Rheims Massacre: Unbowed By Terror, West Must Stand Firm

WITH REPORTS flooding in that two of the suspected gunmen responsible for the slaughter of staff at French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo have now taken hostages to use as human shields, it is more important than ever that Western nations remain resolutely unbowed — and unchanged in their way of life — in the face of increasing atrocities committed in the name of Islam: a one-fingered salute is the only response such obscenities deserve.

I don’t intend to go to any great detail on this issue; the massacre of 12 staff on Wednesday at the headquarters of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo in Rheims in France was an unspeakable and unforgivable act of violence.

I simply want to make a few points, for as I write tonight there are fresh reports that two (of three) suspects being pursued by French Police in relation to Wednesday’s act of terror have now taken hostages to use as human shields; this issue has some way to run, and in posting this evening my intention is more to share some thoughts pending a more detailed response at some later stage.

But the attack — by three suspected Islamic fugitives, supposedly acting in the name of Allah — represents a more concerted and organised strike against a Western target than the so-called “lone wolf” attack in Sydney last month.

It also represents the point at which civilised Western societies can no longer ignore the barbaric threat of senseless violence imported into their communities under the auspices of “tolerance” and “compassion:” radical Islam, put bluntly, poses an existential threat to the Western way of life that must be erased from our midst.

The attack in Rheims was apparently made on a disturbing pretext: Charlie Hebdo is known worldwide for its parodies and satirical cartoons of Muslim fundamentalism (and a whole lot of other things besides) and the response, with guns and at the cost of a dozen lives, was a direct and contrived challenge to the right of free expression in free societies.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott — who first coined the phrase “death cult” to describe the barbarous junta that is Islamic State, presently laying waste to huge swathes of the Middle East to impose a strict interpretation of militant Islam — has again hit the nail on the head with his declaration that radical Islamic insurgents “hate” us, meaning the West: they hate our way of life, they hate our freedoms, they hate our secularity, and they hate our freedom of speech.

He has also emphasised the fact that Islamic State (and its adherents and followers, across the globe and embedded in Western societies) have declared themselves to be at war with the Western world: and this, in tandem with the very real and malicious hatred expressed toward us, means we cannot afford to concede anything in response.

He is absolutely right, and this mentality merits nothing more than a one-fingered salute in reply; as most readers know there has been an outpouring of rage in social media these past couple of days, but by far the best perspective I have seen is a simple one that conveys a message that few could quibble with.

SAGE ADVICE…the culture of violent, radical Islam has no place in free societies.

It’s been reported that one of the first responses from the deeply traumatised survivors at Charlie Hebdo — whose colleagues were apparently murdered for the “crime” of publishing cartoons that mocked the Islamic religion — was a vow to keep publishing the cartoons in question. And so they should.

Abbott, along with outraged leaders across the free world, has rightly made the point that to do otherwise would be to accede to the threat of terrorism and to reward those who instigate its foul deeds with victory; it is critical that free societies do not fall into the trap of censoring expression under the threat of violent retribution.

And there is another consideration: if harmless japes of the kind published by Charlie Hebdo are discontinued in the face of evil actions by organised, savage Islamic thuggery, what — with an eye to the strictest possible interpretation of the Koran — might follow?

Before long, everything from girls in bikinis to certain TV programmes, to restrictions on just about anything women can do and to the rights all free people enjoy under the rule of law — and anything and everything in between — will come into play, as yet more violence demands yet more concessions and appeasement to avert them.

Of course, any kind of censorship made under the duress of this kind of lawless viciousness would merely be the tip of the iceberg: and of Charlie Hebdo, and countless other publishing and media outlets like it around the globe, encouragement and applause — not cowering submission — is the message ordinary and decent folk must convey, along with their condolences, their grief, and their justifiably unbridled fury at the horror that has been done in France.

I want to share with readers an article that appeared in today’s issue of the Herald Sun in Melbourne today, which is basically a wake-up call to the finger shakers, the compassion babblers, the tolerance brigade, and the bleeding heart bullshit artists who preach “tolerance” toward the kind of people who were responsible for Wednesday’s horror in Rheims: these people are usually the first (and loudest) in their “compassionate” responses to incidents such as that which befell Charlie Hebdo and its tragic staff, but they are also the loudest — and often the most persistent — in their apologies for (and defence of) minority communities that breed the hatreds that lead to precisely the kind of thing we are now seeing with greater frequency, and on a more and more widespread basis.

