Thursday, March 27, 2003

OPINION: Sending Wimps to Baghdad? Why Opposing the War Is Supporting The Troops

The United States has managed to convince the whole world that Iraq has to be bombed.

Um, well, they have convinced four other countries. Absent from the Coalition of the Killing are the US’s two neighbours (Canada and Mexico), all but two of its NATO allies and every other country on earth.

Every other country that is, except the two mighty military powers of Poland and Australia.

In line with all its other conquests (including a World Cup win), Australia is ready to conquer Iraq. But are Australians convinced? As late as early last week (mid-March 2003), most Australians opposed the war. This was reflected even in Uncle Rupert bin Murdoch’s poll conducted by his national broadsheet The Australian which shows that a majority of people still do not support war.

But then last week, our good Prime Minister John Dubya Howard called upon all Australians to get behind the war effort for the sake of the troops and their families. He urged us to remember those awful days after the Vietnam War when Australian troops returned home after witnessing all sorts of atrocities. And how they were jeered when they returned. And how many of them suffered for the rest of their lives.

The PM had a point. But some supporters of the war were claiming that the PM was telling us Aussies to support the war and to stop protesting. Because if we did not stop protesting, this would adversely affect our troops’ morale. It would also make the families feel very very upset.

Sounds absurd? Well apparently similar logic (or lack thereof) is being used by politicians in North America and the UK. And Uncle Rupert’s scribes in his newspapers and the clowns that appear on his Fox News are using the same dodgy logic.

So what do we tell them? How do we answer back? What is the solution to this riddle?

The answer lies in a little analogy. To see how amazingly imbecilic this logic is, apply it to other contexts.

Now I have many friends who are lawyers. And there are many things about the legal system in Australia that I think are awful. I am happy to say it also. And in case anyone doubts me, I will say it again – some aspects of our legal system are absolutely terrible!

Read the last clause aloud. Really loud. In fact, invite 10 lawyers over and scream it to their face. Then cover your eyes. Count to ten. Then uncover your eyes. Do you see any lawyers wailing and crying? Are they consoling their families at your outrageously immoral and unpatriotic statement? Are some of them ready to collapse in shock and horror?

Obviously not. Why? Because they are PROFESSIONALS. They do not get offended at everything. They do not take it personally. Yes, they form an essential part of the legal system. But they know that by voicing your views on the system, you are not attacking them personally. Nor are you attacking their families.

Another example (and please do not tell my cousins in Lahore or Delhi). In the recent World Cup cricket final, I was watching with glee as we were kicking some Indian butt. But then it started raining. And this would effect how the game is scored. I hate the rule. I think it is severely stuffed. And I am happy to tell millions on the internet that I think it is stuffed.

So I have just stated twice that a rule of cricket sux. Does that mean I have offended the Australian cricket team?

And you could apply it on and on. Do Department of Immigration staff go on stress leave because many people oppose mandatory detention of asylum seekers? Do Tax Office staff wail and weep as people get upset over the GST? Are nurses leaving the health system because people keep complaining about hospital waiting lists and the state of the health system?

Anyone who says that we should stop protesting against this war because it hurts the troops is really insulting our armed forces. Our soldiers, our navy personnel, our pilots, our other military staff are TRAINED to fight. They are TOUGHENED to face things much worse than 2,000 socialist (and in my case, 1 conservative) hippies marching and dancing in the streets of Sydney or New York. To suggest that our exercise of our democratic rights is somehow going to hurt the troops’ feelings is to effectively say that our soldiers are a bunch of wimps and weaklings.

We are not sending to Iraq young kids fresh off the street as part of some draft process. We are sending professionals. Trained soldiers who are educated in the art of warfare and in the intricacies of international law. Even if their political superiors do not understand international law, I am sure our troops do understand. They are tough. They are fearsome. They are disciplined. And they do not break down and reach for the Kleenex just because you or I or anyone else is shouting ‘No War’ a few thousand miles away.

And why should they react like this? Many of them have family members involved in anti-war protests. Or they have relatives or friends marching against the war.

