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Wading back into the Big Muddy

February 23rd, 2005

Just as US soldiers and National Guards who’ve completed their tours in Iraq are being conscripted by stop-loss orders, recalls and the like, then sent back for a second round, Australia has received new orders. The New Europeans (Spain, Poland, Netherlands and so on) are all pulling out, and its up to us to fill the gap.

Of course, there’s no mention of the US in Howard’s announcement. Supposedly, this is a response to personal requests from the British and Japanese Prime Ministers. Older readers will recall that exactly the same farce was played out with our commitment of troops to Vietnam. Anyone who believes the government’s line might reflect on what kind of response Blair and Koizumi would get if they requested from Howard something the Bush Administration didn’t like, such as ratification of Kyoto.

There’s no strategy here, just hanging on and hoping things will change for the better. There’s no sign so far that the presence of 150 000 troops has done any good. The insurgency/resistance/terrorists are far more numerous now than they were a year ago. They gain legitimacy when they attack foreign occupiers, and lose it when they attack fellow-Iraqis. I hope that the new Iraqi government, when it emerges, will maintain its campaign commitment (watered down at the last minute) to demand a schedule for withdrawal, but if it doesn’t, Australia and Britain should be pushing the US to set one.

Tthe decision raises some other big issues for Australia that don’t seem to have been considered. In particular, there’s the possibility of war with Iran. Have we received assurances either that there won’t be any US military action against Iran or that, if there is, Iraq won’t be used as a base? To ask this question is to answer it.

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  1. Dave Ricardo
    February 25th, 2005 at 09:52 | #1

    Michael, your historical analogy is flawed. In the mid 20th century, a lot of lefties looked to communism, or at least socialism, as a desirable alternative to capitalism, and looked to the Soviet Union with varying degrees of enthusiasm as a practical example. Some had their eyes more open than others, but they agreed that the principles behind the Soviet Union were desirable. (Some of these lefties, by the way, founded the kibbutzim in Israel.)

    However, you won’t many lefties today, not even the most woolly minded academics who think that there is anything praiseworthy about Islamic fundamentalist societies, in theory or in practice. The most that can be said about some of them is that they, lacking a sense of proportion, adopt a crude my enemy’s enemy view of the world, but then that is exactly the kind of thinking that led the United States to support Saddam in the 1980s, so it’s hardly an invention of the Marxist post modern mind set.

  2. MichaelH
    February 25th, 2005 at 09:56 | #2

    “Why exactly do we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t upset Islamic extremists”

    Who exactly is saying this Ros?

    Or is this just constructing a caricature of people’s actual position?

  3. Katz
    February 25th, 2005 at 10:17 | #3

    Yes MichaelH, Ros is exhibiting symptoms of Roberto syndrome, first detected in post 98 above.

    (Is this another characteristic of the RWDB, one wonders)

  4. Paul Norton
    February 25th, 2005 at 10:23 | #4

    “I have no doubt that if this debate was taking place 60 years ago or so you would be singing the praises of the Soviet Union�

    Further to Dave Ricardo’s response to Michael B, I once read a copy of the Daily Telegraph (owned at that time by Frank Packer, father of Kerry and stalwart Liberal Party member and bankroller) from early 1945, i.e. 60 years ago. It featured an idolatrous cartoon of a colossal Stalin astride the Eastern Front with the caption “he’ll be riding six white horses when he comes”, the “six white horses” in the cartoon bearing the names of Generals Zhukov, Budyonny, Timoshenko, Voroshilov, etc.

    Needless to say, this credulous adulation of Stalin and his generals was due to their perceived role in destroying the proto-Ba’athist regime led by Germany’s prototype of Saddam Hussein. I wonder how far the supporters of current US and Australian foreign policy will want to push the analogy.

  5. Ros
    February 25th, 2005 at 10:28 | #5

    If he was a terrorist to start with, he’s a hardened terrorist now. If he was a noisy malcontent, he and all his friends have a lot more reason to be noisy and malcontented, and some will probably go further.
    A crude interpretation of JQ to start with MH for this site.
    Then ABC journalists who trot around with floating head scarves was one in the past that really bugged me. I have every confidence that I am never going to see Condi in one, just as I never saw Madelaine Albright in one Or the fact that as the Islamic men who reside in GB don’t like women being out and about, then they should not be interrogating them
    I wonder if you are narrowly limiting my expression to being impolite. if not how about this as an option for upsetting the extreme end of the extremists. The Poms in the Mandate days brought suicide bombers virtually to an end by wrapping their corpses in pig skin and burying them thus

