Today’s Current Affairs Wrap on potential outcome for the 12,000 Syrian refugees, the trouble in Yemen and Donald Trump’s latest ally.
This week, Tone officially confirmed the commencement of bombing missions in Syria. Bowing to public pressure inspired by the Aylan Kurdi photographs, he also announced that Australia would accept a special allocation of 12,000 Syrian refugees. Though better than nothing, I’m not feeling as “impressed” as Pete Dutton said I would. (Though I guess it should be no surprise Banal Pete is easily excited.)
Firstly, a number of Liberal politicians have signalled that Christians should be prioritised, with Eric Abetz even plopping out a line about Christianity being the “most persecuted religion in the world”. While the Pew Institute discovered between the years of 2006-2012 Christians suffered harassment in the largest number of countries, this was mainly down to it being the world’s largest religion, rather than the disproportionate harassment that the comment implies.
Such talk further alienated sections of the Islamic community and I can’t really blame them. The Government once again seems to be extending a wattle branch (perhaps because olives are “a bit woggy”) to sections of the electorate that shudder with rage at the prospect of more “Moslems” being welcomed to the country.
Not only that, but it seems to ignore basic facts about IS. Anyone who they deem outside their rigid, elitist ideology is considered a fair target, including many Muslims and other non-Christians. It may have been part of another overblown attempt to terrify Australia into thinking IS are on their doorstep, but Tone seemed to acknowledge as much a few months back when he said that IS is “coming if it can for every person and every government with a simple message: submit or die”.
Yes, Syrian Christians face persecution and may never be able to return home. But as Tone’s words clearly imply, they’re far from the only ones in that position.
Another point of contention is the numerous asylum seekers of Syrian and other nationalities, escaping similar situations, imprisoned and tortured due to their preference for sea craft and refusal to wait around indefinitely for a queue which intermittently phases in and out of existence. Tone didn’t see any similarities when questioned, suggesting there was a “world of difference”, and saying, “We will never ever do anything that encourages the evil trade of people smuggling and all of those who have come to Australia by boat are here as a result of people smuggling“.
I’d suggest engaging in ill-conceived airstrikes, while crossing your fingers that the Middle East doesn’t descend into a full-blown sectarian war, is only going to increase further displacement of people. Sure, some of those people will wait patiently in underfunded, overcrowded camps, hoping that the queue miraculously opens up for them. Others will look at Australia’s small annual humanitarian intake, Europe bickering over whose responsibility it is or the 117-year-long UNHCR resettlement “queue” and probably come to the conclusion: “I’ll take my chances”.
You can say it’s a choice that they’ve made and that they are responsible for, but not only is it a choice between two terrible options, it’s one necessitated by the actions of institutions completely outside of these vulnerable people’s control.
With these factors in mind, the special intake seems to be a matter of political expediency rather than a reset of immigration discourse. In fact, at the risk of sounding like an Alex Jones fan blathering on about FEMA death camps, the smirking insouciance with which Tone, Pete and Scott Morrison were caught discussing Pacific Island’s climate plight tickles an inkling I’ve had for a while: that not only will the current policies act as the basis for our response to the seemingly inevitable influx of environmental refugees, but that it may actually be a conscious long-term plan. My guns and I are off to the forest to think paranoid thoughts about the Government…
Back on to military action in the Middle East, as Russia was criticised for their military aid to Bashar al-Assad amid fears they may already be providing active combat support, the Russian Ambassador to Australia, Vladimir Morozov, questioned Australia’s extension of air strikes, saying, “Working with Syrian Government and reasonable opposition forces together with a military operation against ISIS terrorists based on broad international consensus is the best option“. Now, even if we ignore very reasonable counter assertions that the Assad Government’s bombing campaign is fuelling extremism, Russia’s increasing involvement makes me very nervous.
Adding to that nervousness are the situations in Turkey and Yemen. In their response to PKK attacks which left around 30 members of Turkish security forces dead, Turkey has been accused of targeting Kurdish civilians with sniper fire. While in Istanbul, nationalists attacked the headquarters of Pro-Kurd party, the HDP. Though the HDP does maintain some links with the PKK, as illustrated by its part in negotiating a now-abandoned peace treaty between Turkey and the PPK, it is a separate entity which rejects the PKK’s use of violence. So there you go people, another sectarian conflict to add to a steaming pot which looks like it could boil over any minute. Great.
In weeks in Yemen’s sectarian violence, Saudi Arabian bombers (which have killed 400 children and injured over 600) accidentally killed 20 people attending a wake. Now, we may currently hear less about Yemen than other regional conflicts, but claims made a month ago by the President of the International Red Cross, Peter Maurer, that “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years“, indicate that we may be talking about it a lot more soon.
Now, I know the conventional wisdom about Australian political discourse suggests one should react “reasonably”, no matter how unreasonable the situation, but in this instance the Government and Labor are taking the piss. Personally, I find the claims that the way to increase stability in the Middle East is to enthusiastically expand a military campaign with no concrete strategy or end in sight, while maintaining alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent Turkey, pretty fucking insulting. It seems to illustrate either politician’s stupidity or the low esteem in which they hold our intellect.
In the words of American Psycho, Donald Trump (who this week indicated his belief in the former), “We are led by very, very stupid people“.
I’m not really sure that someone who counts Sarah Palin amongst his supporters should be throwing around the word stupid. Palin continued to express that support this week, calling for DT, if elected, to appoint Palin to the US Energy Department so she can gut it.
She also defended Don’s divisive xenophobic rhetoric, suggesting immigrants should be able to speak “American”. Does that mean under a Trump administration I could potentially be deported for saying “arse” instead of “ass”? Either way, if DT gains the Republican nomination, let alone the Presidency, that forest-based seclusion plan of mine seems concrete.
Moving on now to Germany, where a homeopathic conference lost the plot entirely, after a number of participants were spiked with drug 2C-E (which I can personally assure readers is a very potent psychedelic). While spiking anyone with any drugs (particularly ones which some describe as “temperamental”) is a low, despicable act, some may say the same about selling diluted fragments of the bullets that killed JFK to some poor bastard with an inoperable brain tumour. Not that I’m trying to excuse their spiking, I just can’t help but find some dark humour in people at a homeopathy conference taking something which actually works for once.
Now, I might have spent much of my time in recent years ridiculing alarmist attitudes about the Islamic community, but this week something happened which challenged my beliefs to the very core. At a Senate committee hearing, Bill Heffernan told public servants that he thought were being less than honest with him, “We don’t play games with that, we cut people’s heads off and we don’t care who they are”. There you go people. Creeping sharia! It starts out with Halal Vegemite; next thing you know, parliamentarians are threatening to nonchalantly cut people’s heads off! (Beheading, as we all know, was invented by Salafi Jihadists in the ’80s.)
I’ll see you all back here next week.