Poll praise

I begin with Roy Morgan’s summary of his stunning poll taken on September 15 and 16, after the New York bombing. He headed his statement THE BIG SWING.

 

1. The turnaround began with the government’s strong stance on the Tampa boatpeople issue, and has been driven higher by the PM’s policy statements on the terrorist situation. Gains recorded soon after the US terrorist attacks have pushed significantly higher in the latest poll.

 

2. Primary support for the Coalition has soared another nine points to 53%, giving it a huge 21-point primary support lead over the ALP (32%, down 7).

 

3. One a two-party basis the Coalition is up 8.5 points to 60%, opening up a 20-point lead over the ALP (down 8.5 to 40%).

 

4. This represents the highest Coalition support since January 1976.

 

5. 777 voters were surveyed for the poll. If an election had been held during the past weekend, the Coalition would have won in a landslide.

 

6. The image of John Howard, who was in Washington at the time of the outrages, has been enhanced significantly. 67% approve of the way he is handling his job as Prime Minister, the highest result for a Liberal PM since such approval ratings began in 1966.

 

7. Only 35% approve of how Kim Beazley is handling his job as Opposition leader. Significantly more electors (64%) now believe Howard will make a better PM than Beazley (23%).

 

In this edition, your response to the polls and Labor’s decision to back the Coalition on refugee policy, and continuing debate on the merits of the new policy.

 

Contributors on the polls/Labor are: Mark Chambers, Margaret Millar, Brendan, Mem Fox, Christine Vincent

Boat people contributors are: Colin Long, Peter Maresch, Tom Griffiths, Derek, Rosemary Hudson Miller, Paul Sciberras, John Clark

 

THE POLLS AND LABOR

 

Mark Chambers

 

So it seems John Howard is back in favour with the Australian public. Surely he must be the favourite to win the next election (which no doubt will be called as soon as possible).

 

As such, Labor’s recent policy gutlessness, or “pragmatism”, is a wasted effort. They should instead be trying to insert some reason into the debates, even though nobody wants to listen at the moment. Although this might be unpopular in the short term, at least they will regain some respect once the current mob mentality dies down. This will stand them in good stead for 2004 – especially once the reality of another 3 years of Howard and co sinks in.

 

Margaret Millar

 

The Labor Party has no chance of winning an election as a weak lot of running dogs too scared to stand by any morals

or principles. Surely Beazley must know that this is not morally right and that it is better to lose honourably than to lose dishonourably. They will never win trying to copy the policies of the Howard Regime, which is so much better at quasi fascism than Labor anyway.

 

I remember as a small child my father crying when Ben Chifley died, but who would cry for the demise of any of this lily-livered lot! Some may even cheer. Who on earth advises Beazley? Labor is fast losing its on ground supporters. Even I used to be a member! Never Again.

 

Brendan (surname withheld on request)

 

Labor will lose the next election, and they deserve to. When they do they will wring their hands and say that they were robbed by circumstances and Howard’s rat cunning. There will be a witch hunt against the so-called bleeding hearts like me by the party bureaucrats and apparatchiks as they squabble over the spoils of defeat.

 

Let them squabble and have their illusions. Eventually even they will have to confront their dead dreams of power and ask why they sold their integrity so cheaply. For what have they gained? Merely a place in the ever thickening ranks of the morally compromised and forgotten second raters who make up our political history and who have helped diminish us as a nation.

 

What we saw yesterday was a complete moral, political and imaginative capitulation to the Government. Labor does not represent an alternative and is not fit to govern. I was astonished to see on TV Beazley talking about his leadership and how tough he is. How deluded! How pathetic to watch! The great strategist!

 

Labor has built their forthcoming defeat ever since the day they went into opposition. You can track the moments when they had the chance to open up another type of thinking, to challenge the government’s world view, to offer a different vision, to renew themselves, but every time they walked away and hid. They have capitulated to Hanson and Howard, who has succeeded in making Beazley and the Labor party live in his world. For Howard it a strategic victory that will last a long time.

 

Labor’s support for the legislation is disgusting. We now have the spectacle of Beazley trying to demonstrate leadership by getting as close to Howard as he can and participating in the squalid victimisation of defenceless people who need help. This is a profound failure of imagination and compassion and Beazley as leader must take his share of it.

 

It will take a long time for them to live that down, and I look forward to reading Beazley’s rationalisation in his memoirs as he tries to explain how circumstances stopped him from becoming Prime Minister. I still think Mark Latham will be the next Labor Prime Minister.

 

Mem Fox

 

I feel physically unwell over Beazley’s capitulation into the racism snake pit. He is more despicable than John Howard. I am resigning from the ALP this evening. Who the f..k do I vote for now? The Greens are my only hope. I cannot forgive the Democrats for the GST.

 

Christine Vincent

 

Thanks for continuing to be a voice for reason and sanity. As usual I heard you on LNL tonight and support everything you said. In these desperate times when one is bereft of any leadership of decency and compassion it is so important to have a line of communication that is not driven by polls and the electoral imperative.

 

I am old enough to be a “Shame Fraser Shame” badge carrier, but today, as so often in the recent past, Malcolm Fraser’s words, this time in the SMH yesterday, helped drag me out of my utter misery and despair at the intolerable stance of the current political leadership.

 

Today’s polls reflect the sharp end of years of inculcation of avarice and greed in our society. We have to close our borders in case those in need come in to share in our spectacularly affluent life style.

 

 

BOAT PEOPLE

 

Colin Long in Cheltenham, Victoria

 

I do get rather tired of people who think that democracy equates simply to the rule of the majority. It never has and, hopefully, it never will. Fundamental, also, to democracy is the protection of minorities from the oppression of the majority, and fundamental to this task is constraint on the powers of the executive by the rule of law.

 

Mark Weegen in The boat people and the war is absolutely wrong when he questions Margo Kingston’s contention that ‘the reversal of a court’s decision by the government is a “nail in the coffin of the rule of law”‘ and, thus, anti-democratic. For governments to undermine the independence of the judiciary by implementing legislation to overturn court decisions based on the law is profoundly undemocratic, as is, in nearly all cases, the use of retrospective legislation.

 

The idea that democracy is simply about the rule of the majority, and the failure to understand the concept of the rule of law are, I suspect, widespread in Australia. It appears, worryingly, that these misconceptions are shared by many of our politicians.

 

One of the most important issues raised by the mandatory sentencing issue in the Northern Territory was given very little attention in the debate at the time. While the differential impact on Aborigines was widely and appropriately discussed, little consideration was given to the fact that mandatory sentencing involves a fundamental attack on the independence of the judiciary. In fact, mandatory sentencing is about political interference in the administration of justice, and that is very disturbing. In effect, the NT government was replicating the system of justice practiced in the so-called “People’s Courts” of Communist Countries, in which “justice” was administered according to the dictates and requirements of the Party. I find it rather ironic that the Country Liberal Party adopted policies of their alleged ideological enemies.

 

I suspect with the issue of asylum seekers, too, that many members of parliament do not comprehend the larger issues of democracy and the rule of law raised by what they are doing. This is worrying. But even more worrying is the fact that I’m sure the Prime Minister and Mr Ruddock, not to mention Kim Beazley, do.

 

Peter Maresch

 

A lot of space is given to the pathetic plight of the Boat People “fleeing” their homeland, and some people have asked what Australians would do if persecuted in the same way.

 

I would think that the vast majority of Australians, faced with a Taliban-style government, would rise up and depose such a regime. What sort of Australian would turn and run away from this country? What sort of Australian would destroy his/her identity? I for one would fight to the death for this country.

 

We must thus question the motives of those who claim to be Afghani. If there are so many of them as to hopelessly clog refugee camps throughout the Middle East, why are they not in Kabul overthrowing the tyrannical Taliban? If they have so little commitment to their own country, what could they offer to this country?

 

Another question: given the behaviour of the Tampa “refugees” and their subsequent refusal to disembark the Manoora, do we really want such recalcitrant people in Australia?

 

Another report stated the Iraqis and Palestinians aboard the Manoora “demanded to be separated”. As an example of their suitability to live in a multicultural country, this report speaks for itself.

 

Tom Griffiths in Newcastle, NSW

 

Of course when pressed for evidence of the “undeniable connection” between asylum seekers and Afghani terrorists on LNL, Peter Slipper responds that they might be – we don’t know that they are not, therefore they undeniably are…

 

Howard let’s this go and further fuel racism in the community, continuing to use the language of “illegal migrants” and “protecting our borders”, and now Beazley shows the absolute bankruptcy of the ALP by supporting quite terrifying racist laws.

 

Of course the critique and leadership offered by Bob Brown is almost completely silenced in the mainstream media.

 

I’ve gone beyond feeling shame at being Australian.

 

Derek

 

You’re at the supermarket. There are two checkouts operating. One has a queue twice as long as the other so you join the shorter queue. Fairly soon though you notice that your queue isn’t moving very quickly. “Price check!” on some obscure item the supermarket didn’t even know it sold. The tedious woman at the front of the queue is paying by cheque, fumbling ineffectually for her cheque book and a pen.

 

People who joined the other queue after you joined yours now look like getting served before you. The pimply guy at the front of your queue seems to have forgotten his PIN. Time passes. The elderly woman at the front of your queue wanted a subtotal for her friend’s groceries.

 

It isn’t fair you exclaim silently. Why is my queue progressing more slowly? Suddenly a realization hits you. Why don’t they have just one queue? One queue is fair. Two isn’t.

 

And the point of all this? It’s a response to Michael Walton’s lengthy dissertation in The boat people and the war, which touched on the offshore queue and the onshore queue. Those who choose (albeit at some risk to themselves) to join the onshore queue are in spirit queue jumpers. In other contexts the mere existence of a second queue, available to a select few, would be considered unAustralian.

 

Rosemary Hudson Miller, Acting National Director for Social Responsibility and Justice,Uniting Church in Australia

 

I am hopping mad with the Labor crew as they have allowed this debate to degenerate into a racist farce. I have been working in this area (refugees and asylum seekers) for the last few years, and been involved in social justice for the last 25 or so. It seems to me that we have never had such a dearth of ethical leadership as we have now.

 

I know and work with many refugees and hear the almost weekly stories of the completely arbitrary nature of the process we call the Refugee Review tribunal – in reality only one government appointed member for each case. How much worse will it be if there are even more limits to judicial review?

 

Who is going to care for the refugees the USA and we as their allies are about to create? All wars, limited actions and military interventions create refugees. How many will we take from Afghanistan after a bombing or whatever they propose to do?

 

It is a sick extension of ‘not in our backyard’ – or maybe only in the back yard (Christmas, Cocos and Ashmore reef) but not in the house, in those salubrious accommodation villages at Curtin, Port Hedland and Woomera.

 

Paul Sciberras in Fitzroy, Melbourne

 

The notion of people arriving in Australia by boat, usually overcrowded and unseaworthy, seems to elicit an emotional response in the media which is not bestowed on those who simply arrive by air or overstay their visas. Such a reaction is understandable when one considers our experience with Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Communist takeover of South Vietnam.

 

The Vietnamese refugees came here by boat because they left Vietnam by boat. There was no other way for them to escape. We are in their region of the world, were involved in the war on their country and had a moral responsibility to help them.

 

Yet the ‘asylum seekers’ who now arrive by boat on Australian territories did not depart the country of their origin, the state from which they are seeking asylum by boat. Most fly on commercial airliners to Malaysia or Indonesia from the Middle East and then hop onto a boat.

 

The remarkable naivete with which the applicable laws were drafted is such that any Australian Territory will do, hence the popularity of uninhabitable Ashmore Reef or isolated Christmas Island. The only attraction of either is their proximity to Indonesia and access to Australian law. If the boat requires or solicits rescue prior to arrival so much the better – someone needs to know they’re there. They are perfectly capable of flying all the way here but instead use boats to force themselves into our sovereign territory and to force their access to Australian domestic law – at our expense.

 

There are refugee facilities and the ability to seek asylum in Indonesia. People who travel to Indonesia seeking refugee status, if legitimate, have nothing to fear by using those facilities and applying there under the guidelines of the UNHCR. Or do we just accept those who can pay commercial airfares, people smugglers and lawyers and force themselves in here?

 

Do we only accept those who threaten to harm their children, feign illness, go on hunger strikes and generally pervert ordinary standards of compassion and decency? How fair is it to apply more favourable criteria and resources to those who demonstrate complete disregard for the laws and wishes of Australia whilst allowing legitimate asylum seekers and legitimate migrants to languish elsewhere? People who demonstrate such blatant disrespect for our laws and for our norms of behaviour do not seem to me to be the sort of people we should be settling within our community.

 

The East Timorese had a perfectly legitimate right to seek asylum here after the TNI/militia rampage and desecration of their country. Australians would have welcomed them. But what would have happened to East Timor had the Timorese not remained there? Would East Timor exist today?

 

Do you think we can solve all the world’s problems by accepting any one who wants to come here, irrespective of our wishes as expressed by our democratically elected government? There are billions of impoverished people who would love to live here. I don’t blame them. Do we throw open the doors and take them all? Can you tell me that none of these people are criminals, terrorists, spies, soldiers? How do you know they are refugees? I feel for them, I don’t blame them for trying and I wish them well. But I don’t necessarily want them here.

 

Please accept that however any one of us voted, we have a national government and it is not led by Natasha Stott-Despoja. I am sickened by the way those who disagree with the Prime Minister, or don’t like him or the Liberal Party, take such obvious delight in trying to embarrass our country in front of the world.

 

The relish that some journalists have expressed in reporting any negative comment from overseas, however ignorant, is astonishing. The editorial of the Los Angeles Times is a case in point. We need to get over our cultural cringe and recognise we have a national interest and occasionally acting in that interest will displease people and governments in other parts of the world. This includes such lovely (whaling) countries as Norway, and the United Nations.

 

There are despotic and murderous regimes all over the world and cultures whose affinity for evil and hatred defies comprehension. Yet the peoples who seem to attract the interest of the UN seem to be those of Western democracies and especially Israel.

 

Do you think the Israelis take such heartfelt notice of what the UN thinks when it acts to defend its people? The US hasn’t paid its dues to the UN for years. I could keep giving you examples of which I am sure you are aware. Remember Merhan Nasseri who lived in Terminal One at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris for eleven years? Please don’t think that because OUR government has made a decision based on OUR interest, even if that decision were wrong, that the world will stop turning.

 

I would much prefer to have a Prime Minister who listens to the views of the Australian people and acts accordingly. God knows if our government won’t protect our interests no one else will.

 

 

John Clark

 

Calm down Margo. Get yourself a nice glass of chardonay and think things through a bit more objectively. Have a read of Mark Latham’s ‘Diagnosis reveals a paranoid media’ in the Daily Telegraph today.

Bush’s rhetoric gets more disturbing each day

To begin, a piece I wrote for the Herald:

I’d just lifted my head out of my hands after hearing the leader of the free world announce he was leading his allies into “a crusade” – the Christian term for a holy war – when I received an email from an army bloke I’d locked horns with many years ago during the debate on gays in the defence force.

 

Brigadier Adrian D’hage has retired to write a novel. Winner of the military cross in Vietnam, he’s a larger than life figure who ran defence public relations before heading defence force security planning for the Olympics.

 

He wrote:

 

“WANTED – DEAD or ALIVE !?? Whilst our heartfelt sympathies are with those whose lives have been shattered by this truly criminal act, the rhetoric from the US President gets more disturbing each day. Already, US citizens have been promised a decisive victory – and decisive victories against unseen enemies can never be delivered.

 

The Australian Government has signed a blank cheque – without the foggiest notion of what might be planned. Whatever happens, history will question the wisdom of that course. And whatever we do, we will have to do it without the Army Engineers who are exhausted on Nauru.

 

It is time to take a very deep breath.”

 

Just how blank the cheque is became clear yesterday, when John Howard announced on ABC radio: “We leave open the option of any kind of military involvement which we are capable of and would be appropriate. And yes, that includes troops.”

 

That brings the reality home, as do comments by Afghan-American writer Tamim Ansary: “Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don’t move too fast, they don’t even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn’t really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban – by raping once again the people they’ve been raping all this time.

 

“What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops.”

 

“We’re flirting with a world war between Islam and the West. And guess what: that’s Bin Laden’s program.”

 

“Read his speeches and statements. It’s all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he’s got a billion soldiers. If the west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that’s a billion people with nothing left to lose, that’s even better from Bin Laden’s point of view. He’s probably wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours.

 

Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?”

 

Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. But our leaders better start preparing us for it instead of filling us with puffed-up, emotional indignation.

 

And maybe we’d better realise that we’re already fighting our own war. Our fleet is patrolling the high seas boarding and repelling leaky boats. We have our own prisoners of war on the Manoora., We’re building our own prisoner of war camps in Nauru and Christmas Island. It’s costing us millions a day. War time powers are invoked as civil liberties and the rule of law disappear in the cause of, according to John Howard, “our national sovereignty”.

 

Labor has just agreed to the first case of mandatory sentencing in federal law. It will apply to only to Indonesians – the poor sods at the bottom of the people smuggling chain who bring the boats over. They’ll spend a minimum of three years in jail for a first offence. Labor has also agreed to exclude our Courts from any role in the fate of our prisoners.

 

Most strangely, our war is against the people fleeing the terror of today’s equivalent of Nazi Germany, the Taliban. As we back the USA in bombing the bejesus out of Afghanistan, as Australian citizens face execution for carrying the bible in Afghanistan, we wage our own war against Afghan refugees. And as in any war, we demonise “the enemy” by pretending they are really Taliban terrorists sent to infiltrate our detention camps.

 

Our defence force exhausts itself on a war against Afghan refugees before the war begins against their oppressors.

 

This is bipartisan policy. There is no mainstream political debate on the merits of this crazy farce. In the vacuum, prejudice, hatred and ignorance flourish. There is no space for reason.

 

 

 

Brigadier D’hage, in response to my request this morning for a thumbnail sketch of his career, replied: “I also hold an honours degree in theology. It has given me an insight into religion. I went in at one end as a Christian and after eight years of study came out the other ‘of no fixed religion’ but a fan of Shelby Spong (much to the chagrin of some of my lecturers!). I do, however, hold the view that in our search for meaning, each of us should be able to hold (or not hold) a faith of our own choice (my own is anchored in the mountains and the streams – but that is related to my earlier training as a scientist). It would be tragic if in this rush to ‘even the books’ we dragged religion into this – because history shows wars are ugly – wars over religion can be downright horrendous!”

 

Tonight, contributions on the world crisis from: Linda Kerr, Sean Richardson, Don Wigan, John Price, Luke Stegemann, Brendan, Bryan Law

 

Linda Kerr in Hillsborough, NSW

 

I have tried to get my head together and my emotions under control to write this. I am more of a lurker than a contributor, but here goes. I am an avid Webdiary reader, but I was moved to actually write something in the past few weeks, despite feeling painfully inept amongst the quality of regular contributors.

 

The Tampa crisis created in me a fear of my own silence. I felt that to say nothing was dangerous, that if I didn’t speak up I was complicit in the oppression of the already oppressed men, women and children on that boat.

 

In the wake of the attacks on the USA I feel the same fear, but added to that is the fear of the language being used in much of the discussion. Emotional outpourings of grief and anger are completely understandable, but now I think we need to consider every word as potentially dangerous, and in particular, the words used by our national and international leaders.

 

I’m no expert in linguistics, but I started to think about the use of language, not as a cynical exercise in semantics, but rather as an exploration of the language of conflict in this particular context. I think it is time for unambiguous dialogue, a kind of ‘ethical’ use of language, because in valuing our rights of Free Speech we must not forget than words can be as incendiary as bombs.

 

With this in mind, I think it’s time for our leaders to be forced to come out from behind the rhetoric and say it like it is. We all know about politicians’ ability to avoid answering the question. When the answers don’t matter that much to us it’s easy to tolerate bullshit and even have a laugh about it, but those times are over.

 

Every time a politicians refer to ‘queue jumpers’ they should be made to state specifically that they are referring to particular men, women and children. They must not be allowed to dehumanize vulnerable people.

 

In the aftermath of the US atrocities, and given the carte blanche support pledged by our government, there has never been a time when it is more important to scrutinize and question every word uttered by our politicians. John Howard must be asked to specify what supporting the USA really means. Is he part of George W Bush’s ‘crusade’ against terrorism?

What does that mean? A religious war?

 

If the USA attacks Afghanistan, is our government willing to accept civilian casualties? That is to say the deaths of men, women and children who are already victims of the most heinous crimes in their own country?

Would the government label this as ‘collateral damage’. What exactly does that mean? If they support it they must be made to state: ‘Yes, this means we accept that deaths of innocent men, women and children are justified in this conflict.’

 

Does the government consider the attacks on USA as ‘Acts of War’ as opposed to ‘International Criminal Acts’. If so, by what process is this conclusion reached?

 

The West prides itself on its civilization and holds itself up as an example to encourage the third world out of ‘barbarism’. Our government must be asked specific questions about how it intends to deal with the casualties of war and the aftermath.

For example, does this government believe that after using military force, it is acceptable to use sanctions against a country indefinitely, resulting in a death rate for children under five years old from malnutrition, water borne diseases, and treatable childhood diseases to rise from under 9000 per year to over 80,000 per year in the course of one decade? Would this be an uncivilized response from the West? Apparently not when it applies to Iraqi children under five. Why is this?

 

I think the hard questions must be asked and must be answered NOW. I want to know if my 21 year old son would be pledged by this government to fight, if asked by the USA. Alarmist? I wonder if our Vietnam vets think so.

 

Sean Richardson

 

I too received the Tamim Ansary e-mail (see Labor falls into line). There’s some salient points but the military analysis is flawed. Frankly, most people don’t have much of a clue as to what soldiers do, or how they do it.

 

I was going to engage in some Tom Clancy style scenario guessing for the Webdiarists, but I’ve read something today which would shift that from guess work to informed speculation, and I’m not prepared to telegraph any punches, however unlikely it is that Mr Bin Laden is reading this. Suffice to say, the likely members of the coalition have the capability to get into Afghanistan without invading Pakistan, if they do indeed choose to do so.

 

People are scared, which is understandable, but there’s no need to panic. Before Desert Storm, many western journos were putting the wind up the civis by showing footage of Iraq’s “fanatical” population (read “government organised protests”). One I remember well showed an Iraqi man chewing on his arm: “Americans! We eat them!” This illicited what I call the Lionel Hutz Response from the journalist: “Ooooh, they’re gonna win!” Now think of what actually happened. The image to bring to mind is not the smart-bomb slamming into a bunker, it’s the US tank-dozer rolling unmolested along the Iraqi trenches, burying alive any Iraqi soldier not smart enough to turn and run like hell.

