Sunday 13 October 2002

Our volatile, dangerous neighbor

Reports about the terrorist attack in Bali are confused, with some news sources suggesting that a single car bomb was responsible and others mentioning two separate explosions, seconds apart. The explosion(s) and resulting fires have killed over 180 and injured more than 300.

Although CNN states that the the majority of victims are thought to be Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that seven out of the 24 bodies identified so far are Australians. British, Japanese, and various European nationals have also mentioned in casualty reports, but the popularity of Bali as an end-of-year holiday destination for Australian tourists indicates that they may have been a primary target. 200 Australians remain unaccounted for.

For years people have looked at me as though I was a lunatic whenever I suggested that Indonesia posed the main threat to Australia’s long term security. The world’s largest archipelago and also its biggest Muslim country, run for most of the last 50 years by a corrupt oligarchy riddled with cronyism and corruption, its military tainted by sustained human rights violations, its people exploited and impoverished, Indonesia is a disaster waiting to unfold.

Map of Indonesia

In a fascinating essay about the United States’ misguided obsession with maintaining “stability” throughout the world, Ralph Peters writes:

Indonesia is the ultimate illogical state. Spread over thousands of islands and forcing together ethnically, culturally, and religiously different populations, this mini-empire almost certainly will continue to fragment, no matter the contours and composition of the Jakarta government. Inevitably, [the United States] will try to arrest the state’s decomposition (as of this writing, we are rushing to renew our support of Indonesia’s corrupt, abusive military). Just as inevitably, we will fail. If we and other interested states are not thinking about how to manage and facilitate Indonesia’s breakup, we will find ourselves embarrassed by history again. Supporting what is essentially an ethnically based colonial regime against the will of powerful minorities on the periphery is bound to fail, first morally, then practically.

Much to the dismay of the US government, Australia took the first step in “managing and facilitating Indonesia’s breakup” by supporting East Timor’s struggle for independence from Indonesia. Even so, Australia is seen throughout South East Asia as little more than a puppet of the United States. Consequently, the Indonesians have shown scant interest in cooperating with Australian anti-terrorist efforts. Having lost East Timor, they are preoccupied with quashing separatist movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya.

In any case, although it took place on Indonesian soil, last night’s bombing brought the war on terror much closer than Australia’s doorstep. I extend my sympathy to the families of all those killed and injured in this senseless terrorist attack.

Update. Since writing this post I discovered a speech given to the European Research Institute in Birmingham last month in which British Foreign Minister Jack Straw spoke of the dangers posed by failed and failing states:

How do we define a failed state? In general terms, a state fails when it is unable to:

  • to control its territory and guarantee the security of its citizens;
  • to maintain the rule of law, promote human rights and provide effective governance; and
  • to deliver public goods to its population (such as economic growth, education and healthcare).

He then identifies indicators for each of these three elements of failure and suggests that those states which “exhibit a number of them need to be watched carefully.”

Of Mr Straw’s indicators, Indonesia exhibits the following:

Ethnic, religious, and inter-group tension; terrorist and guerilla activity; rampant corruption; an unstable economy; poor economic management; rapid population growth; and social inequality.

A failing state, together with burgeoning Islamic fundamentalism, makes for a volatile mix. My purpose in writing this post was not to moralize or pontificate but simply to suggest that managing Australia’s relationship with its nearest neighbor poses a challenge to any Australian government.



For some truly awful advertising copy placement check out the front page of today's SMH:

Posted by: steve on 15 October 2002 at 12:05 PM

you must understand that there is severe government complicity in this event, just like a mini-911.
the indonesian authorities had prior-knowledge of this attack as did US authorities, who removed staff from the area prior to the event.
the actual blast was caused by a "mini-nuke" not conventional explosives, which was buried in a sewer pipe under the road in front of the club.
there is no way that conventional HE could cause the amount of damage as the blast did (over 100 cars completely wrecked). there are no muslim countries which have access to such a weapon.

why do you and so many other people instantly believe what you hear on mainstream media?
how can anyone believe this was a terrorist attack performed by an islamic extremist group without any evidence of such? what ever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?

the media is manipulated by the elite to incite emotional turmoil and incite patriotic fervour to blind people from the real issues...

what this blast will do that is advantageous to the elite is to provide a pre-text for harsh "anti-terrorism" legislation in indonesia, i would not be suprised if the suharto regime begins coming down severely on muslim groups in indonesia.
additionally, the americans will attempt to link this to the IRAQ issue to try to bolster support for this phoney war.

if you want facts and sources i would be only to happy to send you some URLs...

remember: WAR IS TERROR


Posted by: HEMI on 15 October 2002 at 04:12 PM

Posted in reply to HEMI:

Please, sir! What a wild claim to make that this bomb was a small nuke. Yes, enough HE can indeed cause that much damage. The Murrah federal building in Oklahome City, OK, was almost leveled by a conventional bomb. The club was much smaller in extent, and most of the damage appears to be from fire, not blast damage.