But it could just as easily have appeared in the pages of an equivalent publication in Paris, or London, or Berlin, or New York: Western countries across the world are increasingly being confronted by the murderous excesses of radical Islam. And in every instance, there are apologists who would sooner concern themselves with the rights of bloody murderers than with the lives of those who have been imperilled and/or slaughtered with neither pity nor compunction.

In recent times, we have witnessed a “lone wolf” attack on Police in Melbourne; the siege in Sydney prior to Christmas; the beheading of a soldier in London; and now the attack on innocent journalists and their colleagues in France.

These cannot be regarded as isolated incidents, and — whilst they might lack the obvious forethought of, say, the Al-Qaeda plot that hit the United States on 11 September 2001 — they must be viewed as part of a series of co-ordinated attacks against Western targets that will only become more widespread if met with nothing more substantial than abject capitulation.

I will continue to watch the fallout from Wednesday’s atrocity and the unbelievable sequel that appears to be playing out, at the time of writing, through a hostage siege situation; this column minutes its condolences and sympathies to the families who lost loved ones in Rheims on Wednesday, but also to their surviving colleagues — particularly those who were forced to endure watching their friends and workmates being blown apart before their very eyes, and who now must live with the abominable memory of that event.

But the time for a wake-up call is now.

And I think we are at the point where — when it comes to nations who enjoy common freedoms and liberties, and whence no succour to tyranny and oppression is given — if one is attacked, all of us are attacked, and feel the wound just as keenly wherever in the world it has been inflicted.

Anyone who quibbles at the citizens of their own countries being jailed on their return from fighting “for Allah” in the Middle East — and other, similar measures aimed at rooting out the less desirable elements from the Muslim communities who are otherwise perfectly welcome — should take heed at what has happened in France.

Clearly, the ugly spectre of radicalised, fundamentalist Islam has no place in the decent societies of the law-abiding and the free.

This sleeper issue is about to become the elephant in the room in Western polities; and just as it must be repelled in practice — forcibly, if need be — it is also going to require mainstream political forces to adopt harder and more effective strategies to deal with it, rather than a form of words that urges caution, and understanding, but offers little by way of action to redress it.

If they don’t, there are plenty of extremist, far-Right organisations that will leap at the opportunity to take their place, however distasteful such opportunism in the face of senseless slaughter might be.

Just look at France’s Front National party, founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen and now led by his daughter, Marine. As perverse as it sounds, this racist right-wing lynch mob has had its best week this week for soliciting memberships in years.

And that — with similar developments elsewhere in the West — is a whole other problem altogether.

Massacre: Syrian Diplomats Kicked Out Of Australia

In the wake of the disgusting massacre of at least 110 people in Syria, most of them women and children, it is pleasing to see Foreign minister Bob Carr move quickly to expel Syrian diplomats from Australia; this type of senseless slaughter cannot and will not be tolerated.

It’s quite a quick post this evening, despite the gravity of the situation that has unfolded; I am irretrievably bogged down in work tonight, and this post is basically my cigarette-and-cup-of-tea time.

The Syrian Chargé d’affaires, Mr Jawdat Ali, was this afternoon given 72 hours to leave Australia by Foreign minister Bob Carr; also expelled was another — unnamed — Syrian diplomat.

The move is in response to the brutal slaughter of scores of Syrian civilians in Houla; a move that has mostly caused worldwide outrage, but typically elicited a splitting of the blame by Syria’s chief ally, Russia.

We have briefly mentioned Russia in the past week or so, with its posturing over mooted military strikes in Iran by Israel and its allies, and its veiled threats of nuclear war if such actions in Iran (or similar actions in Syria) are undertaken by Russia’s strategic rivals.

It is heartening, therefore, to see swift action being taken, here and abroad, despite whatever bellicose rhetoric and threats the Russians see fit to employ.

Our own government has now expelled the peak Syrian diplomatic Corp in this country; somewhat encouragingly, new French President Francoise Hollande has taken the same action in France.

Other nations have similarly responded; meanwhile, the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is in Russia and pressing his hosts to intervene in the situation in Syria and to take action to stop the bloodshed.