 

Of course NATO is predominantly armed and trained for conventional war in the open, and Saddam gave them just the fight they are best at. It would be tougher in Afghanistan. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets by revealing what sort of war it would be: small units of “leg infantry”, hunting down the enemy in the hills, and then attacking or better yet ambushing them. This is exactly the game at which our own grunts are world beaters. The US Army is not so well trained in this sort of stuff, but the US Marine Corps is markedly better, as are the poms. And of course, the surveillance equipment would give them a further massive advantage. Still, infantry fighting is a chancy affair and yes, there would be casualties on our side. Any 12 year old can point an AK-47 and get lucky. But in the end, the operation would be militarily “do-able.”

 

The more important question than tactics is strategy: ie what’s the point? Our problem in Vietnam was that we could only fight the communists in the south, cold war politics making it impossible to invade the north and depose the communist government there.

 

Similarly, the Soviets in Afghanistan had the whole Afghan population against them and no clear end point, and had to go home when they went broke. So the most important point of this conflict is deciding on the mission. If we’ve got the will, it should be an East Timor style mission: destroy the trouble makers, assist in nation building (including a constitution which separates mosque and state), and hold UN supervised free and fair elections, all the while making it clear that the coalition military forces will go home when the Afghan people are free and have a stable government in place. Such a mission would not, it seems to me, cause all out war with the Muslim world. Most of them find Osama and co as worrying as we do.

 

We have no clue if this sort of mission is even envisaged. It may be that the entire response will actually be given over to the “spooks” and daggers in the night. But if the yanks are serious about “war” in the true sense of the word, it would probably pay to change the rhetoric right now.

 

Bush could go some way to addressing John Wojdylo’s concerns about engaging the moderate Islamic world if he started talking about freeing the Afghan people from their oppressors. The fact that he isn’t doing so might indicate that invasion isn’t planned after all.

 

Our grand parents got through worse than this, folks. As they say in the army, dry your eyes and harden up.

 

Don Wigan in Warrnambool, Victoria

 

Since the triumphs of Thatcherism, Reaganomics, Hayak and Friedman twenty-odd years ago we’ve maintained the attitude that the market can do everything for us. There’s no such thing as human values, only market worth.

 

This has cut deep across our communities’ infrastructure and caring capacity. In further education, only MBAs and Law matter now. Humanities and the arts are being wound down as serving no useful purpose. Which is a pity because we desperately need some reflection, analysis and logical reasoning right now. That is their value to our civilisation.

 

If we want to realise the bankruptcy of Thatcherism we only have to look at the spectacular collapses of HIH, One-Tel and Ansett. All worked on the philosophy of lavishly rewarding their senior executives and directors right up to the time of the crashes. The incentives/rewards systems have simply been a pathway to the trough, not of improving company performance.

 

Howard has at least stepped back a little from the brink with his statement that Australian Muslims are law-abiding. But not before he had ignited the flame in the first place (as he did previously with the ‘Aboriginal

Industry’, Pauline Hanson, and Asian immigration).

 

Sadly, Reith and Ruddock have carried on the line that there is a link between our boat people and terrorists. We deserve better.

 

John Price in Melbourne, Australia

 

The current situation is extraordinarily complex but it doesnt hurt to take different cuts through history.

 

From the time of the Industrial Revolution the base energy source turning our wheels of industry has consistently reduced in price, albeit with the occasional hic-up.

 

According to M. A. Adelmans estimate (in the early sixties), the total cost per barrel of oil from the Middle East was 4 to 10 cents against $1.56 for American oil. (Petroleum Press Service, May 1966)

 

Since the US oil industry kept going and didn’t just fold this means the oil companies profited greatly from the Middle East margin, investing in every conceivable oil consuming technology. This is the dynamic that shaped the last fifty years of the 20th century, punctuated by recessions that have always followed oil price hikes.

 

The good side of this observation is that the whole make-money-by-burning-oil equation means that there is an incredible amount of waste in the productive system that can be profitably eliminated, if anyone notices.

 

The bad thing is that, just as no-one seems to have noticed that there is a limited supply of oil on this Earth, no-one will have noticed that there is a clear link between the economy and burning oil.

 

And so the whole house of cards built on the holy dollar will likely collapse.

 

Then we will descend into absolute misery the die off that some expect.

 

It neednt happen but it probably will.

 

GWB hasn’t noticed apparently, that you need oil to fight wars, or that it is plainly stupid to fight wars in countries that you import the stuff from.

 

The US went into WWII as the worlds major supplier of oil. Now, as he is apparently going to take us all like lambs into the next war, the US is the major importer of oil. He doesn’t see the significance of this change.

 

And he hasn’t noticed that President Ford pulled the US out of Vietnam in 1975 after the cost of prosecuting the war went through the roof due to the quadrupling of the oil price, which concurrently induced global recession.

 

If the US is unable to prevent the high-jacking of planes on its own soil and their transformation at low cost into extremely destructive weapons, pray tell how is it going to be able to prevent the blowing up of oil wells, in Iraq or in Libya or Nigeria or Saudi Arabia. It will take considerably more intelligence than is currently on display.

 

Without in any way deprecating American entrepreneurship and ingenuity, its power stems from its command of money and what money can buy. Take away what drives the money making machine and what have you got, impotence, and a serious survival problem.

 

Against all current wisdom, those who survive now with relatively little money will be much better off than those who absolutely depend on it, those of us (in the Free world) whose invisible article of faith is: In Money We Trust

 

Watch the stock-market. Watch the banks.

 

I am a 58 year old PhD (in Physics) who has been tracking the relationship between oil and the economy since working as an Energy consultant in 1974-5. I was a senior bureaucrat in the Victorian State public service before falling victim of the economic rationalist rightsizing fad that flourished in response to the oil induced recession of 1991. I have been a management change consultant since then and know how difficult it is to get those at the top of all our pyramids to have any appreciation of reality. But they are not alone.

 

To sum up my experience, wealth is created by sowing beans, not by counting them. And bean counters have brought us to where we are, following money-based formulas that no longer apply as we pass through this unseen discontinuity.

 

Take Care, and prayers for some display of wisdom at this time could well be in order.

 

Luke Stegemann in Brisbane, Queensland

 

Within hours of the attacks on Washington and New York, Osama bin Laden was being named as a possible suspect. So far, so good; that’s as to be expected in terms of a US government response.

 

As the days passed, there has been a tremendous inevitability about the way in which bin Laden has been constructed as prime suspect, to the point where very few people seem to have any doubts. Our news bulletins are full of comments regarding the growing evidence of the links to bin Laden. But as I hear all this, a very simple question occurs to me again and again: What evidence? We’re told it’s there, but it hasn’t been shown to us, much less proved.

 

If there is so much conclusive evidence that has emerged so quickly that can pinpoint bin Laden’s responsibility, how was it possible that the clues weren’t detected beforehand? What, did all the clues suddenly become apparent only after the attack? If that is the case – and it is barely credible – it doesn’t say much about US counter intelligence capabilities.

 

Furthermore, there’s no doubt that we’re just going to have to take it on faith that the evidence points to bin Laden, because if asked to produce, one imagines US intelligence agencies will no doubt claim that the public production of such evidence would compromise on-going covert operations.

 

How will we ever know what evidence is genuine, what evidence remains hidden, and what evidence is simply manipulated and false? I may be naive, but I smell a rat here. Was anyone other than bin Laden ever going to be blamed for this? The on-going public construction of bin Laden as guilty murderer is following a carefully scripted path.

 

I for one won’t swallow it. Just being told, and asked to accept, that the evidence is there is not enough. Not in a world where the manipulation of truth is one of the finest of arts.

 

Brendan

 

Yes, there will be a war. It will be a long one and it will be called a war against terrorism. Others will frame it in religious or cultural terms and so on. But I think we are at the beginning of a very long conflict which fundamentally will be about reshaping the way resources are distributed in this world.

 

The twenty first century starts now. You can’t have instant, global communications so that everyone is visible to everyone else and at the same time massive and growing inequities in global wealth distribution. Or more specifically, you can’t have some of the poorest people in Asia watching Neighbours on the village television and pretend that this is not going to have them asking questions about the order of things. And no amount of border protection legislation is going to change that reality.

 

Bryan Law in Cairns, Queensland

 

Thank you Rick Pass in The boatpeople and the war for your exposition of U.S. military/foreign policy behaviour. We ought realise that a Crusade Against Terror will sow a terrible crop of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and inevitably create more terror.

 

No thanks to John Wojdylo in Terror unlike movies for illustrating a U.S. Military/Foreign policy sequence that could ignite a bitter regional war, along with escalating world-wide terror. It’s possible, of course. But John I found your “mad plan of the mad bomber” and the “fanatic nihilists” rhetoric too overblown, and not as sensitive to the currents of history as you most times are. Perhaps it’s the fear.

 

Now is the time for thinking and action aimed at achieving genuine security. The best thing I’ve read recently comes from Tim Jackins, who is leader of the International Re-evaluation Counselling Communities. (This is an emerging global organisation with a theory and practise on human emancipation.) Tim is a U.S. citizen and resident, and Re-evaluation Counselling has many communities there.

 

One thing I really like about his statement comes towards the end: ” We must develop policies that end poverty and oppression everywhere and for everyone. We have both the intelligence to develop these policies and the resources to carry them out.” Simple truths, but how rarely we hear them spoken in these times. Enough from me, here’s Tim:

 

 

“The government of the U.S., other governments, and much of the media are making statements aimed at generating support for policies of revenge. This is to be expected in these circumstances, but can and must be actively opposed if we are to end, throughout the world, the likelihood of such attacks continuing to happen.

 

“The destruction of the persons responsible for the terrorist acts will not make us safe. The military punishment of small countries with any connection to the terrorists will not make us safe. We can easily understand the feelings that lead in these directions, indeed we may have some of these feelings ourselves. We know, though, that these feelings must not be acted upon, instead we must find intelligent policies and solutions that will actually move us and the world forward.

 

“Desperate, destructive, irrational acts of terrorism are done by people who have been terribly hurt by the conditions in which they have had to exist. The conditions of life for a large fraction of the world’s population remain so very desperate, as they have been for generations, that some of the minds of those who endure those conditions simply lose their sense of humanity.

 

“As long as these desperately poor, dangerously unhealthy and oppressive conditions exist for any people in the world, we all will be in danger of someone’s irrational acts of violence. Finding and killing those who have committed terrorist acts will stop those individuals but it will not stop more people from the suffering that creates such individuals.

 

“We must develop policies that end poverty and oppression everywhere and for everyone. We have both the intelligence to develop these policies and the resources to carry them out. We, together, must actively develop and pursue policies that will value every person, no matter where they live, no matter what their religion, race, or nationality is. This is something that we are capable of, but we must give up the well-established pattern of life that has had sections of the world’s populations benefiting from the enforced poverty of others. We humans have developed enough resources so that no one needs to live in poverty. That can never provide security. There is enough for all of us.”

The boatpeople and the war

The boat people. The war. The threads between the two grow more tangled.

 

The saddest moment in Canberra for me today was Phillip Ruddock explaining why he would introduce mandatory detention in federal law for the first time. The Indonesian people who bring in the boats, the people smugglers, no matter their stories or their circumstances, will now spend a minimum of three years in jail if convicted. At the moment, Ruddock said, the Courts were imposing a two year sentence for a first offence, with one year spent in jail on average after remissions. You know what? They got dental and medical treatment in jail, and they went back to Indonesia happy. Horrible. The assault on our values and principles – the discriminating against the poor of other colours and cultures gathers pace.

 

There would be some decency in the government’s stand if they cracked down on boat people and increased the numbers of Afghani refugees accepted from the millions in camps in Iran and Pakistan. But no. And what will we do when the war begins, and millions more flee in terror?

 

Oh yes, Howard says we’re all global citizens now, and we need international agreements to fix the terror. At the same time we rip up our obligations under the refugee convention, and officially demonise the boat people refugees as terrorists while the government piously denies it’s fermenting racial and religious antipathy and Howard urges us to respect our fellow Arab Australians.

 

Who cares. The latest Morgan poll shows Howard romping in with 60 percent of the two party preferred vote.

 

Tonight, contributors on boat people are: Cathy Bannister, Noel Hadjimichael, Mark Weegan, Bob Brown, Bhavika Haviez, Ivana Bottini, Michael Walton

 

Contributors on ‘The Crusade’ and its consequences are: Darren Tucker, Paul Walter, Richard Lawrence, Angela Sands, Hugh Wilson, Colin Hubert, John Stickle, Bradley Ryan, Bhautik Joshi, Andrew Fenney-Walch, Rick Pass, David eastwood, Ryan F Gunawan

 

BOAT PEOPLE

 

Cathy Bannister

 

There is an ongoing local tragedy of almost the same scale now as that in New York. Rust buckets of boats sink at alarming rates in the oceans between Indonesia and Christmas Island. The latest we heard about held 500 people.

 

Imagine yourself on a crowded deck when you hear the cracks and groans of fatigued metal, screams, holding your children close, watching people jump and try to swim for it. Knowing you are about to die. Not being able to do a damn thing about it. Drowning is painful.

 

Which organisation is responsible for so many deaths in the seas to our north? Our government, and that of Indonesia.

 

When a ship like this sinks, the children are the most likely to die. I’ve heard of babies being dropped in and drowning, children dying of disease en route.

 

If the government really wanted to bankrupt the illegal immigration business, they should open a refugee processing centre in Indonesia (or Christmas Island, but provide safe transport from Indonesia), and charge $AUD 20K for processing, with say, $10 K refundable if they are found to be genuine. Then, it would put the people smugglers out of business, mainly only genuine refugees would apply and it would fund a nice industry on Christmas Island which is struggling after losing the mining industry.

 

There are probably some practicalities that would need ironing out (i.e. buying off the UNHCR when they get wind of it). Of course it is reprehensible asking for that amount of money from refugees, but it is better than letting them drown, and better than what the government is doing now.

 

More than the scale of the New York tragedy, what scares me is that it signals a 180 degree turn around in the progress of Western society. We are being sucked back. Right now, more than ever, people who don’t want to see the return of the White Australia policy, who value this multicultural society, should do everything in their power to make sure that there is a reasonable voice heard.

 

If Australia wanted to find people with knowledge about the region and culture, who hate the Taliban, who can help with the fight, they need look no further than Afghan refugees. We shouldn’t waste this resource.

 

I still say people should join a party. Lobby groups can only go so far, but they would have to pick up on something enormous to not be ignored. There are a million little lobby groups trying their best to draw attention to something, doing stuff all, or having only limited effect. The powers that be chose only to listen to groups they already agree with (One Nation). Obviously it helps if you own a media conglomerate.

 

I’m not talking becoming part of the grass roots. I’m talking branch stacking with similar minded people. I’m talking subterfuge. I’m talking, moving to Canberra and cosying up to the back benchers and midbenchers. I’m talking people with manipulative skills, person skills, and a CONSCIENCE getting in there and pressing the flesh. That’s how you do it.

 

Noel Hadjimichael

 

Labor has bowed to the reality that the vast majority of electors, particularly in regional/rural zones, have a fear of the border protection issues raised by the Tampa.

 

Outside the Canberra/Inner Sydney/Inner Melbourne triangle of political power, the ordinary Australians are worried by the prospect of being “swamped”.

 

In a globalised world the elite can always leave their country of birth. Those of us who are not global players will be left to fight it out with the stream of worthy but poor asylum seekers.

 

The truth hurts.

 

Mark Weegen

 

I hope you don’t class yourself as an objective journalist because you have demonstrated over the past couple of weeks that you are not at all objective. Regarding the Government and the Federal court, I totally accept the Government’s position and believe that it is not the Federal Court’s place to interpret the law according to their personal beliefs. I’m glad the full bench saw fit to reverse this decision before allowing more money to be wasted in the High Court.

 

If, as you say, the reversal of a court’s decision by the government is a “nail in the coffin of the rule of law” then you surely don’t believe in a true democracy. We elect the Government to do a job, if we don’t like the job they are doing, we express our opinion via the ballet box. Laws are made and are changed on a regular basis because society is constantly changing. Governments are there to reflect the will of the majority of people. I’m sorry that in this instance, you are not part of the majority.

 

Greens Senator Bob Brown, statement

 

Mr Beazley, who yesterday criticized Mr Howard for making legislation on the run, is today running with him, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

 

Senator Brown condemned the Howard Government’s new package of bills to deter asylum seekers because it:

* removes access to the courts (High Court excepted now)

* introduces mandatory sentencing for the first time into federal legislation

* gives the minister power to regulate to excise from law all Australian islands – including Tasmania

* makes retrospective any illegal action under Mr Ruddock’s direction since the Tampa incident began last month.

 

“These bills involve fundamental changes to the time-honoured basis of law in Australia. They deserve scrutiny by the legal profession and public before parliament decides.

 

“I will seek to refer the bills to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee to look at over the next 3 weeks, minimum.

 

“It is appalling that Labor has collapsed into timid bipartisanship with Mr Howard over this issue because an election is imminent,” Senator Brown said.

 

Bhavika Haviez

 

I want to comment on the people we so generically refer to as “boat people”. Who can blame them for trying to come to Australia – our country is a pretty nice place. But on the other hand there are many other ways to get here.

 

People must have urgent needs if they are willing to come and travel on a boat to Aus, and if I were them I probably wouldn’t be saying this, but practically speaking it’s just not right.

 

If there are problems in their own country they are trying to get away from, running away from problems cannot be the only option. I think Australia has done a lot for refugees in the past, and should stand up and not let other countries criticise it in regards to this incident.

 

Ivana Bottini in France

 

I’ve just sat and read through all these emotional issues raised by John Howard’s refusal to allow the people on the Tampa to reach Australia. The first thing I have to say is that really most Australians are being harsh with themselves over this issue.

 

For a start you should forget how the foreign press has portrayed Australia as a result of what happened. Remember that the foreign press can be every bit as intellectually dishonest as the Australian press, and then some. If you are going to react to selective reporting and misreporting of the facts overseas then it will be very difficult to come up with a decent Australian response to what is an increasingly important global issue.

 

Although it probably isn’t reported in Australia, most of the Europeans I’ve talked to don’t want more refugees and aren’t particularly happy with the immigrants who are already here. That attitude is widespread even in countries like Italy which has provided millions of ECONOMIC immigrants to the rest of the world in recent history and hasn’t even come to terms with it’s own INTERNAL immigration, let alone come up with a decent policy on foreign immigration. Remember the Italian answer to Pauline Hanson is a guy called Umberto Bossi who basically thinks that Italians from the south are lazy scum and that the North should secede, this from a man who spent most of his life under-employed and supported by his Sicilian wife. Hanson is downright cosmopolitan and fair-minded in comparison.

 

And there are ignorant and vocal racist politicians in France, the likes of which are just unthinkable in Australia. For the most part people in Europe take the view that they don’t want immigrants at all, thank you very much, and countries like Australia should take them instead: first, because it’s a large country and second, because it’s a long way from Europe. This attitude goes a long way to explaining the foreign criticism of Australia over Tampa.

 

So perhaps there should be a little less hair-pulling and breast-beating in Australia and a little perspective. I’m sure Australia hasn’t handled recent problems perfectly but I’m also completely sure that Australia is a long way out in front in terms of dealing with immigration fairly and coming up with a coherent and decent immigration policy.

 

Michael Walton in Newtown, Sydney

 

We have all been horrified by the recent tragic events in the US, but back here in Australia this week Parliament debates several important pieces of legislation to which we need to turn our attention. The issues are shaping as a battle between national rights and human rights. The issues include the detention of asylum seekers and alarming attempts to deny refugees access to Australian territory and law.

 

From the outset, to ensure that there is no misunderstanding, it is appropriate to begin with two explicit and timely reminders. The first is that there is a fundamental difference between a refugee, who is fleeing persecution, and a migrant, who is seeking a better life. It is also necessary to remember that Australia has a proud history of accepting both migrants and refugees in to this country.

 

With these thoughts in mind, a brief review of Australias official humanitarian policy will prove instructive. That humanitarian policy deals with refugees and, of course, should never be confused with our immigration policy, which, as the name suggests, deals with migrants.

 

Current government policy imposes a total quota of 12,000 refugees on the humanitarian programme. It should be noted that this figure of 12,000 is not an absolute figure: places not used in one year can be rolled over into the next. For example, an extra 3,000 unused places from last years programme have been rolled into this years onshore programme.

 

4,000 of the official 12,000 places are reserved for the resettlement of offshore refugees. These are the refugees with which Australians are most familiar. They are the refugees who, it is claimed in the vernacular, wait patiently in the queue. The queue is administered by the UNHCR and is located offshore in its refugee camps around the world.

 

Another 4,000 places are reserved for the Special Humanitarian programme. Again, refugees access this programme from offshore and must be fleeing persecution to qualify. In addition, they must also be able to prove links with Australia, and have Australian sponsors.

 

To re-iterate: a full two-thirds of Australias refugee intake consists of offshore applicants, who come to us predominately on referral from the UNHCR or sponsored by Australians themselves.

 

It is on the remaining quota of 4,000 that I now want to concentrate. One-third of the humanitarian programme is reserved for onshore applicants, also known as asylum seekers. During the recent debate, it became clear to me that most Australians do not understand the nature of this category of refugee, or the basis of its legitimacy.

 

Asylum seekers do not, by definition, apply to the UNHCR. They apply for refugee status onshore. They arrive in a country, either with or without authorisation, by whatever means available to them, present themselves to local authorities and ask for asylum. Under international law this is a legitimate way of seeking refugee status. And if it were not, would the government and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs devote a full one-third of the total refugee programme to an illegitimate category?

 

In other words, it is perfectly legal to seek access to the onshore humanitarian programme, even if entry is unauthorised. It is not a crime to seek asylum. In fact it is a fundamental human right contained in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

It follows from this that we cannot call an asylum seeker who is assessed to be a genuine refugee (the procedure of assessment being rightfully the province of trained on-site government officials, not distant media personalities and armchair judges) a criminal, we cannot label them as illegal because they have committed no crime. They have simply sought refuge from persecution: they are refugees.

 

That most Australians do not understand the nature of this category of refugee is made obvious by the ill-considered repetition of the taunt queue jumper. That phrase has been finely crafted to outrage our sense of a fair-go, to manipulate our egalitarian instincts. But to apply that phrase to asylum seekers is both ridiculous and ill-informed.

 

Why? Because, when making an onshore application for refugee status, it is a precondition that the asylum seeker be onshore. Or to put it as simply as I can: it is impossible to access the onshore humanitarian programme from offshore, for example from a UNHCR camp, because the queue for the onshore programme is onshore. When it comes to the process of seeking asylum, there is no question of jumping queues, but rather of joining them onshore. How else can you join the onshore programme?

 

In fact, in the case of the MV Tampa, what this government did was to prevent asylum seekers from joining the queue. The asylum seekers were prevented from getting anywhere near the queue which, to add insult to injury, they were accused of having jumped.

