Last night, Oliver Bridgeman spoke out against the charges levelled at him by the AFP, but his conviction could lead to vast ironic blowback.
We were updated on the Oliver Bridgeman situation yesterday; by the man himself, speaking both to OnePath Network, and with his parents on 60 Minutes. Both interviews said the same thing; Oliver Bridgeman is innocent, and the cancellation of his passport is spurious – or in the words of Mr Bridgeman, “a joke.”
But what makes this situation puzzling, (and Mr Bridgeman crying afoul of governmental double standards,) is the precedent set by Ashley Dyball, the Queensland man who returned to our shores last year after joining Kurdish forces to fight IS. The main thing that seemingly separates Bridgeman from Dyball is a gun in his hand.
The Dyball’s called for amnesty, claiming that Ashley was actively fighting, in the better interest of the nation, against an antagonistic force. And that’s fine. All I’m saying is that there was evidence to support the fact that he was fighting, and he made no secret of it. Mr Dyball was released without charge. Oliver Bridgeman faces life in prison, defending charges of “potentially participating in political violence.”
Perhaps the issue is not who Mr Bridgeman is fighting, but more of who he’s not. Whereas Ashley Dyball fought IS, perhaps the fact Mr Bridgeman hasn’t planted the flag may have placed him under suspicion. Are the AFP just applying the Dubya logic of “If he’s not fighting IS, then he must be IS”? Is Oliver Bridgeman guilty by association?
Expanding on that logic, perhaps the AFP’s thought process is based around these questions: What is an Australian doing in a place crushed under the boot of raging civil war? Why give up the abject safety of the suburbs for a war zone, if the move isn’t politically motivated? If not politically motivated, then, why Syria? If these questions are correct, then the pertinent issue is this: if the Australian Government now suspects the humanitarian impulses, the gold of our national psyche, which Oliver Bridgeman claims lead him to Syria – to help people – and if the Australian Government treats those who are neutral as enemies, then we are truly lost.
If Oliver Bridgeman is convicted, and the maximum penalty is enacted, he then becomes an object. A PR goldmine, no doubt. But know this: that mine has two entries. For, while the Government may use Bridgeman as an instructive example of both the fruits of crookedness, and the legislative lengths they will traipse to convict…the other side may see Bridgeman as a trite sentence to sum up the injustices of the Western system, and in turn, powered by their own colossal PR machine, will only seek to create more of the citizens the AFP fear Bridgeman is.