  6. ab
    February 25th, 2005 at 10:34 | #6

    Peter Kemp says: “You still have not addressed the question as to why Iran’s sovereignty should play second fiddle to US demands”

    It astounds me that anyone is getting worked up about Iran’s ‘sovereignty’. Does the Iranian state have the genuine consent of the Iranian people? Well, let’s see: there is no genuine freedom of political expression; there is no genuine freedom of religion; basic human rights are routinely ignored. As MichaelH pointed out, a large number of moderate candidates were recently excluded from the political process. The answer has to be: no. In this context, any appeal to the ‘sovereignty’ of the Iranian state is ludicrous.

  7. michael.burgess
    February 25th, 2005 at 10:39 | #7

    Dave, my view was simply that many on the left (or at least those who sell the books, and get jobs in academia, etc) see to have to have a rigid ideological world view to fall back on –which usually includes a massive lack of perspective where the US and Israel is concerned. Now, many today might not view Islamic societies through the same rosed coloured glasses that were used to view communist societies but they certainly go to great lengths to play down the excesses. Moreover, John Espisito (the most influential Middle Eastern scholar) in the US and other such scholars have not only been guilty of this but have actually sang the praises of individuals and regimes guilty of gross human rights abuses and suggested that they were on the way to developing their own unique culturally relevant form of democracy. In one of his books, for example, he sings the praises of Hassan el Turabi.
    If I recall correctly he does though qualify all this praise slightly by saying in the last sentence of the chapter on him that it is too soon to see if his own Islamic version of democracy will succeed – well silly me I would have thought that after countless deaths in Sudan (pre-dafur), forced Islamisation, massive abuse of women and the murder of leading liberal opponents that somewhat of a judgement might be possible. But then again, I am just an old fashioned defender of outdated absolutist notions such as free speech, equality for women, universal human rights and the application of science and reason – I clearly lack the sophistication to understand the relevance of postmodern philosophies and that science and free speech etc are simply social constructs the application of which is open to negotiation.
    For those who have accused by of having a racist or a bigoted view of Islam, I suggest you go to Irshad Manji’s website – the author of the Trouble with Islam. Why is it that when hosting a gay chat show in North America and having a fundamentalist Christian guest who told her all gays were sick and would go to hell etc she would be flooded with emails etc from liberal Christians telling her to ignore that wanker and offering her their support. In contrast when she had the Muslim equivalent on there was no response. Recently in response to her books she has though had young Muslims come up to her and quietly and nervously thank her for raising these issues – They have told they are too scared top raise them themselves both of being disowned by their families and of actually physical violence or death – and these are highly educated Muslims living in the west. And we accept that it is OK for our citizens to live in fear simply because they are members of a minority culture –now that I call racist.

  8. Dave Ricardo
    February 25th, 2005 at 10:57 | #8

    ” And we accept that it is OK for our citizens to live in fear simply because they are members of a minority culture –now that I call racist. ”

    Who is the “we” in that statement? Can you give us an example?

  9. MichaelH
    February 25th, 2005 at 11:11 | #9

    Ros – “A crude interpretation…”. you’ll get no argument from me on this.

    Thanks for confirming that you are indeed interested in caricature’s, rather the the actual arguments being made.

    Wasn’t JQ referring to the possible effects of almost 3 years of imprisonment without charge or trial?

    If this hapened to you or I, how might we respond to someone who characterises criticism of our imprisonment, as simply a mistaken conception that we “shouldn’t offend people”, as if such an action was nothing more than offence against good manners?

  10. Ros
    February 25th, 2005 at 11:19 | #10

    “Or is this just constructing a caricature of people’s actual position” versus “Yes MichaelH, Ros is exhibiting symptoms of Roberto syndrome, first detected in post 98 above.
    (Is this another characteristic of the RWDB, one wonders)”
    Or if you can’t get it I am inclined to present written representations of people which exaggerate their characteristic traits for comic effect whereas you wits are? Careful guys you are getting so sharp you may cut yourselves.

    Getting too you are the silly one, no you are the silly one for me. However happy to be included in the Roberto set, thanks

  11. MichaelH
    February 25th, 2005 at 11:23 | #11

    ab said,
    “Does the Iranian state have the genuine consent of the Iranian people? Well, let’s see: there is no genuine freedom of political expression; there is no genuine freedom of religion; basic human rights are routinely ignored…… The answer has to be: no. In this context, any appeal to the ‘sovereignty’ of the Iranian state is ludicrous. ”

    Well then, surely China must be a more urgent case than Iran.

