Post #3 – Siege

So I sat in front of my computer at work about 9 in the morning on Monday the 15th, mulling over what to write for my third blog. I knew the government’s MYEFO was to be released at about midday, and a lot had already been leaked to the press – I assume as a way of softening the blow of such a massive budget blow-out. It was big news (I thought) and would most likely dominate the headlines for the rest of the week. How wrong I was…

At exactly 10:19, I received an email from my girlfriend into my work inbox. It was short, succinct and at that stage, confusing. It simply read: ‘Office in lock down :/’

Below this rather vague one-liner with a ridiculous emoticon in tow was a link to ABC News – whose information at this stage was also limited. “Police operation under way. It is believed a police officer has his gun drawn in Martin Place. More to come.” I looked up to the TV screen at work – the news-cast on the box also knew very little. For whatever reason, terrorism did not cross my mind. I questioned the intelligence of the man (or men) who decided it would be a good idea to hold up a cafe specialising in round little chocolate balls. Sure, they might have a few hundred dollars in the till, but an escape route from such a busy, central locale was near on impossible. Then I saw the flag planted – live – on the window of the cafe. He’s not planning on escaping – whoever has done this is right where he wants to be.

I was soon speaking to my girlfriend via mobile, who at this stage was worried. She works directly opposite the Lindt cafe and could see right inside the store. Their faces, the flag, the police with their weapons drawn – everything. Then the panic really set in. Rumours of the airspace shut down, reports of explosives inside the cafe and also strategically placed around the city. The Opera House evacuated, schools across the city in lock-down. My girlfriend works for one of the ‘Big 4’ banks, it’s not unreasonable to suspect it could be a target for terrorism also – if a cafe is not safe, what is? Questions abounded at this stage – was there more to this attack then met the eye? Were there other targets? How many people were involved – was this a lone wolf attack or a larger operation? Were the near simultaneous terror raids linked to this siege? Who is the individual responsible, and what does he want? How many hostages, and who are they? Has anybody been injured – or killed? Before my dearest was evacuated under police guard out of her office – I must say I was worried too. Or to be more exact, terrified. All Australian’s have been expecting an event like this, in fact Australia has had a fatwa against it specifically ever since helping East Timor to independence in 1999. We have since been mired in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and now IS territory – along with being largely sympathetic to Israeli, American and British Foreign policy. In essence, for most Aussies the question of a terrorist attack was a ‘when’, not an ‘if’ kind of question. So we prepared, we planned and we waited, for the seemingly inevitable to happen. On Monday morning it came.

For another 17 hours the city of Sydney was held in limbo while these questions were answered. Many of these pertinent questions raised in the first 10 minutes of the siege were not adequately answered until the dust had truly settled on one of the most shocking events to ever happen in this city. Many more questions are yet to be answered – particularly around the issue of the attackers’ continued unchecked presence within the community and his motivations. Furthermore, although it seems at this stage that the police have done a stellar job in difficult circumstances, questions need to be raised (as always, after tragic events like these) as to what could have been done differently. The mainstream media, as much as I enjoy deriding them, did an OK job (bar the Daily Telegraph, which seemingly can’t resist making an arse of itself) and kept the speculation to a minimum throughout. This may have been the result of all of the major networks (including conservative commentator Ray Hadley) being contacted and informed directly by the hostages what was happening inside the cafe and what Monis’ demands were. It’s more likely though that they complied with the police in regards to their operation – lest they be known as that network that ruined the police operation by leaking information.

Although Abbott might well be correct that this was the work of a ‘mad-man‘, keep in mind that even a madman needs a trigger. The culprits of 9/11 were also classified as ‘mad’, ‘insane’ and ‘disturbed’ by the mainstream media, the public and the Bush administration, but a more thorough assessment of their character provides evidence to the contrary. They were overwhelmingly middle-class, higher educated young Saudi men – who had seemingly fallen in with the wrong crowd. Deluded? Yes. Mental? No. So before your favourite politician comes out in an attempt to score political points off a tragedy – because believe me, they will – I’m going to jump in beforehand and tell you exactly what they are going to say… to help you smell the bullshit before they drop it. It will go something like this:

Australia exemplifies all of the things jihadi Islam so dearly loves to hate: religious tolerance, gender equality, freedom of expression and government by the ballot, not the bullet. It only stands to reason that a movement seeking to impose a resurrected Caliphate upon the world does not look kindly upon free minds and free markets.

This little nugget of poetic pretension is actually an excerpt from a politicians’ speech before the attacks happened on Monday, but is typical of what you can expect from politicians over the next few weeks. First off though, kudos to the man – jihadi Islam is not the biggest fan of tolerance, equality, freedom of expression and the voting public (but then again neither is our current government). Mike Baird, the New South Wales Premier has also come out in our time of need, bleating about ‘democracy‘ and other such niceties; and who can forget Bush stating back in 2001 that they (the terrorists) hate us because we in the West have ‘a democratically elected government’? I’m not suggesting that Bush, Baird and Smith (the author of the above block quote) are wrong – only that there is more to this – and they are reluctant to speak about it for obvious reasons. Why, if the people who commit these crimes, hate democracy and ‘freedom’ so much, do they not just simply look up the latest version of Democracy Index, for example? This is an easily accessible yearly report that ranks the health of each nation’s democratic worth, with Davidson stating:

The index uses five criteria: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.

So what are the results? Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark take up the top four, with our mates across the ditch snatching 5th. So the next logical question is this – why did the attack happen in Sydney and not Auckland or Wellington? Abbott may find it convenient to classify Man Haron Monis as a mad-man, but we should be wary of such a simplistic answer to such a complex tragedy.

Ave atque vale Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson

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