Picking your moment

Andrew Haughton writes: Re. “Right-wingers’ dangerous politicking with national security” (yesterday). There are few more sickening experiences than watching politicians being brave with other people’s lives. This is particularly so when the real motive is internal party motives, as it is with Kevin Andrews and Tony Abbott. For them, defeating Islamic State is less important than undermining Malcolm Turnbull.

It is the politics of posture and never more obvious than Tony Abbott’s Freudian slip ” I’m going to shirtfront Vladimir Putin. Yes, YOU will. ” God help our young servicemen and women if the Liberal Party Right regains power.

On bombing the Middle East

James Burke writes: Re. “Rundle: same old murderous song and dance as we bomb IS again” (yesterday). I’ve been pretty harsh on the Saudis recently, but I have to defend the poor dears against the allegation they’re simply a more efficient version of Islamic State. (Daesh is harder to remember than Islamic State, but is preferable for multiple uses).

For all their horrible, objectionable, despicable sins, there’s no denying the Saudis have tolerated their Shia subjects, following the conquest of Al-Hasa by Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud, for the baby boomers). Shia mosques in Al-Hasa are being bombed by Daesh, not the Kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of non-Muslims reside in Saudi Arabia, even if  vulnerable to persecution. If Daesh were in charge, every one would be periodically beheaded over the next decade, unless they proved their conversion — probably by beheading their cellmates. All Shia men would be murdered, along with their mothers and aunts, while the younger women and children would be enslaved. Every Saudi royal judged as “takfir” would be crucified.

Daesh is the internally created nightmare the Saudis faced in the 1920s with the Ikhwan, when they simply massacred the tech-rejecting camel-riders with modern guns. It’s the nightmare they faced again with the 1979 Mahdist uprising in the Grand Mosque, which motivated the export of Wahhabist jihad to anywhere and everywhere else. The Saudis are the original NIMBYs.

The Saudis control Mecca and Medina but don’t call themselves Caliphs. Daesh has declared a Caliphate and controls none of the holy centres of Islam. The Saudis may sometimes carpet-bomb their neighbours out of paranoia about Iran and to appease their extremists, but for Daesh conquest is essential. Quiet state-building in a corner of the Syrian Desert is not the goal. Daesh desires the apocalypse and will kill everyone who stands in the way, until it is inevitably wiped out, whenever that happens. Whether the Saudis survive the process is another question.

Michael Kane writes: As Guy Rundle points out, the use of the term “Middle East” suggests we are living in London in 1913, advising on the future of the British Empire. Imagine if we used the term ”Far East” to describe China, Japan, India etc. Anachronisms are of course more than just that, and describing South West Asia as the Middle East in itself shows how little the majority of politicians and commentators understand of the history, culture, ethnicity etc of the region.

Also in this context and in the light of another excellent article from Rundle, it’s perhaps worth remembering that the same British empire sought out Hussein, Emir of Mecca, early in the Great War and offered him the caliphate (yes caliphate) of Mecca as an Arab that would replace the existing caliphate which for centuries was claimed by the Sultan of the Ottoman empire from his base in Istanbul. The supposed new caliphate was to extend from Aleppo In Syria (multiple deaths on all sides from the current civil war) to Aden in Yemen (fewer deaths but still significant in their current civil war) with potential influence across the rest of the Muslim world. Of course as we know this did not happen and the French and British simply divided the Ottoman empire between them so laying the groundwork for what we are experiencing today. This stasis of course was exacerbated by the US and the Soviet Union in more recent times, and the catastrophic invasion of Iraq by various states external to the region in very recent times.

Fortunately we might have a prime minister who understands this stuff as opposed to former PM Abbott and former Minister Andrews who are still caught up in Pope Urban’s crusade.to-day.

Art is for everyone

Jackie French writes: Re. “Turn off the TV and make some art” (yesterday). Dear Peter Matters, the “ARTS”  you go to may be the sport of the richer middle class. The audiences I speak  to — at events like the Sydney Writer’s Festival for Western Sydney, at the MONA outdoor theatre this year, the performances by Monkey Baa Theatre for young people in regional areas across Australia — are for mostly disadvantaged communities, because we know how badly  those communities need and want  theatre, music, books. Look at the lending figures from the libraries in poor communities. The ‘ARTS’, as you lump them, are  loved by most people, no matter  how you want to label them. But perhaps you need to be there, to notice.

On vaccination

Ignaz Amrein writes: Re. “Discover this one amazing trick to make politicians do what you want!” (yesterday). “Pro-vaxxers” like Bernard Keane and the entire mainstream and not so mainstream media either completely ignore the occurrence of vaccine damage and death or downplay it as collateral damage for the common good! Don’t mention the war and I guess choice is not an option either!

Revenue problems

Janice Knight writes: Re. “Lucky we don’t have a revenue problem, because revenue looks bad” (November 19).  Congratulations to Bernard and Glenn for the article pointing out the revenue/spending rubbish promulgated by our current and recent treasurers, which was praised by Ross Gittens today.