do we move forward in fulfilling our responsibilities and without losing our humanity?

Evidence that “fear is rampant now in Australia” begins with the fact of the popularity of Prime Minister Howard’s aggressive stance on boatpeople; the apparent uncritical acceptance of the Government view. I wrote: “We pay for it psychologically. In the absence of logical sense, our imaginations are free to latch onto any horrors that infiltrate our consciousness.” Horrors such as that brought into the public consciousness by the Defence Minister: “there is a definite link between the boatpeople and terrorism.” And 70% of Australians believe him.

The “inside” view, in this case, amounts to imagining the Afghan refugee’s journey from his or her point of view, from beginning to end, in one unbroken train of thought. Just try to account for every step. Incapacity to do this signals a failure of the imagination and/or basic knowledge of the ground-level details. That’s when we try to read more. And it’s good to be able to read newspapers that do not have the same constraints of commercialism and entertainment as Australian newspapers ALWAYS do. The Government’s disjointed and disingenuous story can infiltrate our consciousness at every step of the journey that we are unable to account for. We are open to manipulation if we don’t know the basic, ground-level details. I’m saying, be an individual, think for yourself.

For at least 70% of Australians, the inside view is probably not a normal mode of thinking. It’s just not the done thing in Australia. Australians are not Japanese. Or Germans. They have different traditions of thought. This is why European continental philosophy has an entirely different character to British philosophy. And largely why German newspapers are different to Australian newspapers.

If Australians really were capable of doing – or were bothered to do – that one simple thought experiment – putting themselves in the shoes of an Afghan, and imagining themselves on this journey – then the untruthfulness and cynicism of the Government’s claims would have been immediately exposed. But we don’t have a gut feeling for ground-level details, so we lap up what we’re told.

Below are just two suspicions based on ignorance that evaporate into thin air once you have enough knowledge.

“It is suspicious that so many Afghan refugees arrive without travel documents” – thanks to Australian Broadcasting Tribunal Chairman, David Flint. But civil order is nonexistent in many parts of eastern Afghanistan; and where civil order exists, the Taliban is hardly going to provide the applicant with a passport. People escape using forged passports; but Australia immediately rejects applicants with forged documents – it’s standard procedure. Therefore boatpeople are instructed to ditch their passports.

“They could be carrying disease.” If you’re worried about germ warfare, imagine the length of their journey, and compare that to the usual incubation period of anthrax, botulism, anything you want. They’d be dead if they were infected; or they would have infected others and they’d be dead. Since none of the boatpeople appear to be sick, they must all have been immunised and are therefore all secret terrorists. Whether you fear anthrax or ordinary TB, the Immigration Department has done medical checks and found nothing. So the Immigration Minister’s claim is rubbish, and is nothing more than dangerous, hatred-inciting propaganda.

And so I wrote that unlike Paul Keating, Malcolm Fraser, Ninian Steven, Noel Pearson and a handful of others – all of them Australian – “none of the most powerful figures in Australian politics has the credibility in my eyes, or the ability, to stabilise and give form to the Australian public psyche, to drive away the terrifying creatures of the unknown. They are small people who cannot break out of the provincial paradigm, who do not have the vision or moral strength to inspire a love of what is good, of that which is beyond their immediate self-interest.”

Polly: However the sentence Wojdylo wrote that disturbed me the most was “If I just went on information I see in the Australian media, if I didn’t think about the possibilities at all, then I’d conclude that, in principle, there’s no reason, in this absolute fanatic nihilist mindset, not to murder as many westerners – or collaborating muslims – as possible, using nuclear or biological weapons, to achieve spectacular effect”. Apart from this being a crazy concept…

“This” could mean two things, so I have two replies.

a) It is certainly a crazy concept, being put into practice right now by a dangerous criminal who must be brought to justice – one who does not represent Islam or Afghanistan/Saudi Arabia, but himself. We know Bin Laden’s intention; and we know that he and his followers have the will to carry it out. The ideal army Bin Laden wants is a network of terrorist cells in every city on earth. To what extent he has this already, we don’t know: maybe his network extends to 60 or 70 cities. Maybe 200 cities. We know that he intends using biological weapons. Therefore we know that he intends – he may not succeed, or even attempt it – murdering many, many millions of people. As many as he could, or as many as he needs to. The war Australia is fighting is the following: while our attention is focussed on the Americans in Afghanistan, a gun is being pointed at some of our heads by somebody standing next to us, who otherwise appears completely normal. Whether Bin Laden lives or dies, he! has set in motion a criminal movement that intends to shift the world’s balance of power.

This is the reality. Face it. London already has begun to. London has made huge stockpiles of small-pox and anthrax vaccine. Among other things. I wonder if Australian authorities even care. I have read no newspaper reports about these sorts of preparations in Australia.

Given the gravity of the danger and near certainty of attack somewhere in the world in the not-too-distant future, Australia should immediately begin manufacturing and stockpiling the most neccesary vaccines, ready to export them to countries if or when needed. Facilities should be prepared to produce large amounts of many kinds of vaccine at very short notice.

The problem is, terrorists might use a cocktail of one or 50 different agents – and vaccines exist for only 15 or so. But it’s better to have something in store, than nothing.

b) “This” means: “the Australian media (up to a week or so ago) is not looking in any sensible way at the situation; we cannot use these media reports to think for ourselves, to form our own well-founded opinion or judge the gravity of the situation for ourselves. We understand Bin Laden’s intentions – they are completely dark. But no intelligent analysis is occuring in the Australian media that indicates the limits of the darkness Bin Laden can attain if he is to achieve his goals.” The main purpose of Terror Unlike Movies was to elucidate what these limits might be. A few good articles have appeared in the last week. Some aspects are still obviously missing. These aspects are related to what I’ve already said.

Polly: [it is] insulting to the Australian media and insinuating Australians can’t think for themselves. I just find it laughable that he airs these views in a thought provoking space of the Australian media that is the Webdiary. Wojdylo made some interesting points but his persecution complex …

Laughable? The imminent use of biological weapons and the threat of millions of deaths is not a laughing matter. Persecution complex? Ridiculous. Please think carefully about the text, delve into your memory, your experiences, into everything you know, then start typing.

For example. Didn’t you realize that I could have been speaking from the point of view of the Afghan refugees on Nauru and the asylum seekers imprisoned for years in our detention camps? What is their view of Australian culture, and Australia? 70% of Australians have failed the spot-the-Government-propaganda test – maybe, just maybe, this is an indication of a greater malaise in our community: What might that be? Or maybe you think the current treatment of refugees is an isolated glitch, hermatically sealed from everything else than Australians have done and will do?

You can’t just say, “70% support him, 30% don’t, so don’t lump all Australians together.” Unfortunately, we’re all blighted by the shame of the actions of Howard and the 70%. We will suffer the consequences too. Just as we – you and me – have been volunteered into a war to play a role that our government hasn’t even bothered to explain to us yet. All Australians suffer the consequences and bear moral responsibility for the actions of other Australians.

Do you believe it plausible that a nation can go through a period where it’s obviously lacking in one or another aspect of culture? Or is Australia indeed, as the song goes, “a land of plenty” – and nobody is permitted ever to criticise it? Have you already forgotten the universal ridicule piled on Barry Jones because of one extravagant diagram in an otherwise excellent visionary document? The sort of ridicule that could not happen in a technologically literate counry at the peak of its powers. Can Australians think for themselves? I keep hoping so – but I’ll let you decide.

Tim Dunlop in Canberra (see More on war fever) has a serious problem not only in thinking, but also in reading comprehension. Even Imre Saluszinsky would tell you that when reading a text, you ought not impose your ideal onto it, obliterating what it has to say, but rather draw out the meanings it has to offer and allow them to settle in the palm of your hand.

I am accused of neglecting Tim Dunlop’s Fatwah: He wrote: Let all analysis start at the stillpoint between those two considerations – that this was an unforgivable tragedy, a vile act of the worst sort AND that the US needs to take stock of why it is a target for such an outrage – and therefore, I “can’t really be taken seriously”.

Like medieval thinkers everywhere, Tim insists that every discourse progress according to the Approved Way; namely, first the lamentation, “It was an unforgiveable tragedy, a vile act…”, then an inevitable prostration before the Great Eternal Truth: that Bin Laden was sponsored at some staged by the CIA. No other expression of understanding of the same facts is permitted; no other aspects of God may be gleaned, in particular: in a Heideggerian universe, how does one take the next step, carrying out one’s responsibilities, while preserving one’s humanity?

Tim dismisses Thomas Friedman as a “second-rate apologist for US exceptionalism”, but does not address the the particular text I cited. In it, Friedman advocates helping democracy in Arab nations.

In fact, nothing Tim seems to want is actually excluded by my text; but the order and emphasis was obviously too confusing. Terribly sorry. Next time I’ll write the appropriate bits in CAPITAL LETTERS, so even the most myopic of Mullahs will see them.

More war stories

In this issue:





1. John Campbell, David Davis, Alan Powys, Wendy Fowler, Andreas Perdana and Peter Dyce on Yank-bashing


2. Cathy Bannister, Richard Hoenig, Anthony Cole and Scott Newman on the middle-east mess.


3. Denise Parkinson and Dawn Allan-Hamer on imagining another way.


4. A poem by Hugh Wilson




5. Chris Cudmore, Mark Worthington and Michael Walton on the politics


6. Polly Bush’s regular column ‘Junk mail’.




John Campbell, an Australian in New London, Connecticut, USA


My brains are breaking! Everybody and his/her dog is getting in for their two bob’s worth following the WTC slaughter. And everybody and his/her dog, as always, dig their heels in and stand tall and pious in the light of their own nurtured and cherished world view. In the end, as always, all we get is the triumph of dogma over humanity.


What disturbs me is that all of the talk from all of the experts and spin-meisters ultimately diminishes the suffering of the victims and, worse, legitimises the carnage. I have been a leftie/hippy critic of the US all my life, but I despise the annihilation of free thought and personal liberty that theocracies such as the Taliban represent.


For all of its corruption, greed, waste and inequality, I would rather live in the Western world of the twentieth century than eighth century Arabia. It alarmed me when I realised it, but I agreed when I heard President Chirac say ‘today we are all Americans.’ It is, of course, scary to have shit-for-brai=ns in the White House, but wiser heads seem to be prevailing at the moment.


Over here, as an Australian, I have been calmed by Powell, but nobody has been more impressive than Mayor Giuliani. America is not full of ratbags, but it is a country that is understandably outraged. I cannot offer any solution. I am just like everyone else. Hoping against hope that the darkness will lift. ‘What the world needs now…’




David Davis in Switzerland


Tim Dunlop in More on war fever says that John Wojdylo in Terror unlike movies has a “visceral and irrational hate of Australia”. Hatred manifests itself in different ways. John does end up weakening a lot of the interesting points he has to make by consistently saying things which make it at least appear that he hates Australia, but it must be more complicated than that.


Australians aren’t at all used to visceral and irrational hatred directed at them. American’s are. When abroad, Australians proudly announce their nationality, expecting almost to be awarded some kind of medal that they thoroughly DON’T deserve. When Americans announce their nationality, they have to tolerate a flood of incomprehensible abuse which again they DON’T deserve.


Tim says that people like John and I can’t hold two separate thoughts in our heads. The separate thoughts apparently being recognition of the tragedy AND recognition that America needs to take stock of why it is a target for such an outrage.


What utter nonsense. Stocktaking? Rubbish.


The mistake Tim is making is trying to link the various forms of anti-Americanism and the specific act of barbarism which took place in New York City. It was a specific act, committed by specific individuals for a specific reason. Quit this ridiculous umbrella approach. Don’t create links and connections that aren’t there or are not particularly relevant for the required response. I am most interested in how this global crisis is to be dealt with.


There are historical links for everything and they are well known. Everyone knows the Taliban were originally assisted by the CIA and we all know why. We all know about the Soviets in Afghanistan. That is hardly a revelation. How far do you want to take it back? That situation existed because of the Cold War. Then who do we blame for the Cold War? Hitler, I suppose. He certainly created the preconditions for it. Then should we blame the German people for supporting him? Should we go back even further and blame the Allies for how they dealt with the end of World War 1 and created the preconditions for the emergence of Hitler? Come off it.


This afternoon I visited a friend in Zurich. On the way back I was in a tram going along Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse and to my utter horror saw police with automatic weapons drawn and trained on the door of a Citibank branch. I can only assume it was a false alarm as I have not heard more of it in the last couple of hours. For a brief moment though I assumed a terrorist incident was about to take place and was literally terrified. I didn’t know if a bomb was about to go off, gas released or shots would ring out. The tram continued and as far as I know nothing happened. I boarded my train back to Basel somewhat shaken and certainly with a feeling of even greater unease. To see people running and guns drawn on the main street of Zurich, for whatever the reason is extraordinary.


I didn’t need it, but it showed me in stark terms that this fear can impact people everywhere. Beyond that the threat is very real and needs to be confronted. Confronted, not appeased. This is HARDLY a time for intellectual wanking.


I am not particularly interested in some inappropriate retrospective on how America asked for it. It is surprising how people without links to the States can become so detached. It is beyond surprising, it is disgusting.


To anyone interested, there was a good article in the London Sunday Times this weekend on hatred directed toward America (see recommendations above). If you hate America don’t read it. It is particularly good at dissecting the hatred amongst chattering class Europeans and I could relate it to similar types in Australia.





Alan Powys


What is all this rhetoric about war against Afghanistan going to achieve? As usual the US and the media aren’t terribly interested in thinking about the long-term outcome of their reaction to this criminal act. Will America ever realise that its culture is not the centre of the universe for a large percentage of the world’s population?


You don’t have to think too hard to know that hundreds more “innocent” lives will be lost in whatever action America and its allies take. The only winners will be politicians who see the opportunity to make promises to people who are still very vulnerable emotionally, and arms manufacturers (mostly US based). Surely history has shown that nobody really wins a war. No doubt the US feels that it has lost face in the world’s eyes. Supposedly the most powerful Goliath on this planet has discovered that it can be badly hurt by a cunning David. George Bush knows that he must appear to be taking quick and destructive action against a faceless enemy. But does the US government have any clear plan of action? I don’t think so.




Wendy Fowler in New Zealand


“Infinite Justiceand”. Was ever a title more calculated to stir antagonism than that? It’s deeply religious connotations annoyed me anyway.


Maybe the air is a little clearer down here, but all the vengeful thundering from G W Bush smells sulphurous and ultimately empty to me. Hand over bin Laden and make a martyr out of him? Flick a match onto all the willing suicide terrorists, why don’t they? Then the whole world will be able to appreciate the results of justice of the infinite kind, American style.


Look – why doesn’t George Bush hop on a plane to somewhere and talk to Afghanistan, Iraq and co. How about he says something like – How can we help you, or, If we stop OUR war talk/actions, what will you do on your side?


It seems to me that its an unwinnable situation, so the best thing would be to get everyone on side. If the USA would make an humane effort, we might get somewhere.


But what do I know?




Andreas Perdana


I would like to respond to Rick Pass in The boatpeople and the war, replying to my comments in Hot words, cool heads and poetry. I admit that because of age and the widespread Western affliction of short attention span the war I remember is the Gulf War, where the term ‘collateral damage’ entered the vocabulary. If the US intended to maximise civilian deaths in that conflict I am sure they had the means to murder millions more. On the other hand, this is the very intention of the terrorists.


If these people had access to weapons of mass destruction, do you think they will refrain from using them? The US has not exploded any nuclear weapons in any conflicts since WWII. This is the difference I was trying to highlight. Does it really not make perfect sense that there is a very important difference? Surely not acknowledging the difference is downright dishonest.

I lived in the US many years ago as a student, but far from being a big fan of USA, I have turned down several opportunities to live there and make a lot of money because of my distaste for the country, its crassness and ignorance, and its scary evangelical undercurrent; let alone their foreign policies. Funnily enough, the bombing did however make me feel strongly American, at least for that week.


One interpretation of Rick’s note is it’s perhaps of a subconscious reflection of white superiority sympathies that says racism committed by whites against brown/black/yellow is more pernicious than vice-versa or than those committed amongst other races – white people do things (even bad things) better and on a bigger scale. If a white person kills a brown it is significant, if a brown kills a yellow it really doesn’t matter?


There really was not much reaction from us when genocide was committed in Rwanda, or even to the ongoing racial (disguised as religious) conflicts on outlying islands of Indonesia. Hardly anyone in the West cares about how many Chinese were massacred in Indonesia in 65-66. What about the East Timorese in 76, again a greater percentage of the population than Rick quoted? What about the racism from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?


Why is it inferior if it is not committed by white people in the West? Why don’t we commit ourselves not to tolerate racism in all manners and with all races? Being selective in our application is in itself a manifestation of inherent racism.


For more than half of my life I endured overt virulent violent constant intense racism, the practice of which I doubt many fellow Australians can imagine. Just because the perpetrators were not white does not make it any less traumatic from the recipient’s point of view. Whiteness is not a defining factor, although it may seem like it if you’re stuck in your environment. Significantly, Australia has shown that we have the capacity to project the protection of lives outside our borders (in East Timor), as has France in Rwanda. It is no excuse to turn a blind eye to racism because it is not being committed by whites. This is not about moral salvation for the white race.




Peter Dyce


Excuse me, but what country am I in? I no longer recognise this place.


What government is this that is repelling desperate souls and turning atolls into prison camps? Who are these people that I once called countrymen? Where did this nasty mean streak appear from. Has did always been within us? Am I only just noticing it because it has turned to foreigners rather than this country’s ‘real’ Australians.


I am sickened by the behaviour of these politicians exploiting the fears of an electorate who have been trained to think of nothing but themselves. Why does this place bother having a government? The least thing they appear interested in doing is governing.


Let the Market decide. Wall Street, Greenspan and the Bundesbank controls our money supply. The Greenback is God. Washington controls our foreign policy. Why is it that the failure of American foreign policy always seems to to result in a war?


I am horrified by this head long rush to make war. Where is the evidence Osama Bin Laden is the man responsible to the WTC attack? Why only attack Afghanistan, there are so many enemies to chose from? Maybe Randy Newman had the right idea….


No one likes us – I don’t know why

We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try

But all around, even our old friends put us down

Let’s drop the big one and see what happens




We give them money-but are they grateful?

No, they’re spiteful and they’re hateful

They don’t respect us – so let’s surprise them

We’ll drop the big one and pulverize them




Asia’s crowded and Europe’s too old

Africa is far too hot

And Canada’s too cold

And South America stole our name

Let’s drop the big one

There’ll be no one left to blame us




We’ll save Australia

Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo

We’ll build an All American amusement park there

They got surfin’, too




Boom goes London and boom Paree

More room for you and more room for me

And every city the whole world round

Will just be another American town

Oh, how peaceful it will be

We’ll set everybody free

You’ll wear a Japanese kimono

And there’ll be Italian shoes for me




They all hate us anyhow

So let’s drop the big one now

Let’s drop the big one now





Cathy Bannister


I feel obliged to answer H Fraser in Warmongering. I think I speak for many Australians here when I say we were devastated by the attack. Many of us literally cried for days. Naturally it’s infinitely worse for people caught up in the bedlam. For you, I can understand the desire for revenge. But it’s not going to work.


There are many commentators who don’t believe a large military revenge is the best option. The problem of terrorism must be addressed, but vengeance is precisely what bin Laden wants. This act was designed to provoke the Americans to a brutal retaliation and eventually to precipitate a holy war. The more brutality the Middle East sees from America, the more converts will swarm to bin Laden. My fear is that this will only end when the Middle East is rubble, and many more of us around the world are dead.


It is ridiculous to compare body counts. Any death is a catastrophe, wherever you are and whatever your colour, creed and religion. America has directly, and indirectly, caused many, many horrible deaths in the Arab world.


Noam Chomsky makes the point that the strength of the world reaction to this tragedy is not the scale or character, but the target. The US has not seen its national territory under attack since 1812. Australia hasn’t since the shelling of Darwin in WWII. This has popped our little safe bubble. We in Australia, and America are no longer insulated from the violence in the rest of the world. In no way do I wish to detract from a horrific tragedy, but the Middle East has been living with violence and corruption for a long time.


The reason for Middle-Eastern hatred of America is not that America is “the strongest nation in the free world”. It has come from the consistent meddling with the Middle East over the last 100 or so years. There are two major themes: oil and Israel.


Since the discovery of the Arab oil fields in the 1920s, the US has tried to maintain control of it, and the region. The US has funded US-friendly dictatorships to control the oil industry, including the corrupt Saudi Arabian monarchy and Saddam Hussein himself (during the Iran-Iraq conflict).


By far the greatest grievance the Arab world has in recent times would have to be the Gulf War, with its massive civilian casualties, and moreover the sanctions that followed. The policy has been responsible for the deaths of 500,000 children, according to a petition put to Alexander Downer early this year signed by 43 distinguished Australians including Malcolm Fraser. This is not to excuse Saddam Hussein, who everyone will agree is an “evil dictator” par excellence. However, the US funded him.


Some people in the Arab world sees these children dying and naturally blame America. What should America do? In this case, they should drop the sanctions. It’s ten years now, Saddam is still there and all the sanctions have done is strengthen him.


Then there is the great festering sore of the Israel conflict. Israel has been indiscriminately fed funding from America since its inception. America effectively funds all of Israel’s defence budget. In 1996, Congress granted Israel $USD 1.8 billion military aid and 1.3 billion economic aid. In the time it has existed, Israel has been continually in conflict with its neighbours, and actively repressing the Palestinian population. The creation of the state of Israel involved ethnically cleansing, though Israeli revisionists claim that the Arab population “ran away”.


Over half the Palestinian population of the world now live outside Palestine. The first Israeli-Arab war in 1948 saw over 600,00 people displaced mainly to the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with the stipulation that they never return home. Then in 1967, Israel moved again to swallow up Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Syria’s Golan Heights and the Sinai, which was later returned to Syria. This displaced about 400,000 palestinians, many of whom had had to flee again. Since then, there have been other conflicts driving Palestinians out, including the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Over 5 million Palestinians have been permanently exiled since 1948.


