How Australian imperialism benefits from the Bali massacre

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When horrific terrorist outrages occur, it's useful to ask who benefits from them. The answer usually sheds light on who could be responsible for these deeds. The Bali bombing on 12 October is no exception to this rule. The accused Indonesian Islamists certainly do not benefit from the Bali bombing. Abu Bakar Bashir, spiritual leader of one of the country's principal Islamist organisation, has been arrested and faces a possible death penalty for alleged complicity. New 'anti-terrorist' laws have been announced in Indonesia, after these were demanded by Australia in the wake of the bombing. Some 400 Australian Federal Police and some FBI agents have rushed to Bali and are working in 'partnership' with Indonesian police investigating the bombing. Australia has also donated A$10 million in 'counter-terrorism aid' - allegedly to assist Indonesia to build an effective 'counter-terrorism' capacity, but really to institutionalise an Australian security presence there and to bring Indonesia closer to Australia's expanding sphere of influence.

To ask the question of who benefits is to answer it. The answer is clearly neither the Islamists nor even the Indonesian state, but, most directly, Australia, but also, indirectly, the United States. The bombing provides Australian imperialism with a golden opportunity to impose itself directly on Indonesia in an unprecedented manner. And back in Australia, the bombing has provided the most warlike fraction in the bourgeoisie with a very big stick to cow and morally blackmail workers not convinced of the need to wage all out war on Iraq in the near future. A relentless media campaign from the bombing onwards keeps the horror of this outrage constantly in public consciousness, accompanied by injunctions to "get the bastards who did this" (Prime Minister Howard's words) and to enthusiastically prosecute the 'War on Terror'.

Opinion polls taken just before the Bali bombing indicated that a majority of the population did not support a new Gulf war. Although new polls have not been taken since the bombing, it is clear that there has been a certain shift in opinion in favour of war. A majority of workers probably still do not support the war, but the number who do has probably risen.

So who did carry out the Bali bombing? Given the facts stated above -and the precedents of Pearl Harbor and the US World Trade Center attacks, it is quite possible that this horrendous crime was at least perpetrated with the full knowledge of the Australian and US bourgeoisies, in order to obtain the political results listed above. Was it carried out by Islamists as the bourgeois media alleges? Possibly - but then, the Australian and US bourgeoisies, not to mention the Indonesian bosses, have been manipulating various Indonesian Islamist fractions since at least the 1950s. In Indonesia's recent history, Islamist fractions have been used to first bring the last Indonesian President, the 'moderate' Islamist Abdurrahman Wahid, to power in October 1999 and then to help throw him unceremoniously out again less than 2 years later.

Furthermore, there is something decidedly fishy about the wealth of information now flooding out of the Australian media - most of it openly acknowledged as being from 'security specialists', if not from actual intelligence agencies. These include extremely detailed accounts of numerous alleged meetings of Islamist terrorist leaders in South-East Asia, to plot various atrocities. According to Australia's most respected current affairs programme Four Corners on 28 October, one such meeting was held in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in January 2000. According to Four Corners:

"The CIA got wind of it ahead of time and tipped off Malaysian intelligence, which carried out video and photo surveillance. The meeting was attended by some of Osama bin Laden's most trusted operatives, including two of the hijackers who would die in the September 11 attacks on the United States.

"The gathering was hosted by Hambali [who is now accused by Australia of being Osama bin Laden's chief lieutenant in South-East Asia], who'd come from Indonesia. Bin Laden's man in Manila, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was there as well. Among the others present were the September 11 hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, who were at the controls of the plane that hit the Pentagon. Also there was another al-Qaida bomber later accused of the attack in Yemen on the warship 'USS Cole'".

The meeting is thought to have been a key planning session for those attacks.

The purpose of these claims by Four Corners was to garner support for Australian imperialism's new imperialist ventures in Indonesia, as well - in a turnaround from its attitude prior to the Bali bombing - to build support for the US push for war against Iraq. But perhaps Four Corners tells us too much. For, if the CIA had indeed got wind of the Kuala Lumpur meeting ahead of time (and the meeting did actually take place), why did it not intervene to have the terrorists plotting against it arrested and nip these plots in the bud? Of course, it could be that the meeting did not take place at all, and that this is just one more strand in the mendacious web being woven by the pro-US bourgeoisie to transfer real working class hostility to its war plans into enthusiasm for new imperialist war. But if Four Corners is actually telling the truth, it surely lends considerable weight to the argument that the Bali bombings were carried out with the full knowledge of the Australian and US bourgeoisies, in order to benefit from the bombing's political fallout.

Other evidence tends to support this last, chilling conclusion. Despite claims by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer that warnings were given to Australians intending to travel to Bali before the bombing, cautioning them against the strong possibility of terrorist attacks on that island, this is simply a lie. Downer's department issued travel advice on 20 September, warning of such a danger in Jakarta - but adding in bold type that tourist services in Bali were 'operating normally'. A further statement, issued this time by the Australian Embassy in Jakarta on 3 October, repeated the earlier advice.

This also fits into a pattern. Just as US governments were warned before both Pearl Harbour and September 11 that massive attacks were imminent, so it appears that the Australian Government knew what was afoot in Bali but sat on its hands, in order to make political gains from the ensuing carnage.

The upshot of all this is that Australia now has the biggest presence in Indonesia since that country's independence in the 1940s. Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has been able to cobble together a new 'anti-terrorist' alliance with Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. The new alliance is officially intended to guarantee the safety of regional trade against terrorist attacks. But there can be no doubt that this scheme will be used to force more active support for the US' war plans. This will be particularly useful against Malaysia (whose fiercely nationalist President has denounced the US war drive against Iraq) and Indonesia (whose current President, Megawati Sukarnoputri, has tried to balance between Islamist forces opposed to the US war plans and pro-US elements in another section of the local bourgeoisie). Howard will visit the Philippines and Vietnam in the New Year, to twist these countries' arms to be more active at the regional level in the 'War on Terror'.

The various Asian and Western governments involved and the assorted Islamist fractions are all equally reactionary. Neither 'democracy' (or 'anti-terrorism') nor the US' 'War on Terror' will put an end to the fundamental cause of terrorist atrocities such as the Bali bombing, for the simple reason that it is decomposing capitalism which is producing such massacres across the globe. Just like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, the forces most likely to have been behind the Bali atrocity are former clients of the United States. And just as in the cases of Pearl Harbour and September 11, the country whose citizens were the main victims of this particular massacre (Australia) almost certainly conspired to stifle warnings of the impending atrocity from reaching the light of day. In other words, whatever the particular details, innocent people are once again the victims of decomposing capitalism, which is everywhere and in all its forms (Third World, terrorist and democratic) prepared to commit the most horrendous deeds to extend its bloody rule.

Dawson, 29/10/02.