How truly bizarre the American enterprise of world conquest has become.
First, there was the bombing of Afghanistan, the equivalent of bombing Sicily in order to eradicate the Mafia...St Augustine tells the story of a
conversation between Alexander the Great and a pirate he captured. "How dare
you molest the seas?" asks Alexander. "How dare you molest the whole world?"
the pirate replies. "Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a
thief. You, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor."
John Pilger on Australia's collusion with state terror
[New Statesman (UK)- Week of 21st October 2002]
For 40 years, Australian governments have colluded with state terrorism in
Indonesia. Now, the Bali outrage allows John Howard to distract attention
from his hypocrisy, writes John Pilger
The Australian prime minister, John Howard, says the atrocity on the island
of Bali is "proof" that "the war against terrorism must go on with
unrelenting vigour and with an unconditional commitment". What he means is
that he will continue to perform his holier-than-Blair role as George W
Bush's most devoted, if not universally recognised, foreign gang member.
The Australian military is, in effect, an extension of the Pentagon.
Australian ships operate with the American fleet in the Gulf, enforcing an
embargo against Iraq which, according to the United Nations Children's Fund,
has led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 600,000 Iraqi children. In
Indonesia, Australians, together with their American counterparts, have
secretly resumed training the Indonesian military, which, in the world cup of
terrorism, is the undisputed champion.
Al-Qaeda has been fingered in Washington for the Bali outrage. The script is
unchanged. To Bush, Blair and Howard, the Bali bombing will be simply further
justification for attacking Iraq.
How truly bizarre the American enterprise of world conquest has become.
First, there was the bombing of Afghanistan, the equivalent of bombing Sicily
in order to eradicate the Mafia. "Terrorism" is the enemy; or as Python's
Terry Jones remarked, "They're bombing an abstract noun!" What is clear is
that the more bellicose Bush and Blair and Howard become, the more they place
the citizens of their own countries at risk.
Like a mouse perpetually roaring, Howard's warmongering has endangered every
young Australian backpacking in those countries where his and Bush's
provocations are welcomed by extreme groups. Since he became prime minister
in 1996, Howard has renewed Australia's reputation in Asia for European
exclusivity. This is tragic, for it is not long since Australia emerged from
the cultural isolation of its notorious "white Australia policy" and appeared
to express the confidence of the ethnically diverse society it had become.
Embracing Asia became politically fashionable, and the old colonial fear of
the Asian hordes falling down on Australia, as by the force of gravity, was
rejected by many Australians, especially the young.
Howard's openly racist policies have again begun to isolate Australia. He has
deployed Australian troops against helpless, mostly Muslim, asylum-seekers on
the high seas - more than 350 people went to their deaths in a leaking boat
last year even though, as it has now been revealed, Australian military
intelligence knew they were in great peril. He has imprisoned many of those
who have reached Australia (mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, the countries
he claims to be "liberating") in desert concentration camps in conditions
which, reported a United Nations inspector, were among the worst he had seen
in more than 40 inspections around the world.
Seldom a day passes when Howard and his inept foreign minister, Alexander
Downer, do not utter vacuities about "the war on terror". The truth is that,
for almost 40 years, Australian governments have played a significant role in
colluding with state terrorism in neighbouring Indonesia. In 1965, the then
prime minister Harold Holt joked about the mass murder that accompanied the
seizure of power by General Suharto, the west's man. "With 500,000 to a
million communist sympathisers knocked off," he said, "I think it's safe to
assume a reorientation has taken place." During the long years of Suharto's
dictatorship, which was shored up by western capital, governments and the
World Bank, state terrorism on a breathtaking scale was ignored. Australian
prime ministers were far too busy lauding the "investment partnership" in
resource-rich Indonesia. Suharto's annexation of East Timor, which cost the
lives of a third of the population, was described by the foreign minister
Gareth Evans as "irreversible". As Evans succinctly put it, there were
"zillions" of dollars to be made from the oil and gas reserves in the Timor
Such lethal hypocrisy was acknowledged by Australia's political and media
elite only in the final spasms of the Suharto dictatorship. In 1998, the
World Bank's "model pupil" finally collapsed beneath the weight of its
corruption after short-term capital fled Indonesia, leaving 70 million people
in abject poverty. Given the pressures on this sprawling, ethnically complex
country, it is hardly surprising that extreme groups have found fertile
ground, whatever their aims. To lump them in with the "global terror" of
al-Qaeda serves to suppress, once again, the part that rapacious western
interests have played. Today, largely unreported, the Indonesian military,
with the tacit approval of the United States, Britain and Australia, is
terrorising the populations of Aceh and West Papua. Most of the "human rights
violations" in these provinces - the euphemism for state terrorism - have
been part and parcel of "protecting" the American Exxon oil holdings in Aceh
as well as the vast Freeport copper and gold mines and BP holdings in West
Papua. Those who need a link between the march of multinational capital and
state terrorism need look no further.
One of the sacred taboos for western journalists and broadcasters is the
terrorism of their own governments. Only when they recognise this and its
pivotal role in the fate of much of humanity will they be able to report
honestly the lesser terrorism of non-state groups. Research by Edward Herman
and Gerry O'Sullivan covering the period since 1965 points to the killing of
several thousand people by non-state terrorists, such as al-Qaeda, compared
with 2.5 million civilians killed by state-sponsored terrorism. These include
the violence of the South African apartheid regime, the Suharto regime in
Indonesia, the "Contras" in Nicaragua and other American-backed terrorist
states. This is a conservative figure, for it predates the deaths caused by
the Anglo-American-driven sanctions against civilians in Iraq. As Neil
Sammonds has pointed out: "When US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said
in May 1996 that the killing of half a million Iraqi children was 'a price
worth paying' to keep pressure on Baghdad, she was acting well within any
reasonable definition of terrorism."
Those who committed the disgusting mass murder in Bali need to be caught and
their organisation broken. But this is unlikely to happen while state
terrorism is in the ascendancy, and goes unacknowledged as the most virulent
menace of all - and as, in many cases, the root of non-state atrocities. A
piratical assault on Iraq will be an act of terrorism by state extremists in
Washington. It will also be the catalyst for years of recruitment of those
willing to murder westerners in skyscrapers and nightclubs.
St Augustine tells the story of a conversation between Alexander the Great
and a pirate he captured. "How dare you molest the seas?" asks Alexander.
"How dare you molest the whole world?" the pirate replies. "Because I do it
with a little ship only, I am called a thief. You, doing it with a great
navy, are called an emperor."