Israel’s violations of human rights have been documented for decades by human rights organisations, as well as by the State Department itself in its annual human rights review. The violations include arrest and long periods of detention without trial or judicial review, routine physical and psychological torture during interrogations, demolition of houses of families of suspects, and the expulsion of both individuals and communities of Palestinians from their homeland. Then there’s the little matter of the consistent and unyielding crushing of the Palestinian people with checkpoints, shells and bullets.


Palestinian moderate Hanan Ashrawi describes the situation thus: “A state of siege has been imposed not only on the West Bank and Gaza, but also within these territories, to transform each village, town, and city into an isolated prison thereby destroying every aspect of human life, including economic, educational, health, and social cohesiveness in an attempt to sever every fibre of the fabric of normal life. Israeli occupation troops using tanks, helicopter gunships, F-16s, military barges, and checkpoints not only render a whole Palestinian population captive in 64 isolated bantustans, they also use the full force of their military power against a vulnerable and defenceless people. Daily, they shell Palestinian homes, assassinate Palestinian activists and leaders, destroy crops and fields, indulge in cold-blooded murder of children and other innocents while implementing a policy of deliberate humiliation and suffocation at every checkpoint.”


None of the above would have been possible without monetary aid from US. The Arab population know this. Many, many, many people have died in the conflict, with the violence increasing under Netanyahu and again now under the hardline Sharon.


I realise that it’s hard to hear this right now when people are grieving, angry and in shock. But it is true: there is no way that a military solution is going to do anything other than kill a lot of civilians, make the Arab world angrier and more at risk of signing up to terrorist organisations.


My message to America is this. By all means, get as many as you can as were involved in the attack and extract as much vengeance from them as possible. They deserve it. But please, be aware of the humanitarian disaster that American policy, funding and attack has caused in the last century will cause more anger and more attacks. The only way to deflate the ranks of the terrorists is to rethink your Middle East policy.


And don’t fund locals to do military dirty work. It leads to lunatics with military training and time on their hands and a chip on their shoulders at being used.


Unless you do something constructive about it now, expect more horror.




Richard Hoenig


Reply to Robert Fisk’s piece in Saturday’s Herald, Bush is marching straight into bin Laden’s trap


The attempt by Osama bin Laden to draw the Arab world together in a Holy War is not a new theme. It is obvious to anyone who has followed the recent history of the Middle East region that this has been the method of choice used to achieve the Pan Arab idea. The methods used to pull these forces together are an ” us against them” theme. Just as President Bush talks about ” us and them” so the Pan Arab idealists attempt to turn moderate conservative forces against Jews, Christians and any other race, creed or persuasions considered not to be “with them”.


Robert Fisk’s piece demonstrates the worst kind of gutter journalism. Firstly, if you are going to write a story about bin Ladens trap, please stick to the topic. The article begins by correctly outlining the regimes in the Middle East and the problems faced by the populace when they are ruled by cruel dictatorships, autocracies or monarchies. It then slides into a complete anti Israel, anti Semitic diatribe, using such dramatic language we have become so familiar with.


Instead of describing to a educated audience how bin Laden may be thinking on a higher plane here and how the attacks on America are part of a bigger plan, he effectively sinks into a blame game. He attempts to show how the whole issue is actually Israel’s fault, and Americans own doing because of their support for Israel.


The point this journalist and other commentators fail to see every time they try to tie this back to a Jew versus Muslim crusade, is this. Israel is strategically placed in the region. Israel is the only true democracy in the region. Its leaders are even more accountable than any of our leaders, simply due to the fact that the make up of the populations and the factions within constantly demand a voice. Israel has turned a barren piece of desert into a prosperous, fertile, thriving capitalist democracy.

The dream of every Jew around the world is to see Israel in the light of the Biblical ” milk and honey”. It has the potential and Israelis pride themselves on achieving this goal. The Americans support this because this is the world they themselves want to live in. Their support is a tick for democracy.


Israel’s resources are drained by the unfortunate necessity to maintain a large, strong military force, disproportionate in history for a country of its size. Israel maintains this force not because it wants to but because it has to. History has placed Israel against every nation within the region at one time or another.


If Osama bin Laden had his way – and this is the true reason for his campaign – those Arab states which currently house moderate leaderships would be overthrown by fanatical regimes. They would seek to destroy the Jewish Zionist State because the very existence of Israel is as abomination to them. Perhaps the dream is to have the whole world follow their form of Islam. Perhaps if the goal of wiping out Israel were achieved they would be satisfied. I doubt it.


America supports democracy. They are guilty of bumbling along over the last century, perhaps without too much of a game plan, into areas they really don’t understand. Many have written about their support for the Mujahhadeen against the Soviets, the support for Iraq during the Iran/Iraq war. I am quite sure that all these “international” campaigns had one overlying goal, to see democracy and moderate multi-culturalism flourish throughout the world.


Moderate Jews, Muslims, Christians and all other persuasions deserve this. Fanatics, with their own warped versions of their religion, their world, need to go back to the ” good book” on which they so conveniently and irresponsibly refer. They will see that what they are doing is what man has done since time began. It is easy to put a “spin” on anything to justify actions.


The voice of Moderation needs to rear up and take control of this debate, this world. Islam, Judaism, Christianity are not religions of War, they are supposed to be a guide to a peaceful way of life. I do believe it is not too late to get back the focus that these religions ultimately call for. That focus is for peace, harmony, balance and moderation to rule our lives.




Anthony Cole in Perth, Western Australia


Most people I’ve met, including Arabs, are inclined to moderation. Most of them just want a safe and comfortable life. Consequently, it’s my belief that the majority of people (including Muslims) shy away from any extremist groups. All people I’ve met, though, have a very sharp sense of what’s fair. Even toddlers.


Khomeni took power in Iran not because the Persians were craving the fascist strictures of fundamentalist Islam. He did so because he managed to merge the idea of fundamentalist Islam with the idea of freedom from repression and exploitation.


The fact is exploitation was going on in Iran and the US was sponsoring and orchestrating it. The people were feeling justifiably aggrieved, and fundamentalist Islam gave them an interpretation of their circumstances that was somewhat coherent. Sadly, at the same time, Iran was a hotbed of secularist, pluralist, democratic ideas too, but these ideas were most viciously repressed, far more so than fundamentalist nationalism. Democratic ideas were not allowed to crystallise into clubs or parties. But there was a vast religious network.


Western countries – the US in particular with Israel as its vanguard – are perceived by the fanatics as keeping Islamic states under their thumb and purposely hindering social progress and improvement of living standards. They see themselves as the victims of a great injustice.


Actually, in many instances they are. Take Saudi Arabia today. I don’t see how Saudi is, in any important way, different from Iran under the Shah. More oil I guess. And they do have a big American garrison in the north. They have a corrupt and profligate dictatorship that has stolen and squandered virtually all of the country’s wealth. I heard on the radio the other day they have even mortgaged their reserves. Their regime does deserve to topple, to be replaced by one that governs for the benefit of the people. No dispassionate observer could look and disagree. It’s long, long overdue.


When I was living in a Qatar in 1972 the oil revenue cut went like this: half went to the emir, a quarter was divided amongst his relatives and the remaining quarter went to government expenses.


Take a look at Brunai, Kuwait, Oman. All under tin-pot dictatorships grossly ripping off the countries’ wealth. Some of the small states have token parliaments. Window-dressing. Genuine dissent or criticism is forbidden. Again, the only societal network is Islam.


Finally I come to my point. These people have genuine grievances. Stamp out pluralist discourse, weave their grievances into an apocalyptic fundamentalist world view and, in the absence of a big imperialist garrison, you get another Iran.


My hope is that the Americans can see this and (as Tariq Ali suggested on Late Night Live) will take what steps are necessary to transform Saudi into a pluralist democracy. This would cause the west some economic pain with oil prices finding their true market level, but nothing like the pain from fundamentalist mullahs setting the oil price.



More on war fever

Readers recommendations:


Laurie Cousins recommends an article on the nuclear threat in Pakistan, in,,2001320010-2001324777,00.html



Brigadier (Retired) Adrian D’Hage in Kangaloon has sent in a further missive. For his first, see my opinion piece in Bush’s rhetoric gets more disturbing every day.


� America has declared War, and ‘it is my melancholy duty to inform you, that as a result, Australia is also at War.’ With scarcely any Parliamentary Debate, we have pledged not ‘in-principle’ support but support ‘up to the limit of our capability’.

�Normally such a declaration of war would result in an address to the Nation with an explanation of what this means – and it means we now support US policy in the Middle East. As part of that policy the New York casualty list occu rs every month in Iraq alone, except there it is mainly women and children.


Australians need to understand this because we are now at war and a much bigger target. It is behind the ‘why’ of this and any future bombings and other criminal acts. We might still have given an overwhelming yes – whatever you’ve planned – we’re in! But I’m not sure we all u nderstand US policy, let alone support it.


In a democracy, it is sometimes useful to have that debate first. 48;


Rick Pass has raised a fascinating question about whether we’re seeing a fundamental shift in Australia’s political alignments. He writes:


�One of the most interesting aspects of the last couple of weeks has b een the development of some really interesting fault lines in Australian public culture. Under normal circumstances you can predict which side of an argument most public figures are going to come down on. There are of course exceptions to the rule; Keating’s stance on Native Title and Robert Manne on the Stolen Generation Report spring to mind. But on the whole you know where you stand.


�Now I’m beginning to wonder whether something more profound may be happening in this country. I s uspect that the paradigm by which we understand who we are as a nation may be dissolving. Take Greg Sheridan. As a rule I can scarcely stand to read one of his opinion pieces without becoming physically nauseous yet in the last two weeks he has written several thoughtful and compassionate articles about the Tampa asylum seekers. Are we to assume that he has suddenly found his humanity?


�Take Alan Jones. The other morning on Today he was actually quoting from some of the same s tuff that I have read on Webdiary about the pointlessness of bombing a country like Afghanistan when all you will be doing is stirring the rubble. It sounded awfully like he was calling for restraint. Again, last night I saw Richard Butler saying much the same thing. The same man who helped orchestrate sanctions against Iraq now says that his greatest fear is that the US response will not be just but will be pure revenge. He is cautioning that we must differentiate between the people and the regime. It’s like I’ve fallen into a parallel universe where everything is the same, but not quite.


�Then we have the s pectacle of the ‘honourable’ Phillip Ruddock casually linking asylum seekers with the terrorists, followed by Reith stating it bluntly, followed by Ruddock reaffirming it, rounded off by that buffoon Peter Slipper, and all the while the small ‘l’ liberals and those with any sense of compassion within the party are deserting in droves. Labor is no better, probably worse for betraying their greater legacy. At the end of the day the only political figures left with any credibility are Bob Brown and Mal Fraser. An amazing time when the man who triggered the dismissal should be one of the two most decent political figures in the country. All is forgiven, Malcolm.


�The thing that stands out about the contributors to Webdiary is the overwhelm ing contempt/sadness that they feel about the major parties; parties which many have given a life of support to. I’m just wondering after this is all over what symbolic structures are going to be left standing in this country. Who needs terrorists when you’ve got John and Kim.


Contributors on the war are: Michael Lewy, Bill Kable, Andrew Cave, Tony Dickson, Jack Robertson, David Palmer, Nardya Colvin, Genevieve Rea, Andy Gough, Tim Dunlop


Contributors on Australia’s new refugee policy and our new politics are: Chris Munson, Jim McKenna, Ashley, Ken McAlpine, Sarah Moles, Geoff Ellis


Michael Lewy



There’s a reason we’ve been put on Earth


forget religious this and that


the very least to test ourselves


and just perhaps, give something back


So when our timeclock runs us down


we can accept it won the fight


While knowing deep within our hearts


we at least – did some things right…


There’s a reason that it’s called mankind


No matt er where your countrys’ at


As this really is just one big house


we soon need to all get that!


For no longer can we all pretend


that past our last step , this ends


It is in fact upon our intent


that the future does depend…


This world has actually always been


a pretty fragile place


Over time made that much weaker


by our apparent lack of grace


And it’s one thing when it’s forced upon


the land on which we live


But quite another when we do the same


to people with much to give…


So if we could all just take some time


and perhaps think of how we act


then maybe everyone could benefit


by working on the very bits it seems we all do lack.


Bill Kable


I am writing this in my personal capacity.


What should be done if we are not going to bomb the hell out of the middle east and maybe a few other muslim countries for good measure? What I would suggest is that for the world to move from sympathy to actually liking America, indeed for Americans to start liking themselves, we need to think laterally.


I went to a meeting of Medecins Sans Frontieres on Monday night and I was horrified to hear about the approach of the American drug companies and their legislators regarding further oppression of the desperately poor countries in Africa and elsewhere.There is an overwhelming shortage of medical drugs for treatment in those countries because under the TRIPS

agreement the US forces everyone to use “designer drugs” meaning paying full freight or no drugs.


As an example the AIDS drug treatment costs in excess of $US10,000 pa over the counter for the recognised drugs and this is charged in the wealthy Western countries to recover the cost of development. The production cost is more like $US295 per annum and if the drugs were available in the third world countries at that price it would become a life saving proposition.


However because of the US position, mainly old drugs, 30 years or more old, are used by MSF volunteers in the third world countries because they are outside the patent regime, which in recent times was extended from 7 years to 20 years. Some of these drugs are not only unsuitable but positively dangerous. The US will not permit the use of generic drugs or sale at cost price of their drugs.


Some of the generic drugs which had been used by MSF were produced in Thailand and this is the only reason I can think of as to why Thailand joins some 60 other countries around the world currently subject to US trade sanctions.


If only America could think of making these lifesaving drugs available to third world countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Muslim countries and maybe giving some aid and personnel support. This would be so much cheaper than gearing up the military. It might help stop people wanting to kill themselves to attack the US.


The world really would be a better place and let’s face it, previous bombing raids and wars in the region have achieved zero. They have simply sowed the seeds for recent events.


Andrew Cave in Kuraby, Queensland


In last weekend’s Australian, there was a montage of iconic Aussie images and while flicking through it, I came upon the photo of one Charlie Mance. Charlie was a WW 1 vet who started fighting in France in April 1917, was wounded four times in a year and each time was returned to battle. Before he died two weeks back, he was among the very last people alive who had fought in that horrible conflict.


Just 10 years before Charlie started standing on dead people, the great nations were only sparring. In the first decade of the 20th century there was a great self-confidence among unrestrained capitalism’s winners. The chest shoving and cock-str utting was a matter of national pride. Each knew they had the best soldiers in the world and any battle would result in easy victory.


Looking back now we can justifiably ask “How could they be so blind?”. The destructive potential of Nobel’s high-explosives was well understood. The leaders knew the industrial manufacturing capacity of their nations was pretty well matched and that each side had wealth enough to fight.


But they believed their own publicity. War was both glorious and inevitable. The people demanded the right to defend their country’s honour. Politicians and newspapers accused the other country’s entire populace of extravagant crimes. The public’s eagerness to believe and to hate was their complicity.


They went to war proudly. The people were in favour of it. 85 years later French farmers are still digging them up.


Charlie Mance didn’t like war. He said it was all futile and a terrible, terrible waste. What the hell would he know.


Tony Dickson


I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by the degree of responsibility shown by the media in its coverage of the events in the US. However at the risk of being pedantic, I am getting a little irritated at the rather facile and unimaginative hyperbole used to comment on the terrorist attacks.


Such phrases as: the world will never be the same, new kind of war, unimaginable horror, worst terrorist attack in history, New York devastated, No one is safe from attack, are repeated endlessly. To hear this sort of nonsense from the “shock jocks” is, unfortunately, predictable and probably inevitable. However, to hear it from veteran journalists is unforgivable. Let us have a little reality check.


Terrorism is not a new form of warfare. Nor is anti-terrorism. The only thing that is new is that Americ ans have been confronted with a reality that much of the rest of the world takes for granted. They have been so insulated from the consequences of their foreign policies that it is not surprising that the shock is profound. They have been given an insight into the source of the hatred that millions of people unfortunately feel towards their country.


This horror is not unimaginable. Scenarios much worse than these attacks have been mooted for years. A nuclear device detonated in the same place would have killed millions and may have been easier to plan and execute. New York would then have really been “devastated”. If journalists really can’t imagine such horror perhaps they should devote more time to the events in Sudan, for example.


This was not the worst terrorist attack in history by a long shot. The rape of Nanking, the German bombing of London, the British fire bombing of Dresden, the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, the US bombing of Hanoi are items on a list that goes on and on and on. ” But that was �warfare” I hear some protest. Yes, but the targets were neither tactical nor strategic in a military sense. Their purpose was to terrorise the civilian populations for political ends. Also, I suspect that the perpetrators of Tuesdays horror consider themselves at war. And to forestall another objection, the USA never did declare war against North Vietnam.


When was anyone safe from attack? I spent my childhood waiting for the air raid sirens to herald the ultimate terrorist attack. We will never know how close we came and how often.


The events of last week were appalling, but appalling things happen in other places every week. Floods, earthquakes, famines, genocides, wars, industrial accidents, usually involving many times more suffering than that experienced in these attacks.


Perhaps we should examine the source of this astounding manifestation of global grief. Why do we so dramatically mourn the loss of 5000 people in the USA and barely notice 2 million dead in the Sudan? Is it because Americans are more like us? Is it because we are concerned about how subsequent events may affect us? Or is it because of the saturation media coverage creates its own emotional momentum?


What ever the reason, I doubt that a moral justification can be convincingly argued for such disproportionate valuation of human life and suffering.


Jack Robertson in Sydney


Out-think your enemy to a more permanent defeat


Sean Richardson in Bush’s rhetoric gets more disturbing every day is forgetting the first rule of any defensive stance – know your enemy’s strategic aim, the better to render his tactical moves futile.


Someone needs to do a decent psychological appreciation of what it is that the terrorist ilk are really trying to achieve. KNOW YOUR ENEMY. KNOW HIS AIM. Know his mind, and know that (he thinks) he knows yours. Then do the opposite of what HIS appreciation of YOU has deduced you will.


Bin Laden is neither a coward nor a fool. He is equipped with a long&# 45;term resolve and a brutal ruthlessness that only someone who has passed the psychological point-of-no- ;return can possess, and which no civilised person should ever aspire to matching. He has the tactical initiative, too, and will maintain it unless we plumb even lower tactical depths ourselves. This – and here is the crux of it – we must n ever do if we are serious about defending ‘civilisation’.


Legally authorised assassinations? Bin Laden wins. Employing known terrorists as our spies? Bin Laden wins. When are we going to learn that the end never justifies the means – t he means ARE the end. Civilisation = the civilised way we do things. Jettison the Rule of Law et al, and Bin Laden wins his ‘Holy War’.


He knows all this. He is not a Holy War fanatic, he is a Holy War strategist. As the fundamental bedrock of his bloody strategy, he must polarise human nature into a fairytale simplicity if – as he would have it – we a re to fight him on the only terms that give him a shot at ‘winning’.


The bin Ladens don’t want territory, or spoils, or even anything as pifflingly secular as a Fundamentalist Global Theocracy. Nor do they give a shit if we kill them, capture them, torture them, try them, imprison them or execute them. Their necessary aim is to impose on Humanity a black-and&a mp;#45;white confrontation between Good and Evil, and then provoke us into losing the strategic war by fighting the tactical battles even more ‘evilly’ than they do, as I suspect we would have to, to ‘win’ militarily.


A Holy War is PRECISELY what this one is, though not in the religious or military sense of a Jihad or Crusade. It’s a war between the secular holiness of Human reason and compassion and civilised restraint, and the nihilistic oblivion of rank animalistic excess. If you absolutely insist on theological terms, then you might call those New York terrorist assaults the Devil’s sucker punch feint.


Bin Laden personally chose terror a long time ago, and so if (as he must necessarily see it) existence IS a polarised fight between ‘Absolute Good’ and ‘Absolute Evil’, then as things currently stand, his soul is already damned. His only chance at ‘spiritual redemption’ is to provoke the West into unleashing even greater terror, thus retrospectively ‘vindicating’ his own bloody choices. Pure ends and means malarkey once again, but then he’s already committed to believing in precisely that riff, isn’t he? KNOW your enemy..


Osama bin Laden is positively GAGGING for the world to become engaged in a fully-b lown, vicious and protracted military confrontation, one that merrily propels us all headlong into a violent race to the bottom between the West and his own sick, personally opportunistic vision of Islam, to explore just who can be more bestially sub&# 45;human in pious defence of their ‘God’.


If we fail to oblige him by resolutely refusing to turn into bloody butchers greater than he, then by his own theological parameters, he is the loser. If we are psychologically and spiritually powerful enough to show measured human restraint in response to his futile best shot – the diabolical excess of jets plunging into buildings – then we’ve already beaten the sad fucker. If we refuse to jettison all the civilising checks and balanc es which CONSTITUTE our civilisation, then he becomes just another violent, self-deluded rich jerk who lost his own hist orically irrelevant and shabby little personal Holy War.


On the other hand, if we unleash our capacity for violence fully, then there’s every chance he’ll become a Mighty Prophet who both launched and even won that war. Let’s face it – ; we have the technology and numbers to wreak far more Satanic terror than he ever could. Apocalyptic Martyrdom is exactly what Osama bin Laden is praying for. It’s all he’s got left to salvage his sick little life.


‘Harden up’ indeed, Sean Richardson. But there is militarily ‘hard’, mate, and then there is psychologically ‘hard’. The only strategy that will win a Holy War is one that is genuinely holier than the other guy’s.


KNOW your enemy. KNOW his aims. REFUSE POINT BLANK to help him achieve them. Kill him if you think we must – personally, I think it’s the very last thing we should deliberate ly set out to do – but let’s at least not make a great fuss about it, OK? Much less send whole armies in after the basta rd. Until we absolutely insist on turning him into a Holy War Hero, he’s just another pathetic criminal.


David Palmer in Adelaide


I’m sending the SMH Webdiary URL to as many friends and family in the US that I can, urging discussion, critical thought, tolerance, and advocacy of action based on looking at information and perspectives, not just patriotism and rage. The situation there, from what people tell me, is very worrying – almost hysterical in some ways & #45; but I guess that’s to be expected.


