Government war propaganda rebounds
by Peter Mac The Howard Government last week warned of terrorist attacks against Australia, and is planning a media campaign about "things to look for" regarding such an attack. However, subsequent reports that Australia has now become a prime terrorist target have resulted in mounting public anxiety and growing opposition to the planned war against Iraq. Howard this week appealed to the media to suppress such reports, and asked people not to become paranoid over terrorism. (Foreign Minister Downer noted that the Government had no information about specific threats or precautions "like staying away from the cricket".) However, the Government's policy threatens our future social cohesion and civil rights. One security specialist has warned that the Howard Government's "war against terrorism" could last for decades. NSW Premier Bob Carr declared recently that this "war" would curb civil liberties, and has introduced laws which have this effect. He declared that people with "suspicious lifestyles" would be targeted by security organisations, noting "If you've got a website with a photo of Osama Bin Laden you ought to be subjected to surveillance". He also stated that Australians should tolerate a "warlike atmosphere", and that regarding terrorism he had an "open cheque of co-operation with the Federal government" (which has a similar relationship with the US Government). Former ALP leader Kim Beazley advocated appointment of a new "intelligence supremo" to run security organisations, and ASIO boss Dennis Richardson argued for even further powers to be given to his organisation. In short, what Carr, Richardson and others are advocating is, in effect, the transformation of Australia into a nation beset by fear and stripped of most if not all of its hard-won civil rights. As appalling as terrorism is, its origins lie in a desperate reaction against multi-national attempts to take over key resources such as oil, and in the oppression, enforced dispossession and eviction of people such as the Palestinians. Moreover, the US supplied Iraq with chemical and biological weapons to use against Iran 20 years ago. Many of those now accused of terrorist activities were assisted and even trained by the US in their military campaign to bring down the progressive Soviet-supported Afghan Government during the same period, and more recently the government of the former Yugoslavia. With regard to combatting terrorism, Premier Carr also stated that "we should bear these modest sacrifices and think of the tough Australians who went before us." Australians have indeed shown repeatedly that they are willing to take risks and endure suffering — but only if it's genuinely in the interests of Australia anditspeople. We should certainly take precautions against any threat of terrorist attack. However, in this respect governments have boosted security organisations far more than our public hospital and fire fighting services It appears that even our anti-terrorist defence force, the Special Air Services, is not to be used for Australia's defence, but is to be put on readiness for another deployment (to Iraq, another US military exploit) on its return from Afghanistan.. And more and more Australians are beginning to question why we became involved at all in this increasingly dangerous situation, with the Howard Government overwhelmingly focussed on helping the US to secure its Middle East oil interests. A critical indication of the growing public awareness about the real issues involved in international terrorism in general, and specifically the US- proposed terror war against Iraq, will be given in the "Walk Against the War" marches in Australia's major cities this weekend. Be there, if you care.