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Middle East

Aug 18, 2014

War on Terror keeps the terrorist cash cycle going

Despite what the government might say, Australian taxpayers have been directly and indirectly helping fund terrorism for years.


An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter near Mosul

Like more or less everything this government does at the moment, its attempt to hype the threat of terrorism has been noticeably cack-handed. Data retention proved a debacle for both the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, one from which, humiliatingly, the government had to be rescued by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull — the very person Abbott had excluded from input on the policy.

Since then, the government’s friends at News Corp have moved into top gear to spruik the terrorist threat as justification for more anti-terror laws, three (count ‘em) “tranches” of them according to George Brandis, who pronounced the word a la francaise (because things sound so much cleverer in French). Peculiarly, that’s at the same time that News Corp signed on, along with all other local media outlets, to a warning that the “tranche” (say me like one of your French words, George) currently before Parliament would have a chilling effect on journalism. What’s good for readers, it seems, isn’t necessarily good for Murdoch.

Nonetheless, on Saturday, the government smoothly — or about as smoothly as this one can manage — moved to complement News Corp’s campaign on Aussie jihadis receiving welfare payments, the kind of concept that must have made tabloid editors short out their keyboards with salivating. Not just a Muslim, not just a terrorist, but a dole-bludging Muslim terrorist — a kind of peak derp that could probably only be topped if one turned out, improbably, to be Julian Disney in disguise.

The government would be stopping payments to Aussie jihadis, declared a media release, issued not merely by the uncannily lifelike Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, but by the Prime Minister himself. As is the way of this government, no one had bothered to read the media release properly, and it contained three separate explanations for what was happening. “Australians engaged in terrorist activities” would not be “receiving taxpayer funded welfare payments”, the release began, but it then changed tack in the second par to say that “people identified by national security agencies as being involved in extremist conduct” would have payments stopped. The release managed a third par without a new definition, but the next told us people “assessed as a serious threat to Australia’s national security” would have payments stopped.

“We didn’t just make ourselves less safe by attacking Iraq; our military endeavours in the War on Terror have helped enrich the very countries that are now pumping money into Islamic State.”

Those three statements mean very different things. So who knows what the threshold for having payments stopped will actually be, or even if it’s designed to ever actually happen? Maybe that’s just the old public servant in me having a whine, but when I drafted media releases BACK IN THE DAY — often for some of the people who now work in the Prime Minister’s Office — I’d try to keep the deliberate confusion to a minimum.

But anyway, the government wanted to ensure taxpayers’ money is not being used to undermine Australia’s national security. And that’s a laudable goal, as Australia has devoted a great deal of taxpayer money to undermining its own national security. We spent $2.4 billion on our participation in the attack on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a decision that, as then-AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty explained, ended up making Australians less safe. At least we got out of that without spending too much money. The Brits spent US$14 billion making themselves, as MI5 explained, less safe because of Iraq, while the Americans have spent US$2 trillion so far doing the same, as their intelligence agencies note.

But that’s old news. Let’s move on. The greatest sources of funding for what now styles itself the Islamic State are wealthy Sunnis in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, who have helped IS amass a warchest estimated to be $2 billion, certainly enough to do a better job of photoshopping faked massacre photos designed to intimidate opposition forces.

Most of that wealth being donated to IS is of course oil wealth. Since 2004, the economies of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE have all accelerated rapidly due to the surge in oil prices (Qatar is also now a big natural gas producer). The price of oil doubled from its pre-Iraq War price of $30 a barrel by 2005, and then doubled again by 2008, before the financial crisis sent the price, along with the oil sheikhdom economies, tumbling — though both have since recovered to pre-GFC levels. It wasn’t merely the Iraq War that, contrary to Rupert Murdoch’s lunatic prediction that it would lead to $20 a barrel oil, caused oil prices to surge, but the extended military commitment by the US and other allies, like Australia, in Afghanistan over the last 13 years. Western troops in combat now require around 100 litres of fuel a day; the Australian Defence Force bill for fuel, for example, rose from $340 million in 2006 to $440 million in 2010, despite the GFC-induced fall in oil prices.

As a result, we didn’t just make ourselves less safe by attacking Iraq; our military endeavours in the War on Terror have helped enrich the very countries that are now pumping money into IS. And IS, in turn, is being used to justify both new anti-terror laws here and new military intervention in Iraq. It’s yet another example of how the War on Terror is a vast, self-perpetuating mechanism, and not in some nebulous, rhetorical or political way, but on the ground, in terms of money and weapons and the people prepared to use them.



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22 thoughts on “War on Terror keeps the terrorist cash cycle going

  1. Mr J

    I truly lament this Government’s priorities. Fundamentally this piece by Bernard highlights that the Abbott Government has a warped idea of where to apply compliance with the law.

    Billions are spent on ensuring every recipient of Newstart and the Disability Support Pension complies with a stricter set of requirements, now with the addition of monitoring potential terrorists. Yet this monitoring outsourced to employment service agencies and the cost worn by employers.

    Billions spent on ensuring compliance with immigration matters, effectively and open cheque book. Yet general compliance with say taxation legislation, is reduced. The Tax Office cuts means less compliance officers who ordinarily bring in considerably more money than their wages; and less compliance funding to ASIC, ACCC, Medicare and Cetnrelink more broadly to prevent fraud.

    It would seem that this Government happily pays for oversight on matters that produce the least bang for our buck.

