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The launch

September 29th, 2004

I didn’t hear Latham’s speech but the transcript here seems to hit most of the right notes (thankfully, just a single occurrence of “ease the squeeze”, and it’s not clear if that was actually spoken or is just a topic heading).

Latham has avoided the temptation to get into a general bidding war with Howard. The only new spending announcement appears to be on Medicare. Of course, Howard is spending big here, but he’s hampered by the fact that, for all but the last six months or so of his 30 years in public life, he’s opposed Medicare and done his best to destroy it. He was Treasurer in the Fraser government which actually did destroy the first version, introduced by Whitlam[1].

Given that the economy is going reasonably well, and that national security is rarely a winner for Labor, it’s still, I think, too early to predict a Labor win, especially in the light of the scary Nielsen poll last week. But there’s no doubt that, as far as the battle of ideas is concerned, Howard has conceded defeat already.

fn1. Neoliberals generally bag the Fraser government for having failed to introduce radical free-market reform when it had the chance. But hardly any government has managed, like Fraser’s, to repeal a major social democratic reform in a core area like health.

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  1. Dave Ricardo
    September 29th, 2004 at 16:14 | #1

    Nobody in their right mind thinks Howard has come to terms with Medicare. He never has and never will. Howard has been PM for 8 1/2 years and could have abolished Medicare 5 times over if the politics was right. But here we are in 2004 with Howard going for a fourth term and we still all have our Medicare cards.

    That says it all.

    The Liberals, in their hearts, and in their guts, will probably hate Medicare for decades to come. But, so what? Most of the Labor Party, secretly and not so secretly, until well into 80s, wanted to avenge Chifley and nationalise the banks. But it never happened and was never going to happen. In the same way, Medicare is here to stay.

  2. Don Wigan
    September 29th, 2004 at 16:38 | #2

    Agreed Dave and John. If Labor wanted to continue the negative stuff, instead of those silly scratchies (OK as a quick gimmick, maybe, but the focus must be more on Howard) they could do worse than use the TV clips showing Howard proclaiming,

    “Medicare was never intended as a UNIVERSAL health system.”

    Howard might’ve even believed it at the time, but he was really reflecting his own attitudes, not those of the Medicare framers.

  3. Geoff Honnor
    September 29th, 2004 at 16:46 | #3

    He did say “ease the squeeze” – and in conjunction with “middle Australia.” But it was only once.

  4. September 29th, 2004 at 19:20 | #4

    The battle of policy ideas, and the political race, deserves to be even:
    Howard/LN/P has won the battle of ideas on Cultural Identity (contra-Hanson; contra-Theophanous)
    Latham/ALP has won the battle of ideas on Social Equity (pro-Medicare, pro-Public Schools)
    Latham/ALP looks better on Economic Efficiency (contra-pork barelling)
    Howard/LN/P looks better on National Security (memoria Timor)

  5. Tony Healy
    September 29th, 2004 at 20:23 | #5

    I just saw it on the ABC. I thought it was stunningly well focussed. The theme that it’s “not too late” to save Medicare and education was astute. The assistance to elderly Australians seemed heartfelt and was matched by useful policy initiatives.

    All in all, Latham gave the appearance of a smart and caring Australian. Whatever Howard’s achievements, his carping on the economy increasingly has the appearance of something he’s been told to say. In this, he has the tired air that Crean used to have too.

  6. Blair Fairman
    September 29th, 2004 at 22:17 | #6

    I heard the speech on the radio in the Afternoon and it sounded great. But when I watched on TV it was just not as strong. A bit like the JFK vs Nixon in 1960.

  7. Jill Rush
    September 29th, 2004 at 23:04 | #7

    What is interesting is the depth of the policies presented by Latham as opposed to the superficiality and profligacy of the Crazy John’s going out of Office Sale.

