Moral Cowardice in OZ.
profrv at nex.net.au
Sun May 9 02:09:38 PDT 1999
AUSTRALIA'S MORAL COWARDICE
The Australian government wants to attack Iraq preemptively because the
Iraqis wont allow the UN to inspect their weapons facilities. Meanwhile,
the government opposes the UN protocol on torture because it doesnt want
the UN to inspect its prison facilities.
Neither position has much to do with Australian self-interests. It is
doubtful that there is torture being carried out in Australian prisons, and
it is impossible to see what threat Saddam, the countries biggest buyer of
its wheat, poses to Australian society. These are just examples of a
foreign policy increasingly dictated by foreign directives. The
cancellation of Iraqi wheat sales and the US ambassadors chilling warning
that Australia is now, like America, a likely terrorist target and the
famously relaxed Australian people need to stop being so relaxed are
examples of the high price that is now being paid for such policies.
All the time, the Howard government has characterized its position as
standing with the world against terror. When opposition leader Simon Crean
questioned foreign minister Alexander Downers bellicose rhetoric on Iraq,
the government accused him of taking the Iraqi side. You are either with
America, or you are against Australia is the message.
The Howard governments dichotomous view of the world is based on one of
the most enduring myths of the last fifty years: the idea that America
enjoys a position of leadership over some vacuous free world to which
Australia proudly belongs.
If America is the leader of the free world, then it is increasingly unclear
who its followers are. In recent months, the Americans have unilaterally
acted against the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty, Kyoto Protocol, Biological Weapons and Toxic Weapons Convention and
tried to sabotage the establishment of the International Court. Their
actions have drawn condemnation and scorn from the free world.
The fallacy of American leadership is best demonstrated in the United
Nations. Whenever it has benefited American interest, regardless how
questionable, America has aggressively opposed the very same free world
it claims to be leading.
America is, after all, the only country having the dubious distinction of
refusing to vote to ratify the Rights of the Child in December 1987. In the
same month, America stood with Israel in voting against 153 other
UN-members in opposing any effort to define terrorism and to convene a
conference to study its causes and seek solutions.
Even the right of nations to develop is something that America took
exception to. In 1986, she voted against 146 other countries in opposing
such a right. A few years later, US ambassador Morris Abram termed such an
idea, little more than an empty vessel into which vague hopes and inchoate
expectations can be poured and no less than a dangerous incitement. The
fact that this declaration was a subset of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights was deemed irrelevant.
On December 13, 1985, America again voted alone against 134 countries in
opposing the declaration of the indivisibility and interdependence of
economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights.
Whilst the free world was opposing apartheid in South Africa, America was
voting alone against UN efforts to sanction the South African government.
Between 1978 and 1987 there were over 10 such instances.
In November, 1981, America voted alone against what most of the world
considers to be the definition of democracy; America opposed 126 other
states in rejecting the right of every society to choose its own economic
and social system in accord with the will of its people.
In 1979, the United States and Israel voted together to oppose the UN
convening a conference on the rights of women. After losing the vote, they
would opt for a second-best solution and later vote against the inclusion
of Palestinian women at the conference.
In 1982 and 1983, the US was alone in voting against a declaration that
education, work, health care, proper nourishment and national development
are human rights. Thirteen years later in 1996, the US would affirm the
same opposition at the UN sponsored World Food Summit. The reason given for
the opposition was that recognition of a right to food would enable poor
nations to sue the United States for special trade deals.
By allying itself so blindly with America on everything from an attack on
Iraq through to the abandonment of Australian citizens held without trial
in Guantanamo Bay, Australia is ignoring this history. It is also ignoring
the current reality of a world that is increasingly opposed to US
unilateralism and belligerence.
America's history demonstrates the fallacy of the notion that American
economic and military might necessitate moral ascendancy. As the American
actor Will Rogers noted, "If we ever pass out as a great nation, we ought
to put on our tombstone, "America died of the delusion she had moral
It is morally perfidious that a country would refuse to make any
distinction between American interests and its own because they want a
special relationship with the Americans.
A nations pride is intrinsically linked to its independence and its
sincerity to its own interests and values. Each time Australia acquiesces
to American self-interest in deference to its own, it kills something of
itself. Australia is becoming, as Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar, the
coward who dies a thousand deaths before his death.
As the government frog-marches the Australian nation towards becoming a
vassal state to the American empire, those that question the transformation
will continue to be vilified as somehow unpatriotic or disloyal to the
For a lesson in true patriotism, Australians should look to Andrew Fletcher
of Salloun, the 18th century Scottish patriot. He said, "Show me a true
patriot, and I will show you a lover not merely of his own country, but of
all mankind. Show me a spurious patriot, a bombastic fire-eater, and I will
show you a rascal. Show me a man who loves other countries equally with his
own, and I will show you a man entirely deficient in a sense of proportion.
But show me a man who respects the rights of all nations, while ready to
defend the rights of his own against them all, and I will show you a man
who is both a nationalist and an internationalist".
Amir Butler is executive director of the Australian Muslim Public Affairs
Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee
PO Box 180
Pascoe Vale South VIC 3044
email: info at muslimaffairs.com.au
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