 

Even if only one of the asylum seekers on a boat proves to be a genuine refugee, then we are legally and morally bound to identify that individual and offer them sanctuary. Of course, the ratio of genuine refugees per boat is much higher than just one per vessel. By the governments own figures more than 80% of the current wave of boat people are genuine refugees. This makes it even more imperative that we recognise and fulfil our international obligations under the Convention for the Status of Refugees (1951) and our moral obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

Over the past few weeks, I have heard people say that we should withdraw from the Convention on the Status of Refugees (1951) and the associated Protocol of 1967. Are these same people seriously suggesting that we renounce the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well? Are we to ignore human rights when it suits us or our ends?

 

It should also be said that Australia, under international law, has every right to return non-genuine cases to their countries of origin. These people would also come under the UN Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (2000). That is, they would come under that Protocol if this government had signed it which it has not. This raises the valid question of this governments commitment, despite its rhetoric, to the global response to people smuggling. What could the Australian government possibly be objecting to when countries which have already signed the Protocol include the US, New Zealand, Canada and the EU? Could it possibly be because the Protocol makes a clear distinction between genuine refugees seeking asylum from persecution and illegal migrants?

 

Over the past few years the present government has deliberately set out to confuse, in the minds of the Australian public, the category of offshore refugees with the equally legitimate category of onshore asylum seekers. The government has also made no attempt to correct the widespread misconception that refugees are migrants. This feeds the popular belief that asylum seekers are illegal immigrants. Just like the phrase queue jumpers this description is, upon closer examination, simply ridiculous and ill-informed: to seek asylum is not illegal; and refugees are not immigrants. I call on the Prime Minister and Minister Ruddock to stop using these inaccurate and inflammatory phrases.

 

So if seeking asylum is neither illegal or an act of queue jumping, we, as a nation, have some rather serious questions to answer. Why did we violate the fundamental human rights of the asylum seekers rescued by the MV Tampa? Why did we deny them the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution (Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)?

 

Why is the government, through proposed changes to Australias Migration Zones, seeking to further restrict access to the onshore humanitarian programme?

 

Why is the federal government seeking to pass amendments to the Migration Act which would deny asylum seekers access to the courts, when such an act clearly violates the asylum seekers rights as refugees and as human beings? Specifically:

 

A refugee shall have free access to the courts of law on the territory of all Contracting States (Article 16, Convention for the Status of Refugees (1951)).

 

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law (Article 6, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

 

And the most damning question of all: why is the Commonwealth government depriving asylum seekers of their liberty, behind barbed-wire fences, in detention centres which are closed to the public and the scrutiny of the media, when these people have committed no crime, when they seek only to exercise their fundamental human right to seek asylum from persecution under Article 14 of the Declaration? A short period of detention to run medical and other initial checks is reasonable, but beyond this the deprivation of liberty is a serious violation of fundamental human rights.

 

When we deprive asylum seekers of their liberty in these camps, we set aside a part of humanity and say to them: human rights do not apply to you. This is as morally confused as slaveholders proclaiming that all people are created equal.

 

We have also seen in this country a shameless frontal attack on the principles of liberal democracy in the form of the governments failed Border Protection Bill (2001). That Bill sought to grant the Prime Minister extraordinary and unconstitutional executive powers: in spite of any other law and without being accountable to the courts for his actions. This was an invitation to tyranny; if not to this government, then perhaps to a future one. It seriously brings into question this governments understanding and commitment to some of the fundamental principles of liberal democracy: the separation of powers and the rule of law.

 

That these things can happen today in Australia seems incredible. I can only put it down to the fact that the noblest aspirations of humanity, set down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are no longer read and studied in our schools, our homes and our parliaments.

 

I call on all Australians to reaffirm their commitment to the principles espoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the values of our liberal democratic tradition. And, as a part of this reaffirmation, I ask you to accept that amongst those landing on our shores are genuine refugees, people fleeing persecution, oppression and unimaginable violence. We must acknowledge and honour the humanity we share, offer these refugees sanctuary, give them all the assistance they require and stop depriving them of their freedom.

 

THE ‘CRUSADE’

 

Darren Tucker

 

What was all that noise?

that burning and crashing

Was that just lightning?

Now hear the sirens

See the lights flashing

All looked to sky

and what did they saw

Filled hearts with fear

And held heads in awe.

What was just there and now is no more

Now theres a great big bruise on the apple

Below life goes on helpers theres ample

Tomorrow we remember

but its like its not happened

All we see are those people clappin

How can we ever forgive those who ransom

Brand our mothers and sisters as whores

Burn our flags and chant down all we stand for

When we know that freedoms the cause

Look at the news those people wear sandals

Laying flowers at alters and then burning candles

The doors are all locked

but they havent got handles

Everyones seeing

but nobodys listening

When he died on the cross

they were too busy Christening

They didnt hear then

and they won’t listen now

Its too long ago

We are way past the plough.

Before the blood runs thick in the gutters

Before killing and hatreds all that matters

We need just to stop and think about others

Treat them just like our sisters and brothers

So they say that freedoms the cause

But while god shakes his head

The devil applauds.

We know all to well that bloods not the answer

but what do we do if not kill

were all taught to love one another

guess the lessons too difficult still.

 

Paul Walter

 

Wow, amazing! Four issues of Webdiary in one evening! Most haunting for me was D. Griffin in Hot words, cool heads and poetry, who allowed me a sense of the reality of what it must have been, and presumably continues to be like in New York, that no TV report has come close to allowing. Funny how print succeeded there, in giving a such a deep impression of the shock and the grief, the realisation of this as a also a vast, deeply “human” tragic situation. I also felt sorry for Farhad Haidari in the same entry. Sad that.

 

I note the usual nasty tendencies toward essentialisation and reduction occurring. If you’re sceptical or perturbed with what you see as contributing factors in the lead-up to this you must be a blood-sucking sadist with an unslakeable thirst for vengeance against American people.Then there is the idea now beginning to circulate that this thing somehow shrinks from its complicated historical global roots to only involving dimple-jawed white heroes versus sinister bods in turbans.

 

Sad to see Paddy McGuinness getting so unscrupulously involved with the situation,too.As it happens, Paddy, I’ve been a little sceptical about the boat-people problem too, if only for what it reveals about global responses to global problems(or the lack of any) and the lack of any attempt to see where these problems have come from.

 

But it is low of you and people like Peter Reith to use this situation to launch slimy attacks on genuine people who are only trying to make sense of this; using ethnic difference as a “stalking horse” in the furtherance of unnamed malevolent agendas. In the furtherance of such as these, the Jewish people, for example, were all but obliterated 60 years ago.

 

Perhaps the most disappointing remark of all so far came from American Reba L. Chappell in the same entry that Australians owed the US for their freedom from World WarII, and we would be obliged evermore to, accept unthinkingly anything that happens in the world on the basis of Conservative American explanations of those events, without even scant consideration for any varying interpretation to the one offered.

 

Sorry, no, Reba. I’ll do my own thinking thank you.

 

Aussies and Statesiders are,on the whole, good friends.We understand each other; as with Aussies and Kiwis, or British people, as members of a common civilisation, as well as a wider global culture. If people think about it, however, about it for a moment they will remember that the US was involved in that Pacific War first and foremost to defend IT’S OWN INTERESTS; it just so happened that we were “heading in the same direction”, so to speak, and we made common cause (as we have often since) But when something as critical as this has occurred we MUST try to think a little more deeply about underlying issues, even if there is a little discomfort involved.

 

Things possibly overlooked in the interim must be revealed, and an apportionate penalty for our tardiness in this WILL be a threat to civilisation of a most perilous kind!

 

Richard Lawrence in Sydney

 

Several commentators (eg Gay Alcorn and Robert Fisk) are demonstrating the historical links between US covert operations of the 80’s and 90’s and the organisations which spawned the perpetrators of the September 11 atrocities. Since Bush Jr’s controllers are the same people who fronted these operations (Bush Sr., Cheney, Rumsfeld etc), I’m intrigued by the way that the Republican Old Guard currently in power in the US are playing the question of responsibility.

 

Training and abandonment by the CIA is a potent generator of fanatical resentment for those who grew up learning from betrayed mentors. The Bay of Pigs probably contributed to Kennedy’s fate.

 

Ultimately, the chain of causation for Sep 11 leads back from the fanatics to the foreign policy failures of the old men who ran (and still run) the US. I cannot see them taking the Northern Ireland option of sitting down and talking with the communities that support the fanatics – too much risk of the truth about the old men’s wild oats getting back to the heartland.

 

I suspect that spending an amount similar to that being lavished on the military options on basic aid (like food) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza and Iran, would buy far more protection than any revenge attack, but it isn’t going to happen. Never underestimate the power of old men’s guilt – or their capacity to cover their arses.

 

Angela Sands

 

Can we have compassion AND security?

 

Can we have a strong distaste, a gutchurning horror about about the terrible deeds of despairing fanatics, and a determination not to go down their track?

 

Can we observe the mean, dirty, choices of fanatics and coolly plan an intellegent defence, a powerful undercover system of identifying the the would be wreckers of civilisation without joining in vengeful wrecking?

 

Can we see beyond the blinding rage of being hurt to perceive the situation as-it-is in its full interdependent context and confront our own disastrous choices.( For those who have forgotten: the arming and training of the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein by the US and England!)

 

Can we, having seen, have the courage, wisdom and competence to change this disastrous situation before we sit, not just in the smoking ruins of NY but all the urban centres of this lovely planet?

 

Can we have vision and might? Take the difficult road without the comfort of knee jerks?

 

It is no longer possible to behave like a set of warring tribes because these tribes are armed with technologically perfected weapons of mass destruction. Our happiness and tragedies are now inextricably entwined and we can only take the enemy down by taking our friends and lovers and sons and daughters down as well.

 

This is the task of this time. This is the best of and the worst of times. It is also the only time.I pray we are up to it.

 

Hugh Wilson in Toowoomba, Queensland

 

Onward Christian soooooldiers,

marching as to war,

with new cru-sades before us,

more tech-ni-cal thaaaan before.

 

Well, if ever I had a doubt about the path this event may take in Australia all hope faded when I watched Kim Beazley and our PM immersing themselves so thoroughly in the religiosity of it all at the parliamentary service.

 

Not bad for a couple of community leaders in a secular, multi-cultural state is it?

 

Following this new found demonstration of Australian unity-in-faith was the terrible address by the American ambassador to Australia, repeated almost rote-like on ABC Lateline on Monday night.

 

Now, I don’t know about other viewers but I thought Tony Jones was very generous when this representative of the free world, – freedom, democracy, rule of law – said that as far as he was concerned the only court the USA had to appeal to was the ‘Court of World Opinion’ and the only evidence required was a general weight of probability supporting the US view.

 

Where the time to reflect on how rapidly evidence is ‘appearing’ in this investigation after such complete and utter silence and secrecy, apparently for years? What, no questions at the width of the broad path leading to Afghanistan? No doubts as to motive, even if the conclusion proves to be correct?

 

How different, how more responsible, how more reflective, how less destructive, was the Geoffrey Robertson approach of declaring the aeroplane destruction to be a ‘crime against humanity’ and going to The Hague for resolution?

 

Robertson’s suggestion is not appeasement- this approach is the only one that measures up to the rhetoric of ‘rule of law’ talk.

 

Nailing the crescent to the cross is not any sort of answer- the blood drips on those who stand below marking them just as much ‘beast’ as those they seek to destroy.

 

Colin Hubert in Glebe, Sydney

 

People everywhere are saying that war is inevitable. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. It seems a bad word to use – ‘inevitable’. The weather is inevitable. The occasional earthquake is inevitable. Sunshine is inevitable. Night is inevitable. The wind is inevitable. The moon will go through its inevitable cycles.

 

But war is not inevitable. We don’t have to have war. War will happen because people want to make war. It is important to keep in mind that war is a human event. War happens with us, not without us. Without us,

there can be no war.

 

The people who have demonstrated the most intense longing for war are those 19 men who prepared so elaborately, and sacrificed their own lives, to do this thing. They want war. Do we have to give them what they want?

 

They were not the first people to do this. They were not even the only ones to do this in living memory. But they were the first to do this to America, and they did it bloody well.

 

John Stickle in Daglish, Western Australia

 

Now that people in the Pentagon have become actual victims of collateral damage”, I hope that abominable euphemism is eradicated from the lexicon of military operations.

 

Bradley Ryan in Singapore

 

I once overheard a Muslim man in Australia comment that the U.S.A were imperialists and arrogant $%*@#. The words themselves did not alarm me, but the way that these words were spat-out in anger did. To hear someone voice their deep resentment for the United States in such a manner was certainly alarming. I couldn’t help but think that this man, could be a possible threat to the United States as well as our country. I don’t believe that Non-Muslim Australians should hate or discriminate against Muslim people as the vast majority of them are harmless people. However, I do believe that Australians should be aware that there are some extremist elements associated with the Islamic religion. These extremist elements do pose a threat to any country in which they exist, including potentially Australia.

 

The links with Germany of some of the alleged terrorists associated with last tuesday’s attacks, I hope, reminds our Australian immigration officials to vigilantly screen all people before they are allowed to visit, stay or settle in Australia. Further, I also sincerely hope that the Australian intelligence and security agencies now take seriously the possibility of terrorist groups having members currently in Australia, just as it appeared the case in Germany.

 

Bhautik Joshi in Sydney

 

Minutes ago I just read there was a racist attack on an Afghanistani taxi driver in London. Go see:

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid-1548000/1548981.stm

 

He was hit with a bottle, and kicked while on the ground – now he is paralysed from the neck down.

 

And then there is the case of the Sikh petrol station attendant, who was shot and killed in Arizona. His only crime was to wear a turban and *look* middle-eastern! Go see:

 

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/breaking/0917attacks-hate17.html

 

How many zealots and xenephobes around the world are going to take the law into their own hands? How many more ordinary, innocent people are going to get injured or killed? I’ll admit, London is worse than most – I’m of Indian descent, and I grew up there, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience – but how long is it going to be before something similar happens in Sydney?

 

The talkback cowboys (and cowgirls, let’s be fair) are within their rights to rant all they like with their anti-Islam comments, but how far are they from inciting some brainless idiot bringing harm to an innocent in the name of freedom’?

 

Sorry to rant, but from where I stand, this seems to be a growing trend. I sincerely hope that its just me being paranoid and it isn’t actually a reality.

 

Andrew Fenney-Walch in Lower Longley, Tasmania

 

I can understand the desire to hurt/punish/kill someone after a criminal/violent act against yourself/family/friends/etc. It’s a very human reaction, a completely gut reaction with not much thought. I have had that desire to hurt someone else due to fear for my self and family. Most recently, I walked into my kitchen from the study at midnight to find a man not known to me standing there facing away from me. My first thought was to grab something solid and hit him over the head with no warning so he couldn’t hurt me or my family (all asleep at the time) but sanity returned, I was a lot bigger then he and the police were called.

 

When I turned on the TV last Tuesday night just in time to see a jet liner fly into an already smoking world landmark I went cold. One of my first thoughts was that this will really piss off the americans and when they find out who did this they will nuke them. Initially I didn’t feel that I could argue with that sort of reaction because:

 

a. It was what my reaction would have been

b. The terrorists would have known the sort of reaction they would get

c. It was justified under “an eye for an eye …”

d. They will be afraid of being seen to be weak

 

However, what will this achieve? The terrorists don’t care that the reaction may result in their family and friends death’s by bombing or military actions. That happens already. They are used to being locked up, starved, shot at, bombed, deprived, poor and picked on. They already think that the rest of the world wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire. How is “retaliatory action” going to scare them. The lives they lead we wouldn’t subject a stray dog to.

 

Ask Israel if they’re succeeding.

 

All it will achieve is to verify their view of the world.

 

The organisers of the attack should be punished but some thought needs to go into how to do this.

 

It was inevitable that an attack on USA would occur and the size of the attack is not that unpredictable. Think of all those action movies and political thriller books that portrayed a similar level of terrorist attack on the USA. The Superbowl has been nuked, blown up many times with 100,000 plus people in it. The Congress has been hit with a jumbo jet. Terrorist have laid siege to various US cities. Why would all these stories have the same theme unless America itself was aware of the hatred and wished for violence aimed at it. Is it possible that the movies/stories actually contributed to the scene that was set last Tuesday?

 

Given the life they have led and the stereotype they have been fitted into is it a surprise that someone has followed it all through to its horrific conclusion? And do we need the USA pushing the rest of the world to complete the cycle true to its stereotype and get it rolling faster and faster?

 

Rick Pass

 

There are so many issues swirling around the US attack that you could spend all day trying to counter much of the misinformation and prejudice that you encounter.

 

I guess the thing that bugs me the most is the inherent racism that I see in much of the commentary and debate. I don’t mean the blatant Alf Garnett type of bigotry. I mean a more subtle form which is displayed by even the most well meaning and sincere people. It’s a type of racism that says that the things that we perpetrate against brown/black people are somehow less pernicious than acts committed by them against us. It’s the thought that the death of a baby in the third world is less shocking than the death of one in the first. Like mothers in other parts of the world don’t mourn their children.

 

It’s the idea that what we in the West do, we do with the best of intentions, holding true to the principles of ‘virtue and honour and dignity’ as the US Ambassador has just said in my ear. Andreas Perdana in Hot words, cool heads and poetry

wrote that when the Americans fight wars they may kill civilians as collateral damage but that they do not deliberately target them, otherwise they would have nuked Tokyo and not Hiroshima.

 

In fact the Americans did target Tokyo with an attack using incendiary bombs designed to ignite the thin paper and wooden houses. The firestorm that swept Tokyo killed more people than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. That was why they didn’t target Tokyo with atom bombs. There was nothing left to destroy. For maximum effect and for research purposes the US chose cities which were relatively untouched and the reason that they were untouched was because they had no military value. (The British and Australians carried out the same kind of incendiary attack at Dresden.)

 

During the Vietnam War Nixon and Kissinger extended the bombing campaign into Cambodia in order to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Cambodia was a neutral country and the US executive acted without Congressional approval. In order to disguise this illegal and unconstitutional campaign the B-52 pilots were made to falsify their logs to show that they were bombings inside Vietnam.

 

At the beginning of the bombing there was a small and marginal resistance group in Cambodia which had very little popular appeal as compared to the much respected Royal family. By the time the bombing was finished the CIA estimated that 600 000 Cambodian civilians had been killed- about 10% of the population- Cambodian cities had swollen to gross and unsustainable proportions and the marginal resistance group had transformed into what the world came to know as the Khmer Rouge. The prerequisites for an appalling tragedy had been put in place. That is why commentators like Greg Sheridan always speak of Cambodian history beginning in 1975. They don’t want to admit what came before.

 

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. If we are to make any allowance then we must judge ourselves to be more culpable than a poor peasant in Afghanistan. We live in a country where we do have some power to influence the actions of our governments. We, as citizens of ‘democracies’, have no excuse when our governments commit act of barbarity. Unlike those who live under dictatorships, and often put us to shame with their brave struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights, we must take full responsibility for the actions of our governments.

 

David Eastwood in Sydney

 

Dean James’s critique of islam (see Clamour of discordant voices) in which he lists a wide range of atrocities focuses on a religious slant and suggests religious intolerance is inherent to islam. This view overlooks the economic realities of the islamic world.

 

For the most part, militant islam draws its power from a range of economically backward, non-democratic societies. Most of the terrorism seems born of these backwaters.

 

In such places, where poorly informed, fragmented and uneducated masses are ruled by despots or corrupt elites perpetuating religious, tribal and other legacy power structures it is easy to imagine extremism taking hold and being used as a tool of political advancement by fanatics, or indeed by the state where the two coincide.

 

Ironically, backwardness affords these fanatics far more effective use of modern tools of control and subjugation to perpetuate their strength than can fanatics operating in modern democracies. It’s getting harder and harder to stage a revolution while state control holds.

 

Islamic activism and terrorism is not so evident in mature democracies where islamic communities live in relative harmony, with perhaps the occasional intercommunity squabbles. Similarly, relatively advanced islamic countries such as Turkey and Malaysia demonstrate less religious intolerance and seem much more at ease with the rest of the world.

 

Is it possible that Islam is a troubled teenager? Perhaps a faith that is still developing and cementing its place in the world, trying to work itself out and fighting to be heard? Islam is a relatively young religion, not yet divorced from political power as Christianity has become. At the age Islam is now, Christianity exhibited much of the barbarism non-Muslims see in fundamentalist Islam now.

 

What were the crusades all about? The conquests? The inquisition? How much equality and what rights had christian women in those ancient ages? How much state sponsored terrorism and killing took place under the banner of christianity in those times?

 

Ryan F. Gunawan in Sydney

 

I have a faith .. and I hope you do too!

 

The tragedy that rocked the world,

has rocked my faith in humanity.

What was worse than thousands of people died in vain,

What was worse than thousands more watched in horror,

as the man-made flying machines filled with civilians,

mothers and fathers and children,

men and women,

old and young,

Caucasians and Blacks and Asians and more,

Christians and Jews and Moslem and more,

used as living missiles to destroy lives

for a sense of purpose held by a very few

What worse than these was that …

all of us,

every single of us,

were guilty of losing our faith in humanity.

Unforgiving racists attacks against everybody with

Moslem or Arab-Middle Eastern background took place

everywhere.. from America all the way to Australia.

Equally distasteful excuses that America deserves the

tragedy cluttered newsgroups, emails, talkback radios

everywhere.. from the Middle East all the way to

Indonesia.

Such a shame !

Are we forgetting what really matters ?

The thousand of lives lost in NYC and Washington DC

will be a miniscule compared with the potential

loss of lives if every single one of us

let our anger

let our hatred

let our bigotry

let our craving for revenge

rule us

blind us

from what makes us human..

Love, Compassion, Forgiveness,

Sense of Justice (and not revenge !)

.. and most of all Tolerance.

I pray to my GOD that something good will

come out this terrible tragedy.

.. and I hope you do too.

I have a faith that we will come back to

what makes us human.

.. and I hope you do too.

Are we heading to a point of no return

Mike Woods

 

 

Tall trees blooming

bright & terrible

Flowers falling

Grief the only harvest

Emails keep flowing in. Reader Sue Jenner recommends http://www.stratfor.com/, usually a pay site, but free post the bombing. “Their perspectives are quite different to what we are hearing from the media and various governments,” she says.

 

Today, contributors on the big picture are: David Davis, Tony Clayton, an Australian in New York City, Don Williams, KC Lee, Devindar Samra, Greg Newbury.

 

Then, Sean Richardson and our regular media watch columnist Jack Robertson comment on media matters.

 

David Davis, an Australian in Switzerland

 

I lived in Kansas City, Missouri for two years and count a number of Americans amongst my closest friends, one of whom works in Lower Manhattan.

 

I had a teacher at school who used to praise us for the “sense of occasion” he thought we had. At the time, I thought it was an unusual compliment. Later in life I have come to understand it.

