Monday, February 09, 2009

CRIKEY: When will anti-war conservatives condemn the so-called war on terror?


The former opinion editor of The Australian (and no doubt author of numerous editorials in The Oz at the time) has made his position on the Iraq war, George W Bush and neo-Conservative foreign policy very clear. In The Oz today, Tom Switzer reminds his readers that he is "someone who strongly opposed the war from the outset ... long believed the Iraq invasion was unnecessary". Switzer disputes any link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, refers to the "incompetence" of former Prez Dubya and has a go at "the neo-conservative architects of this misbegotten venture". He reminds us also that "democracy was not an export commodity".

I needed Tom’s reminder. Like many who kept a vomit bag handy whilst reading The Australian at the time, I remember The Oz editorial and op-ed sections doing little more than accusing war critics of lacking patriotism. Switzer edited a page and wrote editorials singing lyrics written by Bush, Blair and our own Dubya, John W Howard.

I know many conservatives disagreed on Bush’s foreign policy adventures. From Pat Buchanan to Owen Harries, prominent non-neo-Con conservatives objected not only to war in Iraq but indeed the entire fiasco of torture, murder, mayhem and lawlessness packaged as the "War on Terror".

But can the man who brought Janet Albrechtsen to the national stage now honestly claim he was never a neo-Con after all? Is Switzer changing his tone in line with a new American administration, to shore up his position at the United States Study Centre at Sydney Uni? Can Switzer really legitimately claim to be a critic of the Iraq debacle?

Yes, he can.

As far back as May 2003, Switzer opposed the Iraquagmire in a book review for Quadrant. Switzer lamented the almost near-absence of anti-war sentiment among Australian conservatives when compared to their UK and US counterparts. In a Quadrant article in December ’05, Switzer and Neil Clark argued that conservatives down under "have practically wanted the Australian Army to serve as the American Foreign Legion". They argued the Iraq war was a profoundly unconservative war.

Now Switzer and other conservatives must acknowledge the Iraq war was part of a wider war on common sense, world peace, the rule of law and democratic values. Yes, two jets did hit the Twin Towers. Yes, bombs went off in Madrid, Bali, London etc. But did that make some "War on Terror" necessary?

There’s no point opposing the Iraq war if you still support all the nonsense associated with it. Nonsense like Guantanamo, like extraordinary rendition, like some crazed theory of the world being divided along neat cultural lines.

Conservatives like Switzer need to acknowledge that the so-called war on terror, not just its Iraqi component, may have had some good consequences and may have been well-intentioned. But by and large, it has been an unmitigated disaster.

First published in the Crikey daily alert on Monday 09 February 2009.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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COMMENT: Bushfires ....

I spoke to a friend who lives just outside Melbourne. Her small town wasn't affected by the fires, but at least one neighbouring town was almost completely decimated.

I also received an e-mail from Indonesia. A former Indonesian delegate to Australia on a Muslim Leaders' Exchange Program run by the Australia-Indonesia Institute sent a heartfelt message.

Thus far, media have been extremely sensitive and sensible. However, it doesn't take long for things to change. Who knows whether the tabloids pick this up and use it as a tool to bash each and every individual who happens to tick a certain box on their census forms. In the past, they've had little trouble trawling online forums for comments allegedly representative of entire communities.

I managed to do some trawling of my own and located a small online forum where one of two people have made some insensitive remarks about the vistims and survivors of the bushfires. The same forum contains some fairly robust attacks on those who made the insensitive remarks.

I admit "irfsol" did get a little excited in his responses.

God keep our nation safe.

RACISM: Submission for urgent UN action on NT Intervention ...

A group of respected lawyers acting for ...
... a number of Aboriginal people who reside inPrescribed Areas in the Northern Territory and are subject to the measures of the Northern Territory Intervention ...

... has prepared a 64 page submission and lodged it with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. You can download and read the document in full care of the National Indigenous Times website here. It makes compelling reading.

To claim that the Commonwealth government can only overcome profound institutional and other disadvantage of indigenous people by excluding government action from the provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) is effectively an admission that the government action does in itself constitute racial discrimination. Removing disadvantange by racist means may achieve some short term goals, but in the long term it further institutionalises racism.

If you read nothing else in this report, at least read the executive summary.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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