Australia has thrown its lot in with the United States in the war against the Islamic State but not everyone is happy.
I say war even though it’s undeclared. It’s a war of philosophy and ideas as much as weapons and like or not it is one we have to fight and win.
In a rare moment of lucidity the Australian Prime Minister described ISIS as a certain type of terrorist organization, which hate us not because of what we do but because of who we are and how we live. The PM went on to say that he hoped how we live, and who we are, will never change. Amen to that.
Unsurprisingly, Australia has agreed to an American request to transport arms and equipment to Kurdish fighters battling Islamic militants in Iraq. The country is facing a humanitarian catastrophe and this is our way of averting that catastrophe.
The move has the support of the other major opposition political party in Australia but not everyone thinks this is a good idea.
One independent Member of the Federal Parliament said that Australia had taken sides and if the country wants to be gunrunners for the Kurds at the behest of the United States then we are part of that war.
This particular MP is a former senior intelligence analyst turned whistleblower. He resigned from his analyst position in protest at Australia’s involvement in the 2003 Iraq War.
His remarks were strident and some might say intemperate. I must say it took me by surprise. I guess his opposition to this is to be expected but we are facing a very different set of circumstances in Iraq this time around.
He received fairly predictable support from other left wing Members of Parliament who called on the Prime Minister to suspend all current Parliamentary business to debate Australia’s latest military involvement in Iraq.
Some newspaper columnists have waded in castigating the Government for being ready to do Washington’s bidding. The Government was interposing Australia in a country fighting a civil war and clearly taking sides in that conflict.
The main Opposition party in a rare show of bipartisanship supported the Government’s decision. They acknowledged it was not an easy one to make but made for the best of reasons-humanitarian relief to prevent genocide against the beleaguered minorities in northern Iraq. It is a risk but on balance the greater risk would be to allow ISIS to succeed in Iraq.
Australia has already begun dropping relief supplies to an Iraqi town holding out against ISIS but this latest development will place our military and our air force in harms way. In order to make sure the arms get to the right people Australian aircraft will land on Iraqi soil, risking anti-aircraft fire from the Islamic State. We will be giving the Kurdish Peshmerga rocket propelled grenades, mortars as well as different caliber ammunition.
The Prime Minister said that understandably Australia shrinks from reaching out to these conflicts and I am sure plenty of other countries do as well. But the truth is these conflicts reach out to us whether we like or not. He said 60 Australians (that we know of) are involved in terrorist groups in the Middle East. Another 100 are actively supporting those Islamic extremists. With such a significant number of Australians involved with these groups they become radicalized, brutalized and accustomed to kill in the name of God. And so the logic goes if they think it is right to kill in the name of God in Iraq then it stands to reason those same people will think it is right to kill in the name of God in Sydney, London or New York.
Australia is yet to receive a request from the United States to join air strikes against ISIS but if that request comes I am sure it will be regarded favorably.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has called for a global coalition to stop the spread of what he called the cancer of the Islamic State. For me it brings to mind the frequently quoted Edmund Burke homily: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. In this case doing nothing is not an option.