It’s very encouraging to see readers calling for reaching out to the concerns of the moderate Muslim majority globally and calling for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis as part of the solution. It is impossible not to connect that crisis with the terrible US events. The Islamist extremists would like to get new recruits from this – if we can only defeat this effort by reaching out to the majority they won’t get many. And cer tainly we can reach out to the Afghan refugees – Howard and Beazley MUST be pushed to change their totally irrational an d tactically stupid position on this issue.


I also am encouraged by many readers’ concern that the US take a multilateral, internationalist response – including any military response – not a unilateral and heavy-handed one. If the US does not move forward with a multilateral approach, I don’t believe we should support military participation by Australia. Howard – and Beazley – have far more influence in this situation than they realise, and should not just behave like they are appointees of the US government.


I have no doubt that in a year or two what is now the “minority” on all of this in Australia will become the “majority” – but this will only happen when numerous short- ;sighted policies fail miserably and people are looking for something that will work and truly destroy terrorist networks and their bases.


Nardya Colvin


I click on to CNN online to check on the latest and there in banner headlines under a graphic of a jet fighter are the words ‘Operation Infinite Justice’. I can’t stand this. I want to mourn the people killed in New York, but I’m too filled with anger due to the rhetoric pumped through the airwaves by Bush and Howard.


What were the words of Bush straight after the disaster? Something about America being a bright beacon of light in the world. How can political leaders hold their head up high and make such statements when the blood on their hands over a myriad events is as real as the blood on the hands of the terrorists.


I watched the coverage of the terrorist attacks on CNN waiting for someone to ask the question ‘why’ and all I got was some trite statement about evil v good.


Certainly bring the terrorists to justice if you can. Try them in a world court but blowing to pieces innocent Afghans??? I can’t stand it – a new millenium – the same total reluctance to really look and try to understand and try to do som ething constructive.


Genevieve Rea


I do not understand how John Howard and many others do not see that people fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan and other similar refugees are the people we should be protecting, not turning back, especially at a time like this when America’s response to the attack on WTC and Pentagon will cause many more people to flee.


I do not understand why the Americans are so keen on war with other nations following. There must be some kind of response but war, in this day and age? People have no concept of the reality of war and also no real knowledge because it will be unlike any war to date. By this I refer to the developments we hear about chemical and biological warfare, nuclear war armaments, suicide bombers/ terrorists. All of these fill me with dread.


I do not wish the innocent people of Afghanistan to be attacked. Is this really what the Americans want? Have they thought about the innocent victims?


Also even though we are along way from it all in Australia – I cannot help but think that we will be in the thick of it one way or another soon enough.


Andy Gough


I switched off completely to the mainstream media’s reportage after that first day. I hardly watch television but I work for a local newspaper so read the odd newspaper at work. Most of the comment I’ve received has been via email and the web. This has allowed me to disseminate more that just five-seco nd grabs from idiots like Bush, and whatever Kerry Packer deems that I need to know.


Comments from John Pilger, Noam Chomsky and other notable figures brought home the reality of the US involvement in the Middle East over the years. Pilger writes: “An estimated 200,000 Iraqis, according to the Health Education Trust in London, died during and in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter known as the Gulf War. This was never news that touched public consciousness in the west. At least a million civilians, half of them children, have since died in Iraq as a result of a medieval embargo imposed by the United States and Britain.”


One email from an Afghan expat, Tamim Ansary (published on Webdiary in Labor falls into line) outlining the state of destruction and terrorism in present day Afghanistan brought me almost to tears and I could draw parallels with the aftermath of the post-referendum destruction in East Timor I personally witnessed not so long ago. < /p>


I have not read one message supporting Bush’s proposed retaliation. A Nine MSN online poll I glanced at today even had 55% opposed to retaliatory military action. I am outraged that my government has committed its unqualified support behind President G. W. Bush at this time. We should be the voice of reason and calm instead. But that’s not how free trade agreements are won, I suppose.


How can it be possible for the USA to unleash its military might upon any nation when no perpetrator of the September 11 attacks has been substantively identified? How can the United Nations allow this? George W Bush has the western world rallying around him in sympathy and comradeship. Yet nobody can be sure it was Osama bin Laden at all and even if it was him, do thousands more innocents have to die so a nation and its leader can feel vindicated for this despicable act of terrorism? It was the USA that created bin Laden, after all. It all seems just too convenient.


Richard Falk, professor of international relations at Princeton, sees it this way: “Western foreign policy is presented almost exclusively through a self-righteous, one-way legal/moral screen (with) positive images of Western values and innocence portrayed a s threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence.” How right he is!


Michael Moore of ‘The Awful Truth’ put it this way: “Maybe it’s because the A-rabs are much better foils. A key ingredient in getting A mericans whipped into a frenzy against a new enemy is the all-important race card. It’s much easier to get us to hate wh en the object of our hatred doesn’t look like us.”


I got introduced to this concept while I was living in the Northern Territory, where the Country Liberal Party would predictably bring out the race card at election time and vilify the Aboriginal people as drunks, criminals, land thieves and a threat to ‘development’. It is a tactic that offends me to the core. I was ecstatic to hear that the CLP lost power in

last months election, for the first time in 26 years! No more mandatory sentencing. There’s a lesson there somewhere for Mr. Howard.


This is the 21st Century, yet our leaders are behaving like its still the Middle Ages. For all our technological advancement some of us are still prejudiced by skin pigmentation and cultural differences.


Moore went on to say: “Will we ever get to the point that we realize we will be more secure when the rest of the world isn’t living in poverty (just) so we can have nice running shoes? In just 8 months, Bush gets the whole world back to hating us again. He withdraws from the Kyoto agreement, walks us out of the Durban conference on racism, insists on restarting the arms race – you name it, and Baby Bush has blown it all.”


Yes, all of this and what does the Australian government do? Pat him on the back, give him our guns to play with and say that we are right behind him, all the way! Disgraceful!


Now for a scary thought on the home front. Howard has now announced that he is riding high on the polls and the only thing between him and calling an election is CHOGM.


I know lots of people are planning to protest at CHOGM against globalisation and GATT and lots of other issues they see the Commonwealth as responsible for or at least contributing to. These people wish to be heard, and under our constitution, have the right to do so. I was at the S11 protests in Melbourne last year and witnessed atrocious violent behaviour on the behalf of the Victoria Police.


Imagine what CHOGM will be like. Howard can. He’s already pushed through sweeping new laws allowing for zones to be designated for ‘special events’ where police powers are broadened to the point where any bag can be searched and civil liberties are totally violated. Even the military can now be called in to disperse crowds and instigate martial law. Now after the US incident, will fear inspire even more radical legislation attacking civil liberties?


None of these protestors is a terrorist, or even a potential one. They are all committed to peaceful protest. Unfortunately, the Police are committed to following orders. And the orders are: Keep the rabble off our lawn, with extreme prejudice.


And that seems to be the general direction we are going in. If we follow this road it’s not long until we are all micro-chipped and scanned at every corner. Big Br other indeed. American forces currently operate with impunity from bases in 50 countries. I vote that Australia no longer be one of them.


Tim Dunlop in Canberra


I’m sorry to say this, but your description of John Wojdylo in Terror unlike movies as a “brilliant thinker and writer” is way off base. His visceral and irrational hate of Australia, which he has expressed unchallenged through a number of posts now, is evidence enough of his inability to see past his own prejudices – hardly a good look in someone who is attempting to claim the moral and intellectual high ground. Plea se John, don’t tell us again how second rate you think Australia is: we understand that you think this.


Beyond that, his assessment of the WTC tragedy is both shallow and trite, odd for a person who makes a specific point of attacking what he sees as the shallowness of other, again, mainly Australian views. For instance, how anyone could offer the assessment he does of bin Laden and fail to mention his involvement with, and sponsorship by, the US in the Afghani war against the Soviet Union beggars belief. Perhaps German television hasn’t mentioned that link?


Given that his account lacks even this basic consideration, and that he lauds the work of second-rate apologists for US exceptionalism such as Thomas Friedman, it is hardly surprising that he is unable, or unwilling, to put the attacks in any broader historical context, specifically in regard to American foreign policy. Again, a strange fault for someone who is so free in his criticism of the lack of depth in other coverage.


John, I’m sure you’re a pretty intelligent person but you really need to get over this childish fixation on what you see as Australian inadequacy, and perhaps even recognise that what you, in a rather self-obsessed European manner, persist in seeing as shallowness in others, is merely a lightness of touch lacking in traditional pretensions. If you look for shallowness, then I suspect that’s what you’ll find. You just have to be careful not to reproduce it.


As to your assessments of the WTC tragedy, you just need to read a bit more widely. Friedman, as any thinking person who is familiar with his work will tell you, is not a good source of objective analysis on anything to do with the US. Try some of the declassified material on the Pentagon website and do your own analysis. Or try this link to Jane’s for a bit of background on bin Laden and the boys in the Taliban


People l ike John, and David Davis for that matter, who can’t hold two separate thoughts in their head – that this was an unforgivable tragedy, a vile act of the worst sort AND that the US needs to take stock of why it is a target for such an outrage – can’t really be taken seriously. Let all analysis start at the stillpoint between those two considerations rather th an in cheap shots at Australia, inadequate contextualisation, dubious attribution, and cliche dressed up as gravitas.





Chris Munson


I’m 52 Margo, have 4 sons, the oldest 29, the youngest 19. The middle two are disabled, and I spend much of my spare time working on management committees and on Boards of directors for people with disabilities. I don’t want a cash cheque for this, I simply do it just like the Life Savers do it, and the SES people do it. Volunteering is Aussie, and I’m an Aussie. But I’ve spent 25 years doing it, and on 3, 4 or 5 Boards and committees at a time. Up to nearly 1000 free volunteer hours per year. Sheesh, what a goody-goody two shoes!!.


No Margo, just an average dad with a healthy conscience, and now I find myself in the minority in Australia. It seems nearly 70% don’t share my views on offering a helping hand to people fleeing oppression, of Australia being the “Good Samaritan” and offering hospitality while we compassionately look at the validity of the boat people’s claims.


Perhaps I’ve been helping people for far too long, am just a compassionate zealot, and fail to see the real issues. Perhaps the 70% should explain some of their “True Blue Aussie” deeds before they say we should send our Navy and crack Special Operations military personnel to “warn them off our coveted soil”.


Bugger it Margo, what’s happening is just not Aussie, and the US (although not at all deserving of what has happened) is not blameless.

Two thoughts enter my head:

1/ The world will be a better place if say half the US$40Billion “bin Laden money’ was spent on the millions in refugee camps around the world, and

2/ Perhaps now all the broken promises and treaties, the level playing fields which were al tilted in the US’s favour, perhaps we should look at them for a change … literally!


Jim McKenna


Labor was a cert there for a while. My fellow mature-age law students (bankers, accountants, etc) were feeling the pinch at our residential scho ol last Easter. The Libs were sunk and they were scared of the prospects of a Labor government.


Unfortunately, Bankstown rapes, boat people and New York along with Bomber’s almost pathetic efforts have ensured they will be a lot more relaxed at our residential school next week.


The reason for this turnaround is the fact the Labor Party is somewhat out of touch with the thinking of their traditional supporters. I work with a staff that detest the Liberals but they feel strongly about all the issues that Howard has so successfully tapped into. They feel the upper levels of the Democrats and Labor Party are not going to have to live next to the results of illegal migrations, so they are prepared to support Howard.


It may be racist but that’s the way it is!


Ashley in Larrakeyah, northern territory (surname withheld on request)


The whole immigration issue ranging from the arrival of boat people and the level of support we supply refugees needs to be handled entirely differently. I support a lottery-type scenario similar to the way the US disperses Green Car ds. Part of my logic for this is that the people who generally arrive on the boats have paid someone quite large amounts of money to do so.


Let’s say that we decided to offer 5000 places. Through the various camps around the world, people could register for the ‘lottery’. From there the names are randomly selected and then the individuals are processed through normal channels including background checks, but are prioritised as a result of the lottery. Those 5000 could be broken down into a number of different categories including political refugees, or professionals or normal everyday immigrants. With this type of process those who would otherwise spend the money on buying a passage on a leaky boat will be able to better spend those resources establishing themselves in Australia.


It is a raw idea but nevertheless with policy makers input we might just be able to come up with a better solution than is currently in the market place.


John Howard has taken a stand that is damned if you do damned if you don’t. Don’t send them back and you will have an influx. Send them back and you are seen as heartless.


At least this way we are asking them to try a different type of luck that is less dangerous for them and more acceptable to us (ie: we can properly screen people without holding them in detention.) And that’s something that should be considered in the debate currently filling your pages.


Ken McAlpine in Melbourne


It’s been a while, but I think that Gary Morgan deserves a big Stuart Littlemore “Oh, really?” award for his latest poll.


I checked the previous Morgan Poll results over the last month. I also recall the record-breaking lead that Labor held in the (surprise, surprise) Morgan poll earlier this year. Can the government really have gained a 20% increase in its primary vote in the space of a month? Are Australian voters really that fickle? Has John Howard suddenly gone from the most hated PM to the most feted PM in coalition history?


I doubt it very much. I think that anyone who gives the Morgan poll any credence has been sucked in by a good story. Sure, everyone is very excited over the way refugee policy is now being put together on the run, but when the election arrives I have a certain amount of confidence that people will vote according to the things that really matter to them: jobs, health, education, law and order and maybe even tax reform.


It was Paul Keating who once said you should always back self-interest – it’s the only horse with an honest jockey. A lot of people get fired up by the refugee issue but in the end it only affects a few people. Eventually everyone will go back to dealing with the problems in their own lives once again.


I love the Webdiary, but you do get an alarming number of political junkies only too happy to scream blue murder whenever a politician even so much as sneezes. The rest of the population does not pay that much attention to politics until election time.


When Labor was on top in the polls, Bob McMullan said that he expected it to be a close election. He is still correct. In the meantime, Gary Morgan would do better to spend some money and increase his sample size for future polls.


And those Webdiarists who are screaming blue murder at Kim Beazley this week should take some advice from his predecessor: have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.


Sarah Moles in Allora, Queensland


Tony Blair should do GWB a big favour by pointing out that the UK found out, at great expense, that a war on terrorism can’t be won. The solution lies in negotiations.


I attended a conference on refugees in Brisbane last weekend. I’m sure I was not the only one who learnt alot by putting myself and my children into some horrifying stories. These discussions would benefit if we all had a better understanding of the history of Afghanistan. It is another nation caught up in the conflict created by European colonialists divvying up the middle east’s oil resources for their own purposes.


Geoff Ellis in Bega, NSW


I find your forum excellent reading, and obviously a place where those with differing views can sometimes be aired. I would like to add a little item to the boat people debate, and what we should and should not do. I am an Australian-Australian and a widower. Over the last year or so I have entered into a relatio nship with a “foreign” person, in fact we are engaged. She has visited me in this country, is a qualified doctor, reads, writes and speaks perfect English and is financially secure. All we wish is to spend our rather reduced number of years together without being a drain on the public purse.


To do this, we need to complete at least 4 Federal Government forms, one of which has 88 items to be completed. The rest require information that approaches the Spanish Inquisition technique. This requires a certified migration lawyer, the ability for both of us to complete the forms whilst we are 14,000 km apart, and payment to the Government to submit the forms. This does not include required medical checks, the need to prove who we and our relatives are/were to the nth degree and the ability to support ourselves for 2 years. If all goes well, there will be no change out of $10,000.


I do not object to the questions for one minute – Australian authorities should make these checks &a mp;#45; but I DO object to the fact that some people just want to let the so called “boat people’, with no recollection of their past, or at least proof thereof, enter the country, get fed, medical treatment, English lessons, and above all legal aid, all with a welcoming band.


There is a queue, there are Australian Government offices on their way to Indonesia which they bypass of course. I feel for these people. I also feel for me and my fiance who will be apart for some considerable time whilst we plough through this stuff.


I’ve just watched George Bush’s address to the nation. Frightening, yes. But also inclusive and measured. It was the speech to mark the offical beginning of war by America.

We now need an address to the nation from our leader, to clearly lay down Australia’s perception of the war, what we are fighting for, and the possible extent of our involvement. We too need to be united. In this issue, I include an editted text of a courageous address to the nation this week by Pakistan’s leader.


In this issue:




1. H Fraser, an Australian in New York, castigates some contributors as naively anti-American.


2. Chris Chesher and Sean Cody, had a go at their own version of the Bush address before he gave it.


3. Justin Ansell, Sean Richardson and Becki Whitton discuss war strategy.


4. The text of Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf’s address to his nation, a nuclear state,


5. A poem for the victims by Michelle Jones.




1. Song lyrics by Mike Seccombe.


2. ALP member Guido Tresoldi.


3. Malcolm Steet on why we don’t want the Afghan refugees.


4. Daniel Maurice replies to my opinion piece yesterday in the Herald and in Bush’s rhetoric gets more disturbing each day.


5. Peter Kelly replies to Peter Maresch in Poll praise.


6. John Wojdylo replies to today’s Herald letter to the editor by Piers Ackerman



I advise that the National Library has sought and obtained my permission for Webdiary to be included in its Pandora archive of online publications ‘of national significance�. I also advise that we’ve just moved to a new operating system for Webdiary and there’s a few glitches which we’re ironing out.




1. H Fraser


As an Australian in New York I am disheartened and embarrassed by some of the uninformed and dare one say stupid comments of some of your “informed” contributors. The death toll is now over 6,500 and represents some 80 countries – this is no longer soley about t he US.


What will it take some of your contributors to realize what happened on Tuesday? I question their reaction if the jets had not flown into the WTC but rather the fully laden Olympic Stadium at Homebush.


I also question whether your contributors understand why the US was targeted. The US was targeted because it is the strongest nation in the free world. if it can be brought to its knees then so to can countries such as Australia. Do Australians realize that this is not a game to the Taliban? This is a country that has no problem trying two Australians for preaching Christianity and threatening to put them to death – and your contributors think the US is over-reacting to these people?


The US is not stupid or uninformed – they have no intention of bombing disabled orphans – a rather touching but daft pict ure painted by your contributors. If they did they would have bombed them already.


What is needed from Australians is their support. Having talked to a lot of Australians in recent days I believe your contributors to be out of touch – a sad indictment on you and your newspaper. If the US/Coalition fails then it is only a matter of time before these terror cells come-a-calling to Australia.


Think this is far fetched – talk to an American two weeks ago and make the statement that terrorists would kill flight crews and crash planes into the WTC. Noone likes having to admit that we have failed to pay attention to the groups until only force is necessary but to ignore it would be naive and foolish.


2. Chris Chesher, Lecturer, School of Media and Communications, University of New South Wales in Sydney


The new warmongers manifesto


Let’s all support the first war of the twenty-first century. Let i t be a new kind of war – one quite unlike twentieth century wars.

This new kind of war will require strategies pr eviously unimaginable in the history of war. But if we are to get to the root of the threats to world freedom and security, we must face the unthinkable. It will take time. It will be expensive. But not to act would be to allow the conditions in which these events occurred to continue.


We are all appalled by the attack on the World Trade Center. The images of a guided missile (itself full of people) slamming into a building full of people has chilled and horrified us all. It has shown that a strategy motivated by self-righteous vengeance and carried out by violence is unacceptable. It does not work, either & ;#45; we do not hear the ‘message’ they are sending. Our resolve is only strengthened. No matter what cause those who hijacked these flights were fighting for, their tactics are unacceptable and ineffectual.


Therefore we renounce vengeance and indiscriminate military force. We abandon our bombers and decommission our cruise missiles. We put down our guns, and garage our tanks. In twentieth century wars, factories producing agricultural machines and sewing machines were converted to build weapons.


At this time of crisis, we must convert these outmoded industries into more appropriate technologies to take on other forms of defence.


This war will require sacrifices. Our collective security compels us all to band together for the common good. It may be necessary to increase taxes on large corporations. It may require thought and action that does not begin by thinking about personal, corporate or national interests. As unfamiliar as these measures may seem, these are extraordinary times.


While the immediate objective may be bringing to justice the organisers of the dreadful hijackings on September 11, we must not stop there. We must take on with a new resolve the forces at the root of the attack. We must hunt them down and eradicate these scourges against freedom, democracy, justice for peace-loving people around the world: wo rld debt, poverty and disenfranchisement of dispossessed peoples.


Of course there will be some collateral damage. Global companies may need to pay sweat shop workers a decent wage. Banks and other large investors may need to cancel loans. Overdeveloped countries may need to acknowledge that their wealth has come from centuries of colonial and post-colonial dom ination, exploitation and interference in internal political affairs of countries in the poorer parts of the world.


Our attack must move on several fronts. We must commit front line troops to education. Air support is critical – a dem ocratisation of media organisations. This is total war, which means expanding democracy beyond national boundaries to give all people whose interests are affected, whether or not they are citizens in large states, a say in policy.


The battleground will involve close hand-to-hand contact with people who are different from us. Although it requires years of training, it is possible to engage with people of different faiths and cultures without killing them.


Moving into a new century we must not disgrace the memories of all those who died in twentieth century wars by repeating them. Let this new war be genuinely new. Let it be a precedent for war in the twenty-first century.


Sean Cody


My fellow Americans.


The past week has been a terrible time of agony for America as a nation and the world as a whole.


The vicious attacks that have been perpetrated against us have been attacks on freedom and democracy, and freedom and democracy will respond to them.


We will not stand by and allow our people to be indiscriminately murdered in cowardly acts of terrorism, and be sure, the world’s justice to those responsible for these crimes will be swift and unrelenting.


As global citizens, we must all recognise that the deeds of a small group of individuals must not lead us to believe that the larger ethnic or religious group of which those individuals are a part are of the same nature. Just because Islamic extremists have murdered our brothers and sisters, our parents and children, we will not, as civilised and freedom loving people, blame Islam as a whole. To do so is to stoop to the same level as those responsible for these heinous attacks, and America will not allow the foundations upon which it was built to be destroyed by the evil of terrorism, nor the evils of racial and religious hatred.


America stands ready to help its own in this time, regardless of their religion. Furthermore, we stand as a force to lead the freedom-loving people of the world in what may well be a protracted and difficul t struggle against the evil that is responsible for these acts.


