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Tony's Trans-Tasman Terror Talk

Irfan Yusuf is a regular and prodigious Webdiarist. His last piece was Sobering thoughts on an allegedly American newspaper. The following article is a very thoughtful follow up to Stephen Smith's The hot air of Tony Blair, comparing as it does the message of Blair in New Zealand to his message in Australia.

by Irfan Yusuf

During his recent visit to New Zealand, British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke of climate change, closer bilateral relations and the strong historical ties between Britain and New Zealand. But not of Iraq.


And who could blame him. Even when visiting Australia, a most willing partner in the Iraq expedition, both Blair and visiting US Secretary of State Rice faced anti-war protests.

Australians are getting nervous about their role in the Iraq war, hoping it doesn’t make them a target for terrorist attacks. Australians can well understand Kiwi elation at the release of a hostage from Iraqi kidnappers. Australian Douglas Wood came close to execution on a number of occasions.

Add to this reports from the Washington Post that 25,000 Iraqis have died in sectarian clashes since the bombing of a Shia Muslim shrine on February 22. Coalition forces claim they are needed to maintain security and order in Iraq. The record shows they are failing miserably.

It seems unbelievable that Mr Blair can have a completely different rhetorical focus on either side of the Tasman. His message to the Australian Parliament focussed on the fight against terrorism through the promotion of common values.

This message was especially poignant with news of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Christian convert, facing a possible death sentence. Rahman has since been released from custody.

Mr Blair's message of common values was especially relevant to conservative politicians on either side of the Tasman. He suggested preaching is most effective when you show your message is identical to the true beliefs of your audience.

Hence: “… we have to win the battle of values as much as arms. We have to show that these are not Western, still less American or Anglo-Saxon, values, but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen.”

Those who seem to treat us with scepticism are not the enemy. Often, their scepticism is a product of how they perceive our actions.

“Ranged against us are the people who hate us; but beyond them are many more who don't hate us but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness. These are the people we have to persuade.”

Blair correctly isolated “Islamist extremism” as our immediate enemy. Yet these extremists are just as much enemies of Muslims as they are of non-Muslims. Most victims of Islamist-inspired terror attacks are Muslims. At least 10% of victims of the London attacks were from Muslim backgrounds, including a 21 year old British woman with the surname Islam.

At the same time, Islamist extremists are seeking Western recruits through convincing mainstream Muslims in the US, UK, Australia and other Western countries that Muslims are second class citizens because of their faith.

The overwhelming majority of Muslim citizens are sensible enough to reject this propaganda. Although in Australia, there are times when the rhetoric of Liberal backbenchers (and, in recent times, senior ministers including the PM and the Treasurer) must make Aussie Muslim wonder whether extremists might have a point.

In New Zealand, editors of conservative pro-Creationist magazine Investigate have attributed sinister political intentions to Muslims in at least one of their editorials. The magazine’s March edition claimed Islamic political theory only recognises God as ruler and that "there are only two states in the world: Muslim and infidel". It then suggested that Muslim migrants "don't respect the nation-state model. Where there's a conflict of allegiance, the nation state will always lose."

Conservatives wishing to score short-term political points would do well to consider Mr Blair’s message and understand that their Islam-bashing rhetorical gymnastics serve the cause of the very “Islamist extremists” Blair calls upon us to fight.

Further, their antics lead Muslims in Australia and elsewhere to “question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness” in the very manner Blair identifies.

Writing in The Australian, Greg Sheridan described Blair’s speech as a ringing endorsement of the neo-Conservative policies dominant in the Bush administration.

Yet Blair’s speech should be read as a warning to pompous neo-Cons who constantly lecture us on the supremacy of “Judeo-Christian tradition” and the need to do away with pluralism and multiculturalism.

These same people are usually found spurting out hatred for all things even remotely related to Islam, openly marginalising Muslim communities living in Western countries and projecting images of nasty Muslims joined in a huge conspiracy to destroy Western civilisation.

Tony Blair is in effect saying that certain basic values are universal to all peoples, cultures and religions. And his claims are not empty rhetoric.

At the recent Commonwealth Day service held at St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney, one of six affirmations read by clerical representatives stated:

“The Commonwealth believes in democratic political processes, international peace and the rule of international law.”

