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A Dangerous Game

Image from theaustralian.com.au

Image from theaustralian.com.au

Historically, regional conflicts start as a reaction to a perceived threat. They are usually accidental and result from misunderstandings that develop and escalate between two forces mobilised and facing off against each other, each believing they have a responsibility to protect their national interests. In most cases common sense applies and the commanders of each force will sort out their differences and at the end of the day, each will go their separate ways, with neither having to lose face. But, occasionally things do get out of hand.

There are occasions where inexperienced commanders find themselves in unexpected situations and need to seek advice from their Command Base. In the process, the exact details of the situation can be overstated, understated or misunderstood which can lead to vital information being transmitted incorrectly. This incorrect information is then relayed to another higher authority, usually a government official, where the original detail has been sufficiently corrupted to create a false impression in the minds of those who make the ultimate decision to act. This can happen in every potential conflict in which those giving the final orders are not eye witnesses. It can also happen where decisions have to be made quickly, under pressure and by local commanders in the field, in the air or on the water. All it takes is for one commander to be placed in a position where he/she deems it appropriate to issue a ‘fire’ order. It’s that easy. It has happened in the past and it will happen in the future.

Australia and Indonesia have a common problem, that of non-citizens of either country entering one country in order to get to the other. The first thing to establish is the intention of the non-citizens. Are their actions threatening in any way, be it militarily, politically or socially? In the matter that exists currently between Australia and Indonesia none of these intentions apply. The non-citizens are simply seeking a safe haven. At the very least what we have here is a humanitarian matter, something dozens of other countries also have to deal with. In any event the intention of the non-citizens cannot be properly established until they are interviewed. That should be the sum of it. But in Australia this matter has been turned into a political issue which began with the Tampa incident in August, 2001. At that time, Prime Minister John Howard was facing electoral defeat and used Tampa to appeal to the lowest common denominator in the human psyche, that of fear, and refused to allow the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa carrying several hundred asylum seekers whose boat had sunk, to dock at any Australian port. It worked. The well-being of those rescued by the Tampa was given second priority over the political interests of the Liberal Party who won the subsequent election and who have enjoyed the political benefits ever since.

Fear of boat people has a foundation…but the foundation is false. The underbelly of the fear isn’t real; it has no authenticity. Minorities are only seen as such when they are perceived to be a threat; either real or imagined. And that’s where fear comes into play. When minorities are seen to be threatening, that creates fear. And when they are highly visible, then the fear is exponential. That is why boat people are always under attack; because people fear them; it’s an irrational fear built on a false foundation but it’s a feeling that is hard to explain. Fear is, and has always been, used to manipulate society. Politicians use fear to win our vote. The fear of being attacked, the fear that terrorists are planning another 9/11, the fear of a nuclear war; the fear that some middle-eastern country objects to the way we live our lives and represents some threat to us. Fear of boat people is utterly irrational and we know it. So we hide behind the veneer of queue jumping or population swell. When we face our fears, challenge them to prove their validity, they fail; they evaporate.

But now, in the name of border protection, the stakes have been raised. Clearly, as a result of Australia’s admitted naval incursions into Indonesian waters, that country’s sovereign interests have been compromised and they have no alternative but to increase their naval presence in the region. Our navy’s action was a violation of Indonesia’s sovereignty. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in his obsession with stopping the boats, has gone a step too far. In his determination to fulfil an election promise motivated more for its political implications than any concern for the personal well-being of the people in those boats, he has created the very circumstances that can, and might, lead to a situation where two opposing naval commanders will need to seek orders from their respective governments. It will only take one poorly transmitted message, like the one that generated the ‘children overboard’ saga to have serious consequences when opposing vessels encounter each other.

The only way to solve the problem is by both countries working together in association with the UNHCR to establish a regional solution. That was, and is, Labor’s policy. It is not Coalition policy. The Coalition has chosen to act unilaterally and stop, turn around and/or tow successive boats carrying asylum seekers back towards Indonesia increasing the likelihood of following them into Indonesian waters. This was Coalition policy taken to the Australian people in 2013 and they won. The Australian people have an irrational fear about unauthorised boats arriving on our shores albeit in remote areas. As our government continues to play this dangerous game, we should be asking: are we prepared for what will ultimately result from going a step too far?

John Kelly blogs at: The View From My Garden

 

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  1. John Kelly

    Reblogged this on THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN and commented:

    Fear of boat people has a foundation…but the foundation is false. The underbelly of the fear isn’t real; it has no authenticity. When minorities are seen to be threatening, that creates fear. And when they are highly visible, then the fear is exponential.

  2. PeterF

    The damage caused by Howard to the decency of Australia in general cannot be overestimated. The Tampa incident is one of the lowest levels to which any government has gone in hanging onto power. It stands beside the wars Australians were fooled into joining: the Vietnam conflict and the Iraq war. There is one common denominator: the Liberal National (‘Country Party’) Coalition.

  3. Stuart Dean

    When I was a young ‘un, my Dad told me an amusing anecdote about communications in WW1 – your article brought this straight back to mind.

    There are occasions where inexperienced commanders find themselves in unexpected situations and need to seek advice from their Command Base. In the process, the exact details of the situation can be overstated, understated or misunderstood which can lead to vital information being transmitted incorrectly. This incorrect information is then relayed to another higher authority, usually a government official, where the original detail has been sufficiently corrupted to create a false impression in the minds of those who make the ultimate decision to act.

    Commander to HQ: SEND REINFORCEMENTS. THE ENEMY CLEARLY WANT TO ADVANCE
    Message received at HQ: SEND THREE AND FOURPENCE. THE MEN DEARLY WANT TO DANCE

    It was amusing then, even wth today’s communications, intent and meaning can be corrupted and become confused on both sides. Particularly given the arrogance and deceit of Abbott towards Indonesia.

