Wonderful pieces today, as discussion deepens on the why of it and how to respond. Many readers have recommended the website of Mike Moore, of “The Awful Truth” TV fame for his views on the New York bombing. His website is michaelmoore.com.
I begin with a poem by David Peetz.
By David Peetz
The President opened the door, and saw inside his room
A ghostly apparition, a face of bloodied doom
‘Twas the Terrorist he looked upon, at first he could but stare
Then flew at him with fists enraged…they merely sailed through air
He picked himself up off the ground, and turned to face the ghoul
“You murdered untold innocents! There’s none have been so cruel!
You are the force of Satan! All evils, rolled in one!
Good will overcome evil, and justice will be done!”
The Terrorist replied “With some of that, I must agree.
Yes, evil will be overcome by good, but sir, you see
I know you are the evil one, and good is on my side!
You are the force of Satan – and that is why I died”
The president spat out the words “You shattered countless lives!
I’ll wipe out all of you so not a single one survives!”
“But just how will you do that?” the Terrorist then asked
“You don’t know where we are, you cannot see behind our masks!”
“We’ll send in troops, and bombers too” the President replied
“Destroy all your headquarters, you can’t forever hide!”
“We’ve done it pretty well this far, so I can call your bluff.
You may get one or two of us, but that is not enough!”
“We’ll bomb all those who harbour you, destroy your evil friends
We will not stop our torment till your reign of terror ends!”
The Terrorist was pleased at this, the outcome he could guess,
“And untold innocents, they will be caught up in this, yes?”
The President’s blood pressure rose, his face went vivid red
“We won’t be satisfied till every one of you is dead!
This is a war we’re in now, and your sort will rue this day!
It can’t be helped if some civilians die along the way.
We must put an end to terrorists! We’ll crush you in the ground!”
At this, the Terrorist leapt up and gave a gleeful sound
“Yes!” he yelled, “You must ensure you blast us into sand!
You must attack with every ounce of force you have at hand!”
The President was yelling too, his voice was almost shrill
“We’ll squash the flames of hatred in you men who live to kill”
The Terrorist was joyful, “yes, blood it must be spilled!
You must fan the flames of hatred that keep us growing still”
The President, though, couldn’t hear, above his own loud voice
As both screamed out, in unison, “It’s war! There is no choice!”
At this the Terrorist saw no need to discuss things more
Pleased with his work, this ghoulish monster faded through a wall
His whole gameplan was working well, right before his eyes
As he settled down and waited for the body count to rise
Contributors today are:
1. D. Griffin, an American in New York
2. Farhad Haidari, Afghan refugee, Australian citizen in Sydney
3. Cathy Bannister, on the response of 40 somethings
4. Polly Bush, on the response of 20 somethings
5. Reba L. Chappell, an American in NSW
6. Michael Larkin on staying calm
7. Paul Walter and Alan Kerns on whether global capitalism is to blame
8. Jerry Falwell, in a New York Times report, blames the tragedy on liberals.
9. Peter Jenkins and Rick Pass on the morality of bombing a nation to kill a terrorist
10. Peter Maresch on keeping Muslims out.
11. Andreas Perdana on the need for moderate Muslims to act
12. Joseph A. Stam on how Australia should respond.
13. Shorter pieces from Anthony Cole, Darren Urquhart, Ellias Elliott, Jean Paul Selberg, Andreas Padana.
D. Griffin, an American in New York
I write this from a friend’s computer and web account. My own computer is in my offices downtown, and I have been unable to access my account. I am writing to thank you for providing this service. It has been a great consolation simply to read a non-New York paper at this time (I have not left the city since the first attack, and do not live in a neighborhood where other papers are readily available). The pros and cons offered by your compatriots and other contributors assure me that there is yet a safe, sane world out there untouched by this devastation.
Outside – it is 3AM NYC time – all of the great buildings of New York are dark. The Art Deco masterpieces have been shut off, reduced to a ghostly and sinister shadow, and only emergency lights illuminate the constant fog of poisons that mark the downtown district. Searchlights sweep the rotting skies, and choppers fly overhead, probing at damaged structures and palatial ruins with laser-like beams.
I would like to say that I am currently torn between two identities. I have never been quite so disturbed about being an American. But I have never been so proud to be a New Yorker. Our entire society, including our police forces and fire departments have taken a tremendous hit – yet New York is running as smoothly as it possibly could, and there are a thousand instances of generosity evident each day.
I only hope that my country fixes upon a non-military response to the current tragedy. There should be no reason to heap the bodies of more women and children on the curbs of any nation.
