Search This Blog

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The slippery slope to radicalisation and extremism

The slippery slope to radicalisation and extremism

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott's short-lived government was renowned for its vitriolic attacks and demonisation of the Labor Party, unions, Muslims, asylum seekers and essentially anyone opposed to their ultra-right-wing policies.

All of this was done under guise of patriotism or anti-terrorism and used falsehoods, exaggerations and outright fear to convey its message. ABC Factcheck found that only 12% of the Abbott government's claims were (1). Call me cynical, but this is a dismal display of hypocrisy and lack of integrity from a party that gained significant traction by claiming to be an honest alternative to the Labor Party after exploiting Julia Gillard's single 'lie' about the carbon 'tax'.

Within months of gaining power, the Abbott government instituted a Royal Commission into Union corruption, continued persecuting, demonising and misrepresenting the plight of asylum seekers, unveiled anti-terrorism laws that targeted Islam, unleashed hundreds of police in numerous raids on Muslims and wrapped the Prime Minister and his messages in more and more Australian flags to push the illusion of patriotism.

With the replacement of the Abbott government by the apparently more moderate Malcolm Turnbull, there was hope that some sanity might return to the political discourse.

However, within weeks of assuming power, the Turnbull government unveiled its 'anti-radicalisation kit'. The kit addressed extremism and radicalisation in a number of areas, including racism and nationalism. This is somewhat ironic, given that the government has been using Muslims and asylum seekers as the poster-children of terrorism in order to advance its ultra-right-wing agenda behind a facade of flags and nationalism. Pot / Kettle. It seems the kit is more about paying lip-service to anti-racism rather than being a serious attempt to truly address the racist hate crimes currently being perpetrated across the country against Muslims, Asians and even Australia's own indigenous population.

The kit also took aim at left-wing politics, environmentalism and ... alternative music (2). A person could be mistaken for thinking that the 1980s Reagan-loving Christian Right had made a return with their tub-thumping 'rock is evil' mantras. But no. Welcome to 21st century Australian politics. Alternative music can lead to radicalisation.

Extract from Booklet - Preventing violent extremism and radicalisation in Australia (3).
Alternative music has nothing to do with radicalisation. Radicals will chose whatever music suits their tastes or purpose. Reclaim Australia and their various off-shoots and associates tried to use songs by chart-topping artists such as John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, Goanna and Redgum to promote their racist, anti-Islamic, nationalist agenda. Each of these artists demanded their songs not be used to promote racism and intolerance.

Since winning the 2013 election, the LNP government has:
  • instituted a Royal Commission witch-hunt into Unions
  • attacked and misrepresented Islam
  • introduced harsh anti-terrorism laws that reduce freedom and give unprecedented power to law enforcement agencies
  • demonised, persecuted and tortured asylum seekers in contravention of international laws on refugees and torture while using the military as a political tool to enforce brutal 'border protection' policies
  • attacked environmentalists and denied climate change
  • invoked nationalism in the name of patriotism and flag-flying to portray its opponents as enemies of the state
None of this is new. It's straight from the fascist hand-book. Nazi leader, Herman Goring stated at the Nuremberg trials, ' ... the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country'.

German Pastor and anti-Fascist activist, Martin Niemöller succinctly described the events in 1930s Nazi Germany:

First they came for the Communists 
And I did not speak out because I was not a Communist 
Then they came for the Socialists 
And I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist 
Then they came for the trade unionists 
And I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist 
Then they came for the Jews 
And I did not speak out because I was not a Jew 
Then they came for me 
And there was no one left

As bad as terrorism is, any government that exploits the community through fear and falsehoods has to be considered a threat to the Australian way of life, to our freedoms, to democracy.

Abbott's fascist style of government has taken Australia down a slippery slope of authoritarianism, racism, xenophobia and jingoism which portrays anyone to left of this extreme right-wing ideology to be unpatriotic. Many of the government's supporters sincerely believe that Australia is a Christian nation and that it is their patriotic duty to attack Muslims, even though the Australian constitution specifically states that people are entitled to practise any religion, not just Christianity.

When persecuted people requesting protection are imprisoned for years and treated as criminals even though they haven't committed any crime or been charged with a crime, there is something seriously wrong. When children are referred to by number rather than name, there is something seriously wrong. When the government makes it illegal to reveal the abuse, maltreatment and persecution of asylum seekers, there is something clearly wrong and something which the government is clearly hiding.

Now is the time to oppose the government's attack on the freedoms that we've taken for granted. Freedom of religion, of expression, of association, of movement. The freedom to protest. Now is the time to protest the government's attack on the rights that Australia claims to hold sacred. The right to political association, the right to seek asylum, the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.