 

I, for one, will not be joining any debate on whether or not America must take “some responsibility for” last Tuesday’s carnage of innocents.

 

What a pathetic debate.

 

Tony Clayton of Sydney, in New York City

 

I am a Sydneysider living in New York and have, as has all of New York, been through a very emotionally volatile week. Only just tonight have I been able to just think to hell with it and have a few drinks with friends where the main subject isn’t the WTC. Yes! we actually talked about trivial and inane celebrity spottings, a film someone saw, someone who managed to get a flight out of here – ooops, that was related to ‘it’ again. Change subject.

 

But really, it has been totally bewildering. On Friday as we were trying to normalise our behaviour, Mayor Rudy recommended I just had to go to the Union Square candlelight vigil, just one of many spontaneous manifestations of public grief and examination. The thousands of people there were very quiet, sitting or standing with lit candles, writing messages or singing.

 

The general plea was that more murder really won’t be honouring the innocent victims of Tuesday’s attack but the overwhelming feeling was that a military response was a given. People just needed to gather to express their fear for what we all expect is coming but also there was a widespread admission of complicity that America and the west has been nurturing this sort of terrorism for decades. What is a couple of thousand though when the rest of the world is baying for blood?

 

Then by Saturday people were back out on the streets, going about the regular activities of shopping, eating, meeting friends. So am I, and met with friends for that NY perennial, brunch at The Coffee Shop on Union Square. It could have been anytime anyplace. The waitresses were too beautiful, the crowd rowdy, the jazz band the essence of cool.

 

The strain shows though, the strain to try very hard to talk about anything but this disaster, the strain to try very hard and remember life that was normal, the strain to try very hard to forget those visions of horror that overwhelmed us all on Tuesday morning.

 

As we leave The Coffee Shop a marching band passes by – another manifestation of the public outpouring of emotion. They extract cheers from all the passers-by for no real reason other that they represent an American ideal and are making themselves heard. If yesterday was a day of quiet reflection then today is the day for noisy discussion, which surely means that public anger will soon be mounting.

 

But by today, Sunday, the sun is out and the clouds are not. Today is as perfect an autumn day as you could ask for. It is tempting to limit experience of this beautiful day to the view from the window. To go out and interact with it would be impossible to do without acknowledging the cruel labour that is still taking place in the wreckage downtown. But to stay blissfully uninvolved in the 17th floor apartment that thankfully faces uptown is still hard work.

 

I look down to our neighbourhood and remember I was down there staring in shock as fire & smoke replaced the towers. I remember how strangely remote my neighbours were. I was charging around with tears streaking my face and people looked askance as if something was wrong with me. Normal conversations were taking place between gossiping old ladies who just glanced towards the disaster that was unfolding as if they were looking down the station for an expected train to arrive. I think the enormity of it all has taking a while for people to be able to process.

 

I venture out amongst it anyway and it almost feels normal. I meet up with a friend from an Australia who came to NY for business on Monday and has been stuck here since and it’s great to get into a bit of good old Aussie disrespect and laugh at the pompous Americans for a bit of light relief.

 

The talk here of bolstering up all the infrastructure for resistance to terrorism seems so preposterous. So the western world has to operate from within a cocoon so that we can remain safe from an unknown assailant. Surely this is an opportunity to start again & with a different approach.

 

If there is military action against those that the US would have us believe are responsible for this, then the further killings are just going to strengthen their resolve and make more martyrs to avenge. Whatever we do to protect ourselves there will always be something left vulnerable, some way for fanatics to exact their revenge and if this has been planned since the failed explosion in 1993, then they sure are patient and can wait until complacency sets in to attack once more.

 

How about trying to seek some sort of dialogue to redress the horrific imbalance of communication and wealth between the cultures. All very delicate and naive but surely worth some effort, as the result of global policies since the establishment of Israel only seems to be resulting in escalating bloodshed.

 

It feels very good to write it all down and somehow get it out of this uncomfortable pit at the bottom of my stomach. We can only hope that the policies put into action in the ensuing days and weeks will achieve the absolute best for humanity, but the widespread fear is that the reaction will just be a perpetuation of the primitive ‘eye for an eye’ mentality.

 

From my perspective, possibly New York is not the best position to await those developments.

 

Don Williams in Woodford, NSW

 

As an older man in Australia I have come to feel and know a total cynicism about the dialogue our politicians disgorge. Their lack of prescience is monumental.

 

I dont like feeling like this. It scares me.

 

If I were a young man in Remalla .. I would feel and know the following :

 

1/ Israel ignores United Nations resolutions. The USA veto in the security council stops any hope we can return to our land and homes. The USA is helping Israel persecute my family and the other 200,000 displaced persons living in refugee camps like this one over the past 30 years.

 

2/ I see the surrounding political structures as run by US supported Caliphs, Viziers and princes accumulating enormous wealth from the petro dollar – while their Arab citizenry is poor and without voice.

 

3/ I live in a refugee camp. My parents have been here for 30 years.

 

4/ I have no job and can not foresee improvement in my future.

 

5/ My father points to the land we once owned … and the house my mother was born in – all now lived in by Israelis ….some of them from the USA. All of them have come for their religious “ingathering”.

 

6/ The local Mulah fills my ears with the only way to cope …. and the only way to feel worthwhile as a human being.

 

7/ I am smart and the world uses much energy … just a little alteration to its intended use and it is dangerous. … I can do it.

 

It’s night time again and my sister goes with my mother to the tunnel we have built. And I hear the Helicopters coming ………..

 

K.C. Lee

 

The world was horrified by what it saw happened on the 11th. But we must be careful as to how our thinking and emotions are influenced by what we see or more correctly, what we do not see.

 

Were we more shocked by the bombing of the World Trade Centre as compared to say, the My Lai massacre, Bhopal or Rwanda, the bombing of the Kurds and Cambodians ? I suspect that most of us were. Some may say that My Lai was small in terms of the magnitude of death and destruction. Some may say Bhopal was an accident. Some may say that Rwandans brought it on themselves. But when is whether something big or small dependent on the number of deaths or the magnitude of destruction – try explaining to someone who lost a loved one that his/her loss is no big catastrophe. Try explaining to someone whose entire village was bombed that their loss is insignificant compared to the World Trade Centre.

 

Is a party more aggrieved by the fact that their grief, loss and suffering is televised around the world ? Then who speaks for those whose grief, loss and suffering is not known to us ? Is someone’s death less significant when they are poor? Are the “uncivilised” less entitled to life?

 

The American are suffering and my sympathies are with them but they must not think that they are the only people in the world suffering. Because they are insulated from the world’s suffering, they do not know of the suffering of others. And when they suffer, they think that they are the only ones.

 

Americans cannot see why people hate them – they cannot see how people see them. They feel righteous indignance but are not aware that others see it as self-righteousness, double standards and hypocrisy. They think U.S.A. represents goodness, freedom and liberty and the greatest democracy in the world but they fail to understand the terrible consequences of the terrible means by which they employ to achieve these ends.

 

How do the Americans reconcile in their minds that it is all right that the greatest democracy in the world employs the worst totalitarian governments in the world as proxies or allies to fight and protect her interests…and not expect anything terrible to come of it when friends become enemies?

 

Despite all these failures, no nation or people deserves what New York suffered on the 11th. But it will become worse. Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”. Is a worthwhile point to argue who started it, if at the end of it, we all die from it?

 

The Americans should ask why someone who used to be a friend is now their enemy before they start a vortex of war which will consume us all.

 

Devindar Samra in Ashfield, Sydney

 

I don’t understand why people don’t seem to be able to make the distinction between a criminal of a particular ethnic/religious background and everyone else of that background.

 

By the argument of most the callers to our shock-jocks, the people who hijacked those planes were Muslim/Arab so all Muslims/Arabs are to blame and should be vilified.

 

If I were to take that to that argument and extrapolate, all Catholics and Protestants are also evil and should be eradicated because of the actions of the IRA and Unionists in Northern Ireland. Worse still, all people of caucasian descent are evil because of the actions of one Timothy Mcveigh.

 

Where does it stop? When will we stop punishing both the guilty and the innocent?

 

I fear for the world we are leaving our children when every action seems to be inducing an equal (and no less opposite) and reaction. We seem to be constantly going round this never-ending circle of violence, greed and selfishness.

 

War would only be playing into the terrorists’ hands because it justifies their actions. Perhaps we need to look at why there is so much hatred on both sides in the first place and then address the issues accordingly. Where are our leaders when we need them most to show us the enlightened way forward? Unfortunately the current sorry crop available are very much of the “Where are these people going? I must get to the front so I can lead them.” ilk.

 

Greg Newbury in Illawong, NSW

 

I have just visited some of the websites that some of your emailers have suggested we look at. The amount of hatred and violence that has been inflicted on so many innocent people around the world, and in particular the Middle East is just mind numbing (in fact very similar to the feeling I had while watching the New York City catastrophe unfold).

 

There is just so much “stuff” going down around this region that anything the American’s will do will not help or fix the problem of terrorism or the feeling of hatred that has built up over many many years. Far too much water over a long period of time.

 

Hatred and violence is rewarded with more hatred and violence, and this cycle is repeated exponentially. I am dismayed that the world has descended this far, I am certain that we have passed the point of no return.

 

Sean Richardson

 

To Clarence Oxford in The end of multiculturalism? I’d disagree that McGuinness et al should be muzzled. Certainly they’re desperately confused. We’re used to the literary right in Australia engaging in abuse-as-policy. Any article by Ackerman, McGuiness, Salusinszky etc will basically consist of the words “tree hugger”, “loony”, “Chardonay”, “latte”, “aboriginal industry” and of course “un-Australian” arranged in a different order. Concepts such as cause and effect or logic are notably absent, as they hilariously claim the intellectual high ground.

 

Still, the rest of us don’t want to turn into them. It is utterly disgusting that McGuinness is trying to take advantage of the recent attack to silence Australians who disagree with him on domestic social or economic policy. In Saturday’s piece he equates anyone who doesn’t vote One Nation with the terrorists.

 

The morality of this position is obvious to all of us over-educated loonies of the chardonay sipping aboriginal whaling industry: it’s Paddy who’s seeking to make political mileage from these murders. But remember the mileage he is going for lies in silencing his critics, and editors should not be pressured to adopt his un-democratic ideas, even against himself.

 

A far better outcome would be for some writers of moral courage, like Robert Manne, to be published more often and in the tabloids too. In terms of the balance of opinion piece writers, the populist far right always cries underdog, but the opposite is obviously the case both in print and on radio.

 

No, I won’t hold my breath either. Now I’m just waiting for Imre to blame the Australian Democrats, no doubt motivated by Uniting Church fundamentalism.

 

MEEJA WATCH

 

Such a thing as the bestial truth

 

By Jack Robertson

It’s gut-churningly symmetrical that CNN is defining the coverage of this tragedy.

 

CNN – both in technology and methodology – was born during the Gulf War. The round-the-clock, slightly surreal, video-heavy, instant-analysis tenor of media coverage that we are seeing again is a concerted but I suspect futile attempt to sustain what has long been an imperative of the media – a hunger for both proximity to and clinical detachment from the diabolically symbiotic pas de deux between Humanity’s intensifying appetite for anarchy and our impulse to rationalise it even as it’s unleashed.

 

From New York, we’ve seen both magnificent reportage – courageous American journalism at its very, very finest – and, increasingly now, bewildered chatter tending understandably towards an ‘explicable’ over-simplification. Still, to date in my view, the journalists in New York have been majestic.

 

But reportage has changed forever, too, and I hope to Christ for the better.

 

Like almost everyone else, I watch those jets ploughing into the buildings over and over again, with a mixture of awe and disbelief. And as a child of this Meeja Age, many jumbled thoughts arise as this nightmare unfolds. I’ve thought about Tom Clancy and American Pyscho, Towering Inferno and Godzilla, Jerry Springer and Oprah, Reality TV and Manufacturing Consent, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and Superbowl, Triumph of the Will and Schindler’s List and Wall Street and Dr Strangelove, JFK’s assassination footage, John Laws both spruiking for and then sneering at the banking sector, the Balibo Five, the Munich Post, Walter Kronkite at Khe San, Scuds falling on Tel Aviv, night-vision helicopter gunship footage of the carnage along the Basrah Road, Kate Couric and her off-sider doing Good Morning America from Homebush Bay, ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’, my own Webdiary rants at the ‘Free’ Market, that crumpled Mercedes in the Paris underpass, the white bronco on the LA freeway, the lone tank-stopping hero at Tiannamen Square, burnt American airmen lying in the Iranian desert after the failed rescue attempt in 1979, the Omagh bombing, John Travolta’s Hollywood career rescued by Tarantino’s sexy, smacked-up hitman riff, the lucratively-hateful lyrics of Eminem, the latest brutal Playstation games, some of the sick WTC jokes you can already read on the Net, the ubiquity of camcorders, international currency traders adroitly upping the net worth of my own superannuation equity on the back of some breaking foreign bank, frantic mobile calls from hijacked jets leaving posthumous messages on answering machines, real-time satellite images of SAS assaults in faraway deserts, on and on this bewildering, relentless assault on our collective Human capacity to distinguish linear time from temporal blurring, reality from fiction, revealed bestial truth from ‘REVEALED!! BESTIAL TRUTH!!!!’.

 

(As I write, they’ve been talking about Pearl Harbour on CNN, but I can’t tell whether they mean the real McCoy or the Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster. Several Hollywood films with awkward resonances have already been pulled from cinemas. Just now, CNN is running a summing-up of the last day or so, too – explosions, survivor soundbites, Presidential grabs, bitter tears, all complete with a syrupy, unnervingly John Williams-esque score.)

 

It’s as if all the most awful events and images of the twentieth century – fact, fiction, everything in between – has returned to haunt us, coalescing in one awful episode which in a way already seems ‘inevitable’, even at this obscenely short remove. All over the Western world, the Meeja is calling it a ‘loss of innocence’, and who can argue?

 

Yet it’s also ‘merely’ a terrible shattering of the comfortable Media Paradigm by which we in the West have contrived to protect our thinking and feeling Human selves from the truth of what we’ve occasionally got up to ourselves, an understandable (perhaps even necessary) philosophical sleight-of-hand based on cutting-edge media technology, determined irony and much nonsensical academic theorising about ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ and ‘power paradigms’. It’s been a mode of public conversation which has slowly inured us all against the terrible reality of bombs and guns and the banal bestiality of violence. It’s been evolving by default ever since the first images from Vietnam tried briefly to penetrate the quietude of our living room consciences, and we ultimately couldn’t bear to do anything but reject it out of hand.

 

I write all this with an awful, dawning sense of personal complicity and a sick, heavy heart. Whatever the ins-and-outs of all this, the frightening fact is that none of us should ever be able to watch footage of our Hero Fighter Pilots bombing a foreign city in the same way again. No journalist must ever accept a filthy, lying term like ‘collateral damage’ without bellowing in rage at the smug spin doctor who tries to sell it, either. That’s our media’s crucial vocational obligation from here on in – to damn all bullshit on our behalf, loudly and aggressively and the instant it is heard in the briefing rooms. This is going to be critical in the coming weeks, and for us all. Otherwise the nukes might come out.

 

Now I’m listening to Steve Lieberman interviewing Phil Noyce, who directed the adaption of Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger. He’s in New York, and he’s talking about his experience of the terrible day: ‘It didn’t seem real,’ he is saying. ‘It was like one of my own movies.’ The movie analogy has been a defining refrain. Well, as Noyce knows, the first rule of any movie screenplay is that no character does anything without a motivation that is credible, at the very least to them, anyway. This includes the bad guys. It would be madness to criticise anyone for concentrating so far on ‘what’ has happened at the expense of ‘why’, and there is also justification for concluding that, in the end, maybe there is no ‘why’ here at all, either. Some acts defy comprehension. In a sense this must remain one, lest we all cut our wrists in nihilistic despair.

 

But the simultaneous reality is that if we in the First World really want to protect ourselves against this sort of nothing-to-lose savagery, then we have no choice but to unleash the full force of the supreme Human intellect – ruthlessly and clinically – on that very question. If you prefer, forget about ‘why’. Instead, ask how? How – by what progression – does such hatred ferment? And what must we do – and NOT do – to break the cycle?

 

Because in the free and open parts of the globalised world, the only other option for us all will be to erect our barbed-wire fences and hire our personal security guards, and wait in fear for the bestial truth to come for us, too. It may be in the form of an Osama Bin Laden or it may be as a Timothy McVeigh; it might be a Martin Bryant or Idi Amin or Jim Jones or Charles Manson. It may be a Christian-born animal like Adolph Hitler.

 

But unless we in the West also face up to the bestial truth that lurks within ourselves, unless we coolly examine the role we are playing in this helter-skelter charge by humanity towards anarchic oblivion, then no matter how many individual terrorists we manage to ‘hunt down and punish’ – however righteously, with whatever due care and justification – the bestial truth is ultimately going to consume each and every last one of us.

Labor falls into line

It’s official. Labor has abandoned boat people, and a new, hard line consensus on boat people refugees is in place. Goodbye rights. Trust your government to do the right thing by the poor sods, including getting our prisoners of our war off the Minoora without unreasonable force. Don’t be honest enough to renounce the refugee convention, just flout it.

Here’s the news story I filed for smh.com.au

Beazley backs Howard’s tough line on boatpeople

By Margo Kingston in Canberra

Labor today fell in behind the Government’s hardline stand on boatpeople, backing moves to stop their vessels landing in Australia.

It will now support the Border Protection bill, the outsourcing of refugee processing offshore, and an end to judicial review of decisions on refugees in Australian detention camps.

 

The wholesale desertion of boatpeople asylum seekers by Labor – after previously voting down the Border Protection bill and the Judicial Review in Parliament – marks an end to Labor’s commitment to the human rights of refugees and compliance with international refugee treaties.

 

Opposition leader Mr Beazley quashed dissent in the Caucus room meeting today by citing current political imperatives.

 

Today’s historic decision by Caucus to support the government’s hard line stand marks a new bipartisan consensus on refugee policy, and total defeat for forces supportive of boat people refugees.

 

After previously refusing to pass the Border Protection bill – which would have retrospectively validated the military takeover of the Tampa and allow Australia to turn back boats from our territorial waters – Labor will now pass it after minor amendments.

 

The new bill retrospectively validates the government’s actions since August 27 with respect to the Tampa, the Aceng and “any other vessel carrying persons in respect of whom there were grounds for believing that their intention was to enter Australia unlawfully, and persons on those vessels”.

 

Unlike the old bill, the new bill only allows officers to return people to a ship if it is “safe” to do so.

 

Under the old bill, the courts had no power to examine the actions of officers to see if they were unlawful. Under the new bill, officers are protected from court scrutiny if “they acted in good faith and used no more force than was authorised”.

 

Labor has also agreed to allowing Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands to be excised from Australian territory with respect to boat people. Labor will allow these islands to be used as processing centres which do not apply Australian refugee law, cutting off refugees from legal protection.

 

Labor’s backdown means that from now on, boat people will not be allowed into mainland Australia. Neither they, or boat people now in detention in Australia will be able to access court oversight of the government’s actions.

 

In a subdued Caucus briefing to journalists today, the spokesmen refused to reveal the content of Mr Beazley’s report on the issue.

 

ends

 

Today, contributors on the boat people are: David Eastwood, Roger Montgomery, Barry Rutherford

 

Contributors on the catastrophe are: Michael Pollard, Glenn Edwards, Zebee Johnstone, Anastacia, Greg Gilmore, Beth Vollbach, Jeremy Raine, Porus H Havewala.

 

To begin, two important contributions.

 

When George Bush called it a “crusade” I couldn’t believe that he’d use the language of a religious war. An experienced army man I had dealings with during the debate over gays in defence forces, Brigadier D’Hage, is also concerned.

 

Brigadier Adrian D’Hage, retired, in Kangaloon

 

WANTED – DEAD or ALIVE !?? Whilst our heartfelt sympathies are with those whose lives have been shattered by this truly criminal act, the rhetoric from the US President gets more disturbing each day. Already, US citizens have been promised a decisive victory – and decisive victories against unseen enemies can never be delivered.

 

The Australian Government has signed a blank cheque – without the foggiest notion of what might be planned. Whatever happens, history will question the wisdom of that course. And whatever we do, we will have to do it without the Army Engineers who are exhausted on Nauru.

 

It is time to take a very deep breath.

 

ends

 

Several readers have sent me an email from Afghani-American writer Tamin Ansary, a version of which was posted on the United states’ NBC website. I publish it here.

 

Tamim Ansary, Afghani native and writer now living in the U.S.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about “bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age.” Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but “we’re at war, we have to accept collateral damage. What else can we do?” Minutes later I heard some TV pundit discussing whether we “have the belly to do what must be done.”

 

And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I’ve lived here for 35 years I’ve never lost track of what’s going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I’m standing.

 

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.

 

But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They’re not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think “the people of Afghanistan” think “the Jews in the concentration camps.”

 

It’s not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country.

 

Some say, why don’t the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they’re starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan – a country with no economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.

 

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that’s been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They’re already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.

 

New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today’s Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They’d slip away and hide.

 

Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don’t move too fast, they don’t even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn’t really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban – by raping once again the people they’ve been raping all this time.

 

So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of “having the belly to do what needs to be done” they’re thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let’s pull our heads out of the sand. What’s actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden’s hideout. It’s much bigger than that folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we’d have to go through Pakistan.

 

Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I’m going. We’re flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.

 

And guess what: that’s Bin Laden’s program. That’s exactly what he wants. That’s why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It’s all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he’s got a billion soldiers. If the west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that’s a billion people with nothing left to lose, that’s even better from Bin Laden’s point of view. He’s probably wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours.

 

Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?

 

BOAT PEOPLE

 

David Eastwood

 

The parliamentary secretary to defence Minister Peter Reith, Peter Slipper, said today :

 

“There is an undeniable linkage between illegals and terrorists and it is absolutely vital in my view to ensure that we don’t have illegals entering Australia inappropriately because given the fact that some of those people come from the country that is the centre of terror, I would be particularly concerned if those people were allowed to enter Australia.”

 

Yes Peter you’re absolutely right, there is a link between them refugees and the terrorists. The refugees are running away from the terrorists.

 

Idiot.

 

Roger Montgomery

 

Now that the Full Bench has handed down its decision, can you stop saying that the government “knew its actions were unlawful”. All the government knows, and still does know, is that trendy lefties like you and Tony North will try bloody hard to find a legal justification for your do-gooder leanings.

 

You keep talking about “compassion”. People who can afford to fly into Malaysia and then pay US$10,000 per head to travel to Australia are not refugees. They know that do-ggoders like you and North are more than willing to provide them with a better way of life – which for them means welfare payments from day 1, free public housing, free medical treatment – without lifting a finger.