    What the Liberal’s offer in spades is more paperwork for already overburdened families who will never benefit from the Safety Net of Medicare because it is just too hard and too much bookwork. Now it is the same kind of proposition in childcare where families are expected to be bookkeepers and keep records of childcare receipts to claim at the end of the year – it will probably pay off the family assistance debt if receipts are filed religiously.

    Howard offers to reduce redtape for small business should be extended to families.

    The attractiveness of the Labor policies is that the paperwork is taken off the family and put onto the bureaucracy where it belongs. Labor makes a real attempt to deal with the issues faced by families and society – without making us ever more vulnerable to threats from terrorists.

  8. September 29th, 2004 at 23:15 | #8

    Jack,

    Howard/LN/P has won the battle of ideas on Cultural Identity (contra-Hanson; contra-Theophanous)

    Doubt it. They might be claiming victory, but the cultural and social flowering will continue once the hindrance gets out of government. Howards worldview and the anglosphere is the return of the cringe and the denial of Australian geography. Howard is fortunate he has another avid anglospherist (Murdoch) in the media to back him up.

    With the Iraq policy we have seen the death of the anglosphere as political entity. The promise of the enlightenment has exhausted itself in the US republic. It will be up to another country to reinvent the global dialogue in freedom, liberty and equity.

    In the mid 90′s the excitement in Australia was palpable. The Australian people could feel it, the Australian Diaspora could feel it. When the disapora feels it, which are 5% of the nation at any one time, you know something is going on back home. Australia was a powder keg, it was coming to cultural maturity, social maturity, economic maturity and was starting to have debates on just what the future form of government and heraldry it would like to see itself as. It was a period of aspirations. It got knocked on the head by Howard, whose cultural cringe doesnt extend past 1955 and the anglosphere.

    Since then it has been a battle of government vs the people in areas the government has no right in foisting their opinions on the populace. Government is for ensuring just laws personal and property laws. So why is government cheerleading a debate on the “history wars” and “culture wars”. Government assumes it has a monopoly on both and uses its personal bullhorn of the Murdoch media to do its damage.

    For many years I studied the Australian Flying Corps, which led me to study more widely in Australian history, through the ANZACs to other groups that had cultural battles with established hierarchies, such as government and militry institutions. The lesson of the ANZACs was the friction they had with the English military heirarchy was a cultural one. They went over thinking they were British, and came back knowing they were Australian. Considering nearly 10% of the population was in the AIF, that is a large cultural awakening.

    Another meme I kept discovering was that Australian history is littered with individuals stamping their foot in the ground and saying, “no more”. From Pemulwey, to Peter Lawlor, to Harold Neilson, to Jack Lang, to Mary Lee, to Vincent Lingiari and plenty of others big and small. All of them stamped their feet in the ground and stood for their rights and liberties against the Federal Government or the State authorites.

    Australia has a noble and moral popular history of fighting oppression and seeking liberty. There is no need for the deception and forced reading of Australian history as having a noble and moreal British heritage. Especially when the British heritage of Australia is bloody, murderous, tyrannical, genocidal and one long war against the rights and liberties of individuals.

    Howards worldview is not needed to make Australians think well of themselves. We were doing that on our own, it may make some dinosaurs who still live in the cultural world of the mythical 1950′s feel better, but the young (sub 60′s) certainly dont need it. The “History Wars” have been a forced imposition on our culture by an anti-federalist government that knows no bounds on its meddling.

    Howard/LN/P looks better on National Security (memoria Timor)

    I do not understand this popular perception, and I can only think it is because of the manner in which Howard and Murdoch reframe the question through the popular media. Other than East Timor, Howards term in charge of defence and national security has been disastrous and will leave structural inequities in the ADF for probably forty years to come.

    In defence Australia is defined by its vulnerabilities. As we are a trading nation with multi-national defence links these vulnerabilities are the North-West shelf, the Timor Sea and the Coral Sea. This is the air-sea gap. We also have assets off our continental shelf such as oil and fisheries that are also vulnerable if we are unable to defend them.