And let’s be frank. If (God forbid!) some of these young men and women do not come back alive, who has a better chance of copping flack from their families? Anti-war protestors? Or the politicians who sent these young people to their deaths in the first place? Was it the banners and loudspeakers that caused the death? Or was it the decision to go to war?

So next time you see some clown on Fox News whining about unpatriotic protestors, just remember that these people are paid to ensure that the standard of their program is as low as the News Corporation share price.

First published in MWU! on 26 March 2003.

Words © 2003 Irfan Yusuf

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MEDIA: Sydney Slickers Meet Forrest Gump @ South Park

Picture this. I am sitting at my best mate Don’s place in the inner suburbs of Sydney. We have just had dinner, prepared by Carol, his lovely Chinese-Australian wife. And we move to his lounge-room to watch the idiotbox (affectionately known as the ‘TV’). Don has recently signed up with that entertainment novelty we call ‘pay-TV’. We switch to the Fox Channel. And we are amazed.

Right there, before our very eyes, are a bunch of TV hosts behaving more like those poor school kids suffering from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). The subject?

"THE CASE AGAINST IRAQ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Problem was, we could not see much of a case. All we saw was pictures of Colin Powell walking around the UN, shaking hands, receiving pats on the back (and no doubt requests for hard cash in return for a crucial vote). And pictures from the multi-media demonstration that formed an integral part of Powell’s 80-minute address.

All this whilst the ADD kids are just budding into each other’s comments. "Saddam stole my eraser in class! He’s gonna pay!" says the female host with the appropriately-colored hair.

"Yeh, well so what. Saddam took all my pencils and is throwing them at that fat kid Ariel. Oh my God, Ariel’s crying! Poor Ariel, what a victim!" says the dude with the over-ironed suit and hyperactive face that looks like it has been shaven 20 times that morning.

"Hey here comes Ariel with nuclear-powered crayons. And look! He’s poking Saddam’s eyes out. That’s a bit much, isn’t it?" says the third fellow who looks more like Jerry Seinfeld than Jerry Seinfeld.

On and on it goes. We sit there stunned, waiting for Jerry Springer to enter at some stage. Don’s wife Carol is shocked and surprised. "Is this serious TV or Sesame Street? They are just talking over each other like kids. I wonder if all Americans are like this," she says with her eyes wide open.

Don’s impressions are not much more flattering.

"These guys look like a bunch of used car salesmen. Check out that guy. He’s not interviewing the guest. He’s lecturing him!"

"Yep", I continue, "Isn’t it great how Uncle Rupert [i.e. Murdoch] can get away with making so much money selling such a crappy product over there in America. Imagine if he tried to do that here. He’d be laughed out of town!"

Why on earth am I telling you all this, my North American bruzzerz and sistarrz? I guess because it would be good if more and more Americans knew how the rest of the world views them, including citizens of allied countries like Australia.

Aussies have always viewed Yanks (as we call you) as eccentric, over-flourished, and a bit manic. It was an Australian psychiatrist who discovered that salt lithium carbonate could be used to treat mood swings. And most Aussies would agree with me when I say more Yanks take the stuff than we do.

But even these pre-conceived notions we have of our allies could not prepare Don, his wife and me for what came next on Fox News. The volume was pretty high on the TV, and I had gone to the bathroom. As I was walking back, I heard this accent that I recalled from a bad movie with really good music. It was unmistakable. I could hear Don laughing and shouting, "Run, Richard, run!"

And as I walked into the idiotbox room, I saw on the screen someone who talked like Forrest, sounded like Forrest, even seemed to think like Forrest. But no, it was not Forrest Gump. It was Richard Shelby, an elected Republican Senator from Alabama.

Saddaam Husseyyn ayand Al Kayyda both haav da saym aym!
I sat with my friend and wondered whether this guy was reading something his "mamma" wrote for him. And as Senator Shelby continued to insult Saddam, we were just waiting any moment for Forrest Gump to turn into another episode of South Park. "Ma Mamma told me dat drugs ar bayad. Ayand Aah hate drugs!! Ayand that Saddaam gah--whah Aah reckon he is havin sodomy with thah devil!"