 

Barry Rutherford in Mermaid Beach, Queensland

 

It was a fresh breath of hope to me today when Malcolm Fraser wrote in the SMH today. Despite being upset by the failure of the recent court decision yesterday on the Tampa refugees. I cannot adequately add to Mr Fraser’s most statesmanlike piece only to urge like minded Australians to mobilize their personal resources. Write and lobby the government, opposition and democrats to reconsider their views and actions in relation to the yet to be heard Tampa refugees.

 

NEW YORK

 

Dr K Michael Pollard in California, United States

 

As an Australian who has worked in the US for over 15 years I feel I should add a few comments to the Webdiary about the recent tragic events over here. Unfortunately I’ve not had time to read all the contributions to the Webdiary in detail, but I have read some and I’m quite concerned by those who believe that the US brought this upon themselves.

 

It is true that the US has not been perfect in its relations with all countries, but I doubt that there is a faultless nation on this globe. One of your correspondents suggested that the Swiss have an exemplary record. Are these the same Swiss that allow virtually every rogue and villain to store their ill gotten gains in their banks?

 

It seems to have been ignored by some of your correspondents that the major target of these fanatics was the WORLD Trade Center; its not called the US Trade Center or the New York Trade Center for good reason. Those two towers housed the citizens of dozens of countries. If we are to ascribe to the terrorists a level of intelligence that underlies the magnitude of their assault then it should not escape anyone that they meant to enrage not just the US but the world in general.

 

Evil may begat evil and violence may breed violence, but to ignore the message inherent in this attack is to put in peril our own existence. It is not possible to talk or even negotiate with these terrorists. It is very clear from their statements that they want the annihilation of the Western world. Surely there are not people out there who are deluded enough to think that if the US is defeated or bowed by terrorism that terrorism will then end???

 

Fortunately there are very large differences between these terrorists and moderate followers of Islam. This should give us hope that we can defeat the terrorists. What we face now is truly our greatest challenge. We MUST bring together and maintain a coalition of all nations, especially those Islamic countries that have opposed this act as abhorrent to the teachings of Islam, to bring an end to this violence. If we can succeed at this we may usher in a “brave new world”!

 

Can anyone tell me what country, other than the US, is capable of leading us at this moment in history?

 

Glenn Edwards

 

That anyone could be driven to a suicide killing is bad enough. That anyone could attempt to justify the killing of thousands of civilians is a horrific reflection of the lack of value given to human life. But there will always be those who have much to gain from fostering anger and harnessing the aggression so generated. If it isn’t religion driving the hatred, it is history.

 

There will always be those who think it is OK to profit from murder. And there will always be the money and political machinery to grease the wheels. So do we really believe we can “smoke out” terrorists once and for all?

 

Yes, we need to respond to this. Yes, this is an opportunity to make the world better. And no, I don’t know what the right response is.

 

But it seems to me we should remember the other social “war” – the war on drugs. Despite the stirring anthems of the war on drugs, the drug trade is alive and kicking. There seems to be almost global agreement that the war on drugs has been a complete failure. Maybe a better solution could have been found (removing the profit motive while stemming the public health cost), but maybe this response is too subtle for a community that demands visible action.

 

The rhetoric is great and it makes for a good sound byte, but the war on drugs failed. With George W’s “war on terrorism” the stakes are so much greater. Maybe we can learn from the drug war, and somehow find a smart solution that doesn’t rely on smart bombs.

 

Zebee Johnstone in Campsie NSW

 

I can’t help thinking that this “war on terrorism” is like the “war on [some] drugs”. The same rhetoric, the same methods, the same effects on bystanders, the same results?

 

Something has to be done in both cases, but I don’t think “war” is the right thing. “War on cancer” didn’t work either… “war” isn’t the solution to everything, no matter how good it feels to declare it.

 

We have to stop terrorism, and it does have to include some way of make it harder to carry out. I think that will only work if we also do things to limit the reasons people have for carrying it out.

 

Let us try to make a world where almost everyone (it will never be everyone) will have better things to do, and more to lose.

 

Anastacia in NSW

 

In the light (or should I say dark?) of recent events, I think the next thing the government or organisations should be doing is being proactive and helping the people prepare for anything, war being one of the possibilities.

 

We have been raised in peace and progress and this is all we know. We have watched war movies but what is the ordinary Aussie’s ability to survive a crisis like this? What do we do? Do we stock up on basic needs? Do we identify safe shelters and pack up our valuables ready to go anytime at a moment’s notice?

 

It is a grim picture I know but better be prepared if we want to see the human race survive this potential catastrophe.

 

Greg Gilmore in Brisbane

 

I have been looking at the opinion pieces and editorials in numerous American newspapers, and have been heartened to find that most appear to be cautioning against massive retaliation, and racism, and quite a few are looking at global poverty and injustice as key factors.

 

I include some quotes; there are many more to be found.

 

Thanks again for this service.

 

New York Times

 

Terrorism can be fought globally and locally in ways that do not diminish us as a nation, that do not make us afraid to look into the mirror, that do not lower us to the level of the murderous zealots who reduced so much of lower Manhattan to ruins. Everything we need to know about how to behave in this crisis can be learned by watching the people who are at the epicenter of the horror.

 

The terrorists may have altered the New York City skyline, but they should not be allowed to alter the spirit and character of the American people.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/17/opinion/17HERB.html

 

National Catholic Reporter

 

A traveller whose plane had been affected by the attack groaned to the TV interviewer in despair, “I cant understand who would initiate this kind of attack on us.” As the West takes over more and more of the resources of the world with small regard for social inequities that raw capitalism leaves in its wake, we may all have to try to understand again that it may be weakness, not strength, that is our enemy.

 

As unpatriotic as it may be seen to be in the initial moments of such an event, we may have to learn that listening to those to whom no one listens at all may be the only power thats really effective.

 

http://natcath.org/NCR-Online/archives/092101/092101j.htm

 

International Herald Tribune

 

The immediate conclusion nearly everyone has drawn about the origin of these attacks is that they come out of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. It is reasonable to think that this is so, although there is as yet no proof. .For more than 30 years the United States has refused to make a genuinely impartial effort to find a resolution to that conflict. It has involved itself in the Middle East in a thousand ways, but has never accepted a responsibility for dealing impartially with the two sides – locked in their shared agony and their mutual tragedy. .If current speculation about these bombings proves to be true, the United States has now been awarded its share in that Middle Eastern tragedy.

 

http://www.iht.com/articles/32239.html

 

Beth Vollbach, an American in California

 

It’s been almost a week since the atrocities here in the U.S. I live in San Diego, California, about 3,000 miles from where they happened (New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC). But the horror didn’t just happen to them; it happened to me, too. It was an assault on our way of life. And for that reason I would think people in other countries such as Australia would feel as I do.

 

A lot of tears have been shed here in my country in the last few days. I, too, have been pretty choked up. But my first tears came this evening when I checked the Internet for responses to our tragedy from other countries’ newspapers. So many blame the victim. So much hate and resentment!

 

Jeremy Raine in Sydney

 

Like other contibutors I need to express something in written form, rather than verbally, and at this stage its all fairly ad hoc rather than considered. I was mesmerized, and I have to admit it bothers me a little, that as I watched those astonishing scenes it was almost elegant as a sleek silver jet with the sunlight glinting on it banked slowly in its approach to the the twin towers of the world financial centre, straightened then banked again crashing into the building at speed and a ball of flame. Incredible!!

 

I’ve been brought up on hollywood blockbusters , and images from the movie “Independence Day” came to mind. I’ve read every paper, scoured the net sites, read all the web journalism, watched all the TV shows until I’m almost blind and falling asleep and still I come back for more.

 

Some commentators have said things will never be the same, that we are looking at WW3. I pray to god that is not the case, and yet there is a touch of the apocalyptic in many of the commentaries, almost desirous, as though the media trivia that has washed over us in recent years can be put aside, that at last the serious commentator will be able to attend to something , some event with meaning and import, that may well change our lives in the near future.

 

Dare I say it, give our lives some meaning?

 

Porus H. Havewala

 

A Chinese friend at work was talking to me last week and said: “What other way do poor people have to fight for freedom?”

I replied: “This is not the way to fight for freedom. If they want to fight for freedom, they should do what Gandhiji did in India, when he fought for his country’s freedom from colonial rule. “They should fight for freedom in a non-violent way, using non-coperation and protests, and without taking human life. This is a noble and righteous way to fight for freedom.

 

“Or else, the ones fighting for freedom should form an army, and with their soldiers, declare war and fight against the soldiers of the occupying force – like another famous Indian patriot of the time, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose did, forming the Indian National Army and launching a military attack on occupied India at that time. This is also a brave thing to do – fighting like a soldier on an open declared field of war.

 

“But in the name of freedom, if people kill other ordinary unarmed people by terror, by bombs, assasinations and other devious methods, that is not the righteous way, neither is it noble.

 

“Gandhiji succeeded in fighting for freedom without hatred or rancour, in India’s freedom struggle there was no taking

of life of either soldier or ordinary people. Herein is the greatness of Gandhiji’s method.”

 

The Chinese friend said: “Yes, but that worked due to the leniency of the British. They were good rulers and had a sense of fairplay. That would not have worked if say the Japanese had ruled, who were cruel masters. Non-cooperation and non-violence would not have worked with them.”

 

I replied: “Yes, the British were fair people, but the Japanese are human beings as well. The method Gandhiji used is a moral method that touches the heart of people – even cruel people can be changed. He did not fight to conquer people’s bodies – he fought to influence their hearts, and change them for the better.

 

“You talk of human beings. But even the terrible grizzly bear, when he confronts a human being, lets the human being go unharmed if the human being falls on his knees and lowers his head. If a wild animal can do this, a human being’s heart can be changed as well.

 

“In Indian history, we have the story of Ashoka – a terrible King about 2000 years ago, who came to power by killing his brothers, their wives, their children, and even his father. Then, he waged wars on neighbouring states and killed thousands. Finally, he waged a great war on a democracy – Kalinga – and killed hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, who all defended their country.

 

“When he visited Kalinga and watched the destruction he had done, he had a sudden change of heart. He was filled with abhorrence and disgust for what he had done. He renounced war. He renounced violence. He renounced the taking of life in any

form. He became a Buddhist.

 

“This ancient Indian King started public as well as animal hospitals – the first animal hospitals in the world about 2000 years ago – and cared for his people like a father. Historians have analyzed his works for his people and have called him the greatest king the world has ever seen.

 

“If Ashoka – a killer king – could change his heart and become such a different person, it means that any man – even the cruellest of men – can be touched in their hearts, and change for the better. And this is what Gandhiji did – he changed the hearts of the rulers.

 

“In India, we also have the story of Valmiki, in the ancient age of India which was tens of thousands of years ago. Valmiki was a killer dacoit who reformed, became a Sage and wrote the Sanskrit Ramayana, one of the great sacred scriptures of the world.

 

“So, in India, a killer could change, become a holy man, and write a sacred scripture. We Indians believe in the potential of the human heart to change for the better, and it was Gandhiji who demonstrated this method to the world.”

 

The Chinese said : “Yes, but the British were tired anyway, and they left India.”

 

I replied : “Yes, it is true that after World War II they had no stomach for ruling India against the will of its people. However, if there had been no Gandhiji, then probably thousands of lives would have been lost on either side – in a war of freedom, the British would have lost many people, and the Indians too.

 

“Gandhiji prevented this taking of life – he saved thousands of lives, and prevented the human misery that would have followed, and therefore it was a great moral victory for him and his country.”

 

Today, Gandhiji’s method is very important for the world, which will otherwise spiral down a never-ending path of violence and revenge. Therefore, I urge the Western TV networks to show documentaries about Gandhiji’s methods and way of life, and learn from Eastern great people such as Gandhiji, rather than rebroadcasting again and again serials about the World War II and so on. Let us appreciate good people, not the bad.

Terror unlike movies

I devote this entry to a long piece by a regular Webdiary contributor John Wojdylo on the war ahead. He’s a brilliant thinker and writer, and I thank him for contributing to this forum.

John Wojdylo, an Australian in Germany

1. Where does fear come from?

“It was like a film.” The reaction is alien to me. Butchery is like a film? No, butchery is like history. My horror at the footage is limited by memories of other butchery I have deeply experienced in my imagination: the Warsaw Uprising; the battle for the fortress around Przemysl in World War I, where a million died, unknown to the West; Auschwitz; the Rape of Nanking. Many others.

 

I’ve seen hardly any Hollywood films in the last few years. For me, none of what has happened is like a Hollywood film, and references to celluloid catastrophes are lost on me. Like the CNN coverage, Hollywood films have a simple inevitability about them: even the so-called suspense thrillers are safe experiences, ultimately shallow. As Luis Bunuel said, you can tell what will happen in the film from watching the first five minutes.

 

If I think of any films at all in connection with the recent events, it’s Andrei Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice”, the most frightening film I’ve ever seen. About nuclear war, a total end, but also about hope. Fear is produced by not knowing. War is a time when the usual comfortable daily order ceases, certainties dissolve, nobody knows the outcome. On very bad days that for others seem completely normal, when you think too much about what life means, and see clearly the prejudices, the gullibility, and the hollowness of words – when you slip through all the mental safety nets that you’ve become accustomed to – then you can feel a similar fear.

 

“The Sacrifice” reproduced dissolution of certainty perfectly. It was very, very frightening. And there’s a scene in it that looks like Manhattan “ground zero” today.

 

I’ve realized that much of the fear I feel about what is to come is due to the CNN coverage thus far. Relentless shellshocked fixation on the present, and endless rehearsal of an immediate future driven by blind lust for vengeance. Very little analysis of what the mid- and long-term strategies against international terrorism ought to be; no insight into the struggle that Islamic societies themselves are going through against fundamentalism – actually, fanatic nihilism – or how the U.S. might help them.

 

Fear wells up when my imagination unconsciously tars the American president, his advisers, his military chiefs and everyone else involved with CNN’s blindness. Gradually, over the last day or so, I’ve realized that this is a terrifying and unjust simplification, at once debilitating and mistaken. Blinded by fear.

 

I was thinking in a simple mode, an irrational mode, because of lack of information. I was in a vulnerable state – easily manipulated because I could not imagine the next step, because fear of the unknown made me believe outrageous things. This state of mind, in a reaction to the events of September 11, is exactly the stage tens of thousands of increasingly extremist fundamentalists – and those on the verge of joining their ranks – are at in Pakistan, Algeria and elsewhere. An easily manipulated state, people waiting to become tools of ambitious, evil, self-aggrandising con-men.

 

The process I have been going through is a reclamation of my individuality.

 

With CNN being viewed in most middle-eastern countries, maybe the network realized the responsibility and opportunity it had to do some good. A few hours ago they began expanding their vision slightly beyond America’s navel, began considering the shape of the political and military action to come, while awkward email questions from infidel Europeans flashed past

along the bottom of the screen. At last, I felt that maybe the “boundless grief” of Americans will not, after all, be universalized to boundless grief of humanity.

 

Essential in my personal process of regaining spiritual shape is intelligent, considered, insightful comment. Two commentaries by Thomas Friedman and William Pfaff in the International Herald Tribune on Saturday and Monday (17/9) are healing, in the sense that they see a way ahead, and thereby beat away the terrible phantoms of the unknown.

 

German television has been very, very good. Direct, intelligent, urgent, searching questions have been answered by experts and senior political figures, intellectuals that tower over anybody in Australian politics at the moment. In some cases, studio audiences have obviously been a mix of conservatives, Greens and social democrats, and they often applauded in unison as, for instance, the German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, described the road ahead with restraint, resoluteness, intelligence, cultural sensitivity and moral depth. The Greens parliamentarian had clearly been unable to see a rational road forward, and her remarks verged on hysterical, were full of fear, and she could only radiate and spread fear whenever she spoke. Her fear blinded her too – but she was on the public stage, and she was spreading fear.

 

None of the most powerful figures in Australian politics has the credibility in my eyes, or the ability, to stabilise and give form to the Australian public psyche, to drive away the terrifying creatures of the unknown. They are small people who cannot break out of the provincial paradigm, who do not have the vision or moral strength to inspire a love of what is good, of that which is beyond their immediate self-interest.

 

The expert discussions on German television have gone way beyond what is possible on Australian TV in other ways too. In piecing together exactly what must have happened, calmly, logically, guests such as Nicki Lauda – owner of the airline Lauda Air, and a commercial pilot himself – have taken audiences through a reconstruction of the experience, into the heart of darkness, rationally – inspiring not fear, but faith in the future. A flight-simulator-software demonstration was run to put the audiences on the “inside”. Viewed as an urgent search for knowledge, it was riveting. But if everything that passes in front of the eyes is supposed to be entertaining, and is viewed in that light, then the simulation would be condemned as appalling taste.

 

A professor of architectural engineering described exactly why the towers collapsed, details of why some had hope of living while others had none. In archtypical German rigour, he detailed the limits and advantages of the two types of skyscraper construction used today; as well as why the same type of attack on a nuclear power station would certainly fail. The good that knowledge does was clear. Through it, the audience learned what the limits of aircraft, buildings, and current standard procedures are. When we know more, fear is quelled. We see more clearly the remaining sources of fear. Now we can focus on those and deal with them.

 

Actually, I don’t really know what’s been happening on Australian TV – I suspect that it’s about the level of the CNN coverage. Certainly no long, logical trains of explanation, or simulations. This is one of the traits that, for me, typifies Australia. We shun “getting on the inside” of a situation. Our society, our adversarial legal system (where a logical chain of events is almost never presented), our debates, our conversations, proceed as a series of disconnected snapshots from the “outside”. The surface view. Trains of logic are almost never followed through from beginning to end. We pay for it psychologically. In the absence of logical sense, our imaginations are free to latch onto any horrors that infiltrate our consciousness. I suspect that because of the aesthetic, surface, view so common in Australia, because Australia’s public figures are small people, fear is rampant now in Australia.

 

Fear is produced by not knowing. War is a time when the usual comfortable daily order ceases, certainties dissolve, nobody knows what will happen. Even at the start of the Gulf War, where the military power was so obviously stacked on one side, I felt fear. Saddam Hussein gambled that he’d be able to unite muslims everywhere into a holy war. He lost.

 

Even the most powerful nations do not know the outcome. They hope they do. They believe it. But nobody really knows. It’s a time for faith in clear thinking, which means power to drive away the demons of fear – the power of human intelligence and wisdom, not just military power.

 

2. What might happen in the next few years? What are the limits? What are the possibilities?

 

Some things are clear. After today’s arrest of his right hand man in London, I’m prepared to believe Osama bin Laden and his group was behind the attack. I think it’s fairly clear – and U.S. planners know this – that Osama bin Laden has been orchestrating a personal rise to power over a number of years, using wealth and influence to establish dissident fundamentalist communities, with Koran schools, civil infrastructure such as roads and buildings, and so on, in his native Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Pakistan and possibly other middle-eastern countries, as well as Malaysia.

 

It’s important to know that Afghanistan is the only country that welcomes him at present; only two others support him. Bin Laden is part of the ruling family – Afghanistan’s supreme leader is married to his daughter – an ancient tribal method of cementing the bonds of alliance. In Saudi Arabia and elsewhere he is considered a dissident, an extremist. There’s a clash of civilisations happening within Islamic countries – those with a medieval worldview are reacting against those with a modern view. Those with medieval views are easily manipulated into imagining that the source of all their troubles is America: it is they who believe that the clash of civilisations is actually between Islam and Western society. Many Westerners, some in ignorance, or xenophobia, think like them. The false dictotomy of Islam and the western world is what bin Laden wants to make real.

 

Every civilised and semi-civilised Muslim country has had a growing problem with fanatic nihilists. Most, such as Pakistan, have had a policy of appeasement, even outright support – using them to further their own strategic interests. With the American (and possibly Allied) military action, probably aimed at targets within Afghanistan as well as in other countries, the leaders of the terrorist networks will be able to manipulate the groundswell of fanatic support amongst increasingly extremist Muslims in these moderate countries. There will certainly be anti-government violence within these countries.

 

The skill of American political and military planning in splitting moderates and fanatics, in keeping moderate muslims from becoming radicalised, will determine how serious this turmoil will be. A good sign is that the U.S. is not acting unilaterally in this – they have gone to great lengths to enlist the support of Russia and muslim countries including Indonesia. A sign of thought, not just blind vengeance.

 

Moderate muslims feel trapped in failing societies; America (and the West) is a symbol of the good things in life for them, the freedom of living as one wants to, without the interference of a totalitarian government. Many have children or friends in the west, and know that the fundamentalists do not represent modern Islamic values.

 

After hearing German government ministers describe their communications with the Americans, it’s clear that the Americans understand this and bin Laden’s strategy. They understand the importance of not making the situation impossible for moderate muslims – the bastions of Islamic civilisation in the middle-east and south-east Asia – of not allowing the fanatic nihilists to define the conflict as a “clash of Islam with the West”. These fanatics do not represent Islam: they represent their own selfish ends.

 

Bin Laden’s strategy will be to radicalise these countries, toppling relatively moderate governments and installing fanatic regimes. We’re seeing the beginnings of this already in Pakistan, where fundamentalists are protesting against their government’s allowing American forces onto their holy soil. Taliban forces massing at the border could be a classical strategy of mobilising an uprising from within a country by invading it (like the Soviet Union encouraging the communists in Bulgaria in 1944).

 

Within the realms of possibility, depending on the skill or ineptness of American military, diplomatic and political efforts, this could happen in seven or more middle-eastern countries, with varying degrees of efficiency. The mad plan imagined by the probable supreme leader, Osama bin Laden, is to undermine the western world by taking over oil supplies in his native Saudi Arabia, where he has a substantial following, and in other oil-producing nations. Western prosperity is not built on the illusory wealth of Wall Street’s paper money, but on old-fashioned middle-eastern oil. In this way, he wants to achieve what Saddam Hussein failed to do in the Gulf War: unite the various fundamentalist groups across the middle-east and perhaps south-east Asia, topple the moderate or semi-moderate governments, and create a fundamentalist Islamic empire that would girdle the earth. This is the mad plan.

 

Bin Laden wants to install radical Islam as the world’s foremost religion, thus consolidating his power and place in history: Islamic nations are to be the future dominant world powers, economically and militarily, along with China. He wants to be the one who causes the downfall of western civilisation. He would be remembered as a “great” historical figure by future followers of fundamentalist, medieval interpretations of Islam, even if toppling the west was the only thing he achieved. He sees destroying western power as a necessary step towards Islam’s “great leap forward”, because western countries – the U.S. in particular, with Israel as its vanguard – are perceived by the fanatics as keeping Islamic states under their thumb and purposely hindering social progress and improvement of living standards. They see themselves as the victims of a great injustice. The grains of truth in their claim explode in their minds into hatred and obliterate all reason.

 

We’re seeing the fruition of a decade-long build-up of influence by an organised network of Islamic fanatics. It’s not a case of “if you leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone”. Fanatics invent their own reasons for continuing the holy struggle, to die fighting Satan and thereby reaching paradise. Struggle – like Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” – is their meaning in life; and when all around them suddenly becomes peaceful, they invent reasons to keep on fighting.

