February 17th 2007

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: The Qantas buyout - how to avoid tax

SCHOOLS: Education or political indoctrination?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Eight months for Howard to claw his way back

WATER: PM puts water on the agenda, but ...

BUSHFIRES: Fuel-reduction burn-offs needed - ACT Coroner

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Double double, toil and trouble / Choosing a new battlefield / Immigration mess / A fire sale for DFAT?

INTELLIGENCE CORNER: The next socialist Shangri-La / Downplaying the Islamist threat / Beware the Bear

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Pakistan feels jilted by US-India nuclear deal

SPECIAL FEATURE: The legacy of B.A. Santamaria

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY: Rights and wrongs in relationship recognition

PREGNANCY COUNSELLING: Health Minister Abbott's initiative attacked

OPINION: My unhappy memories of Julia

SCIENCE: WA bid to host $2 billion radio telescope

Milton Friedman let off far too lightly (letter)

Free-market capitalism and Christianity (letter)

The enemy in our midst (letter)

Nativity film defended (letter)

CINEMA: Heroism amidst inhumanity - Blood Diamond

CINEMA: Enchanting story for all ages - Miss Potter

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Those with superior intelligence need to learn to be wise

BOOKS: TREASON IN TUDOR ENGLAND: Politics and Paranoia, by Lacey Baldwin Smith

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The next socialist Shangri-La / Downplaying the Islamist threat / Beware the Bear

by John Miller

News Weekly, February 17, 2007

The next socialist Shangri-La

Every now and then, I receive articles from learned journals and scour the Internet for matters of major interest to a former intelligence officer. However, invariably among those who blog, there are the claquers, the cretinous and the credulous, the intellectually dishonest, the moral relativists and those who would not recognise a fact if it hit them between the eyes.

In this instance, the death is not that of an individual but of an idea, namely socialism. Despite the ranting and raving of opportunistic politicians, many intelligence officers during the Cold War were in fact social democrats and believed, possibly naïvely, that with the demise of communism, a new force would emerge to confront the dominant right-wing economic paradigm.
Venezuela's Hugo Chávez,
with friend.

That this has not occurred is in many respects disappointing, but emerging from the shadows is something more sinister — a new socialism. Among its popular heroes is Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, who makes a virtue out of tweaking the Yankee tail.

And he's not on his own, being joined by Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, who has yet to atone for the atrocities of the Sandinista regime, but who has made a successful comeback.

In a so-so approving article in Britain's Guardian newspaper — or The Grauniad Weakly, as wits with long memory describe the paper — there have been a number of articles in praise of, and surprise at, the new socialist wave in Latin and South America.

For Calvin Tucker, Chávez has begun to "replace liberal democracy with a participatory democracy that is responsive to people's needs, not to the interests of capitalist elites".

He waxes lyrical about the "hugely popular social misiones, which are based in the barrios [poor people's settlements] and provide everything from free health care to subsidised food markets" and which are supposedly "subject to direct community involvement and control".

His article ends with a triumphant flourish:

"Having survived the U.S.-inspired military coup and a business strike, controlling huge oil reserves on which the U.S. economy partly depends, with rising China ready to invest in its diversifying economy, with Russia committed to re-equipping its military forces, and with Cuba — that survivor of 20th-century socialism — as an ally and inspiration, Hugo Chávez's claim that Venezuela's progress to socialism is 'unstoppable' begins to seem more than bombastic demagogy." (Guardian, January 25, 2007).

As John Ballantyne's article on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro shows (News Weekly, February 3, 2007), Cuba is hardly the ideal model for any country.

Nevertheless, many political pilgrims among the Western intelligentsia, resplendent in their Che Guevara sweatshirts, continue to point to the Caribbean outpost of Communist tyranny as something of a paradise.

Chávez has indeed attracted a following, but again it's the usual suspects, including Hollywood actor Danny Glover, the singer Harry Belafonte, the U.S. anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, London's mayor Ken Livingstone and sundry trade unionists to name but a few. ("Welcome to Chávez-land, the new Latin mecca for the sandalistas", The Guardian, January 15, 2007).

Many of these "useful idiots" return home and set up solidarity groups in the name of Simon Bolivar, the 19th-century Latin American independence fighter.

Naturally enough, there is always a statement for the gullible: "Given the history of gringo intervention in Latin American affairs, the Venezuelans have greeted us with an amazing degree of hospitality and openness" (Edward Ellis, a U.S. anthropologist and tour coordinator).

With friends like these, Hugo Chávez is obviously in line to become flavour of the month, if not the year, for the unreconstructed political Left.

More worrying perhaps is the fact that the Russians are arming Venezuela and, only recently, Chávez was visited by none other than the Holocaust denier-in-chief, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They probably have a lot in common.