Through its vilification of the left-wing, the unionists and Islam, the LNP is shoring up its political strength by weakening those it sees as its opponents or who can be used as scape-goats for government policy, and conditioning the rest of the community to believe these groups are radicals, extremists, terrorists; that they are a threat to society.

As with the majority of the Abbott government's claims, these are fallacious, dangerous and give impetus to racist and radical right-wing ideology. Abbott's sloganeering and flag-waving go beyond patriotism and slide down the slippery slope of nationalism.

The words of award-winning Filipino writer, Manuel Syjuco, are most apt, 'I don't believe in nationalism. I think it's a bunch of slogans. It's a bunch of poor attempts at creating pride. My problem with nationalism is that it becomes exclusionary. We start to exclude people'.

And exclude people Australia has. From the gulags of Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island to the anti-Halal, anti-Mosque, anti-burqa and anti-Islam preaching and vituperation of politicians, pastors and plebs. Muslims and refugees are being excluded. Yet, inclusion not exclusion will help prevent radicalisation and extremism. Inclusiveness breeds understanding and understanding destroys ignorance and fear of the unknown while promoting community, harmony, friendship and love.

Now is the time to challenge and reverse the culture of fear and demonisation that has been the basis of political policy-making. It is time to challenge and reverse the ideology which has radicalised many Australians to fear and hate Muslims and refugees, and the belief by some on the right that verbal or physical abuse is patriotic or that vilifying people through social media is somehow the Australian thing to do.

It's not Islam that is to be feared. It's not asylum seekers who are to be feared. It isn't green groups or alternative music that are to be feared.

It is the insidious rise of racism and hate within mainstream society that is to be feared. It is this that will lead to radicalisation and extremism of the majority against the few.


1. ABC, 'Fact check scorecard: How does Tony Abbott's record of claims and promises stack up?', 24 September 2015,, accessed 24 September 2015.

2. ABC, Carl Holm, 'Radicalisation Awareness Kit: Government's new booklet for schools links green activism, 'alternative music' to terrorism', 24 September 2015,, accessed 25 September 2015.

3. Australian Government, Living Safe Together - Building resilience against violent extremism, What is radicalisation, Booklet - Preventing violent extremism and radicalisation in Australia,, accessed 25 September 2015.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Terrorism & ISIS: Proudly brought to you by the War on Terror

Terrorism & ISIS: Proudly brought to you by the War on Terror

14 years ago today, then-President George W. Bush declared a 'War on Terror' in response to the September 11 attacks in the USA which killed 2,966 victims and 19 hijackers.

Bush's war on terror kicked off with the bombing of sites in Afghanistan as he pursued Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist group, Al Qaeda, who had claimed responsibility for the attacks. Al Qaeda was allegedly based in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. When the Taliban refused to give up Al Qaeda, the bombings started.

Two years later, Bush expanded the war on terror to include an invasion of Iraq on the auspices of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. This was broadened to include the false claim that Iraq was in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The reasons for the invasion contradicted UN and US intelligence reports that Iraq had no WMDs and warnings that there was no evidence of links between Hussein and Bin Laden (1).

To help justify the invasion, Bush created an idea of an 'Axis of Evil', which included Iraq, Iran and North Korea, while declaring a 'Coalition of the Willing' for any nation that supported the USA's invasion. The war in Iraq did eventually topple dictator Saddam Hussein, however, it came at a cost.

Back in 1991, when the USA and other nations retaliated against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein was left in power because of credible warnings that to topple him would cause a power-vacuum and result in complete anarchy and the rise of terrorist groups vying for power. George W. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, was president at the time.

In 2003, George W. Bush ignored these warnings and made the completely puerile comment, 'this the man who tried to kill my dad' (2), unleashing an invasion and occupation that would result in the predictions of 1991 coming true.

Iraq had no links to Al Qaeda. In fact, Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, hated each other.

The overthrow of Hussein was a Pyrrhic victory. There was no point taking down Hussein's government if it was to be replaced with something worse. Those who thought Hussein was as bad as it got, greatly underestimated the devastation, destruction and sheer malevolence that was to replace him.

Hussein, a Sunni, was replaced by a Shia government which sought retribution against the Sunnis for their brutal treatment under Hussein. Under the new government terrorist groups gained a foothold. Something that Hussein hadn't allowed.

Al Qaeda in Iraq was established. Just one of many terrorist groups.

Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis were killed. Far more than Hussein had been responsible for.

And then there was ISIS.