  4. Dennis Bauer

    If any one thinks we can go to war with Indonesia and rely on USA are fools
    don’t like calling people fools, but were all bloody fools, tell the government of Australia
    to repair relations with Indonesia and stop this silly crap. I made a silly joke not long ago,
    I said Tony will go to war with the Muslims in Indonesia for the Vatican, a war to give power
    back to the Vatican, sometimes one can say really stupid things, but it’s quite probably.
    God help us i would like to say, but i suspect it’s a cruel god

  5. Zathras

    Perhaps the real tragedy was that the ALP followed Howard into this downward spiral too willingly and now they have no way back.

    By trying to minimise electoral damage over the Tampa, they reinforced the false threat to the public and lessened us as a compassionate nation.

    All Rudd did was to stop vilifying the refugees by shifting the blame to the people smugglers but any reversal of policy would now be seen as an admission of defeat.

    How sad it is not to be able to do “the right thing”, even if we wanted to.

    No way back.

  6. Rob of Darwin

    I think all boat people should be turned back and to hell with Indonesia.

  7. Hotspringer

    A war did wonders for Thatcher’s popularity. Perhaps Abbott hopes for same?

  8. Fed up

    This government is not only about stopping boats. They are about stopping taking refugees altogether.

    If not, why lower the numbers we take from 20,000 back to 13,700. Why persevere with TPV when the not advantage test and bridging visas are harsher.

    I wonder how many are being taken from Australia to the Islands?

    Labor intended to take the figure to near 30,000. This would have enabled us to take more, not less from the region.

    This government is not interested in such an outcome.

    The cost of their actions is going to cost us dearly.

    It appears thanks to the cooperation of Labor and Indonesia, many fewer are coming to that country. Yes, a simple change in how one gives visas has led to the numbers being many times less.

  9. Rjay

    A friend who spends half his time in Indonesia told me some interesting facts that have not come out in Australian media. He said that Australia is a laughing stock in both Indonesia and Malaysia because the locals there see “refugees” jet in to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur dressed to the nines. The “refugees” pay AU$5,000 to AU$10,000 a piece to hop a boat to Australia. While the “refugees” put up in 4/5 star hotels to await their boat ride, a good portion of the money they pay is used to grease the palms of government officials all the way up the tree. Do you realise the people of Indonesia and Malaysia think we are gullible fools? The “refugees” are a big very profitable business. My friend has to work very hard to stop the locals ripping him off because they think all Aussies are as dumb as our government.

  10. John Kelly

    Rjay, I think your friend is suffering from an over active imagination. Why would “refugees” who jet into Jakarta and KL, and stay in 4/5 star hotels, then pay 5-10K to get on a leaking boat when they could easily jet into Melbourne on a tourist visa for half that price? That whole scenario makes no sense at all.

  11. cassilva48

    Seeing refugees are for the most part Muslims and Indonesia is a muslim country, why doesn’t Indonesia welcome them with open arms? Personally believe it has suited Indonesia and Australia to be friendly neighbours, however if there was ever a crisis this would change in a heartbeat.

  12. Möbius Ecko

    “Seeing refugees are for the most part Muslims…”

    Because I believe they aren’t. I think from an ABS piece I read a while back most are Christian or from minority religious sects being persecuted, which is why they flee and can’t remain in the refugee camps.

  13. allenmcmahon

    @cassilva48

    Indonesia is a country where the majority of the people live below the poverty line. Many of the services that we take for granted like health and education are beyond the means of most Indonesians so the last thing they need is an influx of refugees when they are unable to meet the basic needs of their own people.

    Indonesia’s attitude is that as the country of destination for the asylum seekers is Australia they are Australia’s responsibility particularly as Australia is not interested in cooperating with Indonesia and Malaysia in particular on framing a regional solution.

    While Australia will not accept that it is jointly responsible with our neighbours for the asylum seekers and need to be part of any solution we will continue to be at odds with them.

    Another sore point with Indonesia is aid. Indonesia sees education as important in reducing the high level of poverty in the country an a significant amount of Australian aid is in this area. Australia wanted to redirect part of this aid and for Indonesia to use it to stem the flow of asylum seekers from Indonesia.

  14. milalewis

    @John Kelly. A fair enough call. However one cannot dismiss the possibility that there’s a grain of truth to the rumour. At least the part which claims that corrupt Indonesian officials are facilitating this illegal business.

    Last year the ABC revealed hidden camera footage of a people smuggler claiming that he was a former (Indonesian) policeman and had help from officers to secure boat departures.

    The footage also showed a smuggler called “Freddy” Ambon, who admitted involvement in a fatal voyage, and said the boats could easily leave Indonesia with the help of local and national police. At a price. Of course.

    The claim was backed up by another people smuggling source.

    In a country which has traditionally operated by the practice of greasing the palms of corrupt authorities one cannot dismiss the fact that Indonesian officials are openly profiting from this. The fact that they can do so without censure from the government speaks volumes in itself. While I agree that Abbott is a misguided fool… I’m not so naive to believe that Indonesia is being as helpful or honest as they claim.

  15. diannaart

    Cass

    Even if the majority of asylum seekers ARE Muslim – so what?

    Please try to keep an open mind – just as in Christianity, there are numerous different branches of Islam and, just as in Christianity, Muslims persecute other Muslims.

    If Indonesia does declare war on Australia – we will have the antagonistic style of our current federal government to blame – not a few blighted people trying to save themselves and their families.

    I get the feeling you do much of your reading on the Murdoch rags or listen to right-wing jock shocks and regurgitate this nonsense here.

  16. cassilva48

    Diannaart. FYI I don’t read any newspapers. My opinions are strictly my own. IMO Indonesia will never declare war on Australia, it’s just a bluff.