How appropriate that these words were read not by a bishop or a pastor but rather by Sheik Fehmi Naji el-Imam, Secretary of the Board of Imams of Australia.

Tony Blair’s message is simply this. We are fighting a war against terror. Not a war against Islam. And certainly not a war against Muslims. But don’t bother telling that to some people in the Howard government.

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I apoligise

I apologise for the last couple of posts. I do not think they represent my position correctly.

I have had a very hard couple of days with being present with a very good friend's seventeen year old son during this persons death which no matter how many times you witness it in a hospital or anywhere else it is never easy or nice. As I think most would understand.

I think a few drinks and anger may have got the better of me. Sorry!

Hamish: no worries at all Jay. Love to all concerned.

You would say that!!

Just when I was getting comfortable with really not liking you, you go and ruin it all by being human. Gives me the poops, bigtime!

I think that the fact that you apologised for something that  was not in need of an apology is amazing. The fact that you respect this forum enough to apologise for not giving it your best is astounding.

Jay White, my respect for you has increased immeasurably.

I used to judge you because of your politics and, because of your politics, I judged you harshly. I now realise that I judged only half the man. I'm sorry for doing that.

I most certainly will not agree with everything you say from here on, but I will try my best to listen to what you say without prejudice.

Writing this makes me think that I would love to hear your story. You have stated, last year, that you are not Australian born, yet you have an obvious love and respect for this country. I would really like to know more about what shaped your feelings.  I think your story would be very interesting. Please tell us your story.

Daniel Smythe success

Daniel Smythe, success is about being in the position to say no to the boss man. If most of the Middle East were a factory worker it would be a floor sweeper.

A person needing the boss always talks of the boss. Hence why almost everytime I see one of these groups in action it is in the action of complaining. The boss said blah blah the boss really means this blah blah, the boss should do this blah blah.

I could never ever imagine say a Russian or Chinese getting in front of a camera and showing such downright weakness. The things both these nations have been through in the last 60 years make this area a sunday picnic. I say seriously go and have a look at Russia during WWI and WWII. Have a look at China for pity sake. Have a look at Europe and Japan after WWII. This region was untouched and no doubt they were still complaining. In world history has anybody ever heard moaning like it?

Iran is attempting to gain nuclear weapons - I think that is fairly obvious. The question though that nobody has yet bothered to ask is why they cannot do this themselves. I mean they are asking Russia to do it for them, Russia! Iran a nation with such natural wealth and has been through nothing compared to Russia and they still cannot get enough of their act together to build their own nuclear plant? Hello, the atom bomb was invented sixty years ago. The horse and cart days are over.

What other region in the world has such stoneage practices as beheading and cutting off hands? And they are seriously asking the rest of the world to be concerned about what they think of us. Oh that's right they have suicide bombers, nobody has ever seen that before. Even then the complaning after this action is almost more one can bear. One thing about Russia and China when they said they were willing to lose one million people they lost two million. Folding like a deck of cards was not in the script book. Neither was it for Europe the US or any other region I can think of.

See these questions never get asked because it is to easy to blame somebody else. They will always have a friend in Western lefties because they Western lefties just cannot get enough of self victimhood. Funny thing they have given up on almost the rest of the world, wonder why that is?

Perhaps on the next round to round meeting, rather than worry about what the rest of the world says about them it might be a good idea to worry about what the rest of the thinks about them. I know where I see the most improvement and it is not on this side of the fence.

I say this because it is about time some truth was actually told. This region has under sold itself for way to long. This entire area has become a self pitying mockery and it is about time it got with the program of life or be left behind and totally forgotten. Remember a litre of water sells for almost double a litre of petrol and it falls from the sky. I would suggest actually thinking of new industries and improvements would not go astray for some of these places. A new attitude would also go some way to helping.

Tony's Terror

Hello Irfan Yusuf. Tony Blair’s message, if a message can be extracted from the pious propaganda of his presentation in our Parliament, is completely inconsistent with his actions. I accept the tone of hope in your post, hope being in short supply, but cannot accept the interpretation of his meaning.