That said, a response in Webdiary that Washington DC and New York will now understand the plight of cities torn by war is grotesque and insensitive almost beyond the telling of it. Should Sydney be bombed so that its inhabitants will “understand” the terrors suffered by inhabitants of Beruit? Surely the point of any sane policy, whether domestic or international, is to make all cities of all nations safer, not to target those as of yet untouched by massive destruction, larceny and violence, and describe the results as “welcome to the real world.” A world made up of bombings is not “the real world” at all, but a nightmare of evil, perfidy and despair, the fantasy of the sick. twisted and hateful.
I ask the readers of your column to imagine 5,000 people obliterated in a sneak attack involving civilian aircraft flying into two of Australia’s most famous structures – the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. I do not think that a deep sympathy for the unfortunate residents of Kabul would be the immediate response.
Again, I thank you for a chance to share your readers’ opinions.
Farhad Haidari in Redfern, Sydney
I am a former Afghan refugee (came through the front door) and have spent half my life in Australia. I am an Australian citizen. Just four days before the terrorist attacks in the US, my family heard the sad news of several innocent family members (including 5 children) who were massacred by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Unfortunately this is not the first time we have heard such bad news.
Nobody could despise the Taliban more than my family. We’ve witnessed how inhumane they can be first hand. We have had immediate relatives including young children who were killed in cold attacks even as early as last week.
With this tragedy so fresh in my mind I witnessed the inhumanity on TV the other night that took place in NY and it was as if the tragedy of the last few days had started all over again for me. Since then I have turned on the radio and heard nothing but hatred towards all Muslims and even the poor Afghan asylum seekers. I was even verbally abused by my Anglo neighbors who blamed me for what happened in NY because I am a Muslim and an Afghan and told to “get the f**k out of our country!”
Now can you try to put yourself in my shoes?
I hate those fundamentalist bastards as much as anyone else. Yet I walk on the street and get abused because I am a Muslim. Yes, I am a Muslim, and proud of it too. The difference between my Islam and the Taliban’s (and Bin Laden’s) Islam is that they are fundamentalists who choose to use violence to get what they want. That is totally unacceptable to me and Islam as worshiped by the majority of Muslims around the world. May I remind you that there are also Christian and Jewish fundamentalists around the world, yet people are able to separate them from the rest of the Christian and Jewish communities.
Please people, use your brains and try to be a little rational. If Afghan refugees are running away from Afghanistan it is to flee the cruelty of the Taliban regime and thus are victims just like those who were caught up in the attacks in the US. Why is it that the majority of Australians can sympathise with the American victims and not the boat people? Could it be that one race is seen as more superior than the other in this country?
There is no way I would have said the last sentence a week ago. Then again a week ago I wasn’t singled out and abused because of my ethnic background and religious belief and blamed for other people’s crimes.
Christ, the world is about to turn to slush.
I was feeding the baby at 11.45 when the first news started filtering through. Dumbstruck. I woke my husband after the south tower collapsed. We watched through ’till after 3.00am, then tried to sleep: we have kids who would need looking after in the morning, the sun was still going to rise and we were going to need to function like responsible adults.
I couldn’t sleep. I wondered, if I were on one of the hijacked planes with my children, how I would keep them calm, stop them from being scared. Constantly imagining what the children felt in their last hour. There were so many kids on those
But, I also feel for the children on the Tampa. And I feel for the kids in Palestine, kids starving in Afghanistan. Of course the Palestinians celebrated. They’ve got nothing to lose, have they.
I grew up in the 70’s, slipping through the gap between baby boomers and gen X. My contemporaries have this cosy belief, that the world was “getting better all the time”. The world was becoming less racist, less sexist, less reactionary, more environmentally aware, more liberal, more progressive.
I don’t know why, but we believed it was a natural progression, certainly in our flawed but forgivable Western society, that it would only ever get better. I think that’s why it has been so shattering to us to realise that society can go any way.
And now, who knows what will happen. I am terrified, awed, nauseated.
Polly Bush in Melbourne
Every morning it’s been the same since Tuesday. A broken nights sleep, waking up, and realising again that the world just isn’t the same place. There’s that moment at waking, and for a second your thoughts linger, but then they come crushing down with the acknowledgement of the last couple of days events.
I know life must go on, but Im finding it incredibly difficult. Work has never seemed so pointless. Life has never seemed so short. I’ve tried not to have any anger in the last few days but it amazes me how it seems this hasn’t affected everyone. I’ve been frustrated with people who aren’t consumed by it – who aren’t rushing home from work, who aren’t desperate to hear the latest development, who to me, just seem unfeeling.
