Remembering the Lessons from 9/11

I am fan of of Rob Burgess of Business Spectator.  I particularly liked what he had to say about the IS beheading and our reaction to it.

Burgess starts by reminding us how we reacted to 9/11:

Whichever account of Bush’s actions one accepts, history now tells us that the US response to the Al Qaeda threat was exactly what terrorists would want.

Anyone old enough to remember the shock of those attacks will understand why the US was driven to define Al Qaeda as tantamount to a rogue state that could be tackled by a conventional war.

Not lunatics. Not criminals. But warriors who wanted a war … and the West was damned if it wasn’t going to oblige.

It was the wrong choice. We were damned because we did oblige, and the power vacuum in Iraq, and the massing of extremist forces in Syria, are some of the ghastly results.

In our ignorance, Australia also fell into the mistake of demonising Islam as a whole instead of the Islamic extremists who were behind 9/11.  In Australia 9/11 was used as an excuse by some to burn at least one mosque, throw stones at least one busload of students going to an Islamic school and rant and rave about hijabs.  Then there were the comments from some radio jocks as well as some of our politicians.

There are two dangers here.  The first is that we will be so busy trying to avoid “the mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq” that we will fail to see the differences between what is happening now and what happened then.  (For example IS seems to be the foreign invaders this time around while the Kurds are the natives.)

The second is that we will simply mindlessly repeat the mistakes.  In Australia Abbott is already rabbiting on about how this (beheading) could happen in Australia despite al the anti terrorist laws we have in Australia.  His comments about “team Australia” aren’t really helping unite Australia and its communities.

Burgess had this to say:

We now seem to be again on the brink of allowing a force of between 10,000 and 17,000 extremists to define a conflict – with themselves as glorious warriors, rather than lunatics and criminals.

The brutal video of the beheading of James Foley is a symbolic missile fired into the heart of the liberal democracies that the IS fanatics so despise.

Their greatest joy is watching the missile explode and rip holes in our democratic political culture, when we could so easily choose to defuse its destructive force.


Civilised, democratic debate is the precious core of our society — and that makes it a target for the symbolic missiles sent by groups such as the Islamic State.

To the extent they rouse us to anger, and provoke ill-considered responses, as happened with 9/11, the missile can be said to have ‘exploded’. Let’s not let that happen again.

So what should we do this time round?

Saturday salon 23/8


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

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The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

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For some reason three of the Saturday salons I preset to appear while I was away didn’t show up.

As mentioned elsewhere I didn’t hear much news apart from Hockey’s foot-in-mouth contribution. Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention since I got back.

1. Abbott reacts as per script

From The Brisbane Times

Horrific acts of terrorism such as the “truly sickening and utterly evil” beheading of journalist James Foley could happen in Western countries including Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said.

Bernard Keane at Crikey:

Yes, Prime Minister, that’s exactly why IS chose an executioner with a British accent, to induce hysteria from people like you.

From Facebook:


I think Abbott is hoping for a war or something to boost his electoral stocks.

2. The real deal on Islamic State

Michael Ware, interviewed by Richard Fidler, gives perhaps the best exposition I’ve heard on the origins and nature of Islamic State. He’s also good on other jihadist groups and Islamic political movements elsewhere. He says IS are very media savvy and know exactly what effect on-camera executions will have. IS is by far the most extreme and vicious we have yet seen.

Ware’s forthcoming documentary Only the Dead to be released in 2015 shapes as essential viewing.

3. Rundle on the coming East-West conflict

Rundle reckons that Clive Palmer and Jacqui Lambie are uttering what many ordinary citizens believe when warning about invasions by China or Indonesia. Indeed he reckons that East-West conflict leading to a multi-polar world and a form of reverse colonisation is pretty much inevitable some time this century.

I think Rundle overcooks it somewhat but there is a perception that we are slack and lazy and have vast unoccupied space. There is every reason why we should be alert, but the move is more likely to be commercial in character. China, for example, would love to use their own labour to extract our minerals.

This photo of Abbott and the Japanese PM is priceless:


4. Poll Bludger: Sunshine State could deal Abbott govt a body blow

William Bowe explains that support for the LNP is on the slide federally in Queensland to an extent that could see Shorten in the Lodge. There are as many winnable seats for Labor in Qld as there are in NSW with its larger population. In fact in Qld the ‘sophomore effect’ only applies to two seats. This effect, worth about 1.5%, applies when you have a first-timer in the seat. Only two Qld seats fell in 2013, whereas a stack fell in 2010.