In fact, by claiming that the bomb was a nuke, you show your ignorance of those weapons. A small tactical nulear weapon has a yield measured in the 5 - 15 kiloton range. This means equivalent blast to 5000 to 15,000 TONS of HE. If this had been a nuclear weapon, plaved underground as you claim, the club would not have been merely destroyed, but the entire city block would be been GONE, replaced by a crater.

Posted by: Dave Miller on 16 October 2002 at 02:21 AM

Hemi's post looks very like a bit of placed propaganda, intended to discredit those who don't see war as the answer.

Posted by: anon on 16 October 2002 at 02:43 AM

Sloganeering is a form of propaganda too. WAR IS TERROR ignores fascism disguised by relgious fervor, and is ignorant of itself.

So many people, Australian, British, is simply not "explainable", nor can it be contextualized. It is wrong and renders any movement that supports it as wrong.
And no, Americans are not ignoring this gross tragedy just because it happened someplace else.

Hemi, grow up and stop being used by political committees that aggregate Marxism, Capitalism or religion as an excuse for murder. What makes you think your URLs are any more truthful than the "massmedia" you disavow? Individuals lie too. Corporations aren't any worse than the poor. ANYONE can stick a knife in your back.

Posted by: anontoo on 16 October 2002 at 03:56 AM

You forgot to mention that Indonesia's dictatorship was partly propped up by Australia, which conveniently ignored human rights issues over economic interests. Who left the East Timorese to be massacred by the Japanese AFTER they assisted you in your war?

Your moral whinings sound particularly hollow, coming from a country whose treatment of the aborigines bordered on genocide, and is still dispicable. I think you'd do well to keep your thoughts to yourself.

Posted by: antiko on 16 October 2002 at 04:41 AM

The US fought its most bloody war over secession. Abraham Lincoln is famed more for holding the republic together than for freeing our slaves.

Aside from the Former Soviet Union, is there a model of working secession?

What preconditions result in new states that work?

What support and incentives make secession mostly bloodless?

- phil

Posted by: Phil Wolff on 16 October 2002 at 04:51 AM

The US fought its most bloody war over secession. Abraham Lincoln is famed more for holding the republic together than for freeing our slaves.

Aside from the Former Soviet Union, is there a model of working secession?

What preconditions result in new states that work?

What support and incentives make secession mostly bloodless?

- phil

Posted by: Phil Wolff on 16 October 2002 at 04:52 AM

I'm interested in the mini-nuke possibility. Looks like Hemi lifted view from Joe Vialls site. What we need are facts:

1. genuine photos of bomb damage

2. genuine reports from those who have seen it first hand

3. lab reports on soil samples

4. what would mini-nuke damage look like? (actually, not supposition)

Oklahoma bombing was highly suspect. Not a fertiliser bomb as stated officially. Hemi is right to advise us to be suspicious of info from official sources.

This needs clear thinking, without prejudice.

Posted by: Rowena Thursby on 18 October 2002 at 01:51 AM

sorry, but what is a URL?, it's not my computer
tellme and I will give you what you need. If you want to give me some info of the bombing or whatever what new you have, i'll be thankfull...

Posted by: pedro on 19 October 2002 at 03:53 AM

I have about the "mini nuke" theory it does not make sense. As others have commented a conventional bomb with gas cyclinders could have created the same effect.

The problem with the official "car bomb" theory though is that a huge creator was left in the road at the piont of impact.

Others have suggested that car bombs don't leave creators. Bombs take the line of least resistance and
devistate everthing at ground level. Is this the case?

If explosives placed in a van would not have logically left a big creator. How do we explain the creator?

What we need is hard evidence of the effects car bombs. Did other terrorist car bombs leave creators? If they didn't then something certainly doesn't add up.

If the explosive wasn't a "mini nuke" and logically couldn't be a car bomb what then?

I have a horrible feeling that the cause might have been a gas explosion cause iether by methane or natural gas.

Others have suggested that the point of explosion was sewer pipe under the road. This would explain the creator and fireball.

This only a theory I want further comment.

Posted by: thinking on 20 October 2002 at 11:29 AM

You should do a little research of your own some time. You seem ill-informed about Indonesia, and did you know that Australia held thousands of Afghans in immigration detention centers before offering to pay them to leave once the Taliban had been removed as the governing body only after several hunger strikes were staged? How hospitable. "I think you'd do well to keep your thoughts to yourself."

Posted by: nobody on 28 November 2002 at 08:28 AM

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2002-2003 Jonathon Delacour