They’re probably just numb and this is their way of dealing with it, but I feel this sort of event calls for acknowledgement and understanding of the tragedy from all circles. Theres an element of selfishness on my part for wanting others to at least express their sorrow.
I got a raised eyebrow on Wednesday after I said the world had changed. This person asked me how my life or their life had seriously changed. Because they were Victorian, I tried to explain it with what they know best. I told them how the day before, all they wanted to know was what Essendon player Matthew Lloyd would get at the tribunal for headbutting someone. I asked if they knew what he received. They didn’t. Point taken.
I went for a walk on Friday afternoon and admired a magnificent flowering camellia surrounded by a sea of petals in a nearby street. As half a crooked smile emerged on my face I suddenly felt enormous guilt. This is not a time to be happy. There was also the combined sadness of 16,000 job losses. I cursed the TV when I saw footage of a smiling Beazley draped in the Ansett flag at a rally. Lapping up the anger of people who have mortgages and mouths to feed. Maybe it was the only time he has smiled all week, but I still didn’t like seeing it.
There was also a story on Friday of a boatload of people on Ashmore Reef in a leaky boat, who our navy had refused to pick up. Like many days last week, Friday was a what’s the world coming to day, and I found it incredibly hard to relate to happy feelings.
By Saturday, Dubbya’s language had turned up several notches. There is now no question that the US defines this as war.
The phrase global war is being tossed around. The term ‘the new war’ is also being said. New is fine in the unfamiliar sense – but certainly not in the improved sense. Dubbya’s speech labelling this the first war of the new century is more madness. Coz it doesn’t count unless America is involved. In one sentence he said he was a loving man, but had a job to do. This is from the former Governor who has a record in overseeing executions on death row. Despite not having the greatest respect for Bill Clinton I keep wishing he was in charge.
Like many people my eyes keep filling up. After work I come home and have a good cry. Watching the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald crying and vowing to work with the 300 leftover employees to provide assistance to the families of the 700 missing, feared dead was completely heart and gut wrenching. All the phone call stories. The story of a blind man releasing his guide dog outside after being led down 70 flights, and instead, the guide dog ushering him to safety behind a building and not leaving his side. The story of a woman in a wheel chair being carried down. The stories of people completing their descent in an orderly fashion until they reached the bottom floor where chaos reigned. Police screaming to evacuees ‘don’t look’ and accounts of them seeing mangled bodies everywhere, with one comparing it to a butchers shop emptied on the streets. And the people trapped – the ones that had to decide to be burnt alive or jump.
It hit home a bit more on Thursday after receiving an email from an Australian friend I know living in Manhattan. She was due to meet at the Federal Court building three blocks from the WTC that morning. One thing she wrote that I haven’t heard in media reports here was this: “The Federal Court building has been the site of the bin Laden trial – he was supposed to be sentenced tomorrow in absentia for the bombing of the American embassies. Security at the Federal Court building has been tight for months – there’s always been some fears that he would try to do something to the judges or the court.”
Sunday, and its still the same, groan. Woke up and again my head fell down and it had nothing to do with my hangover. Felt utterly compelled to get drunk last night. Haven’t really stopped chain smoking. Watched the events again on the current affairs show that shares this days name. So horrible, it gets me every time. I can’t get accustomed to it. Watched Dubbya make his speech on a pile of rubble. Heard the cheers as he said the people who knocked down these buildings will be hearing from us soon. That’s future tense and frightening. They muted these cheers on most commercial stations last night. I keep wondering what we’re not hearing and seeing, what is being controlled, like the death toll. The quote keeps entering my head – the first casualty of war is truth.
I’ve heard lots of stories later denied. The truck reportedly found on the day of the attacks on the George Washington bridge filled with explosives was later denied. The arrests they’ve since made at airports of alleged terrorists about to carry out similar acts – later put down as mistaken identity. Accounts of an explosion on the fourth plane before it hit the ground suggesting it was shot down by military intervention – again denied.
It scares me that blame seems to be aimed at one individual – Osama bin Laden. Like he was flying all four planes at once. Were led to believe hes this rich crazy, hiding out in the deserts of Afghanistan masterminding these tragedies, pulling strings here and there, directing his army of loyal puppets. Maybe so. But I wonder if its a societal reassurance which makes
people isolate incidents as being caused by one individual. One sick individual. Its not your neighbour, its not your work colleague, its just one crazy. Feel better?
