19.9 C
Byron Shire
May 28, 2023

Critical thinking the first casualty of war

Latest News


Don’t rely on any regime to save anything that’s endangered because their mates the miners and developers pay them...

Other News

Rainbow Dragons Abreast scoop international win

Seventeen members of Ballina-based Rainbow Dragons Abreast joined ‘Aussie Dragonfly’ teams= to race at the International Breast Cancer Paddlers...

Gov’t rental figure for first temporary housing village revealed

The Ballina Shire Council has finally revealed it received $100,000 in rent for the Wollongbar emergency housing village.


Don’t rely on any regime to save anything that’s endangered because their mates the miners and developers pay them...

Rail trail?

Byron Shire Council has sanctioned another report on the feasibility of reinstating a rail service between Bangalow and Yelgun,...

No Bones: a plant-based restaurant for a new future

No Bones is a vegan restaurant that opened five years ago in Byron Bay and has recently expanded to...

Cinema: Luku Ngärra: The Law of the Land 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8KTk2-4uNM   After two sold out screenings in Byron Bay, back in March, local filmmaker Sinem Saban is bringing her film Luku...

Prime minister Tony Abbott with members of Australia's armed forces. Photo Crikey
Prime minister Tony Abbott with members of Australia’s armed forces. Photo Crikey

Jeff Sparrow, editor of Overland

It’s a funny old war, this one — and the discussion of it is even stranger. As Australia joins the latest Western campaign in Iraq, where’s the debate about what’s supposed to happen?

Consider a few obvious questions.

On the weekend, a cabal of military experts told The Australian defeating the Islamic State would require a ‘substantial ground campaign’. Does Prime Minister Tony Abbott agree? Does Opposition Leader Bill Shorten? Is that what Australia is really signing up for?

Meanwhile, Australian scribe Greg Sheridan thinks the ‘long campaign ahead’ might involve combat in Syria. Is this true? If so, which side of the Syrian civil war does Australia back?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says US President Barack Obama is already co-ordinating attacks with Syria (something Obama denies). More importantly, the non-IS rebel groups in Syria — the people the White House ostensibly backs — widely oppose the American air strikes.

The Atlantic says the Americans are ‘backing away from the goal of toppling Assad’, who is, of course, probably the worst dictator in the region. What’s the Australian attitude?

What about the Kurds? Where does Australia stand there? Bernard Keane has already noted that Australian-supplied weapons may be ending up with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is, um, a designated terrorist group. What’s Australian policy if, as many commentators expect, the Kurdish groups strengthened by the intervention declare their independence?

Let’s note that Turkey has just joined the anti-IS coalition — but, as Newsweek notes, its ‘reason for joining the war may be as much to suppress Kurdish separatists as to destroy ISIS’.

What’s Abbott’s position?

What about within Iraq? We have already seen the militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrating against the US returning to Iraq. Al-Sadr opposes IS, but his backers, including one of Iraq’s Deputy Prime Ministers Bahaa al-Araji, see the Americans as a bigger enemy — indeed, they call IS an American creation. How will Australia relate to this hostility from one of the most powerful groupings in the country?

On a related note, what’s the Abbott attitude to Iran, far and away the biggest winner from America’s Iraq policy since 2003? The White House seems to be allying with the Islamic state in Tehran against IS in Iraq and Syria. Is this Australian policy, too?

Most fundamentally, what happens if and when IS is pushed back? No doubt airstrikes can, as advertised, degrade the military capabilities of the Islamic State … and then what? Given the fundamentally antagonistic forces being set into motion, how does the mission end?

It’s not merely that Australians aren’t being given the answers. It’s also that no one much seems to be asking the questions. On the contrary, pundits — particularly liberal pundits — seem endlessly preoccupied with empty symbolism.

Think about the string of op-eds proposing different terms to call the Islamic State, as if that makes the slightest difference to anything. Or the way that there’s been far more discussion about the UAE’s female fighter pilot (‘Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri may be ISIS’ worst nightmare’) than, say, debates on the Kurdish question. In 2010, the Australian Federal Police conducted anti-terror raids raids against Kurdish organisations across Australia on the basis that they supported the banned PKK, a group that Newsweek now calls an ‘important asset in the allied fight against ISIS’.

Is the fundamental incoherence of all this not of some significance, as we send young men and women out to kill and be killed?

Of course, symbolic rejections of the Islamic State’s barbarism make us feel good about ourselves, while arguing through the consequences of the strange alliances now taking shape has the opposite effect.

This article was first published in Crikey

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. how would you know with this current government what the truth is.. they are truly Orwellian with it and seem obsessed with cutting the wages and conditions of ordinary people,some of whom must have voted for them.and who should have a chronic case of buyers remorse.. they are truly horrible..


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Posturing politicians

While Greens in the Senate endure the irony of being pilloried by the government for speaking passionately about social justice and housing, Patricia Warren’s...

National Reconciliation Week starts tomorrow

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

Thank you from the top of our heads to the bottom of our well-dressed feet

Saturday's annual Bell & Ford vintage clothes garage sale fundraiser for the SHIFT Project was an incredible success with $36,500 being raised at the Byron Surf Club – this year’s effort was up about $7,500 on the last event.

Labor Government committed to the demerger of Murwillumbah Education Campus

The significant issue of a merger of several Murwillumbah schools has been ongoing since 2020 when the then State Government announced via Sarah Mitchell MP that four public schools would be amalgamated into a single Kindergarten to Year 12 campus at Murwillumbah High.