Friday, July 22, 2005

This is why we fight 

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard is no stranger to finding himself in the midst of crisis. He was Washington on September 11, 2001, only a few blocks away from the Pentagon when it was hit with the flying battering ram. Yesterday, again, he was in the middle of a meeting with Tony Blair when the second wave of terrorists struck (or tried to strike) London. There is little doubt that Howard would have been on the forefront of the Willing regardless - but such proximity to the brutal face of terror certainly adds immediacy to his commitment to the alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom.

Howard's words during the joint press conference with Blair have been quoted extensively around the blogosphere, so you have to excuse me if you've read it already, but it bears repeating as a clear and concise restatement of what we're doing and why we're doing it:
Question: To both Prime Ministers, what was your immediate reaction on hearing that some incidents had occurred, was it here we go again? And do incidents like this, coming just 14 days after the horrific attacks, suggest that the war against terror is being lost on the streets? And yesterday an Australian bomb victim of July 7 linked the bombings to Iraq. Does that suggest that the propaganda war against terrorists is also being lost?

Prime Minister Howard: Could I start by saying the Prime Minister and I were having a discussion when we heard about it, and my first reaction was to get some more information, and I really don't want to add to what the Prime Minister has said. It is a matter for the police and a matter for the British authorities to talk in detail about what has happened here. Could I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government, and indeed the policies of the British and American government on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it has given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq; and could I remind you that the 11 September occurred before the operation in Iraq; can I also remind you that the very first occasion that Bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor.

Are people, by implication, suggesting that we shouldn't have done that? When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on 7 July, they talked about British policy, not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Melo was murdered in Iraq, a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, immensely respected for his work in the United Nations, when al Queda gloated about that they referred specifically to the role that de Melo had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor. Now I don't know the mind of the terrorist, by definition you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber, I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I have cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq, and indeed all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggest to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of the principles of a great world religion that at its root preaches peace and cooperation, and I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances, rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.

Prime Minister Blair: I agree 100% with that.
This is the summary, then: the Islamofascists have declared the war on the West a long time ago; their grievances are many, ranging from specific to very broad, but overall they're non-negotiable and inexhaustible - and for most part unjustified. This is why we fight.


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