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Issue #1658      October 1, 2014

Toll of war on terror

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, in opposing the National Security Bill (23/09/2014), unconditionally and unequivocally condemned the “the medieval barbarity of this entity that calls itself Islamic State”, pointing out that one of the Greens’ founding principles is non-violence. He looked at the steps that have been taken since September 11, 2001 and their consequences:

In the aftermath of the indiscriminate attacks on 9-11, Australia pledged its support to a global war on terror. At the tip of the spear, we joined military invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 that sought to obliterate Al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime and depose the dictator Saddam Hussein.

Our ground stations at places like Pine Gap have supported targeted drone assassinations of suspected terrorist figures, and everyone in their immediate vicinity, in any country in which the US chooses to conduct them. Across the Five Eyes alliance of intelligence agencies, Australia has supported the development of high-resolution, real-time surveillance of the entire population, militarising the entire internet in the process.

Every few years the powers of police and intelligence agencies are expanded and widened to fight this war on terror; and every time we surrender some of our hard-fought freedoms, we are told to accept in good faith that these expanded powers are needed to keep us safe. Detention without charge; sedition laws.

Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent as we fight this war on terror with kill teams, laser guided bombs and drone strikes. Fire has been met with fire. As a result hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and places far from here.

Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. These are people with names and family histories and stories that most of us will never hear. Every one of these casualties of the war on terror is a human tragedy every bit as real as the tragedy that befell the Sari Club or downtown Manhattan more than a decade ago.

So what do we have to show for our series of tactical decisions to fight violence with violence and to militarise civilian communications channels? The terror networks we tried to smash have morphed and grown and spread to the point where we are now in a more precarious state than before.

The death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of US special forces three years ago appears to have had no discernible impact on the spread or capability of extremist networks. A fundamentalist army built on oil money and stolen American weapons now occupies a huge swathe of Iraq and Syria and has an expanding online audience.

As we join yet another military coalition in the Middle East, Australian government representatives themselves now believe the threat is higher than ever before.

So on a day such as today, with the latest legislative upgrades to the war on terror on the table before us, we need to evaluate whether the arc of our response to terrorism in the last decade and a half is in fact making everyone less safe.

Next article – Government tightens screws on asylum seekers

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