 

(Incidentally, a perhaps accidental resonance of radical Islamicist nihilism and Hitler’s Nazism is the Hezbollah’s outstretched arm salute – exactly like a Hitler gruess – when taking their oaths: a deeply disturbing image.)

 

Even if Israel did not exist, and even if U.S. troops left Saudi Arabian soil, Islamist fanatic nihilists would keep on hating the “Great Satan”, America, keep on with their holy struggle. They’ll find other countries to hate, too – and different groups will hate different countries besides America. The nations they form will be internally divided and self-destructive; and their leaders can only rule through terror and great cruelty. Osama bin Laden would certainly not give up the thrill of the terror industry and return to his construction company in Saudi Arabia, a peace-loving man who simply loved life.

 

I can’t see any reason why isolated cells of this network shouldn’t take root in every city in every country in the world. I don’t care what Australia’s defense minister says – he has no credibility in my eyes. There are only a few hundred cities in the world, and each city only needs about 10 agents. Why would they want to? Because they only need to weaken nations, cause chaos, to facilitate the rise of fundamentalist radicals. Are there enough such radicals? Maybe not, and there may or may not ever be enough.

 

Sensational acts of destruction are like recruitment posters: they prove the impact that each individual fanatic can have, the great glory that they can attain in death, a passage to paradise that advances the cause of “Islam”. Except it’s not Islam’s cause that they are manipulated into fighting for, but Osama bin Laden’s, or any fanatic nihilist that might rise up to take his place. Killing bin Laden would only have temporary effectiveness – hundreds would rise up to take his place.

 

They look like ordinary people in the street, mild-mannered, model citizens, and are like a time-bomb waiting to be activated. Each cell of terrorists acts autonomously for great lengths of time, setting themselves up in society, seeking out a city’s weak points, planning a devastating act. Their objective is to topple the world order that is dominated by the “Great Satan”. They will wield whatever power is necessary to do it, undermine whichever country when it seems useful to do so.

 

They hope to manage the ensuing chaos towards their own ends. If they can somehow gain control of oil supply, then they can wield power whichever way they wish. They don’t need to destroy cities then; but they might do it if they think that the backlash won’t be too great from their supporters. We need to defend the weak points of our cities. It doesn’t take much of a brain-storm to think of what these might be.

 

So the situation has limits. As well as a number of stages of intensity. The fanatic nihilists are limited in the amount of destruction they can wreak if they want to achieve their goals. The four-figure death toll from the World Trade Centre attack created a severe backlash against radical extremists from moderate, civilised muslims all over the world, signing petitions or expressing deep condolences. On Palestinian territory too, which you would notice if you look at the CNN images closely, where two boys, totally uninterested, pass by the small, cheering crowd, which was obviously hamming it up for the obsessed and untruthful western cameramen.

 

Clumsy overuse of power by the Americans – in which “too many” innocent people are killed, or if Bin Laden manages to get good publicity and political mileage with the few killed – will tend to radicalise muslims. But the fanatic nihilists cannot use nuclear weapons too soon. The backlash from the civilised muslim world would be too great. It would reveal their terrifying nature. It would reveal that they are like the Nazis, or Pol Pot. That they are the Islamist Khmer Rouge.

 

The strongest point of the fanatic nihilists, at present, is that they present no targets. They are not a country or a city, but somebody’s polite neighbour – with good-looking passport and official documents that prove to the Australian government and opposition (and all like-minded naive believers in order) that they’re saints. If they carried out a nuclear attack now, they would be invulnerable to military retaliation; on the other hand, they will alienate the civilised muslim world. If there ever came a stage when they had widespread support – say, alliances across the muslim world – then they would be targets. In a sense, their hands are tied too. What the world needs now is for all civilised muslim nations and governments to declare their opposition to fanatic nihilists who are desecrating the Islamic faith in pursuit of Osama bin Laden’s, as well as their own, vainglorious agendas.

 

Islamic leaders must openly declare that radical Islamic fundamentalism is the path away from Islam and towards fanatic nihilism. They must actively involve themselves in Islam’s cultural revolution, because Islam – as Thomas Friedman put it – is now suffering from cancer.

 

The only sure way of easing the problem of Islamic fanatics, of present and future followers of people like Osama bin Laden – in fact, of fanatic nihilists who do not truly believe the tenets of any religion at all – is through the power of persuasion, through the wisdom of Islamic governments.

 

Relations with relatively moderate Islamic nations should be fostered more strongly than ever before. This means the U.S. playing a leader’s role in middle-eastern politics. It must be visibly even-handed. The road to a better life must be shown to exist – and to be reachable and desirable – on this earth, not in some warriors’ heaven.

 

If I just went on information I see in the Australian media, if I didn’t think about the possibilities at all, then I’d conclude that in principle, there’s no reason, in this absolute, fanatic nihilist mindset, not to murder as many westerners – or “collaborating” muslims – as possible, using nuclear or biological weapons, to achieve spectacular effect. Infinite darkness; the deepest dread.

 

But in reality, these people have goals too. They do not yet have enough support, and must persuade many more people to join them. They have to play a strategic game with the United States.

 

Internally, western countries might have to give up a measure of liberty in order to protect their societies. But at all times, a clear distinction must be held between muslims and fanatic nihilists, for the former desire the furtherment of society, while the latter do not believe in society at all. We must use our intelligence, not prejudice and blind might, in fighting the nihilists.

 

In the meantime, a reaction is necessary, according to the logic of power. Not to react will invite more and more devastating attacks. Appeasement of dictators has never worked. Dictators must be challenged. We hope that the natural human reaction of desiring vengeance will not make the problem explode beyond all imagined proportions.

Hot words, cool heads, and poetry

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.

 

The Terrorist

 

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.

 

Cathy Bannister

 

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

planes.

 

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

there.

 

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.

 

Michael Larkin

 

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.

 

Paul Walter

 

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!

 

Alan Kerns

 

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.”

 

Peter Jenkins

 

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?

 

Rick Pass

 

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.

 

Peter Maresch

 

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?

 

Ellias Elliott

 

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.

The watchword is security not compassion

This has got to be the worst time in the world to be a boat person. Since last Tuesday, the zeitgeist is security, not compassion.

 

Late last week, the government took its link between the New York bombing and the boat people refugees into the Federal Court. At a time when anti-Arab feeling was rampant over the Tampa issue, to conflate it with the bombing is incendiary, as well as irrational. But it’s happened.

 

Now, government ministers’ rhetoric is of hatred and contempt for the courts in the lead up to the Federal Court’s decision on the Tampa appeal today (Remember, the government KNEW its actions were unlawful, and that’s why it tried to ram retrospective laws through the Parliament.) . That rhetoric climaxed yesterday with Peter Reith denying the truth of the foundation of the Westminister system of democracy we imported from the Britain. The Westminister system holds that there is a separation of powers between the government and the courts. The government makes the laws, provided the court holds they are acting with in the Australian constitution, and the Courts interpret those laws. The goal is the rule of law, not of men. It is a protection for all of us.

 

Yesterday on Network Ten’s Meet the Press Reith said that even if the High Court upheld the next appeal, “it’s still wrong”. “The highest court in Australia is the Parliament.” Heaven forbid. I’m betting both major parties will join together this week to reverse Justice North’s decision retrospectively. Another nail in the coffin of the rule of law.

 

Today, I begin with a Court report on the Tampa case from The Age, then a passionate critique by John Wojdyl of Herald columnist PP McGuinness’s linking of the two issues in Thursday’s Herald.

 

Contributors are: Colin Todd, Allison Newman, Robert Keep, Lea Walsh, James Dean, Norm Martin, Rick bailey, Michel Dignand, Sean Cody, Zainab Al-Badry, Carmine Di Campli

Canberra push for right to expel

 

By PETER GREGORY

CHIEF COURT REPORTER

Friday 14 September 2001

 

Australia could receive New York-style hijackers as “friendly aliens” if the Commonwealth Government was found to have no executive power to expel asylum seekers, the full Federal Court was told yesterday.

 

David Bennett, QC, the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, said Australia would not have the right to defend its borders in migration cases if those opposing the government over the 433 Tampa boat people were correct.

 

He said one of the essential rights of sovereignty would be denied if the Australian military could not “stand at the border and say ‘no one gets across here’.”

 

Mr Bennett was appearing in an urgent appeal before three judges against a ruling made on Tuesday by Justice Tony North. Justice North said the asylum seekers transferred from the Norwegian freighter, the Tampa, to HMAS Manoora two weeks ago must be returned to Australia.

 

In its submissions before the full court, the government argued that the armed forces could stop people entering Australia. It said if Melbourne solicitor Eric Vadarlis and bodies including Liberty Victoria were right, the government lacked executive power to expel once an asylum seeker put a foot across the border.

 

But Julian Burnside, QC, for Liberty Victoria, accused the government of trying to treat the asylum seekers as non-humans who could be moved around at the whim of the executive government.

 

He said the government, on its argument, could decide on a case-by-case basis whether to use the Migration Act or to control people without rules. He said the Tampa boat people had been kept in the dark and could not exercise their private rights, a position almost unthinkable in Australian peacetime history.

 

Mr Bennett said the problems of patrolling borders were worse at sea. He said the Migration Act did not cover the situation and the use of executive powers allowed authorities to turn back asylum seekers or force them back if they resisted.

 

John Wojdyl in Germany

 

At a time when clarity and rationality is of utmost importance, P. P. McGuinness has disgraced himself in his role as a public intellectual by linking the terror in the U.S. with the Tampa issue and the Federal Court’s judgment. He writes dishonestly: “They are in no way connected”. Oh, but they are in his mind, because: “The whole point of checking on the credentials of the Tampa people is that some of them may not be true refugees and could even be agents of Taliban or one of the many other fanatical Muslim terrorist groups.”

 

He is thinking: the U.S. terror was probably carried out by fanatical Muslim terrorist groups. And fanatical Muslim terrorist groups may be among the Tampa boatpeople. This is the connection these two events have in his mind.

 

Add to this McGuinness’s deep suspicion – based on ignorance of both the difficulty of getting official travel papers from Taliban authorities, as well as Department of Immigration screening processes of middle east asylum seekers – of the lack of “credentials” of a number of asylum seekers.

 

McGuinness is saying that any or all of the Tampa boatpeople may be agents of a Muslim fanatical terrorist network. His argument is: Australians have seen what these people are capable of; therefore Australia’s stance against the Tampa boatpeople is justified.

 

Instead of calming the irrational reaction of those Australians who are prone to xenophobia towards Muslim refugees, towards the Tampa issue, McGuinness is actively pouring fuel on the fire. Like the Howard government’s tactics all along, he is cynically and knowingly fanning the flames of division to achieve a public backlash against the Federal Court, a court he has been campaigning against for years.

 

Consider carefully what McGuinness is saying with: “Popular feeling will now ensure that the Government will have little difficulty in tightening up on refugee policy so as to diminish the interference of the courts.”

 

“Will ensure”? Why is he so certain? Where is McGuinness’s rational criticism of a xenophobic backlash? Why doesn’t he try to act against xenophobia, as would be the duty of a public intellectual?

 

He says nothing against it, because when the effect of xenophobia is to achieve a goal he agrees with, McGuinness will say nothing against it.

 

Much more importantly, consider the following. McGuinness is arguably consciously encouraging – certainly not discouraging – suspicion of the Tampa 433. This hides a much, much bigger suspicion that he must hold. McGuinness has never written this explicitly, but he must mean it in all his criticism of people advocating the acceptance of the Tampa boatpeople: Australians cannot trust the Department of Immigration to do their job properly and screen these 433.

 

But the xenophobia-prone amongst Australians are not so stupid as to focus narrowly on just the Tampa 433. If we cannot trust DIMA to screen these 433, then we cannot trust DIMA with the previous 4000 or more Afghan boatpeople that have been allowed into Australia since 1996. With or without “credentials”.

 

Any, all or none of these 4000 could be agents of Osama bin Laden or other muslim terrorists. McGuinness is encouraging doubt in the DIMA process, and therefore he can only be encouraging irrational suspicion of all recent Afghan, in fact, “Arab-looking” immigrants. Xenophobia. Absolutely contemptible.

 

At a time of mourning, when people are vulnerable and some are looking for scapegoats and revenge, that contemptible man is attempting to place Australian xenophobia against Afghan refugees on a rational basis. He is rationalising xenophobia.

 

Australians are drawn into changing their attitude towards Afghan refugees from one of welcome to one of suspicion.

 

What might be a rational response to the fears Australians have, the fears that McGuinness promulgates?

 

First: the question of lack of travel documentation. McGuinness writes: “It is certain now that would-be refugees trying to gain access to Australia will not receive a friendly reception if they have destroyed all means of identification, so that their precedents cannot be investigated.”

 

Of course, McGuinness will not lift a finger to cast a rational light on the xenophobia. This is why he uses the word “certain”, and in the absence of offering rationality, thereby himself promotes the xenophobia.

 

a) The Muslim fanatic coming in on a boat to Australia would have to be very stupid to use personal identification that is known to the West. He could easily obtain forged papers in Afghanistan or wherever anyway, as most legitimate Afghan and Iraqi refugees have been doing for years.

 

(Can you imagine the following absurd scenario? “Excuse me Mr. Taliban official, I’d like a passport.” “Why do you want to leave our country? You should be fighting at the front.” “I want to go to the golden beaches of Australia.” “Sure. OK. Here you are. A full set of travel documents. With our blessings. Have a nice trip.”)

 

A good reason why they might ditch their passport is that they know it’s forged. And probably not very good quality.

 

The “lack of travel documents is suspicious” argument in the Tampa case is a red herring.

 

b) Perhaps DIMA can reassure the Australian public that during the screening process, they cross-check photographs or other means of identification with Interpol and overseas intelligence agencies. Travel documents are themselves a flimsy source of identification.

 

From the point of view of policing of illegal international travel, the most important use of travel documents is when the person has had the same documents for an extended period of time. e.g. when they have resided in the same country for a while. The two terrorist pilots identified in the U.S. had the same documents for long enough to ascertain that the same person lived in Florida for over a year.

 

These documents originally would almost certainly have been obtained fraudulently.

 

In the case of asylum seekers to Australia who come without documents, whatever identity they claim, whoever they “really” are, what matters is that this is who they are when they are in Australia. As long as this stays constant, they are identifiable to Australian authorities.

 

Other physical features – photographs etc. of face, profile – can be matched with overseas intelligence agency records.

 

Those that are allowed to enter following screening by DIMA need not be treated as suspicious by the Australian public. There is no need to instigate a witch-hunt of “Arab-looking” immigrants to Australia.

 

But I suspect P. P. McGuinness believes that even overseas intelligence records may be insufficient to identify potential muslim fanatics coming in on boats.

 

In that case, given the ready availability of fraudulent travel documents, he will have to decide whether he wants zero immigration from the middle east. Perhaps this is the deepest question troubling him at the moment.

 

Colin Todd in Mittagong

 

One commentator speaking of the US disaster quoted Malcolm X saying the death of Kennedy sounds like chickens coming home to roost.

 

This applies to Australia too but the context is slightly different.

 

In Australia we have been dumbed down for years. Education has been gutted, media has been monopolised and lobotomised, and the population has become incapable of concentrating for more than a microsecond. Without constant light, noise and movement the(Australian/American) people become afraid because they are confronted by the inner silence and emotional ambiguity which exists below the sentimental response encouraged by our media. Considered introspection can be a scary place.

 

In the face of a huge disaster many people take a sentimental/emotional prejudiced tribal position and dig in to defend it. By force if necessary! This position allows no ambiguity, no shades of grey, no evolution as circumstances and knowledge change.

 

This kind of primitive response is different only in degree to that of those who perpetrated the violence in the US.

 

The chickens will surely come home to roost here too. We have destroyed much of our educational and cultural infrastructure. We have destroyed much of our social capital. We are now being manipulated by a Prime Minister and Cabinet in the most callous way.

 

When we as a country need most to be thoughtful and considered, working together to address very complex issues, we cant do it.

 

Why? Because contrary to the economic rationalist point of view, it bloody well does matter if you rape our social capital, cause when he chips are down thats what holds our society together.

 

The disintegration of our society is likely to increase unless these issues are addressed. This disintegration our chickens coming home to roost after decades of destruction of our social capital.

 

Allison Newman

 

OK, I don’t get it. Why shouldn’t there be a link between refugees and acts of terrorism? Particularly when the refugees are coming from a state known to openly support some terrorists?

 

As far as I can see, the Australian Government (and indeed the Australian people) have done precisely the right thing with regards to the Tampa. We have denied a prior access to Australia for the refugees, but are providing them with the ability to apply for immigration to Australia as legitimate refugees. This gives us a chance to make sure that they aren’t undesirable. I would suggest that this is the minimum level of security which the Immigration Department must provide for the nation.

 

However…..Once refugees have been checked out, and found to be legitimate, then our human decency is at stake if we refuse them access. They must be permitted entry as legitimate refugees. Furthermore, having been allowed into the country, we as Australians must greet them with open arms if we wish to be able to hold our heads high on the international stage. This also goes for those that are already here. They are citizens of this country, with the full rights of anyone in this country. They should not be vilified on the basis of race or religion.

 

If we cannot stand for these ideals, then I for one am very frightened for Australia. These ideals are the same ideals that protect every ‘Aussie Battler’, and must not be put aside because of the horrendous acts of members of another culture. Indeed, it is in our best interest to put these ideals to the forefront.

 

If you are scared of a similar attack being perpetrated closer to you than New York, then the best way to defeat it is to embrace those that come here. If refugees can find wealth and comfort here, the odds of them turning into terrorists is very low. It’s hard to get worked up enough to kill yourself, when you have to catch Friends on your 68cm TV, after getting home from the restaurant.

 

Robert Keep

 

It is strange to me, as a young and free Australian, to see the distinctions made between people on account of their ethnicity. I grew up in a house free from any kind of indoctrination of either religious or any other other kind. From the earliest time I can recall, the only mantra I ever heard was simply that “people are people”.

 

I have always been surrounded by friends of many diverse ethnic backgrounds, political, sexual and religious orientations. I doubt that they ever looked at me – white, heterosexual, educated and middle class – as anything out of the ordinary, so what reason did I of they? Though I pride myself on being the open-minded and secure person I perceive myself to be, and am thankful often for the rich life this has allowed me, I suppose that it is really a credit to my parents to have entrusted me with the freedom to make my own choices.

 

It is not to say that I am someone who is faithless, nor ignorant of other’s religious beliefs – on the contrary – it is to say that I chose not to subscribe to any organised religion, but to rather seek out my own spiritual path.

 

This is not a luxury afforded many people in the world, who are from birth taught to believe in a value system they are never allowed to question. They know of nothing else, so assume their actions to be right, and blessed from beyond this world. Hatred is bred in a demented cycle stretching back for centuries. It is here that notions of intolerance are encouraged, and lead to tragic events and ‘holy wars’ raging in numerous parts of the world.

 

It is an unfathomable sight to have beheld the razing of the two giants of the World Trade Centre. Even more so as it came to us live through the often make-believe medium of television. It still seems a nightmarish blur that unfolded across the other side of the world. I scrambled to find the photos of me, standing atop the World Trade Centre, from where it seemed you could see the ends of the earth.

 

I will never in my life be able to forget first seeing the footage of the people hanging from the top floor windows, a feeling akin to the ground dropping from under me. As people fell from the windows we could no longer contain our emotions – held in check by disbelief – and we cried uncontrollably. All I could do was make some kind of prayer; that at the moment of their death, they felt no fear.

 

It will be said that this is the result of zealots gone mad. That they must be exterminated, and eradicated from the earth. That terrorism will not be tolerated.

 

Terrorism is an unspeakable evil that has no right to be visited on any people anywhere. But it exists as a very real and present threat to us all. But there is a massive distinction to be made between those who take their beliefs to the extreme, and those whose God is as compassionate as yours.

 

Equally beyond my disbelief is how anyone can look at their fellow man and by the colour of his skin judge him guilty by association. It is beyond my ability to look at any human being and see them as anything other than exactly that.

 

If – and it is still a very large IF as several of the world’s major media outlets seem to have forgotten – this immense human tragedy proves to be the work of a handful of extremists, it is paramount to remember that a few madmen are not indicative of and entire nation/culture/belief system, in much the same way that few Americans would say that Timothy McVeigh spoke for them with his actions.

 

Before we leap to launch massive retaliatory strikes on a nation not yet decided upon in the hope of eliminating the few whole pull the strings, can we justify the unavoidable deaths of hundreds if not thousands of innocent already impoverished people? Those who would come under the euphemism “collateral damage?”

 

If there can be anything of worth gained from this, is it not a terrible reminder of the sanctity of human life? Should we not look at the man of Arabic decent on the bus and be glad he is alive, as we ourselves should be? It is unfortunate that it often takes a disaster of this horrific magnitude to make us see our blessing for what they really are. We can come to such a place in our own freedom that we are so comfortable as to fall asleep. At times such as these our lives are brought into sharp focus; all our actions need to be reassessed in our lives – you will never know when the next time you see someone could be the last.

 

Smell the flowers while you can.

 

 

Lea Walsh in Perth, Western Australia

 

I am very fearful of what’s going to happen. I am particularly concerned about the demonisation of the Muslims in general. It’s time our religious and political leaders called for restraint in Australia. They are strangely silent.

 

It’s purely a lack of understanding (partly fuelled by the government and media) that many people can’t see that there are loonies in every religion and groups of people. That doesn’t mean that they are all crazy. Because I’m Catholic, I would hate to think that a few fanatics in the IRA determine how people see me BUT that’s what happens for the poor Muslim people.

 

If John Howard wins the next election on the back of this

hatred, I fear for this country.

 

James Dean

 

The idea that terrorists would risk 2-4 years in a detention camp to get into Australia is ludicrous. International terrorists use international airlines and travel under false identities.

 

It seems the men involved the the U.S attacks were in the US for over a year and even trained at a US based commercial Jet training company.

 

The concern now is that all sorts of terrorist organisations will realise that great “success” can be had through meticulous planning, rigorous operational security and exploitation of weaknesses. When it comes the next attack it won’t be the now paranoid airlines at risk but some other institution we all considered safe.

 

The establishment of strong and well supported international institutions that can pursue criminals and resolve disputes is our only hope for lasting peace.

 

Here’s hoping.

 

Norm Martin

 

I have recently spent several hours reading letters to editors in US publications re the terrorist attacks. Many of these letters seem to have attracted the type of bleeding heart clientele that came with your stand on the Tampa issue.

 

I agree with one of your respondents that you have gone from an objective journalist to a dispenser of private opinions. Surely the American events must make you re-assess your opinions. Saira Shaw’s 4 Corners certainly made me brush up on Islam. I looked at quite a few websites, and responses to Saira’s forum, and I must admit I didn’t like what I read.

