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Monday, 22 September 2014

The Blind Leading The Ignorant: Another Invasion Of Iraq | newmatilda.com

The Blind Leading The Ignorant: Another Invasion Of Iraq | newmatilda.com

The Blind Leading The Ignorant: Another Invasion Of Iraq



By Michael Brull





The
reasons behind Australia's decision to join the War in Iraq have never
been articulated let alone debated. Not by our leaders, and not by the
media. Michael Brull explains.




This
is not a time to mince words. We should not invade Iraq, and we should
not invade Syria. The situation in both countries is already disastrous.
The West already bears significant responsibility for the catastrophic rise of ISIS in both countries. Western intervention will only make things worse.



Those who want war should always bear a heavy burden of proving that
war is just. Mark Twain’s short story, “The War Prayer”, includes an
illustration of what we really ask for when we urge war:



O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with
our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms
of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the
shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their
humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of
their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out
roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of
their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun
flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn
with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it –
for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their
lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water
their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their
wounded feet!




The problem is not just that a strong case hasn’t been made as to why
we should invade Iraq again. It is that much of the discussion by
politicians and the media of the issues involved shows appalling
ignorance.



Let us start with the words of our Prime Minister. As in all wars, it
is customary to demonise the enemy, and Tony Abbott clearly thinks now
is not the time to stick to the factual record. Abbott has declared that ISIS is “nothing but a death cult”, and unfavourably compared ISIS to the Nazis.



Once again, an enemy of the West just happens to be comparable to the
Nazis. The ideology and practices of ISIS are indeed extreme and
gruesome, but it may be worthwhile trying to actually understand the
ideology of ISIS and the basis on which it gains sympathisers, if one is
to try to limit and resist its appeal in the Muslim world.



On another occasion, Tony Abbott declared that Muslims who join ISIS will be acting “against God”.


Tony Abbott, as is reasonably well known, is a Catholic who spent
about three years in a Jesuit seminary. Does anyone think that he has
appropriate qualifications or knowledge to tell Muslims what is and
isn’t consistent with their religious beliefs?



Meanwhile, Attorney General Senator George Brandis proclaimed:
“I don’t think it’s correct to describe what we are speaking of as a
war in the first place…. It is a mission; it is essentially a
humanitarian mission with military elements.” A “humanitarian mission
with military elements” – savour the audaciousness of that phrase.



It didn’t take long for us to gain some clarity on our “humanitarian mission”: the Sydney Morning Herald reported a senior defence insider
explaining that “You don't send in the SAS to run seminars and give
white-board presentations back at headquarters…. These guys are our most
highly-trained killers, and that's what they will be doing.”



The Defence Minister, David Johnston, offered his wisdom,
explaining that “right-thinking nations sitting back doing nothing is
going to moon [sic] a lot of innocent deaths in Iraq.” Apparently, he’s
horrified at the thought of innocent deaths. Presumably, our
humanitarian mission with military elements won’t result in any innocent
deaths in Iraq, just as previous humanitarian missions with military
elements in 1991 and 2003 didn’t result in any innocent deaths.



Johnston then offered this interesting claim: “We want to build the
security forces in Iraq, both the Peshmerga and the Iraqi security
forces”. Remember: after three days of fighting,
800 ISIS fighters defeated 30,000 Iraqi soldiers who were supposedly
guarding Mosul. Does this sound like a credible force to defeat ISIS?



Johnston was also asked what evidence there was that ISIS was
planning to attack Australia. He responded: “Well, I don't want to take
the risk.” That’s right: we are invading Iraq, not because of any
relevant evidence, but because our Defence Minister doesn’t want to
“take the risk”.



The Treasurer also had an interesting take on the war. If he didn’t think the war wrong, stupid or foolish, he might at least balk at the price tag of $500 million a year, after the scalpel he so proudly took to social spending in Australia.


Nope: “Ultimately you can't put a price on protecting human beings and that's what we're doing”.


Some might suggest that you protect human beings by paying their
medical bills, but evidently some are more enthusiastic about providing
protection through bombs and armies. Hockey explained that “you can't
put a price on doing what is right”, which I hope his critics remember
next time he defends slashing Australia’s budgetary measures to help the
less fortunate.



It may be said that there is a threat of terrorism posed by ISIS to Australia. So what has Abbott said?


The Government is raising the public alert level to high. I want to
stress that this does not mean that a terror attack is imminent. We have
no specific intelligence of particular plots. What we do have is
intelligence that there are people with the intent and the capability to
mount attacks – I want to stress that.

 




He has no specific intelligence of particular plots. He simply thinks one might happen. There are people who want
to attack us. And there is no time like the launching of a new war to
proclaim that terrorists want to kill us, we are unsafe, and we need to
trust our leaders to defend us.



On Thursday, as if to further buttress the case for war, raids were launched across Sydney and Brisbane
as part of a supposedly anti-terrorist operation. More than 800 police
took part in the Sydney raids, and 70 took part in the Brisbane ones.
The raids, at 25 properties, resulted in 15 people being detained.
That’s over 50 police per detainee. Or 32 police per property.



