On our refugee intake

George Lewin writes: Re. “Australia to take in 12,000 Syrian refugees, while bombing Syria” (yesterday). At last the Abbott government has shown it does not have two “tin ears” when it comes to the huge mood swing in Australia since the publication of the heart-rending photos of the drowned toddler. Australia’s pledged increased intake of refugees is to be commended, provided the selection process is not tampered with to pander to the anti-Muslim, pro-Christian elements in the Coalition, and provided the 12,000 person intake is truly additional and happens within the proposed time frame.

What surprises me though is the absence of the United States in this whole issue of the rest of the world stepping up to solve the “worst refugee crisis since the end of WWII”. It was after all the USA, in concert with Blair, Howard and other warmongers in the Coalition of the Willing, that laid the groundwork for the incredible instability now swirling through the Middle East. Their illegal and duplicitous “Shock and Awe” attack on Iraq in 2003, and their failure to win the war or the peace is a shocking indictment of that creep George W Bush and his neocon advisers. Where are they now to mop up some of the mess they created?

The only person to my knowledge who has publicly spoken about the American invisibility in this matter is Geoffrey Robertson on this week’s Q&A. Where is the rest of the commentariat in naming the elephant in the room? The USA  is the world’s largest economy, one of the only economies that is doing relatively well at the moment, and the moral responsibility for this crisis belongs well and truly to them. If Germany can take 800,000 refugees, the USA intake should be in the millions.

Tony Kent writes: On Syrian refugees and immigration policy more generally: do excuse me, I must have nodded off for a moment, but when did we the people agree that immigration policy is a core business of the Cabinet’s National Security Committee? Back in the day, when ministers could use words of more than three syllables, in the right part of a sentence what’s more, and could understand a logical sequence of thoughts leading to a sensible conclusion, “border protection” was about repelling armed invaders and possibly the reason we had the 2nd AIF, CMF and so forth.  Intelligence, policing and security were but simple service providers to our immigration programs and quite rightly did not dictate immigration policy.

More generally, I know times change but perhaps the Department of Peccadilloes wouldn’t be in such a mess if Pezzullo applied a little more common sense to doing the job he’s paid for, starting with a mission statement that doesn’t read (as I’ve heard it described) like an argument between two dope-heads sharing a late night bong.

Moderates in the Middle East

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Defining ‘persecuted minorities’ futile in a war that kills all” (yesterday). Although most of Crikey‘s comments about the catastrophic war in Syria make sense, the constant unqualified condemnation of the Syrian government does not, even if our PM also keeps referring to it as “evil”. Today Bernard Keane says Assad’s regime “has disproportionately targeted Sunni Muslims”. Perhaps this just reflects the disproportionate representation of Sunnis in the groups fighting Assad’s government?

Bashar al-Assad’s government has certainly killed a very large number of people in Syria. However, it is fighting for its survival against people who are trying to overthrow it, who are extremely well armed and funded from abroad, proxies for the dangerous fundamentalist Sunni regime of Saudi Arabia. Assad’s government was always oppressive when threatened but there was nothing remotely like this slaughter before these factions took up arms against the Syrian government, unless we go back to Assad’s father Hafez crushing the Hama Islamic revolt in 1982. What government would not defend itself, its people and its country in the face of such a threat? Isn’t that a basic duty of a government?

The USA and its allies including Australia insist they want to help some “moderate” Syrian opposition but so far all these efforts have only helped encourage, train and arm extreme Islamist groups and above all Daesh. What would moderates look like? Presumably they would respect their neighbours, tolerate religious freedom and minorities, provide healthcare and good secular education for all citizens (including women), carefully preserve and safeguard the wonderfully rich archaeological heritage of Syria… In other words, moderates would behave more or less exactly like Assad’s government before this civil war. For all its faults, his government never imposed a religion on anyone. Despite being mostly Muslim, the government runs wineries and breweries for those who choose to drink alcohol. While it could it recognised and protected eleven different Christian denominations in Syria: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Coptic, Mennonite and more. Some of these and their church buildings date back to the fourth century at least. And so on. So, it is obvious why Sunni fundamentalists hate the Syrian government. If it’s overthrown it will be replaced with something far worse and the destruction and horror will spread. The West would do far better by supporting Assad.

Trump 4 Prez

Peter Matters writes: Re. “Rundle: in the dying days of a wild summer, Republicans looking for a sugar daddy or two” (yesterday). The USA governance — like ours — is a caricature of democracy. For the sake of all humankind, we must hope that somehow the American electorate will work out that any of the political hopefuls is preferable to a demagogue. For Chicago to be dominated by demagogues for two generations is one thing, but the USA? God help us all.

Peter Fray

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