 

Sure, these might be the radical fundamentalists, but let’s not write open cheques for them to waltz in through our borders until we have done some real research on their backgrounds.

 

It seems to be par for the course both here and in America for certain people to attack the Government and Establishment simply because the problem doesn’t have an easy solution.

 

 

Rick Bailey in Duffy, Canberra

 

Disclosure: I am an avid webdiary reader and a life-long Labor Party supporter (though Big Kim’s moral reticence lately is testing this).

 

David Lim wrote in The end of multiculturalism? “I’m afraid, and I’m frightened. I’ve never felt like this before, not even during the whole Pauline Hanson “anti-Asian” race debate. Soon, very soon, the racial persecution will start. Our country will give in to its lust for hatred and revenge. May god have mercy on us all.”

 

This last paragraph crystallised many attitudes including my attitude to recent events. News reports indicate that that persecution has started and that wee johnnie has poured petrol on the problem.

 

It seems obvious that the CAUSE of the terrorism needs addressing. Despite media coverage to the contrary, a person needs to be VERY pissed-off with their life/circumstance to contemplate a head-on with a large building? It seems an attempt to discover WHY these people are so dedicated would prove more useful, and less costly in lives lost and maybe even (in a singularly mercenary sense) dollars expended.

 

Feed a potential terrorist – Create an ally?

 

Michel Dignand in Wagga Wagga, NSW

 

Margo, what a mess. It seems clear to me that the only solution to this catastrophe lies in help and education, not in retribution.

 

The Afghanis and all the other immigrants, whether they are seeking wealth or sanctuary, need to come here because we have plenty and they have next to nothing. If their children are starving, they want to take them somewhere there is food. If they are ignorant, they want to take their children somewhere they can learn.

 

If we are rich (and even the very poorest poorest of us are richer by far than millions upon millions around the world), then we have two alternatives: We can keep our riches in vaults and live behind barricades, or we can share much of the wealth with those around us and live in freedom and harmony. I do not believe that there can be any other way.

 

Look at South Africa, at how the rich lived in armed compounds; Look at the security-ringed mansions of the rich and fatuous in the USA and England.

 

But let us also remember that not all Americans are wealthy or educated or free. The much vaunted freedoms in America are there for a few only, while the majority are ignorant and poor and diseased and incredibly violent. Far more Americans are killed by Americans every year than have been killed in this terrible, horrifying attack.

 

It easy for us to be afraid of those with darker skins than our own.

Very very few of us have any experience of what life is like overseas (real life, I mean, not that supposedly experienced at tourist destinations). We know that many of those with dark skins face death and murder and violence every day, and are thus less afraid of it than we are, and probably far better able to deal with it than we ever will be.

 

If want freedom from fear, we must learn to share, really share, everything we own with the other people of the world. As we approach equality, the danger of jealousy recedes.

 

But for those who want to kill all the arabs, just let me remind you that Jesus Christ, supposedly much beloved by many in this country and in the USA, was an Arab.

 

Sean Cody in London

 

There is no doubt that the events of the past few days have changed the way not only America but the world will look at itself. And that is perhaps one of the crucial issues in this matter. Acts of terror such as those perpetrated in Washington and New York cannot possibly have any justification whatsoever in any sane and compassionate mind – the suffering and fear that these acts have engendered will haunt people for a great deal of time to come.

 

But there is, also, a subsequent part to this tragic situation, and that is that any fear and hate-mongering among societies against an ethnic or religious group, as a whole, is just as despicable as the act that spawns it.

 

Stereotyping is the refuge of those who are afraid, ignorant, ill-informed, or just filled with hatred. It is impossible to justify on moral grounds any statement that attempts to link the events in the US with Muslims as a whole – indeed, it has not even been confirmed that the attacks were definitely carried out by Islamic extremists.

 

While initial evidence points to one or more Islamic groups, it is by no means conclusive as yet – need I remind everyone of the events in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing? Muslims across America were targetted, not only by the public, but by law enforcement officials as well, for questioning, harassment and vilification. How must people have felt, then, when it was discovered that the guilty party was in fact one of America’s own, a decorated soldier, one of their brave heroes?

 

If an Islamic extremist group is responsible, this is under no circumstances whatsoever to be used as justification for any sort of attack on any group in any civilised society. Rule of mob is deaf to the voices of reason, and hence the rule of mob must be stopped at all costs.

 

All politicians and civic leaders in our society must denounce totally any act or thought that serves to demonise or attack Muslims within Australia or around the world. It is a most worrying trend that we have Reith and Ruddock speaking in the manner in which they have recently, for when emotions run high, people take comments such as these to be tacit endorsement of actions against those demonised groups.

 

Howard, for all my criticism of him, has at least acted in a manner that can be applauded – he refused to make a link between the Tampa issue and the attacks in the US, as he most certainly should have refused to. It is of the greatest regret that Reith and Ruddock have not maintained a similar line. The two issues, the Tampa refugees and the US terrorist attacks, are unrelated!!!

 

Here’s a spot quiz for anyone out there who doubts this. You are the leader of a terrorist organisation that wishes to make an attack on people in Australia. Do you ship your operatives across the Middle East in the company of genuine refugees, dump them with people smugglers, and run the risk that your operatives will drown, starve, be injured by the smugglers or caught by the Australian authorities, only to spend up to a possible 3 years in a detention centre, or do you arrange for visitor visas and get them on the first, closest available plane to Sydney so that they may arrive with no other problems than a little jetlag?

 

The fact is that the refugees fleeing to Australia’s shores have been caught in a cycle of conflict, terror and repression for many years, and all they are doing is trying to find a place of safety and peace. Why must we now as a society adopt an approach that will result in those same people being denounced and possibly even physically injured as a result?

 

To immediately label every Muslim as being complicit in these horrible acts is the same as saying that every French citizen is arrogant, every New Zealander has sexual relations with sheep, every American soldier in Vietnam participated in the slaughtering of women and children, every Australian male is a beer-swilling redneck, every person of Jewish descent resembles Shylock in his or her actions. All of these stereotypes, some barely amusing, some downright hateful, are all spawned from ignorance, and in most cases fear and hatred. So why, now, do we as a society allow stereotypes just as bad to be made in public? Have we truly lost that much of our rational minds? Are we really that afraid of people who have different beliefs to ours?

 

In truth, Islam is, in its pure form, a tolerant religion. The corruptions of Islam that currently masquerade as legitimate lines of thought around the world have been shaped by many different factors, and the hatred that people associate with Islam springs from no single cause. In this matter, all sides in the conflict must bear their own share of the responsibility for the world’s current attitude towards Islam.

 

For ourselves, if we hear our peers speak in terms that are racist and hateful – do something about it. Try, at the very least, to make them see how their attitudes are wrong. And if they do not see the problem, well… For me at least, I will not associate with people that participate in the propagation of hatred, fear and ignorance.

 

If we wish to remain in freedom, then we must not adopt attitudes and actions that seek to curtail the freedom of those around us who are innocent. This is the point of the matter – Australia should be a free, democratic and civilised society. The demonisation of a group within that society, the exclusion of a group based on their race or religion, and the pathetically

ignorant attitude of “All Muslims are terrorists or are complicit in terrorism”, will achieve only one result.

 

We will not be free because we will be prisoners of our own ignorance, hatred and fear.

 

We will not be democratic, because we will be denying a voice to those elements of our society who are in a position of vulnerability and weakness when compared with the rest of the population.

 

And finally, we will not be civilised, for we will have reverted to our most primitive instincts.

 

Zainab Al-Badry

 

My heart is bleeding for all the victims and more to those who left behind. For them the tragedy is bigger and uglier as they have to live with it for their entire lives. On the other hand I saw a tiny spot of light at the end of the long long tunnel, and that’s when I read some of the responses you chose to publish.

 

There are still people around who are able to think rationally and separate issues. When I heard and saw what happened in the US I feared the worst and I can see it is coming. People already linking EVERY Muslim around the world with those criminals (even though there is no definite evidence yet). To those people I just wanted them to remember that there are extremists and radicals in every faith and religion, does that make us ALL guilty?

 

Carmine Di Campli

I think we all realise the enormity of what has happened over the last 24 hours. It seems obvious to me that now more than ever is the time for balance.

 

I am a psychologist and work for a Mental Health Service providing assistance to people from diverse cultures. NSW Premier Mr Carr has asked us to be on 24 hour alert to assist people who may need assistance

as a result of being harassed over the next few days. I hope no body needs the help of our service tonight.

I also hope we can remember that we are all in danger of much worse

things if we lose our balance.

 

I think the future of our society is at stake here over the next few days.

I also believe the way we listen to one another and the way we will sit with each other will set the tone

for our beloved Australia and our life here for years to come.

 

Let’s choose to be civil to one another, I would like my sons to regain some of the childhood trust they lost in

humanity this morning when they complained “why is there only news on this morning”.

You see I saw the expression on both their faces when they realised the jet ploughing into the building was not a movie.

My seven year olds first question was, Why did those people do that? His second question was, What will happen to all the boys like he and his brother who mothers and fathers were both killed?

 

If we need to express our hatred just remember our children are looking and it will shape what they think is normal in their world to come.

Can the face of hatred be excused?

A Webdiary debate is unfolding on the causes of the catastrophe, and whether the United States must take some responsibility for it. This is a bitter and highly ideological debate, but one which, with good will, could inform us all. It is closely linked with the debate on the what form United States retaliation should take. Regardless of your position in these debate, we’re all talking like global citizens now, which, perhaps, is a good thing to come out of this nightmare.

 

 

I’m receiving far too many emails to publish, so I’ll chose representative contributors on the themes which emerge in the debate.

 

Contributors are: Jenny Conroy, Geoff Honnor, Risha Jorgensen, Aco Milosevski, Greg Weilo, Greg Berry, Jean Tilly, Julie Vella, Yvette Elliott, Alison Newman, KB, Michael Richardson.

 

Jenni Conroy, an Australian in Washington DC

 

As an Australian citizen living and working in Washington DC for the last 4 years I suddenly find myself with a very different view to those around me about what I hope happens next.

 

I watched the entire horrific chain of events unfold last Tuesday and could see the smoke of the Pentagon from my office building. It is certainly a tragedy of proportion that I hoped I would never witness in my life.

 

It has incited the spirit of American Patriotism here but my fear is that the strength and arrogance of this is going to cause global harm rather than create good. The American people certainly have a reason to feel that retaliation is warranted for these seemingly senseless actions but I truly hope that they do not take this course of action.

 

They can consider themselves incredibly lucky that these terrorists did target “American Icons” and did not target the USA’s many nuclear power plants, which these planes fly past everyday. The destruction of 4 of these would have caused a lot more long term damage and destruction to their country.

 

The American public sees this as an attack on their freedom. The very same freedom that allows them to supply weaponry at a profit to the very same countries that are being placed with the blame of this attack. This country has generally become one of self greed and self importance.

 

America should regain its role as one of the most intelligent countries as well as the most powerful. It should not retaliate with force but should make efforts to outfox those few evil forces that exist in the world today, saving the rest of us from unnecessary hardship and harm.

 

Geoff Honnor

 

Like many others my online time has been consumed with long traverses down the international email trails in search of people – and meaning – in the wake of the carnage. A swift visit today to the Webdiary – once the last best hope for considered, reflective commentary – left me reeling. Some people should have taken Mum’s advice about the limited options that present in terms of bereavement-related characterisation.

 

Nothing is more indicative of a half-arsed grasp of reality than the fact that the pathologisation of the US and all its deeds, has received, in some quarters, a new moral imprimatur in the wake of the extremist horror visited upon New York and Washington.

 

How can there be any justification whatever, whenever, by whoever, for what has occurred?

 

These events can’t be glibly excused by globalisation, capitalism or even plain old-fashioned envy.

 

This is the face of hatred. Naked and unadorned. I’d imagine that to be able to casually dispose of human life on a scale this vast, with singular disregard for individual or collective humanity, would require a rare degree of that less than multiculturally-appropriate quality – evil.

 

The US can and does behave badly. But it’s also an open, diverse and pluralistic society. More so than any other society on the planet. No other nation has ever dared to constitutionally enshrine freedom to the extent that the US has and nor has any other nation undergone the degree of self-scrutiny and critical analysis that commitment rightfully engenders.

 

The totality of American adventurism in Chile, Vietnam and Cambodia wasn’t the finger-pointing discovery of an outraged world. It was offered up to the world by Americans investigating their own heart of darkness, to a degree that no other society, including our own, has or would ever, permit.

 

This basic fact appears to have eluded the historical revisionists who delight in portraying the US as some bloody Messalina preying upon the peaceful, freedom-loving peoples of the world. These oppressed but delightfully diverse folk may have their minor little moral deficiencies

but it’s all the fault of globalisation, or capitalism or some external force. It’s absolutely nothing to do with being ruled by people who think that liberal democracy is a contemptuous weakness useful only for exacting a moral toll from countries rich enough and dumb enough to be hoist on their own liberal democratic petard.

 

Should we shut the door on people fleeing from a murderous regime like that of the Taliban? That question, understandably, has echoed in Australia for weeks. I’ve not heard the counter however. Why should the people of Afghanistan – and 100 other nation states – have to endlessly endure tyranny as their natural state?

 

Developing world governments do have the ability to choose liberal democracy. Virtually none of them do. They are, for the most part, built around a clan loyalty ethos that doesn’t encompass the broad communitarian accountability principle that we arrogantly assume to be the natural order of things.

 

For instance, no sooner had the self-righteous Western avengers of Big Pharma delivered cheap drugs to AIDS-stricken South Africa than that country’s government announced that it had no intention of supplying them anyway, at any cost. They can apparently live with mass death. It’s we who can’t.

 

Afghanistan has been riven by endless fractricidal clan warfare for centuries. The Taliban is but the latest group to fruitlessly attempt to impose some form of national control. It’s principal backers are the government of Pakistan – a nation itself born of sectional hatred and religious intolerance – and Usama bin Laden; a man who – irony of ironies – is a Saudi version of the familiar American over-privileged rich kid. A man whose only apparent interest is to kill people who offend him by virtue of vast wealth inherited from a family that made it’s money in the naughty old world of global oil.

 

That his dilettantish destructiveness could move to encompass crumpling planes – and thousands of lives – against tall buildings is certainly possible. To imagine that it could all be explained away by the perceived inequities of US foreign policy is truly tragic.

 

Risha Jorgensen In New Jersey, 30 miles from New York City

 

Dear Margo,

 

I write this letter as an American who has never been to Australia, and indeed,has no close ties to Australia. However, I have been following your paper’s coverage of this horror since early Tuesday afternoon (our time), when it was one of the few news outlets available on the web despite our overloaded communication systems. Even after other sites began to become reachable, I followed your coverage, appreciative of its thoroughness and timeliness. And I can’t express how much the outpourings of support and sympathy from the Australian people has meant to me over the last two days.

 

But then there has also been people who have been quoted in your paper (and in other media outlets in America and abroad) who have said that perhaps America deserved this attack. American imperialists have to reap what they sow. This is a result of the country’s actions in the Middle East, Iraq, the Balkans, Rwanda. America supports the deaths of innocents in Palestine, so why shouldn’t American innocents die as well?

 

Implicit in these statements is the thought that the people in those buildings in some way were responsible for the above actions. That the office workers of insurance companies, or the technicians for the telecommunication companies, or the visiting tourists, deserved this fate because they supported horrors elsewhere.

 

This is the sort of attitude that has brought me closer to tears in the last twenty-four hours than anything else, and also closer to laughter.

 

America, like all countries, has good people and bad people. More so than many, we have a mix of cultures, languages, religions, and political alliances. Muslims dies in those attacks, and non-Muslims who were of Middle Eastern descent, people who may not have agreed with the politics of the letter writers, or who may have. We can’t know for sure.

 

Many people from other countries, some of whom are America’s allies and friends, others who are not, died in the attack. Americans who had never left the country and who thought little of other countries, and those who travelled the world and tried their best to understand all peoples, died in the attack.

 

My country is a republic, and like most aspects of our lives and laws, our foreign policies are determined partially – but far from completely – by massed public opinion. That does not mean that everyone agrees with the final result.

 

Do the people who have sympathy towards the attackers truly believe that all of the American public supported the peacekeepers in Serbia? We can barely raise a majority to support gun controls on our streets!

 

Personally, I have always thought that our country’s support of Israel’s actions in Palestine is a travesty of justice, and when I can, I vote for leaders who agree with me. Sometimes they get into office, but often they don?t. What am I to do at that point? In civilized societies, we wait until the next election and try again. And I do.

 

And write letters to newspapers like yours, who despite the prejudices of a few people, has carried on with evenhanded and caring coverage of the deaths of thousands of people in a place far from your home. And again, I must thank those who have expressed their pain and sympathy to those of us to whom it is far too close to home.

 

 

Aco Milosevski

 

The city of Belgrade was continually bombed for 3 months by NATO but the world was not told of the number of innocent people killed, nor did we get heart wrenching stories of survivors or of loved ones that were killed.

 

 

Greg Weilo in Adelaide

 

There would be few people in the developed world who could have missed the saturation media coverage on the terrorist attacks in the US. There has been endless analysis of the who, what, when, where and how questions by countless experts from a multitude of countries. It seems that the most fundamental question gets the least attention: Why?

 

Nothing happens without a reason. Stock answers as “madness” or “insanity” or “evil” just aren’t adequate. Finger-pointing isn’t the ultimate answer either. Ultimately, free people and free nations cannot accept the notion that the causes of their fortunes or misfortunes always lie outside of themselves.

 

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not one of the “Americans deserved this” crowd. I’m totally sympathetic to the innocent victims killed in the tragedy. Nothing can justify or excuse what happened. Nevertheless, I can understand the motivations of the terrorists even though I abhor the actions that resulted.

 

Few Americans seem to understand at all, and their Big Media isn’t helping. My opinions are best summarised by Harry Browne, and whose article is attached below. He seems to be one of your left-wing fellow travellers, and I suspect that I may disagree with many of his other views. Nevertheless, he is spot on with this issue.

 

 

The article is at http://www.antiwar.com/orig/browne2.html. It says:

 

The terrorist attacks against America comprise a horrible tragedy. But they shouldn’t be a surprise.

 

It is well known that in war, the first casualty is truth that during any war truth is forsaken for propaganda. But sanity was a prior casualty: it was the loss of sanity that led to war in the first place.

 

Our foreign policy has been insane for decades. It was only a matter of time until Americans would have to suffer personally for it. It is a terrible tragedy of life that the innocent so often have to suffer for the sins of the guilty.

 

When will we learn that we can’t allow our politicians to bully the world without someone bullying back eventually?

 

President Bush has authorized continued bombing of innocent people in Iraq. President Clinton bombed innocent people in the Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia. President Bush Senior invaded Iraq and Panama. President Reagan bombed innocent people in Libya and invaded Grenada. And on and on it goes.

 

Did we think the people who lost their families and friends and property in all that destruction would love America for what happened?

 

When will we learn that violence always begets violence?

 

Teaching Lessons

 

Supposedly, Reagan bombed Libya to teach Muammar al-Qaddafi a lesson about terrorism. But shortly thereafter a PanAm plane was destroyed over Scotland, and our government tried to convince the world it was Libyans who did it.

 

When will we learn that “teaching someone a lesson” never teaches anything but resentment that it only inspires the recipient to greater acts of defiance.

 

How many times on Tuesday did we hear someone describe the terrorist attacks as “cowardly acts”? But as misguided and despicable as they were, they were anything but cowardly. The people who committed them knowingly gave their lives for whatever stupid beliefs they held.

 

But what about the American presidents who order bombings of innocent people while the presidents remain completely insulated from any danger? What would you call their acts?

 

When will we learn that forsaking truth and reason in the heat of battle almost always assures that we will lose the battle?

 

Losing our Last Freedoms

 

And now, as sure as night follows day, we will be told we must give up more of our freedoms to avenge what never should have happened in the first place.

 

When will we learn that it makes no sense to give up our freedoms in the name of freedom?

 

What to Do

 

First of all, stop the hysteria. Stand back and ask how this could have happened. Ask how a prosperous country isolated by two oceans could have so embroiled itself in other people’s business that someone would want to do us harm. Even sitting in the middle of Europe, Switzerland isn’t beset by terrorist attacks, because the Swiss mind their own business.

 

Second, resolve that we won’t let our leaders use this occasion to commit their own terrorist acts upon more innocent people, foreign and domestic, that will inspire more terrorist attacks in the future.

 

Third, find a way, with enforceable constitutional limits, to prevent our leaders from ever again provoking this kind of anger against America.

 

Patriotism?

There are those who will say this article is unpatriotic and un-American that this is not a time to question our country or our leaders.

 

When will we learn that without freedom and sanity, there is no reason to be patriotic?

 

Dr Greg Berry in Stockton, NSW

 

There has been quite a lot said recently on the intelligent media programs (I mean the programs that analyse causes and the complex matrix of cultural and political influences that impinge on events) about the US needing to take some responsibility for the recent terrible scenario because of its foreign policies and subversive activities over the years.

 

I would like to extend this idea and suggest that in some way we are all implicated to some degree in the developed world because of the ways in which we live our lives. Maybe we need to look at the way we use our resources and focus so much on how to gain an economic advantage over our fellow citizens in Australia as well as those in the ‘developing’ world.

 

This is not to exclude the responsibility of oppressive minorities in some of those countries. At times like this there is an even bigger tendency than normal to want to protect me and mine. What is needed now is an open hearted generosity and fearlessness.

 

Jean Tilly

 

This tragedy is in our backyard – or nearly. It is a manifestation of prejudice and of hatred. What has happened in New York is truly tragic, but then so is what is happening in many other countries.

 

Sanctions crippled Iraq and other impoverished nations can only see many actions of the United States as being anti-everything they stand for and believe in. Many peoples do not have the advantage of education, of daily media reporting, of a perspective on the world tempered by wealth, health and peace.

 

Many impoverished nations see only what they are shown. Many truly believe that Satan resides somewhere in the western world. Many in our world are only too eager to take up their banner.

 

Even in the light of the stark horror of the New York tragedy we must resist the temptation to blame immediately. Until we know, we must quieten our outrage. And even when and if we find out, we mustn’t sink into the easy wide abyss of hatred.

 

We all know in our hearts that this is where the horror is conceived and from there it is only a very short pathway to the birth of death, destruction and mayhem.

 

This day will truly be the test of the world’s wise men. If there is a god I hope he helps them.

 

Julie Vella

 

Can you tell me why America never asks itself this question: Why do others hate us enough to do such terrible things. Basically I seek to understand why the media broadcasts images of children cheering on the West Bank without any real analysis from any quarter.

 

No one is actually questioning why a country such as the USA which feels such an unending pride in its own virtue is hated by so many other peoples. Or is it simply part of the American psyche to need a demonised enemy whose motives are never questioned?

