Monday, May 21, 2012

Winding up in a war with no winners

Alan Howe

From: Herald Sun

May 21, 2012 12:00AM

ISLAM'S had a bad week, unless its adherents abide by the maxim that any news is good news.

First off, the world's biggest Islamic nation, and one that likes to fashion itself as moderate, banned a performance by Lady Gaga, the singer apparently posing a threat to morality.

Good thing Indonesian television didn't broadcast those corrupting black-and-white films of Elvis Presley in the 1950s; the game would have been up for Jakarta's youth decades ago.

But the Lady Gaga ban is not a decision we should take lightly. It is a significant victory for the threatening extremists who appear to be gaining numbers and influential momentum in our nearest neighbour.

They'd promised to stop Gaga at the airport, and disrupt - almost certainly with violence - her planned concert, enlisting up to 30,000 Islamists to do so.

Rather than stand up to the cavemen, Indonesian authorities caved in, like they had the previous week when hard-line Muslims attacked the liberal author Irshad Manji and her audience, smashing computers and destroying her books, but just missing their target.

An Iranian singer living in Germany, Shahin Najafi, has released on YouTube a song about an obscure Shi'ite imam. You probably can't wait to see it; Iranian clerics can't wait to see Najafi who they've accused of blasphemy, which often means a death sentence.

Closer to home, the federal member for Calwell, Maria Vamvakinou, said last week she was concerned that parts of her northern suburbs electorate - home to many Australian Muslims - were obviously under surveillance.

Nicola Roxon's Attorney-General's Department agreed some areas had been identified as possibly being nurseries for home-grown terrorists.

Perhaps it was coincidental that Sunbury police had taken part in an anti-terrorism operation - Exercise Hades - at Melbourne airport a few days earlier.

Ms Roxon wrote in that same day's The Australian about the ongoing threat of terror bombings, pointing to the CIA's success the week before in thwarting another Islamist plot to blow up, in-flight, a US-bound airliner.

And while she urged us not to panic, Ms Roxon called for "constant vigilance". "To date. 38 people have been prosecuted as a result of counter-terrorism operations in Australia," she said. But since the Bali bombings, the deadliest Islamist threat to Australians have been Afghans.

And they are on the agenda at tonight's NATO and International Security Assistance Force leaders' summit in Chicago, being attended by Julia Gillard, which will map out the future foreign involvement in Afghanistan after most international troops leave by 2014. It's so vital even Pakistan has taken up an invitation to attend.

Our willingness to stay in any capacity is an onerous decision - 32 young Australians have lost their lives there so far, 11 last year alone.

Afghanistan is essentially a proxy battle between Islamism and the West fuelled by Iran and Pakistan and, as ever, factions of Muslim extremists who'd rather death than life, many more virgins being available to exploding "martyrs".

In 2001, we entered an Afghanistan mired in civil war and that's likely how we'll leave it. We went there to hurry up history, but it hasn't budged.

It was a worthy objective to remove the Taliban's murderously misogynist savages, but even though so many of their leadership have been surgically removed by drones and deadly night raids, sometimes into Pakistan, the Taliban still packs a punch powered by men who'd have been mere boys a decade ago.

The Taliban seeks deadly revenge on those seen to be working with the international forces and certainly on any "traitors" who have joined the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Even Karzai's brother became a victim, assassinated by a friend in Kandahar, a Taliban homeland.

Two months later, in September last year, a former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, at the time head of the High Peace Council, a group established by Karzai to seek peace with the Taliban, was killed by two men who said they were Taliban fighters come to seek peace. When he hugged one of them, explosives hidden in the man's turban were set off.

Arsala Rahmani, once a Taliban official, took over that job. He was shot dead in Kabul eight days ago.

What is to become of the thousands of former Taliban fighters persuaded to join the process of peace and reconciliation?

Will they be the first targets of a revived Taliban when we go home?
In any case, we know there are deadly rats in those ranks.

And do we really want the cream of Australian youth standing between killers driven by absurd tribal frictions that date back centuries?

Ms Gillard will need to fully explain the decisions she makes tonight.

Alan Howe is Herald Sun executive editor

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