Once Senator Shelby was disposed of and shipped back to the land where life is like a chocolate cake, the hosts decided to see what the newspapers were saying. They held up the covers of numerous tabloids which all spoke of war and hard evidence and why Bush is good and why we should go and kick some Ay-rab butt. What they did not tell us was that each of these newspapers was owned by their employer, the Australian-born ex-Australian Rupert Murdoch.

The final straw for us was when our ADD-afflicted hosts brought on the token Ay-rab (and indeed the token expert). Professor Walid Phares taught something-to-do- with-Ay-rabs at the Murdoch Heights University. And his hosts were determined to impose their stamp on his attempts at letting loose his flair of "expertise."

Look, Professor. We Americans know Saddam is a lunatic. And we all saw he has weapons of mass seduction … woops … I meant de-suction. All us Americans think that. But what about you Arabs? I mean, what does the Arab on the street think?
And just as Professor Phares was about to speak, another host intervened.

Surely the Mozzlem world and the rest of the Arabs could not accept all of Saddam’s propaganda. And what about all our friends in democratic states like Saudi Arabia and Jordan?
Again the Professor tried to respond.

I’ll bet they don’t watch programs like ours where we invite independent experts to speak. They probably watch real-bad TV channels like Al Jazeera ...

... said the hostess with hair colored to reflect her IQ (sorry, that was really cruel).

By this stage, Professor Phares was probably wondering what he was doing here. After 5 minutes he just could not get a word in. What did they want him to say? What expertise was he meant to share with them? What was the whole point of the exercise?

But at the mention of Al Jazeera, the good Professor realized what his role was--to beat the living shit out of a network Rupert could never buy off.

Yes, my friendz, Al Jazeera iz just full ov consbiracy theories. In za Arab vuld, all za beebil vash zis nonsense ...

... the Professor spoke with a tabloid nod.

Hey I like this professor. We should invite you on more often. How do I go about enrolling in one of your courses?
... said the Seinfeld-look-alike.

By this time, my own hosts had had enough of this trash. Carol and Don reached for the aspirin tablets while I switched to watching animals from the Amazon jungle imitating UN Security Council delegates on Discovery Channel.

(This article first appeared in some pinko-lefty US-based Moslem-terrorist fundamentalist fanatic extremist website called 'MuslimWakeup!'. Clearly the site has been funded by al-Qaida and should be investigated and shut down. Alternately, perhaps Uncle Rupert could make them an offer!)

Words © 2003 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, February 10, 2003

COMMENT: The Right-Wing & the Right-Offs

I am proud to come out of the closet and declare that I am a proud heterosexual clean-living conservative. Serious. You don’t believe me? Would I lie to you?

I admit that I once attended a weekend junket-cum-workshop entitled ‘Liberty and Society’ at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney. I still go to their lectures occasionally, although like most persons with brains I avoided the one they hosted for Daniel “The Muslims are Coming! The Muslims are Coming!!” Pipes. Living across the road from a major psychiatric hospital, I see enough poor souls locked in cycles of paranoid ranting without having to watch Pipes' schizophrenic babbling on gentiles.

I admit that I twice ran for office for the Liberal Party of Australia (the oddly-named conservative party down under). I have been a member since 1993. I’ve had my photo taken with all sorts of conservative luminaries in Australia. I’ve written letters to the editor criticising wet pinko-types who attack our good Prime Minister. I have published and written for more conservative rags than I care to remember.

My favourite American writer is not Mark Twain or Noam Chomsky. It is good old PJ O’Rourke. His ‘Holidays in Hell’ still makes my sides split in pain and my jaws almost snap with laughter. And his ‘Give War a Chance’ is just brilliant.

However, I have to say that his ‘Republican Party Reptile’ and ‘Parliament of Whores’ are my two favourites. The thing I like about PJ is not just his acidic wit and his razor-sharp pen. It isn’t just his satirical approach to the most serious situations.

What I love most about PJ is that he is a sensible conservative. He can tell the difference between conservatives and people who belong in nursing homes or perhaps even mood disorder clinics. PJ does not support every single crazy position taken by anyone with the label of ‘conservative’ pinned to their Mickey Mouse watch.