 

 

Yvette Elliott in South Perth, Western Australia

 

The crumbling of America’s symbols of strength are especially a shock for the generation that never experienced world wars, the sixties, Vietnam, the cold war. Because war has always been for many of the younger western world, out of sight, it has been out of mind.

 

World war could never happen to us. War on the news in Bosnia or Israel is war on another planet. We took for granted the stability of America. They send in their troops to help the ‘weaker’ nations, we measure our currency against theirs, America has always been for so many the king of the world, even if we hated it.

 

But this morning, after the shock has subsided just a little, I feel the loss of certainty. No longer do I feel protected by the Western world ‘safe haven’ of civilization. Perhaps with the crumbling of the twin towers, our duality has also crumbled. No longer are we separate from them, no longer are they aliens in another world, the war-torn, hungry ‘third world’. They are very much on the same planet as us. Now, surely, we can’t possibly ignore that fact.

 

From: Allison Newman in Gosford, NSW

 

Terrorism is one thing. 10,000 dead is another. A country can shrug off losing a plane load of people. They can ignore a building being damaged. But 10000 people dead is WAR! To put it into perspective, Australian casualties may be up around 70 in this attack on the US. This could be the biggest loss of AUSTRALIAN lives to terrorism ever! And we weren’t even the target!

 

With casualties of this magnitude, a nation must take immediate steps to defend itself. If the only viable option to do so is the destruction of the nation from which the attacks originated, then that is what must happen. And if nations provide sanctuary for people that launch this type of attack, it only adds extra fuel to the ‘nuke em till they glow’ argument.

 

I feel sorrow for the US. I feel sorrow for the ‘Free World’. I feel sorrow for all those poor innocents that are most likely going to die in the retaliation that the US will most certainly make, when their only crime was to not do enough to stop people from their nation conducting such ridiculously large acts of evil. But I hope that the retaliation is enough to make EVERY country take seriously it’s responsibility to hound down terrorists with great vigour.

 

No other solution will provide ME with protection from terrorist attack. Do I now have to fear for my life every time I board a plane, enter a large building, speak to a Yank? It is time for terrorists to be brought to heel. We of the Western world have played nice long enough. If the insane terrorists themselves won’t mend their ways, then the only target left is the governments that do not actively stamp out terrorism.

 

It’s not nice, but then, the bombing in Europe during WWII wasn’t nice either, but it was the only method the Allies had for bring Germany to heel. This time the enemy is terrorism, and the only way to stop such large scale terrorism is to make it impossible for the terrorists to poke their heads up ANYWHERE in the world, making it impossible for them to organise on such a scale.

 

If someone has a better realistic solution to stop terrorism that hasn’t already been tried (because all methods used to date were found wanting on Monday), I’d love to hear it. But I for one can’t conceive of any that will work better than forcing governments around the world to take full responsibility for the actions of their citizens.

 

 

KB, disappointed left activist

 

I am starting to wonder whether some of the attitudes and sentiments being expressed by the “left” across a number of sites

and media paint us in the same light that we try to paint the right. Jingo-ism works both ways and to look at an event such as the what happened in the US and say, “Great, the USA got what it deserved” makes us look like the bigots we regularly decry.

 

Noone deserves to have to make a decision such as should I die by jumping out of a 80th storey window or should I wait to be burnt to death.

 

It seems to be a common human behaviour when the big bully in the school yard gets kicked down everyone that was their victim cheers, but it only makes them as bad as the bully when they do so. Also more often than not, out of the victims a new bully emerges to take their place and to act in the same way as the former bully and sometimes worse.

 

What we should be doing now is to work within the changing paradigm of the world to encourage peaceful, considered, long term solutions to the issues that face us. Buying into the culture of retaliation gets us nowhere, and just makes the arms dealers richer.

 

Having had some time away from being involved with actively political groups and organisations,it has given me a bit of time to re-assess the way in which alot of the “alternative left” (of which I consider myself to be) operate.

 

It seems to me that a lot of people who have to some extent the comfort to live in societies that allow freedom of the press, civil liberties and an accountable court system just want to create conflict for the sake of it, they use whatever topical politics for a platform to show themselves to be hardcore, tough and fighting the system, regardless of how they might affect the people, or the situation that the issue is about.

 

I wonder how different the thoughts of some who have posted would be if they found out that someone they know has been killed when they were one their way to work, grabbing a coffee or just having a stroll around town and enjoying the day.

 

Michael Richardson in Kingsford, NSW

 

Should we be surprised?

 

I don’t think the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon was anything but the logical extension of the United States foreign policy and intervention over the last 50 years. I do not think it is justified and I do not excuse what was done and I do not want to belittle the suffering of the thousands who have probably died and the thousands more who have lost friends and loved ones.

 

However, the reality is this: America is not innocent. If it was an action taken by an extremist group from the Middle East then it is certainly not an unthinkable or unlikely event. US intervention in international affairs since the war has been motivated entirely by the desire to further or maintain economic power. International actions involving force or supply of arms is never made for humanitarian reasons.

 

We need to disabuse ourselves of this notion and wake up to the reality that politics is about one thing: the maintenance of power.

 

Why is America in the Middle East? Oil. If America withdraws support for Israel and Kuwait and oil is controlled in the Middle East by Arab nations then it is the Western world, and in particular the United States, that loses massive amounts of economic power.

 

America does not care about the people of Israel anymore than it cared about the people of South Korea, of Nicaragua, of Panama or of South Vietnam. Behave like a bully, hold parts of the world hostage with economic force and the threat of a powerful military and eventually one of the smaller kids will fight back.

 

Of course no one can take America on in full frontal attack. And, if you are this angry, this desperate to fight back, then what better way to bring a nation to its knees, to expose its fragility before the entire world than to strike into the heart of the basis of its power: trade.

 

This is a symbolic strike. This says “You who hold us hostage, you are not safe”. It says “You who are innocent are not innocent, you are complicit even if you are not aware of it”. It says “The economy can be stopped, international trade, the smooth cog of American business, American life, is not impervious or invulnerable”. It says “We can hurt your symbols of power with the symbols of your mobility, your transportation”.

 

America has acted the corrupt policeman in around the globe and is now experiencing the consequences of its actions. These actions are not justified but they are understandable. I can see WHY a terrorist group would do this. How do you hurt a bully so much bigger and stronger than you? You kick ’em in the spine when they’re not looking and run like hell.

 

I believe that a retaliation was bound to occur at some point in time and this, I think, may well be it (or the start of it, who knows?). You cannot wage war abroad – economic, covert or overt – without eventually suffering at home.

 

What saddens me most is that American retaliation will just cause more suffering elsewhere… but at the same time it is necessary, is it not?

 

It may seem that I am justifying or lauding the attack. I am not. What I am saying is that this is a logical repercussion of American foreign policy.

We are shocked and outraged when it is us – I say us, the white world of the west – because we are so high and mighty. I include myself and my country in this.

 

Did you know that 3 million people have died in the Congo since 1997? Did you know that massacres on a similar scale are a regular and barely reported occurrence in parts of Africa and Latin America? It only becomes 24 hour news when it happens in the heart of America.

 

Again, I am not trying to diminish the tragedy of what has occurred. I have barely slept, and that fitfully, in the last two nights. I have been dazed, disoriented and distressed. What I want to make clear is that this kind of thing (not as spectacular, not as symbolic, perhaps) happens with monotonous regularity in the developing nations of the world. But that it strikes home powerfully when it happens to us.

 

Perhaps this is a bitter and horrible way to raise our awareness of the suffering and violence that is perpetrated everyday throughout the world. Perhaps the Western nations so grieved and outraged of the events of recent days can now begin to feel that grief and outrage in other places around the world.

 

I don’t place myself above this. I know that I don’t know anywhere near enough about the violence I have talked about here. So I point my finger at myself as well.

The end of multiculturalism?

Peter Reith has made the link between the Tampa boat people and the catastrophe in the United States. Being one of the ludicrously out of touch minority I realise I now am, I had thought the atrocity may have softened our attitude to the boat people – they are, after all, fleeing terror. But no, now they’re terrorists trying to infiltrate our country.

Today, Reith said on Network Sky TV:

 

“They (our borders) are certainly too easily penetrated and that is why we have been taking a very strong stand on this issue … Jim Kelly, I should say, who is the number two to Colin Powell for our region was in Jakarta only 10 days ago saying that it was very important to tighten up on entry into Indonesia otherwise it could be used as a launching pad for terrorist activities. And that was before, you know, the last couple of horrific days. So those issues, security and border protection go hand in hand, there’s no two ways about it and that’s certainly one of the reasons that the Howard Government is taking a very strong stand on the issue.”

 

 

Immigration minister Phillip Ruddock came close to making the link yesterday morning on Radio National.

 

REPORTER: Certainly some of the talkback calls this morning has seen a lot of hatred being expressed towards the Muslim community. Now, there’s also been reference made to the asylum seeker issue. In hindsight to you regret the actions of the past couple of weeks now?

 

RUDDOCK: Not at all. I mean the issue here is the issue of our national sovereignty. Our capacity to be able to determine who is able to access Australia and who is able to remain here. And those issues go to the questions of character and security

 

REPORTER: But surely you would accept that the actions, over the past couple of weeks by the government, has increased the level of anxiety amongst the Muslim community? Has increased the level of attacks against the Muslim community? Surely the government must bear some responsibility here?

 

RUDDOCK: Well, I simply make the point no comments have been made by me, or by government ministers, adverse to any element of our community.

 

ends

 

No, the government you just rode on the coat tails of racism, and said nothing to quell it.

 

But John Howard, of all people, refused to make the link in a press conference before he left the United States, and made a strong statement calling for racial calm in Australia.

 

HOWARD: We all think that there’s a patch in the world called Australia that’s a little different from everywhere else, but its not really and we have to understand that we have to take precautions and accept approaches that we otherwise would not have wanted.

 

JOURNALIST: Does this episode have implications for our refugee

 

HOWARD: Look I’m not seeking in any way to link those two things.

 

Later, Howard said: “There are probably several hundred thousands of Australian-Lebanese and other Arab heritages. And they are good citizens and they are entitled to the same decent treatment and respect that we extend to all of our citizens, and I hope, speaking from, however inadequately, from a Christian perspective, I ask all Australians to extend to their fellow countrymen and women – whether they are of Islamic faiths, Christian faiths, Jewish faiths, or no faith at all tolerance, decency and inclusion.”

 

“We are a harmonious society. I want to keep it that way, and the people of Middle Eastern extraction in Australia, and the ordinary Australian citizens of that extraction should not be judged by the dastardly deeds of a few. I encourage everyone to re-double their sense of acceptance and tolerance towards people of different backgrounds and different ethnicities. And we have, by and large, been fortunate in that respect…

 

A journalist then asked an inaudible question. Howard replied: “Jim, in answer to another question in another context, I said I didn’t want to link two things and it is just not something I want to do.”

 

As racial and religious tensions threaten to escalate into world war, the government’s failure to calm them during the Tampa crisis – and even to inflame them now – is scandalous. John Howard’s attitude now is striking.

 

This edition explores the matter. To those of you who’ve emailed saying you’d like to shoot all Arabs or the like, I won’t publish such material. You should direct your emails to one of the many other media forums which will.

 

Contributors are: Mark Reddan, John Crockett, Julie Vella, Corrie Brodie, Amien Furmie, Clarence Oxford, Jared Madden, Stephen Collins, Con Vaitsas, Karel Zegers, Michael Beecham, Bryan Law, Anton Cook, Tony Cole and David Lim.

 

Mark Redden in Sydney

 

I’m an Australian permanent resident and US citizen. John Howard simply said, “Let’s be their friend.” Thanks for that.

 

I rode home from work, still a bit numb from all of it, didn’t want to read the newspaper on the seat next to me. A man of Middle East descent also got on and you could feel the tension in the bus. I had some as well.

 

He found a seat near the back of the bus, pretty close to mine. I watched as a mother whispered in her son’s ear while pointing at the man. It made me feel real bad for him, and for the way I and others were feeling towards him.

 

A young lady came and sat next to him, which seemed to amaze everyone. Good on her for that. It convinced me that I was wrong, that I can’t let bitterness overwhelm me, that I too can “Overcome evil with good.”

 

John Crockett

 

I was down in the carpark putting the shopping into the boot and two young men of Middle Eastern appearance were walking towards their car and I had to resist the urge to stare and so I turned away. Twenty four hours of unrelenting American news reports and I feel compelled to turn away from my fellow citizens.

 

What is happening Margo?

 

 

Julie Vella

 

I am a High School teacher in Campbelltown (in Western Sydney ) and I found a desk with large graffiti letters saying “Kill All Arabs”. I was shocked to read such a message from my mostly apolitical students and I am worried that fringe loonies will suddenly assume a licence to hate.

 

 

Corrie Brodie

 

I am, like so many others absolutely horrified by the terrorist attack on the US. However I am extremely frightened and saddened that our point of view is not shared by all here in Australia.

 

I work with people from the Middle East and yesterday they openly admitted that the attack was reason to celebrate and to quote one “…a miracle, an act of God”. I have no way to comprehend this amount of hatred that obviously exists towards the Western World or towards any group people.

 

The people who want us to let ‘refugees’ into this country without any form of system hopefully will think twice. They may believe that they are letting in a flock of sheep, however there are probably a few wolves in sheep skins just waiting to have another attack on Western Society.

 

 

Amien Furmie

 

I have been paying close attention to the responses of the public am dumbfounded by the narrow minded responses from fellow Australians who are labelling Muslims Arabs and refugees as the perpetrators.

 

I am a South African born Muslim and proud of my religion. We as Muslims don’t support suicide in any form, or terrorism – in fact its a sin and these are the words in the Quraan and that’s a fact any Scholar will tell you.

 

Stop showing Palistinians celebrating and get some responses from a diverse background of Muslims and I guarantee they too will condemn this terrorism. America has now seen what damage greed and hatred can cause on their own soil. For years the world have suffered these atrocities, where innocent people of all colours and religions were killed, including Jews, Muslims and others.

 

Now my mother won’t go out in fear of revenge attacks. My son’s daycare teacher has a stand-offish attitude to me now.

 

I read the Quraan daily, I pray, I have an Australian wife who became Muslim and is not covered with a cloak and a tea towel. So please don’t generalise as this will only cause a negative effect. History has made its mistakes of revenge and seen its effects. It made people more angry.

 

It’s time to learn why we are fighting and sort out our differences, or be prepared for more of these disgusting acts from all parts of the globe, including the USA.

 

Clarence Oxford (nom de plume)

 

You and your fellow journalists need to make a collective appeal to your management at Fairfax and other media companies for an immediate cessation of the vilification both racial and religious that is being promoted by Ackerman and others.

 

These are dangerous times and emotions are running red hot. Management of the respective media organizations must take responsibility for what it allows to be published in their newspapers.

 

Today’s column by Piers Ackerman in the Daily Telegraph is truly vile and accuses all Muslims of complicity in the attacks on America. Paddy McGuinness and others at your paper are also engaging in highly dangerous writings which are serving as an open invitation to attack Muslims.

 

Of course these people will deny this but only an idiot would think that their rantings are adding anything of value to the discussions taking place between all people at the moment.

 

We are on the verge of serious violence in this country and it is time for publishers to take responsibility for what they publish.

 

Jared Madden

 

 

These latest attacks herald a new era of terrorist ingenuity and a should be a beacon to all residents and the decision makers of the world that the current rule books are invalid. Who knows how many years that these attacks has been planned!

 

We have been condemned for not accepting the asylum seekers on the ship the Tampa. How do we know that amongst these asylum seekers that there are no terrorists that have been planted to receive asylum status and train themselves here for a terrorist attack?

 

If we cannot be sure why should we accept them? The court was wrong to rule against the government. It should not have stuck its nose into matters of national security. We elect these people to govern overs this beautiful country and make these decisions. Let them do their job!

 

 

Stephen Collins in Singapore

 

I’m very disappointed that you would publish a letter of the type received from A Iman in Fear purporting to balance the account of the tragedy with a secondary perspective.

 

There are absolutely NO moral or other justification for what has taken place. There is NO “other side”to the story. To suggest, or even allow the suggestion otherwise. is an act of moral cowardice.

 

Let’s hope common sense prevails here. Let’s hope that any response is targetted against the guilty and not the innocent. Let’s hope that mindless persecution of Muslim people does not occur.

 

But let us also hope that this serves the purpose of winding back the type of moral/cultural relativism that infects countries such as Australia and blinds them to the absolute rights and wrongs.

 

My advice to A Iman is this: This is a war. Keep your head down and your mouth shut. Diplomats and lawyers have relinquished the center stage stage now. It is warriors who will shape the next decade and beyond.

 

Words are now very cheap.

 

Con Vaitsas, an Australian of Greek descent in Sydney

 

Buying my coffee from the usual haunt this morning, I mentioned the previous nights events and asked the staff how they really felt being of Middle-Eastern origins. One leant over the counter and whispered to me, “What goes around comes around” and his colleagues agreed.

 

Yes, they feel it’s terrible that innocents were killed but would like to see the same compassion also being shown towards people of their own ethnic or religious background when they are involved in massive atrocities. But they said they would never admit this to other customers because they have to make a living.

 

At lunch time I went and on a bench in the park next to 3 construction workers who were talking about the tragedy.

 

I could hear their conversation. One bloke said, “Well the yanks are always sticking their noses everywhere” and another replied, “Lucky we didnt take those reffos, and as for those civil libertarians they should be given a bashing.”

 

“Hold on, what have the Tampa refugees got to do with what happened last night?” I asked

 

You gotta be kidding mate, said the young bloke, those bastards should have been shot. Why should we take those stinking Muslims. Are you going to pay for their upkeep? They don’t speak English, their customs are not like ours, and they bring diseases and are bludgers.

 

As I argued against this, I was asked where I was from. I said I was born here and they said I was not a real Aussie and what country my parents came from?

 

The young guy finally telling me and his mates that white man is supreme and we should kick out and keep out the non-whites. I left after telling him he shouldn’t believe everything he hears and reads in the media and should learn to question things.

 

This evening I arrived home, grabbed my mail and opened one of the envelopes to find another anonymous letter full of vitriol aimed at me and my views because of a recent letter to the editor I wrote supporting the refugees. I wish they would add their names to it. I only want sensible debate.

 

Karel Zegers in Bendigo

 

Two points to ponder.

 

1) Do we in Australia need or want residents or citizens who are part of a religion glorifying or supporting acts like the World Trade Centre? And please don’t mention that some Islamites pretending “abhorrence” over this terrible event. They are just scared and so they should be.

 

2) Terrorists and their allies only understand terror. So lets not pussyfoot but get stuck into them.

 

Or is there anyone who supports the Taliban and Bin-Laden?

 

Michael Beecham

 

I would hate to be a Muslim now in a foreign country. Imagine what it must be like for them always watching their backs now. A big mistake they made for their people those who did this

 

Bryan Law in Cairns

 

What’s at stake here is not just the issue of Tampa refugees or Terrorism in the U.S.. Rather it is the preservation and creation of a fully human way of life for all of us on planet Earth.

 

John Avery and Colin White in Tragedy leap neatly to conclusions and caricature of Islam. Andrew Cave “Tragedy” identifies anti-Arab sentiment in Kuraby. The Middle-East is a logical region to suspect of growing these suicide bombers, but the who and why of it requires more thinking than blaming – especially if we’re going to do something about it.

 

I heard a commentator on Radio National tonight saying that if it came from the Middle-East it is connected to some very ugly historical injustices that are woven into the fabric of that region. He referred to the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the perfidy of the English state during WW2, the establishment of Israel post WW2, and the foreign policy of the U.S. state since the 1970s, including the repeated bombing of Lebanon and Iraq.

 

It’s completely wrong to associate atrocity with any religion in particular. We might as well blame Buddhism for Cambodia, and Christianity for Serbia (to name just two other recent instances of massive bombing and attempted genocide). We’d have to blame Animism for Rwanda. I’d prefer to get the facts, and figure out where the evil actually does come from.

 

One thing I know is we’d have a whole lot less anti-Arab sentiment in the western world today if they weren’t sitting on all that lovely oil we want (cheap).

 

One other thing I know is that we are not doomed to repeat the escalating cycles of violence. Gandhi showed a powerful way forward last century. To Brian Bahnish in Tragedy I’d say Gandhi also said that satyagraha relied on truth to oneself as well as to God. “If you have a sword in your heart, pick it up and use it. Don’t pretend.”

 

You may well be willing to kill to save your sister’s life, but that has always been a phoney question designed to trap conscientious objectors. The real question is “Are you willing to organise to build and enhance your whole community’s life?”

 

Pope Paul 6 said “If you want peace, work for justice.

 

Malcolm X said, on the occasion of President Kennedy’s assassination, “I hear the sounds of chickens coming home to roost”. That phrase has been in my mind all day.

 

The world hasn’t suddenly changed, It’s been heading down this road for quite a while. It’s time to work for justice.

 

 

Anton Cook

 

These boat people – the ones that Kim Howard and John Beazley would turn away – are they not refugees from the oppressive regime now suspected of complicity in perhaps the most gross terrorist atrocity of all time? Time for a humanitarian rethink?

 

Tony Cole

 

I am astounded that so little attention is being given by Tweedledum (Howard) and Tweedledee (Beazley) and by governments throughout the world to the root cause of the problem. We get tough on the asylum seekers but not on their persecutors!

 

Perhaps Howard and Ruddock could sing for the electors (rather than merely enacting) the Gendarmes’ Duet:

“………

When danger looms w’are never there!

But when we meet a helpless woman,

or little boys that do no harm,

we run them in

we run them in

we run them in

we run them in

we show them w’are the bold Gendarmes!!”

 

David Lim

 

I’m not sure what to say. The only thought that comes to mind is that this marks the end of peacetime. So this is how the end of the world starts.

 

This despicable terrorist act marks the end of tolerance, of diversity, of multiculturalism. And it marks the beginning of racial hatred, of mob rule, of racial segregation, of mindless violence and terror.

 

People who are non-white (like me), will not be able to walk in our streets again. We will be actively discriminated against because of the colour of our skin, our race, because we are “terrorists” out to destroy the country. This marks the beginning of paranoia and racial discrimination.

 

So how far will Australia (and the US) go in retaliating against its non-White citizens? Concentration camps for non-whites? Or an Australian-style “final solution” with gas chambers and mass executions?

 

We’ve already seen John Howard, Pauline Hanson and Bob Carr encouraging race-related abuse. How far will they go? How much “non-white” blood will be spilled before enough is enough?

 

I’m afraid, and I’m frightened. I’ve never felt like this before, not even during the whole Pauline Hanson “anti-Asian” race debate. Soon, very soon, the racial persecution will start. Our country will give in to its lust for hatred and revenge. May god have mercy on us all.