  17. John Kelly

    Milalewis, I don’t doubt corruption exists and perhaps even on a grand and highly organised scale. It was the notion that “refugees” are rich enough to fly in and stay in 4/5 star hotels that I find absurd.

  18. Wayne T

    I agree John. For that matter, if you had the cash for a flight into Indonesia, and enough left over for 4/5 star accomodation, PLUS another 10k for a boat ride, well……considering the current exchange rate, why the hell would you even WANT to come to Australia? If you have that much of the readies available, you could probably buy your own island and live like royalty for the next 20 years somewhere in Thailand

  19. diannaart

    Cass

    FYI I don’t read any newspapers. My opinions are strictly my own.

    So you pluck your opinions about Muslims from (I will put this politely) out of your imagination without any research whatsoever?

    As for Indonesia declaring declaring war, no I don’t think so either, however they will make continuing relationships with Australia very difficult indeed and I don’t blame them.

  20. cassilva48

    Allen McMahon. In response. As Indonesia is aware that Australia is the country of destination for refugees why don’t they simply refuse entry into Indonesia? How many countries are there in-between departure country and Australia? Why do you think Australia has been chosen as the preferred country? Why did the boats suddenly stop after Rudd declared all refugees would be transported to New Guinea? I cannot fathom how Australia should be responsible for people en-route to Australia, perhaps you can expand on this idea? Soeharto was a criminal and syphoned off the bulk of our aid into personal palaces and the military. How many billions have we given to Indonesia, and yet you claim that the majority of the population live in poverty and are uneducated. How can this be so, if aid is being channelled into the areas you claim most need it, viz education oh and by the way there GDP sits at 3%, so the facts are not tying together with your claims of poverty.

  21. cassilva48

    No not out of my imagination, but out of research into their religion and culture and observations of current affairs in the middle east. There is no love lost between the Shia’s and the Sunni’s and it is this hatred that fires up a constant stream of violence between government and its citizens. Extracts from Putin’s G8 conference speech.
    Although he points the finger at the U.S and Britain’s funding in the Middle East as the cause for the present problems throughout the Middle East, if there was no hatred operating between the various divisions of Islam, there would be no senseless killings from both sides, and no need for arms.

    Putin addressed US President Obama specifically, saying: “Your country > sent its army to Afghanistan in the year 2001 on the excuse that you are > fighting the Taliban and the al-Qa’idah Organization and other > fundamentalist terrorists whom your government accused of carrying out > the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington. And here you are > today making an alliance with them in Syria. And you and your allies are > declaring your desire to send them weapons. And here you have Qatar in > which you [the US] have your biggest base in the region and in the > territory of that country the Taliban are opening a representative office.”

    Putin went on: “You have spread anarchy in Libya after Mu’ammar > al-Qadhdhafi. Nobody can put together an authority capable of working to > rebuild the state there. Yemen after the departure of ‘Ali ‘Abdallah > Salih lacks stability in government and there is no peace in the > streets. Military and security unrest continues to prevail in all the > regions of the country.
    As to the Persian Gulf, the whole area from > Bahrain to the rest of the states there is sitting atop a volcano,” > Putin said.
    Putin turned to the President of France [François Hollande] to ask, “How > can you send your army to Mali to fight fundamentalist terrorists on the > one hand, while on the other you are making an alliance with them and > supporting them in Syria, and you want to send them heavy weapons to > fight the regime there?”
    British Prime Minister David Cameron came in for some of Putin’s > sharpest remarks, when the Russian President told him: “You are loudly > demanding that the terrorists in Syria be armed and yet these are the > same people two of whom slaughtered a British soldier on a street in > London in broad daylight in front of passers by, not caring about your > state or your authority. And they have also committed a similar crime > against a French soldier in the streets of Paris.”

    > The diplomatic report indicates that the leaders gathered at the summit > were surprised then when German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported every > word that Putin said in his address. She declared her rejection of any > solution in Syria other than a peaceful one, saying “because the > military solution will lead Syria and the whole region into the > unknown.” She strongly opposed arming the Syrian Opposition, “so that > these weapons don’t get into the hands of the terrorists who plan to use > them in attacks against cities in the European Union.”
    She also > indicated that she did not want to see some of her European partners > getting involved in military and political adventures that would only > serve to further deepen their financial and economic deficits, “because > Germany is no longer able to serve as a financial and economic rescue > line for those countries in order to help cover up their mistakes.” > > As-Safir newspaper, No 12522, Saturday, 6 July 2013. > > http://www.assafir.com/Article.aspx?ArticleId=654&EditionId=2506&ChannelId=60427

  22. diannaart

    Wow Cass, I can’t read Arabic – you could’ve at least linked to the English version.

    That said Muslims, like Christians, are not confined to the Middle East – but you knew that didn’t you? Try, parts of Europe, Asia, the USA and Australia – in fact Australia has had Muslims residing here since the early days of settlement, that is after the original people of this country – and of course, Indonesia also have many Muslims as well as Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians – rather like most nations these days.

    Now, if all your research comes from a single Arabic newspaper – I can hardly say I am surprised at your views. Real research actually comes from a variety of sources – look at what Kaye Lee and others do – they check out a variety of news sites – that’s how one can form an informed POV, rather than one which reinforces existing prejudices.

  23. allenmcmahon

    @ Cass

    ‘Allen McMahon. In response. As Indonesia is aware that Australia is the country of destination for refugees why don’t they simply refuse entry into Indonesia?’

    Indonesia is an Islamic country and has always allowed people from Islamic countries to get a visa on arrival. Indonesia has recently stopped this practice but visa’s are still easily obtained. Many asylum seekers arrive by boat in Indonesia,predominately from Malaysia and Burma.

    ‘How many countries are there in-between departure country and Australia?’

