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War in Iraq – the East Timor Connection
With war in Iraq looming, prominent Australians continue to link terrorism against Australia with our support for the US. The latest is senior Labor Party politician Laurie Brereton:
There can be little doubt that Australia's outspoken identification with the US and the UK as global policemen has placed us at substantially greater risk of terrorist attack.
Yet in a lengthy speech he made not a single mention of what is possibly the primary reason Australia is now viewed as a terrorist target – our support for an independent East Timor.
In a previous life, Brereton was, of course, one of many Australians who attacked the government for allegedly doing insufficient to support the East Timorese cause.
I have already written about the hypocrisy of Australia’s Anglican Primate, Archbishop Peter Carnley – another who was calling on the government to do more for the East Timorese - in trying to blame the Bali bombing on our support of the US. Tim Blair has written about John Pilger’s similar “amazing world of denial”.
It is worth recalling why the struggle for East Timorese became such a cause in Australia and elsewhere.
Following its bloody invasion of the province in 1975, the Indonesian military ruled with a policy of systematic atrocities.
Torture and execution centres were established. At least 150,000 people (some observers put the figure much higher) died in warfare or famine, out of a population of around 700,000. Many, many others were forcibly relocated.
A particular specialty of the soldiers was the rape of women in front of their husbands. And when international intervention forced the military to leave, the soldiers destroyed virtually the entire infrastructure of the province.
It was one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. Who can deny that Australia was right to intervene, to help the people of East Timor?
Today we see atrocity after atrocity in Iraq. Is it not right again for Australia to intervene, to try to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people? After all, as Labor Party politician Laurie Brereton himself noted, when discussing East Timor, “foreign policy should involve much more than the narrow pursuit of self-interest”.
January 14th, 2003