Michael Burrill’s final Current Affairs Wrap highlights the US’ amnesia in the middle east, the UN study of migrants and the call for tighter gun control.


In the lead up to the commencement of Russian bombing missions this week, Vlad Putin and Baz Obama outlined their individual interpretations of the situation in Syria at the UN General Assembly. Vlad reiterated his support for the Assad regime, saying “We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.” (Of course, conveniently overlooking the terror inflicted by those very same institutions in the process.) But I guess when the West has gradually built up the narrative around IS’ apparently unprecedented terror, winding down the level of their opposition to Assad in comparison, it’s been made pretty easy for Vlad to do so.

Continuing that slide, Baz backed away from previous assertions that Assad leaving power had to be a prerequisite for any political solution in Syria, signalling a willingness to work with Russia and Assad’s other main ally, Iran, in order to bring about a “managed transition” of power. Despite this, he still labelled Assad a “tyrant” and railed against “might makes right” thinking.

And here I was thinking supporting tyrants and engaging in might is right tactics was the American way.

Look at the conflict which birthed IS: going into Iraq gung-ho to topple a tyrant which the West once supported, then carrying out an utterly clueless occupation which plunged the country into chaos. Or to the Western intervention in Libya: engaging in bombing missions, because that’s the mighty and right thing to do, before slinking off and leaving the country to turn into a whistling pressure cooker bomb of extremism and people smuggling. Look at the West’s action on Syria so far: rejecting the “managed transition” offered by Russia in 2012, utterly convinced the side they supported would win, before scrambling to engage in ineffectual bombing missions and rebel training programs. Look at the Taliban’s current resurgence in Kunduz. Not only were they not wiped out by Western military intervention, but we should also remember they emerged from the US-funded Afghan mujahideen in the first place.

All perfect examples of myopic usage of might arrogantly justified with dishonest notions of right.

The West may now be talking about working with Russia, but with Russian airstrikes seemingly targeting every rebel group but IS, (and one academic specialising in the Middle East, Bob Bowker, labelling the idea that Putin will remove Assad from power as “a polite fiction,”) they’re essentially impotent observers. It’s like an absent father with a gambling problem, telling their already traumatised child that they’re back to make things better, all the while gambling away the kid’s university fund, hoping hopelessly for that glorious win which probably isn’t coming…

Sticking with traumatised children, the Australian Government has come under fire after the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, cancelled a trip to investigate detention centres, complaining that secrecy provisions in the Border Force Act “discourage people from fully disclosing information relevant to my mandate.”

In response, George “The Brain” Brandis rubbished any suggestions we weren’t living up to our human rights obligations, saying “We are in very regular dialogue with relevant UN agencies who do a periodic audit of compliance by all the member states with human rights obligations and we have undertaken that exercise in my department quite recently.” Yeah, legislating the ability to prosecute people that reveal inconvenient information definitely screams “nothing to see here.”

For the Opposition’s response, Tanya Plibersek attacked the Government, saying “Of course Australia should give the special rapporteur an assurance that no one speaking to the special rapporteur would be subject to prosecution.” Yeah, and maybe Labor could have considered not helping pass the legislation in the first place. One has to question whether we’d even be hearing about the alleged rape of two refugees on Nauru if they had occurred inside the detention centre.

To add an extra twinkle of farce to the proceedings, the Government has signalled an intention to campaign for a seat on the UN human rights council for 2018-20. For those concerned the inconsistent attitude towards human rights may weaken that bid, the current chair of the council is Saudi Arabia…

In what should be sobering findings for those who throw under terms like “country shopper,” the University of Birmingham and Doctors of the World found conditions in a French refugee camp, known as the Jungle, to be “far below any minimum standards for refugee camps.” Piped water was found to contain levels of E Coli and Coliform bacteria “indicative of faecal contamination.” This isn’t some emergency camp set up on the margins of a war-ravaged rubble factory, this is in one of the richest countries in the world. Yet some would still have us believe that anyone who chooses not to wait in a orderly manner for either the mythical “queue” to get moving, or to shit out their innards due to grossly inadequate facilities, is a selfish, devious, economic migrant…

Continuing on a somewhat similar theme, in what should be equally sobering for those who shrug off societal responsibility for the issues suffered by the indigenous community, researchers from the ANU have found that “The experience of racism directly predicts lower test scores…and the child’s own self-perception,” and that the “experience of racism is important and it’s one of the reasons why Indigenous kids are doing worse than non-Indigenous kids.” There you go, next time you hear someone say, “What happened was horrible, but it’s in the past. We’re doing all we can to help them, the problem is they don’t want to help themselves,” you should calmly tell them that research shows the problem is…well…them.

Now onto shootings. In the US, some unhinged individual, allowed to legally build up a sizeable gun collection, shot and killed a bunch of people. In response, the country argued other whether it showed the need for more gun control, or more guns. Feel free to fill in the specifics yourself and use this template for the next time (and the time after that). I apologise if I haven’t provided you with my usual level of detail, or if you don’t think I’m treating the situation with the gravity it deserves, but this shit has gotten so far out of hand, discussing it further almost seems trite…

In a far more shocking shooting, a 15-year-old shot dead a police employee before being shot dead himself on our own doorstep. Although authorities have been vague on the details, and seem to be still be investigating, they have happily described the incident as “terrorism.” They decided to back this up by also releasing the shooter’s Middle Eastern background, seemingly implying that it proves he must have been a terrorist. It is unclear what role, if any, violent video games (or evil of all evils, alternative music) played in the tragic kid’s (whatever you think about his actions or supposed politics, he was 15 years old) radicalisation.

Well that’s it for this week and for my work at TBS. I’d like thank Alexandra Tselios, Mathew Mackie and ex-Editor Paul Bugeja for everything and wish the TBS team all the best going forward. Most of all, I want to thank everyone that read and/or responded (whether with love or hate) to my work. It’s been real, people. Though my site is currently a skeleton, those still interested in my weekly allergic reaction to news and politics should tune in through the internet, or the astral plane, to www.parkbench.in at the same time next week. Those allergic reactions will also soon be joined by other articles (by both me and a far more pragmatic friend), and hopefully soon, a podcast.

Onwards to career suicide! Hopefully, I’ll see some of you there.


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