PM beats drums of war



Tony Abbott is renowned for his combative nature, even lauded for it, but his language when talking about Islamic extremism is becoming an exercise in extremism itself.

It doesn’t take much to set the PM off. In recent weeks the mere mention of the Islamic State, the group responsible for beheading two US journalists and posting videos of their grisly deaths on the internet, has triggered strong words from Mr Abbott.

Islamic State, he says, is not a term he “will ever use because it is neither Islamic nor a State, it’s a death cult. And please, we should not give credence to people who are pure evil, pure evil.”

Paul Bongiorno: Failed Iraq war created a worse enemy
• Iraq veterans fear return, but support helping the innocent

The PM says the militants are a direct threat to Australia, and this is part of the argument which seeks to justify the nation’s involvement in the current mission in Iraq.

“This is a matter of domestic security rather than simply being a matter of international geopolitics,” he says.


Shiite tribal fighters raise their weapons and chant slogans against the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State. Photo: AP

He reaches that conclusion by claiming there are 60 Australian jihadists fighting with ISIL, as the Islamic State is also called, supported by at least another hundred.

Mr Abbott’s fundamental purpose is “to ensure that people who have been radicalised and brutalised through contact with this death cult are not a menace to the Australian community.”

But the prime minister’s visceral rhetoric couldn’t be more grave than if he were preparing the nation for an invasion by Nazi monsters. Indeed, he says the “death cult” is worse than the Nazis and Fascists of World War II.

Last week, he told Sydney shock jock Alan Jones that at least Hitler’s regime was ashamed of their atrocities.

“They tried to cover them up,” he said. “This mob, by contrast, as soon as they’ve done something gruesome and ghastly and unspeakable, they’re advertising it on the internet.

“And that’s why I think it’s quite proper to respond with extreme force against people like this.”

The Australian military is waiting for the prime minster to press the ‘go’ button. But we are not mobilising our entire defence force as the tone of the war talk would indicate. It’s still a choice or a combination of FA/18 fighter bombers and air transport secured by our own SAS soldiers. Like president Obama though, Mr Abbott stresses “no combat troops on the ground.”

Yet the PM’s appetite for involvement in military conflict is not isolated to the Middle East. He has stridently attacked Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine and is promising “non lethal” military aid to that country. A country he candidly admits is at war.

Military analyst James Brown, who served as an officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, warns that sending military personnel to a country at war means that you are becoming a party to that conflict.

Mr Brown is concerned by what he says the prime minister’s own staff refer to as the ‘Abbott doctrine.’ A key elements of the policy is to react first in a military way based on very strong values. The danger is overreach.

This is where the rhetoric can get its comeuppance.

By taking a stake in a number of different conflicts far from home we may not be able to manage them simultaneously if, as Brown says, they ‘turn hot.’

But even without any Aussie boots on the ground, the PM’s language has already made that transition.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics. He is Contributing Editor for Network Ten, appears on Radio National Breakfast and writes a weekly column on national affairs for The New Daily. He tweets at @PaulBongiorno

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.