    Best of luck.

  12. MichaelH
    February 25th, 2005 at 11:33 | #12

    Ros, comic effects are much appreciated, but you seem to base your arguments on the simplied and exaggerated versions you present. Yes, it can help in making a point, but if that’s the only method employed, then there’s no point.

  13. MichaelH
    February 25th, 2005 at 11:47 | #13

    MB – On your gay chat show host there might be a simpler explanation than the one you prefer. The audience would have been predominatly Christian, we could guess, and the volume of responses might well be an indication of people applying the principle of ‘sticking to what you know’, that is, they understand that the views espoused did not fit within what most would understand as core Christian values.

    But, could it also reflect the general poor state of knowledge regarding Islam? Maybe the audience reflected your kind of thinking, and thought that what they were hearing, was indeed what Islam is all about?

    That would very much indicate a type of bigotry, but in exact opposite manner to that which you tend to imply (if I’m understanding you point correctly).

  14. Razor
    February 25th, 2005 at 11:51 | #14

    iangould – I consider myself told – twice – again.

    As if the Mullahs give fat rat’s clacker about global warming and all those other issues. The only reason they have built their nuclear program is to build nuclear weapons. I don’t have a problem with effective democracies such as Australia having Nuclear weapons. I do have a problem with the Mad Mullahs who have clearly stated goals of wiping Israel off the face of the earth and doing as much damage as possible to the US, let alone the rest of the western world in trying to spread Islam.

    I see no problem with Australia developing a Nuclear Power industry and Nuclear Weapons. We have about one third of known uranium resources – we should use them. It is very green-house gas friendly!! :-)

    It is rank hypocrisy that we export the stuff but don’t have our own nuclear industry. If its good enough for Japan – its’ good enough for us. Especially as they are the only buggers who have been bombed in anger (and deserved it, too).

  15. michael.burgess
    February 25th, 2005 at 12:04 | #15

    MichaelH , you completely miss the point as usual. Muslim liberals when they start to demand the same rights we take for granted get treated extremely harshly. Those who dare to continue to do so and write books etc get little support from the Muslim mainstream community or western liberals for that matter. In contrast a gay Christian demanding their rights gets plenty of support from people all too willing to get stuck in to right wing Christian fundamentalists. Now are you accusing liberal Muslims such as Manji of lying when they argue that extremism is the norm in Islam. Do you think it’s reasonable that she has to live behind bullet proof glass and that other liberal Muslims are so disgusted with the left’s unwillingness to criticise Islamic extremism that they join Conservative parties. Are Muslims who come up to her at book launches and say they would like to say what she is saying but are too scared a violence simply paranoid. Being a women and ethnic it seems is a great asset on left of centre politics (even when you talk crap) – except, that is, when you dare question the postmodernist thought police.

    Re China MichaelH, well the US do at least push human rights consistently, Europeans simply view China as a big market.

  16. Dave Ricardo
    February 25th, 2005 at 12:06 | #16

    “I see no problem with Australia developing a Nuclear Power industry and Nuclear Weapons. ”

    Here’s the problem with having nuclear weapons. If you do, other countries who have them might get nervous that you are going to nuke them, and they might decide to nuke you first. Just like India and Pakistan came very close to nukeing each other a few years ago. It’s what you might call a lose lose situation.

  17. Razor
    February 25th, 2005 at 12:08 | #17

    Beats the hell out of getting nuked and not having some shit to throw back at them!

  18. Ros
    February 25th, 2005 at 12:20 | #18

    Got it Michael when you do it its clever when I do it it is silly. When Katz does it it is ??
    If you read my posts you will see that I am far less inclined than you are to addrress the character and morality of the individuals I happen to disagree with. I regret being tempted to respond but I will finish. If you have aproblem with my facts and logic then address them. Don’t caricature me or support the caricutures of others and then cry foul, it’s “girlie” he he.. So there

  19. MichaelH
    February 25th, 2005 at 12:41 | #19

    Rose, apologies if I made out I was referring to al of you’re posts. I was actualy just thinking about the “shouldn’t upset Islamic extremists” statement and your subsequent suggestion that JQ’s comment on Habib was an example of that.

    I didn’t realise that this was meant as humour, if that’s what your saying.

  20. Ros
    February 25th, 2005 at 13:17 | #20

    Thanks Michael and I promise to address with interest and respect the information that I do recognise I acquire from those here. So truce and back to battle.

