Tim Longhurst's Blog

The March to Iraq – MoJo tracks the spin

October 25th, 2006 · No Comments

liebylieIraq is such a mess these days. As the Bush administration appear to be trying to spin their way out of a quagmire, Mother Jones has published an interactive timeline of how they got there. The timeline highlights the ‘bad intelligence’, ‘misinformation’, ‘faulty intelligence’ and lies that made the Iraq invasion so hard to swallow. It’s a dense account, but a cursory click here or there is all you really need to be reminded that the ‘fog of war’ really stinks. more: lie by lie

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Category: Peace between people


August 3rd, 2006 · No Comments

israelIn the past few weeks, Israel has been pounding Lebanon in a series
of strikes aimed at achieving peace by killing hundreds of
innocent people. I’m no military strategist, but I would have thought that a great way to turn average Lebanese civlians into ‘terrorists who hate your country’ would be to kill women and children, and destroy roads and bridges.

One of the reasons that I built this site initially was so that I could
express my thoughts and feelings on events like those that have
unfolded in Lebanon, but on this occasion its taken me weeks to write
anything at all.

From an Australian perspective, it has been incredibly frustrating to watch my local media “focus on the local angle” and lose sight of the fact that bullets and shrapnel hurt just as much whether you hold an Australian passport or don’t. The basic angle has been, “Can we get the Aussies out of this warzone?” or “Is the government doing enough to rescue the Aussies” – what about the 3.8 million Lebanese? What’s the deal? As long as people who know Advance Australia Fair don’t die, every thing’s going to be okay? The bigger story should have been, “Is the International Community doing enough to make sure Israel stops bombing?”.

On my 2002 trip to the USA, I was traveling through the Capital area. I
was on the commuter train from Maryland to Washington DC, and there
were a few ladies on the train dressed in blue and white. I asked them
about their ‘team colours’, and they explained they were going to a
Pro-Israel rally. I knew next to nothing about the Middle East at the
time, so I listened as the women explained that the newly waged “War on
Terror” was all about from a Pro-Israel perspective. The women
encouraged me to join them on the Capital. I went along, as attending a
protest on Capital hill seemed a little more of an adventure than
checking out the Smithsonian with the tourists.

The protest I had stumbled into turned out to be the world’s largest-ever Pro Israel rally – 100,000 are said to have been present.

The mood was generally jubilant, and my presence at the event was
enough to make me everyone’s friend. There was so much energy and
enthusiasm. I remember one common catch cry, duplicated on placards and
t-shirts, was, “AMERICA DON’T WORRY, ISRAEL IS BEHIND YOU” this was
punctuated by the image of an Israeli jet.*

In the months following my attendance at the protest, I began to read
more and more on the plight of Israel and her neighbours. One of the
stand-out speeches I have heard on the topic of Israel came from a
US-based academic named Sut Jhally. (You can download Sut’s presentation at Active Ingredients).

*The irony of this sentiment only dawns on me now, when I consider the fact that the US has been contributing an average of $US1.3 billion a year to Israel’s defence force since 1971.

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Cost of Australia’s ‘involvement’ in Iraq

March 29th, 2006 · 2 Comments

iraqwar.jpgIn the past I’ve talked about the cost of the Iraq war to Iraqis and today Crikey‘s daily newsletter today has calculated the financial (not moral or ethical) cost of the Iraq war to Australians:

“By June a Australia’s war in Iraq will have cost taxpayers $1.2 billion, according to defence think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute. That’s enough to buy:

  • 42 new high schools each catering for 720 year 7-10 students … or
  • Two 740-bed hospitals … or
  • 116,346 fully subsidised new Long Day Care childcare places (for one year) … or

  • 25 kilometres of six-lane freeway (at $48 million per kilometre) … or
  • 480,000 new places in the New Apprenticeships access program that caters to occupations where there are skills shortages … or
  • 83 new technical colleges.

