September 09, 2004

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It won't be long before the first "I question the timing" slurs start. In the interim, the bombing of Australia's embassy in Jakarta serves to remind us that terrorism has not been defeated. At the same time Bali bombers are sipping Starbucks. Indonesia is a battleground in this war and its Government and police need to act like it.

UPDATE: Tim Blair is following the story with plenty of links. Ken Parish belittles himself and the victims with the first "JI working for Liberals" jaunt; Chas seems to be heading down the same line. Off the blogroll with Ken. Ozguru wonders about the Starbucks Bali Bomber now. More at LGF, Yobbo and Chrenkoff. Yobbo also has the answers to "why the islamic extremists hate us so much". Conrad reports on a friend who felt the blast. Macam-macam says Australia's travel warning has been upgraded as does Myrick. Rajan says Indonesia is the weak link in the war on terror.

At the SMH "blog" Counterspin (with no permalinks, entry titled "Early Jakarta analyis") quotes Scott Burchill's off-the-cuff reactions (with my responses):

1) Another intelligence failure? For all the co-operation over the Bali bombing, the intel on JI is either not being shared with Australia or it doesn't exist. Given ONA received a funding boost after the WMD fiasco, it must be ASIS's turn to be rewarded for failure.

It's far too early to tell. It took the US 3 years to finish a thorough inquiry into the intelligence failures of 9/11. In this case we are talking about the actions of an extremist group operating on foreign (non-Australian) soil but their backyard. There are protocols and procedures for working with the Indonesians. Or is Mr Burchill saying we should trash that and do our own investigating in Indonesia? That'd go down well.

2) All of the attacks on Western targets since 9/11 have taken place on Howard's watch. How does this make him the strongest candidate on national security? Mr Downer might also like to start thinking about "root causes" - if he wants to help bring this to an end. Mouthing off about the evil and barbaric people behind these attacks helps no-one.

Linking the attacks to being on Howard's watch borders on the absurd. Does it make him the strongest "national security" candidate? Ever since Latham's home by Christmas gaffe on Iraq troops the ball's been in Latham's court to prove he's up to the task. Say what you like about Howard, no one doubts he's solid on national security. Some argue he's too solid, but that's another matter. The issue is Latham's to prove, not Howard's. To further demonstrate the ridiculousness of the arguement, you could say everything nasty in WW2 happened on Churchill, Chifley and Roosevelt's watch.

3) The effectiveness of JI seems relatively undiminished despite the Bali prosecutions and Hambali's arrest. This is very bad news.

4) Megawati and SBY have continued to deny they have an Islamist problem - in SBY's case he denies the very existence of JI in Indonesia. Canberra may want to reconsider the view that he is their favoured candidate in the forthcoming second presidential ballot. A massive case of denial remains.

JI does seem to still be effective; this is a fair point. Likewise Indonesia's political leadership has collectively ducked confronting Islamist extremism in their country. This is in fact the crux of the issue. Until the Indonesians start confronting this menace Australia will be hamstrung in its fight.

5) Is this the attack on the Australian election or the Indonesian one?

Does it matter? The bombing will have little impact on Indonesia's election. In Australia it could cut both ways: it may bolster Howard's national security bravado but it could also boost Latham's arguement that Howard has made Australia a target. Like in the US, it is unlikely to actually influence the small number of undecided voters. The swing voters, while concerned about global events, are far more concerned over their mortgage bill, their kids' schools, the health system and tax cuts. That's just how it is.

Media Coverage:
* Sydney Morning Herald: Main story, Indonesia reaction, recent Indonesian attacks, blast location, photos (WARNING: some graphic)
* News/The Oz: Main story, story on suspects, revised death toll, eyewitness account, Latham reaction, Downer reaction
* Jakarta Post: Main report, Megawati returning from Brunei, Oz sending 9 bomb experts, 4 Chinese injured, links with previous bombings.

UPDATE 1.5:Let's see if the media can call terrorists by their name this time (via TB). So far the SMH can, the Independent can't, Reuters can (just, via a quote)...

UPDATE 2: This post has been moved to the top of the page...more in the extended entry.


I've never been a fan of the Aussie flag, with its Union Jack. But I firmly believe in everything that flag stands for and why we need to defend those values from those that seek to destroy it. We can be thankful that (at least so far) it appears no Aussies have been seriously hurt or killed, but we must extend our deepest sympathies to those Indonesians that have. There will be a time for anger, but not yet. Now is a time of sadness and mourning. The only good that may come out of this is the Indonesian Government may see fit to really crack down on JI and the Islamic extremists - they are callously murdering Indonesians without qualms. Regardless of your politics, it is clear this an enemy that cannot and should not be appeased.

I love that flag.

posted by Simon on 09.09.04 at 05:40 PM in the


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Outstanding coverage - George might have a point - where do you find the time!

posted by: Phil on 09.09.04 at 08:24 PM [permalink]

Thank you for posting that photograph. Somehow, even with all the great analysis you posted, it is that image of the flag in front of the bombed out embassy which will stay with me.

posted by: RP on 09.09.04 at 09:01 PM [permalink]

Simon, just so you know, I linked to you here today on my blog. For some reason, trackbacks are not automatically happening and I am both too busy and probably too ignorant to figure out why.

posted by: RP on 09.10.04 at 01:02 AM [permalink]

Same here. Dunno why.

posted by: Yobbo on 09.10.04 at 02:21 AM [permalink]

Just to clarify, a common mistake I have seen even BBC make, that the building in the background not the Australian embassy, but a highrise office tower next door to it.

The Aussie embassy, a white, angular building you have probably seen in TV coverage, was designed at an angle and elevation to avoid worse case damage in the event of such a blast. Which explains that of the seven+ buildings damaged by the blast, the embassy building sustained the least damage (apart from the gate).

Still, this photo is a haunting image reminiscent of iconic images of the stars and stripe on 11 September, 2001.

Moving right along ...

It's a real shame that the beautiful people of Bali are again forced to suffer damage to their tourism industry. Balinese, like the innocent passers-by, and decent security guards in Jakarta yesterday, do not deserve to suffer in a magnitude that no Australian could possibly fathom.

The target might be Australia, but the casualties are Indonesian. There are a lot of ordinary folk in Jakarta today, burying their loved ones and wondering how the f*** they got involved in this mess.

Who will they blame? Megawati? Howard? JI? Bush?

posted by: mikeyinbarcelona on 09.10.04 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

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