KYD Advent Calendar

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Politics

WikiLeaks Party was wrong about Syria

by David Donaldson , January 20, 2014Leave a comment

WikiLeaks Party

It should seem obvious that, as members of a political party dedicated to revealing the dirty truth about governments, getting your photo taken with a murderous dictator is a no-go. Apparently not.

It is anyone’s guess how the WikiLeaks Party thought their delegation at the end of December to meet Bashar al-Assad would look back home – presumably they thought it would go down well. The envoys, including Julian Assange’s father John Shipton, claimed they were visiting ‘to show solidarity with the Syrian people’ and to demonstrate opposition to Western intervention. But in spite of the anti-war sentiment the trip was supposed to express, the party ended up the regime’s patsy, copping a hiding from the Australian press for its misjudgement.

What we saw was not a bunch of peaceniks practicing creative diplomacy, but a group willing to be used in the white-washing propaganda of a man who has killed tens of thousands of his own people. Shipton even echoed the regime’s talking points himself: ‘I think that the Syrian people in their courage are an example to the rest of the world in how to resist this plague of terrorism which is sweeping the Middle East and Central Asia.’

Even WikiLeaks – which presumably means Assange himself – disowned the initiative.

The party misjudged not only the ‘optics’ of the trip, but also erred in its understanding of the Syrian conflict. The WikiLeaks Party claims it objects to military intervention

based on unsubstantiated reports of the Syrian Army’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. Such claims that reminded us [of] the same excuses used to invade Iraq. Such claims that turned out to be no more than fabrications and lies.

This statement is misguided for a couple of reasons. Unlike in Iraq, there is no question that Syria has weapons of mass destruction in the form of chemical agents. The UN has confirmed that chemical weapons were used in Ghouta. Although nobody is certain it was the government who used the weapons, it seems likely. Moreover, calls for invasion based on chemical weaponry have died down because the Syrian government has already agreed to the destruction of those weapons.

But the focus on chemical weapons is slightly beside the point: the Assad regime is still killing, torturing and starving huge numbers of people. For this reason, Syria should be a possible candidate for intervention under the responsibility to protect doctrine – that is, military action to protect citizens against an immediate threat from their own genocidal government. This is different to Iraq: although Saddam had a terrible history of abusing his people, at the time of the invasion there was no imminent danger to a large number of Iraqis, unlike in Syria today.

It makes sense to use force if you can stop a government massacring a population or allowing a preferred ethnic or religious group to wipe out another. We only need to cast our memories back as recently as the 1990s to remember ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. But if America invades and everything goes pear-shaped (which it probably would) the US could be faced with another Vietnam or Iraq. Judging by the current situation in the Levant, where regional powers are funding a proxy war and differences between extremist religious and political creeds threaten to tear the social fabric, it’s pretty likely a huge expenditure of blood and treasure would lead nowhere. It could even make the situation worse.

A peaceful solution to the civil war is needed, and will only come through diplomacy. This will require dialogue including the rebels, Iran, Russia, the United States and the Syrian regime. A new round of talks dubbed ‘Geneva II’, scheduled to begin this week, could help.

In travelling to Syria and meeting with Assad, the WikiLeaks Party has demonstrated that it either doesn’t understand what is happening in Syria or is willing to misrepresent the conflict for publicity. It has also shown a poor understanding of Australian politics in thinking such a trip would translate into increased support. You really have to wonder what they were thinking.

David Donaldson is a Master of International Relations graduate who lives in Melbourne. He tweets at @davidadonaldson

ACO logo




9508984918_5d8a187fc1_z

Marika Sosnowski

Living Side by Side: Multiculturalism at Home and Abroad

It all seems quite idyllic – people of varying nationalities, religions and cultures coexisting peacefully. It could be a blueprint for the perfect multicultural society. However, there’s something beneath the surface that is troubling to the western notion of modern liberalism. Read more »

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

isabelle_cover_grande

Dark Places and Safe Spaces: S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars

S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is a powerful and affecting depiction of a young woman struggling with mental illness and emotional turmoil. A book like Isabelle might well be described as the underdog of Australian publishing: a character-focused literary novel published by a small press … Read more »

w527705

Carody Culver

Taking Christmas off the shelf

Ah, Christmas – for some, a time of gift-giving, awkward family gatherings and over-zealous consumption of rum balls; for booksellers, a time to weep silent tears of stress and experience the irrational but persistent fear of being buried alive beneath boxes of the latest Stephen Fry memoir. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

Kim_cover_web_

Julia Tulloh

Kim Kardashian, butts, and the internet

We’re used to seeing her butt, and we’re also used to Kim doing crazy publicity stunts. Her entire life is a publicity stunt in itself, both the means and end of a crazy, money-making, power-acquiring trajectory. Her very fame is built on the playful and shameless self-exposure captured in the Paper shoot. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton-691x1024

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Problems with God: Exodus: Gods & Kings

This is the thing about retellings of old and beloved foundation stories: it’s impossible to come to them fresh, without trying to compare and contrast with previous versions for veracity and style. It’s usually the modern incarnation that comes up short. Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

3991099211_8397c745fe_b

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Taking up space: The legitimisation of creepshotting

There is a relationship between catcalling and creepshotting. Both are practices that involve the reduction of strangers to objects to be gawked at and commented on, which is what makes the ‘Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train’ Tumblr blog interesting and complex. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

2447663467_2d543e6c87_o

Danielle Binks

Young Adult literature: genre is not readership

YA is not a genre – it is a readership. It may seem like pedantic nitpicking to focus on this distinction, but so pervasive is the mistake, amongst even established literary channels, that explaining the difference has become increasingly important and indeed necessary. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

‘We actually need more stories about deaf and hard of hearing characters and for their experiences to be shared in stories. Often, young readers believe they are ‘alone’ in their deafness and do not realise that there are many others like them.’ Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

drake-cover-650

Justin Wolfers

Drake’s climate change epiphany

Or: ‘Heat of the Moment’ as an epiphany in which Drake realises the urgency and importance of acting on climate change Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

??????????????????????

Stephanie Van Schilt

Lady Bosses on the Box

An increasing number of female-driven comedies, dramas or melodramas are popping up on our screens. Through the filters of fiction, the worlds these heroines inhabit directly reflect our own. This is the age of the lady boss. Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

From my humble beginnings watching kids’ programming, I learnt that ‘Your ABC’ was indeed, our ABC. The protests and public outcry which followed this week’s announcement of cuts to the ABC demonstrate its crucial role in fostering a sense of community for Australians. Read more »