Don’t Mention the War

With the release of the government’s Counter-Terrorism White Paper[i] and its admission that Australia is at risk of ‘homegrown’ terrorism, the logic behind Australia‘s involvement in Afghanistan has been severely weakened.
Only months earlier the Rudd government was announcing Australia’s continuing commitment to war against the Taliban and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, reiterating the tired line of ‘its better to fight them over there than here’ that has been touted as justification for Australia’s involvement in a war that it had little need to join.


While Australia joined under John Howard’s Liberal government, Kevin Rudd’s Labor government has happily continued involvement in the ‘good’ war in Afghanistan in comparison to the ‘bad’ war in Iraq. However public support for the Afghanistan campaign has dwindled since it began in 2001 and with this release of the Counter-Terrorism White Paper the war seems to not only have made Australia a target from external groups but it has managed to create threats within Australia through its involvement. However, the White Paper itself while it clearly identifies what the threat is[ii], it does not identify the reasons why such threats have targeted Australia.
By reading between the lines, the White Paper has announced that the Afghanistan war and Australia’s wider contribution and decision to join the so called ‘War on Terror’ has made the country less rather than more safe[iii].

While many of the news reports on the White Paper released have focused on announced heightened security measures to be introduced at airports such as biometric and thumb scanners and threats from a variety of groups in the Middle East and North Africa, none of the reports have examined the more pressing and important question of ‘why?’.

Australia now faces an increased threat from home and abroad but what connections are there between these threats and Australia’s support and involvement for the ‘War on Terror’, the Afghanistan & Iraq Wars and even its ever growing unilateral support for Israel within the region?

All of these issues have gone largely unreported of late in Australia, yet they remain the key causes that drive and enable fundamentalist groups to recruit and indoctrinate in the areas of conflict and within Australia.

The Counter-Terrorism White Paper’s solution to these issues is not one of critically evaluating Australia’s role in helping the fuel and create jihadist and resistance activity, but one in which the only response to terrorism seems involve enlarging the powers of Australia’s security agencies and border protection schemes.

These concerning measures fail to address the causes of terrorism; merely responding to the symptoms, the violent attacks and attempts that come from a range of issues and conditions of which current Australian foreign policy directly contributes.
With all these factors along with the wider damage to lives and infrastructure in the Middle East, continued involvement by Australia in the ‘War on Terror’ particularly Afghanistan, seems like the biggest cause of our apparent growing insecurity.

[ii] “extremists who follow a distorted and militant interpretation of Islam that espouses violence as the answer to perceived grievances” (Counter-Terrorism White Paper 2010: Securing Australia, p.ii)

[iii] It is interesting to note within the paper itself, the word ‘war’ appears only once and not in relation to Australian involvement in the Afghanistan and the famous phrase ‘War on Terror’ does not appear at all.

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