Australia’s anti-terror laws, ten years old this year, were spawned out of a political atmosphere that was emotionally charged after the horror of 9/11. The consequence of this has been to criminalise thought and speech.
It has been to ensure that guilt by association becomes a useful tool for security agencies and police forces. Politicians and police force chiefs, desperately wanting to sound tough on terror, use any arrests made under these laws to make exaggerated claims about the circumstances of the arrests and to undermine the presumption of innocence.
The laws’ existence is justified even today on the grounds that a terrorist threat casts a pall over Australia and therefore we need to use the criminal process to trample on ancient rights.
(Greg Barns features in the documentary, The Trial, broadcast tonight at 9.30pm on SBS ONE.)
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On this sad anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in post-war history I am reminded of the prophetic words spoken by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation in 1961: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist”.
Eisenhower was the supreme commander in western Europe who had led America to victory against one of the most evil regimes in history, a man who had witnessed the depths of human depravity, and wanted finally to warn us that the war machine which had been created to defend freedom in WWII could equally be used for the opposite purpose, and that it was up to the American people to guard against this possibility.
Eisenhower coined the phrase “military industrial complex” which became the catch-cry of the anti-war movement of the 1960s, describing an economic and political fusion of power involving armaments manufacturers, construction companies, banks, democratic governments and puppet dictatorships.
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I don’t care what you believe, what awful things you’ve seen to make you hate - if you think an aeroplane ploughing into a skyscraper full of civilians is a good thing there is something seriously wrong with you.
So what was wrong with Osama bin Laden?
Like Muhammad Atta, the pilot of the second plane to strike the World Trade Centre, bin Laden was an educated man from a privileged background.
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American special forces not only assassinated Osama bin Laden in their precision strike on Abbottabad. They also shot holes in Pakistan’s status as a credible and trustworthy ally in the fight against terrorism.
With the now-famous words “Geronimo EKIA”, the USA’s elite SEAL Team Six gave President Barack Obama the solution to a problem that had dogged the world’s major military power for close to a decade.
However, the success of the clandestine raid also handed Obama a new dilemma which may remain with the United States for an equally long period – the question of whether it can trust Pakistan as an ally in the fight against terrorism.
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Osama bin Laden isn’t dead. For all we know he’s lying low in Vegas, possibly with Elvis, or living at Ronald Biggs’ old place in Rio.
Even if they produced images of bin Laden’s body, there is every chance the photographs could have been doctored.
And even if they produced the body itself, there’s no way of being 100 per cent sure that it’s actually his corpse anyway.
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The death of Osama Bin Laden will make no difference to global terrorism inspired by Islamic fundamentalism, and it will have scant impact on the war in Afghanistan.
But the way that the US killed Osama Bin Laden needs recognition; it was the sort of precise, human intelligence-driven operation that must be employed ruthlessly in Afghanistan to capture or kill insurgent leaders as we enter another fighting season.
Al-Qaida has not been about Osama bin Laden for quite some time and the Taliban in Afghanistan have not received support from al-Qaida or Osama Bin Laden since the end of initial operations in 2001. The global Islamic terrorist movement is now a leaderless jihad and is more likely to come from a young IT whiz-kid in his bedroom in one of our leafy suburbs than from an old man hiding in the mountains of the AfPak border.
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Welcome to Wednesday at The Punch.
Today in 2005 three explosions on the Underground left 35 people dead. Al-Qaeda later issued a videotaped statement claiming responsibility.
But over to you: what’s on your mind today? Comments here are for whatever’s on your mind. Punch on.
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