Category Archives: War

Abbott ratchets up the fear factor to boost poll standings

When a prime minister has discovered that only one tactic — ratcheting up the fear factor — helps to boost his poll numbers, and his poll standing is desperately low, what does he do?

Tony Abbott has made a profession of demonising asylum-seekers and Muslims and pretending that the world faces an existential threat from the terrorist Islamic State group.

In recent times Abbott has gone back to similar tactics. First, he engineered a “request” from the US, for Australia to join in air strikes on Syria.

It was trumpeted as the US asking Australia to join. Not as it really happened.

This is a disgraceful thing to do, showing clearly that Abbott does not mind sacrificing young lives – the men and women of the armed forces – in order to prolong his political life.

And then the farce of the Australian Border Force informing all and sundry that it would be taking what amounts to Stasi tactics on the streets of Melbourne to detect visa evaders and violators added another dose of fear too.

Of course, Abbott denies he was involved in this exercise. So too does the immigration minister, Peter Dutton. The whole thing is put down to a badly written press release.

One needs to keep in mind that Abbott is on the record with an extremely reliable politician, Tony Windsor, as saying that he (Abbott) would do anything but sell his arse to become prime minister. This memorable quote was made to Windsor during the time when neither Labor nor the Coalition had the numbers to form government in 2010 and the support of three independents, Windsor among them, was desperately being sought.

If he was willing to do anything to gain the prime ministership, is it any wonder that Abbott is now trying anything and everything to avoid defeat in the next federal election?

America’s Kurdish adventure will end in tears

AT THE end of World War I, many ethnic groups were able to get a patch of land for themselves, with the area and population therein largely dependent on the extent to which they had pleased the imperial powers that came out as victors of that war – France and Britain.

The Kurds were one group that missed the bus and ended up scattered over four countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They are a restless lot and the countries in which they lived often had to keep them quiet by one means or another.

The late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gave them a limited measure of autonomy. But there was always the implicit understanding that if the Kurds got too ambitious, then they would be met with blanket slaughter. Dictators like Saddam – and his neighbour, the late Hafez al-Assad of Syria – do not do things by half-measures and for years the Kurds were content to remain within their allocated freedoms.

After the Gulf War of 1991, there was, for a while, protection in the form of western fighter jets that patrolled a no-fly zone; after the war, the Kurds rose up in protest against Saddam in the hope that their long dormant hope for a country would be realised. But they were tricked by the US which, after initially backing them, changed its mind when George Bush Senior realised that a weak Iraq would lead to Iran being the dominant power in the region.

And that the Americans did not like – they have not had much to do with Iran after the events of 1979. So the Kurds had to eat what Australians call a shit sandwich and stay on as part of Iraq.

Now Washington – and its so-called coalition against the extremist Islamic State – is arming the Kurds in order to get them to fight the militants. In doing so, they are setting themselves up for a lot of trouble in the future. The Americans have forgotten what happened after they armed resistance fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. One of the side effects of that policy was a little event that happened on September 11, 2001.

But the Americans have not learnt. If they read their own history books, they will realise that they are incompetents of the highest order when it comes to intervening in foreign countries. Yet they keep doing it over and over again.

In 2003, George Bush Junior invaded Iraq and broke the entire system. The Americans did not merely topple the government, they ripped out the entire bureaucracy and left the country without any functioning systems at all. The results of that have been self-evident over the last 11 years.

After Saddam came to power in a coup in 1969, he realised that he had a mess on his hands, created by the British and French drawing borders at right angles to satisfy the requests of this group or that. And so he ruled with an iron fist and kept the country intact. Anyone who even indicated a mild dislike for him was shot in cold blood.

The Americans released all his controls. And in so doing, they opened the gates for every sectarian group to do what they wanted. Power was given to the Shias and hence the Sunnis took up arms. The Islamic State is just the most extreme manifestation of that resistance – another group that rose up in reaction to American screw-ups.

Internecine warfare between countries or groups in the Middle East is a routine thing. The West should keep out of these squabbles. But the Americans have oil interests in many parts of the region and hence they intervene again and again. No good has ever come of it.

The outcome will be the same this time too.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow: Al Qaeda has won

Today marks 11 years since Al Qaeda flew planes into the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and made the US aware that it was not safe on its own soil. Sad to say, the US has used the attacks down the years to curtail freedoms for its own residents.

All kinds of ridiculous curbs have been put in place; fear has been used time and again to restrict the lives of ordinary citizens, with the government all the while claiming to be doing so in the cause of freedom.

With the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the US has been claiming that it has emerged victorious over the attackers. But is that really the case?

Bin Laden’s stated goal behind the attacks was to hit the US economy in such a way that it would lose its clout. In that, Al Qaeda has succeeded to a remarkable extent.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the US economy tanked as money flowed out of the country. In order to push things along, interest rates were lowered and a flood of cheap money hit the streets. This money was used to build up a housing boom, much of it being loans to people who could not afford them.

The US also undertook an invasion of Iraq, a foolish move that began bankrupting the country. Billions have been spent in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, both missions mounted in reaction to the 2001 attacks.

Seven years after the attacks, the global financial crisis manifested itself, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The US is now technically bankrupt. It has a national debt close to $US16 trillion.

So who has the better claim to being the victor?

Anzac Day glorifies war

IN AUSTRALIA, Anzac Day is a means to promote militarism and nationalism. It marks the day when Australian forces invaded Turkey in 1915, entering World War I.

Sixty thousand Australians were killed in that war and nearly 16 million people died worldwide. It was no event over which to rejoice.

Anzac Day was initially used during the war to recruit people to fight on the other side of the world. In 1916 and 1917, Anzac Day became a means of supporting conscription.

After 1918, there was a long period when people were fed up with what they had exprienced during the war. Economic conditions were not good due to the numerous strikes caused by an increasingly militant workforce. During that time, Anzac Day was hardly celebrated.

Once the league for returned servicemen was formed, the government started supporting it and handed over control of Anzac Day to the league. During the great depression, the league grew in number as it offered unemployment relief.

Class tensions were rife at this time and Anzac Day marchers were told not to march according to rank. This created some kind of a covering of class differences and Anzac Day was promoted as a means of unifying the nation. But as the nation’s anti-war sentiment grew during the Vietnam War, so too did the popularity of Anzac Day.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating began the current revival of Anzac Day as a nationalist celebration. Social spending was falling and Anzac Day was used as a poultice to project the spirit of nationalism and to hide class distinctions. Hawke brought back the pilgrimage to Gallipoli and Keating spoke long and loud about the sacrifice on the Kokoda Track.

John Howard took this to a new level, invoking Anzac Day and building up a spirit of militarism to justify Australia’s participation in wars in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Anzac Day is meant to be a day that recognises the horrors of war. Instead, it has become a day that caters to militarism, imperialism and conservatism.

No soldier would want to glorify the events at Gallipoli. War is not a thing that those who fought in enjoyed. Sensible people should reject this celebration and boycott what happens because all it is doing is making a good and glorious event out of the misery of war.