I pray the USA and the world learns something from this, but Dubbyas language seems to be focussing on retaliation. Not lessons in diplomacy or reviews of foreign policy, just stuff about how this “war” will “end in a way and at an hour of our choosing”. Scary scary stuff.
I keep thinking back to Tuesday afternoon when I was reading David Davis beautiful description about visiting Mainz in Webdiary, that was overflowing in culture and beating ignorance and hatred. I desperately, desperately want to go back
Reba L.Chappell, an American in NSW
I am a US citizen, resident in beautiful Port Macquarie, NSW. For 13 years I have listened to Australians criticise the US, a country about which most of them know very little except what they see and hear filtered by the Australian media, and the distortions of the movie industry, into less than accurate images of the REAL US, average town US, not New York, Los Angeles, or, God forbid, Las Vegas. As a general rule I smile and say nothing, not even to remind them that if it were not for the US they would be speaking Japanese as a primary language. However, the tenor of some comments, particularly at this time, make me need to share my thoughts.
Most people in the US are angry this week, and why not? There have to be angry Australians too, those who are grieving for 3 lives snuffed as carelessly as flies to be swatted, those who still do not know if a loved one is alive or dead .It is natural that there is talk of retribution.
But i one listens past the hype, President Bush and Secretary Powell have repeatedly said that first it will be determined Who is to blame, and Who provides the terrorists and their leaders with shelter and political protection, and I will argue with anyone who does not think that nation(s) equally accountable. Diplomatic and economic means, and the psychological spin-off, will first be used to bring them to justice. Psychology is already working. US actions taken, and perhaps not recognised as such by many because they have to do with military manpower and budget, are having an effect on those who have the most to deny and/or hide, ie statements from Iran, Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan heard on Australian newscasts the past few days. If those actions do not produce those accountable, there will be retribution, and rightly so.
Just as it did in 1941, US anger will channel itself into the kind of determination seen in the magnificent rescue teams painfully sifting rubble hoping to save live victims, and retrieve what is left of bodies needlessly blown to bits by bloody minded fanatics who deliberately killed innocent people. Done not only to injure the US, but also to adversely affect, if not destroy, trade, travel, and communications, thus skewing the economics and political balance of the entire world.
These cold blooded killers have achieved part of their goal if they make us fear, that is what terrorism is about. They achieve another part if that fear makes us distrust or express hate toward those who are different, those we do not know, whose belief we don’t understand. People are much the same the world over. There are those who have tolerance and compassion, those who don’t. Those who will do anything for money, those who won’t. Those who accept differences, those whose fanaticism accepts no difference. No country, nation, ethnic group, or belief is all good or all bad. With all our differences, somehow we rub along together. Part of the goal of this dastardly act had to be to make our relationships unbearably abrasive, to sow seeds of hate and distrust. We must not let them succeed in that.
Deeply buried in this horrible act, not spoken to, indeed, almost ignored by all the the media’s Talking Heads, lies an opportunity for all people to re-assess their own values, and for world leaders to make a concerted effort to begin to make an end to terrorism, world wide. For years nations and individuals have spoken of the need to stop terrorism. Now is the time. Ending terrorism will take a long time, years, to achieve, but it is what must be done, and what we ought to be expecting to result from actions of the United Nations, and the US, NATO, and Australian agreements to act for and with each other.
Can we please just stop and catch our breath for a minute ?
Like everyone, I have been horrified by the scale and audacity of the events in the US this week. I too have found myself glued to the TV coverage. I have found myself on the verge of tears many times. My best friend was driving to work in New Jersey and witnessed the impact on the World Trade Centre. A colleague at work is a friend of the guy interviewed on the ABC last night who works for AON and survived. Another bloke I went to uni with worked in the WTC. This is deeply disturbing even without these too many direct or closely indirect connections.
But ….. I read in the Webdiary words of concentration camps, of killing all Arabs, of the death of tolerance and multiculturalism, of suspicion and hatred. We are telling ourselves on the one hand that all Aussies are racists, and on the other hand that all Arabs are terrorists.
Can we please just stop for a minute? We share our humanity, our planet and our country. Maybe this is naive. Or hopelessly simplistic. Or even unrealistically optimistic. But it also seems so bloody obvious.
Of course not all Australians are racist or intolerant. Of course not all Arabs are filled with hatred for the West. This is not us (the West) versus them (Arabs). Nor is it us (the non Islam world) versus them (Muslims). The more we succumb to these easy characterisations, the more we give in to intolerance. Life and the world is more complex than that. It always has been.
