The Guardian 27 July, 2005

TAKING ISSUE — Marcus Browning

Howard backs summary executions

The Prime Minister of Australia supports summary executions. That is the conclusion that must be drawn from his comments on the killing by British police of an innocent man in the London underground who they "suspected" was a terrorist. Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician from Brazil, was shot five times in the head at close range by police as he lay in the carriage of a train in Stockwell Station. When asked if Australian police have a shoot-to-kill policy, John Howard replied, "We have appropriate policies".

Under this most secretive and unaccountable government it turns out even our laws are a secret. His answer must be taken as a "yes". Following the bombings in London, Howard and his cohorts British PM Blair and US President Bush have come under extreme public pressure to admit that the attacks are the result of their involvement in the Iraq war, a war in which they have posed Christianity against Islam.

If Howard isn’t being evasive, he’s being duplicitous. The pressure showed last week when he was questioned on the planned increased powers for law enforcement agencies: "We don’t need to turn Australia into a police state", he said. That was the first time he or any of his ministers had uttered those words.

Howard ran up against the simmering public anger when he visited Louise Barry, an Australian victim of the London bombings, in hospital. It was a PR exercise that went sour for him. Howard is used to easy questions from commercial media and the buffer zone between him and the public he enjoys when he does television and radio interviews.

Louise Barry simply asked him if he thought the attacks were the result of the Iraq war. Without his buffer, confronted for the first time by one of his victims, Howard fumbled in front of the cameras, reaching for the standard line in Islam-bashing — "perverted and twisted … extreme Islamism" etc, etc. It was a telling moment.

Now back in Australia, he has resorted to hurling insults at Muslim leaders, demanding they "denounce terrorism", as though they all condone it. As such he is stoking the fires of fear and hatred in his holy war.

Howard’s preaching at the fundamentalist Hillsong church in Sydney is no chance happening. As well as serving to fuel of the fires of bigotry, Hillsong is ideologically hand-in-glove with Howard’s beliefs. The church is tightly bound up with the capitalist ethos: exploitation, profit, cronyism, manipulation, suppression and, finally, fanaticism.

Ditto NSW Premier Bob Carr, who with typical rank opportunism, also preached a sermon at Hillsong, jumping on the evangelical bandwagon. Carr has been the groundbreaker for the Howard government in the introduction of anti-­democratic police powers.

Immediately after the London bombings he called for Australia to adopt Britain’s newest anti-terrorism laws. Carr, presumably, is on side with Howard about law enforcement agencies having the right to execute suspects. (It should also be recalled that "aid to the civil power" legislation introduced before the Sydney Olympics gave the military the right to shoot to kill Australian citizens.)

Carr also wants random bag searches of commuters on public transport, another groundbreaker for Howard. Terrorism, by definition, is random acts of violence. A million bags a day could be searched and turn up nothing more illegal than some illicit drugs, and Carr knows it.

In Victoria, the Bracks government is preparing a mock attack on Melbourne’s City Loop line, and the other state Labor governments are falling in behind Howard’s bogus war. It is part of the drive to take away our rights and have us accept it in the name of "anti-terrorism".

Backslaps for spineless Howard

It was not surprising that, after committing Australia indefinitely to the endless war on terror, John Howard had plaudits poured over him by two of the world’s most powerful men while on his sojourn to the USA and Britain. "I am not going to try and put a time limit on our commitment to Iraq", said the hand puppet. His puppet master George W Bush chimed in at a press conference following secret, behind closed doors discussions, "We are at war and during the war you do the best you can to win the war".

Describing Howard, Bush stated, "He’s got backbone", apparently trying to dispel the impression the public has formed that he is in fact spineless.

Adding further to this suspicion was the gushing after-dinner speech by Rupert Murdoch at the US Chamber of Commerce. Citing 9/11, Bali, Madrid and London, the world’s most powerful media mogul thanked Howard on behalf of big business. "Tonight we honour a man who rose to meet all these challenges and met them wonderfully."

He went on, "Australia and the United States have fought side by side in every conflict of the 20th Century. We are fighting side by side now as well. I think Australia is fortunate to be led by a man of such vision and courage", concluded the man who dumped his Australian citizenship so he could make bigger profits in the USA.

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