It was alleged that there was a plot to behead someone in Sydney.
They are entitled to a presumption of innocence, though it is possible
that the detainees actually were involved in the alleged plot. The mass
raids will undoubtedly help contribute to war fever, and if the
detainees are found not guilty of the allegations, this will presumably
be long after it is of pressing importance to the public.



One of those raided alleged that he was assaulted by police, which also warrants investigation and scrutiny.


It is strange that so shortly after Abbott declared that he had no
specific intelligence of an attack, massive raids were launched. Perhaps
he was not aware of these plots, and decided we should go to war in
Iraq anyway. If the plot is genuine, it would seem that we didn’t need
to invade Iraq to respond to it effectively.



Abbott also took the opportunity to claim: “These people, I regret to
say, do not hate us for what we do, they hate us for who we are and how
we live. That’s what makes us a target, the fact that we are different
from their view of what an ideal society should look like, the fact that
we are free, we are pluralist, we are tolerant, we are welcoming, we
are accepting”.



By now, there is a rather extensive literature on this subject. To take one example which actually is based on reality, Glenn Greenwald cites a Donald Rumsfeld era study.
It noted that the “underlying sources” of threats to the US are
“negative attitudes and the conditions that create them” in the Muslim
world.



The report observed that “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom’, but
rather, they hate our policies.” Specifically, the “overwhelming
majority” oppose the US’s “one-sided support in favour of Israel and
against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing
support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.”



Claims about bringing democracy to the Muslim world is seen as “no
more than self-serving hypocrisy”, and Muslims think the occupations of
Iraq and Afghanistan have only brought “more chaos and suffering”, and
was “motivated by ulterior motives”, with concern about “American
national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.”



All of this is significant. If people in the Muslim world hate us
because of how amazing we are, then plainly, we cannot ever reach out to
them or negotiate the terms of our surrender. If, on the other hand,
extremist groups arise because of legitimate grievances in the Muslim
world caused by Western foreign policy, it might be prudent to change
those policies, if merely doing the right thing wasn’t a good enough
reason.



One might hope that the Federal Opposition, or the corporate media,
would make up for the shortcomings of the claims of the federal
government. They have not come close to doing so.



Tanya Plibersek wrote an incoherent article for the Guardian, arguing
that ISIS in Iraq and Syria is like the genocidaires in Rwanda. Yet
whilst she thinks Australia should prevent an alleged genocide in Iraq,
she is happy to not intervene in Syria.



She claims that not intervening “could condemn innocent Iraqis to the
same fate as the 800,000 Rwandans brutally murdered in just 100 days”.
How exactly this might happen – or how our intervention will avert this
impending genocide, Plibersek does not bother to explain.



The Australian, our national broadsheet, has demonstrated its
sensitivity and expertise on the Muslim world on numerous occasions. A representative example is this article,
which, after explaining the ISIS flag has the shahada on it, reports
“Monash University terrorism expert Greg Barton said the Shahada was the
central statement of faith in Islam.”



This is roughly analogous to a paper citing a terrorism expert to
explain that Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God. We will
leave aside the blatant dog-whistling involved in consulting a
“terrorism expert” on such matters.



Then there was the Sydney Morning Herald’s editorial,
which came out in support of another Western war on Iraq. It displayed
similar levels of knowledge and sensitivity to Abbott. For example, it
wrote “Mr Obama will be hoping that the Muslim world was listening when
he stressed IS was not Islamic”. Why would the Muslim world care what
Obama thinks is Islamic?



The editorial then argued that the US would need the support of
others in the Muslim world. It observed that “The Iraqi government,
which needed to be less Shia-dominated before the US would act against
IS”, apparently not realising that the Iraqi government is exactly as
Shi’ite dominated as before, notwithstanding its replacement of one
Shi’ite Prime Minister by another.



The editorial goes on to claim that “Even Saudi Arabia, a nation of
Sunni sympathisers who harboured al Qaeda supporters, is reportedly
committed to a program to train and equip anti-IS forces”.



Saudi Arabia is not made up of “Sunni sympathisers” – 85-90 percent of its population are Sunni Muslims.


The official state religion of Saudi Arabia is a puritanical, extreme
and intolerant brand of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, which is pretty
similar to the ideology of ISIS, if it is not entirely identical as some have argued.



It is not just “supporters” of al Qaeda who are Saudi – 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi, as was Bin Laden himself.


The editorial proceeded to claim other partners Obama would seek in
the war on ISIS were “more problematic”, like Assad. They did not
explain the basis on which Assad was “more problematic” than Saudi
Arabia, though Saudi Arabia has a long record of supporting jihadi
terrorists, including ISIS itself.



The dangers of another war on Iraq are serious and grave. They also
pose the risk of increasing the demonization and marginalisation of
Muslims in Australia and elsewhere in the Western world.



It is important that Australians are exposed to knowledgeable
discussion of the issues. However, a brief survey of our major political
parties and media outlets reveals this is rather unlikely at the
present time.







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