Last week’s New Matilda editorial ‘The Left and Security’ provoked many interesting responses, some of which looked at the multiplying reasons given for our invasion of Iraq. Governments try to bundle together as many causes for action as possible. This time they included: to get rid of the WMD, to rid the world of the brutal Saddam Hussein, to establish a model democracy for other Middle East countries, to fight terrorism, to secure oil supplies, to preserve the strength of their currency. Multiplying purposes and objectives like this helps politically. As each one fails, governments can fall back on others, but it really screws up the military because their mission is vague and confused.

The central message of last week’s editorial, however, is that whatever the reason(s) for the Iraqi invasion, it has left all of us less safe. And not just because the Muslim world now sees itself, even more than before, as an aggrieved target of hypocrites, bullies and imperialists; not just because the streets of Baghdad and Fallujah and Najaf (and so on) are now effectively a training ground for an international band of terrorists; and not just because the invasion has provided organisations like al-Qaeda with a perfect recruiting ground among a huge and growing number of angry, vengeful, frustrated young men and women who feel they have nothing left to lose.

All that is bad enough, but the Iraqi invasion has also made us less safe in many other less obvious ways. Witness the ABC 7.30 Report story about the Australian Federal Police who, having now made ‘terrorism’ a top priority, have diverted precious resources away from attacking the Italian Mafia’s cocaine trading activities in Australia. What other crimes are committed in Australia while police and politicians alike are busy looking busy about terrorism?

Just as the West gave multiple reasons for the invasion of Iraq, so too do the people of the Middle East have many motivations to resist. There are issues including the general meddling of the US in the region, going back to Mossadeq’s overthrow in Iraq in 1952 and the Suez Fiasco of 1956 (the 50th anniversary of which is approaching). There’s the historical issue of pilgrim/Crusader armies. Iranians have different concerns from the Arabs, but are linked in dislike of a common enemy. There are ‘Left’ revolutionaries resentful of US support of the corrupt and despotic Saudi regime. And the Palestinian conflict was historically a secular one, but it has morphed into a religious one, embracing dilemmas which are much more complex than land rights.

In this week’s issue of the magazine, Robert Fisk tackles the abuse and intimidation experienced by many critics of Israel, including New Matilda‘s own regular Middle-East commentator, Antony Loewenstein.

Closer to home, Hugo Kelly dissects the results of last Saturday’s two State elections as they relate to the Greens and the Democrats, while David Forman remembers the bloody Liberal pre-selections of the 1980s, when some of the current generation of leading ‘dries’ in the Howard Government first hit the spotlight.

Meanwhile, it now seems that even the US’s grand vision behind the ‘War on Terror’ is morphing. And as US strategy evolves towards something subtly different called the ‘Long War on Terror’, so the neocon agenda that got us here in the first place is being overtaken (or at least questioned) by something labelled ‘post-neoconservatism’. Mack Williams starts looking at the political contexts of this policy shift in today’s issue.

In the week that Japan’s Foreign Minister, Taro Aso, visited Australia for tri-partite talks with Condoleezza Rice and Alexander Downer, Christopher Reed reveals Aso’s connections (through his family’s mining company) to Korean forced-labour atrocities during World War II.

Jane Caro is in two minds about Australians’ admiration of ordinariness. Does it mean we have to also put down anything and anyone that is extraordinary?

Graham Ring asks why it’s so difficult to roll out ‘unsniffable’ Opal fuel in the whole of the Central Desert and eliminate the scourge of petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities, once and for all.

Ava Hubble finds an immediate saving of $106 million a year in the Australian welfare budget, as well as providing a further injection of $440 million a year into our domestic economy. And all it would take is for John Howard to talk to Tony Blair next week.

Emma Dawson sees very little about the digital broadband future in Senator Coonan’s timid proposals for a revamping of Australia’s media laws.

And Stephen Orr wraps up the biennial Adelaide Festival of the Yartz.


Readers will have noticed that we have moved ‘Quotable Quotes’, ‘Feedback’ and ‘Links’ into a new feature called ‘Soapbox’. This now also includes a section called ‘Listen, watch, participate’ and ‘Further online reading’. If you find a quote that makes you laugh or makes you angry, or if you see an article that you’d like to share, or if you hear of an important event that’s approaching that New Matilda‘s readers should know about too send it to us at soapbox@newmatilda.com

And please, let us know what you think about this new feature, including ways of improving it or making it more relevant to you.

José Borghino


Amal Basry, SIEV-X Survivor

Vale Amal Basry, a woman of great courage and humanity, who died in Melbourne on Saturday, 18 March. After fleeing Iraq with her son, Amal boarded the SIEV X on her journey to Australia. On October 19, 2001 when the boat went down, Amal survived 15 hours in the cold dark ocean with her son.

Not content with surviving, Amal became the witness to that terrible voyage. She retold the story of that night over and over so that those who drowned would not be forgotten. Amal reminded us that 46 children, 142 women and 65 men lost their lives in their flight to freedom and reunification with their families in Australia. Only 7 made it to Australia.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Legal team obtained an early Permanant Visa for Amal when she knew that she was dying to fulfil her dearest wish to see her two remaining children and to see her grandchildren for the first and last time. Amal returned 5 weeks ago from visiting her daughter in Oman and her son in Iran. Since then, she has been very sick. In the past Amal wanted to be buried in Iraq but on her return she asked that she be buried in Australia as this was where she had encountered the most kindness in her life.

In this fifth anniversary year of the Siev X, the Tampa and the Children Overboard boats, we will not forget this brave woman who reminded us that life for refugees is a struggle requiring great courage and humanity.

Pamela Curr

Campaign Coordinator, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Melbourne (ASRC)

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