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(I have broken with previous practice by publishing these articles now. The events are of too much importance historically to be delayed until I have converted all the articles that come before these. I also believe it is important and appropriate for me to let people know how I feel about these issues.)

October 2001
February 2002

(October 2001) [Printed in "Reality Module No.24."]

Writing in a Time of Shadows

It is hard to know what to write in a time of shadows, history can change things so quickly - and in the time between when my writing here is done and when you receive "RM24" the world will change again.

In my reply to Gerald Smith & Womble in "RM23" I'd thought of mentioning the issues I don't feel confident writing about - because the moral complexities are so great that I am not sure of all my ground - and I would have to explore my arguments carefully and in much detail as there is considerable danger of being misunderstood.

Issues such as abortion, refugees in Australia, human cloning, and Israel.

But events in the world mean that I no longer have the luxury of setting some of these aside until I have further insights and the issues are clearer in my mind.

Two things distress me now - and they have many tendrils wrapping around other things.

The Tampa crisis. An Indonesian fishing boat smuggling people from Iraq and Afghanistan began to sink and sent out a distress call. The 338 people aboard were rescued by a Norwegian freighter the MV Tampa.

The people wanted to go to Australia, to be accepted as asylum seekers.

John Howard's government refused to allow them ashore on Christmas Island - John drew a line in the sand and said 'no illegal immigrants.'

The people were trapped on the ship for eight days while the Australian Government, Norway, Indonesia and the United Nations High Council for Refugees tried to find a compromise.

Finally the Government arranged a deal - Naura would take some of the asylum seekers for processing (for A$20 million), the rest would go to New Zealand.

They were transferred to an Australian Navy ship the Manoura and taken away.

I was disgusted by the whole thing!

I wrote a letter to the 'Herald Sun' (never published) describing John Howard's 'firm stand' as "an act of bastardry to people in dire circumstances."

But poll after poll in the newspapers showed 90%+ of Australians approved of John Howard's firm stand. His popularity has soared.

Why did my fellow Australians support a stand that amounted to: "Bugger off reffos! We don't want you here!"

Are my neighbours racists, are they paranoid about some imaginary Asian invasion from the north?

It seemed to me that nearly everyone was the sort of redneck racist you'd find in the One Nation Party.

John Howard was a bastard. He may also, as a result of the Tampa incident, get elected again on November 10th.

We keep our asylum seekers in detention centres in this country. They have barbed wire fences, bright lights and guards. They are very much like prisons.

I find I am increasingly disturbed by these places. I am starting to believe that locking people up indefinitely on the premise that they might not be genuine refugees is wrong.

But I am not sure of the best way to deal with the problem of asylum seekers.

Then there is my shock and horror at the events in New York and Washington DC, and my apprehension about what the consequences will be.

I know that the war has started (covertly), I am also well aware of the many things that can go wrong.

It is a war against terrorism - that thing like a dark spider's web enmeshed in the world. How do you find the strands and pull them out?

I think of Israel, a country that has been fighting terrorism for decades.

They have a superb intelligence network, and well-trained soldiers with state-of-the-art weapons for their strikes against terrorism.

There is only one problem.

Their strategy isn't working.

Decades later and still young Palestinian men are willing to blow themselves to bits as long as they can take some Israelis with them.

Israel is a state under siege - take their weapons and their finances away and they would be destroyed. Their problems are a result of doing too many things wrong.

"A message from the United Kingdom: Don't torture. Don't shoot boys who throw stones. And don't imagine for a moment that there is any guarantee of success."
[Brown, Andrew. Lessons on how to fight terror. Salon Magazine. 19 September 2001.1]

* * *

"The students stoned an Israeli checkpoint and the troops responded with teargas and rubber-coated bullets.

"An Israeli soldier was later shoot in the chest by a Palestinian sniper, sparking an incursion by tanks supported by helicopters.

"Several houses, two schools, a mosque, and a fire truck were hit by Israeli fire, which injured at least 13 people...."
[Israel hits despite ceasefire. Herald Sun. 19 September 2001. p.36]

Israel's first problem is their delusion of strength. Because they have superior weapons they believe they can quash Palestinian unrest with excess firepower. Each terrorist incident is met with an extreme response as described above. Perhaps they think fear will create acquiescence.

This is idiotic! All this vengeance creates is an upsurge of anger and despair and a burning desire to take desperate measures.

You do not win a war by killing your enemies or grinding them into submission, you win wars when your enemies become your friends.

Israel is so steeped in the quagmire of violence and retribution that I see little hope for it without radical changes in foreign policy - and even then it may take generations to gain the trust of its neighbours.

Israel is hated by many of its neighbours in the Middle East, and its strongest ally is the United States

Many people in the USA could not understand why they were attacked on September 11th. Simplistic explanations of religious fanaticism were offered - "the terrorists were insane, brainwashed, there is no rational explanation."

But many people in the Middle East associate the USA with lsrael (the great enemy) - that is one of the reasons why the US was attacked.

1See: http://dir.salon.com/news/feature/2001/09/19/fighting_terror/index.html

I will now tell you my great fear.

I am afraid that the United States will start a war against terrorism which is based on the Israeli model of vengeance. (The US and its allies have superior weapons - it is a danger.)

This would be an unmitigated disaster: an unholy vendetta against all those who may or may not be terrorists, and causing the deaths of too many innocent people. The survivors of indiscriminate killings will burn with hatred and the desire for their own vengeance.

We would have decades of an increasingly messy war.

The war against terrorism will be a difficult one - and you'll need the wisdom of Solomon to know how to proceed amongst all the complexity.

Bush seems to have been cautious (a good sign), but there is so much that can go wrong in the times ahead.

In this war we must offer violence and compassion, the innocent must be cared for and nourished - the guilty must be caught and brought to trial; we must be both terrible and loving - a hard act with the danger of human folly and bloodlust. This is a war where we must strive our hardest to be the good guys.

It must be a loving war (fought with the very best of intentions) - but such a thing has never been done before.

May be impossible.

In the paradox of the times I wait, like all of us, in the shadows. I have seen horror and hope. I don't know where we are going to.

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(February 2002) [Printed in "Reality Module No.26."]

Update - February 2002

It is still a time of shadows. The war in Afghanistan is over, but hawkish George W. Bush makes veiled threats to other nations. There will not be peace for long, and there is no security.

Ariel Sharon seems to have regressed to his terrorist roots and has scapegoated Yasser Arafat for all the violence of the Palestinians. (One cannot envy Arafat, wherever his sympathies may lie, he has been told to arrest all the Palestinian militants - an impossible task for any man. Even Ariel cannot do it with all his army.) There will be no peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians - and the situation will only get worse.

John Howard in this country raises the philistine flag, honours the hard-hearted and ignorant, condemns all liberal-minded free-thinkers who disagree with him, and forgets the meaning of the word "civilised." Our country sinks into mediocrity and few people seem to care.

All over the world democracy and freedom are under threat. Ratbags and alternative political thinkers are relabelled as "subversives" or "terrorist sympathisers" and are being increasingly harassed by governments. It is becoming dangerous to speak out against the status quo - to do so is to risk being labelled one of the enemy.

We are not without hope, but I find it hard to be optimistic when the USA, Israel and Australia are being lead by men who are at best fools and at worst dangerous idiots.

Feedback and Discussions

*I have had many responses to these articles and, in time, I will add them to this site.


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Last Updated: 10 April 2003