Accordingly, I have proposed to the United Nations that a multinational force be assembled to act, under the direction of the United Nations Security Council, to eliminate this scourge of terrorism. We will not stand by and let our cities be attacked and our people be murdered, and we recognise that because this is an attack on freedom and democracy as a whole, then freedom and democracy as a whole must respond. America cannot act alone in this struggle, for it involves all the peoples of the earth.


We have secured the support of all of our allies in this matter, and talks are continuing with those nations that we have had difficulties with in the past. Russia, China, and all of Europe are committed to this multi-national force, and many of the nations of the Middle East have also comm itted their support. This is a global coalition, and we shall act globally.


We recognise that it is not Islam that is responsible for the attacks on September 11.


We also recognise that, within the folds of the Islamic world, extremism does exist. There are many reasons for this, but we recognise that it is now time to stop the cause of the hatred.


We must end the cycle of violence.


We must stop the killing.


I have, therefore, today further proposed to the United Nations that the economic sanctions that have been in place against Iraq and Afghanistan be eased and, in some cases, lifted. These countries, and others, are recognised as being the wellsprings from which terrorism is born and supported, and so we, as citizens of the world, must recognise that the only way to stop the flow of those who are willing to attack freedom is to remove the source of their hatred. We believe that the lifting of economic sanctions against these countries will contribute to that goal. Further, we implore those countries to accept this gesture in good faith, and to respond in kind – to end their support for terrorism.


Make no mistake, we are not returning international legitimacy to these countries. We are not lifting arms embargoes. Our weapons inspection programmes in Iraq will continue, and we will deny those states that are perceived to be a threat to world peace access to weapons of mass destruction.


What we are doing is lifting the economic sanctions in these countries. We shall no longer deny their people access to food. United Nations aid organisations are to be given extra funding and facilities to enable them to deliver much needed food and medical aid to those most in need – the populations of these pariah states. The details of the relaxation of these embargoes will be release d later today or tomorrow, but suffice to say at this point that Iraq will be subject to eased regulations regarding the importation of goods for food production and medical aid, and will be allowed greater flexibility in the export of oil to pay for these goods and services. We fervently hope that the Iraqi leadership will take these offers in good faith and recognise that the wellbeing of its citizenry is what concerns us.


In the case of Afghanistan, we propose that if they immediately extradite Osama bin Laden for a fair trial, sanctions against the country will be eased. We shall work in conjunction with them to allow United Nations aid organisations to distribute food and aid to their population.


If, however, they do not deliver bin Laden to the world to face the world’s justice, then the world will show them its resolve. They will learn that the world will not stand by and allow terrorism to grow and flourish in a nation that does not recognise freedom and humanity. And they will understand that the world is united against terror and hatred.


I call upon you, my fellow Americans, and the world, to join with me in this commitment to a new peace in our time.


To the elimination of the hatred that flows through so much of the world.


To the establishment of a new harmony around the globe.


To join in this commitment for the sake of our continued futures.


God bless America, and god bless the world.


3. Justin Ansell


Like Sean Richardson in Bush’s rhetoric gets more disturbing each day, I am not about to engage in some Tom Clancy type scenario but deal in facts. But I feel his thoughts display some fundamental flaws which display why we get this militaristic chest puffing when scenarios like this occur. You can almost hear the longing in his email, something I encountered all too frequently in my few short years in the defence force, to get out there and do something. Understandable in some ways when you know that the military is trained for.


Our “grunts” may be best trained for some aspects of this, but the numbers we could provide are so small that our offer would more than likely be knocked back. Plus, like the great bulk of our western troops, they will not be acclimated to high altitude fighting and will find the going extremely difficult. Our likely response will be, as in the past, to supply a few ships as moral support during any operation and troops afterwards as peacekeepers.


Any 12 year old can point an AK-47, but we aren’t talking about some 12 year old or some third rate East Timor militia organisation used to terrorise civilians but unable to face a military operation. We are talking about people who are, unlike most western troops, battle-hardened, and trained by mercenaries, the British SAS an d the CIA. They know the terrain and are aclimatised. A ground invasion is do-able but you are severely underestimating the cost in lives, the most important factor).


Let’s not go over this American/Australian fantasy again, whereby we invade North Vietnam and win the Vietnam war. The Vietnamese didn’t want us there, and they would still be hidng in tunnels delivering the biggest hiding we ever had. They wanted to get rid of colonial powers, the French, Americans, us whoever.


Which leads me to the next point – an East Timor style mission will not work and will still lead to a large Islamic b acklash. This whole affair is not about bin Laden and the Taliban, its about western interference in middle-eastern affa irs. Install a western-imposed constitution, control the country until western style elections are held and a government the west are happy with is installed and the rest of the Islamic world is not going to love us.


Invasion is a fools game, so is the cloak-and-dagger crap – the exact reason we got to this point through the CIA, MI6 and their friends messing with affairs they shouldn’t have. This is a long-term affair which should involve smarter foreign policy, development help for poorer countries and an appropriate use of the judicial system, not some misguided military effort. This is the only way we will be able to live without fear.


Sean Richardson


Let’s learn from history. Hitler was democratically elected by a civilised, first world people due to a variety of social, historical and economic factors. To David Davis, John Wojdylo and other lovers of all things tutonic, I’d add that the support of certain linguistics-obsessed German philosophers didn’t hurt. The fact is that, once he’d entrenched himself in power with a cabaal of fanatical supporters, launched his blitzkreig and his final solution, it was time to stop hand-wringing and wishing w e’d given the Germans a better deal at Versailles.


Chamberlain steps off the plane waving his piece of paper. No doubt many people at the time saw him as an enlightened man whose moral courage and ability to forgive had brought them back from the brink of war. History remembers him as a pathetic figure who niaively thought the Devil would keep his bargains. Of course it was important to re-build Germany as an integral part of Europe, to put political and economic structures in place which have avoided any repeats of history. But first we had to root out the Nazis and step on their necks.


Whatever got them started, the Nazis were still gasing and burning men, women and children even as they retreated on all fronts, their defeat obvious and inevitable. It’s called fanatacism. Similarly, I doubt there is anything we can do to APPEASE bin Laden, other than universal conversion to his particular brand of Islam and bowing down before Osama as leader. The increased security which has followed September 11 will hopefully buy us some time, before he can learn how to get around those measures and try something else. During that time the man must be brought to heel. Bush is not getting the level of support that he is because of some peverse need on the part of Australia, Britain, Germany et al to kiss American butt. It’s because no one wants to be cleaning the remains of sky-scrapers from downtown Sydney, London or Bonne.


It takes two sides to have a fight, but only one to make an assault or a murder. If bin Laden’s extensive network can be eradicated without any violence, superb. I’m all for it. On the off chance that he decides to go down fighting, so be it. I, too, hope that the first world will wake up to how unfairly it treats the third when the dust has died down from this attack, and do something about it. In the meantime we have a duty to defend our own and our allies lives from this very specific and real threat


Becki Whitton


I thought these (slightly modified) lines from an old anti-Vietnam War song captured the lunacy involved in tryi ng to fight another futile war against an invisible enemy:


Afghanistan Now!


And its one, two, three – who are we fighting George?

Dont ask me I dont give a damn!

Next stop is Afghanistan.


And its five, six, seven – open up the pearly gates

Well there aint no time to wonder why

Whoopee! we’re all g oing to die!


4. Excerpts from the official English-language translation of the 15-minute televi sed speech of Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday night



The act of terrorism has raised a wave of deep grief, anger and retaliation in the United States.


Their first target from day one is Osama bin Laden and his movement, al-Qaida. The second target is the Taliban and that is because the Taliban have given ref uge to him and his network.” The third target is a long war against terrorism at the international level. The thing to ponder is that in these three targets nobody is talking about a war against Islam or the people of Afghanistan.”


Pakistanis being asked to support this campaign. What is this support? First is intelligence and information exchange, second support is the use of our airspace and the third is that they are asking for logistic support from us. I would like to tell you now that right now they do not have any operation plans.


We know that whatever the United States’ intentions they have the support of the UN Security Council and General Assembly in the form of resolutions. This is a resolution for war against terrorism and this is a resolution for punishing those people who support terrorism. Islamic countries have supported this resolution.


Pakistan is facing a very critical situation. The decision we take today can have far-reaching and wide. 5;ranging consequences. The crises are too strong and too widespread. If we take the wrong decisions in this crisis it can lead to even worse consequences. On the other hand, if we take the right decisions, its results will be good.


The negative consequences endanger Pakistan’s integrity and solidarity. Our critical concerns, our important concerns can come under threat. When I say critical concerns, I mean our strategic assets and the cause of Kashmir.


Politically we can re&# 45;emerge as a responsible and dignified nation and all our difficulties can be minimised. I have considered all these factors and held consultations with those who hold different opinions.


Let us now take a look at the designs of our neighbouring country (India). They have offered all their military facilities to the United States. They have offered without hesitation, all their facilities, all their bases and full logistical support. They want to enter into any alliance with the United States and get Pakistan declared a terrorist state.


What do the Indians want? They do not have a common border with Afghanistan anywhere. It is totally isolated from Afghanistan. It is my view, it is not surprising that the Indians want to ensure that if and when the government changes, it shall be an anti-Pakistani government.


It is very important th at while the entire world is talking about this horrible terrorist attack our neighbouring country instead of talking of peace and cooperation is trying hard to harm Pakistan and defame Islam.


I would like to tell India ‘lay off’. Pakistan’s armed forces and every Pakistani citizen is ready to offer any sacrifice in order to defend Pakistan and secure its strategic assets. Make no mistake and entertain no misunderstanding. At this very moment our air force is at high alert. And they are ready for “do or die”.


My countrymen, in such a situation, a wrong decision can lead to unbearable losses. What are our critical concerns and priorities.


They are four: first of all is the security of the country and external threat. Second is our economy and its revival. Third are our strategic nuclear and missile assets and (fourth) the Kashmir cause.


Any wrong judgment on our part can damage all our interests. While taking a decision, we have to keep in mind all these factors. The decision should reflect supremacy of righteousness and it should be in conformity with Islam. Whatever we are doing by now it is according to Islam and it upholds the principle of righteousness.


At this moment, it is not a question of bravery or cowardice. We are all very brave. My own response in such situations is usually aggressive. But bravery without rational judgment is tantamount to stupidity. There is no clash between bravery and sound judgment.


Allah Almighty says in the holy Koran: ‘The one bestowed with sagacity is the one who gets a big favour from Allah’.


We have to take recourse to sanity. We have to save our nation from damage. We have to build our national respect. Pakistan comes first, everything else comes later.


Some scholars and religious leaders are inclined towards taking emotional decisions. We have to take a strategic decision. There is no question of weakness of faith or cowardice. For Pakistan, life can be sacrifices and I am sure every Pakistani will give his life for Pakistan. I have fought two wars. I have seen dangers. I faced them and by the grace of Allah never committed a cowardly act.


But at this time one should not unnecessarily bring harm to oneself. We cannot make the future of 140 million people bleak. Even otherwise it is said in the Sharia that if there are two difficulties at a time and the selection has to be made it is better to chose the lesser one.


Some of our friends seem to be much worried about Afghanistan. I must tell them that I and my government are much worried about Afghanistan and the Taliban. I have done everything for Afghanistan and the Taliban when the entire world was against them. I have met about 20 to 25 world leaders and talked to each of them in favour of the Taliban. I have told them that sanctions should not be imposed on Afghanistan and that we should engage them. I have been repeating this stance before all leaders but I am sorry to say that none of our friends accepted this.


Even in this situation we are trying to cooperate with them. I sent the director of the ISI (Interservices Intelligence) with my personal letter to (Taliban leader) Mullah (Mohammed) Omar. He returned after spending two days there. I have informed Mullah Omar about the gravity of the situation. We are trying our best to come out of this critical situation without any damage to Afghanistan and the Taliban. This is my earnest endeavour and with the blessings of Allah I will continue to seek such a way out.


We are telling the Americans too that they should be patient. Whatever their plans, they should be cautious and balanced. We are asking them to come up with whatever evidence they have against Osama bin Laden. What I would like to know is how do we save Afghanistan and the Taliban?


And how do we ensure that they suffer minimum losses. I am sure that you will favour that we can bring some improvement by working with the nations of the world.


We want to take decisions in the interest of Pakistan. I know that the majority of the people favour our decisions. I also know that some elements are trying to take unfair advantage of the situation to promote their personal agenda and advance the interests of their parties.


They are poised to create dissentions and damage the country. There is no reason why this minority should be allowed to hold the sane majority hostage.


I appeal to all Pakistanis to display unity and solidarity and foil the nefarious designs of such elements who intend to harm the interest of the country. At this critical juncture, we have to frustrate the evil designs of our enemies and safeguard national interests. Pakistan is considered a fortress of Islam. God forbid, if this fortress is harmed in any way it would cause damage to the cause of Islam.


My countrymen, have trust in me the way you reposed trust in me before going to Agra. I did not disappoint the nation there. We have not compromised on national honour and integrity and I shall not disappoint you on this occasion either. This is my firm pledge to you.


In the end before I take your leave, I would like to end with the prayer of Hazrat Musa as given in Sua. 5;e-Taha: ‘May Allah open my chest, make my task easier, untie the knot of my tongue so that they may comprehend my inte nt’.


May Allah be with us in our endeavours. Long Live Pakistan.


. Michelle Jones


Any other day


We will not forget the office workers arriving at work as any other day

Who kissed and said goodbye

And did not know it really was ‘goodbye’

In too much of a rush to say ‘I love you’

Picked the outfit that was later to be torn and covered in ash

Slipped on the shoes later removed to run faster

Thought about what they would do that night

Or next week

Futures they would never come to realise.

Another day at the office

Would mean never another day.


We will not forget the families seeing them off as any other day

A kiss on the cheek, a see you tonight

A don’t forget to pick up milk on your way home

Who watched as they were leaving

And would never see them again.

Clutching a photo and praying

As tears run down their face

Like the people surrounding them, also in hope

That the next person found in the rubble is their loved one

And that the next body found is not.


We will not forget the Police and Fire men and women

Wearing their uniform as any other day

Called to a job they did not know would be their last

Running up instead of down

To not only do their jobs, but do whatever they could

To save the screaming masses

From a fate which would be their own.


We will not forget a day that started out as any other day

The hustle and bustle of people who barely know each other

As they go about their daily lives

In the huge structures reaching into the sky.

A city would be wounded like never before

On a day that turned the world to tears

In which the very freedom which surrounds us was threatened

And so many things taken away from so many people

Who simply cry in disbelief.


We shed a tear for the American people

Innocent people

People with families, friends and loved ones

People with work lives, social lives, personal lives

People like you and me.


And we will never forget them.





1. Mike Seccombe composed these lyrics for the Canberra Press Gallery singing group The Howlers, to be sung to the tune Message in a Bottle.


Ship of castaways, on the Timor Sea& #45;o

Tampa saves the day, picks up the refugee-o

I’ve got a plan, this can save Macfarlane,

We won’t let them land, on our sovereign Island ..

I’ll send the SAS to the boat,

I know the SAS will get votes,

I’ll have that Beazley crawling, I’ll get get the bigots calling, I’ll get the shock jocks bawling

Send them back to Java

Send them back to Java.

A week has passed since my boat came in

Things haven’t happened quite as I planned

Indonesia, Norway and Timor,

Said �They’re all yours, pal; we won’t let them land.

But I’ve got th e SAS on the boat,

I know the SAS will get votes,

I’ll have that Beazley crawling, I’ll get the bigots calling, I’ll have the shock jocks bawling.

Send them off to Nauru, Send them off to Nauru.

Sending out the SAS, I’m sending out the SAS, Sending out the SAS….


2. Guido Tresoldi in Melbourne


I am a rank and file member of the ALP and have been so for 19 years. I disagree strongly with the way the parliamentary ALP has handled the refugee issue. Branches in my part of town in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, which have one of the highest proportions of residents with middle-east backgrounds, have passed resolutions condemning the way the ALP has acquiesced with the government.


In the 80s when Labor was in government there was a Kaz Cooke cartoon of a woman waering a T-Shirt with �Join the ALP and develop your sense of irony�. Many times as a member I disagreed strongly with many decisions taken by th e parliamentary leaders of the Party, however, I came to realise that the ALP cannot be the great left-wing progressive party that many people – especially on this Webdiary – would like it to be.


I live in inner suburb an Melbourne. I am not working class. I class myself as a cappuccino middle class socialist interested in issues like racism, reconciliation and the republic. I never worked in a factory except when I was studying for my degree. But meeting voters during campaigns I found that, whether I like it or not, there are people who would fall in the natural constituency of a Labor voter who feel that they cannot afford the openness that I feel towards refugees. They are living on a knife edge, balancing work, mortgages and kids. They feel hostile towards these ‘foreigners’ who are demanding help from us.


Who are they? Why they should come here and pretend we help them? I slave day and night to keep my head above water and the government uses MY tax money to help these people. Why should we solve their problems? We have enough of our own. And so on.


These are the ‘battlers’ John Howard so successfully wooed in the 1996 elections by exploiting the perception that Keating was pandering to ‘elites’ (inner suburban trendoids like me) instead of looking after the real Aussie worker. No matter that the Liberals later betrayed them by slapping a GST on them and washing his hands once they became unemployed through no fault of their own.


Howard went to town on the Tampa issue as it provided an opportunity to bash Labor by saying that they would permit these people to come in and do whatever they liked. What Labor was to do?


Labor is a pragmatic party seeking power. We all would like it to be a party of principle but that went out of the window around 1982. But who would blame them? Labor heritage is full of decades in opposition because it maintained its purity. Should it maintain a moral stance to satisfy someone like me who is in the minority or kill the issue and move to something else?


To everyone who was a Labor voter and now has vowed to never vote Labor again, just think that on issues such as reconciliation, the republic, industrial relations, workers’ entitlements and so on the ALP is still a better choice.


Howard has taken the refugees as an opportunity to whip up the secular insecurity that Australians have about ‘the outside world’. As some commentators have noted, opinion surveys have constantly showed since the 60s that people thought we were taking ‘too many migrants’ irrespective of whether Australia’s intake was 500,000 or 5,000. Howard is the first Prime Minister who has no qualms in exploiting this fear for his electoral advantage. Very cleverly he stays out of the fray looking statesmanlike while his liutenants like Reith and Slipper do the dirty work by insinuating links between the refugees and terrorism.


Call me cynical, but it is no surprise that the ALP is refusing to play ball and is taking a realpolitik approach by going along with the government. An election where race is a main issue would be disasterous and the fact that the race issue may have been defused is a good thing.


I only hope that the ALP will get in and once in government it will pursue the refugee issue quietly, without fuss and humanely by devising a policy where refugees are treated according to our international obligations, as previous Liberal and Labor governments have done in the past.


I also thought many times to leave the party, but for whatever its failings and limitations it is still the only organisation that has a chance to get into government and pass some progressive legislation. Sure, we can all look at the Greens and Democrats and admire how ethical they are in their policies, but I can’t see them occupying the government benches for a while.


As a great ex-Prime Minister once said: “Only the impotent can afford to be pu re”.


3. Malcolm Street in Canberra


Afghan refugees as potential terrorists…I think I understand now. The reason Australia was reluctant to accept German Jewish refugees in the 1930’s was that we were concerned they’d bring Nazism with them.


4. Daniel Maurice in Sydney


Your piece in Bush’s rhetoric gets more disturbing each day talking of “people fleeing the terror of today’s equivalent of Nazi Germany, the Taliban”, is the latest in an endless series of contributions to your diary that seem to confuse lack of compassion with common sense measures to control the entry of people into Australia.


No-one can doubt that there are many innocent victims of the Taliban, Saddam and other despicable regimes throughout the world. It’s a noble thought that we should throw open Australia’s doors to such people. However this view utterly ignores the practical reality that such generosity, if extended, is bound to be abused. I do not have to lock doors to protect my property against the 99% of people who are decent, honest and law-abiding, but against the 1% who are not.


And so it is with entry into Australia. An open door policy designed to help victims of the Taliban, will quickly turn into a conduit for other, much less deserving people, whether they be simple economic refugees, or worse still, undesirables. This must already be happening as there is no other logical explanation for why so many boat people destroy their identification papers. Australians who support tougher refugee entry are not hard hearted nor are they racist. Rather they live in the real world where some people will always abuse the system.


Postscript: I guess I’m not the first to point out the irony that so many people who call for tolerance and understanding in respect of refugees are themselves utterly unwilling to accept the sincerity and legitimacy of the views different from their own, but rather resort to vilification or cheap sloganeering against their fellow Australians. We are a decent, open, generous and tolerant society by any objective standard.


5. Peter Kelly


I am writing in response to Peter Maresch , who asks in Poll praise why the Afghans don’t stay and fight, and questions the motives of those who flee. This is really rich coming from someone who faces no such dangers in his life. I would suggest that he go to Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban government himself to show the locals how it is done if he is so clever.


He seems to be ignorant of the history of Afghanistan in the last two 2 decades. It has had war for all this time with all the attendant problems that war brings. He seems to think Afghan people are free to associate politically. I challenge him to stay in the face of food shortages, religious police and brutal punishment, civil war and the world’s largest population of land mines. Peter has demonstrated all the expertise of an armchair expert.


As for being “recalcitrant” because they do not want to be pushed around, they are only doing what he would in their positions.


6. John Wojdylo, our Australian in Germany


Puzzled truthseeker, Piers Ackerman (SMH Letters, 21/9), rightly asks why Australia is different to “almost every Western nation” that is calling for tighter border controls following the terrorist attacks in the United States. Why indeed.


As it happens, amidst the swell of fear, Piers, populist wave-rider extraordinaire, has failed to ask himself or his readers a simp le, innocent question, viz.: who would have processed the Tampa 433 had they landed at Christmas Island?


Answer: the Department of Immigration.


As Piers and the Defence Minister have reminded us, the Tampa 433 are a threat to Australia’s security. “There is a definite link between the Tampa boatpeople and terrorists.” But on what grounds do Piers, the Defence Minister and 75% of Australians doubt the capacity of the the Department to do its job properly and screen the Tampa 433 for terrorists?


