The Howard Government has hotly denied both the connection between these bombings and Iraq, and their significance for Australia. According to the Prime Minister, Australia has been an al-Qaeda target since our role in the liberation of East Timor from Indonesian rule. We are targeted, he continued, not for what we have done but for who we are - a Western democracy. While al-Qaeda might be genuinely interested in Afghanistan because of its links with the Taliban, it was only pretending, for propaganda purposes, to be interested in Iraq.
Every Howard argument is unconvincing. If we were first targeted as a result of East Timor, how can it simultaneously be argued that we are a target not because of what we have done but who we are? If East Timor is important to al-Qaeda, how can it be argued that Iraq is irrelevant? East Timor is, at most, at the periphery of the Muslim world. Iraq is near its heart. Most importantly, the argument that while al-Qaeda is genuinely concerned about Afghanistan it is pretending to be concerned about Iraq, suggests an astonishing ignorance of the ideological world-view of bin Laden.
I have a different explanation. The Man of Steel has nailed his colours to George Bush. His arguments therefore have to match Bush's, no matter how illogical those might be. That's going to make for an interesting election campaign when it is called. My guess is that Howard will go to the country well before Bush has to face his own electorate.