18 March 2004

Dateline | Gunaratna on threat

MARK DAVIS: Well, you've raised one regional issue, that was Australia's involvement in Iraq, increasing the threat of a terror attack in Australia. Did you discuss this issue with the head of the AFP, Mick Keelty?

DR ROHAN GUNARATNA: Certainly at the conference, the issue of Iraq was discussed and of course I've made my opinion public and to reiterate, I believe that the US invasion of Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism worldwide. It is because the invasion of Iraq has angered the Muslims and there's tremendous resentment and unhappiness, even on the part of the moderate Muslims. And the terrorist groups and the extremist organisations are exploiting that resentment, that anger and generating support and recruiting more people as sympathisers, supporters and members. Iraq has become the new land of jihad. The Islamists desperately needed a theatre after the loss of Afghanistan for them to physically and psychologically water in. Iraq has created that opportunity.

MARK DAVIS: But is this a problem in Australia? This is the core question.

DR ROHAN GUNARATNA: I believe that there's overall increase of threat as a result of US invasion of Iraq and certainly it will have a bearing on Australia.

MARK DAVIS: Do you agree with Mr Keelty's original analysis rather than Mr Howard's?

DR ROHAN GUNARATNA: Yes, I think the AFP Commissioner in this case, he was right.

There's a delicious irony in the Man of Steel suddenly falling afoul of the security politics he's made his trademark. After 2 years of telling us we must save the nation by supporting him suddenly he's telling us that there really is not such a great big threat after all, and if there it's certainly not his fault. This 180 degree reversal is going to make scare tactics a lot harder when the election campaign starts.

I think the war in Iraq was wrong. That judgment does not turn on whether it raised the threat of a terrorist attack on Australia.

I also think the khaki election campaign of 2001 was wrong. My criticism of the Howard government' effort against terrorism is that they should have built on real successes like the Bali criminal work instead of getting caught up in the Bush administration's war of imagery.

Fighting terror is too serious to be left to the spindoctors.

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