There is no such thing as the War on Terror. It is impossible that the use of terror, as in counter-terror, can reduce the incidence of terror. It must, by simple arithmetic, increase itself. The use of terror does not reduce the incidence of terror. A War on Terror, seeking to reduce terror, would cause a decrease rather than an increase. Terror itself cannot eradicate terror. Tony’s is then a War of Terror, not a War on Terror.

The roots of this terror are never attributed to Western countries, always seen to be on the side of the angels, and to be acting idealistically. Brief inspection of the historic record reveals this not to be the case; such inspection however never forming a part of the analysis. The nature of the terror visited upon the unfortunates of Iraq warrants no reiteration. It is simply the latest in a pattern spanning a long history. That we refer to a war on our own actions with straight faces is quite revealing.

If, as you appear to say, Tony’s war is neither against Islam or Muslims, I can agree. His war seems to me to be against everything and everyone, from individual liberties, to international law, to human rights and entire nations. It extends to encompass us all. He calls for us to fight, forever if necessary. He thrashes about like a mad man struggling against everything. He conjures an exogenous threat, then acts to imprison Britons behind universal ID databases and detention without charge. He claims the impotence of the UNSC and then undermines its authority by attacking in defiance of its will. He opposes the liberty of those imprisoned who-knows-where in who-knows-what US gulag. He preaches a gospel of democracy, while undermining the predictable Iraqi result. Will he allow his war to be visited upon Iranians next? We can only guess, but anticipate the worst.

I feel that Tony’s message is truly that speeches in Parliaments need have no correlation to events outside the room, and that standing ovations and favourable commentary will follow by default. If there is to be peace, it will not come from Tony Blair. If we are to build a world that is not at war with itself and Islam the desire must exist in each individual. Such a world can only emerge when we reject Blair, his War, and his false ‘motives, good faith and even-handedness’ supporting them.

What do we have to offer Iraq?

Hello Jay White. If Ifran Yusef is not “suggesting (that we) leave Iraq now perhaps”, I am happy to. There is no alternative course of action. It is not even worthy of debate, unless debating the obvious entertains WD.

That ‘the West’ is not occupying Iraq is clear on the facts. A majority of Western nations are not present. That Iraq was imprisoned by sanctions for 13 years prior to shock and awe, and that a three week campaign has produced a three year bloodbath, now anticipated to herald a twelve year occupation is evident. The effects of these have been understood since the outset. They include the destruction of the Iraqi economy, and the exports that you note by their absence. Iraq has been denied alternate industries, particularly the internationally traded service industries of the present (finance, technology and tourism). Its economy has been pushed back into the past and all development arrested. Naturally, it has only its natural resources remaining. The most advanced economy in the region has no natural resources but has established a modern economy based upon ample Foreign Direct Investment and the absence of punitive sanctions.

It is essential, I feel it to be so in any case, that we outsiders look at actual events prior to forming views. There is otherwise a significant risk of a straw man argument, and a waste of our effort. You admit to not knowing, and perhaps few do. To conjecture, and then ridicule a perceived culture of complaint, does not demand much effort. It takes greater effort to look at events, and to formulate a framework for understanding. I reject therefore the false assertion that the grievances of Iraqis are either invalid, or representative of a deeper culture of complaint. It is long overdue that outsiders ceased posing questions such as “what actually is being achieved in Arab nations? And what actually do they want?”, to stop claiming that our brutality is in their own interest, to withdraw our troops, to pay massive war reparations, and to rebuild their country.

After one generation they will have recovered, and you will find it easier to put up with them.

Success - what is it, Jay?

Jay, you stated the following: "The only thing most people in a competitive world really respect in the end is success."

How exactly do you measure success, Jay? Is it how much money you have in your bank account? Is it the size of your share portfolio? Is it the value of your real estate? Is it the length of your endowment? Is it how little tax you pay? Is it how many rich friends you have? Is it the number of people you've screwed? Is it the number of colleagues you've walked on to achieve your success? Is it the brand of car you drive? Is it the number of lies you've told and got away with? Is it the number of affairs you've had without discovery?

Success means different things to different people, Jay. John Howard sees himself as a remarkable success. I see him as a pathetic parody of his namesake.

What do you really mean by success? Who would you hold up as successful?

Irfan Yusuf 

Irfan Yusuf  "Jay, I'm not sure if I am reading you correctly. Are you saying that if, after a decade of sanctions, Iraqi streets are not paved to the standards of Israel's then Coalition forces can drop depleted uranium on them?"