Not least, no doubt, because the Russians are being so belligerent about anyone else going in and doing it.

Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan — now an ambassador-at-large for the UN — is in Syria, desperately trying to salvage a peace process he was the architect of designed to stop the bloodshed in Syria and bring the troubled country to some semblance of peace.

I wish I had time to say more tonight, but I don’t; I will however include here a couple of links to coverage in the Australian and overseas press. We may return to this subject tomorrow or later in the week — it depends on how thorough the general media coverage is. At the minimum, however, I think it safe to say that the bloody episode is an outrage — a morally bankrupt, nihilistic outrage.

Clearly, this is not a political issue for analysis and debate; there may well be time for that, but I do think now is the time for strong responses for what can only be described as an unmitigated tragedy.

49 children and 34 women, many blown to bits or shot dead at point-blank range. For fuck’s sake…as brutal as it is, it’s a reminder that there are barbarians in the world; and that once there are people who no longer value life, there are people who no longer value anything.

And that should always be a sobering thought.

I hope the following links are of use/interest to those wishing to read further.

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/bob-carr-expels-syrias-man-20120529-1zgwp.html

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/houla-massacre-consequences-profound-says-un-arab-envoy-kofi-annan/story-e6frg6so-1226371019181

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/323201/UN-Syria-victims-were-executed

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/29/syrian-ambassadors-expelled-britain-france

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/world/middleeast/kofi-annan-meets-with-bashar-al-assad.html?_r=1&hp

 

Trouble Ahead As France And Greece Vote For Economic Chaos

Elections overnight (AEST) in France and Greece raise the prospect of the collapse of the Eurozone and a consequent world recession; voters in those countries might be pleased with themselves, but the rest of us should worry. This could get very, very ugly.

I would begin my remarks today with an observation: nobody really likes or enjoys economic austerity; only a masochist believes that slashing government spending to the point it begins to kill off economic activity is the prizewinning formula on a permanent, ongoing basis by which to govern.

But that observation is tempered by a reality: around the world, in liberal democratic systems of governance, electorates that are politically aware but mostly economically ignorant vote time and again for predominantly left-of-centre governments who engage in profligate spending, accompanied by exorbitant taxation and/or foreign debt.

Eventually the consequences of such governments must be addressed and the damage repaired, but in 100% of cases the same electorates will vote for a return to the spending-based model at the earliest opportunity — irrespective of whether such activity is sustainable or not.

And so it has come to pass in two constituent countries of what is increasingly the basket case that is Europe; in France, a new Socialist president — whose economic pledges essentially boil down to a promise to “let it rip” — has been elected in Francoise Hollande; in Greece, elections have resulted (at this stage) in the election of nobody in particular in a popular revolt against financial measures designed to stop that country from defaulting and going bankrupt underneath a mountain of self-inflicted government debt to other nations.

Back in August last year, in an article entitled “Gathering Storm Clouds,” I examined the very real prospect of world recession in the foreseeable future, and with specific reference to Europe, said this:

“One of the greatest acts of economic lunacy in the late 20th century was the Euro: a currency founded on the noble but idiotic belief that it is possible to federate a couple of dozen disparate countries into an economic and political union and — among other things — give them the same single currency to spend….many of these countries, whose currencies were rapidly appreciated to qualify for entry into the ERM and then the Euro, were left with nowhere else to go except the path of high sovereign debt to compensate for the fact there was less money in real terms to run their economies as a consequence.”

Clearly, those words are more applicable now than they were then, given Greek voters appear determined to throw off the shackles of forced financial restraint, and given the new President of France has essentially promised to spend up with reckless abandon.

In an early (and typically knee jerk) response, share markets across the world — including here in Australia — have recorded sharp losses today, as markets are swept with panic by the prospect of the collapse of Greece and, conceivably, of the Eurozone with it.

It is true that such movements on share markets are sudden, reactive, and often quickly reversed; but on this occasion, some consideration of the wider ramifications of the French and Greek votes should be given.

The immediate problem is Greece, a country known for decades as a byword for slovenly governance, mismanagement, corruption and official incompetence; indeed, at the time the first bailout packages were being devised for Greece last year, this critique extended as far as talk of the “lazy” Greek workforce, its abominable culture, and virtually non-existent work ethic.

