On France and terrorism

Ian Hunt writes: Re. “Rundle: terrorism is as French as le Tour Eiffel” (yesterday). Many nice points Guy, but not historically accurate. Political terrorism is very old. Caesar’s Gallic Wars are full of accounts of ruthless terror, the slaughter of entire villages and the enslavement of the peoples of many others who resisted. Before Caesar, Alexander distinguished himself with episodes of terror, so that in the old Persian empire he has been represented with devil’s horns down the years. Before Hitler, who engaged in systematic terror in the East to subject the slav “untermensch,” the highlight of political terrorism was Genghis Kahn’s conquests, especially those in an old empire centred on Samarkand, and including Pakistan and Afghanistan, was given to wholesale slaughter, which the Pushpin still remember, and think it justifies their persecution of Hazara, who are the descendants of the Mongol conquerors and, of course, had nothing whatever to do with what happened 800 years ago.

So, we cannot say that Paris is the birthplace of political terror, though the terror waged against the old aristocracy was pretty brutal and thoughtfully included the innocent children of the aristocracy of France. Apart from the terror involved in putting down the Paris commune, terror has receded in French life, and we cannot blame the French or Parisians for what some of their forbears did in the French revolution.

Stalin engaged in a great political terror in the thirties and after the second world war, which accounted for millions though he fell short of Nazi terror.

We can, however, blame Daesh with being the inheritors of the Nazi mantle,even though the Nazis were nationalist terrorist, while Daesh organises religious terrorists. Daesh also inherits the Nazi mantle by engaging in genocide, but so long as we do not leave it alone for too long to build its strength, it will never have the great power for evil that the Nazis had. We can be thankful for small mercies perhaps.

On Essential polling

James O’Neill writes: One reason why the voters are still sceptical of the Liberals, although giving Turnbull a personal boost, is that they look at the people sitting behind Turnbull and see that they are the same people that were sitting behind (and supporting) Abbott. In the past few days we have seen the lunatic right (Andrews et al) attacking Turnbull because Turnbull had the good sense to boot Dutton off the Security and Intelligence committee.

They also see that Abbott is being given an inordinate amount of media space to promulgate his idiosyncratic view of the world. Clearly he has not given up hope of staging a comeback.

The true test of Turnbull will come when he has to exchange fine rhetoric for actual hard policy.

Peter Fray

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