Listening to Prime Minister Gillard's repetitive warmongering after delivering the news of Usamah bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Ladin's alleged killing, I was hopeful that the questions that followed may have delved into some of the larger issues that surround Australia's involvement in the war on terror. Sadly, as the state's stenographers submitted their superficial questions, Gillard would only re-issue her previous sound-bites.
What follows is a series of questions that one might reasonably expect those engaged in 'journalism' to have asked. Unfortunately, either the definition of 'journalist' has changed, or there were simply none available when Mrs Gillard called her press conference. These questions rely on background information and references within the reasonable field of knowledge of an Australian Prime Minister with troops engaged in two theatres of the war on terror.
First of all Ms Prime Minister, let us reflect that it is a sad day indeed when the leaders of the West are welcoming the death of any man. Bin Laden's death has been detached from its historical context and treated as merely an occasion for jingoistic self-congratulation.
I quote here Peter Gabel; 'pleasure in response to the killing of another [human being] disrespect[s] the sacredness of every human life; it also inherently undermines the moral character and worthiness of those responsible for the death itself.
'If the United States [and Australia by association] seeks to place itself on a higher moral ground than those who commit immoral acts against our people, we must all conduct ourselves in a way that manifests our empathy and compassion for all of humanity, for every human person, and also manifest our awareness of the tragic distortions in human relations across the globe that still hurl human beings into the horrors of ongoing violence and war.'
Allow me to paraphrase the opening sentences of your statement, with subtle alterations that I'm sure won't go unnoticed.
George W. Bush 'declared war on innocent people and' as yet he has not 'paid the price for that declaration.' John Howard, Tony Blair and George W. Bush, among others, 'were directly responsible for despicable acts of violence against innocent people and they inspired', encouraged and legalised 'acts of violence by others.'
The Nuremberg Tribunal found that 'a war of aggression...is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole'.
How do you respond to allegations that Australia has acted illegally, and in concert with the USA and other allies, committed and continues to commit war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is it simply a realpolitik calculation that we must at all costs maintain our inglorious alliance with the USA? Australians would like to know: do you intend to extend this alliance into any future US confrontation with China?
Ms Prime Minister, you remember today the loss of 105 Australians killed in attacks by terrorist organisations in the last decade. You suggest that their families would welcome this execution and 'reflect on the fact that justice has been done'. On Anzac Day we are yearly reminded that the Turkish remember all who were lost in the misguided campaign at Gallipoli. Should we not also be remembering the million Iraqi's lost to the state terror campaign led by the USA and so eagerly supported by Australia?
In regard to those 105 Australian victims of terror, why are you linking the London bombings with Al Qaeda when there is no evidence for this claim? Why do you mention Mumbai when there is no evidence of Al Qaeda involvement? Nor has there has ever been conclusive evidence of an Al Qaeda link to the Jemaah Islamiyah group who took responsibility for the Bali bombings. Why do you persist in repeating these inflammatory insinuations and deceptions?
Ms Prime Minister, if the summary execution of one man means that 'justice has been done' for the thousands killed in New York, how might Iraqis and Afghanis seek justice for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their countrymen caused directly by the war crimes of the above mentioned men and the complicity of their respective populations?
Chris Hedges, a former Middle East Bureau Chief for the New York Times has said:
'I’m also intimately familiar with the collective humiliation that we have imposed on the Muslim world. The expansion of military occupation that took place throughout, in particular the Arab world, following 9/11 – and that this presence of American imperial bases, dotted, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Doha – is one that has done more to engender hatred and acts of terror than anything ever orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.'
For the West, the war on terror has led to a bizarre perversion of justice, to 'the systematic use of assassination, torture, indefinite detention and extraordinary rendition against terror suspects...accompanied by the erection of the scaffolding of a police state in the US itself', writes Larbi Sadiki on Al Jazeera. Across the globe citizens have sacrificed freedom for security as civil liberties were reduced.
Ms Prime Minister, if the loss of 3000 innocent lives in New York is to be called 'terror', shouldn't hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost in the resultant wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also be called 'terror'? Obama and Osama both 'shamelessly deploy violence'. How has it come to pass that terrorism and torture is acceptable when we carry it out, but unacceptable when someone else does?
During your speech and subsequent question time, you mentioned eighteen times either that the threat of terror continues, that Al Qaeda will continue, that the war on terror continues, or that our mission in Afghanistan must continue. Terrorism as a tactic will always be with us, utilised by non-state actors and hegemons alike. It appears that Orwell's slogan 'War is Peace' is the new Western doctrine for the 21st century. What eventuality would precipitate an end to the war on terror? How will we know when the war on terror is over?
There are more than 100,000 troops in the Afghanistan, compared to less than 100 Al Qaeda operatives. In your opinion, Prime Minister, what exactly is the mission in Afghanistan?
The war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is already the longest in US history, a war that 60% of Americans and the same proportion of Australians do not believe to be worth fighting. How much longer will this illegal occupation persist?
There has been much scholarly investigation into the root causes of terrorism. Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago suggests the motivation is 'to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland'.
Bin Laden himself said in 1997, 'the U.S. wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us and then wants us to agree to all this. If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists… Wherever we look, we find the U.S. as the leader of terrorism and crime in the world. When Palestinian children throw stones against the Israeli occupation, the U.S. says they are terrorists. Whereas when Israel bombed the United Nations building in Lebanon while it was full of children and women, the U.S. stopped any plan to condemn Israel.'
How do you reconcile this with ongoing Australian support for the continued occupation of Arab lands in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya? Does not the ongoing support for these military adventures expose Australians to an increased risk of 'terrorist' attack?
Ms Prime Minister, you mentioned three times that we should employ 'enhanced vigilance regarding personal security.' Are we not creating more 'bin Ladens' by continuing to invade and occupy other countries? What actions would you suggest the Australian population undertake to increase their security while your government continues to engage in illegal wars that are known to increase the risk of terrorist attacks?
Would you please explain to the Australian public how exactly the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent Iraqis in an illegal occupation of their country, will enhance our nation's security?
Ms Prime Minister, thank you for your time.