Some rather foolish people are suggesting that Australia should ‘negotiate’ with the rag-tag terrorist outfit Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). I would not normally comment on such a suggestion, but 29% of SMH readers seem to think it is a good idea. It should of course be dismissed out of hand.
The first point I want to make is that Jemaah Islamiya are murdering criminals, and should be subject to prosecution, not ‘rewarded’ for their effort by being treated as anywhere near the sort of entity that should be negotiated with.
Secondly, dealing with them is properly the prerogative of the Indonesian government. I think that the likes of Brian Deegan plainly do not understand what is going on, or are making mischief. (Remember, Mr Deegan is running for parliament).
Mr Deegan’s remarks in the Sydney Morning Herald missed the point:
But Mr Deegan said the Bali blasts were directly linked to Iraq and called on the government to rethink its foreign policies.
“By that time (when the Bali blasts occurred), Australia had made it abundantly clear, through Mr Howard, that Australia was part of the coalition of the willing,” he said.
“The Bali bombings were a protest of western countries aligning themselves with the US against Iraq.
“The government must reconsider its foreign policies.
“It needs to rethink its policies on whether or not it accepts its role as, perhaps, a mediator in the Asian region.”
Mr Deegan denied negotiating with JI was akin to giving in to terrorism.
“This is not an organisation run by rabbits,” he said.
“This is a well-informed organisation, a political organisation, that’s run by very intelligent people.
“They’re not out to convince our country to become religious, although I do accept they are trying to convince Indonesia.
“They are fighting us because of our policies of improperly entering other countries.”
It seems to me that Mr Deegan is far too willing to give credit to JI. And he plainly misrepresents what they are about – the release from custody of Abu Bakar Bashir is at the top of the terrorists agenda.
Mr Deegan is also wilfully blind to the fact that the “Improper Entry” into other countries that JI is concerned about is of course Australia’s role in East Timor. Regardless of what your opinions were on that adventure into dynamic foreign policy is, it is done now.
But imagine if we heeded the counsels of the Deegans of this world – do we fail to do anything in this world that might upset terrorists? That is like saying that we should do absolutely nothing in the Sudan because it might upset terrorists. What about things like the Free-trade agreement with the US. Regardless of the actual merits of the deal, should we check with the terrorists before we sign it?
Of course not, but, if Mr Deegan’s advice should be heeded, that is indeed the signal that would be sent. It would set a ‘price’ on Australian foreign policy which is hardly befitting any sovereign nation.
It is hard for Mr Deegan, who lost a son to the criminals of JI. It is not fair, but we do not live in a fair world, either. We must do the best we can with what life deals us, and that applies to nations as much as individuals too.