    In the F111 Australia has the most potent and autonomous regional strike weapon on the planet. When it gets retired in 2010 the ADF will suffer a huge loss in projection and consquent ability to maintain authority over our air-sea gap. Replacing the F111 with the JSF and some cruise missiles is a projection loss unless Australia increases its force multipliers such as our aging AAR 707 tankers and our AEW&C force multipliers. The Howard government passed up on an eight “wedgetail” whose cost had already been largely paid for.
    These assets also need defending, so we should increase the numbers of JSF as AAR and AEW&C are extremely vulnerable as well. We also need space based surveillance systems so we are autonomous and independant there as well.

    The purchase of the Abrams were a waste of time. That money could be better spent on doing the R&D for indiginously designed and developed blue water navy. Incat is doing exciting things down in Tassie. Give them the money to come up with something more innovative that can meet Australia’s needs. Since the world’s armouries (ie US Defence) aren’t making regional projection platforms anymore, it is up to Australia to make platforms that solve its needs

    The 6 Billion that is being splashed around the swinging electorates by Howard and Latham would be better served being spent on the defence budget. It would increase the defence budget to 22 billion. The 6 billion extra should be spent purely on R&D for the development of indiginous weapon systems and platforms.

    It would be a subsidy to applied science and engineering. But it would have a dual benefit. The ADF would get systems with complete access to the technology. Too often our defence industry are integrators of black box technologies from US companies. It would also allow Australia to spec the systems it needs to solve its procurement issues rather than buying US rust-buckets.

    The other benefit is that it is from technology R&D that disruptive technologies come from. The last disruptive technology was the internet which came from US investment in DARPA and Euro investment in CERN. Disruptive technologies expand the labour market and the business environment. Important issues that need to be invested in if Australia is to avoid the “pastoralization” of its commodity economy.

    As to terrorism, the Liberal foreign policy of “great and powerful friends” is a failure. The Labor policy of “Asian Engagement” is far better suited to combatting terrorism. Indonesia is Australia’s front line for terrorism and Indonesia has been handling it well. Their justice system has been non-arbitrary and their police have approached the problem as a civil issue not a martial one. The invasion of Iraq is the “great and powerful friends” doctrine and its most vacuous and uninquisitive. It has been a failure.

    For terrorism to be combatted in Indonesia it will require more than just sending over some police and having some co-operation. It will require the economic, defence, civil and cultural engagement with Indonesia. Australian prosperity will need to be leveraged to create Indonesia prosperity. Labor’s policy is far better suited to achieve that end than the Liberals tired old policy.

    Sorry, ended up a long post.

  9. Mike
    September 30th, 2004 at 09:16 | #9

    Latham is really going to screw young people. We have to pay taxes for medicare we never use, forced to get health insurance we don’t need and now will have to pay taxes for the private and public healthcare of old codgers who, in most cases, are far wealthier than we are.

  10. September 30th, 2004 at 09:47 | #10

    Cameron Riley at September 29, 2004 11:15 PM makes one claim that perversely undermines his criticisms of JWH:

    As to terrorism, the Liberal foreign policy of “great and powerful friends” is a failure. The Labor policy of “Asian Engagement” is far better suited to combatting terrorism.

    The two methods can be complementary, not exclusive. AUS’s “Great and Powerful Friends” can enable “Asian Engagement”, as we saw when the US’s Rubin instigated democracy promotion in both TIMOR and INDON in 1998.
    Asian Engagement, as practised by Keating, was Asian Appeasement of Suharto. Howard, with the ADF & USMC, saw to it that the the AUS-INDON Security pact drawn up by Suharto and Keating in 1996 did not long survive their careers in office.
    The War against Terrorism is a clash within Islamic civilisation between sectarian militants and secular moderates for control of Southern Eurasian state.
    The first victory in the modern War against Terrorism was enabled by AUS & its “Great and Powerful Friends”. The civil war in TIMOR between sectarian & seperatists, and the partisan war in INDON between democrats and timocrats, ended in a big victory for secular moderates.

