Thursday, January 22, 2015

Are we again on the brink of further "Mission Creep" in Iraq?

by Andrew Farran
In his 2015 State of the Union address President Obama noted that Iraq War No 3 (not his term) "will take time", meaning there is no end in sight. But what is it that  will take time? What would be its end? Does anyone have any realistic idea about that given that a militant cancer is spreading throughout the Middle East?

The US has recently committed a further 3,000 troops to Iraq though officially their 'combat roles' are confined to air strikes in Iraq and Syria. It is not hard to envisage that before the US can reduce troop levels they would have had to increase if anything like 'success' is to be achieved meanwhile. Nor is it hard to envisage that the Australian Government under Prime Minister Abbott would be keen to leg up again, as he has designated the Islamic State (IS) as a direct threat to Australia's security. 

This would be further "mission creep" and would represent a failure to heed previous experience in that region. The earlier commitment, last year, was purely an Executive act without reference to Parliament and struggled to get Iraqi government approval initially. Unfortunately Australia has allowed itself to be led in this direction for well over a decade. US/Australian military interventions and diplomatic misjudgments over that time have resulted in increased conflict and the political maelstrom now tearing those countries, particularly Syria and Iraq, apart.

There is much about the Islamic State to dislike intensely. If in the light of developments it can be demonstrated as being a 'direct threat to Australia' the government should be obliged to submit its case to the Parliament before any further Australian forces are committed there. This surely should now be the Parliament's prerogative.

Buying into these conflicts without a profound understanding of the complex forces at work or a clear idea of what 'success' from an Australian viewpoint would mean – and without a demonstrated capacity to achieve that success anyway – will win few friends and create resentments which home grown jihadists could exploit.

From Australia's perspective the conflict in Syria/Iraq is destined not to have a 'good' outcome. Historically it will be seen as yet another rebalancing of disparate tribes and religious factions, with far too many victims whose plight we can do little about.

Our best defence against externally inspired terrorist attacks is to stand resolutely by our core values, to maintain sensible anti-terrorist measures that do not intrude unnecessarily on citizen's rights and freedoms while seeking better ways of integrating our diverse cultures, and to exercise our diplomatic skills in working with other like-minded governments to ameliorate conflict wherever we can.

Ill-considered foreign interventions with bombs and bullets only compound these problems; they are not a solution. The solution at this time lies with the countries and peoples most directly involved.

opinion from: Andrew Farran 22 January 2015

A world of no-go zones?

by Dr Alison Broinowski

As the population of our ‘global village’ grows to more than 7.22 billion and mega-cities multiply, the world’s wilderness withers, agricultural land shrinks, oceans become waste dumping grounds, and former industrial sites are reduced to polluted, decaying wastelands. The climate warms and sea levels rise. Humans have rendered many areas in the world no longer accessible for humans.
These areas are ‘no-go zones’, as the lawless streets of Boston were known in the 1980s. The same term applied to Redfern’s Block in the 1990s and parts of Birmingham in the noughties. It is true of Ferguson in the mid-2010s, and has for years described some banlieux of Paris, particularly now. These are spaces beyond the will or capacity of police to control, at least until reform occurs. Parts of other formerly beautiful cities like Beirut, Aleppo and Damascus have become bombed out, burnt out no-go zones because of uncivil war. Many sites in Iraq and Afghanistan have met the same fate because of unjustified military assaults by Western countries, including Australia.  
Hopeful nations set up Zones of Peace during the Cold War to exclude nuclear weapons and curb great power rivalry, seeking to preserve them as sustainable spaces. But areas around Maralinga, Bikini Atoll, Chernobyl, and Fukushima are no-go zones of another kind, having been rendered permanently uninhabitable, inaccessible, and unusable by nuclear contamination. The purpose of demilitarized zones in the Vietnamese and Korean peninsulas, another product of those years, was to keep civil war enemies apart.  A paradoxical result was a no-go zone between the two Koreas  that has acted as a wild-life habitat and ecological recovery area.
No-go zones of another kind are a response to outbreaks of disease, like quarantine stations, tuberculosis clinics and leper colonies. Haiti’s recent experience with imported typhoid after its earthquake, and now the Ebola-stricken countries in Africa, send many fleeing, but also draw in brave volunteer helpers from around the world. But where are the volunteers searching for the lost girls, sent to an area in Nigeria where the government doesn’t want or dare to go? 
Then there are places such as Cuba, which includes Guantánamo Bay, both of them declared off limits until recently for US citizens, as they may be again under a new administration. Travel to parts of Syria is supposedly forbidden by some governments, although the girlfriend of one of the Paris killers seems to have gone there, together with young Muslim men from many countries. Even travel to Baghdad with the Australian Prime Minister to Baghdad in January 2015 was not on for journalists, and they don’t seem to have much access to Manus Island either. Detention centres are in effect no-go zones too, declared by our government, along with the excision of our entire continent as a refugee immigration area.
An intangible no-go area which appears to be expanding, in Australia at least, is official information. Not only do the costs and restrictions on Freedom of Speech applications make them inaccessible to most citizens, the government wants laws restraining leaking and whistleblowing strengthened. In the name of ‘national security’, the public is being told less and is finding it harder to know what to ask. People can be held and questioned without charge, have their communications invigilated and their computers trashed without the legal protections Australia inherited as a democracy. With mainstream media withering, and reporting barred on subjects like official spying on the East Timor oil negotiations and Securency corruption allegations, many Australians turn to alternative sources to inform themselves.  Individuals who are brave enough to publish such information, like Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Sarah Harrison, are now living in no-go places of their own as a result.
CIWI/AWPR and other groups have sprung up around Australia to give voice to citizens’ concerns about the way our governments wage wars in our name, with our people and our resources. We challenge those who seek to deflect our concern, while assuring us that they are acting in the interests of national security. The world has more than enough no-go zones: we must reclaim what we can and preserve what is left.
opinion from: Dr Alison Broinowski - 22 January 2015