No escape from the terrorist war

Canberra Times, 23 March 2004

Running and hiding, while an appealing option, is not possible, argues Des Moore

The Madrid massacre is a reminder that events in Australia’s far abroad are often more momentous for us than what happens in our near abroad, possessively and misleadingly labelled by many "our region".

For Madrid is just the latest front in a global Islamist war, a war in which Australia, like almost everybody else - including many Muslims and their countries - is willy-nilly submerged without escape hatch.

No escape hatch because the Islamists make us their enemy for what we are, not (except for our anti-terrorist actions) what we do; and so are utterly unlike nationalist terrorists.

Islamists want everybody in the world to convert to Islam - indeed, to a particular and restrictive form of Islam - and every country to become an Islamic theocracy.

Those aims are clearly unachievable; but the Islamists are happy to die trying - and to kill endlessly.

Neither are those aims negotiable, unlike a united Ireland or disunited Spain, for example. Indeed, as one of the Islamists who inspired al-Qaeda said, "We are not trying to negotiate with you; we are trying to destroy you".

And as the al-Qaeda message claiming responsibility for Madrid ended, "... and there will be more, God willing. You love life and we love death; the blood will go on and on".

Madrid also presciently illumined the truth of Tony Blair’s assertions a week before: "the nature of the global threat we face in Britain and around the world is real and existential. The task of leadership is to expose it and fight it, whatever the political cost".

That political cost can be high: witness the Spanish government’s defeat, almost certainly because the voters blamed the government (which supported the war in Iraq and still has troops there) for making Spain a target.

Many in Australia, led by the weak in mind and heart, could come to think and act likewise should Melbourne in coming months go the way of Madrid.

That reaction would be disastrous for Australia and for the wider fight against terrorism. For it would confirm for Islamists what Spain has now half proved: the efficacy of terror in changing others’ political behaviour.

Islamists, as they admit, are uninterested in negotiations. But they are interested in using terror to intimidate voters - and through them parties and finally governments - into terrorism-accommodating behaviour.

An immediate Islamist aim is to intimidate voters at election time into choosing the party least willing to take stringent anti-terrorism measures at home and wholly unwilling to go to war abroad against terrorism’s perpetrators and backers and suppliers.

Likewise, the Islamist aim between elections is to intimidate public, parties, and governments into quietude, into thinking that by lying low their country will escape being made a target for Islamist first-strike or revenge attacks.

But we will not be saved by allowing ourselves to be misled by those who advocate retreat into a man-hole, pulling the cover over our heads.

For while the Islamists might leave us alone for a time, they will soon enough get around to us - all the sooner the more countries around the world are intimidated into leaving the terrorists free to get on with it.

Australia seems already half-way down the man-hole. For the ALP and its open and covert supporters are now saying that Madrid proved the Government was wrong to send troops to Iraq as that simply made us a special al-Qaeda target. But the al-Qaeda message claiming responsibility for Madrid said it was "a response to crimes you have committed in the world, specifically Iraq and Afghanistan" (emphasis supplied). And al-Qaeda earlier threatened Australia by name for our action in East Timor.

So we were already a special al-Qaeda target pre-Iraq. Do the ALP and its supporters now contradict their old selves and say we wrong to send troops to Afghanistan? Both Iraq and Afghanistan probably did increase the threat to us. But the reality is that Australia cannot escape being involved in what is a world war against Islamists. And as Britain’s Labour Party PM has said, "We should never be afraid to be at the front of this new war".

Moreover, Australia has never been a nation of free-loaders; we have demonstrated repeatedly, to our entire advantage, our belief in self-defence, self-help, and burden-sharing.

To abandon under Islamist intimidation that long tradition, which is both moral and self-interested, would be to turn Australia into a nation of caitiffs, both cowardly and contemptible.

Those Australians who urge that on us should hearken to long-ago Cato: May some chosen Curse, some hidden Thunder from the Shores of Heaven, red with uncommon Wrath, blast the Men that use their Influence to their Country’s Ruin.