  11. Tony Healy
    September 30th, 2004 at 11:00 | #11

    Jill Rush identifies something I’ve often noticed about Howard policy too – it invariably involves paperwork fiddles of the type that middle class rorters and accountants love. I’ve often wondered whether this is just because it’s natural to Liberal policy creators, or deliberate as a way to deter claims.

    Not only is it inefficient, it caters to classes of useless middlemen. We can see this in the health insurance rebates, the family allowances and most importantly medical rebates. It also pops up in Howard’s industry assistance initiatives, which invariably involve lots of work for accounting firms.

    The BITS scheme supposedly for funding hi-tech startups involved some staggering diversion of money to useless businessmen who did nothing, as the Allen report details. Millions of dollars went, not to startups, but to “consultants” and “office expenses” for the firms selected to disburse taxpayer funds.

    Cameron highlights the issue dear to my heart – the cheap-skating over our defence policy that potentially has staggering implications, not generally understood. What the Howard government is doing with our F-111′s, and with the selection of the JSF, is like closing Sydney and Melbourne Universities as a way to reduce education costs.

  12. Fyodor
    September 30th, 2004 at 11:32 | #12

    Jack,

    Take your hand off it. Saying the same thing over and over again does not make it true.

    East Timor was not part of any “War on Terror”.

    It was an ethno-religious separatist conflict between Timorese catholic christians and Javanese muslims. It was fundamentally little different from any number of post-colonial “brush-fire” conflicts that have occurred since WWII.

    Contra your argument, Cameron Riley’s fundamental position holds: an Australian government that engages and cooperates with Indonesia will be more effective in preventing terrorist attacks on Australia emanating from the archipelago to our North. The Rodent consistently fails to appreciate this, as evidenced by his cack-handed diplomatic incompetence. Your repetitive adulation of his foreign policy “successes” does not change that fact.

  13. Fyodor
    September 30th, 2004 at 12:09 | #13

    [Apologies for going slightly OT]

    Tony and Cameron,

    I’m very critical of the Howard administration’s conduct of defence and foreign policy, but retiring the F-111s is one move I agree with.

    While the air force loves having bombers and long-range strike capability, the F-111s are past their use-by date. The design is 40 years old, the aircraft themselves are 30 years old and, because we’re the only country using them, spare parts are increasingly hard to come by. IMO the air force was committed to the F-111 for symbolic/emotional and status-led rationales, not a hard-nosed assessment of force requirement and economics.

    Stand-off missiles in conjunction with air refuelling for the F/A-18s are an effective replacement for the F-111 strike capability. It’s questionable whether we really need the ability to lay bombs deep in Indonesian (Malaysian?) territory in any case.

    I’d much rather see the air force dedicate more resources to air superiority, and I agree with you that we may be overmatched in the medium term, until the lead-in of the JSF.

    Personally, I’m very sceptical on the cost-effectiveness of the JSF in what will be its primary role in our air force, air superiority. I suspect we’re being sold a very expensive solution that may not even meet our fighter requirement.

  14. September 30th, 2004 at 13:56 | #14

    Fyodor at September 30, 2004 11:32 AM completely misses the entire global and regional historico-political point:

    East Timor was not part of any “War on Terror”. It was an ethno-religious separatist conflict between Timorese catholic christians and Javanese muslims.
    an Australian government that engages and cooperates with Indonesia will be more effective in preventing terrorist attacks on Australia emanating from the archipelago to our North.