  21. ab
    February 25th, 2005 at 13:20 | #21

    MichaelH,

    If people were objecting to otherwise-justifiable military action against the Chinese state on the basis that it would breach China’s ‘sovereignty’, then I’d be just as appalled.

  22. Ian Gould
    February 25th, 2005 at 13:45 | #22

    < >

    Why what did we do to deserve a huge increase in electricity costs and a mass of security and waste disposal issues?

    It makes economic sense for Japan to use nuclear power because they have essentially no fossil fuel reserves.

    Given that Queensland coal-fired powerplants provide some the cheapest power in the world it makes very little for us to develop nuclear power.

    Your argument re. Iran boils down to: “I don’t trust them and I think I should have a veto on who can and can not develop nuclear power.”

  23. MichaelH
    February 25th, 2005 at 13:51 | #23

    MB – where on earth did I accuse Manji of lying??

    Please debate the point I made, if you wish to, not the one you would like me to make.

    What I saying is that it’s possible the problem you allude to has a different origin than the one you are suggesting.

    You advocate that the Muslim mainstream are extremists. And that ‘western liberals’ are complicit in not speaking out in support of moderate elements.

    My thoughts on this problem are that there is a great deal of ignorance and misunderstanding of Islam. Many, you included, seem to believe that the ‘extremist’ position is the standard, the true Islamic ideal. Hence my point about the gay chat show example you gave – there where few calls in because of this widespread belief that such views do legitimately represent Islam. I think that this view is a major barrier to acting on this subject – the ‘that’s just how they are’ argument. Whereas with the Christian fundamentalist, most understand that this was not the Christian ideal and so were moved to respond.
    Attacks on Islam itself, do not assist people to speak out against the negative trends. Being social creatures, we all understand the natural reaction we have when outsiders attack our group. The situation is no different for Muslims.
    I’m pleased that you see this as an issue, but I think that this aspect of your approach is counter-productive. You also attack the notion that the extremists mis-represent Islam. I know you have your sources, but there are many Islamic scholars who support this notion. They argue that Islamic extremism is a regressive reaction to the interaction with modernity and that ‘extremists’ seek to justify their position, and consolidate their power, by selectively applying certain sections of the Qu’ran that they interpret very narrowly.

    If we go back to example of Iran, there is a huge, modernist, reformist urge within the country, that we can support or suppress. These elements within Iran feel that the current external pressures, of a military bent, are harmful, rather than helpful, to their cause.

  24. February 25th, 2005 at 14:11 | #24

    “huge, modernist, reformist urge within the country,” i have no doubt that there is a large group of leftwing socially progressive indivuduals in Iran that long for change. But there is no evidence that they are more numerous than the conservative rightwingers who protect their religous instutions with as much strength as convservative christians in the states.

    As JQ has previously pointed out, you could look at america and see 1million people on the street shouting “no war” and have concluded that the majority of americans are anti american.

    its quite illogical and your position is only borne out of ignorance and arrogrance.

  25. ab
    February 25th, 2005 at 14:13 | #25

    MichaelH,

    Fair enough, there is domestic pressure to reform and modernise Iran. How should the West help bring that pressure to bear on the current regime?

  26. Katz
    February 25th, 2005 at 14:52 | #26

    Here’s a quotation for those folk who are inclined to believe in the ability of the Bush Administration to achieve any military objective it sets itself. Seems that the flow of willing recruits for Operation Grease Every Bad Guy Everywhere is dwindling:

    [Since the Army’s fiscal year began last October, it has only signed 18.4 percent of its target of 80,000 new recruits. That’s less thanlast year’s and well below the 25 percent target the Army had set for itself to meet by this time.]

    “Very frankly, in a couple of places our recruiting pool is getting soft,” said Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army’s personnel chief. “We’re hearing things like, ‘Well, let’s wait and see how this thing settles out in Iraq,’” he said in an interview. “For the active duty for ’05 it’s going to be tough to meet our goal, but I think we can. I think the telling year for us is going to be ’06.”

    http://www.gnn.tv/headlines/1233/Will_there_be_a_draft

    Those telephone calls from London and Tokyo to Kirribilli House would have to be coincidental, wouldn’t they?

