tip off

Support for Syrian missile strike could test Labor unity

The Labor Party takes a far more nuanced view of Syria than recent bellicose statements from the Foreign Minister would suggest.

As the US prepares to rain down cruise missiles on Damascus, the Labor government has declared its support for unilateral action, claiming that a targeted airstrike is the only way to send a message to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad over his widely reported use of chemical weapons. But deep down, some on the Labor frontbench may be squeamish about toeing the party line.

On Saturday in Sydney hundreds of protesters waving “Hands off Syria” placards took to the streets to warn US President Barack Obama off military action, joining thousands in London and Washington. Foreign Minister Bob Carr was unbowed, claiming a strike was warranted and that the Obama administration could be trusted to carry out the attack: “We think that if a government in this day and age uses chemical weapons against innocent men, women and children, it deserves a response.”

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who likes to speak on Syria at every opportunity because it makes him look like an international statesman, has suggested that Australia could use its presidency of the UN Security Council to slap down a veto-wielding Russia by making a statement in favour of intervention. The PM has also been keen to expose Tony Abbott’s lack of foreign affairs experience, bigging up briefings from departmental officials and stating that the Opposition Leader wanted to “wish away” the conflict because it wasn’t his “preferred field of operations”.

Interestingly, while Abbott has slammed the use of sarin gas on rebels as an “abomination”, he has shied away from committing Australia to a military role, stating that although it was important to “support our friends and allies”, Security Council resolutions were pending and the Mediterranean region was outside Australia’s sphere of influence. On Insiders yesterday Abbott unwisely characterised the conflict as between “baddies and baddies”, drawing ridicule from Rudd.

But there remains substantial scepticism within the Labor Party about the wisdom of launching an assault, especially among MPs whose electorates contain strong Alawite communities (the Alawite sect, loyal to al-Assad, makes up around 12% of Syria’s population of 23 million).

For example, at an as-yet unreported speech at a “Hands off Syria” gala dinner on April 20, Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke strongly about Syria’s history as a “secular state where people were able to live side by side with respect.”

It is absolutely vital that respect and tolerance return,” Albanese said, calling the grave situation in Syria “nothing short of an humanitarian crisis”.

To strong applause, the then-local government minister said it was important not to let foreign forces use Syria as the venue for a proxy war:

I note that there are of course as often happens with international conflict people who seek to engage by proxy their conflict in another country. It is it is absolutely important that Syria’s future be determined by those people in Syria and not forces outside Syria who seek to wage a proxy battle.”

Albanese, a recent visitor at the Alawi Centre in Carrington Road, Marrickville, in his electorate of Grayndler, recalled meeting with top al-Assad international media adviser and former government minister Bouthaina Shaaban on a Canberra visit a few years back:

I’ve had the honour of meeting Minister Shaaban when she visited Canberra just a few years ago. A sophisticated leader in Middle East, a sophisticated, impressive leader from a part of the world that is indeed the cradle of civilisation and of course the birthplace of the three great monotheistic religions.”

Albanese explained his overall take on the issue thus:

It is absolutely vital that peace and respect return to Syria…the reason I engage in political activity is very much to advance peace, to advance harmony, to support tough tolerance, to support multiculturalism, and to support respect for each other … I once again state my preparedness to do what I can on behalf of the local [Syrian] community in terms of assisting individuals or assisting issues of which are genuinely of such great concern.”

Lebanese community leader Sheikh Kamel Wehbe also spoke at the dinner in defence of Syria.

Crikey understands that there are numerous Left-aligned Labor MPs in caucus that are equally reticent about the prospect of Syria turning into another Iraq and are dismayed that Rudd and Carr have been beating the drum of war as an election draws near.

In February 2012, Albanese slapped down Zionist Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby, who called in a Labor caucus meeting for local Syrian diplomats to be expelled from Canberra. Albanese said diplomatic staff provided vital services for the community. Syrian charge d’affaires, Jawdat Ali, was expelled by Carr three months later.

The split among progressives has been mirrored elsewhere. On Saturday, Democracy for America, the organisation founded out of Howard Dean’s anti-war 2004 presidential run, sent out an email to supporters in which it conceded it was rent down the middle on military action and therefore couldn’t advocate for an official position.

