||Issue No. 152||13 September 2002|
The Legacy of 11/9
Interview: Still Flying
International: President Gas
Politics: Australia: A Rogue State?
History: Levelling September
Unions: Welfare Max
Bad Boss: Welcome to Telstra!
Health: Fat Albert: The Grim Reaper
Poetry: A Man From the East And A Man From The West
Review: The Sum Of All Fears
The Locker Room
Week in Review
The CFMEU Race Debate #2
Keeping it Clean
Sue the Leaders?
The Legacy of 11/9
In the 12 months since the horrendous attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the Bush Administration - with Australia following its every lead - has done more to wind back the international consensus than any fundamentalist regime could ever achieve.
From the West's initial shock and pain came disbelief bound in ignorance, followed by vengeance, morphing now into a calculated pay back to the entire Muslim world. It may be an understandable reaction, but it has not been one consistent with our self-image of enlightenment.
To review America's responses to September 11 is to see a nation departing from its founding principles.
In declaring its 'War on Terror', the Bush Administration gave itself seemingly unfettered powers to define its enemies and take them out without any reference to international law.
Military operations to oust the very same Taliban regime the US had installed a decade earlier killed many of its Al-Queda targets, but also thousands of civilians.
Hundreds of prisoners of war were then locked up without trial or any prospect thereof, in breach of all known rules of war and international diplomacy.
Against this backdrop the USA rejected an International Criminal Court, refused to join the global fight on climate change and made a counter-productive contribution to the Middle East which seemed to have more to do with clearing the way to attack Saddam Hussein, than securing a regional peace.
And how does Bush mark the anniversary of the September 11 attacks? An ultimatum to the United Nations to approve war on Iraq or face being rolled over into the dustbin of history.
If possible, John Howard's performance in the past year has been more abject than George W's. Where Bush responded to his people's grief, Howard has exploited their fears; first cynically riding the war to election victory and now using it as a substitute for an agenda for his unexpected third term.
There are the insidious attempts by Howard and senior ministers to link asylum seekers to terrorists; backed by Australian anti-terrorism laws, still before parliament, that were the biggest assault on basic civil liberties since the attempts to proscribe the Communist Party in the 1950s.
As for the global consensus, Howard stood alone with George W in turning his back on Kyoto; but even outdid his Texan buddy in refusing to ratify the global convention on torture; joining the likes of Nigeria, Egypt and Libya.
Like George W Bush, Howard is prepared to cherry-pick international law to meet his political objectives, rather than seeing a broader responsibility as a national leader to meet his obligations on the global stage.
And all the while the military-industrial companies in both countries have been laughing to the bank, seeing huge wads of the budget diverted from social, welfare, health and education purposes and dedicated to building bigger machines of war.
As Greg Barnes observes this week, if you wanted to strike a blow against Liberal-Democracy you could not have scripted it better.
Beneath the rubble of the Twin Towers lies a system of beliefs in liberty, pluralism and tolerance that we had mistakenly taken for granted.
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