By Ghali Hassan
Every day Australian media outlets, led by the five major TV channels and the Murdoch press, propagate images of Australian soldiers as heroes treating injured Afghan children and doing construction work in Iraq.
The notion that Australia is a “humanitarian” nation could not be farther from the truth. Behind this façade of false propaganda is a true U.S. imperialist mercenary force that is complicit in mass murder of innocent civilians and in the criminal destruction of defenceless nations.
Refugees as a Political Tool
In Australia, there is intolerable resistance to a humane treatment of refugees who as a consequence of imperialist wars had to flee their homeland in search of “safe haven” in Australia. Because of its geographic location, very few refugees prepared to risk their lives and take the dangerous sea journey in unseaworthy boats to reach Australian shores.
At least 363 people are known to have drowned while trying to make their way to Australia on fishing vessels in the last 18 months. The majority were women and children. On 21 June 2012, a boat capsized north of Christmas Island, 90 people were estimated to have died. The boat was believed to have been carrying up to 200 people.
Refugees – mostly Muslims – resort to desperate measure to reach Australia by sea because the process of assessing their claims offshore (in Indonesia and elsewhere) is inhumane, corrupt and long.
In Indonesia alone, there are more than 10,000 would be refugees waiting to be processed in a country that struggles to feed and house its own citizens . If refugees felt they would be treated fairly and quickly, they would never risk their lives to travel to Australia on leaky fishing boats organised by criminal gangs of human traffickers.
It is important to note that, Australia accepts a tiny fraction of the world’s refugees every year. It is nothing compared with Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Germany, etc. If Iran or Pakistan can cope with some 3 million Afghan refugees each, why can’t an affluent Australia cope with the a few thousands?
Furthermore, those “lucky refugees” who survived death at sea and reached the shores of Australia are quarantined outside Australia on Christmas Island. Others are detained in specially-built “detention centres” around Australia.
The policy of mandatory, prolonged and indefinite detention is used as a deterrent to others would be refugees. It is a violation of humanitarian law, because freedom of movement is a basic human right.
As refugees are dying at sea trying to reach Australia, Australian politicians – exclusively Whites – use Parliament as a tool to manipulate the public in order to pursue mainstream right-wing policies that form the political agenda of both major parties. Both, Labor and Liberal-National Coalition (LNP) agree on one policy; no desperate refugees are allowed into Australia.
The Labor Party wants refugees to be held and assessed in “refugee camps” in Malaysia. The LNP opposed to Labor’s “Malaysian option”. The LNP claim that Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees is a classic hypocrisy and a political stunt. Under John Howard, the LNP used Nauru Island before the impoverished nation signed the UN Convention on Refugees. Nauru signed the Convention not because the corrupted rulers of Nauru respect human rights, but because Nauru rulers were persuaded and bribed by the Australian Liberal Party to sign the Convention.
Nauru is one of the few poor nations that automatically vote with the U.S. and Israel at the UN against every resolution that condemned U.S.-Israel crimes and violations of international law. It is one of the few defenders of Israel-U.S. crimes in the UN. Both options (Malaysia and Nauru) are in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. In fact, in 2011 the High Court of Australia declared “off shore processing” of refugees illegal. So, the Australian Parliament is paralysed by each party’s insistence that its option is the best way. Both, Labor and the LNP are playing with the lives of desperate people.
Moreover, the LNP are driven not by Malaysia’s appalling and racist treatment of refugees but by political opportunism. The LNP believe that, as long as the refugees’ tragedy continues – the more refugees die at sea – the easier for the LNP to win the next elections and Tony Abbott will have his photo opportunity with President Barak Obama.
The Opposition Liberal leader is a classic Neo-fascist and a clone of his old mentor the racist John Howard. Abbott is campaigning on a racist slogan to “tow back the boats” to Indonesia even if it means endangering the lives of women and children. “ Abbott [like Howard] knows this sort of hairy-chested populism plays well in marginal electorates”, writes Sydney columnist Mike Carlton .
Unlike other new arrivals to Australia, refugees are a political tool to manipulate racist Australians, foment xenophobia and win votes. Under Howard, the Liberals won elections after elections by scaremongering refugees. For more than a decade Australia was under a proto-fascist rule. There are some 10,000 illegal immigrants living in Australia from the India, Britain, Ireland, U.S., China and Pacific Islands. If Australian politicians are honest, they should apply the same refugees’ policy and rhetoric to illegal immigrants. It is time to remove them from the country.
If Australia is serious about having a humanitarian immigration policy and want ”a safe and lasting regional solution” to refugees, Australia should:
(1) increase its refugees’ intake and provide financial assistance to process refugees in neighbouring countries;
(2) increase Australia’s humanitarian aid to war-affected countries and assist refugees to stay in their own countries;
and (3) stop issuing permanent residencies to dubious (bogus) students and fraudulent “skilled” migrants, who have no loyalty to Australia, whatsoever.