  27. michael.burgess
    February 25th, 2005 at 15:24 | #27

    MichaelH, you refer to the fact that there are many Islamic scholars who support your view of Islam which contrasts with the ones I quote. The difference is that the women or men I quote, simply decided they wanted to enjoy the same rights we western liberals take for granted and generally end up being well and truly fucked over as a result. The scholars you quote have done nothing so brave and essentially spend their time justifying oppression.
    If the Islamic scholars you refer to are really moderate why do they have such difficulty criticising their own societies without, at best, saying something along the lines of the situation in Sudan is all very interesting but look what those evil Israeli’s and Americans are up to. One Palestinian life lost to an Israeli generates more outrage from most Muslims than 100,000 lost to fellow Muslims or non-Muslims such as the Serbs. Why can’t some of the current wankers who are being feted by western liberals even bring themselves to outright condemn the stoning to death of women for god sake. Your comments on modernisation are ludicrous. You are essentially saying that because a traditional Muslim guy feels unsettled by the fact that a young Muslim is wearing jeans and listening to rock Music or even simply deciding to marry who she feels like, the fact that he might then choose to throw acid in her face, rape or torture her is at least somewhat understandable – sorry but I think a bullet to the head is more useful response in these circumstance. I don’t recall people like yourself being so understanding were the KKK or rednecks in Alabama are concerned when it came to blacks demanding equal rights. Should Martin Luther King have shown greater sensitivity to the indigenous Southern American cultures he was trying to change.

  28. Razor
    February 25th, 2005 at 16:23 | #28

    “Your argument re. Iran boils down to: “I don’t trust them and I think I should have a veto on who can and can not develop nuclear power.â€? ”

    Ian – spot on the money.

  29. iangould
    February 26th, 2005 at 12:33 | #29

    Razor, then why not simply say so and not waste all our time with spurious arguments?

  30. Razor
    February 28th, 2005 at 18:52 | #30

    Ian, how dare you refer that my post is spurious. What BS! What was your post about then? Fool.

  31. Razor
    February 28th, 2005 at 19:31 | #31

    In post 176 Katz refers to http://www.gnn.tv/headlines/1233/Will_there_be_a_draft. What rubbish. You are selectively quoting from a blog with no real credibility. Katz, your credibility was waifer thin before this post, but it is now … shizza.

  32. Katz
    February 28th, 2005 at 20:42 | #32

    Razor,

    “Very frankly, in a couple of places our recruiting pool is getting soft,� said Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army’s personnel chief. “We’re hearing things like, ‘Well, let’s wait and see how this thing settles out in Iraq,’� he said in an interview. “For the active duty for ‘05 it’s going to be tough to meet our goal, but I think we can. I think the telling year for us is going to be ‘06.�

    This is a direct quotation from Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the personnel chief of the US Army. If you put his name and “recruiting pool is getting soft” into Google you’ll get 182 references to the same statement, many from the mainstream press.

    I can understand why such news would be a very disturbing to a person of your views. Girlie men can’t requite their virility fantasies by transferring them to their beloved totem of male potency. Scary isn’t it?

    You have two choices

    1. come out of the bunker and join the “reality-based community”.

    2. Get your subscription to “Soldier of Fortune” redirected to a dead letter drop.

    Try not to be a goose Razor. You can still be a proper bloke even though the US isn’t omnipotent.

  33. Razor
    February 28th, 2005 at 21:26 | #33

    Katz and Ian Gould

    Please note that Post 180 and 181 are not by the Razor postings before then.

    I don’t know how to stop that happening.

    Kind regards

    Razor

  34. MichaelH
    March 1st, 2005 at 00:16 | #34

    MB – Your ESP seems to be working overtime. Not only do you know whom I’m referring to, but you know their opinions and that they have “difficulty criticising their own societies” and they “spend their time justifying oppression”. Or maybe it’s not ESP, you’e just so well read you know it all.

    Then you wrote, “You are essentially saying that because a traditional Muslim guy feels unsettled………that he might then choose to throw acid in her face, rape or torture her is at least somewhat understandable”.

    Actually, I said nothing even remotely like that.

    I said that some (modern revivalists, neo-Muslims, fundamentalists – whatever you like), use Islam to justify these actions, which are in part, a retreat to reassuring certainties in the face of a failure to fully engage with modernity.

    To understand is not to condone, or even to empathise.

  35. Elizabeth
    July 13th, 2005 at 20:51 | #35

    Michael H writes: ” said that some (modern revivalists, neo-Muslims, fundamentalists – whatever you like), use Islam to justify these actions, which are in part, a retreat to reassuring certainties in the face of a failure to fully engage with modernity. ”

    I guess the UK native suicide boombers were expressing their “…failure to fully engage with modernity’.

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