Sunday, November 24, 2002

In the Weekend Australian, the father of one of the Bali victims seeks to question what part Australian foreign policy played in his son’s death. Here is my reply.

A compassionate view would be to let Mr Deegan have his say, and hope that later he will recover from his grief. However, Mr Deegan is only in the paper because his son was killed, and this gives him a valid perspective from which to speak. It does not gift him with any special expertise on terrorism, global politics or foreign policy.

Take his assumed “root causes”; that his son was killed because of our response to the US war on terror. This is simply wrong. Me Deegan’s son was killed because of our role in East Timor, an action that took place more than two years before the attacks on the US. And given Mr Deegan’s desire for Australia to “stand in these uncertain times shoulder to shoulder – not just all the way with the USA – with all countries under the one banner of the UN”, it’s surprising he didn’t notice that East Timor was a UN operation, with Asian countries backing it, and the USA nowhere to be seen.

Mr Deegan, you son was murdered by right-wing religious fanatics who carefully selected him as a target unlikely to provide any resistance, and therefore minimise the killer’s chances of being caught. The reason, as repeated by the bombers, was that our country had the moral will to prevent a mass slaughter of people whose only desire was to no longer live under a dictatorship.

The bombers, there paymasters and supporters, feel that your son’s right to life was lessened because of his citizenship, and his insistence on not living under Islamic rule. He was murdered to make a political point, in the same was as our politicians might give a door stop interview. But our leaders do not see Moslems here as having any less right to their beliefs as any other citizen.

There is no point in your essay where you take the killers to task, questioning their motives, their methods, their ways. I find it truly incredible that you can forgive your son’s murderers so quickly, and yet still be able to reserve your scepticism and dislike for your elected leaders.

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