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Bali Bombing - Laying the Blame
Archbishop Peter Carnley, the primate (head) of Australia’s Anglican Church, waited five days after last month’s Bali nightclub bombing before issuing a press release, blaming the tragedy – with little evidence - on Australian support of America.
Five days have now passed since an alleged perpetrator reportedly said that he helped carry out the bombing because he hated Americans, and that he was “not very happy” that Australians died.
How much longer will it take the archbishop to issue another press release, with an apology?
Here are the opening paragraphs of his Bali press release:
The Anglican Archbishop of Perth has expressed his concern that by targeting two Bali nightclubs in which large numbers of young Australians were known to gather, terrorists were responding to Australia's outspoken support of the United States.
Addressing the annual synod of the Anglican Church in Perth, Dr Carnley said: "Most of us now believe that such a well planned and strategic placing of a bomb speaks clearly enough for itself. Retaliation against America's allies has been verbally threatened for some months.
It was a remarkably silly – and ungracious – statement. France, known for its outspoken lack of support for many US policies, had already been attacked by the terrorists when the Bali bombing occurred.
Who on earth are the “most of us” who believed that the placing of the bomb “speaks clearly enough for itself”? Dr Carnley and most other Australians? Dr Carnley and most other Anglicans? Dr Carnley and most other primates? He does not say.
He claimed that “retaliation against America's allies has been verbally threatened for some months”.
Not everything is on the internet, and a Google search is far from exhaustive, but I had difficulty tracking down specific “verbal” threats (let alone any other kind) made over past months against America’s allies for their outspoken support of the US (other than in connection with Palestine, where Australia is not, to the best of my knowledge, identified as an outspoken supporter of the US).
I did find this, and I presume there are some more.
However, I also found this – a specific threat of retaliation against Australia, apparently made last year by Osama Bin Laden himself, for our government’s active role in supporting East Timor’s moves towards independence.
And who was exhorting the Australian government to play such an active role? Step forward Archbishop Carnley, one of a group of religious leaders strongly urging the Australian government in 1998 to press Indonesia for a speedy referendum in East Timor on the question of independence.
I am sure we are going to learn much, much more about the motives behind the Bali bombing. It could transpire that the man now in custody is actually innocent.
But reports so far suggest the perpetrators came from outside Bali, and wanted to kill Americans. Nothing to date supports the archbishop’s contention (scroll almost to the end) that the main target was chosen because it was a nightclub “well known to have been the haunt of young Australians on holiday”.
At the end of October, Dr Carnley issued another press release, responding to charges that he had blamed the Australian government for the bombing. It was a chance to apologise for his earlier press release. Instead, he simply went into denial:
It might now be alleged in the spirit of "I told you so" that the bomb attack in Bali had been brought upon the Australian people. In response to that suggestion I once again said: "No; I wouldn't say the Howard government brought the bomb attack on Australian people. I think it was our lot in fact to suffer because of our close association with America anyway. I think any government with an alliance with America would have been in the firing line.'
Clearly, far from laying blame I resisted being led in such a simplistic direction. The fact is that the Church is not into the culture of blame.
Read it all and weep. And then if, like me, you are an Australian Christian, gain some wry consolation from the fact that – understandably – few people really take much notice nowadays of the press releases of our church leaders.
November 13th, 2002