Depending on your point of view, it’s the price we’re paying for a) securing Iraqi freedom or b) our subscription fee to the Australia-US alliance…”

If you want to see what $1.2 billion helps pay for, check out the photo gallery at Robert Fisk’s website. It’s hard to look at, but I’m sure it’s far more painful for the people in the photos.

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Iraq War: three years and counting…

March 19th, 2006 · No Comments

protest.jpgThousands marched around the world to protest a war that has been raging for three years.

Perhaps they’re upset that more than 33,000 Iraqi civilians have died in that time or they’re frustrated that the war was based on lies.

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Understanding the motives behind September 11, 2001

November 17th, 2005 · 6 Comments

Me and NYCWhen 19 men hijacked 4 jets and used them as missiles in the United States, I remember watching relayed footage from ABC America on a local network in Sydney, Australia. It was just so awful. The events unfolded 10,000 miles away, but still made me sick to my stomach.

Months later, I drove across America with one of my best friends. The United States has some of the warmest and most hospitible people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Many of the tourist attactions and monuments had increased security in response to the September 11 attacks, but people generally seemed determined to ensure their lives did not change too dramatically.

On the six month anniversary of the attacks, I arrived in New York City (NYC). It is easily one of the most beautiful and breathtaking cities I have ever visited. Also, contrary to reputation, I found it one of the friendliest places I have ever been.

The subway system in NYC was filled with advertisements that read “New York: America needs you strong” – followed by a support service for people that wanted to talk about their experiences and feelings post-911.

Some of the most moving moments of my visit involved listening to accounts of how the attacks affected the locals. The attacks were so cruel and brutal. So inhumane. Such a tragedy. What could drive a group of people to such violence?

Nothing could ever justify the attack, but how could 19 people feel so strongly that they would choose to end their lives in such a violent and horrific manner?

Searching for answers

On the evening of the attacks, America’s president, George W. Bush made an address to the nation. As the smoke still bellowed from Ground Zero, he attempted to identify a motive for the attacks:

“America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.”

In the months and years that followed, countless authors, academics, politicians, journalists and citizens added their theories as to the motivations that led to the September 11 attacks.

A full three years later Osama Bin Laden explained the motivation behind the attacks on the United States.

Bin Laden’s motivation? Revenge for the deaths of Arabs. His goal? To drain the resources of America and economically bankrupt the US by dragging it into a multi-year war.

Listening to the confession of Bin Laden as he outlines his motivations is instructive. This is a man who has thousands of supporters throughout the world. He is not a marginal thinker that no one trusts: he is the leader of a network of people who to some degree share his understanding of the pressures that have shaped the Arab world and, to some extent, share his belief that violent, direct action will achieve a better lot for Arabs.

With attacks almost certainly planned for the future, there may be some value in at least knowing Bin Laden’s expressed reasons behind his campaign against the US.

I’ve focused on a videotape Osama Bin Laden says he prepared for Americans in the lead up to the most recent US election. I have included below excerpts from the transcript, which is available here.

Osama Bin Laden talks about the motivation behind September 11

On the 3rd November, 2004, a videotape featuring Osama Bin Laden was delivered to the al-Jazeera news network. In the tape, Bin Laden addresses President Bush’s explanation of the motivation behind the 9/11 attacks:

…Security is an indispensable pillar of human life and… free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom.If so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike for example – Sweden?

Bin Laden goes on to talk candidly about witnessing the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by the Israeli Defense forces. This, he says, led him to believe that he should seek revenge against the US, whose military support for Israel facilitated the invasion. According to Osama, it all started…

“…in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them in that. This bombardment began and many were killed and injured and others were terrorised and displaced.I couldn’t forget those moving scenes, blood and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high rises demolished over their residents, rockets raining down on our home without mercy… the whole world saw and heard but it didn’t respond.