    None are signature to the refugee convention and resettlement is not a possibility. Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are full and do not have the capacity to take more refugees. The UNHCR camps are underfunded and the conditions are terrible. The UNHCR budget for 2012 was $5 billion, about the same that we are spending to keep less than 10,000 in detention. The UNHCR are supporting 10 million refugees.

    ‘Why do you think Australia has been chosen as the preferred country?’

    Australia is a signature to the refugee conventions which allows permanent resettlement and we onc ehad a reputation of treating asylum seekers humanely.

    ‘Why did the boats suddenly stop after Rudd declared all refugees would be transported to New Guinea?’

    They didn’t they slowed and since then the monsoon has made conditions so hazardous that only the really desperate have attempted to make the journey. There are somewhere between 15 to 25 thousand asylum seekers in Malayasia and Indonesia outside of the camps and they are running out of money to survive on so most will have no choice but to try and make the trip. In late March when the monsoon season is over expect boat numbers to increase.

    ‘I cannot fathom how Australia should be responsible for people en-route to Australia, perhaps you can expand on this idea? ‘

    Many are coming from the middle east where we have had a militery presence that has contributed to the instability in the region. We helped create the problem so we should be part of the solution.

    ‘How many billions have we given to Indonesia, and yet you claim that the majority of the population live in poverty and are uneducated. How can this be so, if aid is being channelled into the areas you claim most need it, viz education oh and by the way there GDP sits at 3%, so the facts are not tying together with your claims of poverty.’

    Our aid has been in the region of $500 million pa with the bulk going to military expenditure and education and this does not go far with a population of 250 million.

    Along with the USA we are helping indonesia to modernise its military in response to Chinese ambitions in the Pacific. The Indonesians are happy to play one side against the other so Australia could well be causing Indonesia to allign more closely with China. The USA will not be amused and are unlikely to support us if the situation esclates.

    By most estimates, more than 50 percent of the country’s 240 million people still live on $2 or less a day.
    http://povertyindonesia.com/

  24. allenmcmahon

    @Cass
    Most of the middle eastern asylum seekers are moderates fleeing the extremist violence, or from christian and other religious groups. They represent no threat to us at all. Interestingly the few Muslim extremists we have in Australia are second and third generation, so our treatment of them is the likely cause of the problem. In an event their numbers are insignificant when compared to those of the extreme right in Australia.

    To consider radical Islam a threat in Australia is simply farcical and without foundation.

  25. doctorrob54

    The present Gov’s.attitude to refugees and those of this nation that also support this attitude is no different to Hitlers Germany of 1933,a sick,racist irrational fear driven by propaganda by right wing extremist media.
    Indonesia is totally in their right to react as they are doing,as any other nation including Australia would do exactly the same thing.
    It is idiotic and irrelevant to talk about Indonesia the way it use to be,they are moving forward in the so called modern world in leaps and bounds,we are the stupid bastards going backwards.
    Refugees are refugees are refugees are refugees,regardless what this government wants to call them.It is not the Indonesian military or navy that are sailing into our territory.We are the aggressors here
    so keep it in perspective.If something does happen then it is up to us to throw the government out,not to turn on our Indonesian neighbour on the say so of an ignorant delusional clown.
    One must fight for what is right,not for what is evil and malignant.

  26. diannaart

    If something does happen then it is up to us to throw the government out,not to turn on our Indonesian neighbour on the say so of an ignorant delusional clown.

    Hear! Hear!

  27. revolutionarycitizen

    I wonder why everyone is so eager to have the UN do anything these days, it is a hopeless organisation that has long out-lived its usefulness.

    Also, refugees remain a long term burden on the state, many will never find employment and many of their children won’t either, that is a sad fact of many refugee seeded minority communities, they’re unemployment rates and intergenerational welfare reliance rates remain much higher than average. To agree that is acceptable, these people often arrive with nothing and that level of poverty can become near inescapable, but at some point we need to accept that to some extent we’re being taken for suckers.

    Believe it or not a significant portion of our refugee intake is people from mainland China, why are we still accepting these people as refugees? Especially when there are plenty of people fleeing worse regimes than China’s.

    There is no fear of refugees, there is a sense that we’re doing far more than we should, on a per capita basis we are the most generous refugee host nation, we should be proud of that but we should also remain focused in assuring we are taking the neediest of the needy. Australians of all persuasions dislike people they feel are abusing the system, and to the greater extent, that is the issue here, even amongst migrants themselves these people are seen as abusing the system.

    As for military confrontation, regardless of the effects of our continuous state of post WW II disarmament the ADF still remains more than a match for Indonesia’s TNI, and the Indonesian government knows that and so do the commanders of the TNI.

    War by accident? Peace-time ROE of the ADF is water-tight, we can only hope the same can be said for those opposite.

    And let us not get into the disgraceful smear campaign lead by this nations public broadcaster the ABC against the Royal Australian Navy. Any sense that the ABC doesn’t push agenda laden wheel-barrows has finally been exposed for the myth that it is, everyone can now be clear to which party the ABC owes its loyalties, much to that organisation’s shame.

  28. allenmcmahon

    @revolutionarycitizen

    ‘The main justification for countries accepting refugee settlers should always be based on
    humanitarian concern and nations playing their role as caring and responsible global citizens.
    However, it should also not be ignored that forced immigrants can and do make significant
    economic contributions to their destination economies. Certainly, there are significant costs
    incurred in the early years of settlement. The circumstances of their move mean that refugees
    will not be able to adjust economically and socially as readily as other immigrants who have
    planned their move, been able to bring resources with them and have not been exposed to
    violence and trauma.