    Most of the terrorist wars that the West is embroiled in since the wind down of the Second World Democratic-Dicatatorial “Cold War” (1917-85), and Third World Nationalist-Imperialist “Decolonising Wars” (1941-75), have taken the Timorese ethno-sectarian form. The Islamic militants, often Young Turks in the Army, sectarianise a popular ethnic conflict in order to mobilise nationalist opinion to takeover the contested state. eg Afghnanistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Chechyna, Algeria, Katmandu.
    (This is also happening in Iraq, except we started the problem. How dumb is that.)
    This is method of mass-propagating political conflict is similar to the nationalist and communist tactic of radicalising de-colonial struggles, in post war Vietnam & Egypt. Except in this case it is fundamentalist theology (Wahhabist), not nationalist ethnology (eg Nasserist) or communist ideology (eg Maoist), that provides the politico-cultural narrative that appeals to propagandsist intellectuals and agitated masses.
    This ethno-sectarian model roughly fits the Timor conflict. Fyodor appears blissfully ignorant of the miliary-militant linkage Korpassus-Laksa Jihad which was present in Timor and is now in Papua.
    But in the TIMOR case, the Good Guys won. The sectarian militants trying to take over the INDON state suffered a provincial defeat in TIMOR. This discredited their aspirations to national power. In turn this has set in train a stabilising regional dynamic as secular moderates have gained power in INDON elections. That is why Habibie lost to Gus.
    Before the Howard-AUS/Rubin-US regime change of TIMOR/INDON there was no democracy in either land. Sectarian militants used terror to rule in both states. After the regime change the voice of the people could be heard in both lands, by ballots not bullets. Fortunately that voice is moderate and largely secular.
    I am not saying Howard is responsible for all this. He was an appeaser to begin with. But he changed fast, and sure gave a mighty effective shove to get the ball rolling in the right direction at the beginning of play.
    Terrorism is not just a judicial problem nor a military problem. It is a political problem which needs an adroit combination of penal, martial and diplomatic procedures. I apologise for going off-topic but these facts, and their theoretical explanation, need to be repeated every so often.

  15. Fyodor
    September 30th, 2004 at 14:59 | #15

    Jack,

    You’re the one missing the point. Let me repeat it for you: East Timor has nothing to do with the “War on Terror”.

    The nonsense you’ve just produced on the “Second World Democratic-Dicatatorial ‘Cold War’ (1917-85)”, and “Third World Nationalist-Imperialist ‘Decolonising Wars’ (1941-75)” may have made sense to you, but is complete tosh. The basic facts are these:

    1) East Timor was a Portuguese colony.
    2) Indonesia forcibly annexed ET in 1975.
    3) The East Timorese didn’t like the annexation, or continued Indonesian rule.
    4) In 1999, they proved this by voting for independence in a referendum.
    5) Some elements of the ET and Indonesian population (including, it seems, parts of the Indonesian armed forces) resisted ET’s move to independence.
    6) UN forces, led by Australia, restored order in ET.
    7) ET achieves full independence in 2002.

    There is no element of the above linked to the “War on Terror”. Any attempt at such a link by you is simply historical revisionism at odds with the historical facts.

    Let me correct some other mistakes of yours:

    1) Indonesia’s military, TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia) – including Kopassus, is a profoundly secular, nationalist organisation, and not militantly Islamic. Witness the suppression of Islamic militants in Aceh province. The military’s opposition to ET’s independence was tied to sovereignty and nationalism, not Islam or terrorism. The TNI would argue they were fighting ET “terrorists” in suppressing the armed resistance of the East Timorese, just as they would argue they’re fighting “terrorists” in West Papua.

    2) Jusuf Habibie was a secular technocrat and crony of his predecessor, the secular autocrat Suharto. He was replaced by a Muslim cleric (Abdurrahman Wahid). That you can describe this as a victory for “secular moderates” proves you don’t know what you’re talking about. Suharto’s regime was not overtly Islamic – it was autocratic, nationalist and (mostly) secular. The victory was for democracy over autocracy. The Islamic/terrorist elements are totally incidental to the story.

  16. Tony Healy
    September 30th, 2004 at 16:20 | #16

    Fyodor, there are a whole lot of really worrying things about the F-111 decision, and I hope people will forgive this further excursion into the topic. Age is not really an issue. B-52′s are older and expected to operate until 2040. There had been no concerns about the F-111 age until about two years ago. In fact, we had been boasting about our expertise in operating the F-111′s, and have specialist equipment and stores of spares from retired American planes.