No Irfan it is not just about Iraq.

The entire region puts across one big chip on its shoulder. When does blaming outside influences end and endevouring to improve ones own lot in life begin? For example it has been said that the Chinese are looking to do much more business in this region.

I think this region could learn much from the Chinese. A nation that has been through so much in the last 100 years that their experience makes the entire Middle East put together look like playschool. When was the last time you heard a Chinese national out complaining the world just does not understand them?

How many English speaking nation's students attempt to learn about the Chinese language and culture measured against the Muslim culture? The reason is the Chinese society has learnt what the world wants and many want what they are selling. How many children of Chinese immigrants are causing problems on the streets? Maybe have a look at the percentage of Chinese students in selective schools and at Uni.

The reality is Ifran in the end the west does not really have to listen to what any of this area wants, it is not the one out in the cold. It is about time many of these areas started learning what the rest of the world wants and that for sure is not constant complaining and blame shifting for every little problem that comes their way.

It might be about time for more than a few of them to shut their lips stop the blame, roll up their selves and start trying to progress to somewhere, don't you think?

I mean the whinge of nobody understanding is getting a little tiring. The only thing most people in a competetive world really respect in the end is success.


Here's a viewpoint that departs somewhat from from the usual dreary slogans;

Although it cannot be denied that US initiatives have contributed significantly to developments in the Middle East, fear is growing that radicals might hijack democracy. Recent Islamist electoral successes in Iran, Egypt and the Palestinian territories have prompted questions about the ability of liberal forces to prevail against fundamentalism.

- Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, visiting professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington.

If you don't like our democracy, we'll kill you!

Jay, I'm not sure if I am reading you correctly. Are you saying that if, after a decade of sanctions, Iraqi streets are not paved to the standards of Israel's then Coalition forces can drop depleted uranium on them?

If you don't like our democracy, GOD'll kill you!

Irfan, do you realise that, with these stirring words, you could go down in history? I believe, at this very moment, at the White House, composers are looking at how these simple but moving lines can be incorporated into God Bless America.

In a few words, it encapsulates the essence of current American political and economic thinking. Unlike most American slogans it is honest, direct, and leaves no room for misinterpretation. It ranks alongside, but is inferior to, you are either for us or against us.

Mind you, it is a shame you couldn't have worked the word GOD in there somewhere. How about: if you don't like our democracy, GOD'LL kill you.

What do you think, Irfan? If you change it, when you're famous, will you mention me?

What does Iraq have to offer?

"Add to this reports from the Washington Post that 25,000 Iraqis have died in sectarian clashes since the bombing of a Shia Muslim shrine on February 22. Coalition forces claim they are needed to maintain security and order in Iraq. The record shows they are failing miserably".

So what are you suggesting be done about this figure? leave Iraq now perhaps?

See the question is, and this is strictly looking at it from a western point of view, what actually is being acheived in Arab nations? And what actually do they want? I mean outside of oil exports what other industries do any of these nations have and what else do they offer the world?

Take a tiny nation such as Israel that does not have any oil. How much more advanced are their cities and the standard of living for the average citizen compared to its neighbours? How do the growth rates in Arab nations compare to Asian nations? How do places like Japan and Germany which have no natural resources whatsoever and were totally decimated only sixty years ago stack up against Arab nations that were not even effected during WWII?

Perhaps if some Arab nations did not have an Israel or the US or Uk to blame for every single problem it might perhaps allow them to have a little closer look at themselves? My guess is many may not like what they see?

From an outsiders perspective it appears that the complaint was once that the Western world was forcing on them governments they did not want. The complaint now appears to be the Western world is forcing on them democracy they do not want. If the West leaves Iraq no doubt the complaint will be they are leaving them to the fate of extremists. The complaint is the world only wants their oil yet they sell nothing else and are only to willing to take the money.

I dont know but it seems to me they are becoming world champions in one thing and that is complaining, I guess that can be a export industry. I mean you even have Hamas complaining their Western sworn enemies won't give them money. What happens when the world decides enough of the incessant moaning and just ignores them. I guess they can always complain to each other?

Perhaps than they may learn how painful it has been for the rest of the world to put with.

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