    Yet this study has shown that over time refugee economic participation in
    the Australian economy converges toward that of the non-immigrant population and, by the
    second generation, exceeds it. Moreover, the contribution is in many ways a distinct one which
    means that the refugee-humanitarian inflow into Australia brings a different and important
    economic element into the mix of immigrant skills, attributes, abilities and aptitudes. Of course,
    there are important social and cultural capital contributions as well but it is too often overlooked
    that there is also a significant economic contribution.’

    http://www.fecca.org.au/mosaic/archive/mosaic-issue-20-march-2013/refugee-humanitarian-settlers-in-australia-employment-dimension?format=pdf

  29. John Kelly

    RevolutionaryCitizen, trying to make sense of what you say here is as difficult as trying to make sense of your website. So, let me comment paragraph by paragraph.
    1) I don’t know.
    2) I was unaware you knew so much about refugees.
    3) I don’t know
    4) For whom do you speak on this issue?
    5) Thanks for that. I feel so much better.
    6) So was the Titanic.
    7) I agree on its bias, but that only balances the ledger. I don’t mind paying for that.

  30. allenmcmahon

    revolutionarycitizen said,

    ‘Believe it or not a significant portion of our refugee intake is people from mainland China, why are we still accepting these people as refugees? Especially when there are plenty of people fleeing worse regimes than China’s.

    The figures do not support your statement. Of the 9649 protection visas granted in 2012 only 264, slightly more than 3% which is hardly significant, were granted to people from the PRC.

    http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/asylum/_files/asylum-stats-march-quarter-2013.pdf

  31. Bacchushus

    There is no fear of refugees, there is a sense that we’re doing far more than we should, on a per capita basis we are the most generous refugee host nation, we should be proud of that but we should also remain focused in assuring we are taking the neediest of the needy.

    Well actually revolutionarycitizen, Australia ranks 49th in refugees hosted, which comes in at 62nd on a per capita basis, and 87th on a per GDP basis. Do you always just make stuff up to suit your story?

    As a matter of interest, on a per capita basis, Jordan comes in at #1 and Chad at #2. Pakistan, Iran, Kenya, Ethiopia and Turkey all come in well above us…

  32. doctorrob54

    Where do you get your information from,the liberal handbook of crap,Nothing you said is factual.Do you hear voices telling you this shit or what.I firmly believe people should do some sort of competency test before they are permitted to vote.You rev.citizen are my proof.
    What are you so revolutionary about anyway.You are a follower of the Abbott pack.

  33. cassilva48

    Allan. Thank you for your concise response, and I will take on board some of the points you made. If we are sending $500 million a year, surely some of this could be channelled into ensuring the safety of refugees waiting in Indonesia for visa documents. I do not agree that it is our treatment of refugees that has caused second generation angst in our refugee population. Like the Irish in the past, I believe that the parents have continued to breed hatred into their children based on their religious beliefs. Only this week we heard a mother state that her daughter, killed in Syria, was a martyr for the cause? Do you believe that radical Islam has become a threat in the UK and France?

  34. allenmcmahon

    cassilva48

    ‘ If we are sending $500 million a year, surely some of this could be channelled into ensuring the safety of refugees waiting in Indonesia for visa documents.’

    The UNHCR camps in Indonesia are at capacity with 10,000 asylum seekers, estimates vary wide but there are at least another 10,000 asylum seekers and perhaps as many 25,000 asylum seekers in Indonesia. There is a backlog of 15,000 asylum claims in the system. In 2012 only 600 claims were assessed. Half the population of Indonesia live on less than $2 per day so Indonesia has more urgent priorities to address with its own people.

    ‘I do not agree that it is our treatment of refugees that has caused second generation angst in our refugee population.’

    I have been working and in regular contact with refugees for more than 30 years. The overwhelming majority of people I have met who are Muslims are moderate Muslims who want what we want, peace, security a sense of belonging and a future for their families. There is no widespread culture of hatred that was one of the things they were escaping. The problem comes with a small proportion children who as they grow older they do not identify with the culture of their parents and do not feel accepted as Australians. Some join gangs others become radicalised as also happens with Australians who feel alienated.

    Only this week we heard a mother state that her daughter, killed in Syria, was a martyr for the cause?

    Anecdotal and pretty meaningless on its own. In 2011 census we had 476,000 self professed Muslims in Australia very few of whom support radical Islam.

    Do you believe that radical Islam has become a threat in the UK and France?

    No I am more concerned with the increase in violence by extreme right groups in Europe.

  35. cassilva48

    Allan, I am not sure how you can say or think that most Muslims are moderates when the whole of the Middle East has been a keg of unrelenting violence. We see thousands in the streets, we see civil war in Syria, sectarian carnage in Irak, fighting in Egypt, fighting in Lebanon and its only January! I have posted an article which I feel highlights my pov that we are not talking about one or two or a minority of radical muslims but vast majorities.
    “Al-Qaeda”, The Economist reported, “wants to bring Iraq, Syria and Lebanon together into a single Caliphate” … The terrorist network now holds sway over more territory and is recruiting more fighters than at any time in its 25-year history.” The outfit that was, in Obama’s words, “on the path to defeat” is reviving itself in the destabilized Middle East. In fact, the world’s largest terrorist organization poses greater existential threat to the global peace and tranquility than ever.

    SPEAKING FREELY
    Middle East theater of conflict
    By Deedar Hussain Samejo

    Since the beginning of Arab Spring, the Middle East has been in a state of turmoil. The so-called Arab Awakening that was to end decades-old dictatorships and heralded the dawn of new democracies has turned into a blood-soaked nightmare. Today,

    we see civil war in Syria, sectarian carnage in Iraq, a deadly fight for the restoration of democracy in Egypt and numerous fatal skirmishes in other countries.

    The Middle East has become a battleground for fighting between Shias and Sunnis, and regional stakeholders supported by global players and extremists groups for power, supremacy and influence in the region. In Syria, while Alawites are strongly supporting president Bashar al-Assad to keep him in power, Sunni-dominated opposition is battling hard to end his regime.

