Advertisement

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




9781408857175

Lou Heinrich

To see each other’s innards: Intimacy in Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress

In Stone Mattress, Atwood’s stories make a remarkable study of intimacy, of seeing each other’s innards, in different partnerships. Through the domestic details she describes, her masterful characterisation and her sharp tone, Atwood crafts the mundane into the profound. Read more »

9781863957120

James Tierney

Dissonance and Tradition: Andrew Ford’s Earth Dances

Earth Dances: Music in Search of the Primitive is a vivid and rarely less than astute history of the debt modern music simultaneously owes to the inheritances of tradition, and the texture of dissonance. Read more »

monroe

James Tierney

Survival and Contradiction: Jacqueline Rose’s Women in Dark Times

This book’s most impressive trick is in the way it pulls together seemingly disparate figures. In this fierce, insightful and wide-ranging collection, Jacqueline Rose calls for nothing less than a reformulation of feminism. Read more »

9807778273_afe6ec792d_z

Rebecca Shaw

Breaking the Celluloid Ceiling

We are still at a point where far less than half the movies we see have a clear female protagonist, even though women are half of the population. If women as an ENTITY are not properly represented, their stories not told, what chance then do women of colour have? Read more »

article-2301242-18FA52E4000005DC-314_470x763

Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

fx-2015-winter-tcajpeg-069cb_c0-146-3500-2186_s561x327

Rebecca Shaw

Billy, Don’t Be a Homophobe

As a non-heterosexual person who has lived my entire life in a heteronormative world, I have a finely tuned antenna for homophobia. Loaded terms, like those used recently by Billy Crystal, are becoming more common, as it becomes less acceptable to state openly that you get an icky feeling when you see two people of the same sex kiss. Read more »

girlwalkshomealoneatnight

Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

cdn.indiewire

Kate Middleton

On the Trail: Wild and the voyage of the modern woman

Strayed articulates the question that drives so many pilgrimage narratives: ‘What if I forgive myself?’ That same question perhaps suggests why female-driven journeys are resonating with audiences now: self-reliance and the abandonment of a conventional life have long been male-dominated themes. Read more »

Film Review Selma

Anwen Crawford

An Urgent and Motivating Anger: The politics of Selma

How to approach a figure with the reputation of a secular saint? One achievement of Selma – and it is a film of many achievements – is to reanimate King as a living, breathing man; a man of politics, strategy, and absolute, underlying resolve. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

agent-carter-7683

Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

39154_4f8f076801b89b442752af76ac226fc0

Anwen Crawford

Satire and Scandal: Revisiting Frontline

Frontline’s makers could not have anticipated the long, web-based afterlife of their creation, though they might not be surprised that their targets – the rampant egotism and moral hypocrisies of tabloid journalism – remain just as current. Read more »

ss_f6a450fbf737eb04c58b973f72e8817bb2b50285.600x338

Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

cher_horowitz_closet-010_2

Katie Williams

Fashion Forward: How hidden algorithms are dressing up technology

Though we increasingly rely on technology to simplify our lives, we still want to believe that behind the scenes is a happy, human face, rather than an impassive machine that does the dirty work for us. Read more »

wowx5-artwork-012-full

Katie Williams

Killing Monsters and Making Memories: How virtual worlds facilitate communication

When I hang out with my brother, we joke, make fun of each other, and swap stories about mutual friends. Sometimes, we’ll each pack a bag of stat-enhancing potions and go out to kill large monsters. It’s been well over a year since I saw my brother in the flesh – but thanks to World of Warcraft, I interact with him on a daily basis. Read more »

Before Us_3

Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »

The-Rabbits-2015-1280x470

Jane Howard

Thinking Outside the Box Seats: The future of Australian opera and musical theatre

If we want to see new work and innovation grow in opera and musical theatre, we need to consider how they might develop within our culture. Read more »

MovingMusicAndreCastellucci1

Jane Howard

The (Sometimes) Beauty of Being Alone at the Theatre

I often go to the theatre on my own. One of the great joys of writing reviews is that even when I attend productions solo, I still get to talk (write) about them at length after the fact. Seeing theatre is a wonderful activity to do unaccompanied, because as soon as the performance starts, everyone is alone in some way. Read more »