It is one of those countries that should never have been part of the Euro project; not because there is anything wrong with Greek people of course, but because its economy was one that was so comparably weak, and its drachmas worth so little in comparison to other European countries, that Greece was hit extremely hard by qualification to join the Euro — and the consequences of that are now being seen all too clearly.

For Greece to collapse — as seems distinctly possible — becomes very tricky on a wider basis, as monies from across Europe (and including from the UK, which isn’t a part of the Eurozone at all) have been poured into Greece in the billions to attempt to stabilise that country.

Remembering that other countries such as Portugal, Italy and Spain also find themselves in debt problems of their own, economic collapse in Greece — not least as a direct consequence of an election result — will rightly make the likes of Germany, France and the UK think twice before throwing good money after bad in additional potentially ill-fated rescue attempts.

And should that occur, the Eurozone as a whole will likely collapse; the tiny handful of economically secure countries in Europe will leave the remainder to fend for themselves under their restored former currencies, but with the final result that Europe as a whole will sink into deep and sustained recession.

Interesting to watch in the context of all of this is the UK. Whilst not part of the Eurozone, it nonetheless counts itself (misguidedly, in my view, where the Euro or the EU generally are concerned) as a financial partner of Europe.

The UK is itself lumbering under £1,400 billion of debt — the legacy of 13 years of borrow, tax and spend Labour governance under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; whilst the harsh austerity measures put in place by the present Conservative government will eventually fix the British economy, the pain is such that every opinion poll in Britain indicates that the British public would, at a hypothetical election held this week, opt for a return to Labour in a landslide and to its discredited and destructive economic management regime.

The UK is already teetering on the brink of falling back into recession as a result of the current government’s austerity measures; monetary collapse and economic malaise on the continent would suck Britain right into the vortex with it.

Yet this must now be viewed as more likely than not. The new French president is set to repeal those austerity measures in France set in place by his unpopular but competent predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy; indeed, Hollande promises “growth and prosperity” — both of which can only be delivered in the immediate term by sloshing borrowed money anew through his country’s economy.

Further, he has pledged to renegotiate European deals to bail Greece out from its woes, and to withdraw from agreements (especially with Germany) on binding austerity measures across the Eurozone.

Greece, for its part, has effectively delivered the rest of Europe a one-fingered salute at the ballot boxes over the weekend.

So where will this lead, and what are the consequences here in Australia?

Any collapse in Europe and resultant recession will automatically take the UK, the USA and many other countries with it; the prospect of economic depression across the world emanating from malaise in Europe is one that must be taken seriously.

The so-called GFC may have had its roots in the US, and the contagion from that is an obvious factor — but not the underlying cause — of Europe’s woes; but having precariously navigated that event, developed economies are far more fragile, and far more susceptible to another severe financial event afflicting the global system.

Here in Australia, it is highly likely that we, too, would succumb.

Elements within the Australian public — and, it must be said, among its circles of governance — labour under a pretence that our trading relationships with Asia, and with China especially, will shield us from any sustained world economic slump.

This is a myth, and one which conveniently ignores the fact that whilst China is an important trading partner, so too are the US, Europe, and other markets that would be hit hard by adverse events in Europe.

Australia’s present debt ratios may be low by current world standards, but they are rocketing: by $A100 million per day over the past four years.

It bears remembering that even with the mining sector running on high, the overall Australian economy is patchy, sluggish, and hardly growing at speed.

Yet despite my complete aversion to unnecessary deficit financing and budget deficits born from the sort of mismanagement the ALP in Australia typically engage in and has done in its present manifestation in government, plans by Treasurer Wayne Swan to rip $40 billion out of the economy in one fell swoop in tomorrow’s budget — to meet an arbitrary promise of a budget surplus in time for an election year — are dubious at best, and downright dangerous at worst.

Clearly, there is much at stake, and much for ordinary folk — not just in Australia, but in western democracies around the world — to worry about, and quite literally.

France and Greece have elected new regimes with the promise of inflicting great damage on themselves, and on hundreds of millions of people across the globe who did not have a vote at yesterday’s elections.

It is to be hoped that politicians in those countries are adept at breaking promises; for if they don’t, the consequences will be far-reaching, and nothing short of disastrous.