Neighbouring Syria degenerated into civil war and saw a number of rebel groups gain traction there as well, many of whom were engaging in terrorist actions against the government and civilians; many of whom were being funded by the USA (3) and the UK. As usual, the thinking that the enemy of my enemy is my friend saw the funding of rebel groups opposed to Syria's Assad government which did nothing but give strength and power to terrorists. Giving money to terrorists, is no way to wage a war on terror.

Al Qaeda in Iraq joined forces with terrorists and the most infamous of modern terrorist groups was born. ISIS: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (amongst other names). ISIS declared a new caliphate and unleashed a wave of terrorism, kidnappings and brutal, public executions across Syria and Iraq, and have now extended into Afghanistan while exporting terrorism on a global scale through online and direct recruitment campaigns.

It justified war crimes such as the illegal detention and torture of captives in Abu Ghraib prison (4) and Guantanamo Bay (5). The captives, while charged with various terrorism offences, most were not found guilty of crimes. Why? Because they had been arrested on the flimsy and often contrived evidence. Many of them were innocent. The war on terror saw gross human rights abuses for political reasons, not to stop terrorism.

The War on Terror broke international laws on war and torture, committed atrocities and rather than stopping terrorism, fuelled it. In addition to its military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the USA has launched illegal drone attacks and military operations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, often resulting in the death or injuries of innocent civilians.

A Yemeni boy walks past a mural depicting drone strikes in Yemen. Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Australian Prime Minister, John Howard and other leaders who joined the 'Coalition of the Willing, all spouted the falsehoods and propaganda that resulted in these illegal actions. The destruction of Hussein's government (as brutal as it was), directly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and to the rise of ISIS.

To state that the Middle East has always been at war with itself is to completely disregard the affects of Western involvement. What is often forgotten in this statement is that Europe has been a bloodbath for centuries, with war after war waged. Yet for centuries, the Middle East was relatively stable with most of its wars fought against European invaders.

The state of affairs in Iraq and Syria are not the product of centuries of Middle Eastern fighting, but instead are the result of ongoing Western imperialism, capitalism, greed and hegemony.

The West cannot solely blame the Middle East for the problems it faces today considering that much of it is because of Western invasions, political interference and funding and support of various despots such as Hussein, the Shah of Iran, Muammar Gaddafi, the House of Saud, Egypt's Mubarrak and Morsi. The list goes on.

The West can't blame Islam for terrorism considering the amount of money that so-called Christian nations, particularly the USA and UK, have funnelled into rebel or terrorist groups throughout the world in order to bring about political change favourable to the West and at the expense of innocent civilians (6). The rise of Al Qaeda and the Taliban was directly the result of US funding of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s (7).

The War on Terror is not about stopping terrorism, but about shoring up American hegemony across the globe. It is about instigating a 'perpetual war' as George Orwell described in 1984, his dystopic novel of global authoritarianism.

The War on Terror is a war of propaganda. A war that demonises Islam. A war that characterises Muslims as terrorists. It is a war that justifies racial profiling. Only last week, a 14 year old Muslim boy was arrested for bringing to school a clock that he'd built because teachers thought it was a bomb(8). Meanwhile, white Americans can roam the streets with impunity, carrying firearms.

The War on Terror is the perfect perpetual war. It is ill-defined, vague with shifting scope and allows the demonisation of anyone who dares oppose it while enabling the establishment of authoritarian rule.

At the Nuremberg Trials held after World War II, Nazi leader Herman Goering stated:

'Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger. It works the same way in every country'.

The War on Terror is making the world more dangerous with less freedom as governments' convince citizens of the need to introduce authoritarian, fascist laws in the name of security against terrorists ... the same terrorists the USA and its allies have been sponsoring.


1. John C. Conyers Jr and Elizabeth Holtzman, 'The Constitution in Crisis: The High Crimes of the Bush Administration and a Blueprint for Impeachment', 2007, Skyhorse Publishing.

2.Sydney Morning Herald, 'Saddam tried to kill my dad, says Bush',, 27 September 2002.

3. Darren Pope,, 'Declassified DIA documents reveal Obama administration ordered CIA to train ISIS,, 29 May 2015. Accessed 20 September 2015.

4. Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, 'Torture at Abu Ghraib',, 10 May 2004. Accessed 20 February 2015.

5. Wikileaks, 'WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Files on All Guantánamo Prisoners,

6. William Blum, 'Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II', Updated edition 2008, Common Courage Press.

7. John K. Cooley, 'Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism', 2002, Pluto Press.

8. Mark Pesce, ABC, The Drum, 'Ahmed Mohamed arrest: We should nurture the kids with the clocks',, 18 September 2015. Accessed 20 September 2015.