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Responses to Bali « Previous | |Next »
October 14, 2003

I agree with Scott Burchill's descriptions of the two different responses to the Kuta Beach atrocity in Bali within Australian political circles.

First, we have the conservative 'clash of civilizations' response I have previously noted. Scott describes the conservative interpretation as arguing:

....'that cultural hatred is the only legitimate explanation for the current wave of Islamic militancy. Prime Minister Howard has repeatedly stressed that Australians are targeted by extremists "because of who we are, not because of what we have done. We are a western country and what these terrorists hate is western civilisation". According to this argument, no rational account of the behaviour of terrorists can be found and no dialogue with individuals willing to commit such heinous acts is possible.'

This rejects the view that there are reasons or social conditions for why terrorists act in the way that they do. Scott decribes it as follows:

.... 'Attempts to identify the sources of grievance which drive people to commit these crimes are, according to Mr Howard, "convoluted argument[s] about the alleged dispossession or prolonged disputes in other parts of the world" and constitute "obscene rationalisations that the apologists for terrorists have engaged in"'.

The central solution is the military one. Take out the terrorists and the regimes that support them in the name of pre-emptive strike. Become warlike. Such a view then gives rise to Australia's image problem in Asia. Australia is now seen to be both aligned with the US (its deputy sherrif) and being anti-Islam or anti-Asia.

The other response to the Kuta Beach atrocity in Bali is to connect the Islamic hostiility to the West to Washington's support for Israel's brutal occupation of Palestine, and to the range of venal and repressive client regimes across the Arab world. Scott says that this response seeks

.... "to understand and explain why such an attack took place does not condone it or imply in any way that it was deserved. To excuse is to defend, to justify and exculpate. To explain is to examine and to understand. They are very different responses, though since 9/11 and Bali they have frequently been conflated."

This second response is muted in Australia. It is frequently dismissed as condoning terrorism, when it is more a questioning of the confrontation of civilization thesis. It is the conservative one that is hegemonic as it taps into the unconscious emotional structure of the old yellow peril that forms so much of Australia's political unconscious. That unconscious is now being expressed by Andrew Bolt

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:46 PM | | Comments (7)


Andrew Bolt IS unconscious!

I don't mind the proposition that Western support for Israel is aggrivating the terrorists.

I have a different view to Israel than you do - what you see as a 'brutal occupying' power, I see as a small, struggling democracy surrounded by enemies.

And I'm going to continue to advocate that Australia supports Israel, regardless of how many Bali's the terrorist sorts of the world unleash.

Some aspects of Israel's occupation are certainly troubling. But given their desparate situation, I'm prepared to accept that they are going to make mistakes. Friends do that.

I find it interesting that a Keating Labor govt (who supposedly engaged with Asia and sat on its hands over East Timor) found Mahatir to be a tad 'recalcitrant'. When the Howard Coalition govt. got engaged, it became a 'deputy sherriff'. I suppose one good thing about being a deputy- you have to know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Funny, Mahatir doesn't appear to have too much to say about some of his cultural, ASEAN brethren in places like Burma. At this point some people might be tempted to trot out the 'R' word. I know all Australians will join with me, in wishing him a long and quiet retirement.

I'm looking forward to ANZAC day next year for a real sense of nostalgia. We celebrate another brilliant tactical withdrawal from the ME, without any loss of life by Australian troops and I guess it's only fitting that we leave the field to the less imperialist, more culturally sensitive, muslim Turks. That should keep the Islamic Fundamentalists happy.


You write: "Israel is a small democracy surrounded by enemies." Hence it needs support from its friends.

This overlooks the existence of Israeli expanionism.That is where we differ. You are prepared to overlook their mistakes given their desperate situation.

Expansionism is not a mistake--such as killing civilians when targeting Hamas leaders. It is a deliberate strategic policy by the Israeli right that is supported and financed by the US.

Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad is right.

Australia is a transplant from another region: Europe, or rather Britian.

Historically is in Asia but it has not been of it.

It's Anglo-Saxon values, which are currrently being used to align Australia with the US, assumed to be superior to Asian values. If Indonesians question the tacit universalism they are dismissed as prejudiced.

Now these may be close to historical sterotypes of Australia.

Mentioning them is not to excuse or make an apology for some of the more offensive remarks Mahathir has made about Australia.

It is to suggest one reason why Australia has been closed out of the inner sanctums of the movement towards Asian regionalism.

Asian leaders have good reason to be sceptical about Australia.

Now consider what you wrote above. You go on about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism but you remain closed to the dangers of Christian fundamentalism.

So it is Islam not the fundamentalism that is the target of your anger and hostility.

Does that not feed straight into the Mahathir sterotype about Australia?


You can put my last para in square brackets. The deja-vu of us nicking off home from the ME and leaving the field to the Turks again appeals to my warped sense of humour.

As far as Mahatir goes, I'll give him more right to criticise my views in this country than he would give me in his and that's an absolute right of course. That old kettle can get all steamed up and call this pot black if he likes, but he risks being told he's full of hot air.

Ill wear his tag of supposedly sucking up to my close relations, providing he wears the same tag with his sucking up to his Burmese ones. A case of 'it's all about relatives' if he likes.

As far as religious fundamentalism goes, I don't have any favourites there and I'm glad my ancestors sorted christian fundamentalism out some time ago. As far as Islam goes, I'd have to proffer the observation that its adherents are not winning the public relations sell anywhere at the moment, if Bob Carr's reaction to a couple of peace loving Islamic families today, is anything to go by.

I guess your relatives you're stuck with, while your friends you are absolutely free to choose.

Indeed you are right to say that Israel is careless about the civillians that it kills when it targets Hamas leaders.

I have actually written about this before, expressing my misgivings about this.

As opposed to the great care that Hamas leaders go to ensure that they deliberatley kill civillians with their suicide bombers.