…as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children…”

According to Bin Laden, his experience of violence against Arabs in Lebanon led to the planning and execution of the attacks:

“So with these images and their like as their background, the events of September 11th came as a reply to those great wrongs, should a man be blamed for defending his sanctuary?…”

According to his recorded message, Bin Laden believes that he had attempted to communicate his concerns about US actions on a number of occasions. He cites the following interviews as times where he articulated his frustration with the actions of the United States in the Middle East:

  • Scott Macleod in Time Magazine – 1996
  • Peter Arnett – CNN 1997
  • John Weiner – 1998
  • Abdul Bari Atwan
  • Robert Fisk (various)

Links to interviews can be found here
[editor’s note: unfortunately this resource is no longer available online and we have therefore removed the link]

In fact, Bin Laden says that he considers Robert Fisk to be a neutral party who:

“…may relay to the American people what he has understood from us to be the reasons for our fight.”

He challenges the American media to allow Fisk to represent his concerns about the role of the US in the Middle East to the American people.

And so, having expressed his motivation for the attacks on the US, Bin Laden goes on to comment on how easy it is for his organisation to ‘bait’ the US administration:

“All we have to do is… raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make [American] generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.”

In fact, Bin Laden sees draining US resources as the key to al-Qaeda success. He comments on how this strategy worked against Russia, which was economically and militarily ‘bled’ for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and ‘was forced to withdraw in defeat’.

“So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.”

Bin Laden points out that the US Administration’s support for the weapons and oil industries means that ‘bleeding’ the US of financial resources cannot be totally attributed to his organisation:

“…the policy of the White House that demands the opening of war fronts to keep busy their various corporations – whether they be working in the field of arms or oil or reconstruction – has helped al-Qaida to achieve these enormous results……And so it has appeared to some analysts and diplomats that the White House and us are playing as one team towards the economic goals of the United States, even if the intentions differ.”

On the topic of September 11, Bin Laden boasts about how successful his organisation’s tactics are:

“al-Qaida spent $500,000 on the event, while America, in the incident and its aftermath, lost – according to the lowest estimate – more than $500 billion.Meaning that every dollar of al-Qaida defeated a million dollars by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs…

…Even more dangerous and bitter for America is that the mujahidin recently forced Bush to resort to emergency funds to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is evidence of the success of the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan…”

Bin Laden’s video message concludes with some advice in the form of a series of quotes:

“Injustice chases its people, and how unhealthy the bed of tyranny.””An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

“It is better to return to the truth than persist in error.”

“…The wise man doesn’t squander his security, wealth and children for the sake of the liar in the White House.”

“[America’s] security is in your own hands. And every state that doesn’t play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security.”

Four years on from the attacks of September 11, we have the benefit of a confession and an explanation from the head of Al Qaeda.

So does Osama Bin Laden hate freedom? Well he’s not exactly “Freedom’s Friend”. His organisation took away the freedom of thousands of Americans on 9-11, and his organisation has also been linked to bombings in Madrid and London that took away the freedom of people in those cities. In that regard, Osama Bin Laden has shown that he doesn’t believe people in the West deserve freedom while people in his region, from his perspective, have their freedoms limited.

So perhaps these are some of the reasons that motivate the various Al Qaeda members around the world.

Just like Osama Bin Laden saw violence and wanted revenge, George W Bush saw violence and wanted revenge too.

So how is this cycle of violence going to stop?

Gandhi is credited with saying “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”.

So at what point will a path other than revenge be chosen? At what point will we say, enough with the violence, we want peace?

“We’ve decided to choose apology and forgiveness rather than attacks and revenge because that’s what’s going to get us peace.”

Now that’s a quote I’d like to see made by a world leader.

When I visited Ground Zero in New York, I didn’t think, “This violence shouldn’t happen to Americans.” I thought, “This violence shouldn’t happen to anyone. Nobody deserves this fate.”

Visiting New York raised my curiosity as to what could have caused such violence. Bin Laden’s alleged motivation is no excuse. I am not satisfied and will never be satisfied with an argument claiming such violence is justified.

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