Perhaps there is the opportunity to make something of this horrible tragedy – to make the world safer and better by building a truly global consensus against terror and suffering wherever it may occur and in whatever form. But if we are to do that, it is by focusing on what we share – our humanity – not by spreading words of hate.
Please think before you write and speak. Please, when you write to the webdiary, or to your local newspaper, or when you sit next to someone on a bus or chatting at your favourite cafe – whenever – please understand that words matter. What we say and write is important.
We are all shocked, outraged, distressed, angry. But for God’s sake remember that if we spread intolerance for our fellow Australians, then we really do deliver a victory to those responsible for what occurred on Tuesday.
I briefly really hoped there some thing of this magnitude might have finally initiated some serious soul-searching in the Leadership of the West as to who and what they really are, their, and the West’s REAL place in the scheme of things and the accompanying comprehension at last of the existence of multitudes of others also are living on the planet.
The only writer I’ve read so far that seems to have even the remotest conception of what this is all really about is Martin Woollacott, in Saturday’s Age.
It is REALLY about the frustrated resentment of the 80% and more of the global population who suffer from Western globalism throughout the third world, and just about anyone else who has grown fed up with Global Capital’s peculiar notion that the entire earth and it’s population exist as some sort of playground for economic rationalist Big Business. Rob enough people for long enough of hope for ANY sort of future and eventually a reaction must occur. If you have nothing left to live for, you have nothing left to lose.
The Americans (like we Australians), have got complacent with the notion that they are somehow quarantined from the negative aspects of globalism and immune from any potential consequences for its implementation regardless of the expense to anyone else who might be in the way. The attitude of the West in the last decade has been one almost of provocation toward the excluded; a kind of challenge that has created the appalling response leading to this disaster in New York, where maybe ten thousand innocent bystanders will have paid the ultimate price for the indifference implicit in the underlying recent Western attitude itself (typified this very day in the ruthless tipping out of work of 17,000 also innocent people in our own country!)
And what hope should thinking people derive from the behaviour of a REAL terrorist, Ariel Sharon, in sending the tanks in again to ravage the perpetual scapegoat Palestine?
The modern “Belle Epoque” is over.
It has come to this end through complacency and hubris ; a tragically-wasted opportunity, over several decades, to deal meaningfully with global affairs (beyond crude militarism) .The Day of the Fire-Ant has dawned!
Two excellent examples this week of just how noxious the fruits of competition are.
The collapse of Ansett shows two core characteristics of how a competitive system works – selfishness and ruthlessness. These are driven by what drives the system as a whole. This has two faces: a frantic desire to be one of the minority who are winners, and fierce fear not to one of the majority of losers.
When fear is high, morality and reason are suppressed in favour of survival. In the case of corporate collapses what this boils down to is that those in power within the corporation look after their own interests as much as they can, and the rights and entitlements of those at lower levels are ignored, their trust betrayed. We’ve seen quite a bit of this in recent times in Australia.
Uncle Sam is the only current super power [= super winner in the global competitive system]. What a system this is. In a world where there is enough of the essentials of life so that no one need suffer from deprivation, millions die from deprivation of the essentials of life each year, and the rate seems to be inexorably rising. The ever rising toll of innocent deaths due to deprivation has long since eclipsed even the Holocaust. This is genocide – extermination of the most uncompetitive!
The competitive global industrial and commercial system is, therefore, monstrously cruel, monstrously unjust. You wouldn’t think so to read, watch or listen to our mainstream media, but it is, nonetheless.
Uncle Sam is the biggest player in this system, the virtual headquarters.
I do not wish to defend the terrorists, but I invite readers to consider the possibility that such actions can be seen as an inevitable reaction to the grotesque unfairness of the global competitive system.
The last I heard of George W Bush, he was talking about a long campaign of war against ‘terrorism’ until victory is attained. This is just an upping of the competitive stakes. Extreme improvidence.
Unless we can honestly address and try to remedy the issues of unfairness and abuse in world affairs, we are doomed to go all the way with competition whose endpoints are mayhem and war.
The common people of the US are like common people in most places, they want to live a life of peace, security and good will. There can be no secure peace without global fairness. I don’t see any signs of ‘the leaders’ having learnt that lesson. ‘Wherefore art thou, Democracy?’
Jackson Manning provides this New York Times piece on Jerry Falwell, with the words: “This is outrageous! The Christian version of the Taliban has spoken.
