Home front

Thursday, 28 August 2014 

So I imagine that from time to time they would want a different captain but nevertheless, that’s what he said, that we’re all part of Team Australia and you’re our captain.

Captain Australia, 20 August 2014

A curious obliviousness has descended over the political scene and its commentary to the escalation of tensions over Iraq. Partly it comes from the desperation of a government thinking that it will solve its significant political problems. Partly it comes from the opposition’s fear it will as well, on top of the normal shutdown it has over anything to do with national security, especially under its current leader.

But it’s also to do with the complications behind the current escalation that neither side wants to see.

For a start, any military action in the Iraq will inevitably remind everyone of the failure of previous interventions in Iraq. The US and UK spent almost a decade in trying to build a viable state in Iraq, which is collapsing in the space of months from the onslaught of an army from nowhere.

Actually, the record could look even worse than that, as ISIS only seems to have came from nowhere because where it did come from raises even more awkward questions. Clinton is telling anyone who listens that Syria’s problems come from the US not intervening enough, as she not-so-subtly distances herself from the disappointments of the Obama administration in preparation for 2016. Yet, the reality seems to be that the US has been involved as much as you would expect it to be in such a key strategic area. It’s just that it appears to have badly backfired, again, and so now must go back in and try to mop up the mess it helped to create – but with even less clarity on its goals than before.

But there is an even bigger complication than just being forced to go back over the ground of past failures. It was something that was also present, if side-lined, during the War on Terror but unavoidable now.

It was summed up by one of the most important counter-terrorism measures announced by the government so far: the decision to suspend benefit payments to those found going abroad on a jihad.

As a counter-terrorism measure it’s a joke. For a start, it only applies to one of the Australians abroad fighting for ISIS, Khaled Sharrouf – he who captioned a photo of his seven-year old son holding a decapitated head in Syria with “that’s my boy”. But using him as an example also shows the ludicrousness of the thinking that believes someone who goes abroad on a jihad to kill, and willing to brutalise his son in the process, will somehow think twice if he loses his lavish disability pension.

This chasm between the banality of the measure and what it is supposed to be aimed at comes from this not being about an international terrorist threat that bombs can be thrown at with no questions asked – but something homegrown, which is a whole different ball game.

Let’s be blunt. Australia has become a major exporter of terrorism. In fact, per capita it has the largest contingent fighting for ISIS of any foreign country. Nor is it especially new. Just as uncovering the US’s involvement reveals the murky past of stuff ups with its operations in Syria, Australia was seeing an outflow of nationals to fight in the Syrian civil war years before they emerged with ISIS on the other side of the Iraqi border.

This makes things awkward for both sides of politics. For a right that is more comfortable with a foreign bogeyman, it is torn between slyly implying Muslims living in Australia might not be part of “Team Australia”, or presenting the threat as foreign all along. This gets them into knots, such as the Daily Telegraph’s fear that terrorists will bring their “twisted beliefs” home, when obviously to go off and fight for something as barbaric as ISIS means they surely already had them when they left Australia.

There were similar contortions by the out-going head of ASIO, David Irvine, in his speech to the National Press Club this week, who talked of concern of “enhanced religious commitment” from those returning, as though going off to kill didn’t require a rather lot of religious fervour, or whatever, in the first place.

But Irvine also raised the other contortion that is more widespread to include the left, in his call for Muslim community leaders to redouble the efforts to control the “few misguided people in their midst”.

“Community” is a word that is much loved on the left of politics and is a bedrock of the view that sees segregated and isolated sections of society under the rose-tinted glasses of multiculturalism. In Australia, there was a long history of this type of thinking even before the advent of multiculturalism in the 1970s with the celebration of cultural difference of indigenous peoples. It not only flattered what has been a persistent and vast social disparity in living conditions relative to non-indigenous people, but never had anything to say to the unemployed indigenous youth in Redfern whose cultural activities, like many men his age, may not go beyond watching TV footy on the sofa on a Saturday afternoon.

In this case, the word “community” implies an assumption of a cohesiveness that may not be there. Such a rose-colored view on the cohesiveness of immigrant groups is in danger of back-firing as the leaders are now assumed to have an influence they simply don’t have.

It certainly prevents questions being raised that should be when Muslim “community leaders” are paraded to explain their reaction to the jihadists as we saw on the 7.30 Report last night, namely, who are these “leaders”? Who appointed them? Why should they be as responsible as anyone else for these jihadists and why would they be able to do anything about it? Certainly when whites of European descent run amok, we don’t see community leaders being dredged up as responsible. Which “community leader” or cultural values were responsible for David Hicks running off to make a fool of himself in Afghanistan?