Indeed, if DIMA is doing an excellent job, why is our sovereignty threatened? And why isn’t Mr. Ruddock honourably defending his department from these insults?


Piers Ackerman and those who agree with him have implicitly given DIMA a vote of no confidence. They cannot trust DIMA to screen out the terrorists.


But wait a minute.


DIMA has screened about 10000 middle-eastern boatpeople since 1996. You start to see why p uffed-up Piers and 75% of Australians are afraid: according to the Howard Government , many, any or all of these 10000 could be terrorists, because DIMA is as leaky as the boats they came on.


DIMA has tried to put the facts on the table – facts that, as clear as black and white, blow out of the water the lies being told by the Federal Government and Beazley’s complicit opposition. But Piers Ackerman is already too puffed-up with his message of fear to think rationa lly anymore.


Where is this shameful episode in Australia’s history heading? With the left hand, the Government and gullible, hot-headed, meekly-complicit shock-jocks have generated a climate of fear. With the right h and, the Government smoke machine is generating the antidote for fearful Australians: tough new laws that will make Australians feel good about their national sovereignty.


But who’s going to process the tens of thousands of future asylum seekers arriving on Australian soil after they’ve played chasey across the Pacific and been pre-processed by an Australia n-sponsored, money-laundering banana republic?


Answer: the Department of Immigration. Depite the new laws, nothing will change.


But a dangerous wave of fear has been set in motion. As seen in the U.S. this week, terrorists can afford perfectly forged passports. Unless you realize that valid travel documents are no guarantee of identity, and unless you stop doubting DIMA, then you will soon be so afraid, that you’ll be voting for the end of all migration and asylum from the middle east.


The wave of fear is taking us in this direction. No other Western nation intends abrogating its responsibility to humanity so arrogantly.


Wake up, Australia! The Government is pulling the wool over your eyes.

Why is Howard not addressing us?

America now has its story. So does Pakistan. And so does bin Laden, I learned on reading a Robert Fisk piece based on his interviews with the man.


“He wanted an end to those dictators installed by the Americans, those men who supported US policies while repressing their own people. And it occurred to me that this was, for many millions of Arabs in the Middle East, a very powerful message.


“You didn’t need instructions from bin Laden to form your own small group of followers, to decide on your own individual actions. Bin Laden wouldn’t have to plan bombings or the overthrow of regimes. You had only to listen to the thousands of cassette tapes of his voice circulated clandestinely around the Middle east.


“Arabs are angry enough with the injustices that they blame on America without needing orders from Afghanistan. Inspiration might just be enough.”


But what is Australia’s story and where can we find it? Does John Howard think it’s enough for Australians to watch George Bush construct the American story and fumble around adapting it to our nation? Or does he think America’s story IS ours?


I cannot comprehend why the Prime Minister has not given an address to the nation, to tell us why we’re in, what our interests are, our state of readiness, what is expected of us. We too need a story, for us to rally around, and begin to imagine what our individual roles might be.


How sad Australia is, that we must look to radio transcripts and television interview to glean, where we can, where we are in all this.




1. One liners.


The War

2. WH Auden poem, September 1, 1939


3. Linda Kerr, Stephen Reynolds and Rick Pass on confusions, conclusions and unanswered questions regarding the Bush address to the nation.


4. Michel Dignand, Meagan Phillipson, Sean Richardson, Colin Todd and Will Smith on how to fight the war


5. Christopher Selth and Marie Kelly on why global capitalism must change.


6. Meeja Watch with Jack Robertson


Boat people


7. David Lim Andrew Cave and Danny Russell on racism


8. Rusri Ratnapala on another casualty of our new refugee policy.




9. Reader’s website recommendations.






John Crockett: Should bin Laden continue his current foreign affairs policy if opinion polls found that 77% of people supported his stand?


John Clark: ABC radio on saturday reported that iraqi boat people refusing to land at Nauru had said they wanted to go back to iraq if their demands to be taken to Australia were not met. Are these people desperate refugees escaping oppression? They sound more like opportunists.


Chris Murphy: “Surely this god-driven, justice-seeking superpower is not the same one that stood by and did absolutely nothing, just a few years ago, while some 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered by their machete-wielding countrymen.”





2. Tim Dunlop sends a W.H. Auden poem, written in another September about another war. “Change the name to “September 11, 2001″ and it still rings true.” See also for a piece called ‘Auden on bin Laden’.


“September 1, 1939”


I sit in one of the dives

On Fifty-second Street

Uncertain and afraid

As the clever hopes expire

Of a low dishonest decade:

Waves of anger and fear

Circulate over the bright

And darkened lands of the earth,

Obsessing our private lives;

The unmentionable odour of death

Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can

Unearth the whole offence

From Luther until now

That has driven a culture mad,

Find what occurred at Linz

What huge imago made

A psychopathic god:

I and the public know

What all schoolchildren learn,

Those to whom evil is done

Do evil in return.




Exiled Thucydides knew

All that a speech can say

About Democracy,

And what dictators do,

The elderly rubbish they talk

To an apathetic grave;

Analysed all in his book,

The enlightenment driven away,

The habit-forming pain,

Mismanagement and grief:

We must suffer them all again.




Into this neutral air

Where blind skyskrapers use

Their full height to proclaim

The strength of Collective Man,

Each language pours its vain

Competitive excuse:

But who can live for long

In an euphoric dream;

Out of the mirror they stare,

Imperialism’s face

And the international wrong.




Faces along the bar

Cling to their average day:

The lights must never go out,

The music must always play,

All the conventions conspire

To make this fort assume

The furniture of home;

Lest we should see where we are,

Lost in a haunted wood,

Children afraid of the night

Who have never been happy or good.




The windiest militant trash

Important Persons shout

Is not so crude as our wish:

What mad Nijinsky wrote

About Diaghilev

Is true of the normal heart;

For the error bred in the bone

Of each woman and each man

Craves what it cannot have,

Not universal love

But to be loved alone.




From the conservative dark

Into the ethical life

The dense commuters come,

Repeating their morning vow;

‘I will be true to the wife,

I’ll concentrate more on my work,’

And helpless governors wake

To resume their compulsory game:

Who can release them now,

Who can reach the deaf,

Who can speak for the dumb?




All I have is a voice

To undo the folded lie,

The romantic lie in the brain

Of the sensual man& #45;in-the-street

And the lie of Authority

Whose buildings grope the sky:

There is no such thi ng as the State

And no one exists alone;

Hunger allows no choice

To the citizen or the police;

We must love one another or die.




Defenceless under the night

Our world in stupor lies;

Yet, dotted everywhere,

Ironic points of light

Flash out wherever the Just

Exchange their messages:

May I, composed like them

Of Eros and of dust,

Beleaguered by the same

Negation and despair,

Show an affirming flame.




Linda Kerr in Hillsborough, NSW


I learned only one thing from Alexander Downer’s interview on Nine’s Sunday program yesterday. Our foreign affairs minister seems as clueless as the rest of us as to what our involvement in it actually is.


When asked by Laurie Oakes if, by invoking ANZUS, it could be assumed that Australia was ‘at war’, Downer replied:

“We’re not talkin g here about a war in the sense that the Gulf war was……we’re talking here about a war on terrorism…..’ Maybe we’re not in a ‘real’ war but ‘a little bit at war’?


He was asked whether USA had given Australia the evidence it had against Osama bin Laden in confidence. He replied: “Well we have a lot of information on the Osama bin Laden network and it is ou r view from studying the material we have that Osama bin Laden and his network is the prime suspect.” Sounds like a ‘no ‘ to me.


Mr Downer said he had spoken to Secretary Powell on Thursday to “not only congratulate him on pu tting together the coalition he has put together, but to urge appropriate restraint.” What does is meant by appropriate restraint and what if the USA decides not to use it?


What does being part of the Coalition mean? Are we just sitting waiting to be told what to do by the USA? Does Australia have any say regarding what action may be taken and when?


Mr. Downer said: “This will be a campaign….that will last for a very long time. It will last, you know, we’re ta lking here of a year. It could be longer than that.”


Of course he hasn’t a clue, and nobody would expect him to know. But there are some answers we do need. I can’t believe the lack of debate on this in parliament. Perhaps there is a fear of being accused of in some way disrespecting those murdered on September 11th by questioning anything that the US wishes to do in response.


Whatever the reason, our politicians, both in government and opposition, have a job to do. When are they going to get on with it?




Stephen Reynolds


“And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”


Simple concepts, simple truths, stated clearly.


It’s war against terrorism, but which terrorists? Who is a terrorist? The people who conducted the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon? Definitely, no question. America will bring them, and those that aid and harbor them to justice “dead or alive”.


How about the IRA, are they terrorists? Definitely, no question. Who supports the IRA, who funds them? Libya, Colonel Gadaffi, and Irish Americans. Will America bring them to justice? Gadaffi maybe, but the Irish Americans, never.


Last week in New York, terrorists blew up two buildings with terrible loss of life, thousands of innocent people were killed. Last year in Grozni? Russian troops destroyed an entire city, killing tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Is that state-sponsored terrorism? Will America bring the people responsible for the destruction of Grozni to justice? No , to hard, to difficult, and besides Chechnians are Muslims aren’t they.


On 16 September 1982, Israel’s Phalangist militia allies started a three-day orgy of murder in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila that cost 1,800 lives. Was that terrorism? Definitely, no question. The officer in charge of that operation was Arial Sharon, the Butcher of Beruit. Will America bring Arial Sharon to justice? No, he’s an American ally isn’t he, so he can’t be a terrorist or a war criminal.


During the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, hundreds of cluster bombs were dropped in civilian areas of Beruit by the Israelis. That invasion cost the lives of 17,500 Lebanese and Palestinians, almost all of them civilians. This year in Gaza and the West Bank, American-made AGM missiles, launched from American made Apache helicopters were fired by Israeli troops into civilian buildings and vehicles, killing innocent men, women, and children. Will America bring the people responsible for these atrocities to justice? No, Israel has the Jewish lobby in the USA to make sure that never happens. And besides, Israel only kills Arabs.


Who decides who is a terrorist? Who decides who should be brought to justice? Are you only a terrorist if you are a threat to Americans? Or will this be a war against all forms of terrorism? President Bush said “Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”


If President Bush seeks justice for all victims of terrorism, and not just American victims, then God Bless America.




Rick Pass


George Bush has managed at once to paint himself and the Taliban into a corner. By demanding that the Taliban not only hand over bin Laden (a remote possibility but a possibility nonetheless) but also all of his network, which must spread right throughout the Taliban itself; by demanding that the Taliban destroy all terrorist bases and allow US access to these bases, which in practice means guaranteeing safe passage for US ground troops, Bush has set conditions that the Taliban are sure to refuse. By saying that these demands are non-negotiable he has ensured that domestic political considerations wil l prevent any kind of negotiation.


Conclusion: Bush wants war and is not really interested in bringing bin Laden to justice.


Bush’s almost open ended commitment to stamp out terrorism whenever groups involved have a international reach must surely include the likes of Hizbolah, Islamic Jihad, the IRA, ETA, Kurds, Shining Path, Chechens, etc etc. By nature a terrorist is like a guerrilla, they strike at weaknesses and avoid an enemy’s strengths. To ferret out and destroy terrorists, who like guerrillas swims in the stream of the people, would require a simultaneous war in dozens of nations. Given that the US has proven incapable of finding this one terrorist, despite a couple of years of him being on the top of the FBI’s most wanted list and a multi-million dollar bounty, the logistical problems of doing what Bush says are insurmountable.


Conclusion: Bush does not really intend to defeat terrorism.


As other Webdiarists have suggested, there does seem to be a rhetorical resemblance to the US war on drugs. A war that is never won but goes on and on, in the process providing a justification for much of the US’s foreign policy in Central and South America. There may also be a more than passing resemblance to the Cold War from the mid 1950s on, after which time the US had secretly admitted that the Soviet Union was not a threat to US hegemony but continued with the rhetoric to underpin their support for pliant ‘death squad democracies’ and disguise the massive corporate welfare going to American armament manufacturers.


Conclusion: this could be a phoney war.


The prosecution of a war that the West has neither the hope nor the intention of winning does not mean that there will not be real casualties. Even in the short term putting troops on the ground in Pakistani airfields will require aggressive patrolling to defend those bases, leading to inevitable conflict with Pakistani militants and nationalists many of whom make up the Pakistani military. The losers will also include the people of Afghanistan, the Taliban, Pakistan (which could easily become the world’s first nuclear Islamic republic as a result), security on the Indian Sub-continent, and those Western soldiers who will come home in body bags. Winners will be the US military-industrial complex which has floundered for the last decade without an enemy to justify their existence- Colombian narco traffickers were never very convincing- costly Tex an oil producers and the oil majors, the US economy which will be brought out of recession by a heavy dose of military Keyensian pump priming, and those who would see civil liberties curtailed.


Conclusion: while not for a moment suggesting that there is any sort of ‘gunman on the grassy knoll’ type of conspiracy involved in the WTC attack, the American response will be the outcome of complex domestic considerations and political debts. We should not assume that the end result, over the course of the next few years, will have anything to do with making the world safe for democracy.






Michel Dignand in Wagga Wagga, NSW


Still a mess, Margo, but we’re gradually coming to see sense, aren’t we?


I served ten years with the British Royal Marines nearly a lifetime ago. I fought in Yemen, and I fought in Guyana, and collected boat-people escaping from Cuba and took them to Florida where, illegal though they were, they were welcome, very welcome, as long as they shouted loudly about how terrible Castro was.


So I’m not a bleeding heart, but one who might have seen a little more of both sides of many of the arguments in the Webdiary. And I can tell you quite clearly that violence and retribution will not work.


I know what I’m talking about. I’ve watched ragged tribal Yemenis jumping up and down on naked volcanic mountains until the most modern aircraft of the time, Hunter jets of the British Air Force, magnificently piloted by brilliantly trained pilots, turned towards them to blast them from the face of the Earth.


I’ve watched from a distance as the tribesmen calmly took aim with ancient rifles, Martini Henry single-shots loaded with home-made ammunition, and fired at the last minute at the aircraft screaming r ight at them, steady and growing larger over their sights. Can you imagine the effect of a piece of lead roughly the size of the end of your thumb as it rips through the fan of jet engine? So simple a technique to bring down a modern fighter plane that only a simple tribesman could have worked it out.


And it’s always the same when a powerful, technologically advanced nation attacks a poor and apparently backward people. There were some yanks in Vietnam, weren’t there?


So no, retribution isn’t going to work. But what do you think might be the result, as so many of us are daring to hope, if we of the powerful west stopped supporting the despots and the corrupt and the bullies and the evil ones? What might happen if we stopped, for instance, paying oil money to the despotic rulers of Arab nations, and found some way to pay it instead to the citizens of those countries so that they could feed themselves and educate themselves, and learn how the rich and powerful elsewhere live?


What would happen, for instance, if we Australians stopped pretending that Indonesia was a democratic country, and stopped allowing them to kill and rape and starve and beat their own people so that the ruling few, and their cronies, could milk millions from them?


And what would happen, do you think, if we stopped giving power to the Packers and Murdochs and the Fairfaxes too, come to that, and started spending money on the proper education our own people so that next time there was an argument in our country they would stop and think instead of howling stupidly whatever the shock-jocks and the media pe ople told them that everybody else was thinking? I know what I think might happen, and it would be good. Very good indeed, and not so difficult to achieve as some of us seem to think.




Meagan Phillipson


Like everyone, my first reaction to the events of last week was centered on the innocent civilians that lost their lives but after watching the international political scene go into over-drive my concern has turned to what is to come.


A long with the pieces of office paper and debris that flew into the air after last weeks attack on the World Trade Centre, goes the nature of international relations in the 21st century. How can international relations American-style continue in th e same fashion as it has since 1945, i.e. through sanctions and targeted airstrikes, if ultimately a highly trained terrorist group can create such devastation in an apparent act of revenge?


America has historically taken the lead in countless political crises mostly because its national security was perceived as virtually impregnable and the military force too strong for most states to challenge. Whilst the latter remains true for the moment, Americans will now have to live with the notion that their country is no longer a safe haven from the world’s problems and it cannot sit back in comfortable certainty. The long-term ramifications of this body blow to American security on the world community will only be revealed in time yet the re is a definite possibility America will no longer be drawn easily into resolving foreign disputes.


Adding to an air of diplomatic tentativeness is the relative ease with which these acts were executed. Out of the shock created by last weeks terror emerged the realization that anybody, anywhere and at anytime can wreck havoc upon innocent civilians given a deep hatred and an utter disregard for life. Whilst this has theoretically always been the case, it is only now we face the painful awareness that whoever is behind these acts of terrorism are unafraid of retaliation from the worlds greatest military power. Needless to say, this sends a chilling message to nations that if America is not safe then neither is anywhere else.


So where does America and the world go from here? Revenge for the events of yesterday will undoubtedly come with great swiftness against those responsible yet what if it is discovered they are in some way related to one or more governments? To retaliate against a terrorist group is one thing, to retaliate against a state for its involvement is tantamount to a declaration of war in a volatile region of the world.


Is America prepared to get involved in a war that could involve biological warfare and foot soldiers that dont abide by the gentlemens art of war? Some may scoff (quite rightly in certain cases) that there have been numerous occasions where America has not played by the rules but I think now, more than ever, it is important that such considerations are not forgotten, otherwise countless more innocent people going about their everyday business will be caught up and killed.


Sean Richardson


Dangnabbit. Here I was trying to instil some calm, and I’ve gone and made things worse. Firstly, Justin Ansell in Warmongering, I’m sorry if you identify me with the evil Sergeant who made your military life miserable, but please don’t presume to know what you can “almost” hear me “longing” for. Nevertheless, I seem to have come off a bit war-hungry so here’s a clarification.


My email in Bush’s rheto ric gets more disturbing each day was not meant to advocate any particular option. In particular, I agree that the “spook” option wouldn’t solve much at all and would just finance more potential Osamas. I put it it there as a possibility because US Senator John McKain has flagged it.


I wrote because I was sensing a rising tide of panic with lots of doomsday talk even here at Webdiary, where people are usually sensible. There’s also a lot of partisan, opportunistic bullshit around which is making things worse. One writer to the SMH letters page thought Oz could never present a united front to such an attack because we’ve considered changing the flag and amending the constitution. Paddy thinks those who deride One Nation are halfway to terrorists themselves. Others believe themselves vindicated because they never liked Arabs anyway. An associate editor of The Age thinks the attack shows that state funding to religious schools should be axed completely. Or it shows that we should have sunk the Tampa, or it shows that we should let the Tampa refugees loose in Australia without so much as a security check. It shows that those evil capitalist secretaries and food court guys in the WTC had it coming, or that Israel should get everything it wants, now. Yada yada yada.


As for the semantic philosophy and theocratic theorising, bloody well spare me.


Personally, I firmly believe that the vast majority of Afghans are like the vast majority of people everywhere else. They just want to live their lives and worship their God in peace, with the chance that their children will be materially better off. The intertwining and unpredictable threads of history have robbed them of this for at least two decades. Which would explain why not a few of them are trying to come here, where such things are possible. It also shows why they, along with just about everyone everywhere, would probably accept democracy if someone strong enough to get rid of their oppressors gave them a hand.


This is not the same thing as imposing “western style” government. It means giving the people a regular chance to choose leaders and hence laws. The Taliban will not suddenly enfranchise women, hold elections and step aside from power , no matter what just and fair policies may be adopted at the next G-8 meeting.


I am not and never have been a be liever that aerial bombardment of civilian targets was either ethical, even in the extremely flexible military meaning of the word, or effective. Attempting to bomb Afghanistan back to the pre-stone age would be worse than useless, as Tamim Ans ary correctly pointed out in Labor falls into line. Nevertheless, I believe properly targeted military action is required in the short term.


Jack Robertson in More on war fever correctly urges me to know the enemy. Here’s what I do know: Al Qaeda is a messianic/millennial cult of Islam, Muslims in the sense that Jim Jones was a Christian, and Osama Bin Laden is insane. Smart insane. Charismatic insane. Merciless, megalomaniacal insane. Insane like Hitler.


Jack is correct again when he points out that bin Laden is not one of the third world’s downtrodden masses, he’s a privileged son and a millionaire. All of which may show why he is NOT, according to those who know, particularly popular among those afore mentioned average Afghanis. Their flight to the border doesn’t look like a fanatical show of support to me. However, there’s bugger all they can do about it while Al Qaeda and the Taliban have all the guns.


Let’s remember that the WTC/Pentagon attack was merely Osama’s worst, not his first effort. There were Africans in the rubble of those US embassies, just as there are Australians in the rubble of the WTC. To my mind, Jack and Chris Chesher in Warmongering, you make one big mistake. You seriously underestimate the inhumanity of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and their power to repress their own people. Sometimes normal people get overheated and can be calmed down with patience and understanding. However, if we dropped bounties on the repressed Afghanis from the skies, they would be collected by the ruling mob and sold to buy weapons to blow us up again. Al Qaeda, at least, won’t just sit happily in Afghanistan if we turn the other cheek.


When the immediate threat is over, I hope and even tentatively believe that at least some of what Paul Keating advocates will come to pass (see What happens next?) . The head of the World Trade Organisation has been trying to convince the G-8 of this need for some time, and President Clinton on his recent visit to Australia presciently predicted increased world conflict if measures were not taken to address global wealth inequity. So the beginnings of the will to do this are there. A similar process at the end of WWII lead to the creation of the UN which, though heavily flawed, was a very big step in the right direction. This won’t mean no more Osamas. It will mean they have less chance of attracting a dangerous following.


However we have an immediate obligation to defend our civil populations (ME INCLUDED) from the near certainty of more carnage if Al Qaeda does not go the way of the Nazi Party. Justin, if that means some hard fighting for soldiers then, as you know, that’s their job. It’s not a matter of “longing” for violence because it will be fun. It’s a matter of seeing the murderer in the house and having the grim determination to do what needs to be done.