There is no skills shortage in Australia. There are enough desperate unemployed Australians and refugees to fill all the job vacancies in Australia.
The Racist Media
The Australian media have conditioned most Australians to despise refugees and anyone who doesn’t fit the White Australian profile. Like opportunist politicians, the Australian media frequently portrayed refugees as “queue jumpers”, Islamic “terrorists” and “invaders” bringing disease to Australia. The terms are deliberately used to dehumanise refugees and remove any public sympathy towards them. It is a narrative based on distortion, manipulation and lies. As a result of this subversive propaganda, Australians do not want to know anything about refugees. They hope all refugees disappear from their TV channels.
From early childhood, Australians are fed a diet of ugly nationalism, racism and ignorance. Practices of racism and discrimination against non-European and Muslim people are extreme among White middle-class and wealthy Australians. The manipulated poor are following like a bewildered herd. With its draconian “anti-terror” laws are specifically targeting Muslims, Australia has become another bastion of Islamophobia like Europe, Israel, India and North America, if not worse. But, i t remains a habit to deny that racism exists in Australia.
Racism in Australia, of course, is systemic and structured. While it is unlawful to discriminate against people because of their skin colour, religion or ethnic background, most Australian institutions practice racism and discrimination overtly. The media, the education system, the justice system and the police are fuelled by racist practices. Even in sport, racism in well and alive. Take a look at the all “White Australia” Olympic team. Racism in Australia is a well-managed subtle kind of racism. In fact, complaining against practice of racism is considered an offensive and can lead to dire consequences. Furthermore, there is no bill of right and v ery few Australians know that Aboriginal Australians are not recognised in the Australian Constitution.
The new draconian legislations enacted by the Federal Government in collaboration with the states have seen greater disempowerment of Aboriginal people and their own efforts at self-determination undermined.
The Australian Senate has just passed legislation to extend the Northern Territory Intervention , introduced by the Howard Government in 2007, for another ten years. The legislation allows for welfare quarantining and alcohol management, and cuts welfare payments for parents whose children miss school without any form of adequate consultations with Aboriginal Australians. In addition, the health status and living conditions of Aboriginal Australians have deteriorated further.
Many Aboriginal communities are living under conditions comparable to, if not worse than, those in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, despite their small number (1.2% of the population), Aboriginal Australians continue to be incarcerated at much higher rate than non-Aboriginal Australians. In Western Australia and Northern Territory, the justice system can only be described as cruel, inhumane and racist.
or example, the Northern Territory Government can keep prisoners for years, long after they have served their sentence. In addition, Aboriginal prisoners who deemed to be mentally unfit to enter a plea in their case are “kept behind bars for periods well in excess of what they would have served if they had been convicted of the offence with which they are charged,” writes Greg Barnes, the National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
The jurisdictions in other states are not much difference, if not similar. There are forgotten Aboriginal Australians in every prison system in Australia, some with deteriorating mental health. Their misery is ignored not only by the political and media establishments.
The Academic as a Propagandist
A new breed of propagandists is on the rise in major Australian universities eager to promote, without a doubt, imperialist wars and in the process destroying the credibility and reputation of academia in Australian universities. “ Academics”, as they like to be called, constitute the most indoctrinated segment of society, which is characterised by overt racism, scandalous nepotism and extreme dishonesty. Dishonesty among academics is endemic, but hidden under the veneer of academic “independence”, a fabrication.
In a recent opinion in the Sydney Morning Herald , Ben Saul, a professor at Sydney University, writes: “ The international community has ample legal authority to intervene in the humanitarian crisis in Syria” ( Sydney Morning Herald , 30 June 2012) . It is a falsehood. There is no “legal authority” that has the right to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs. The Syrian people are fighting groups of traitors, terrorists and foreign mercenaries who are committing horrendous crimes against the civilian population. The violence is spreading solely because the U.S. and U.S. allies (a.k.a. “the international community”) continue to supply arms and cash to the terrorists and mercenaries, and support their crimes at the UN.
The recent terrorist attack by Western-sponsored terrorists in Damascus that killed three senior Syrian government officials and injured many others which is praised as “outstanding” by most Western governments, including Australia is a case in point. If similar attack were carried out against Western government officials or their allies, it would be immediately condemned as terrorism. Terrorism is praised as long as it advances U.S.-Israel Zionist interests.
It is unbelievable that a professor of law at a major Australian university is promoting aggression on behalf of an imperialist power. Furthermore, can anyone imagine Professor Saul calling on the “international community” to stop Israel’s terror of dispossessing and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians?
Saul believes that the Nazi’s doctrine of “ responsibility to protect” is the best pretext to invade Syria and overthrow the legitimate Syrian government, a premeditated U.S.-Israel Zionist plot planed in early 2002. As the Syrian UN Representative Bashar Ja’afari rightly stated: “The issue is not protecting civilians … It is to change the Syrian State”. The violence will stop tomorrow if the U.S. and U.S. allies stop financing and arming the terrorists.