Falwell links ACLU, gays and secularists to attacks
By GUSTAV NIEBUHR
New York Times News Service
13 September 2001
The Rev. Jerry Falwell said Thursday that the American Civil Liberties Union, with abortion providers, gay rights proponents and federal courts that had banned school prayer and legalized abortion, had so weakened the United States spiritually that the nation was left exposed to Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.
Falwell, a conservative Baptist minister who is chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., said that “the ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this,” according to a partial transcript of televised remarks he made on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson’s religious program.
In the transcript, distributed by the liberal organization People for the American Way, Falwell described the civil liberties union as “throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools.” Referring to the terrorist attacks, he said he would point a figurative finger at those “who have tried to secularize America” and say, “You helped this happen.”
Asked to explain his remarks in a telephone interview Thursday night, Falwell said he was making a theological statement about how various groups had so offended God that the attacks could occur. He said he did not intend to shift actual blame from the terrorists who carried out the attacks.
“I sincerely believe that the collective efforts of many secularists during the past generation, resulting in the expulsion from our schools and from the public square, has left us vulnerable,” Falwell said.
“God has protected America from her inception. It is only recently that many have decided God is unnecessary.”
Falwell added that he did not believe God “had anything to do with the tragedy,” but that God had permitted it.
“He lifted the curtain of protection,” Falwell said, “and I believe that if America does not repent and return to a genuine faith and dependence on him, we may expect more tragedies, unfortunately.”
On “The 700 Club,” Falwell also specifically blamed People for the American Way.
Asked to comment on what Falwell said, a spokesman for the civil liberties union said, “We are not dignifying it with a response.”
In a statement, People for the American Way did not directly address Falwell’s remarks, but said the organization grieved for the attack’s victims and praised the courage of rescuers.
Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest Divinity School in Winston-Salem, N.C., said Falwell’s remarks were “representative of certain fundamentalism that often appears in the South.”
“It’s a mistaken effort to sound prophetic,” Leonard said, adding that he considered the remarks “a travesty.”
“From my point of view, God created the world with terrible freedom, and part of that freedom is the freedom to do terrible evil, if you want to be theological about this,” Leonard said. “This is a time when we hold each other close and lament these events.”
Suppose an Irish Catholic family gave temporary shelter for a few days to an escapee IRA terrorist.
Suppose the IRA gunman then moved, changing his place of hiding.
Suppose the British Army learned that the Mick family had harboured the gunman.
Now, based on the current consensus of US and Australian public opinion which is strongly in favour of the retribution and collective punishment principle, would it not be morally right for the British Army to roll a tank down that street, turn its barrels on the house, and zap, incinerate that family?
What’s that? Only if the artillery lads had waited for the children to come home from school first?
Right on! Burn babies burn.
The only good Mossie is a dead Mossie.
Don’t you think?
Now that I have had some time to digest the events of the last few days there are a couple of things that have really struck me- apart from the obvious images. The first is the palpable fear that many Australians seem to feel about an event that happened on the other side of the world. There was a series of street interviews on ABC radio which must have been conducted in Brisbane. Virtually every person interviewed was afraid, one even suggesting that we were now a ‘prime target’. Almost all expressed concern about CHOGM. Others seem sure that this will mark the beginning of WW3.
As an adjunct to this there also appears to be a bizarre move from someof our political leaders to claim a kind of ownership of the disaster. I’ve heard several politicians and commentators claim that if the estimated number of Australians involved ultimately proves correct then this will be Australia’s worst peacetime death toll. I think it should be obvious to all that this is not the start of a world war, nor is it an Australian tragedy. It is a very American one.
Undoubtedly many Australians have taken their cue from Howard. I’ve never seen him so shaken. At the press conference immediately after the attack and later too, he looked scared. Really scared. Sure he made all the usual noises about bastardry and cowardice but underneath it all you could see the fear. An Australian Prime Minister has never looked so small and un-statesmanlike than Howard as he gave unquestioning support to US revenge no matter what form it might take. At a time when the Australian people needed wise counsel and moral leadership, when they needed reflection and contemplation, Howard fueled people’s fears and advocated more violence.
But perhaps Australians should be afraid. Not of Middle Eastern terrorism – that is just the logical outcome of decades of US direct and sponsored violence in the region. Australians should fear what a terrified John Howard will attempt to do on his return.
There have already been fresh talk of introducing the Australia Card. also of the need for anti terrorism legislation which no doubt would contain provisions for enhanced surveillance of Australian citizens. Might it also allow for detention without trial? The suspension of Habeaus Corpus? Is this beyond the realms of possibility given the government’s action in the last few weeks?