    In Iraq, as Nouri al-Malaki-led Sunni-dominated government tightens its hold on power, Sunni extremists groups are increasingly attacking Shias. Since the resignation of Sunni finance minister Rafi al-Essawi in protest at policies of “sectarian government”, more than eight thousand lives have reportedly been lost in clashes. And Lebanon is also witnessing sectarian violence. Syrian spillover of violence in the country has pitted Shia and Sunni Muslims against each other.

    It appears that the sectarianism has predominated the Arab nationalism, a linguistic bond that kept the Arab masses united for centuries.The existing clash between the two largest Muslim sects is too wide too bridge. Religious polarization between the two has badly spoiled the process of political transition, turning it into a regional religious-political clash.

    The sectarianism has gripped the whole region. Regional players along with the global powers in pursuit of their interests are exploiting these conflicts, turning them into wider, multidimensional wars. While the Sunni-dominated countries Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar seem ready to crush Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, the latter bloc is adamant to sabotage the conspiracy. That is why Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, are extremely unhappy at the interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program, fearing the agreement may help Tehran in increasing its influence in the region.

    In this game of war, Muslim countries are merely players collectively carrying out a serious strategic blunder. They are destabilizing and destroying their own region at the expense of their own interests, revealing a crisis of leadership. It seems that the underlying fight is between Washington and Moscow. The US and Russia, for example, agreed to disarm Syria of its of chemical weapons. The US did not consult with its allies and the Syrian opposition. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was too weak to disobey the Kremlin’s order. The two powers reached an agreement, granting de facto permission to both sides to continue the civilian massacre.

    Earlier, the US, longtime ally of Egypt and champion of democracy and human rights, instead of helping Morsi in strengthening democracy, helped the Egyptian army to oust the Muslim Brotherhood’s democratically elected president. Washington saw the ‘Islamist’ government as a threat to American interests. However, the US has suspended military aid to Egypt in the wake of human rights abuses. But it is too little to make a substantive difference. Following Mohammad Morsi’s ouster, the country is in a state of anarchy. Clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood supporters and government forces are alarmingly increasingly.

    The ongoing fighting in the region has provided extremists and terrorists a space to operate and expand their activities freely. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, most importantly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, are more active than ever, spreading and straightening their physical and ideological foundations across the region. Last year, terrorists carried out an impressive attack on American consulate in Benghazi, killing ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others. In August last year, terrorist threats forced the US to close 19 embassies across the region.

    “Al-Qaeda”, The Economist reported, “wants to bring Iraq, Syria and Lebanon together into a single Caliphate” … The terrorist network now holds sway over more territory and is recruiting more fighters than at any time in its 25-year history.” The outfit that was, in Obama’s words, “on the path to defeat” is reviving itself in the destabilized Middle East. In fact, the world’s largest terrorist organization poses greater existential threat to the global peace and tranquility than ever.

    The grim scenario in the Arab world demonstrates the fact that it has been held hostage by various forces, conducting sectarian conflicts, terrorist operations and complicated proxy wars. Regional stakeholders, al-Qaeda operatives and global powers have made the oil-rich middle eastern region a theater of conflict.

    Deedar Hussain Samejo is pursuing a Masters in Political Science at University of Sindh, Jamshoro. deedarh@rocketmail.com

    Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online’s regular contributors.

    (Copyright 2014 Deedar Hussain Samejo)

  36. Fed up

    How do we know most Muslims are moderate. Easy, one only has to look at how they are fighting back in Muslim countries. Fighting to the bitter death.

    One only has to look at the number of Muslim women, many from childhood are speaking up.

    We need to keep in mind, it was in the lifetime of many, that the Christian church held sway over and more.

    Not three generations, where we labelled baboes bastard, and took them from their mothers. More damaging, all was done in secrecy. A time when defacto living in such a relationship lived in terror of being found out. Where womena and kids, entrapped in disaterus marriages. Where the women were seen in law and elsewhere, as a chattell of her husband. Where she had no right to her earthly goods, where she even needed for signature of husband or father to have an essential operation, within the hospital.

    Yes, religion extremist exists in all religions, Is wrong in all.

    We have Morrison, Andrews, Abboptt and others in our government, trying to convince us, all our values are founded on the bible. Not too sure which version. Some then condemn the Muslims for calling the same right.
    The truth is, our values have been formed over history, regardless of religious beliefs.

    It is more likely that all religions followed the beliefs of the time. When they were formed.

    Still today, we have come far, and do not need any type of religion, to act as decent human beings.

    Still, what have comments to do, when people are fleeing from physical danger.
    There are no records that show refugees cv0ommit more crimes, than the rest of our population. In fact, the records and statistics show the opposite.

  37. Fed up

    How does one explain the centuries of religion wars, between branches of Christianity when describing the history of Ireland and England.

    Who initiated the Crusade wars between Christians and the Muslims?

    Why did the Catholics and Prtotestans, nee C of E, hate one another up to the middle of last century?

  38. allenmcmahon

    cassilva48, We have 2.3 billion Muslims and only 20% live in the Middle East. The largest Muslim country is Indonesia with a secular government that has actively suppressed extremest groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah.

    The situation in the Middle East is quite complex and a lot of the early instability in the region has it roots intervention by the US and Russia as part of their Cold War tactics. Each country has factors affecting it so I will limit my comments to Iraq.

    Before the invasion of Iraq by US led forces of Bush jnr. Iraq was a functioning country and now it is a failed state on a downward spiral. Al-Qaeda never had a presence in Iraq prior to the US occupation and Islamist groups in general were strongly suppressed by Saddam Hussein. It was the US led occupation, and the subsequent disbandment of the army, the police and the removal of Baath Party members from any positions of control in key position that created the instability which drew extremists into Iraq particularly Al-Qaeda. These have since remained after the US pulled out.

