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Friday, July 15, 2005

Timor and Bin Laden

In the aftermath of the London attacks, a handful of conservatives wondered aloud about the connection between Islamic terror and Timor's "liberation". Tim Blair: "Anti-war leftoids, who supported East Timor’s liberation, always seem to forget East Timor when blaming the West for Islamic terror."

Wrong. Says who? Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and former ASIO chief Dennis Richardson.

First, Richardson, speaking at the Sydney Institute on Tuesday, 26 October 2004:

"In this context, I think bin Laden's first known reference to East Timor in November 2001 was designed to strike a chord in South East Asia, especially Indonesia, and his subsequent references to Afghanistan and Iraq must be seen in terms of al-Qa'ida propaganda and recruitment purposes. That is not to diminish the significance of his references to East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq, but to question whether our involvement in those countries is the central driver in al-Qa'ida's targeting of Australia. Otherwise, how do you explain al-Qa'ida's very real interest in Australia, and the targeting of us, before our involvement in those countries. It simply does not make sense."

Downer on ABC Lateline on 16 March 2004:

TONY JONES: Let's come to the issue what is Al Qaeda propaganda, as you put it, and what isn't. First of all would you agree with the proposition that Australians were targeted in Bali because of their intervention in East Timor?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No, I don't think Australians were so much targeted as Westerners were targeted in Bali. We don't have evidence that Australians themselves were targeted. We know that 88 Australians were killed. There were a large number of Australians in that nightclub and in Paddy's Bar on that night. But I think this was an attack against Westerners generally because this was a bar that Westerners congregated in. I don't think you can link it directly to the Timor issue."

If right-wing commentators have better intelligence than either man, produce it now. They don't, of course, making their accusations all the more pathetic.

al-Qaeda is as opportunistic as those conservative commentators attempting to rewrite history. When the West was supporting Bin Laden against the Soviets during the 1980s, we heard no complaints from the usual suspects. Today, however, any excuse of absolving Western responsibility for Islamic terror is acceptable. History knows better than to trust these false idols.

17 Comments:

Blogger J F said...

You fail to engage with the thrust of Blair's quote.

Here's how I read the Blair quote: Anti-war leftoids blame the west for terrorist attacks - the root causes argument. Many of these same leftoids supported Australia's involvement in East Timor. These same leftoids conveniently ignore the East Timor involvement as a root cause of terror attack. Leftoids ignore East Timor as a root cause of terror attacks because they were in favour of Australia's involvement. It boils down to political point scoring.

Please correct me if I've got it wrong.

Friday, July 15, 2005 4:17:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

The point is that Timor has been used opportunistly by Bin Laden and his ilk to justify atrocities. It's false and Downer and Richardson say so.

Friday, July 15, 2005 4:22:00 pm  
Blogger J F said...

You are attributing to Blair a point he does not make. This should be obvious if you've read the Blair post you've linked to.

Friday, July 15, 2005 4:40:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

It was when I attempted to post a comment at Blair's site one day that I came across the whole "strawman" argument - I was attacked by Blair's band of defenders (of whom obedient little JF is one) and accused of "building a strawman". I guessed this was some American internet lingo, shrugged, and forgot about it.

The other day I read somewhere that the strawman technique is a favourite tactic of the right, notably in the blogosphere. Blair's effort here is a case in point. Some lefties think A, all lefties must therefore think B, and that is inconsistent with C, so they must all be hypocritical opportunists. Simple really.

So JF, I disagree. Blair is suggesting that lefties blame the west for terrorism because of its foreign policy, yet this is hypocritcal because the left supported humanitarian efforts in Timur. Antony is in turn suggesting that the military action in Timur is not the same as decades (centuries) of US and other great power foreign policies throughout the world, and that intelligence and government figures contradict Blair's assertion that Timur is a part of the Islamist's set of grievances.

If you wish to defend your beloved Blair, then you should ask him to qualify the statement that is critical to the passage you quote: "Leftoids ignore East Timor as a root cause of terror attacks". That is, prove that it is a root cause. Otherwise it can be seen that Blair is not only constructing a strawman argument (wouldn't that make his regulars go red in the face) but supporting his spurious and always ambiguous attack against "leftoids" with an unsubstantiated assertion.

Besides, a bit of research would reveal that layers of the Australian and international left (not the usual mainstream voices that Blair loves to quote) actually opposed Howard's military intervention and still oppose the military presence there. But of course, Blair's whole sniping show would collapse if the enemy, the "left", was shown to be something other than monolithic.

So Antony's question about Blair is valid: Contribution to the world? Anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty knows the answer to that.

Saturday, July 16, 2005 1:24:00 pm  
Blogger J F said...

I am not defending Blair, I'm disputing AL's – and now your - reading of what Blair wrote. If you follow the link to Blair's post you'll see that he regards the so called "root causes" of terrorism as a "persistent myth". In order to spare themselves the embarrassment of having supported a root cause of terrorism the left conveniently omit East Timor as one of the root causes.

It could be I'm reading it wrong but I don't think so.

Saturday, July 16, 2005 2:22:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

JF, of course you wouldn't read it wrong. Must be the rest of us. Thanks for clarifying.

