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.

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