The same move is on in the US. Politicians and commentators are already asking how many civil liberties and how much freedom Americans will need to give up to ensure their safety. At least they have some strong constitutional safeguards so that if the government writes draconian legislation it can be overturned in the courts.
In Australia we have no Bill of Rights to protect us. The rights that we enjoy are mostly granted at the whim of the government of the day. And what the government gives the government can take away. The answer to terrorism is never authoritarianism. If the price of ‘safety’ is our liberty then what’s the point? Because the security of the police state is just an illusion.
Nor is the answer to bomb the crap out of more innocents which is what the Americans will ultimately end up doing. I am struck by the fact that when in the 1980’s the CIA paid some folks to park a car bomb outside a building in Lebanon which killed hundreds of civilians there was no outcry, no condemnation.
I’m struck by the fact that the US embargo on Iraq kills about 5000 children a MONTH yet no one seems to think this an act of bastardry. I’m struck by the fact that when a suicide bomber blew up a pizza parlour in Israel killing 15 people, Alexander Downer sent the condolences of the Australian people to the relatives of those killed, yet a few days before when US supplied Israeli helicopter gunships bombed a building in the West Bank killing two little children walking past my government remained silent.
I’m struck by the words of Father Brian Gore who I heard on the radio the very night of the bombing saying that there should be a new class of crimes against humanity created for those nations who insist that impoverished countries repay their impossible debts and in the process kill hundreds of millions.
We do live in a world gone mad. A world that says the life of one American is worth more than the life of a million Iraqi children. A world that finds the death of Americans infinitely more shocking than the deaths of millions of their fellow human beings, year in and year out.
The answer to terrorism is not more violence. It is to accept the sanctity of all human life. The answer is more freedom, more justice. All we need do as a nation is treat others with compassion and decency and we will have nothing to fear. The cycle of violence which led to these extraordinary acts will not be broken by more violence. Bombing Afghanistan or Iraq or Sudan may make Americans feel better but only until the next time.
We should never lose the feeling of anger at the horror that was perpetrated against the free world. We should not be denied or begrudged that anger.
Those who line up under the flag of Islam in this country should not be in the least bit surprised at the reactions of non-Islamic Australians. For 30 years we have witnessed the aggressive fist-pumping, chanting, stone-throwing, car-bombing, effigy-burning, AK-47-wielding behaviour of those who represent Muslim populations. Whatever their grievance, such behaviour is an anathema to our way of life.
Agenda-setters in the media insist that Islam is a peaceful religion despite thousands of anecdotes to the contrary. I’m wondering what their reaction would be if it had been the Harbour Bridge or the Opera House reduced to rubble.
It is likely that more Australians died on Tuesday than either the Granville disaster or Cyclone Tracy or Port Arthur. On Tuesday the world witnessed the extent that some within the Islamic faith will go to express their hatred of freedom. As I write this, the Taliban leader has called for an Islamic holy war against the West. Can we really blame those who see those Muslims among us as a threat?
PS: I wrote on a previous occasion correcting certain misinformation you published on this web diary regarding the illegal immigrants. I did so thinking you had been misinformed.
I have now read many of your preambles to the contributions in your Diary and I now realise that you really are insane. The vicious, foaming-at-the-mouth venom you spit at any mention of John Howard, his ministers or his government has turned what could be a sensible forum for debate into a parody of itself. You could almost imagine Fidel Castro or Saddam Hussein or Germaine Greer penning that stuff.
You may feel you have sincere motives, but your hate-columns are every bit as inciteful as those hate campaigns we see from the Radical Right.
Ease up, woman.
Andreas Perdana, an Australian in Paris
I am an Australian living in Paris. I recoiled in disgust on learning that Alan Jones et al have again been inciting racial hatred and getting away with it. I know most Australians will certainly stand up to fellow Aussies they witness harassing a Muslim
person. I have no doubt this is just the heat-of-the-moment thing, but still quite disgusting. We do have an ugly side don’t we? Why can’t we pin him down and lock him up?
I have been dismayed too that, yet again, all condemnations from the Muslims (Australian or otherwise) are always qualified with America’s discriminatory policy against them. I think this qualification is not doing them any favours. What the terrorists did was pure evil, and there is no comparison to the ‘crimes’ the US committed in the Middle East (by the way, to my mind the US had done more terrible things to Latin America and Southeast Asia). Let me cite two big differences:
1. The terrorists deliberately aimed to maximise civilian casualties (the greater the number the better). The US may not care enough about ‘collateral damage’, however it is never the aim to obliterate the maximum number of civilians (otherwise it would’ve been Tokyo rather than Hiroshima).