Of equal concern is the claim by Oliver North (remember him?) that the Venezuelan Government is providing documentation to Middle Eastern terrorists seeking to cross the porous U.S.-Mexico border. Furthermore, Lt-Col. North asserts that al-Qaeda and other groups are very active in South and Latin America. (Human Events, October 23, 2006).


Downplaying the Islamist threat

Following Dr Christopher Ward's article on multiculturalism and Sheik Taj din al-Hilaly (News Weekly, February 3, 2007) came news that the imam had returned to Australia but had not preached a Friday sermon at his mosque (Australia's biggest) at Lakemba in Sydney's inner-west.

Tucked away in a corner of the news was a report that the Muslim community in Sydney now has to defend Sheik al-Hilaly's young understudy, Yahya Safi, who reportedly preached a sermon at the Lakemba mosque calling for "attacks on the enemies of Iraq". (News.com, January 27, 2007).

To date, there has been no further comment in the press.

However, the Sydney media was quick to report the sale of DVDs urging jihad, purportedly released by, or on behalf of, Sheik Feiz Mohammed, Amir of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Liverpool, NSW. This young purveyor of hate speaks fluent English, with an Australian accent, and is believed to be currently resident in Lebanon.

Among some of his reported quotes were that: "The peak, the pinnacle, the crest, the highest point, the pivot, the summit of Islam is jihad."

And if that was not enough to whet the appetite, he criticised parents for being too cautious about letting their children be taught the value of jihad. He is reported as stating that parents should instruct their children to be soldiers of Islam:

"Teach them this: that there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a Muhajid." (Melbourne Age, Melbourne, January 18, 2007).

It would be too obvious a question to ask whether he would be prepared to lead from the front!

Meanwhile, an Islamic conference has aroused the ire of the Jewish community. This latest Islamic polemic over the Australia Day weekend took the form of calling for the creation of a Caliphate, under sharia law, presumably incorporating Australia.

The speaker was Indonesian cleric Dr Ismail Yusanto, head of the Hizb ut-Tahrir group, described as extremist. Predictably, the conference took place at the Lakemba mosque. (Melbourne Age, January 29, 2006). Does that sound familiar?

The Prime Minister said: "People can say a lot of ridiculous things and they should be able to say ridiculous things in a democracy without that language constituting violence and extreme incitement to violence."

Just as The Australian newspaper recently mounted a campaign to treat Sheik Taj din al-Hilaly as a larrikin and figure of fun, some people prefer to disbelieve extremist rants.

Members of the Jewish community, however, appear disinclined to accept the idea that lunatic fringe organisations are best ignored. And who can blame them?

A policy of ignoring or making light of extreme Islamic groups is patently absurd. The matter has not been exactly helped by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock informing the media that the New South Wales state government has the power to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir (Daily Telegraph, January 29, 2007) — a typical act of pass-the-political-parcel.

Across the Western world, there is considerable evidence of extremists' appeal to the young and disenchanted members of Islamic communities and, as the current terrorist trial taking place in the United Kingdom shows, there is no shortage of willing martyrs.

It would be prudent for the Federal Government to refuse visas to so-called firebrand clerics. It should even go one step further and strip the likes of Sheik al-Hilaly of their Australian citizenship and deport them.

With New South Wales and Australia going to the polls this year, such actions could even be electorally popular.


Beware the Bear

There is a threat abroad at present that worries me as a former intelligence officer. In the majestic words of a former football commentator: "It's déjà vu all over again!"

In this instance, we are seeing a resurgent Russia led by a former KGB officer (and one-time boss of its successor spy agency, the FSB) who has installed former comrades in senior administrative positions across the country. The flicker of democracy that emerged after the end of the Cold War appears to be fading.

As many commentators have noted over the past few months, critics of Vladimir Putin are being murdered with monotonous regularity. Investigative journalists, expatriate capitalists and a former member of the KGB/FSB have perished from a variety of causes, shooting being the most frequent.

The sceptic is entitled to ask "who benefits" in such a situation. By and large, the Western media have ignored Russia's increasingly autocratic tendencies, as evidenced especially by its membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which brings it into the company of such freedom-loving countries as Communist China, North Korea and Iran.

Naturally enough, the mainstream U.S. media have focussed on Islamist terrorism and appear oblivious to the political potential of the SCO, as distinct from the possible economic ramifications.

As noted earlier, China and Russia are very friendly with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the latter appearing to be feverishly engaged in a uranium enrichment process — strictly for peaceful purposes, of course!

Once again, we see the lessons of the past are being ignored. Just as Mao Zedong and Castro were hailed initially as agrarian reformers, category errors are being made yet again in the media and academe.

As I sat listening to Marlene Dietrich singing a line from a protest song, "When will they ever learn?", I cannot be other than concerned about the future.

I reflect on the words of Winston Churchill: "The Russians will try all the rooms in a house, enter those that are not locked, and when they come to one that cannot be broken into, they will withdraw and invite you to dine genially that same evening."

— John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.

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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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