"It was an eventful week in the war on terror. It began with the conviction of key members of the Benbrika Muslim terror cell in Victoria, whose plans for mass murder included using huge bombs in 'an attack that would kill 1000 people' at railway stations, Crown Casino, and football matches, including the 2005 AFL grand final. And it ended with the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in flames, devastated by a huge truck bomb. Gruesome images showed emergency workers struggling around a gaping crater and through the ruined building, helping maimed survivors soaked in blood, dazed, confused and in pain. People on the upper floors, trapped by flames, were forced to leap to their deaths. At least 60 people were reported to be dead and 200 injured, with possibly many more buried under the debris. Such sinister and tragic episodes are all too common reminders of the extreme levels of destruction planned and executed by modern terrorist organizations." (Radical pacifists deny a murderous reality: Postmodernist terrorism studies at the defence academy could undermine the government's counterterrorism initiatives, warns Mervyn Bendle, The Australian, 22/3/08)
So begins the second instalment (the first being Uni row the new front in culture war, 20/9/08) of The Australian's jihad against Anthony Bourke, associate professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. Bourke had been attacked in Quadrant magazine as "pro-terrorist" by Merv Bendle, senior lecturer in history and communication at James Cook University in Townsville.
To return to the aforementioned second instalment, you don't have to be a senior lecturer in history or a terrorism expert or combination thereof to see that Bendle is 100% correct in claiming that the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the carnage of which he so graphically describes, is indeed terrorism pure and simple. The problem with Bendle, however, is that he goes on to savage Bourke for "his insistence that terrorism is practised by both militant groups and governments" and his alleged refusal "to distinguish between the terrorism of al-Qa'ida, and the military actions of nation states, such as 'the US bombing of North Vietnam and Cambodia, Israel's bombing of Lebanon, or the sanctions against Iraq'."
For Bendle this is not terrorism:
First there was the American airstrike on August 22: "A visitor to the [Afghan] village [of Azizabad] and to three graveyards within its limits on Aug 31 counted 42 freshly dug graves. Thirteen of the graves were so small they could hold only children; another 13 were marked with stones in the way that Afghans identify women's graves... At the battle scene, shell craters dotted the the courtyards and shrapnel had gouged holes in the walls. Rooms had collapsed and mud bricks and torn clothing lay in uneven mounds where people had been digging. In two places blood was splattered on a ceiling and a wall. An old woman pushed forward with a cauldron full of jagged metal bomb fragments, and a youth presented cellphone video he said was shot on the day of the bombing... The smell of bodies lingered in one compound, causing villagers to start digging with spades. They found the body of a baby, caked in dust, in the corner of a bombed-out room. Cellphone images... showed two lines of about 20 bodies each laid out in the mosque, with the sounds of loud sobbing and villagers' cries in the background. An Afghan doctor who runs a clinic in a nearby village said he counted 50 to 60 bodies of civilians, most of them women and children and some of them his own patients, laid out in the village mosque on the day of the strike."
Then there was the American raid: "'I woke up when I heard shooting', Zainab, a 26-year old woman who doctors said was wounded in the attack, said in an interview in the Herat city hospital. 'The shooting was very close to our house. We just stayed where we were because it was dangerous to go out. When the bombardment started there was smoke everywhere and we lay down to protect ourselves'. Yakhakhan, 51, one of several men in the village working for a private security firm... said he heard shooting and was just coming out of his house when he saw his neighbor's sons running. 'They were killed right here; they were 10 and 7 years old', he said. In the compound next to his, he said, four entire families, including those of his two brothers, were killed. 'They bombard us, they hate us, they kill us', he said of the Americans. 'God will punish them'. A policeman, Abdul Hakim, whose four children were killed and whose wife was paralysed, said she told him how an Afghan informer accompanying the American Special Operations forces had entered the compound after the bombardment and shot dead her brother, Reza Khan; her father; and an uncle as they were trying to help her. She said she had heard her father plead for help and ask the Afghan: 'Are you Muslim? Why are you doing this to us?' Then she heard shots, and her father did not speak after that, he said." (Evidence points to civilian toll in Afghan raid, Carlotta Gall, The New York Times, 8/9/08)
But this is not, repeat not, terrorism. Right, Merv?