2. You know it was the US that attacked Baghdad, along with Allied members. The terrorists are low-life faceless cowards.
For the record I have been cured of Catholicism and am now a happy Agnostic. If I was a Muslim I would pursue the fanatics and preach that Islam does not condone violence, accuse them of heresy, and apply those well-known harsh Islamic laws on them. My plea to you: the fanatics should be Islam’s greatest enemy, they are acting out evil in the name of your religion! They are doing a much greater harm to Islam than any American Arab-hater can even dream of doing. Do not let these people hijack your religion. Show the rest of humanity that it is possible for us to live together. Pursue the extremists with zeal, they are Islam’s number 1 enemy!
Jacob A. Stam in Narre Warren, Victoria
The unutterably brutal terrorist attack against the USA this week is, under the Statute of the International Criminal Court (supported by the Australian Government, but abjured by the US Government), a crime against humanity, for which it is the duty of the world community to punish those responsible. The only question, then, is that of how to prosecute the perpetrators, once they have been conclusively identified.
The Australian Government’s invocation this week of Section 5 of the ANZUS Treaty to render unqualified assistance to the USA Government in its “war against terrorism” may be appropriate as a symbolic gesture at this dark hour.
We should, however, be gravely cautious of the practical implications of any commitment given to the US, and ought to be urgently asking ourselves whether Australia’s undertakings under ANZUS to prosecute this crime are compatible with our UN Charter obligations to protect civilian populations caught in the middle.
Crucially, in the present climate, this looks like being about the fate of ordinary Afghanis on the ground who, having endured almost two decades of military and civil strife, are encumbered through no fault of their own with the presence in their midst of the prime suspect for those crimes against the USA.
A retaliatory response by the USA and their allies – presumably, including us – should not encompass the visitation of unspeakable violence by “us” against a people already suffering under the boot of a repugnant regime.
In the recent past, the USA’s retaliatory response in respect of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa has resulted in the deaths of untold thousands of civilians in Sudan. We may never know how many, because the USA has used its influence on the UN Security Council to block any investigation.
Australians should reject any commitment to indiscriminate reprisals against already suffering peoples, wherever they are.
Anthony Cole in East Perth, Western Australia
The massive loss of life wrought by terrorists on Tuesday was a tragedy.
It was an important tragedy because it was deliberately visited on the world’s most powerful nation.
But as tragedies go, simply comparing tragedy with tragedy, comparing the suffering and loss of life involved, it was a pretty ordinary tragedy.
Kobe (17/01/1995 – 5,119 dead), Bhopal (02/12/1984 – 6,000 dead), Colombia (25/01/1999 – 1,000 dead), Turkey (17/08/1999 – 30,000 dead). I’ve probably missed a few. Where were the Australian tears for these coloured folk? It makes me feel a bit creepy listening to our commentators waxing on about the tears they’ve shed over this tragedy.
Does our quite reasonable emotional reaction to this event expose our indifference to “other” peoples’ tragedies?
I suppose the blanket television coverage had something to do with it…but not everything.
Darren Urquhart in Cronulla, Sydney
To all those who wish for retaliation against Muslims generally, be careful what you hope for because we may just get it.
The voices of reason and moderation need to speak loud and often. Bloodlust is in the air. Retaliation against the terrorists responsible is inevitable and justified. However the risk of a wider Christian-Muslim war is suddenly very real (I can’t believe I’m saying that). If the dogs of war get the feeling there is a desire among voters to “get it on” then they may just do so.
Certain leaders are feeling emboldened by the rhetoric of their communities (see Peter Reith’s linking of refugees with terrorism – an unthinkable utterance even a week ago). If enough voters talk all-out-war around dinner tables, on talkback radio, in letters pages and on the net we will feed the beast. This thing will take on a life of its own.
Justice must be done. At the same time the apparent gulf between Christians/Jews and Muslims must be bridged. Moderates in all camps have got to work toward this. The alternative is unthinkable.
To those calling for war – do you really, *really* want it?
Add 21st Century terrorism to refugee migrations and it will effectively become war on the poor people. But then again, Ronald Reagan declared war on poverty.
Jean Paul Selberg in Bondi, Sydney
JFK said, “Even in the worst of crisis we still have options.”
Choose your options carefully, USA, otherwise imagine every Muslim rising against you and not just the fundamentalist.