    The violence in Iraq is not just sectarian it is also tribal and gang related. Prior to there departure the US armed tribal militias in the hope that they would be able to eradicate extremists but it did not work out that way. Iraq now has tribal leaders fighting for power, criminals gangs controlling large sections of the major cities and Sunni and Shia extremists fighting each other and the tribal groups and gangs. The country is a complete basket case but its genesis was the invasion by the US and its allies.

  39. doctorrob54

    Well said allan and Fed up,thank you both.

  40. Fed up

    Is this dangerous? Does this government care?

    …………Beijing has not got over it. But what will it do in response? So long as it sees benefit for China, it’s unlikely to want to disturb economic relations or derail the FTA negotiations. What’s more likely is downgrading the importance it gives to political and strategic dialogue. But political and strategic dialogue is the one element of our relations we can least afford to lose. It took years to persuade an Australian government to understand this, and when finally it was taken up by Julia Gillard it took a huge effort to get the Chinese government to come to the party.

    This is serious. It’s not a case of being pro-China or seeing Asia through a Chinese prism, which is what the proponents of the US policy of denial pretend. To lose that dialogue or have the Chinese not take it seriously would be a major setback for us. And make more difficult the management of our economic relations. And deny us opportunities to resolve through diplomacy and dialogue the many challenging issues we’re going to face directly with China as a Great Power in our external habitat and a force in our domestic politics.

    What will happen, if the Indonesian government turns to China to supply or even directly assist its navy in the protection of Indonesia’s sovereign borders? And China obliges? And they turn to Abbott, Bishop and Morrison and say: “you, of all people, ought to understand”?

    If you meddle in someone else’s issues by taking sides when you’re not a party principal, can you really believe they might not meddle in yours?……….

    Stephen FitzGerald. Abbott’s relations with China.

  41. cassilva48

    History has shown us that living by the Bible and/or the Koran leads to man’s inhumanity to man. If Abbott wants to live by 2500 year old biblical traditions then he should not be allowed to drag Australia with him.

  42. cassilva48

    Prior to the U.S. invasion of Irak, things were not great for the Shia’s under the Hussein regime. The upshot of the invasion was that the Shia’s took the place of the Sunni’s and began revenge killings on those that once held the power. One could argue that the only time there was peace between these two factions was when the British held the balance of power.
    Regarding religious wars, they began after Constantine made Christianity the one and only religion.

    “The history of the three major western religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – illustrates that Literalism is ‘a pernicious source of ignorance, division and suffering’. From Sudan to the Middle East, from Kashmir to the Philippines, many of the conflicts that afflict the world today are either rooted in religion or have religion as one of their main contributing factors. They are a continuation of a long and gruesome history of killing and dying for the sake of God.

    Although attention currently focuses on the violence perpetrated in the name of Islam, we should not forget the horrors the West has perpetrated in the name of Christianity. The Crusaders, for example, butchered more than 70,000 Muslims in the Al-Aqsa mosque alone, burnt thousands of Jews alive in their synagogues, and impaled children on spits. In Europe thousands of men, women and children were condemned for heresy, subjected to gruesome tortures and burned alive by the Inquisition, which then repeated the slaughter on an even grander scale in the Americas.

    As the authors say, fundamentalists of all religions ‘have willingly abandoned rationality in favour of blind faith in old books’ (p. 20). The reason fundamentalists are so extreme is that they have an absolute certainty that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

    Religious Fundamentalism is an irrational pathology which leads otherwise decent men and women to become enemies of openmindedness and big-heartedness, and enlist in the service of divinely sanctioned bigotry. Fundamentalism creates dangerously self-righteous people who turn against those who espouse the truly spiritual values of love, tolerance and understanding. (p. 17)

    If we examine the ‘sacred’ scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam critically, we quickly realize that, while they may contain profound spiritual allegories and passages of inspiring beauty, they are also full of contradictions, wanton cruelty and mindless violence – with ‘God’ himself often being the worst offender. Clearly, ‘they were not written or inspired by God, but created by men. And often by the worst kind of men. Politicians dressed up as priests’ (p. 8). Extract from paper written by David Pratt

  43. doctorrob54

    For 11 years prior to invasion by the coalition of the killing Iraq was a very advanced,modern nation.Sure they didn’t have what we refer to as a democracy,but neither did any other Middle East nation,and they still haven’t.The killing coalition are totally responsible for the state Iraq is today,and Howard,Blair and Bush must be tried and convicted of mass murder and war crimes.Ha,ha,whats the chances of true justice.
    No I am not holding my breath.

  44. cassilva48

    Doctor Rob, yes, I agree that the west should not have interfered in Irak, however, two points, Hussein was intending to expand his power by attempting to overpower Kuwait, an important transit point in the transportation of oil to the west. Secondly, the west cannot be held responsible for what the Shia’s have orchestrated after they were put into power in Irak. The moral responsibility lies clearly at their feet. They had a choice to unite the country, they chose not to, again, based on religious sectarianism.

  45. Fed up

    Yes, the Irak question was settled in the first gulf war. It was not black and white. Both sides had a possible argument. Irak,

  46. allenmcmahon

    Cass, There were a number of reasons Iraq invaded Kuwait among them, Kuwait’s refusal to cap oil production which led to a glut of low priced oil at and cost Iraq $14 billion a year when its economy was in difficulties folowing the long war against Iran. Slant drilling under the border into Iraq’s Ramallah oil field and also demanding repayment of war loans of $14 billion when all of the other Arab states had waived repayment.

    ‘Secondly, the west cannot be held responsible for what the Shia’s have orchestrated after they were put into power in Irak. The moral responsibility lies clearly at their feet. They had a choice to unite the country, they chose not to, again, based on religious sectarianism.’

