Michael Burrill

About Michael Burrill

Michael Burrill is a 24-year-old writer and contrarian. His hobbies include cheap Australian lager and existential dread.

As the struggle for Kobane on the Syrian/Turkey border rages, with potential fearful consequences for the Kurds who live there, Michael Burrill fears we are playing into the hands of IS…


As ADF planes carried out their first missions in the Middle East, polling suggested 62 percent of Australian voters support the strikes. Syrian Kurds fighting IS in Kobane near the Turkey-Syria border were a bit more ambivalent, with spokesman Idris Nassan saying, “Air strikes alone are really not enough to defeat Isis in Kobane,” sentiments echoed by Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, who admitted, “Kobane could be taken. We recognise that.” One thing the strikes continue to succeed at is bringing jihadists together as the Pakistani Taliban expressed their support for Islamists in Syria and Iraq while calling for unity saying, “In these troubled days, we call on you to be patient and stay united as your enemies are now united against you. Forget rivalries.” This kind of rhetoric suggests that maybe we should be asking whether actions being taken against IS are potentially helping rather than degrading extremists. Polling suggests that 75 percent of voters think the threat of terrorist attack in Australia is real, and Defence Minister David Johnston has been talking up “a long campaign” ahead. Despite this, we should remember terrorism is a tactic not an ideology; a tactic used to inspire fear and garner publicity for a group and their agenda, with the lesson from this to not do anything that will further the aims of such.

Further details were revealed about the Foreign Fighters Bill at a parliamentary inquiry this week. ASIO licked its lips in anticipation, telling the inquiry it was pleased with moves that would allow them to use already scary measures like “coercive questioning” (sounds straight from the CIA book of euphemisms) and secret detention without charge more easily. The AFP will gain the ability to impersonate people, secretly search homes and hold off on informing the occupant for up to 18 months. The legislation looks likely to pass after Bill Shorten received another “good boy” pat from the PM, who described him as a “patriot,” despite legal experts, civil rights advocates and the press all expressing concern the Australian public seems largely uninterested. All this as Hong Kong protestors have occupied pavements for days in a push for more rights even as our rights continue to be diluted, and with the only thing some of us seemingly willing to occupy being a pavement so we can secure a new model of smartphone. We all seem too busy inhaling another packet of “gourmet deli” chips (because Cheezels are for dole bludgers, apparently) to realise the contradiction in accepting our politicians invoking our “way of life” and “freedom” to justify killing overseas, then at the slightest apparent risk of death at home, happily allowing them to degrade the rights meant to underpin those very things.

Anti-war protestors were subjected to some “coercive questioning” at a military base on Swan Island as SAS members allegedly placed bags over the protesters heads, then stripped them naked and dragged them through wood chips while shouting abuse. These actions were said to break international law by human rights scholar Professor Sarah Joseph, while Australian Defence Association spokesman Neil James claimed, “It’s a dumb idea to trespass on a government facility at any time, but it’s particularly dumb at the moment because of the terrorist alert.” Terrorism used to justify rights abuses? How novel…

From one rights issue to another, a survey of a 139 paediatricians found that 80 percent considered mandatory detention of children abusive. Dr Peter Young, ex-chief psychiatrist of the detention program added, “It creates situations where sexual abuse is inevitable and it’s happened everywhere around the world.” Unsatisfied with such, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison also seems set to deport seven more Hazaras to Afghanistan despite the recent murder of Australian-Afghani Hazara Sayed Habib Musawi and torture of deported Hazara asylum seeker Zainullah Naseri, both carried out by the Taliban. When groups like the Taliban, IS or LRA carry out acts against ethnic minorities or children, we are rightly disgusted, yet at home with our tax dollars funding a system that is believed by medical practitioners to systematically abuse children and that re-delivers vulnerable people to their tormentors, somehow both major parties get away with acting as though, just as with other “national security” issues, it’s not even up for debate. Morrison 2014, maybe share that on your iPhone…even if it was potentially manufactured with child labour.

Lastly this week in Moscow a pro-Putin group held an art exhibition celebrating Vlad’s birthday titled, “The 12 Labours of Putin.” The contents of the exhibition displayed, apparently without irony, Putin styled as Hercules engaged in such acts as choking a suicide bomber or fighting a hydra representing Western sanctions. When Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, satirist Tom Lehrer remarked that political satire had become obsolete. If that moment killed it, then Putin, with his shirtless bear tranquillising antics, can definitely be accused of throwing some choice punches at its cadaver. But the organisers and artists of the exhibition may well have fully cremated it.


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