    The more important issue is the range. Although it’s not mentioned publicly, Australian defence strategy is based on three threats we can mount against attackers’ home bases, by SASR, submarines and the F-111′s. The F-111 threat is the most important of those. It depends on the fact that F-111′s can range anywhere they like over Indonesia and the sea approaches, choosing any route and attacking from any direction. The F-111 has an attack range around 2,500 km.
    Afterwards, they can actually outrun pursing fighters if necessary.

    By comparison, the FA-18 can only reach about 700 km, which renders it nearly useless as a threat against opponents’ bases. Any strike would need a giant gathering of several FA-18′s, plus a vulnerable refuelling aircraft with its own escorts, and the whole circus would have to stooge around and wait for the returning strike aircraft. It effectively removes the most important capability of the Australian defence strategy.

    The JSF was actually intended as a replacement for the budget F-16 and the tank-buster A-10, and to an extent the FA-18. My reading of the strategic environment in this region is that it’s not going to give us the air superiority we depend on. Personally, I think it’s another example where Howard thinks his job is just to keep shaving figures off national expenditure, and the more the merrier.

  17. Fyodor
    September 30th, 2004 at 17:27 | #17

    Tony, I agree with you on the JSF, but not the F-111. You cite the ability to attack an “attacker’s home bases”, but this is really code for Indonesian home bases – there are no other potential military threats in our region. Since we are plainly not going to invade Indonesia, such a strike capability is only valuable as a deterrent.

    However, a shooting war with Indonesia would be the (disastrous) last resort of failed Australian (and Indonesian) diplomacy. The Indonesians know this, and are therefore not deterred by a threat that will never materialise.

    Moreover, the upgrading of the Indonesian air force with modern fighter aircraft suggests that our F-111 aircraft will not be able to penetrate Indonesian airspace as easily as you assume. The vulnerability of the F-111 to fighter attack and surface-air missiles is one of the reasons the USA phased out the aircraft – it required too much EW and fighter escort to be as effective as stand-off weapons and stealth bombers. IMO your analogy with the B-52 is inappropriate, because the USA only uses it (these days) where it has total air superiority. Missile technology has now advanced to the point where cruise missiles can land payloads accurately without risking aircraft and crews – that’s the way to go to preserve our strike capability.

    The stated defence priority of Australia’s government under Hawke-Keating was to control the sea-air gap around Australia. The Howard government still pays lip-service to this concept, but has predictably gotten it muddled with the desire to create expeditionary capability. It’s time the government re-examined this issue, because I fear – as you do – that the air force will be compromised in its primary mission of defending our airspace by buying the wrong aircraft.

  18. September 30th, 2004 at 17:43 | #18

    [I apologise for continuing off-topic but this point deserves to be made in decisive fashion, and Fyodors remarks are a perfect platform.]
    No. It is Fyodor who “[doesnt] know what [he is] talking about”. Allow me “correct some other mistakes of [his]“, both factual and theoretical.
    By “secular” I do not mean “agnostic or atheistic”. I mean prepared to accept a seperation of Church and State. In that sense, Italy is a secular society, despite having Christian Democratic governments and the Vatican City.
    In this sense Gus falls neatly into my “secular moderate”, rather than “sectarian militant”, classification. To quote from Gus’s website:

    Buck-Morss cites the spiritual humanism of Indonesian Islamic leader, Abdurrahman Wahid, with much admiration: …
    Wahids “secular vision of democracy was religiously motivated to protect the rights of Indonesias religiously diverse populations, as is required by the Islamic idea of tolerance”.