Better that than do nothing, or just lob in some missiles and pretend we’ve done something. BOTH courses will lead to more death. There are already casualties in this war: 6,000 and counting. It’s simply time to defend ourselves. So let’s calm down, “get the bloody job done”, and then, when the house is safe, set about making it a nicer place to live in for everyone.




Colin Todd


Saturday’s Herald published a photo of a marine calling to say goodbye to his family. Behind him were other marines. My thoughts immediately went to the descriptions of a British special forces liaison officer who liaised with the Afghanis against the Russians in the high country. The contrast is extreme and telling.


The Taliban carry a few clips of ammunition, a couple of grenades and some naan. They are acclimatised to the altitude, lean, wiry, wily and know the country. They carry mental maps of minefields of undetectable mines. They sleep rough and travel VERY fast. They are very good at hiding.


If the marine pictured is an example of front line combat troops the Americans are in trouble. They need clean water, maybe 10 litres or more per day at that altitude. They carry heavy combat packs and lots of equipment. Most importantly the marine in the picture was overweight.


As someone with a 15 year martial arts background which includes competition fighting, I know that carrying extra body weight counts when the crunch is really on in a fight. Toughness and determination are useless when altitude sickness swells your brain or when the adrenalin of fighting burns out and you have to move, but your cells are so clogged with lactic acid that you cannot stand.


The Americans could not successfully engage in highly mobile infantry engagement given this background. Even without combat packs on, marines such as the one pictured could not catch a group of Taliban intent on playing cat and mouse in the mountains. The Americans would be sitting ducks.


This scenario means that the Americans would have to rely on heavy logistical support to keep their troops effective. The Russians learned this folly at their cost. Perhaps the Taliban may use up all their American Stinger rockets early on knocking down supply helicopters but I cannot believe they do not have additional stores of weapons and equipment hidden and inaccessible to the U.S.


Rooting out these cadres is a process which will take years and many US and other lives. The Americans and others will have to be there for quite a while sustaining losses whilst they become acclimatised to the conditions and used to dealing with a very elusive enemy. Given the photo in the SMH and a few assumptions I don’t think an American victory in infantry combat is possible.




Will Smith, expat Australian in Ontario, Canada


The seemingly inevitable clash between East and West because of the terror in New York and Washington last week is such that nations in the West must be of one mind and one purpose. The world’s society has undesirables who are a threat to the so-called common man and it is the duty of government t o defend its citizens and its way of life against those who would infiltrate, demoralize and destroy.


It cannot be a persuasive argument, of course, to label all Muslims or all Christians as being bent upon a fundamentalist revision of world order, but equally it is invalid to decry the use of bombs against “disabled orphans and people in wheelchairs”, as does Tamim Ansary, as quoted in Bush’s rhetoric gets more disturbing each day. There were children in those planes which were crashed ; there were people in wheelchairs in the World Trade Centre buildings ; there were the elderly, the innocent and the peace-loving on the streets of New York and Washington.


The profile of Bin Laden and his followers is one whi ch gives a clear picture of terrorist activities ; the profile of fundamentalist Muslim beliefs reveals an irrational fervour for maintaining medieval practices and attitudes in a world where high technology, civil rights, human dignity and the worth of every human being are making those ancient beliefs repugnant.


I am not comfortable with the current nationalistic, flag-waving, vengeance-smitten zeal in The United States but, equally, I am not comfortable with the Jihad- ;prone rhetoric of Muslims who regard the West collectively, and the United States particularly, as “The Great Satan”.


Rational thinking, one would hope, must prevail on both sides but the blood is boiling on this Continent and, equally, the blood is surging through the passionate followers of Islam and bin Laden in the Middle East and elsewhere. If bin Laden and his followers are proven to be the perpetrators of the horrors in New York and Washington, they must be sought out and punished – if they are not responsible, the West must shift its focus and find those who are, and that will involve some kind of “war” against terrorism. It will be a bloody experience for international society, whichever way it goes.






Christopher Selth in London


Margo note: Chris appeared in Webdiary in What happens next. I emailed to ask whether he was the Christopher Selth who had just retired as a senior funds manager at Banker’s Trust.


Yes, I was head of international equities at Bankers Trust. I left in part to work on a book and documentary re globalisation, the technological revolution, and the ecosystem. Its a project that has obsessed me for a number of years, and with the new crisis I feel more committed to than ever.


I remember very clearly travelling in regional New South Wales in the mid 90s. I stopped off at a McDonalds. I dont know if it was projection on my part at the time, but looking at the faces of these average Australians, I couldnt help feel there was a sense of bewilderment. What was happening to these peoples worlds, their lives, their jobs. I had a sense of loss.


From my experience as a fund manager, meeting with managements of corporations around the world as well as leading economists, I was becoming increasingly aware of the enormity and accelerating rate of change sweeping the world. It was little surprise to me at the time to see the rise of Pauline Hanson. I remember hearing you talking about this phenomenon with Philip Adams. I really understood what you were saying.


Across the globe, similar reactions were and are taking place to the new uncertainty. That is the basis of the fear discussed in your forum. They are manifest on both the right and left wings. The rioting at the G8 in Genoa is but another example. And now we have the terrorist crisis. The anger of suburban Australians is nothing compared to the truly marginalised inhabitants of this planet.


There are many ways of characterising this phenomenon. It marks the death of the unifying story, the metanarrative. There is no longer a thesis as to what is happening in the world, as to what is going on, that the everyman can embrace. Religion was replaced by the new materialism, consumerism in the 60s and 70s. The idea of working for the company for life, and in exchange being able to buy with your pay packet an ever proliferating range on new products, as the source of happiness and the basis of life, is over.


It is seen that the gap between rich and poor is widening. Economic rationalism is seen as the disease, not the cure. The feeling that quality of life is declining is endemic. And we will see the disenfranchised taking ever more radical reponses.


Politicians are left without slogans to push. They have lost their currency. We are left with reactionary, self serving populism.

The ideological landscape is desolate. That is why the more extremist responses are now described as nihilist. We are searching for a new road map to guide us through.


It is very reminiscent of the dangerous void that the Great Depression precipitated, a void that was filled by fascism, Stalinisim, and Macarthyism.


Yet a pattern can be discerned. These factors can be clarified.


Thats what I am working on now. I appreciate your forum, and see now since I have left BT, and have had more time to focus on the media, that this discussion is expanding. It is vital.




Marie Kelly in Adelaide


Now the analysis has turned to capitalism in its present form, and the injustices this creates.


Capitalism in its current form has followed the rules of “survival of the fittest” and those who have lost out are feeling the inequity more and more. Maybe now it’s time to look at the “free” market and see how it can be used to provide a more equitable future.


In “Natural Capitalism” by Hawkins, Lovins and Lovins, the authors describe how the need for America to import oil from the Gulf States, and potentially conflicts such as the Gulf War, could be avoided through energy efficiency

measures such as improving the consumption of gas guzzling “sport utility vehicles”. (Laws to implement this were recently voted down in the US Congress.) These words are all the more poignant now after the terrorist attacks in the US.


The US and countries like Australia have an “ecological blueprint” far in excess of that which is sustainable. If the whole world aspired to live like the US or Australia, we would need 5 planets’ worth of resources. Obviously the increase in the standard of living for many countries is a self limiting process, and this causes a sense of injustice and resentment. Hopefully the concept of “natural capitalism” and “ethical investing” will replace the current free market system to redistribute wealth around the globe and ensure a more sustainable and peaceful future.






Evil is a verb, not a noun


By Jack Robertson


If we’d listened to the gutsy reporters of the Munich Post, Adolph Hitler would have been consigned to historical oblivion. As a Meeja Watcher, my personal hero is a pre-WW2 German j ournalist named Martin Gruber, who I discovered in Ron Rosenbaum’s brilliant book Explaining Hitler, along with Erhard Auer, Edmund Goldschagg, Julius Zerfass and other German journalists men like Konrad Heiden and Rudolph Olden, who also recognised very early and clearly what Hitler and Goebbels and their ilk were: petulant criminals, bitter, twisted personal failures.


But men like Martin Gruber, the Munich Post’s terminal editor, knew instinctively that personal mediocrity and inadequacy lay at the heart of what drove those Nazi leaders, and his band of splendid, doomed scribblers represent the pinnacle of the reportage trade. Their bullshit detectors were the most finely-tuned in journalistic history, and they matched that hunger for tearing apart manifest cant with astounding personal courage and a lusty appetite for getting visceral when it came to the Nazis.


The Munich Post was an aggressive, tabloidy, street-fighting, shit-stirr ing newspaper which came of age alongside Hitler’s new party in the 1920s and early 1930s. Its hacks covered his Munich meetings when he was still a pitiful nobody, they mixed it with the fledgling Nazis at grass-roots level, witnessed their viciou s tactics and criminal intent close-up from day one. They were able to identify first-hand the banal truth of al l evil masterminds – they’re just flesh-and-blood.


And if you are smart and tough enough t o refuse to take their delusions of historical grandeur seriously, if you can laugh at them (even as you suffer their exploratory brutalities), if you can pull off the tricky dual response of savagely dismissing them AND confronting them with resolve and intellectual rigour, then their support will wither rather than grow, and they will ultimately wreak relatively little damage in the grand scheme of things.


Right up until their newspaper was shut down and they were all murdered in 1933 &# 45; the instant the Nazis got some REAL power at last – the journos of the Munich Post went after Adolph Hitler with a p ersonalised intellectual ferocity and a clarity of historical vision that is all the more stunning to behold today, given our 20-20 hindsight. They laughed at him, they called him a loser, they sneered at his grotty little band of physical misfits, they ridiculed his manifestly hypocritical ideas, sought to diminish him publicly at every opportunity they could. Above ALL ELSE they portrayed the early Nazis for what they were (and would thus ALWAYS be, as Nuremburg – finally – recorde d officially for civilised posterity): CRIMINALS.


They failed to destroy Hitler when he was still thoroughly destroyable only and precisely because the mainstream public realm of the day insisted on treating him with an historical gravitas far beyond his true net worth, helping him transform himself slowly but surely from a street thug into a legitimate grass-r oots force, then a credible political threat, then a charismatic celebrity, then a national Man of Destiny.


Not unlike the Hanson trip magnified a million times over, the German (and then the world) media/political establishment helped make, of the supreme nobody Adolph Schicklegruber, a diabolical superstar. By the time it became utterly apparent to even the over-wrought Piers Akermans and Andrew Bolts and George Bushes and John Howards of the day that little Adolph was actually at heart a rather pathetic and mundane individual – not a Teutonic Superstar at all, but a gauche Austrian hick – it was far too late. He WASNT pathetic anymore, he really was historically significant. The man had become the myth, and vice versa.


Such history matters enormously, because we are starting the same brutal cycle all over again, magnifying the stature of yet another gaggle of criminal nebbishes until their historical importance too threatens to become a self-fulfil ling prophecy. Specifically, we seem determined to ascribe an aura of pure evil to Osama bin Laden, who even now is still just the relatively obscure, spoiled and spiteful 17th son among 50-odd sons, a historical wannabe who may (or may even not) h ave engineered some particularly grotesque and murderous criminal acts – acts that essentially hinged upon a few mundane thugs with knives exploiting the element of bloody, extreme surprise.


It doesn’t take an evil mastermind to pull this off in a free and open society, much less the Devil. The defining characteristic of an evil act lies in its criminal banality, NOT some abstract resonance of absoluteness (however grotesque its outcome). If we truly care about civilisation, we MUST sustain our belief that evil is a verb – to be chosen by Free Will – NOT a noun somehow foisted upon the God& #45;fearing world. There is no such thing as an evil gene. To believe otherwise is to let those terrorists thoroughly off the hook as Human Beings with the capacity, like us all, to make their own personal choices.


Even worse: if their evil acts have indeed succeeded in changing the world, if they HAVE succeeded in starting a whole war against just such an over- ;arching abstract conceit as Pure Evil, then the terrorists have already won that war. Now is the time for the mainstream Meeja to provide perspective and balance, before the mythic and symbolic status of these suicidal nobodies gets out of hand.


Sorry to dampen the theological war-dance, but the WTC and Pentagon assaults were CRIMINAL not military acts awfu l crimes against Humanity, yes, but still just crimes, not acts of war. What do we think Nuremberg was FOR?


Those responsible are just criminals, to be dealt with by the US – or preferably the world’s – courts. From our politi cians and soldiers, talking up these terrorists strategic impact (and thus their legitimacy as military enemies rather than criminal suspects) is to be expected. Its probably operationally necessary. But it will only be the Meeja, the bullshit-fre e Martin Grubers of today, who ensure that the likes of the mundane criminals who murdered so many innocent people are not slowly but surely transmogrified, by our Battle Chanting, into bloody, Holy War Messiahs.


If we’re not tough enough to get the intellectual tone of our response to these crimes right, then WW2 with its Holocaust, its atom bombs and its 60 million plus casualties – was a complete and utter waste of time and lessons. And that would the greatest evil of all.




David Lim in Melbourne


About two weeks ago I wrote to Webdiary expressing my deep and longheld fears about racism in this country (see The end of multiculturalism?) I was genuinely afraid that this dreadful terrorist attack would lead to the persecution of all ethnic minorities, not just those from the Middle-East, but also from Asian countries too. After observing people’s reactions to these events, I’ve never been more relieved to be proven wrong.


The first indication that things might turn out differently was President Bush’s response to attacks on Arab-Americans. Keep in mind that Bush is a right-wing Republican with a deeply conservative backgro und. I thought that if anyone would be delighted by these attacks, it would be him. Imagine my surprise when the opposite proved to be true – he roundly condemned these racist attacks in the strongest possible terms.


The second big su rprise was John Howard’s response to racist attacks in our own country. I thought that he would, at best, remain silent about the whole issue. It’s a well known fact that John Howard is uncomfortable with the Asian community in this country. His government has effectively demonised boat-people and turned them into the new bogeyman for the 21st century. Why should this be an y different? The opposite turned out to be true – he also roundly condemned these attacks (in his own unique fashion). < /p>


And another thing – why haven’t we heard anything from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party lately? You’d thin k that being a deeply conservative far right-wing party, they more than anybody else would benefit from any deep divisio ns in our community. But ever since September 11th we haven’t heard from them. face of the earth. In previous weeks, they were making the usual outrageous and racist statements – “Muslims shouldn’t be allowed into this country because they aren’t C hristian and aren’t as civilised as we are, etc…” and other offensive nonsense. Now would be a perfect opportunity for them to exploit, and even encourage, any anti-Muslim or anti-Islamic feeling. I wonder what’s going on…


Anyway, it’s been really heartening to see the way that people have banded together in this terrible time. And it’s even better to see political leaders like John Howard doing the responsible thing and condemning racism instead of encouraging it. I’m still not sure whether Howard is the right man to be PM, and I’m not sure whether he really is a racist or not. But I’ve no doubt that if he or Bush hadn’t spoken out, that the situation would be much worse than it is now.




Andrew Cave in Kuraby, Brisbane, Queensland


The mosque about half a kilometre from my house was fire-bombe d on Friday night. The little Muslim girl who lives down the street and plays with my children was on the school bus that was pelted with bottles last week. This is what you get when you play the race-card.


To those commentators wh o fought a hard fight against political correctness so that matters of race could be discussed openly, I ask what did you do for the debate once you had won your battle? Why do you still crow about your victory over left-liberal thought instead of using your considerable intellectual and debating skills to make something positive out the mess the race-debate has fa llen into.


It is not enough to fight the trendy inner-city elites and pretend you have won a war. You wer e speaking to a whole other constituency and apparently, you never realised it. Now the foolish feel they have the moral right to engage in domestic terrorism to protect Australia from the Muslim aggression you told them to be very frightened of.


If you wanted a debate on race, then why won’t you have it? Instead of laying out positions I read columns full of complaint about how the columnist is not allowed to speak.


You started this debate. You let loose the flood- tide of Australian racism. You still pretend it has nothing to do with you, that it was enough that you fought to allow it to be spoken openly. I say you are cowards. Cowards that you still play the gay-Aboriginal-whale abuse game when a senior Australian politician can quite openly accuse defenceless Arabs of complicity in crimes by reason of their race. Cowards that you champion the rich and powerful over the poor.


To those politicians whose love of office is so great that it can overcome any qualm created by upbringing or religious instruction, you have my contempt. I only hope that the brave people of Australia who will speak of peace can overcome the cowards who can only think of war.




Danny Russell


Last night I had an argument with my best mate about the Tampa issue. It helped me to clarify the issues in my own mind. Imagine, for a moment, that Australia was asked last week to accept 450 people rendered homeless and without possessions by the terrorist attacks on New York.


Would we refuse them permission to land here? Would we herd them off to a South Pacific island to be kept in a makeshift camp whilst they were ‘processed’? Of course not. We’d be clearing out the spare room to offer them a bed with even greater fervour than we did for the Kosovars.


What’s the difference between our theoretical American refugees and the people on the Tampa? We would convince ourselves that Americans are OK. They are our allies, therefore they can be trusted not to behave in a subversive manner. But really, what more do we know about Dave Kovacs from Manhattan than we know about Ahmood Al-Qadir from Feyzabad? Zero is what we know.


We do however, have an expectation the Dave Kovacs will be white, western and Christian whilst we expect Ahmood Al-Qadir to be brown, middle-eastern and Muslim. Our willingness to accept or preparedness to reject refugees is based entirely on rac e, culture and religion. Determinations such as that are contrary to every piece of discrimination legislation ever passed in this country, particularly legislation passed by our federal government, who are now the chief practitioners of such discrimination.


That they so willingly abandon principles that they pretend to hold so dearly, that they attempt to justify such actions in the name of national security when they really do so for short term political expediency is abhorant, sickening and shameful.




7. Rusri Ratnapala in the seat of Ryan, Brisbane, Queensland


I left Sri Lanka many years ago, not because I did not love it but because the politicians had made it an impossible place in which to live. They eroded democracy, undermined the rule of law, interfered with the judiciary, questioned the rights of the courts to judge government actions and attacked many of the other institutions that underpin democracy, including the media. The overriding, perhaps the only, concern of the politicians appeared to be their own continuation in power.


When I came to Australia I was delighted to find that this was a country in which freedom was cherished and institutions honoured. John Howard had his Merry Men have sadly proved me wrong. They are indulging in exactly the same behaviour that crushed my country. Howard’s cheer squads who want undesirable foreigners barred from the country because they might destroy Australian values do not seem to appreciate the irony that is they themselves who are destroying these values by supporting despicable government action.





Roslyn Wells in Hong Kong sugges ts the website of the Revolutionary Association of the Woman of Afghanistan, a resistance moevement based in Pakistan. “It is dedicated to publicising the atrocities commited by the Taliban against the long-suffering Afghani populace to a global audience.


Bert Deling recommends the ZNet Site for opinion opn the war, especially by Robert Fisk. Crisis Page:


David Davis recommends a piece by Bryan Appleyard on why the world hates America:


‘Joe Bloggs’ recommends for the push towards ID cards for all in the wake of the terror.


James Quest says “the one member of Congress that voted against the US House of Reps Resolution to transfer all power to the President to conduct the war against terrorism (the other 420 voted for it) is Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California.” Her email is


< p>Tim Dunlop suggests http://globalresearch.c=a/articles/, a piece called Who is Osama bin Laden? He says: � This really is a great piece of background info and some spot on analysis. Some of the sources he musters are superb.�



Mark Long suggests*BLOWN MEASURE*199610/ for the declaration of war issued by bin Laden over American troops in the Arab peninsula.


Paul Walter redcommends an articvle in the Age today by Susan Sontag.


Cathy Bannister suggests on the effect of Zionism in the Arab region.


Con Vaitsas suggests for songs with “questionable lyrics&a mp” post-terror which should not be played. They include “Leaving on a jet plane” and Blowing in the wind”.


Mark Isaacs says his cousin Andrew Solomon, a mathematician has set up a website to &am p;#147;refute, blow-by-blow, and from a cool and statistical point of view, arguments made by Phillip Ruddock th at put a positive spin on our official refugee intake.”

What happens next

In this entry, contributors continue to explore the ramifications – military, economic and cultural – of the new York bombing. I begin with a piece by Christopher Selth, who believes that the financial markets are beginning to realise that it signals the end of naive global capitalism.


Then, Paul Keating’s extraordinary admission that global capitalism in its present form can’t survive (so the protesters at Seattle and after had a point after all!) and pieces from Nick Cocks, Alan Kerns, Emma Ryan, Deepak Chopra, Cathy Bannister, O.L., Andy Horsfall.


Christopher Selth


I have been travelling in Europe during this time of crisis. It has been illuminating and disturbing to witness the varied responses to the horror of the attacks on New York and Washington. It is with this experience I read with interest the piece you included by John Wojdylo in Terror unlike movies. I agree with much he has reported and many of his views, particularly with respect the CNN coverage. On other fronts, however, there are deep issues which I feel are avoided in his analysis.


I do not think it is adequate to analyze the dynamics of Islamic fundamentalist extremism in isolation, no matter how sophisticated that analysis is. I agree that these acts cannot be tolerated, but to characterise them solely as the product of sophisticated extremists misses the key point. Why is the audience these extremists play to so fertile?


There is a deep centered anger about the inconsistencies and injustices of global capitalism that are more than just the ravings of extremists. I was in Covent Garden during the 3 minute silence. Behind me, a man of Indian or Pakistani extraction held a series of conversations on his cell phone. It was hard not to feel that this was not an act of terrorism, at the most personal, small level, flouting our moral expectations. I was angered. But I also understood that the problem was deep, and broad.


Some of your readers made reference to Marx. Marx is very relevant here, and I do not come from a background that would seen as traditionally marxist. I was a senior fund manager, a primary witness to global capitalism. Speaking with some of my associates here in London there is a perception, which I strongly share, that this terrorism reflects the end of imperialism, of naive global capitalism. That is what financial markets are trying to digest, Tony Blair refers to the end of an era. Paul Keating is now talking about this. (MARGO: I publish the Herald report on Paul Keating’s views under Christopher’s piece. )


The West’s involvement in the region is reasonably well documented, even though its moral implications do not seem to be widely understood by the man on the street. The West supported the Shah of Iran and other totalitarian regimes in order to fight the ogre of communism and guarantee the supply of oil, even when these regimes flouted the democratic rights the West so grandly espouses as the basis of its moral superiority.