    The US invaded in March 2003 and it was not until June 2004 that a government under Allawi was formed. This government had no legitimacy, Allawi had been living in exile for thirty years had no following in Iraq and was rightly considered a US stooge. The first ‘democratic’ government, if it can be called that when the voting in most parts of the country was on tribal lines, was formed in December 2005 by which time Iraq was already completely ungovernable and well beyond salvage.

  47. doctorrob54

    Two points,how do you know what was tn Saddam’s head,I think he realized Kuwait was off limits after his first attempt,remember,hence daddies unfinished business.
    Second,the coalition of the killing thought after bombing the living shit out of everything except the oil ministry building they were going to be welcomed with open arms.What Howard,Bush and Blair did was create a power vacuum they were never going to fill,let alone control.What did you think the Shiites were
    going to do,they take their orders from Saudi Arabia.It’s our fault alright,face the fact.

  48. cassilva48

    That’s not quite the way it went Allan, America left an Interim Government in 2004, In 2005 Elections took place. So why is it the west’s fault when in 2009 only 50% of the people voted? A Permanent Constitution: The October 2005 vote
    The elected assembly was to draft a permanent constitution for Iraq by Aug. 15, 2005 and put it to a national referendum. The result was contentious. The constitution designates Islam as “a main source of legislation,” makes only primary education mandatory, allows “regions” to band together and maintain security forces of their own, and gave regions disproportionate power in deciding how and whether to allocate oil revenue–a blow to Sunnis, whose regions include little or no oil.
    The constitution passed by referendum on Oct. 15, 2005 even though the Sunni provinces of Anbar and Salahuddin had a 97% and 82% no vote. Had a third province voted no by a two-thirds majority, the referendum would have failed. But Nineveh province only voted 55% no, thus missing the threshold.

    The December 2005 Elections for the Council of Representatives
    On Dec. 15, 2005, and with a remarkable turnout of 76%, Iraq held a national election for the four-year, 275-seat Council of Representatives that would replace the transitional National Assembly. A set number of seats were allocated to each province (to ensure Sunni representation and increase Sunni buy-in into the Iraqi government.) Some 19 multi-party coalitions and a total of 361 political parties or entities participated in what was likely the most consequential, and broadest, election to date.
    The council, which meets in Iraq’s Green Zone, was inaugurated on March 16, 2006. Soon Jafari was replaced as prime minister with another Da’wa figure, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who was initially perceived as a weak figurehead, but who would soon prove to be among Iraq’s ablest politicians–and most authoritarian. Maliki is the principal reason for Iraq’s slow, distinct return to strongman politics. Jalal Talabani was kept on as president, but of the 37-member cabinet submitted by Maliki, 19 members were Shiites, nine were Sunnis, eight were Kurds and one was Christian. The cabinet included four women.
    The election to the national parliament did not, in sum, resolve the central fault line in Iraqi politics–the under-representation of Sunnis. For two years, that dissatisfaction was expressed through a violent insurrection.
    On Feb. 1, 2009, just 51% of Iraqis went to the polls to fill 440 seats in the nation’s 14 Arab-dominated provincial councils. (The new council members subsequently elected governors.) Some 14,000 candidates were in the running. Councils are in charge of provincial security but the Baghdad government controls their purse. Since al-Maliki’s Dawa party controls parliament, and since al-Maliki’s Coalition of the State of Law alliance swept the elections, the result was a serious consolidation of power by al-Maliki. Maliki’s slate won 28 of the 57 seats on the Baghdad council, and 20 of 35 seats in Basra. The big loser was SCIRI, which by then had changed its name to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI.
    Maliki’s former allies, among them Kurds and ISCI members, grumbled. He outflanked them when they attempted to remove him from power. But there was another notable winner in the election: secularism.

  49. allenmcmahon

    Cass, I am not quite sure what point you are trying to make. My contention is that Iraq is a failed state due to the US lead invasion and their subsequent actions before Iraq became self governing.

    In the two plus year period of US control from 2003, and I include the puppet ‘Allawi’ government, the country spiraled out of control and the 2005 government could do little about it. By the time they took power Iraq was controlled by tribal militias and gangs. Add to this an influx of muslim militants, funded by Iran and the Gulf states, whose terrorist acts were and continue to be a major source of instability. The possibility of stopping the cycle of violence and reconciling the various factions was and continues to be beyond the ability of any Iraqi government and it all stems back to the actions of the US administration during the first two years of occupation.

  50. cassilva48

    Allen, what would you suggest the Americans should have done? Obviously beside the fact of not invading in the first place. The interim government had a mix of Shia, Sunni and Kurds, what followed is the result of a power game between the Shia’s and the Sunni’s which is continuing to this day, and the recorded deaths far outweighs the deaths when the west occupied Irak. Truth is, like I have said, their is hatred and animosity between these two groups of muslims, and the argument put to me is that only a Dictator can bring about a modicum of peace.

  51. allenmcmahon

    ‘Allen, what would you suggest the Americans should have done?’

    Once the US invaded Iraq’s fate was sealed. Iraq immediately became a magnet for terrorists determined to oppose the US and internal groups that wanted the US out of the country.

    The point that you continue to ignore is that the US had effective control of Iraq from March 2003 until December 2005 and the country was completely ungovernable when the Iraqi’s took back limited control of the country.

    ‘The interim government had a mix of Shia, Sunni and Kurds, what followed is the result of a power game between the Shia’s and the Sunni’s which is continuing to this day,’

    Politicians were elected based tribal groupings and there was no unity of purpose or agreement many issues. It is too simplistic to state that Iraq is a failed state due to Shia -Sunni power games. There are a number of factors you ignore including Iran and the Gulf states funding Sunni terrorist groups whose members were from outside of Iraq , power struggles between the different tribal factions, gangs controlling large sections of the major cities. This was the situation when the government was formed in December 2005 and it has just become worse ever since.

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