Culture

Scott Ludlam Fired Up About The Government’s Decision To Begin Airstrikes In Syria Yesterday

"Have we learned nothing from history?"

Yesterday brought with it some really great news. After performing a full 180 after much public outcry, the government announced that Australia would donate $44 million to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and accept 12,000 Syrian refugees on top of our already allotted intake. It’s not exactly on par with Germany, but it’s still pretty huge — a long-overdue show of compassion that proves pressure from both the international community and the nation itself can enact real change.

However, right alongside this was the somewhat less cuddly news we were going to start dropping bombs. This new humanitarian mission comes with a new plan to extend our current airstrikes in Iraq to Syria, and yesterday a source from the Prime Minister’s office reportedly told The Daily Telegraph, “[Tony Abbott] wanted at least one airstrike by the end of this week”.

Soon after the official announcement, Labor pledged their support for the action and a Greens motion to debate the matter was knocked back by both major parties.

Though many are still posing questions about the legality of the whole operation, the decision to go through without the approval of parliament is totally above aboard. As The Guardian noted in their explainer to this whole messy situation the bombing of a foreign country (legally) only has to go through the governmental cabinet. Whether it should be run through a few other people is another matter entirely.

For instance, Senator Scott Ludlam had a few thoughts he was keen to share.

“I was flabbergasted to hear there were government spokespeople denying there was urgency around a debate such as this,” he said in Parliament yesterday. “It is an urgent matter when the Prime Minister unilaterally commits the ADF to a conflict on the other side of the world where the strategic imperatives are completely unclear, the success conditions are unclear, the legality is unclear.”

Claiming both the government and Opposition were needlessly rushing into a conflict they had no clear way out of, Ludlam repeatedly compared the decision to Australia’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. Noting that prominent Opposition members had requested a debate on the matter at a later date, he also fired up about the lack of logic to the series of events that were unfolding before him.

“Wouldn’t the time for that be before the deployment than after?” he said. “We are rushing straight into the same kind of situation that was signed off by the Prime Minister unilaterally at the behest of the United States government in 2003 that ripped open these sectarian tensions in Iraq.”

“Have we learned nothing from history? This parliament is the place for that debate to happen and now is the time for it to occur.”

sometimes its hard to stay calm. amidst what should have been an acknowledgement of the turning of the tide on national sentiment towards safe harbour for refugees, the prime minister commits australia to bombing raids over syria. http://grns.mp/no-bombs

Posted by Senator Scott Ludlam on Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Ludlam wasn’t the only one making these points. Though the Greens put out a collective statement condemning the action, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie also spoke up in protest. In his own statement released yesterday, he plainly called the action “illegal, ineffective and dangerous”.

“These airstrikes are not at the invitation of the Syrian government and there is no United Nations imprimatur,” he said. “Moreover the UN provision for collective self-defence doesn’t apply in this case because we are acting at the behest of the United States which faces no threat from Syria.”

“These airstrikes also just won’t work. You can’t defeat an unconventional enemy like Islamic State by dropping bombs. And regardless, Australia’s contribution will be so small as to be operationally insignificant. By bombing Syria all the Government will be doing is supporting the Assad regime and dragging Australia even further into the broader civil war in the Middle East.”

“The madness of this situation is beyond belief … We helped create this mess and have done everything to make it worse. But now we think that more of the same will fix it.”

But, you know, it’s still great news about the refugees.