November 22nd 2008

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: How Barack Obama won

CANBERRA OBSERVED: How long will Malcolm Turnbull last?

NATIONAL SECURITY: Executed Bali bombers hailed as martyrs

HUMAN RIGHTS: Beijing's butcher is granted Australian visa

ENVIRONMENT: Arctic melting: don't spoil a good story with the facts

FINANCIAL MARKETS: Regulatory proposals being put to Obama

OPINION: The West's long-running economic malaise

HEALTH CARE: Australian medicine's middle way

AUSTRALIAN POLITICS: A successful conservative party ready to rebuild

RULE OF LAW: The perils of a politicised judiciary

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Assessing the Australian Christian Lobby

POPULATION: The economic consequences of abortion

MEDIA: The facts behind the 1949 coal strike

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Toxic melamine in the food chain in China / African-Americans from victimhood to responsibility

Abandoning the old and sick (letter)

Institutional corruption in our schools (letter)

Absurd expectations about Obama (letter)

BOOKS: THE FAMILY: Power, Politics and Fundamentalism's Shadow Elite, by Jeff Sharlet

Books promotion page

Executed Bali bombers hailed as martyrs

by John Miller

News Weekly, November 22, 2008
There will be no shortage of volunteers to take the place of the recently executed Bali bombers, warns former senior intelligence office John Miller.

Three Islamic militants responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings were executed by an Indonesian firing-squad on November 9. The bombs, which ripped through Bali's nightclub district on October 12, 2002, killed 202 people, 88 of them Australian.

The convicted killers were Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, his brother Ali Gufron bin Nurhasyim (also known as Mukhlas), and Abdul Azis (who bestowed upon himself the quasi-religious name Imam Samudra).

After the Bali bombings, many observers, including the Australian Federal Police and the then Howard Government, believed that the attack was directed against Australia. Certainly, the venues attacked were frequented by more foreigners than locals, and there were reportedly 7,500 Australians visiting Bali at the time.

Several major features of this whole affair are noteworthy.

The first is of the accused laughing and joking in court and the apparent kid-glove treatment accorded them by the Indonesian authorities during their detention. As a former Office of National Assessments officer, Ken Ward, pointed out recently, there is something very wrong when a government allows terrorists to become celebrities, and that is exactly what the trio became, with beaming Amrosi being the most public face on our television screens (Sydney Morning Herald, September 10, 2008).

The second is that the trio were prepared to die as martyrs for their cause and reportedly went to their deaths shouting, "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is great!"). The bombers said they carried out their deadly attacks in retaliation for the US-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. In a statement issued by their lawyers before the executions, the men said that their blood would "become the light for the faithful ones and burning hellfire for the infidels and hypocrites".

The death and glory mentality of Muslim extremists means that if these young men are seen as genuine martyrs, as appears highly likely, there will be no shortage of volunteers to take their place. Then it is not a question of if, but merely when and where, another attack against Australians and other Westerners will take place.

The third major feature is that the Bali trio not only carried out the bombings but were willing tools in the hands of the fundamentalist Islamic organisation, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which is believed to be part of a greater terrorist network and basically draws its beliefs and objectives from the same sources as Al Qaeda.

However, for some years, major news outlets in Australia have relied heavily on Dr Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group (ICG) and her benign assessments of the risk of terrorist attacks from Indonesia.

The obeisance accorded to Dr Jones by the media is quite amazing. Analyses from a think-tank suffer limitations and usually differ quite sharply from intelligence gathered by both covert and overt means. To date, Dr Jones has not had an especially good record of evaluating the capability and resilience of JI.

Missing from the Bali trial and surrounding publicity was the shadowy figure of Indonesian-born Riduan Isamuddin, more generally known as Hambali. He is the suspected former operational leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, and apparently in US custody in an undisclosed location (possibly Guantánamo Bay).

He is of interest because of his association with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, widely believed to be heavily involved in the planning of, if not the mastermind behind, the 9/11 attacks on New York's World Trade Center and a foiled plot some years earlier to bring down 11 airliners flying from Asia to the United States.

A number of reports describe Hambali as Al Qaeda's lieutenant for operations in Southeast Asia. The degree of linkage between Al Qaeda and JI cannot be adequately assessed from available sources, but operational cooperation certainly exists.

Also missing from the courtroom was Abu Bakar Bashir, a so-called cleric and alleged spiritual leader of JI, who has served a mere two and a half years in prison for his part in the Bali attacks.

Host of misfits

Bashir reportedly accompanied the shrouded bodies of Amrozi and Mukhlas to specially prepared graves. One should not underestimate the influence of Bashir, who has been described as "a co-founder of the Jemaah Islamiah movement which produced and nurtured Amrozi, Mukhlas and Samudra as well as a host of other misfits whose prime motivation was essentially a religious xenophobia." (Stephen Fitzpatrick, The Australian, November 10, 2008).

We cannot say that we have not been warned because Bashir has given many interviews in which he has threatened Westerners in general and Australians in particular.

Furthermore, we should bear in mind that a terrorist organisation is not like an army. Splinter groups hive off and can go undetected for a long time. A dispersed organisation is infinitely more difficult to monitor and destroy than a conventional and static hierarchical organisational structure.

- John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.

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

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