The support of the creation of the Israeli state was in part to assuage Western guilt at complicity in the holocaust, and the strength of the Jewish electorate in the United States. The fate of Palestine was a side issue which the West saw for a long time as not of its concern.


The endless, morally ambiguous partnerings driven by the Kissinger-driven philosophy of my enemy’s enemy is my friend as evidenced by the support of Sadam Hussein by the US, to fight Ira n, and US support of the Taliban to fight Russia, has seen the West create its current foes.


The rule of law has been applied selectively. UN Security Council motions have justified the bombing of Iraq, but have not produced an effective censure of Israel. The basis of these inconsistencies is the tendency, throughout history, of the establishment to reinterpret history, and morality, to justify its own actions.


On a personal level, I firmly agree that the action in New York cannot be tolerated but it is not enough to dismiss the actions of the terrorists as nihilistic or insane or immoral. These people are the disenfranchised. Why should they confront the West on the West’s terms?


The rules of contract and law, which are the basis of western capitalism, look like locking 75% of the world population in poverty for the foreseeable future. Why are the acts in New York any more morally reprehensible than what happened in Rwanda? In Kampuchea? In Sri Lanka? The only reason why the west is involved in the Muslim world at all is the presence of the oil that drives our economies.


What we are witnessing must be interpreted on one level as the end of acceptance of the rules of the game by the 75%. That is why there was dancing in the streets in many parts of the world inhabited by the have nots. A friend of mine was in Cairo last week. It was clear that the anti western sentiment was not just held by extremists.


Yes, we must track down the perpetrators of these acts, but if we do not face up to the new reality, that the desperate of the globe will play by their rules, not ours, to change the global playing field, this struggle will go on indefinitely. The planet could resemble a giant Beirut or Northern Ireland.


We must finally face up to the legitimate concerns of the underprivileged, and not dismiss them as just the way things are, whilst we continue to enjoy our consumerist society and our superficial support of liberal humanist ideals when they suit us. It is time to be positive, and fight to make the world a better place.




By Tom Allard



Published in the SMH on Wednesday, September 19


Former prime minister Mr Paul Keating called yesterday for a complete recasting of global political institutions such as the United Nations and Group of Eight (G8) and greater support for poor countries in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States.


Former prime minister Mr Paul Keating called yesterday for a complete recasting of global political institutions such as the United Nations and Group of Eight (G8) and greater support for poor countries in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States.


Mr Keating condemned the attacks and agreed the terrorists had to be dealt with, but said the US should step back from plans for a missile defence shield and invest more in rethinking the global political architecture.


‘In the end, there’s got to be a guiding light in the way the world is managed and that guiding light just can’t be about the bounty of the world resting with the foremost industrial nations and the rest running up the rear,’ he said.


He said the world was saddled with political institutions that are relics of World War II, which were inappropriate for the 21st century and excluded the highly populated developing nations.


Resentment toward the US in the developing world is as much a result of poverty and low living standards as US foreign policy, analysts have observed.


Mr Keating singled out the UN Security Council and the G8 grouping of the world’s industrialised economies as targets for reform. He said it was absurd that countries such as Italy, Canada and Britain were in the G8 club while nations such as China and India were excluded.


�The more the world co-operates, the better off we will be,� Mr Keat ing told a Property Council of Australia conference in Canberra yesterday.


Mr Keating raised the spectre of a more isolationist US and urged it to drop the controversial and expensive plan for a missile defence shield, which would protect the US against rogue states and terrorists.


�The problem about limited nuclear defence and shields is no& ;#45;one wants, even us, the US cocooned behind some kind of shield while there’s a Mad Max world outside,� he said.


�The answer has to be to make this world better by dealing with these problems at source.�


He said the risk of attacks lay not with nuclear weapons being lobbed into the US via intercontinental ballistic missiles �with a cheerio note for CNN� but in ‘surreptitiou’ attacks aided by new technologies.


Neverthe less, Mr Keating said the world’s nuclear arsenal about 10,000 weapons was a Cold War hangover and needed to be addressed. He noted that an inventory of the former Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons revealed an unexplained absence of ‘fissile material and weapons’.


Nick Cocks in London


The policy to end poverty and oppression in underdeveloped countries is called variously, capitalism/democracy/freedom. It has been defended and promoted since 1945. If anyone can come up with something better before we go after bin Laden and his cohorts, please let the relevant authorities know about it.


Alan Kerns in Cairns, Queensland


I agree with John Wojdyla about the importance of fear in human affairs and its capacity to engender blindness. It is also the source of all prejudice and all conflict and violence. Is fear the cause of John’s apparent blindness to the crucial reality that the social system (society has been taken over by the economists!) now dominating virtually all of humankind is profoundly unfair, profoundly dishonest, profoundly arrogant, and profoundly improvidential?


Is John unaware that the wind in bin Laden’s sails – or of other such leaders if he is extermina ted, or should that be martyred – comes from the sheer selfishness of this dominant system?


Since the US is the dominant player in the system -the Mecca of competitive capitalism -it is the natural focus for the complai nts of the victims of the system. As the dominant world power, the US is also a natural prime target for competitors for world dominance -such as Osama bin Laden would appear to fancy himself, if John’s analysis is correct. Competition -. w in at all costs -breeds competitors. I agree that bin Laden appears to be made of the same stuff as Hitler, Stalin, and other fear-driven ruthless leaders. I agree he should be stopped from progressing to more power.


But far mo re important is to deprive such abusive powerful leaders and movements the fertile ground which suits their growth. They grow in circumstances of mass unfairness. If we want to prevent the rise of abusive rulers, the only sure way of doing so is to remove unfairness as an issue among humankind. John is silent on this issue. So, too, are the elites and their agents who currently dominate humankind -who seem to require the same sort of ground to thrive as the bin Ladens of this world.


The re are no quick fixes. When all is said and done, there is only one way to earn good will. By being genuinely worthy of trust. Trust is the antithesis of fear.


Given our side’s thoroughly deserved reputation for speaking with a forked tongue, it would probably take some considerable period of rigorous honesty before they will risk trusting us. More important in this process would be our actions. If we want to earn their trust, we must start actually dismantling the existing unfair institutions of social interaction, and go about establishing new institutions that are fair, honest, and unequivocally directed towards the common good of the present and future generations. Anything less would be just bandaids on a malignant cancer.


I use the terms we, our, us, they, their, and them in the preceding paragraph because, like it or not, we are fellow travellers with those who control the dominant system, who minister grotesque unfairness to the disadvantaged masses of the world. The quoted death tolls from deprivation are mindand#45;numbing. Genocide is not too strong a word. Whether we like it or not, our leaders minister this system in our name. That makes us responsible. If we lived in a genuine democracy, maybe we could do something about it.


Emma Ryan in Leichhardt, Sydney


Is it just me, or are we heading for a change in the world that will shake Western Civilisation perhaps to its knees?


With all of the events in the last weeks, the chain of events seems to be heading for a massive domino effect that threatens the way of life we have taken for granted, from trickles of refugees and our unconscious fears of the unknown entering our country unannounced and unidentified to the massive terrorist attacks on “icons” of the America’s and Capitalist culture.


How many more were to follow? The White House must have also been part of the plan, and was a chain set up to follow in other countries also depending on the USA’s reaction?


Imagine the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral, Versailles Palace, Eiffel Tower, the Hague, Parliament House Canberra or our beloved Harbour Bridge: all in the same scenes of destruction. Does our “unequivocal” support of the USA, regardless of their approach in this matter, make us all fair game in the West for what may follow?


And now the collapse we are witnessing as a biproduct of this act of terrorism: in industries, companies, paper traders, insurance, advertising, those supported in this day and age by sponsorship money, the world tourism trade. This attack has the potential to bring the world to its knees in ways that go far beyond the physical remains of blasted buildings and innocent lives lost.


If the global airlines collapse, or come to a standstill from the war that is about to start, how far will that domino effect go? Hotels, resorts, restaurants, travel operators, transporters, advertisers, large and small businesses will suffer-fr om primary production, distributors, to retail and customer service and beyond. How far will the repercussions be felt?


Can we survive if we can no longer rely on the Stock Market to support our economies? Can we keep our jobs and way of life if the airlines stop their flights all over the world? How will this affect our farmers, our imports and exports?


I have never lived during a massive global war so perhaps these things will work themselves out, but I have studied history, and it would seem this kind of war will cripple us in ways not seen before, because our world is now so dependent on globalisation and paper money.


Countries like Afghanistan have lived like this for a long time, and take their strength from their faith in Islam-to the point of fighting for it to their deaths, but how do we cope in the West if this also becomes our reality? And for those who do not have the solace of faith in religion, whose faith is in our way of life, our humanity, and our freedom, where can they turn for comfort if the world becomes a warzone?


I fear for the future, as it would seem we are witnessing now the seeds of what is to come, and there can be no victors.


Deepak Chopra


The Deeper Wound


As fate would have it, I was leaving New York on a jet flight that took off 45 minutes before the unthinkable happened. By the time we landed in Detroit, chaos had broken out. When I grasped the fact that American security had broken down so tragically, I couldn’t respond at first.


My wife and son were also in the air on separate flights, one to Los Angeles, one to San Diego. My body went absolutely rigid with fear. All I could think about was their safety, and it took several hours before I found out that their flights had been diverted and both were safe.


Strangely, when the good news came, my body still felt that it had been hit by a truck. Of its own accord it seemed to feel a far greater trauma that reached out to the thousands who would not survive and the tens of thousands who would survive only to live through months and years of hell.


And I asked myself, Why didn’t I feel this way last week? Why didn’t my body go stiff during the bombing of Iraq or Bosnia? Around the world my horror and worry are experienced every day. Mothers weep over horrendous loss, civilians are bombed mercilessly, refugees are ripped from any sense of home or homeland. Why did I not feel their anguish enough to call a halt to it?


As we hear the calls for tightened American security and a fierce military response to terrorism, it is obvious that none of us has any answers. However, we feel compelled to ask some questions.


Everything has a cause, so we have to ask, What was the root cause of this evil? We must find out not superficially but at the deepest level. There is no doubt that such evil is alive all around the world and is even celebrated. Does this evil grow from the suffering and anguish felt by people we don’t know and therefore ignore? Have they lived in this condition for a long time?


One assumes that whoever did this attack feels implacable hatred for America. Why were we selected to be the focus of suffering around the world?


All this hatred and anguish seems to have religion at its basis. Isn’t something terribly wrong when jihads and wars develop in the name of God? Isn’t God invoked with hatred in Ireland, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, and even among the intolerant sects of America?


Can any military response make the slightest difference in the underlying cause? Is there not a deep wound at the heart of humanity? If there is a deep wound, doesn’t it affect everyone?


When generations of suffering respond with bombs, suicidal attacks, and biological warfare, who first developed these weapons? Who sells them? Who gave birth to the satanic technologies now being turned against us?


If all of us are wounded, will revenge work? Will punishment in any form toward anyone solve the wound or aggravate it? Will an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and limb for a limb, leave us all blind, toothless and crippled?


Tribal warfare has been going on for two thousand years and has now been magnified globally. Can tribal warfare be brought to an end? Is patriotism and nationalism even relevant anymore, or is this another form of tribalism? What are you and I as persons going to do about what is happening? Can we afford to let the deeper wound fester any longer?


Everyone is calling this an attack on America, but is it not a rift in our collective soul? Isn’t this an attack on civilization from without that is also from within? When we have secured our safety once more and cared for the wounded, after the period of shock and mourning is over, it will be time for soul searching. I only hope that these questions are confronted with the deepest spiritual intent.


None of us will feel safe again behind the shield of military might and stockpiled arsenals. There can be no safety until the root cause is faced. In this moment of shock I don’t think anyone of us has the answers. It is imperative that we pray and offer solace and help to each other. But if you and I are having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment, we are contributing to the wounding of the world.


Cathy Bannister


I have just listened to historian and novelist Tariq Ali on Late Night Live (Phillip Adams, Radio National). For those who didn’t hear it, it was frightening stuff. His claim that if Pakistan allows the US to use its land and air space to attack Afghanistan, that it might precipitate a civil war in Pakistan, is terrifying.


There is huge support for the Taliban in Pakistan; somewhere between 20-40% of the Pakistani Army are Taliban and bin Laden loyalists. (This is from a Pakistani bull etin board: If the Taliban manages to get their claws into Pakistan, they get access to nuclear weapons. In that case, they would undoubtedly use them.


For those who missed it, this article of his ) covers much of the background. It was written two years ago, but suddenly has become extremely relevant.


Tariq Ali claims that there is only one way to deflate the Taliban. It would involve the US:


* forcing Israel to give Palestine a proper state with self determination and real land, not just barren slivers;

* ceasing to prop up morally bankrupt regimes (like the Saudi monarchy) at the expense of the average citizens;

* stopping the sanctions against Iraq; and

* insisting that Pakistan stop funding the Taliban, which would cause the regime fall over very quickly.


The hope is that seeing all these actions, the Middle East would stop casting the America as the enemy, and the regimes would hold less thrall over the dispossessed. I hope he’s right. That would mean that there is one way out.


Could someone with knowledge about the rise and fall of various fascist regimes please compare and contrast? What were the social circumstances of the fall of Pol Pot? Idi Amin?


Here’s a Guardian article from an ex-MI6 man who he lped teach the Taliban guerilla tactics, on why a ground war would be lunacy:,1300,554371,


bfSteve Taylor


Since the WTC attacks I have watched and read with interest the mountain of comments in favour and against any sort of American military response. The comments themselves reveal a wide rift between right wing “let’s get them” demands for action to left wing “don’t do anything, because it might cause more trouble” pleadings.


I suppose the only thing that occurs to me is that while I realise America has a lot to answer for in terms of its foreign policy, I don’t believe that country has ever resorted to such blatant acts of outright terrorism against a defenceless civilian population as has been perpetrated on its own citizens last week.


Further to this, I think the question needs to be asked, “When is a country justified in defending its sovereignty and bringing to justice the perpetrators of violence against its citizens?” Yes, we can all postulate about all the horrors which might unfold in the event that the Western world takes a stand and says enough is enough. The costs will be enormous, both monetarily and in human terms. Yet I have a feeling that if a stand isn’t made now, the world will become a much worse place in the future.


Personally I believe it is time for western democracies to stand up for the fundamental freedoms which we all believe in and if necessary, to die for those freedoms. If the Islamic and/or Muslim answer to this is to issue “Jihads” and threaten all out war then as far as I’m concerned we should have a world war and rid the world of this vermin once and for all.


Of course I will be branded a racist, right wing bigot and any number of other labels but luckily Australia still allows me to express my views and I believe that they are likely to be shared by a majority of people.


The ‘do-gooders’ and ‘politically correct speakers’ have so overwhelmed

everyone including the public media that it appears to me that anyone expressing a view which doesn’t conform to their ideology is simply shouted down, branded a right wing racist or ignored.


I wonder what these same people’s response would have been when Hitler set off on his path to conquer the world. I wonder at what stage they would have changed their minds (if ever?) and called for military action to stop him?


I believe the freedoms which we in the Western world have taken for granted for so long are now seriously under threat from any number of sources. I believe it’s time for Western nations to stand up for these same rights which have been won on the backs of countless wars and sufferings and to put a stop to this threat, once and for all.


It would seem that the Afghans and a lot of Muslims feel they have nothing left to lose by going to war against the West. If this is the case, then I believe there is minimal risk attached to a sustained, massive and encompassing military invasion to wipe out this threat, once and for all. Jihad that!


O.L. (name withheld on request)


I have always advocated and promoted the necessity of maintaining and upgrading a strong defence force and an intelligence network and the recent events in New York and Washington underlines the necessity of doing so. I have not been opposed to the prospect of Australia developing a nuclear weapons capacity -as we unsuccessfully sought to do in the 1950s -for reasons of self-preservation and defence. I would be the first to advocate that the US needs to retaliate for the uncon scionable and savage terrorist attack on not only the United States, but also the world.


Yet I have some serious concerns about the agenda and methods that the Bush-Cheney Administration will promote in order to do so.


P resident Bush’s statements in recent days have become increasingly cliched and jingoistic and this worries me greatly. Recently he conjured up unfavorable images of the Christian crusade against the Islamic world in the 1200s and -even though he pr obably didn’t intend it to be an inflammatory statement -this is unhelpful to the moderate Islamic states that have join ed the US in countering the terrorist threat.


He has also engaged in “cowboy rhetoric”. His “dead or alive” comments and his pledge to destroy all evil doers may gain sympathy at home, but has the potential to see him portrayed as insensitive internationally. Moderate Islamic governments throughout the world are already having enough problems convincing their people about the necessity to support US retaliation without such potentially provocative comments.


Another thing about his rhetoric that concerns me is that he is creating unrealistically high expectations through his statements. His recent statements about the upcoming conflict representing a battle between “good and evil” and his pledge to “rid the world of evil doers” seems to me slightly extreme, and I hope that he inserts a caveat into any further statements he makes about what the upcoming conflict represents.


The reality is, however good Bush’s intentions may be, the distinctions between “good and evil” are very hard to make in an international context and I sincerely doubt, unless this conflict is going to be Armageddon, that it will eliminate the world “from all evil doers”.


The Bush Administration and the US must recognize that Islamic nations will only continue to endorse the “international coalition against terrorism” if it remains clear that it is an offensive against terrorism and not a battle between Christianity and Islam. Even if moderate Islamic nation-states wanted to continu e supporting the US and her allies in such a context, the fundamentalists in each of these nation-states would most like ly prevent this outcome from eventuating.


The US has also got to make sure that any future military initiative targets directly those responsible and does not eventuate in widespread civilian casualties or target the wrong groups of people. Such a negative outcome would probably do the evil-doers a lot of good and attract a lot of people to their cause. In fac t Osama is probably hoping that the US goes in hard

and acts before evaluating the consequences.


The new “covert assassination” program now being discussed sounds like a good idea in principle. It would mean that those responsible -as opposed to innocent civilians-are targeted and punished. Yet the US cannot expect quick results through such a p rogram. It should be worth considering that such a program to kill Saddam Hussein existed in the mid-1990s and it took p ainstaking intelligence planning and the recruitment of people on the ground. And for all this, the plan was discovered and the whole intelligence organization fell apart.


It will take years for the intelligence organizations to infiltrate terrorist organizations and be in a position to carry out these assassinations. How many times did the CIA try to kill Castro? Or how many times have they tried to target Quaddafi? The failure of the CIA to eliminate these targets -all very deservin g ones -is not due to any inadequacies on the part of US intelligence but rather because of the complex, secretive and v ery effective security networks that these leaders have around them.


Furthermore the US should be very cautious to make sure that any future military initiatives do not serve to prop up Islamic fundamentalist governments throughout the world or destabilize current moderate Islamic regimes. The Taliban is already threatening to launch an “Islamic jihad” against the United States and this may gain it a level of fundamentalist endorsement that will enable it to survive.


Fundamentalist organizations from Pakistan and elsewhere could also make sure that this despicable regime survives by providing a kind of renegade army to defend it in the event of attack. The moderate Pakistani regime of General Pervez Musharraf is in immediate danger of collapsing if it continues to provide support to any military initiatives that the US engages in.


While I praise General Musharraf for his courage and determination in supporting the US against terrorists, my main fear is that there could be an backlash among Islamic fundamentalists and that they will somehow instigate a coup against General Musharraf. If such a coup is successful the new Islamic fundamentalist government will have access to nuclear weapons and this is very frightening.


There could also be a surge of support for Islamic fundamentalism in Asian nation-states such as Indonesia. Already Indonesian Vice President Haz Hazmah has threatened that there will be negative consequences for US-Indonesian relations if military initiatives against Afghanistan are forthcoming. The prospect of our nearest neighbor turning into an Islamic fundamentalist state is also very frightening.


Just as frightening are the prospects for Islamic fundamentalist governments to once again rise within the context of the Middle East. There is already a significant and, in some cases, overwhelming surge of support for Islamic fundamentalism there and future US military initiatives may increase it. The Egyptian government of President Hosni Mubarak is already very vulnerable to the threat of Islamic fundamentalism and the collapse of Islamic moderate rule here would deprive the US of a key ally.


The Saudi Arabian kingdom -that has several potenti al backers of Bin Laden within in its ranks -is another nation particularly vulnerable to a surge of Islamic fundamenta lism. The potential collapse of this kingdom would deprive the US of key military bases in the Middle East and would also leave crucial oil supplies in the hands of fundamentalists. King Abdullah -a moderate voice in the Middle East -is alr eady in a very dangerous position because of Jordan’s geographical position in relation to Iraq.


The rise of an Islamic fundamentalist government in Jordan would deprive the US of the last bastion of influence within the Middle East. Israel would be isolated and the US would be obliged to defend it. This would further antagonize fundamentalist governments in the Middle East and the potential for full-scale war in this region is also frightening.


The US and her allies are now in a very difficult position. What has happened in the previous week is truly beyond evil and barbaric. The individuals and nation states that masterminded this attack deserve nothing less than severe punishment, but the predicament that the world faces in providing a response is a truly complex and frightening one.


And for those Americans whom have somehow gained the mistaken impression that I am anti-American, this could not be further from the truth. I have always looked up to America as the land of the free and the home of the brave and my heart is aching for you all right now. May God Bless You and May God Bless America.



Andy Horsfall


When I failed history at school I consoled myself with the notion that the study of history was irrelevant to modern life and mine in particular. Maybe it should be compulsory in every course and in every workplace, because we run the risk of repeating some tragic history.


John Howard’s “All the Way with LBJ” style of politics is highly dangerous, simplistic, flawed and opportunistic. And Kim Beazley’s “uuuhh, uuuum, well I suppose so” support of this is well uuuuh uuuum dangerously ditto.