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Thursday, 28 August 2014.

Filed under International relations, The Australian state

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11 responses to “Home front”

  1. No Crap App: w/b 25 Aug 2014 | No Crap App on 30th August 2014 1:31 pm

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  2. Riccardo on 31st August 2014 7:13 pm

    Will given that David Hicks is white, previously notionally Christian, Anglo and from a boganish background, I would suggest his community leader is Tony Abbott, who definitely should be tarred and feathered for his failure to stop David going to the war zone. And doubly so if Hicks was Catholic, and rope Pell into the blame as well.

  3. F on 2nd September 2014 3:19 am

    Oh Riccardo!

    You missed out on the trifecta there…or should I say ‘trinity’.

    You didn’t mention Murdoch. He’s also an infamous catholic.

  4. Michael on 2nd September 2014 11:23 am

    Interesting article as always. I’m not sure many people dig very deeply into the causes of such conflicts. There was more than enough to discredit the first Iraq invasion before it got started and they never even needed to “find” any evidence after the fact to justify it. I think Abbott is relishing a military engagement not just because he is macho simpleton, but because it almost certainly will buy him some breathing space from the continuous failures of his government on all other fronts. I’m still pretty confident that this will be a one-term government.

  5. Duncan Gilbey on 9th September 2014 12:00 am

    We are seeing an ragged triumvirate of vested interest at play that have nothing to do with IS.

    The LNP is on a winner politically (National Security always being higher under a Liberal government).

    The Opposition is so clueless that they agree.

    The media can’t lose- speculate, report, pontificate. Rinse/repeat.

    Milne is one of the few talking sense at the moment.

    But we must be involved because, hey, beheadings…

  6. The Piping Shrike on 9th September 2014 8:24 pm

    Although polls suggest it’s not that much a winner politically.

  7. Meiflower on 17th September 2014 8:20 am

    Speaking of the opposition, I’m keen to read your take on what it’s doing.

  8. The Piping Shrike on 18th September 2014 6:49 am

    Basically you have a public, that while agreeing on the cruelty of ISIS, is suspicious of the government’s motives and its ability to do much about it.

    That against such fertile ground you have an opposition praying and hoping that we will all forget it and go back to talking about the Budget, is to me a reasonable sign how comatose it is.

    It would be quite easy to say the obvious, the government has no strategy for dealing with the terrorist threat they have posed, either here or in Iraq.

  9. Riccardo on 19th September 2014 10:07 am

    The cruelty of ISIS – beheadings, rapes, oppression of women – is daily life in Saudi.

    So you can bet your life that whatever underlying economic interests are threatened by ISIS, as usual, is the real issue.

  10. Marina99 on 19th September 2014 10:40 am

    I reckon all this talk of home grown terrorism is to distract us from the ineptitude of the current government and Tony Abbott. A page out of John Howard’s Tampa playbook.

    I read that Sharrouf, the one who posted the gruesome photo involving his son left Australia on his brother’s passport. Well, we have not even got the basics right.

    In a war between Sunnis and Shias, who are the ‘goodies’ and who are the ‘baddies’? Has TA worked that one out?

    Australia getting involved is sheer folly. It is also disappointing that the Opposition is not taking a different stand. I suppose they will be shouted down as supporting terrorism, even if TA is on a wild goose chase.

  11. F on 22nd September 2014 11:58 am

    Everyone is now jockeying for control in the Middle East. Note the French are leading the air-strike campaign. Remember Iraq mark 2? Oh, how things have changed!

    The Gulf states are supporting ISIL covertly and overtly. A foreign fighter doesn’t even have to get his feet dirty: Qatar airways still flies into the heart of the war-zone. And its not alone.

    Why would the Gulf states feel the need to provide any support to such a regime, especially when they already have the comfort of being under the U.S security umbrella?

    Well, the way the Middle East is now is the exception, not the rule. Traditionally, this land was either controlled by the Ottomans or the Persians, but more often than not split between them.

    History is reasserting itself.The Americans don’t look like a sure bet anymore, even in this vital region. They will always be “over there”. The Turks and the Iranians are back at it: carving out spheres of influence in Mesopotamia and the Gulf. Except this time the local elites have enough wealth to resist…..for awhile

    Australia is becoming embroiled in what is shaping up to be one the most geo-strategically complex conflagrations in recent history. Its like the Thirty Years war.

    How exactly did vital NATO ally, Turkey’s President Erdogan secure the release of all those hostages?

    Murky indeed.

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