Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The buck stops ... somewhere else

Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, doesn't understand why people are mad at him for taking away their civil liberties:

"I find it amazing civil libertarians run around and attack me, or [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair or attack the police."

Well, how are these for reasons? Because it is you who has passed laws taking away the very freedoms that you are supposed to be protecting.

In a television interview earlier, Howard said Iraq was a better place because of Saddam Hussein's removal.

It is really difficult to respond to this sort of claim without exploding in a stream of profanity. I mean, about one third of Iraq is a no-go zone even for the American occupying forces. Al Qaeda In Iraq (which, despite its name, started life as a bunch of wannabes, unrelated to the real al Qaeda) now has effective political control of one third the country. Under Saddam, life was hard, there were few freedoms, but people had electricity, they had water, they had jobs, they had oil. Christians and women were safe, and there were no bombs going off.

Now, there are still no freedoms, no electricity, no water, no jobs, no oil (plenty in the ground, they just can't get it out), armed hit squads are killing random civilians merely for being the wrong religion, in Baghdad there are daily bombings and mortar attacks, kidnappings and rapes make women too scared to leave the house, and when they do leave, you better believe that they are wearing the veil.

That is "Honest John" Howard's idea of "a better place".

"It's all very well to criticize what has been done there by the coalition, but you have to ask yourself where would we be now if we hadn't taken that action and where would we be if we unilaterally pulled out, which is what is being urged on us by the Labor Party and by President Bush's critics in the U.S."

Where would we be? How about where wouldn't we be?

For starters, we wouldn't be flushing billions of dollars down the toilet in Iraq. We wouldn't be destabilising the entire Middle East. We wouldn't be creating millions of people with good reason to hate us, nor would we be training thousands of terrorists and fighters how to build bombs and fight against Western troops.

We would be using some of those billions of dollars to actually hunt down bin Laden and bring him to justice, instead of letting the trail go cold. We would be dealing with the direct causes of terrorism, instead of creating more terrorism. We would be safer, not in more danger.

Howard also tried to pass the buck for responsibility for the bad laws passed, as if bin Laden had snuck into the Parliament House in the dead of night and added sedition laws when nobody was watching:

And he urged Australians to blame terrorists and not the Government for disruptions to their lives since the September 11 atrocities five years ago.

"Who has made it necessary? Osama and his grisly gang," Mr Howard told The Daily Telegraph.

Who else should we blame, if not the people who actually passed these unnecessary and bad laws? Howard's attitude of "don't blame me, the Devil made me do it" is not worthy of the leader of a civilized country.

We've been relatively fortunate, in comparison to the USA, that with certain exceptions the Australian government has exercised restraint and has not rushed to turn the country into a de facto dictatorship. Nevertheless, we have lost freedoms, important legal protections have been stripped away, our country has given away liberty in return for more, not less, danger, and instead of acting with moral authority, taking responsibility for actions committed by his own party under his watch, Howard is passing the buck.

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