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.
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
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 http://slate.msn.com/culturebox/entries/01-09-20115900.asp 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
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
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
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
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.
3. THE BUSH SPEECH AND OUR LACK OF ONE
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?
“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.
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.
4. HOW TO WIN THE WAR
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. GLOBALISATION AND WAR
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.
7. MEEJA WATCH
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.
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.
8. READER- RECOMMENDED WEBSITES
Roslyn Wells in Hong Kong sugges ts the website of the Revolutionary Association of the Woman of Afghanistan, a resistance moevement based in Pakistan. www.rawa.org. “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: http://www.zmag.org/reactionscalam.htm
David Davis recommends a piece by Bryan Appleyard on why the world hates America: http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/sti/2001/09/23/stiusacon=01001.html?
‘Joe Bloggs’ recommends http://www.siliconvalley.co=m/docs/news/svfront/ellsn092301.htm 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 email@example.com=e.gov.
< p>Tim Dunlop suggests http://globalresearch.c=a/articles/CHO109C.ht=ml, 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 http://msanews.mynet=.net//MSANEWS/*BLOWN MEASURE*199610/19961012.3.ht=ml 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. http://www.theage.com.au/news/state/2001/09/24/FFX3Q4EQXRC=.html
Cathy Bannister suggests http://codoh.com/zionweb/zioncnsquncs.html on the effect of Zionism in the Arab region.
Con Vaitsas suggests http://www.hitsdailyd=ouble.com/news/songs.html 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.” http://www.illywhacker.net/asylum.