For starters the USA track record of military involvement isn’t exactly Grand Final winning material;


1. It may not be reported in the mass press but since the major conflict of the Gulf War USA/UK warplanes fly daily lethal missions in and around Iraqi airspace killing mostly innocent civilians who don’t have the democratic luxury of choosing their leaders. Wasn’t that war fought to defend the free, the righteous and so on? How’s our score going: 3,810 days later the now named one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth seems well ensconced in his palace in Bagdad. Of course hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, particularly children, have faired less well. But hey, this is war and a war about 9,000 kilometres away. About as far as our Australian collective conscience.


2. Waging war against a Sudan pharmaceutical factory; well that worked. I notice George W Bush has the atrocities of the free, innocent etc etc etc high on his agenda; as did Bill when he swiftly pulled out the US troups from Sudan when someone whispered that his advisers had been mistaken when they told him that Sudan had large oil deposits. Bummer.


3. Israel/Palestine: The USA track record on this one is particularly effective in defending the innocent, free etc etc etc etc. How ungrateful the Palestinians are; look at what the USA have done to resolve their plight.


4. South America, El Salvador and Nicaragua are particularly pleased that the USA are defenders of the free, innocent etc etc. Look at the help the USA gave to these countries in achieving democracy and freedom!


5. Vietnam. The big one. The lies, the atrocities and more bombs bombed than in WW2. What a success in defending the free, innocent etc etc etc. I don’t think it was cold war politics that stopped the USA invading North Vietnam. I think it was something to do with a very large country just to the north that would have taken a very militarily dim view of the USA invading North Vietnam. Also the USA didn’t seem to mind Ngo Dinh Diem’s anti-democratic and highly repressive policies and atrocities in South Vietnam and they bombed the @#$% out North and Sou th Vietnam and Cambodia as well just for good measure.


6. Libya. Reagan was going to rid the world of another international terrorist; Colonel Gaddafi. Remind me again who the leader of Libya is at the moment?


7. Afghanistan. Who supplied the arms and money to the Islamic fundamentalist groups during the 80s of which Osama bin Laden was a member? Not the USA surely? In fact, who supplies the vast majority of world demand

for armaments? Yep the free and innocent USA, with the UK and France competing fiercely for the balance. Yes, Russia and China are big suppliers too but look at the numbers and see who supplies the mostest.


8. Iraq/Iran war. I’m sure the parents of their long dead 15 year olds can understand grief, particularly when this war was funded, armed and extended by ‘super power’ concerns for the free and innocent.


So even if you agree with military involvement don’t you think we (Australia) should be asking a few pertinent questions before “All the way with GWB”.


A couple of other questions:


1. If Osama bin Laden is killed/captured do all the boys and girls wearing black go home from the match saying ‘The best side won on the day’?


2. What is the USA’s definition of terrorist? Will they more hastily aim to resolve the Irish issue and the illicit supply of arms from the USA? Will they address the issue of the thousands of home-grown militia in the USA who are armed to the teeth and have “pre sumed links” with terrorist acts such as the Oklahoma bombing?


3. Will the USA, France, UK and Australia stop supplying arms to ‘suspect’ sources?


4. If the USA, France and the UK turned off the armaments export tap would this help reduce armed conflict?


5. With whom do we wage war? Haven’t all countries and groups condemned/denied responsibility including the Taliban and Yasser Arafat? I can’t remember a time when there has been such a unilateral condemnation of acts of violence?


6. Does this unilateral condemnation of violence therefore deserve a highly violent response. Could this horror be used to galvanize most of the world into non-violent solutions and completing isolating and drying up all perpetrators?


A few final remarks for the rabid frothies and the Tampa-isms; I think you’re onto somet hing with the possible link between asylum seekers and terrorism. No, Really.


We should strengthen our immigration laws and keep them out. How cunning of those vile terrorists taking months trekking dangerous border crossings, hiding for months sometime years in holding camps in countries such as Indonesia, risking life and limb in a leaking boat to the Australian shores and then months even years in a detention centre at Villawood or downtown Woomera to perpetrate horrible things on Australian society.


Silly me, I just thought a terrorist could just get a business or tourist visa and be here, in Australia, in a few hours or so. But I suppose when they fill out the inbound passenger card section “Occupation” and they write “terrorist” our intrepid boys and girls in customs and immigration would sniff ’em out.


Wake up Australia. Complex problems don’t have simplistic solutions unless you want violence to beget violence which is what is going to happen if we don’t find non-violent solutions. I’m not sure the poor victims of the New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania horror would want u s to embark on a protracted rampage of violence on their behalf.


But I’m sure fanatics and fundamentalists of all races and religions are salivating with glee at the prospect of western powers bombing and killing. What a fanatic’s recruitment drive that would be.

Wojdylo adds perspective

This entry comprises of your responses to John Wojdylo’s piece in Terror unlike movies.


Contributors are: Anna Greenep, Steve, Julie Green and David Davis. I also publish a piece recommended by David, a contributor to Webdiary since it began in July last year.


Readers recommend the following sites:


1. J Nalbandian: “Another perspective from the usual CNN, ABC, NBC American perspective news reporting. The views of a journalist (Robert Fisk) who has lived in the area and does not hypothesize why, who etc without putting his foot in these so called middle eastern countries which people in the west are having difficulty understanding.”


2. Amiel Rosario: I do not agree with your views on refugees. But your Webdiary is very interesting reading. Here’s a report by the Kennedy School of Government (part of Harvard) which you and other readers may also find interesting.”


Contributors are:


Anna Greenep, an Australian in London


How does a person make sense of the the recent events in the United States, which have brought many global issues into focus? For me, with great difficulty. However, due to the informative writing of John Wojdyloin Terror unlike movies I have a much better understanding of the issues at hand.


I stopped watching the TV reports for two reasons. Firstly, they keep going over and over the same old ground without really providing any new information (a person can only watch a plane fly into a building and explode so many times before they become immune to the seriousness of the action). The second is that all the reports were making me uncomfortable.


I was uncomfortable with how TV was, in my opinion, manipulating the information and creating a feeling of fear and unjustly treating various sections of the global community. The fear was being incited by the one dimensional way in which the events were being reported.


Increasing my fear was the fact that our world leaders really weren’t doing any leading or assisting in providing information which would give the global community (and themselves I might add) the tools necessary to move forward and make the sound, logical decisions that were required (although Colin Powell has been a reasonably cool head).


As the visual media wasn’t really providing me with the answers I sought, I stopped watching. Instead I turned to the internet and I started to read. The Sydney Morning Herald was my first port of call. I’d always thought it was a good newspaper however, until now I hadn’t truly realised just how good. I clicked into the “Opinion” section and read with interest the opinions expressed there. It was the corner stone in my quest to gain an understanding of current issues facing not only Australia but the global community and how these issues inter-relate.


Mr Wojdylo’s item was a riveting, insightful and informative read. As I read my mind became less clouded and the events over the past week and the reasons for them came sharply into focus. In all the hype, I’ve yet to see a journalist or political figure step back, analyse the situation and provide a theory to the reasons behind the attack and the type of behaviour we may be forced to confront in the future.


In its quest for information and its need to seek out the guilty party, the world’s media generalise some very important points when it really needed to be very specific in the message it was sending out to the world. Mr Wojdylo specified the difference between fanatic radicals and the moderate sections of society. He also effectively highlighted that fanatic radicals are not just confined to Islam. Christianity has its fair share of fanatics and radicals too.


Most importantly though was Mr Wojdylo’s description the Arab world, insight and theory into the possible master plan of Osama bin Laden. I was unaware that Osama bin Laden’s daughter is married to the supreme ruler of the Taliban. With that piece of information I instantly gained an understanding of the Afghani stance in this affair.


He also clearly and logically identified the differences between fanatic/radical muslims and moderate muslims and provided some logical insight into how the West could improve its relations with moderate muslims countries to effectively stymie fanatic radicals such as Osama bin Laden.


It was a very well written and informative piece, without prejudice or

opinion, by a person who took the time to seek the answers that weren’t

being provided by normal means. I’m glad that I stumbled across the item as

it decreased my fears and brought an understanding to the situation that I

hadn’t had before.


As an Australian living in London surrounded by newspapers who’s integrity can be sometimes questionable, it is a joy to be able to access a newspaper that still provides a platform for people to express their views in an informative and, as I have found so far, fairly unbiased manner.




“The grains of truth in their claim explode in their minds into hatred and obliterate all reason.” Please.


I can’t quite put my finger on it, but earnest writing like this only ends up trivialising what it is discussing. I’m sorry, but I just wanted to laugh when I read it.


The problem with this analysis of the “Arab situation” is that it assumes (as our culture always assumes) that there is a “they” out there (Muslims) as opposed to just a myriad of individuals, all different.


I was greatly moved by the Herald’s gallery of photos of Afghans travelling to the border. No doubt many of them would be describable as “people waiting to become tools (!) of ambitious, evil, self-aggrandising con-men”. Yet all I saw were common people, each bearing the mystery of his or her humanity, uncounted rationalities not at all captured by this analysis (in its own way, a “self-aggrandising con”).


It seems that it is the self appointed burden of the educated to always speak for the multitudes – but I fail to see how this letter has any more access to the truth than bin Laden does, preoccupied as it is with defining how “everybody” feels.


This is especially noticeable in John Wojdylo’s cosy description of Australians being greatly “afraid” because of an apparently fragmentary grasp of what is going on out there (as if the rest of the world – or German TV anyway – is privileged with a far better “view”).


Sorry – I must be living in another country. I might venture that most people seem fascinated (and some like to get agro) – but real fear only occurs when something like a redundancy non-package from Ansett turns up at your doorstep – not from existential viewings of CNN.


Julie Green


Thank you for printing the article by John Wojdylo. As an Australian in England, (where unfortunately the news coverage is little better than CNN) I too was attacked by the illogical fear of the future. But Mr Wojdylo has put this fear into perspective and provided a platform for seeing the way ahead.


The future is not a ‘black abyss’, but merely the effect of the basest instincts of man – whether he be muslim or not. The trick is to see through this and not treat this confrontation as a us/them conflict (with of course George W wearing white and riding Roy Rogers horse and the arabs dressed in black and hiding in the shadows.)


Despite the ‘feel good’ mentality of this action, I agree that it is the exactly what the fanatics of this world, on both sides, want. I just hope a society bred on Hollywood stereotypes can rise above that.


David Davis, our Australian in Switzerland


In today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (the article appears below) the poet and essayist Hans Magnus Enzensberger, wrote: “The swifter the comment, the shorter-lived its relevance. Nothing against timeliness! But moments when no one knows what will happen next are precisely the times when there is good reason to attempt a distanced view.” This had particular resonance with me. He then went on to write a fascinating article on how the ancient custom of human sacrifice has “gone global”.


I read this article, thought deeply about it and decided that the time has come to offer a compliment to the dreaded media of the Western World and elsewhere for that matter. For those with the resources and know how, we are fortunate to be able to access media anywhere, anytime, with one of the few remaining barriers being language.


John Wojdylo refers again today to the intelligence and richness of the German media. He is spot on. I constantly read thought provoking stuff from German sources.


His brilliant piece yesterday in Webdiary is proof of the growing richness in media everywhere, encouraged by the technology of the internet. I liked his piece so much because it made me think and I learnt something. I’ve been harshly critical of the media in the past but rather than continue to complain, I have become an ACTIVE consumer, seeking out deeper and more interesting sources. They are out there if you are prepared to be determined and look.


If you don’t like something, be prepared to switch off and go elsewhere. In the case of television the choices are less but in print, it is global. It is global but our brains will always be that little bit local as well and that’s why I always come back to the Herald. Not that I live in Oz but a part of my thoughts are always there.


I hope I can also put in a plug for the ABC. The depth of their online resources is IMMENSE for those who like to think and be active rather than passive consumers.


I can’t believe I am defending CNN but I have to say I am surprised by people’s reaction to it. I am not sure why they expect to get something other than the “what, when and where”. If you want “why” go to a newspaper or a high brow TV or radio source. Even CNN doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it quite clearly is. They say their mission is to be “the world leader in news and information delivery”. Analysis is not a big part of it. What they have always done well is cover breaking news and fast moving events. That is their role in life and their business model. Why is it so shocking?


Another US network is Fox News. Their slogan is “We Report, You Decide”. In other words they don’t spoon feed you with endless panels of academics and other experts. If you want that, go elsewhere. They offer what, when and where, not why.


As consumers, we need to accept that the media is segmented. Go to the segment that gives you what you want.


I can’t understand WHY until I know the what, when and where. That is why to me in a crisis of this enormity, I want to know the pure “news” first before I can process the rest of it. I accept that I may be slower than many! Sorry! Quite frankly I am totally overwhelmed at the moment and am having difficulty focusing on anything.


There is an enormous richness in the American media. It covers the spectrum and there are thoughtful journals and newspapers for all. Even the underfunded Public Broadcasting Service provides some excellent programs, as does National Public Radio (NPR). In a time like this I know friends in the States are tuning to NPR for analysis and consulting one or several of the great metropolitan daily newspapers for intelligent and in depth reporting.


It is insulting to the American people to bag them and their media without looking at the complete picture. It is just as stupid as saying all Australians only watch Channel Ten News. Give the Americans SOME CREDIT for intelligence and stop this carping jealousy.


Like our Prime Minister, the American President sometimes says things which are designed to address the widest possible audience. Listen to what George Bush says and listen DEEPLY to what Colin Powell says.


I like Colin Powell a lot. Long before the events of last Tuesday, which seems like an eternity ago, Colin Powell was asked about “AMERICAN POWER” in the world. In response he said “There’s a quote by Thucydides that you appreciate very much: “Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men most.”


Think about that one and where we are right now.


Colin Powell is the son of poor Jamaican immigrants, born in Harlem. His parents came to America in search of a better life. The previous Secretary of State was Madeleine Allbright, a refugee from Czechoslovakia.


That’s the American Dream and no matter how much the American people and the government made up of the people end up being human and falling short of the dream, never forget them at their best and what they can be.


To some it is an uncomfortable reality, but the world needs America. I actually find it quite reassuring.


Burn me at the stake if you like.


PS: What a shame that Tampa has been shunted off to no mans land and EVEN WORSE co-opted and twisted into the global crisis. If anything the current situation should make it EVEN MORE APPARENT that people are running from Afghanistan with good reason. The spotlight is on Afghanistan and the people on the boats are not terrorists. The terrorists have BIG CASH and would come straight through Mascot. They don’t need to spend 6 months on a leaky boat. I am still utterly disgusted by it. I don’t listen to ANYTHING John Howard says anymore. That one finished me with him. Bin Laden has immense resources – his mates are NOT entering via Christmas Island. How utterly ridiculous to suggest they are.


Human Sacrifice Is a Thoroughly Modern Phenomenon


By Hans Magnus Enzensberger



Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 17


Born in 1929, the poet and essayist Hans Magnus Enzensberger was a member of the influential postwar literary Group 47; in 1965 he founded the journal Kursbuch, which he led until 1975. Since 1979 he has lived in Munich. Numerous books of his poetry and essays are available in English, including “Civil Wars: From L.A. to Bosnia” (1995).


The swifter the comment, the shorter-lived its relevance. Nothing against timeliness! But moments when no one knows what will happen next are precisely the times when there is good reason to attempt a distanced view.



For example, on globalization: A German academic by the name of Karl Marx analyzed this phenomenon in considerable depth as much as 150 years ago. He certainly would not have dreamed of being “for” or “against” it. In the conflicts that erupted in places like Seattle, Gothenburg and Genoa, he would have seen no more than a bout of shadow-boxing. Protesting against such a massive historical fact may be honorable, but the best it can achieve is worldwide television drama, showing that naive anti-globalization protesters are in fact themselves part of what they seek to combat.



In his day, Marx described globalization as a purely political and economic phenomenon. And in 1848, that was the only possible angle, as the expansion of the world market and the politics of the colonial powers were then the key driving forces. But since then, this irreversible process has come to affect all aspects of life. Those who look at globalization in purely economic terms have not understood it. Today, nothing is left that can remain separate from it, neither religion nor science, neither culture nor technology, not to mention consumerism and the media. Which is why its costs are counted everywhere, in every sphere.



Not only the countless economic losers are affected. Around the globe, sudden collapses, weapons, computer viruses, new types of epidemics, ecological disasters, civil wars and crimes all take their lead from the world market with its currents of money and knowledge. The belief that any society could isolate itself from these consequences is absurd. One such consequence is terrorism. And it would be a miracle if terrorism had remained the only thing not to go global.



Faced with fanaticized masses, the modern world has long clung to the view that it was dealing with the peculiarities of backward societies. Many believed that sooner or later, the unstoppable process of modernization would put an end to such atavisms, even if the occasional relapse proved inevitable.



The murderous energies of today cannot be traced back to any tradition. Neither the civil wars in the Balkans, Africa, Asia and Latin America, the dictatorships in the Middle East, nor the countless “movements” under the banner of Islam should be seen as archaic throwbacks: They are absolutely contemporary phenomena, reactions to the current state of global society. This also applies to a venerable religion such as Islam, although it, like ultra-orthodox Judaism, has not developed any productive ideas for a long time. To date, its strength has consisted in a determined negation of the modern world, to which it thus remains bound.



The immanence of terror, regardless of its source, is evident not only in the protagonists’ behavior, but also in their choice of methods, pathological copies of the enemy like those made by a retrovirus of the attacked cell. The feeling that this attack came from outside is mistaken, since no external realm of human and inhuman action exists outside the global context.



Those who carried out the attacks on New York and the Pentagon were right up to date, not only in technical terms. Inspired by the pictorial logic of Western symbolism, they staged the massacre as a media spectacle, adhering in minute detail to scenarios from disaster movies. Such an intimate understanding of American civilization hardly testifies to an anachronistic mentality.



It is no coincidence that at first, doubts were voiced concerning who was behind the attack. On the Internet, blame was leveled at extreme right-wing groups in the United States, while others spoke of Japanese terrorist groups or a Zionist intelligence service plot. As always in such cases, all manner of conspiracy theories immediately sprang up. Such interpretations are a measure of how infectious the culprits’ mania is. But they also contain a grain of truth, as they demonstrate how interchangeable the motives for such attacks are. The letters claiming responsibility in the wake of most attacks, full of clich�s and phrases learned by rote, resemble one another in their vacuity.



Ideological analysis tells us nothing about the origins of the psychological energy that fuels terror. Labels such as left or right, nation or sect, religion or liberation all lead to exactly the same patterns of behavior, and their only common denominator is paranoia. Just how important the Islamic motive was to last week’s mass murder in New York will have to be evaluated. Any other motive would have served just as well.



In a gray area as murky as this one, certainties are hard to come by. Yet it would be hard to overlook the one thing that practically all terrorism as we know it has in common — the extraordinary self-destructiveness of those who perpetrate it. This is true not only of the groups of conspirators and countless warlords, militias and paramilitary groups that have laid waste to large parts of Africa and Latin America, but also to so-called rogue states such as North Korea and Iraq.



Such dictatorships seem bent less on annihilating their true or imagined enemies than on ruining their own countries. The as-yet unsurpassed pioneer of such suicidal behavior was Adolf Hitler, who was able to count on the support of the vast majority of Germans. Russia took 70 years to reach a state of total collapse, while Iraq even takes pride in its own demise.


Countless “liberation movements” are pursuing similar goals. Algeria, Afghanistan, Angola, the Basque Country, Burundi, Indonesia, Cambodia, Chad, Chechnya, Colombia, Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kashmir, Liberia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda — they make up an alphabet of horrors that shows no signs of ending.



The logic of self-mutilation applies to the terrorist attacks on the United States too, as their most devastating consequences will have to be borne not by the West, but rather by that part of the world in whose name they were perpetrated. The foreseeable consequences for millions of Muslims will be disastrous. Yet Islamic fundamentalists are already celebrating a war they will never win.



Nor will the suffering be confined to refugees, asylum-seekers and economic migrants. Beyond all sense of justice, entire peoples from Afghanistan to Palestine will have to pay an enormous political and economic price for the actions of those who claimed to be acting in their name. The expected retaliation will not spare innocents any more than did the attack that provoked it.



The West has consistently underestimated the power of this collective urge to self-mutilation or even suicide. Reflecting on one’s own past is apparently not enough to make the unfathomable any less incomprehensible. For that reason, perhaps it is time to risk a comparison with more familiar phenomena. One glance at a newspaper is proof enough of how irresistible this pleasure in one’s own demise really is, even in the so-called developed world. Although drug addicts and skinheads knowingly rob themselves of every possible opportunity life has to offer and although hardly a day goes by without some new “family tragedy” or someone going on a shooting spree, we nevertheless continue to assume that most of what we do is dictated by the survival instinct.



Every day brings new evidence to the contrary: A schoolboy lunges at his teachers and fellow pupils with a knife, someone who is HIV-positive tries to infect as many of his sexual partners as possible, a man who feels his boss has treated him unfairly climbs up a tower and shoots at anything that moves — not despite, but precisely because this massacre will bring his own end sooner.



There are certain parallels between individual death wishes like these and the motives that drove last week’s hijackers. No matter how real or imagined the endless calamity is that he believes is threatening him, the individual or collective suicide candidate invariably prefers a calamitous end to every other alternative. The only difference is in the scale. Whereas the skinhead is armed only with a baseball bat and the arsonist only with a gasoline canister, the well-trained assailant has financial backing, sophisticated logistics and state-of-the-art communications and encryption technology at his disposal. And before long he will have nuclear, biological and chemical weapons too.



For all the differences in scale, there is one thing that all these perpetrators have in common. Their aggression is directed not only at others, but rather — and above all — at themselves. If a terrorist can claim to be pursuing a higher goal, then so much the better. It does not matter which particular chimera it is. Any authority will do, any divine mission, any sacred fatherland or revolution. If necessary, the murderous self-murderer can even make do without such second-hand justifications altogether. His triumph consists in the fact that he can be neither fought nor punished, because he has already taken care of both these things himself.



Those who prefer to remain alive will have a hard time understanding this. Although the overwhelming majority of us has never felt the urge to go on a rampage, none of us stands a chance against the adherents of suicide. As there are probably hundreds of thousands of human bombs in this world, their violence is likely to accompany us throughout the 21st century. What we are witnessing now is the globalization of another of our species’ ancient customs: human sacrifice.