In another opinion in the same newspaper, the self-described “moralist”, Ned Dobos of the University of New South Wales, claimed that there is a “moral imperative” for Western nations to intervene militarily outside the United Nations mandate, modelled on the criminal, illegal aggression against Iraq ( Sydney Morning Herald , 28 June 2012) . Like Ben Saul, “ Dobos conducts a rambling pedantic philosophical defence of what is essentially a unilateral act of war built on patently false pretences, as NATO has already done in Libya, and as the U.S. has done in Iraq and Afghanistan at the cost of millions of innocent lives”, writes political analyst Tony Cartalucci.
One wonders why academics like Saul and Dobos believe that arming and supporting terrorists and extremists to overthrow a legitimate government is a “moral imperative” while they remain silent when desperate refugees are left to die at sea by their own government. It is shameful that publicly-funded universities have become purveyors of imperialist propaganda.
The propaganda is based on media distortion such as the BBC use of images of Iraqi civilians massacred by U.S. forces in Fallujah as propaganda against the Syrian government to prove the Houla massacre, crimes committed by Western-armed terrorists.
In 2003, war criminals George Bush and Tony Blair used “moral imperative” to justify the barbaric aggression against Iraq after the original pretext was exposed as a lie. The murderous invasion and occupation of Iraq have caused the death of some 1.5 million innocent Iraqis, mostly women and children. At least 4.5 million Iraqis were displaced and a peaceful society was terrorised and destroyed by U.S. sadistic torture and barbaric violence. All the deliberate violence and planned destruction of Iraq in a war of barbaric aggression based on fabricated lies. The same war criminals who sold the aggression against Iraq are regrouping to sale the aggression against Syria.
It must not be forgotten that Syria is one of a few nations to welcome refugees from neighbouring countries. In addition to the 500,000 Palestinian refugees who have been living in Syria for decades as a result of the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestine, more than 1.5 million Iraqi refugees have taken refuge in Syria. Do Mr Saul and his academic ilk have any opinion on how they will be protected by U.S.-NATO military attacks on Syria? In fact, Iraqi refugees have already become a terrorist target, according to the UNHCR.
Who is “Australian”?
Refugees are not the only victims of Australia’s inhuman refugees’ policy. In recent time, Australia has resorted to keeping Indonesian under-age boys – found working on fishing and refugees-carrying boats in “Australian water” – in prisons as bargaining chips to free an Australian drugs trafficker, Schapelle Corby, serving prison term in Indonesia. Successive Australian government have lobbied the Indonesian government to release Corby.
The recent decision to grant Corby a clemency by the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has enraged may Indonesians who accused President Yudhoyono of acting like a Western puppet, bowing to Australian demands of a drug trafficker. The President has recently called on the Gillard Government to speed the release of 54 “under-age seafarers” still locked in Australian prisons with criminals and drug users. Meanwhile, Corby has become a household celebrity, a model for every Australian woman.
The media of course used the well-known drug trafficker not only to demonise the Indonesian justice system but Islam in general. During Corby’s trial, Islam and the Indonesian justice system were on trial. “Corby has been denied her basic legal and human rights”, screamed the Australian media. Corby is not alone; there are many Australian citizens languishing in Asian prisons on similar charges. They are forgotten because they do not fit the White Australian profile.
W hen it comes to defending human rights of Australian citizens, Australia is very selective. The Australian Government has abandoned Julian Assange, the Australian citizen and founder of WikiLeaks, to his fate. He has dismissed repeated Australian Government claims that “he has been receiving ongoing consular assistance”. In fact, the Australian Government has secretly changed the law to facilitate his extradition to the U.S. in case he returns to Australia.
Assange is now at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London awaiting his application for political asylum. Assange has been under house arrest in London for nearly two years despite he has never been charged of any wrongdoing in Sweden or in Britain. It is a politically-motivated persecution.
Assange’s fear of extradition to Sweden and then to the U.S. to face persecution on political grounds and possibly sentenced to death is justified. Like Australia, Sweden is a U.S. obedient lapdog, complicit in U.S. war crimes and torture and has a history of always bowing to U.S. dictates. In addition, Sweden has a very inferior justice system compare to the rest of the European Union. It is not dissimilar from the U.S. inhumane and corrupt justice system.
In Australia, Assange was demonised by the corrupt political and media establishments in the same way he has been demonised by the British, Swedish and U.S. political and media establishments. The aim is to use Assange’s private life to deflect attention away from war crimes and human right violations committed by the U.S. and U.S. allies that have been partially exposed by WikiLeaks.
Australia cannot claim to be a “humanitarian” nation so long as Australia continues to be complicit in U.S. imperialist wars. Refugees fleeing imperialist wars in search of safety are entitled to dignity and human rights. Australia should promote peace, adhere to international law and treat people humanely and indiscriminately.
(Ghali Hassan is an independent political analyst living in Australia.This article appears in Countercurrents)