John Menadue. We ‘warn the Tsar of Russia’.

Sep 11, 2014

In September 1892, the headline ‘The Hobart Mercury warns the Tsar’ did not threaten Russia sufficiently to attract a response or change its belligerent behaviour. I don’t think the Tsar thought it necessary to respond to people who have an exaggerated view of their own importance

The Hobart Mercury over-reached itself. Australian Prime Ministers, particularly when they need a diversion from domestic issues, often do the same. There has been a lot of beating the drums of war and macho posturing lately. Perhaps we will soon see Putin-esque photos of a shirtless rider on his bare-backed horse.

Despite all the international posturing what has really been achieved?

  • MH350 has still not been found, despite the Prime Minister telling us months ago that we had almost certainly found the black box. We have now decided to fund and contract out the further search for MH350. Why?
  • We projected ourselves quite naturally into the recovery of MH17, but it was the Malaysian Government and not the European governments that really delivered for us in the removal of 200 bodies by train and the retrieval of the black boxes. Thanking the Malaysians has been an afterthought.
  • We sent the AFP to Ukraine and the Netherlands to secure the crash site. They failed and had to be withdrawn.
  • We have become an ‘enhanced party’ in NATO.  What national interest is there in that?
  • By siding so deliberately with Japan in its dispute with China we have antagonised China, our ally in WW2
  • Now we seem exceptionally eager to commit Hornet aircraft to the war against IS in Iraq.  We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes and Tony Abbott now suggests that the failure of the Western involvement in Iraq from 2003 was the prosecution of the war rather than its flawed policy in the first place.


As in the Hobart Mercury in 1892, our over-reach in foreign policy has led to extremist language. The Prime Minister has described the Islamic State (IS) as a ‘death cult’ and please ‘we should not give credence to people who are pure evil, pure evil’.  He added ‘people have been radicalised and brutalised through contact with this death cult’. He added further ‘this mob, as soon as they have done something gruesome and ghastly and unspeakable, they are advertising it on the internet’.

Nothing could justify the barbarism that we have seen from IS in Northern Iraq, but Muslims would remember, even if Tony Abbott does not, the centuries of barbarism against Muslims.

  • In 1099 the first Christian crusaders stood ‘knee deep in blood’ of Muslims and Jews after the capture of Jerusalem.
  • The Muslim expulsion from Andalusia.
  • Tens of thousands of Muslim women were raped in Bosnia 20 years ago
  • We stood aside in 1995 from the massacre of Muslim men in Srebrenica.
  • Ethnic cleansing went on in Bosnia for years before the West intervened.
  • We cooperated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 which George Bush called the new crusade. It resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people and the break-up of their country which has helped spawn IS.
  • More recently have we really expressed sympathy for the death of over 2,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians in Gaza? Israelis, yes. But Palestinians!
  • CIA officers in control rooms in Langley, press buttons for predator drones to kill insurgents and many civilians in Pakistan and Yemen. There is no blood on their hands like we have seen on the hands of IS killers. But is mechanised killing OK?
  • We did nothing for years about our good friends in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries who funded the Sunni rebels.
  • For the best part of a century foreign companies have exploited the vast oil resources of the Middle East.
  • We have been invited to join ‘team Australia’ but many Muslims feel it is directed against  them and  casts doubts on their patriotism

We should not be surprised that some young Muslim men have been radicalised. In 2004 after the train bombing in Madrid the Commissioner of the AFP warned us and said ‘If this turns out to be Islamic extremists responsible for this bombing in Spain, it’s more likely to be linked to the position that Spain and other allies took on issues such as Iraq’.

To avoid responsibility for the response of young Muslim men, John Howard and now Tony Abbott are repeating at almost every opportunity that ‘would-be terrorists don’t hate us for what we do but for who we are and how we live’. What tosh. They will judge us by our actions…what we do.

Some young Muslim men are responding to the humiliation of centuries in unacceptable brutality. Yet when ethnic cleansing of Christians and Yaziidis occurred in Iraq and when American hostages were murdered in Syria, our response was immediate.

Where is our even-handedness in resisting violence and injustice in all its forms against all people? It is time our leaders looked at the history of foreign intervention in the Middle East and the great injustice that has been done. We are now reaping the harvest of what we have sown.

Overreach, like the Hobart Mercury’s posturing 120 years, ago is not serving us well.

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