Albanese told Crikey this afternoon that “As a supporter of democracy, I have consistently opposed political violence in Syria and I am absolutely horrified at recent reports that chemical weapons have been used in defiance of international law.”

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  • 1
    Posted Monday, 2 September 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    The editor of the Herald Sun: “”These are the kinds of shows that interest the vast majority of our readers.”“

    Quite so! Heaven forbid that any of your readers has to think.

  • 2
    Posted Monday, 2 September 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    ANDREW CROOK:

    I’m so sorry. My finger slipped and the comment meant for another article wandered into here.

  • 3
    Ruach Shua
    Posted Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    What ever Danby says, do the opposite.

  • 4
    Corrie Marlo
    Posted Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I agree with the above comment. The minister for Haifa Ports should stop exposing his Zionist agenda so obviously. Atleast conceal it a bit better and allow the Australian public to give him the B.O.D. That’s a Cricket term, but Mr Danby probably would n’t know that.

  • 5
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    The followinbg take on the Syrian crisis by Australia’s Dr Gideon Polya covers all of the bases in this discussion:

    US state terrorism and Israeli state terrorism are poised to destroy another largely Muslim country, Syria . The US has been funding the rebsls (support for terrorism) and Apartheid Israel has already been bombing Syria (a war crime). The serial war-maker, war criminal and pro-Zionist Obama Administration asserts that the Syrian Government has used chemical agents against civilians and is positioning American forces to bomb and devastate Syria . However there is no conclusive evidence for the Obama Adminstration conclusion as set out in great detail by Stephen Gowans in an article entitled “Accusations continue, but still no evidence of a Syrian military gas attack” in Global Research, 24 August 2013: http://www.globalresearch.ca/accusations-continue-but-still-no-evidence-of-a-syrian-military-gas-attack/5346851 . Indeed the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal concede the absence of conclusive evidence for the Obama Administration claim.

    The UK Parliament is not convinced and has voted “no” to bombing Syria., the UN investigators have not made their report, and there is no hard evidence for Assad regime complicity in the gas attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked why would Assad use gas when his forces were already winning, stating : “”That is why I am convinced that [the chemical attack] is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States” (see “Syria: Putin rubbishes chemical attack claims”, Guardian, 31 August 2013: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/31/syria-un-weapons-inspectors-leave ).

    Indeed hard right-wing Israeli journalist Aaron Klein links the gas attack to Turkey-backed rebels (see “Aaron Klein: Turkey behind Syria gas attack”, Rockland County Times, 29 August 2013: http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2013/08/29/aaron-klein-turkey-behind-syria-gas-attack/ ). True to their endlessly lying form, the Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist-subverted and perverted Western Mainstream media (including the Australian taxpayer-funded ABC and the universities-backed The Conversation) have censored the January 2013 report by UK Daily Mail journalist Louise Boyle that documented a US-backed Qatari plan for a false flag gas attack on Syrians to provide an excuse for US intervention (for details see Gideon Polya, “Mainstream media censorship “disappears” US-backed war plan to gas Syrians and blame Assad regime”, Countercurrents, 30 August 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya300813.htm ).

    However the Rudd Labor Government has slavishly fallen in step with the US Government’s “story” and plans to attack already war-devastated Syria just as did the Howard Coalition Government in 2003 over the fictional “Iraqi WMD” excuse for the illegal and genocidal invasion of Iraq (2.7 million Iraqi deaths from violence or war-imposed deprivation, 0.8 million under-5 infant deaths, 90% avoidable and due to US Alliance war crimes in gross contravention of the Geneva Convention; see “Iraqi Holocaust Iraqi Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/iraqiholocaustiraqigenocide/ ).

    Just as Australia takes over chairmanship of the UN Security Council, the warmongering, pro-war, pro-Zionist, serial war criminal, US lackey, Rudd Labor Government supports US military action without UN sanction .

    Decent pro-peace, pro-Humanity Labor voters will never again vote for this warmongering, pro-war, pro-Zionist, serial war criminal, US lackey Australian Labor Party (the ALP = the American Lackey Party) which has utterly betrayed decent Labor voters and values.”

    Nice work Gideon..