  2. Limited News

    Saudi Arabia et al have an incentive to mess up Iraq as it could take a substantial amount of competing oil production off line.

  3. Luke Hellboy

    The governments are just using the big pharma model – it’s much more profitable (for their multinational friends and benefactors) to constantly treat a condition than it is to cure it

  4. David Hand

    Well even if it’s merely a PR exercise, Sharrouf ticks all three criteria.

    And no one is saying his Facebook posts are faked, are they?

  5. Paddlefoot

    The News Ltd headline – Jihadist Dole Bludger – pushes every Rabid Rights’ hot button. Outstanding tabloid effort. To paraphrase Voltaire “If a Jihadist Dole Bludger does not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”.

  6. Venise Alstergren

    What better way than to camouflage a pointless, thoughtless, idiotic bunch of old men leading us to oblivion than by shouting WAR, TERRORISM, IRAQ, SLAUGHTER!!??

  7. Venise Alstergren

    Coincidentally the man who put the government in power, Rupert Murdoch, is one of the old men responsible for our laughable Liberal Party.

  8. DF

    When the A-G uses French, his name becomes Georges.

  9. Rais

    The supporters of IS are not Sunnis Bernard. They’re of the 19th century Wahabi sect, long sponsored in the Arabian peninsula by the Western oil seekers, as hostile to Sunni belief and practice as they are to the Shi’ah.

  10. Coaltopia

    “The excrement of the devil”

  11. Bill Hilliger

    Ah, terrorism …the ideal foe, it will never end, and is anywhere and everywhere, anything the ruling class don’t like can now be branded with that handy and perpetual terrorist label. Unlike communism, once our foe, now no longer, communists are our friends because of the massive trade and the $$$.

    The mainstay of armaments industries and some national economies used to be communism; has now been replaced with an even better foe …the never ending always present terrorist(s). Additionally, the ever burgeoning security industry is now well entrenched with billions to spend …no questions asked. The bonus for all governments is to be able to spy on all its citizens and explain it away in the name of stopping potential terrorism.

    George Orwell explained and foretold it all so neatly in that book written so many years ago. If George were alive today, he would say: yes we have arrived.

  12. Ian

    Excellent assessment of how the real “war on terror” is being played out at enormous cost to everyone involved.

    Now, we and our friends have added another arm to this war, the new “Cold War” against Russia – only this time the foe is much more capable of defending itself.

    And, if this is not enough we are looking to the future with our participation in the Asian Pivot directed at China. I have a feeling China’s response will be carefully considered and effective just as Russia’s has been.

  13. ananth raj

    This article is worthy of publication by News Limited the Telegraph/ Herald Sun variety at that. The implication that oil prices have risen because of the military intervention completely misses the only reason for price increases – demand. From China mainly but also other developing world nations. The subsequent inference that ‘we are funding terrorists’ is irresponsible and for that to become the headline is straight from News Limited journalistic handbook.

    Supply has increased in response to demand but it has been slow to respond but that’s because there is a cartel and so can’t meet rising demand as there were no quick increases available outside of the cartel. Frankly it was great that USA went to Iraq to get the oil secured as that would have helped reduce prices. It’s just a shame for the rest of world that they have subsequently found a way to become almost energy self sufficient (meanwhile we are too overcome by fear generated by environmental terrorists to have a rational debate about the merits of fracking and coal seam gas). Now they have left Iraq cause they need the oil as much and that’s a shame for humanity now being torn apart by the IS terrorists.

  14. Itsarort

    The War on Terror, just like the War on Drugs, keeps business booming for both sides.

  15. The Old Bill

    So just remember, every time you fly via the UAE courtesy of QANTAS / Emirates, or Qatar courtesy of Qatar, or do business with any of the conservative Arab states, you are supporting IS and probably Hamas.
    I suggest you also avoid El Al and Israel as well, as their profits likely help the genocidal killing in Gaza.
    Its a really great place the Middle East, thanks to all of the West’s meddling since WW1.

  16. Lubo Gregor

    What would happen if we all stopped using petroleum derived fuels for a week, month, three months?

  17. Graeski

    News Corp obviously had to settle for second-best. Clearly they would prefer a lesbian-single parent-vegan-bicycle riding-Green voting-beachside residing-latte sipping-ABC viewing-Jihadist-Muslim-dole bludger.

  18. Ian

    The Old Bill@16,

    I don’t have a problem with Hamas at least in its role as the representative of the Gaza people and its resistance to the Israeli brutal occupation.

    As a terrorist organization it is far eclipsed by the Israeli state which commits terrorist acts both inside and outside Palestine, eg in Iran and an assassination in Qatar, I think it was.

  19. AR

    AnaRaj – way to miss the point! And extra kudos for “environmental terrorists” though you do need to brush up the grammar and sentence construction – that tattered RWNJ phrase-book having been written, presumably in crayon, for sub literate amerikans.
    BK – interesting that you find Keven “Andrews” Android “uncannily lifelike” – a person-shaped object possibly but
    “lifelike”? Only in zombie world.

  20. Liamj

    ananth raj – 1. it is nonsense that US is remotely selfsufficient in energy, Mexico & Canada still supply it with millionsbarrels/day oil, 2. supply of conventional oil has globally declined not risen, and 3. that US ever left Iraq would be news to the at least hundreds possibly thousands of US special forces & 3 major oil companies (multinational but headquartered in US) still very active there.

  21. James Haughton

    Bernard, have you read Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia by any chance?


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