    The crisis within modernizing Islamic states is most keenly felt among younger military officers who combine fundamentalist theology and sectarian militancy to promote nationalist causes. The radical Islamic agenda is more likely to be achieved if the military radicals have more power over the state and the Mosque has more power over society. The moderates want a civilian state and secular society. The battle is often joined in contested ethno-sectarian jurisdictioons.
    I am not arguing for a monolithic conspiracy between sectarian officers and militant terrorists. Merely a coincidence of interest and intellect that forms a global pattern in like cases.
    The conflict in E Timor was a prototype of this form of the intra-Civiliational Clash and therefore an overture to the post-911 War on Terrorism. The historical record provides abundant evidence of a convergence of interest between timocrats and theocrats in the War on Terror in AUSs region.
    This model fits the course of history in this region reasonably well. The ironies abound in the age of make-overs. The struggle between E Timorese and Javanese for control of E Timor (1975-99) had elements of Nasserite-style nationalist ethnology on the IDON side (Golkar), Marxist-style communist ideology on the TIMOR side (Fretln) an fundamentalist theology (Kopassus sectarians) on the militia side.
    There is legitimate dispute over how much the Timorese militias were sectarian Islamic and how much they were nationalist Indonesian. Probably a bit of both. The militias wanted integration with Indonesia but they represented those Timorese of the Islamic faith and targeted Christian institutions.
    But Fyodor misses the main point: The battle for E Timor was manned by ethno-nationalist militias. But it was co-opted by sectarian-fundamentalist officers. The Koppassus commanders, whatever the motives of militia foot soldiers, have an Islamacist agenda: utilise nationalist conflicts for sectarian militant ends. They wanted the INDON nation to absorb Timor and the more radical of them want the INDON state to convert to Islam. This is similar to modus of other military rogue officers in other divided Islamic states eg Saudi National Guard and Pakistans ISI.
    Fyodor is being dangerously naive if he scoffs at the evidence linking Kopassus officers and sectarians militants who practice terrorism for political ends. This relationship comes out clearly in Kopsassus support for Islamic Sectarian militants including Laskar Jihad:

    Kopassus also set up the Islamic organisation Komando Jihad that…has since emerged as Jemaah Islamiah.


    Plenty of other experts will testify to this linkage between nationalist timocrats and fundamentalist theocrats in the INDON state. The Asia Times reports Australian Indonesian expert Greg Barton stating that the organic relationship between sectarians and nationalists in Indonesia, which began to emerge before Timor:

    Since Suharto was toppled in 1998, key military generals with Islamist sympathies have sought to mobilize Islamist militia for their own purposes.
    “nationalist generals joined forces with generals known to be religious hardliners to use radical Islamist militia to destabilize the Wahid administration.”
    In troubled regions such as Ambon, Central Sulawesi and West Papua, military-backed militias led by Laskar Jihad have wreaked havoc,..Recently members of the Cokar, an Ambon militia, admitted they had been trained and funded by Kopassus.
    These murders and the recent spread of militia to West Papua follow the assignment of General Mahidin Simbolon to take charge of the restive province. Simbolon was one of the key figures who orchestrated the violence in East Timor in 1999.


    And the Sectarian Military Ethnic Militia nexus did not end with thr E Timor battle. Fyodor should read this story from John Martinkus, who I talked to at length about this issue.

    The groups say the border is home to Indonesian army-run training camps for Islamic militants and Papuan militia groups. They say the militant groups are being used by the Indonesian Army’s special forces, Kopassus, to foment conflict between Christian Papuans and Muslim settlers from elsewhere in Indonesia.
    in January, Kopassus began recruiting people in the large transmigrant settlements around the town of Arso, south of Jayapura.
    “There is a direct connection between the Islamic groups and the military because all the weapons used are military standard,” Mr Mehui said.


    Howard-ADF’s efforts were critical in winning this military phase of the “War on Terror” in TIMOR. Rubin-IMFs was critical in winning the political phase of the “Clash within Civilisation” in INDON. It is too bad that Fyodors partisan biases make him unable to digest this.

  19. Fyodor
    September 30th, 2004 at 18:17 | #19

    Jack,

    I don’t have a partisan bias on this issue, though I would argue you do.