  • 6
    Corrie Marlo
    Posted Wednesday, 4 September 2013 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for that Kevin. It confirms what we already know from other sources.
    Cheers

  • 7
    Mike R
    Posted Monday, 9 September 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Clearly some of the commentators above have received an advance copy of the UN report or have independently conducted their own investigations on the ground in Syria. I have no idea if the chemical weapons attack was conducted by the Syrian government or the Syrian opposition. At this stage, blame for the chemical weapons attack is being apportioned according to one’s own particular prejudices which are clearly on display here.

    Events have overtaken some of the comments above. I note that a comment was made a couple of days before the election regarding Kevin Rudd and the ‘Australian Lackey Party’. Clearly the author of this comment’s prescience regarding the originators of the Syria chemical weapon attack was badly lacking when it came to domestic politics. Due to the above correspondent’s refusal to read Western Main Stream Media he may have not heard that Kevin Rudd is no longer prime minister of Australia and the Australian Lackey Party is no longer in power. He may however be delighted to hear that Tony Abbott, our new prime minister of the Lapdog Party (Moscovian miniature terrier division), with his characteristic incisive analysis described the Syrian conflict as a dispute between ‘baddies and baddies’ and rejected by implication western involvement in the affairs of Syria.

    Abbott is clearly channeling Putin. However if Abbott continues to support the foreign policy of Putin he may have cause to rethink if Russia feels the need to again obliterate a large part of the Muslim community of Chechnya,and Dagestan . At the time (in 2003). the United Nations called the capital of the Chechen republic, Grozny the most destroyed city on Earth. There are probably candidates in Iraq and now Syria that probably deserve the award.

  • 8
    Posted Monday, 9 September 2013 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Albo for the leadership

  • 9
    Mike R
    Posted Tuesday, 10 September 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    As a postscript to references that have appeared in Crikey to ‘false flag’ ruses. Clearly it is a possibility that the Syrian opposition may have conspired to either fabricate the evidence for a chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime or may have been themselves responsible. We may never know the truth, which may be moot, as both sides appear to be pulling back from confrontation, which is excellent news.

    The whole idea of false flag conspiracies is pertinent at this time of the year as we are coming up to the 12th anniversary of 9/11.n In this context, the above cut and paste efforts from the web site ‘countercurrents.org’ are pertinent. In particular the contributions from Dr Gideon Polya who is a regular contributor to this site. One of his favourite conspiracy theories(see http://www.countercurrents.org/polya130910.htm), is that the whole 9/11 business was a US/Zionist false flag plot.

    There are clearly people who believe a range of conspiracy theories such as Roswell, vapour trails, birthers, faked lunar landing, anti-vaxers ( you can find a collection of at http://skepdic.com).
    With regard to 9/11 conspiracy theories , the YouTube video of Noam Chomsky’s response, armed only with logic, refuting this nonsense is enlightening, see- http://skepdic.com/911conspiracy.html.

    Looking at the other contents of this web page I also recommend purchase in book form of ‘the Skeptics Dictionary’ and in particular the book ‘Becoming a Critical Thinker’. These books would be worth their weight in gold if they dissuade the posting of links to nonsense peddled by people, such as the good Doctor, who have a surfeit of axes to grind.

  • 10
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Tuesday, 10 September 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    BEWARE: lightweight Wikipedia based polemicists abound…what a waste of space

  • 11
    Mike R
    Posted Wednesday, 11 September 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Assuming that the above is aimed at me, I will confess that the generous attribution of lightweight is not the best description when it comes to matters corporeal. Flabby middleweight is probably more apt. If however, it referred to matters intellectual, it is clear that the above contributor’s intellectual portfolio is heavily over weighted in the area of pretentious self regard and seriously underweight in all other areas. He urgently needs to speak to an adviser, as it dangerous to have all one’s eggs in the one basket.

    I was also puzzled by the reference to Wiki as there has been no reference to Wiki in the article above or in the comments following. However I understand, due to the high standards of academic rigour that the contributor inevitably displays, that he may have a particular disdain for Wikipedia. I am also not a great fan of argumentation by Wikipedia. It can however, while recognizing its limitations, provide a first order approximation to a version of the truth. More importantly in contentious cases there are usually numerous references, links etc. that, if followed, can be used to test the veracity of the particular Wiki entry.

    I was going to say that I was looking forward to another of this contributor’s penetrating and incisive contributions, which he is famous for. I am however afraid that it may degenerate ( I think it already has) into another extremely petty and boring exchange which, as was lamented above, is a total waste of space.

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