March 18, 2004 | Peter

The Terrorists Are Winning

John Howard’s announcement of an extra $400 million for the Oz intelligence services is another sign that the tiny international terrorist movement is winning its war with western civilisation. That is $400 million that won’t be going to fix the crisis in hospitals or to improve our declining school system or to deal with salinity.
And it is going to a set of organisations which do not have a strong record of success. Indeed, in perhaps the most important decision made by the Oz government in decades – to go to war in Iraq – they were completely sidelined. As the government has admitted, it was on US and British intelligence that Oz went to war.
Terrorism is greatly affecting the long-term development of global relations. It has been a major factor in turning the most powerful nation on earth into a much more militaristic power (although its rise has coincided with the most imperialist administration in decades). Spending on the military in the US has now returned to the levels of the Cold War years, with the US moving into new and dangerous territory, such as development of new nuclear weapons and the militarisation of space.
The old Cold War foe is also turning towards authoritarianism again, President Putin using the threat of terrorism to keep criticism of his growing power under control. Terrorist acts in Russia are more likely to be by Chechnyans, but Putin like the Chinese just lumps all violence against the state into the terrorist category and thus stands firm with the US position. This is an untenable and fundamentally dishonest alliance.
The US, Australia and other countries previously proud of their liberal tradition are becoming more and more like authoritarian states in order to suppress terrorism. Protection of personal rights by law is under threat, and the US has flouted the most basic legal rights in setting up its concentration camp in Cuba (as even David Hicks’ US Marine lawyer has pointed out).
Easy travel and communications, the essentials of globalisation, are being fettered by constant checks and surveillance. Whatever its problems, it is globalisation that has fuelled the latest phase of wealth creation in the west and allowed our extravagant lifestyle to continue. The war on terrorism acts as a massive tax on the whole western world.
The constant expectation of violence, made all too immediate by the mass media, makes us all jumpy and depressed. To point out that violence is always happening due to natural disasters and accidents does not help because we feel like targets, like victims.
If this continues for much longer, the terrorists will have disrupted western civilisation more than even they could have dreamed. It is perhaps time we turned to more systematic analysis of the problem to isolate the actual fanatics from their financial and ideological support. In particular, it is time we really asked WHY these terrorists are behaving like they are. Bin Laden and the other leaders might be the usual megalomaniacs, but for young men and women to give up their very lives speaks so readily of a hostility and despair that must be understood.

Posted by Peter at 12:40 pm | Comments Off on The Terrorists Are Winning |
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