    Nonetheless, for your argument to hold true, you have to demonstrate that:

    1) the Suharto administration’s occupation of East Timor was motivated by Islamic militancy;

    2) the elements of the Indonesian armed forces opposing ET’s independence were likewise primarily motivated by Islamic militancy; and

    3) the Islamic militancy supposedly motivating these actions can be linked to the so-called “War on Terror”.

    This is the only way in which you could construct a link between the conflict and the “War on Terror”. You have proven none of these.

    I’ll repeat my earlier statement: TNI and Kopassus are secular, nationalist organisations rigidly fixed on the maintenance of order and the territorial integrity of the Indonesian state. Islamic conspiracy theories aren’t required to explain their brutality towards what they consider to be subversive forces.

  20. September 30th, 2004 at 19:01 | #20

    Fyodor blatantly misrepresents some things I say and then does not represent other things I say. How convenient!
    Fyodor calls Kopassus “secular”. By this criteria the Osama Bin Laden is just a misguided Anglican.

    1) the Suharto administration’s occupation of East Timor was motivated by Islamic militancy;

    Fyodor seems trapped by old thinking and poor grasp of the facts. Things had changed. The old secular nationalist (Ataturk, Nasser) model of Third World political development is gone. Islamacist parties are now on equal terms with Nationalist parties.
    Timor was under the control of Habibie when the militia violence started. Suharto and Keating were out of the picture by then, and their way of politics was consigned to the Dustbin of History.
    Where on earth did Fyodor get the idea that I said Suharto was an “Islamacist”, which implies his occupation of Timor had some theological basis? I specifically stated that Suharto-GOLKA party, and old-guard TNI officers, were nationalist ethnological in motivation.

    2) the elements of the Indonesian armed forces opposing ET’s independence were likewise primarily motivated by Islamic militancy;


    As I have demonstrated, with credible reports, Kopassus is an element of the INDON armed forces and is proto-Islamacist. The avante-garde militants in the INDON military have a more fundamentalist theological mode, if not motivation, than their old guard commanders.

    3) Islamic militancy supposedly motivating these actions can be linked to the so-called “War on Terror”.

    Both Jemiah Islamia and Laksar Jihad are terroristic organisations. Kopsssus has been linked to both organisations in promoting jihadist type terrorism in Aceh and Papua. Timor was a kind of pilot study for this kind of, intra-Islamic, terrorist jihadism. Kopassus used terroristic militias (part-ethnic INDON, part-sectarian Islamic) to promote its sectarian agenda: integrate Timor into INDON nation and Islam into INDON state. This is how the Clash within Civilisations is bound up with the War on Terror.
    The same kind of military sponsorship of sectarian groups can be seen in Jungaweed militias, Saudi National Guard, SIS Katmandu seperatists etc et al. Sectarianise the ethnic conflict then Islamacise the state.
    Its happening right now in Iraq.
    One hopes that Fyodor will now concede that this narrative well and truly connects the INDON military and Islamic sectarian dots.

  21. September 30th, 2004 at 19:05 | #21

    PS I take it that Fyodor thinks that John Martinkus and Greg Barton are Islamic “conspiracy theorists”?
    Exactly what experience in this area, apart from a Bachelors Degree in Howard hating, does Fyodor bring to this discussion that trumps their on the ground know-how, bought with blood sweat and tears?
    Perhaps Fyodor might like to reconsider his remarks.

  22. John Quiggin
    September 30th, 2004 at 19:50 | #22

    Excuse me everybody, but this was a post about Latham’s policy launch and the government’s Medicare policy. Could we please defer the clash of civilisations to another day.

  23. Fyodor
    October 1st, 2004 at 08:36 | #23

    JQ,

    Aye, cap’n, point taken. Could you facilitate us on another thread? I suggest something like “War on Terror: the Wonder Years” for the title. Alternatively, perhaps you’d like to launch a thread @ Catallaxy, Jack?

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