Saturday, July 16, 2005 3:53:00 pm  
Blogger J F said...

Big of you to admit that. Thanks.

Saturday, July 16, 2005 5:18:00 pm  
Blogger William Bowe said...

Tim Blair says that "when blaming the West for Islamic terror" - something he doesn't do - the left usually manages to forget East Timor and leap straight to Iraq and Afghanistan. Richardson's and Downer's statements aren't inconsistent with this. The broader position of all three is that Islamic terrorists target the west because of their religious ideology and not because of anything we have done to provoke them, be it in Iraq, Afghanistan or East Timor - as evidenced by "al-Qa'ida's very real interest in Australia, and the targeting of us, before our involvement in those countries".

All three of them should be careful here. The fallback position of right-wing ideologues is that AQ and its sympathisers target the west for reasons peculiar to themselves, and that consequently the west has no need to consider any hostility its actions might generate. Therefore, the appropriate policy is to do whatever needs to be done to kill the west's enemies with no regard to collateral damage (be it the kind experienced in Falluja, or at Kings Cross Station). This is manifested in the reluctance of Blair & Co. to acknowledge that the Iraq adventure might just have done more harm than good, whatever the virtues of removing Saddam Hussein.

However, the left's corresponding fallback position - that the west is targeted entirely as a result of its own actions, or at least those of which the left disapproves - is no better. It will not do to argue that "we can't believe" (to use John Pilger's words) that Australia's intervention in East Timor might have aroused hostility from Islamic militants in Indonesia and beyond, while simultaneously arguing that attacks on the west amount to come-uppance for Iraq and Afghanistan. Blair is on very solid ground in assailing this point of view, and it's strikes me that that's all he's doing here (even if he is going about it in a rather childish fashion).

Saturday, July 16, 2005 10:01:00 pm  
Blogger dorkafork said...

"If right-wing commentators have better intelligence than either man, produce it now."

"We warned Australia before not to join in [the war] in Afghanistan, and [against] its despicable effort to separate East Timor.

It ignored the warning until it woke up to the sounds of explosions in Bali.

Its government falsely claimed that they [the Australians] were not targeted."

Statement believed by experts to be from Osama Bin Laden himself. There's also statements of the bombers themselves implicating Timor (reg. required).

Personally, I don't think Bali is what some might call a "direct result" of Australia's actions in Timor, I think the "root causes" go a bit deeper. But if someone is going to argue that terrorist attacks are a direct result of our policies (and many have), they look silly when they pick and choose policies they agree with and ignore policies directly mentioned by the men responsible.

(One more thing, if Timor is used for "propaganda and recruitment purposes", then Timor would basically by definition be one of the "root causes" for terrorist attacks. It means Timor inspires people to join al-Qaeda.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005 12:05:00 am  
Blogger KK said...

ah Timor - what a marvellous reminder of the perfidy & vileness of Gough Whitlam & Paul Keating

Sunday, July 17, 2005 1:09:00 am  
Blogger buck smith said...

The philosophical roots of Islamism started 100 years ago with the founders of Muslim Brotherhood. I think the attacks would have come regardless of anything the US or Australis did or did not do.

Sunday, July 17, 2005 3:13:00 pm  
Blogger Michael said...

Besides, a bit of research would reveal that layers of the Australian and international left (not the usual mainstream voices that Blair loves to quote) actually opposed Howard's military intervention and still oppose the military presence there.

Telling people to do a "bit of research" to validate your own position has never been and never will be a particularly compelling debating tactic, if you have the evidence to support your position, then show it, don't expect others to find it for you.
Personally, I would love to see the evidence that shows how badly the left got it wrong on East Timor - especially if, as you say, they are still saying it was wrong to intervene.

Of course you might be just refering to the extremist layer of the Australian and international left, but that would make your point even more irrelevant because just like the extreme right, their views aren't really taken seriously by anyone.

Sunday, July 17, 2005 3:18:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Relevance, KK?

Sunday, July 17, 2005 6:52:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Michael, the point (which I am sure you did actually get) is that generalisations about "leftoid" opinion are a fallacy simply because the left is not monolithic. Just as your hackles would be up if I said you were clearly a racist and a fascist because you have a tendency toward the right.

Sunday, July 17, 2005 7:12:00 pm  
Blogger Michael said...

So dirtbikeoption, lets bypass all the hyperbole about the "monolithic" left (which I would guess has never actually been seriously suggested by anyone - except by people trying to bog an argument down in semantics)and bring it down to basics. Given his use of Downer and Richardson as people whose opinion he clearly thinks are accurate and important, Anthony clearly accepts that Iraq is not the main cause of current terrorist attacks, unlike a lot- not all mind you, but a lot, of "Anti-war leftoids" as Tim actually said, do you accept that those who ignore the wisdom of Downer and Richardson and are trying to blame Iraq for the current state of terrorism are wrong?

Sunday, July 17, 2005 9:29:00 pm  
Blogger Andjam said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, July 18, 2005 9:44:00 pm  
Blogger Andjam said...

I just noticed that scare quotes were used with East Timor's liberation.

The description of you as a wannabe kapo is inaccurate. No-one in the pro-Indonesian militia was Jewish.

Monday, July 18, 2005 9:45:00 pm  

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