While the likes of Andrew Bolt fanned prejudicial feelings against Muslims with this inflammatory column yesterday, the PM and Philip Ruddock were busy trying to hose down a community backlash after Tuesday’s over-the-top effort from our political and police elite. Bolt’s opening paragraph baldly declared the following: “So it wasn’t a political stunt. It isn’t about Iraq. And the threat of Islamist terror right here is more real than many pretend.”

The political stunt line is fair enough and so is the threat of Islamist terror, but how can Bolt declare that none of these potential terrorists were motivated by Iraq? This is the third paragraph from The Guardian’scoverage, courtesy of Associated Press, of the terror raids story yesterday:

One of the suspects, Abdulla Merhi, wanted to carry out attacks to avenge the war in Iraq, police said in a Melbourne court. Australian Prime Minister John Howard was a strong supporter of the US-led invasion of Iraq and still has hundreds of troops in the country. Opponents of Howard say that has raised the likelihood of terrorists striking Australia.

Isn’t that a statement of the bleeding obvious? Yet people like Bolt can somehow declare Iraq has nothing to do with Islamist terror attacks even when police have just plainly told the court that one of the suspects is motivated by Iraq.

There’s no suggestion of militant Muslims plotting to bomb and kill innocent New Zealanders. The unpalatable fact remains that the most damaging terrorist attacks have all been in countries which have supported the Iraq invasion with troop commitments, most notably Spain and the UK.

Muslim community anger will only be magnified if the likes of Bolt continue to collectively beat up on Muslims and the mainstream politicians keep talking up the threat and compromising trials. Such actions will just serve to breed more potential terrorists, when our commitment to Iraq is clearly already doing this.

Why did the NSW police run decoys, according to Sky News, when shifting the Sydney suspects to higher security prisons? The implication is that these Muslims have organised and armed guerrilla movements that are poised to swoop and free them.

And why did the NSW police call in that robot to check if the critically wounded Omar Baladjam’s backpack had a bomb in it? That’s a bit over the top, isn’t it?

Similarly, the use of the word “catastrophic” by NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney and NSW Police Minister Carl Scully was clearly reckless. The concise Oxford definition of catastrophic is: “sudden or widespread or noteworthy disaster; event subverting system of things; disastrous end, ruin.”

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was clearly catastrophic for those cities. The death of 52 people in the London attacks was not, nor was the 2002 Bali bombing or the Madrid bombing. More than 52 people will die on Australia’s roads between now and Christmas. That is not a catastrophe either.

How can people charged with criminal offences get a fair trial with the top cop and police minister both grossly exaggerating the scale of what was being planned? Today The Age and The SMHreported that the Sydney group had stockpiled enough chemicals to build 15 bombs. Serious stuff, but wrong because AFP commissioner Mick Keelty denied it on AM this morning when he called for more responsible media behaviour. Indeed.

Finally, isn’t it funny how Bolt can go in so hard attacking people for questioning the PM’s claims yesterday, yet only the week before Bolt himself was launching a feisty attack on claims about global warming by Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell. Journalistic and political scepticism is a healthy thing and people should not be denounced for simply asking questions and raising debate.

Neil Mitchell was predictably ripping into Bob Brown and Lynn Allison in today’s Herald Sun, but there was only a gentle slap for things like the NSW police inviting television crews along for the supposedly top secret raids and no mention of the “catastrophic” exaggeration.