Monday, September 13, 2004

The War on Terror and the War on Illogic 

One of the most irritating thing about the Labor opposition leader Mark Latham's performance during last night's Great Debate with the Prime Minister John Howard, was his persistent misreading of the war on terror. According to Latham:
"We have become less safe in the war against terror because of the conflict in Iraq. Why? Because it diverted so many resources from the real task, and for Australia the real task is in our part of the world, in Asia."
This is a bullshit argument on two counts: firstly because it ignores the fact that Australia has been, and still would be, a terrorist target with or without Iraq; and secondly, it illogically assumes that somehow because of our involvement in Iraq, we haven't been doing enough to fight terrorism in the region.

On the first point,
Mark Steyn answers with an opinion piece in today's "Australian" (by the way, it's good to see Mark increasingly commenting on Australian politics, in addition to his usual American, Canadian and British haunts):

"The other day, Maureen Dowd, The New York Times's elderly schoolgirl op-ed queen, published a new collection. The jacket of Bushworld: Enter At Your Own Risk shows the eponymous Texan cowboy swaggering out from the White House, fingers hovering twitchily over his guns.

"That's how much of the West thinks of these past three years: It's Bushworld; the rest of us just live in it, involuntarily. The 'so-called' war on terror is just a racket cooked up by George W. Bush's Halliburton cronies to boost their stock price and to enable Junior to work out some complicated psychological feelings re his daddy and the inconclusive ending to the first Gulf War. If Bush goes away, and his poodles Blair and Howard, all the bad stuff will go away, too.

"Meanwhile, back in the real world, we have last week's bombing in Jakarta. Would that have happened without Bush – without Afghanistan and Iraq? No, says Ibrahim Dellal, acting vice-president of the Cyprus-Turkish mosque in Sunshine, Melbourne. It's all the result of Anglo-American-Australian aggression. 'If you throw stones, they will be thrown back at you.'

"Wrong. Last week's bombing would still have happened. Maybe not last week, maybe not in the run-up to an Australian election. But, with or without Bush, Australians would have opened their morning papers these past three years and found themselves staring at pictures of carnage and slaughter in Jakarta. Jemaah Islamiah and other al-Qa'ida affiliates were operating in Indonesia well before September 11. In December 2000, while Bill Clinton was president and Bush and Al Gore were dangling their chads, explosions in Jakarta and Manila killed three dozen people."

Read the whole piece - it's, as always, excellent. What Latham & Co still fail to grasp is Australia is a target because it's a Western liberal democracy stuck on the periphery of the South East Asian region, which is largely Islamic of a moderate variety. In other words, for the Jemaah Islamiah crowd we're the closest infidels to lash out against. Also, Latham seems to conveniently forget that bin Laden hates Australia primarily because of our country's role in winning independence for (Christian) East Timor from (Muslim) Indonesia a few years ago. Detatching parts out of the "House of Islam" is, of course, as big a no-no for Islamofascists as, say, being nice to America. Now, Labor supported the Government's decision to send troops into East Timor - yet Latham is not arguing that our involvement in East Timor has made us "less safe." Figure that one out.

But, more importantly, and as much as I never use bold to make a point on this blog, this cannot be overemphasised enough: the Labor Party say that - Iraq or no Iraq - they are 110% onboard as far as the war on terror is concerned. In fact, this whole argument that Iraq has been a distraction to the war on terror in our region is an attempt to outflank the government from the right. In fact, Labor's foreign affairs spokesman
Kevin Rudd has yesterday gone into macho-talk overdrive on the topic: "We offer no quarter, we offer no compromise and we offer no negotiation... Murderers, mass murderers of the type we have seen in Jakarta in recent days must be destroyed... and we will destroy them."

Now, if Latham says that Australia is now more of a terrorist target for Jemaah Islamiah because of the Government's decision to involve ourselves on the other side of the world in Iraq, then isn't Australia going to become a hell of a lot more of a terrorist target when we promise to exterminate the very same Jemaah Islamiaah terrorists in their regional home base?

In other words: being involved in the war in Iraq makes Australia more of a terrorist target; being involved in the war on terror (which Labor supported from September 11 onwards) doesn't.

Rhetoric 1; Logic 0.

As for the other stupid argument that the Government hasn't been doing enough to fight terrorism in Australia's neighbourhood because we have been too distracted by Iraq, the Prime Minister described this sort of intelligence-insulting line the best when he said last night it's tantamount to saying we can't walk and chew gum at the same time. In reality, the cooperation between Australia and our neighbours on counter-terrorism
has never been greater.

Latham still wants to bring the Australian troops out of Iraq. Labor should leave the troops - and bring some logic back instead.


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