Dear John (Not A Love Letter)


Dear Prime Minister,

I recently read your thoughts on the 4th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and no doubt your minders will encourage you to publish another piece to commemorate the upcoming anniversary of the Bali bombings.

You do not often move me to any kind of response – I’ve come to expect the worse. But you served something up on September 11 that cannot go unanswered. Even as memories of those attacks are still fresh, you seek to make September 11 part of a global monument to remind us of our righteousness.

The monuments we choose say something about us. The crumbling towers of the World Trade Centre were never meant to be a monument to hypocrisy and hubris. The perpetrators of September 11 have in their own nefarious way made them so. You, with all the grace of a PR company, have followed suit. The thousands of lives lost on that day are served up by you to sanctify the strictures you plan to impose on our ‘dear way of life’.

Terrorists, you tell us, are fundamentally motivated by an antipathy to our way of life. But how long can you keep the truth at bay? Robert Pape, in his book Dying to Win (extracts from this book were recently published in New Matilda, click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2), makes it clear why terrorism occurs. His analysis is the factual battering ram we need to understand why the West is a target. Instead of caricatured Arabs seething with existential rage, Pape demonstrates a strong correlation between foreign occupation and terrorism. His message is that the foreign occupation of Iraq and US base expansion – not fundamentalism – are the prime issues we need to address. Pape is not some adolescent Lefty, but an erudite thinker of American national interest.

Thanks to Fiona Katauskas

Thanks to Fiona Katauskas

As compelling as Pape’s analysis is, your Government continues to offer support for American expansion in the name of shared values and interests. It thereby invites us to be the next sacrificial lamb in a war few people understand.

One of our values is democracy. The government reports through rosy-coloured glasses on the emergence of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, all the while ignoring warlords, insurgency, human rights abuses and ornamental constitutions horse-traded by foreign-empowered middle men.

Is there enough intellect in your Government to realise that what you order is not what you get? You cannot order democracy, upsized, as if at McDonald’s. Self determination is a principle we ought to support, but not the lies of ‘humanitarian intervention’ (we had to save the Iraqi people from the dictator we used to support) serving as a cover for global expansion.

As the Bush experiment implodes under the weight of its own contradictions, what will the Coalition of the Willing do next?

Apparently, every fledging democracy needs its transitory dictator. Can you, Prime Minister, tell the Australian people if you’ve been given the list of likely heavyweights by your beloved in Washington? Pakistan already has its own ¬ he was given a statesman’s welcome here. What of Afghanistan and Iraq? I have no doubt that in the halls of realpolitik there are those who think it’s a shame that the man most likely to bring the requisite order (and terror) to Iraq is irredeemable.

Strongmen lie behind every elitist liberal’s fantasy of social order. But such monsters are a dime a dozen, so there’s plenty of choice. Kitted out with your instant guide to the politics of the Middle East, you deem it responsible to invade and re-order societies you know nothing about.

Can you, understand, the logic of insurgency? Thought experiment: A prosperous and militarist Islamic society decides its social order befits the ‘End of History’ and seeks to universalise its political and ethical forms. ¬Australia is seen as recalcitrant, anti-Muslim and deemed ripe for invasion. What do we do? We resist occupation and Islamic imperialism with whatever arms and strategies we have.

Insurgent bombs in Iraq are not aimed at the Australian way of life. They are not a strike against the white picket fences at the heart of your psyche. They have nothing to do with Australian or American suburbs. They tell us that foreign tanks and planes do not a democracy beget, but bloody resistance.

How do people elsewhere see you, Prime Minister? Americans forget your surname, mistake you for John Major, or some American Governor. At least in Washington you’ve been honoured. Protocol of the highest order, red carpet treatment, iron adjectives and a visit to a ranch in Texas. Please contemplate the cost of these achievements as you spend your last days in a nursing home, surrounded by other savvy super-savers who made big on the investment boom and T3 shares.

I agree with you Prime Minister when you write ‘September 11 taught us that we cannot take our way of life for granted.’ After all, we’ve seen Western governments whittle away civil liberties as if they were a casual fling. We’ve seen governments wage wars using evidence that a bought jury would find difficult to merit. Agreed, we can not take our way of life for granted.

Perhaps I would respect you if you came clean. If you explained that, in these uncertain times, a small nation in a precarious part of the world needs a big brother for insurance’s sake. And that we have to put up with big brother’s indiscretions (such as violation of international law), and just go with the flow.

If you admitted that, like so many Australian commentators on current affairs, you read yesterday’s American op-eds and make them today’s news for Australia, we might forgive you this lovesickness. We would understand that love is blind and flagrant with the truth.

But then we would release you from the enormous responsibility of protecting our well-being.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.