Real conservatives are not against change. Real conservatives are happy to change provided the core values remain the same. Real conservatives are happy to embrace gradual change, evolutionary change. Evolution is part of nature, even if the creation-science freaks and their Harun-Yahya-junkies in the Muslim world cannot accept it. So evolutionary change is more consistent with human nature. Evolutionary social change is more organic and so has no artificial colors or preservatives.

What troubles me, PJ and so many other conservatives is this. There is an increasing trend toward turning the clock BACK. Some conservatives want to take us back to a time when we all believed the earth was flat and that Darwin was naughty and that blacks should go back to the cotton field. Sadly, there are people in the Republican Party and in various conservative think-tanks who are trying to take America back, not forward.

In doing so, these pseudo-conservatives are in effect showing their complete lack of confidence in the ability of American and Western culture to face the future. They are also allowing conservative politics to fall into the lap of wackos whose idea of Christian love is to blow up an abortion clinic or, better still, a Federal Government building in Oklahoma.

Worst of all, these pseudo-conservatives are declaring war on one of America’s greatest strengths - American multiculturalism. These are the sort of people who would love to lock up anyone with a faintly Arab or Middle Eastern sounding surname. They would go to war against the entire Middle East, and all in the name of Jesus. And if by some wierd chance Jesus returned while they were in power, they would probably arrest him and put him on trial for terrorism after keeping him at Guantanamo Bay for a few decades.

OK enough from me. Back to the drawing board. Seeya.

UPDATE 30/07/10: Here are some endorsements from miscellaneous fruitloops that once appeared on the right hand margin of this blog.

Endorsement from Daniel Lewis

Irfan is not only a liar ... coward and intellectual fraud ... I would have thought the right-hand sidebar of his blog would be an excellent place for another quote from his growing list of 'admirers'.

(Danny-boy, thanks for the suggestion! And keep those nasty letters to the editor going. Would you like me to reproduce some here?)

Endorsement from Seyfi Seyit

... novice writer Irfan Yusuf ... after forcing myself to read [his] book I found it irreverent, blasphemous ...

(Review by Mr Seyit of Once Were Radicals in Issue 3 of The Aussie Mossie newsletter published on an irregular basis, usually to coincide with Mr Seyit's latest government funding application.)

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Brief thoughts on conservatism ...

...which will hopefully be updated with greater regularity!

OK, here we go again with another instalment of what must be the laziest right-wing blogspot in earth. Yes, I have been truly and pathetically useless with this page, and I deserve to be banished forever from the ranks of the right.

In case any of you are not from Australia and do not understand how one can be liberal and rightwing at the same time, let me explain. In Australia, we have two conservative parties – the Liberal Party and the National Party. The latter claims a near-monopoly on the conservative vote in rural and regional Australia and is the voice of the bush. The Liberal Party is meant to be a broad church consisting of liberals (in the small ‘l’ US and EU sense) and urban conservatives. These two parties formed a coalition years ago, before I was born.

Confused? Well think about this. Conservatism is a political ideology which seeks gradual change in society. It is not against change and reform, but seeks such change in a gradual evolutionary way. That is, we do not compromise our core beliefs.

In a secular context, core beliefs are expressed as broadly and inclusively as possible. A secular conservative democracy cannot have, as part of its core beliefs, that evolution must not be taught in high schools or that abortion must be banned. Similarly, it cannot demand that certain religious groups confirm to cultural or dress norms.

In a secular conservative democracy, if a woman chooses to wear a mini-skirt then that is her right. If she chooses to wear a headscarf (because she is a nun or an Orthodox Jew or a Muslim), that is also her choice.

If a man chooses to shave or grow a beard, that is his choice. If he chooses to wear a Jewish yarmulke or a Sikh pagri, that is also his choice. There is NOTHING conservative about forcing Sikh men to take off their pagris or Muslim or Jewish women to take off their scarves.

Makes sense? Of course it does. So why is it that more and more conservative activists in Australia, the United States and elsewhere are calling for cultural and faith communities to ‘confirm’ and ‘assimilate’?

And why is it that, notwithstanding that it is 2:45am, I still am not in bed? Seeya all later!