[thechat] Bali

Paul Cowan evolt at funkwit.com
Wed Oct 16 14:32:00 CDT 2002

Terry wrote:
> Last night an "analyst" on NPR stated that Osama has
> had it in for Oz because of involvement in peace
> keeping in East Timor. Does make any sense?

Ummm... is it true? No idea. Does it make sense? Yes.

Australia has had a long habit of.. well... 'brown-nosing' is a
horrible phrase, but that's kind of true -- to its south-east asian
neighbours, particularly ever since the Keating years (Paul Keating
= prime minister of Australia who wanted closer ties with Asia rather
than the west -- presumably after looking at a map and saying "wow.
so THAT'S where we are!". I suspect he was the first PM to own a globe).

However, we have an equally long, if not longer, tradition, of pissing
off our south-east asian neighbours too, who I suspect kind of look on
us as you would the little kid who wants to be part of your "cool gang"
but is just far too socially awkward and gauche to be allowed anywhere
near you for fear he would wreck your game by puncturing the ball or
throwing it on the roof or something.

An example is the time that Keating himself described Mahathir
as "recalcitrant". It was a throw-away line, I really don't think
it was intended as an insult (despite some reports at the time), more
just a poor choice of words. Mahathir was extremely upset, and
Malaysia-Australia relations were strained for some time.

As far as Indonesia goes, many in the Australian left in particular
have accused Australia of basically spending the last 30 years
with an "appeasement" policy towards Indonesia, particularly in
regard to "atrocities" in East Timor/Aceh etc. This is almost
certainly true -- the prevailing Australian diplomatic attitude
was, I suspect, "it in an unwise westernised society that pisses
off a largely-muslim country with a 300,000-strong military just
a few hundred clicks to the North", not in itself a bad attitude
for a pragmatist diplomat, I guess. Morally reprehensible, sure,
but for the practically-minded, not without its charms.

However, over the last few years, there has been an enormous
groundswell of support East Timorese independence in particular in
Australia, due in a large part to the efforts of people like Jose
Ramos Horta. Australia was quite a driving force behind East
Timor's now-successful independence movement. I suspect that this
would have pissed Indonesia off *enormously*.

Look, to be honest, if you were an Indonesian terrorist wanting
to strike against a Western country, Australia would be a *very*
obvious choice. We've been a thorn in Indonesia's side (or, indeed,
a pain in their collective arse) for a while now, and I really
don't think there's any love lost. Apart from that, Australia has
been one of what I would say are the two countries most eager to
leap in behind the US as it mounts its ever-expanding war on
terror, the UK being the other. For those in the Muslim world who
consider this to be a "war on Islam" (rightly or wrongly), this is
hardly going to endear us to them, is it?

And frankly, if you wanted to attack Australia, which I think is quite
likely -- of the 200+ estimated dead, don't be surprised if ~160-170
of those are Australians -- but didn't want to leave Indonesia, it
would take about 30 seconds of thought to come up with Bali. It really
is the Australian equivalent of, say, Tijuana to the US, or maybe
Ibiza to the UK. In fact, I read an analysis by an Indonesian
security consultant who said that there is *no single place in the
whole of Indonesia* where you could plant a bomb and kill more
westerners and less muslims. I mean, Kuta beach is *the* epicentre
of Australian tourism, probably; and the two bars targeted (Paddy's
and Sari) are famous as Australians-in-Bali nightspots, and in fact,
apart from staff, no Indonesian citizens are *allowed* in the bars
at all (apparently a rule to reduce prostitution touting). Even 200
yards up the road either way have vastly reduced the efficacy of the
bombs, assuming max(western) and min(muslim) as the goals of the blast
(and I realise that this *is* only an assumption). Most of the Balinese,
including those who work at the bars, are Hindu, by the way.

Make of that what you will. Short answer: yes, it's entirely possible
that it was an attack against Australia, rather than just against "the

Not that it necessarily *was*, mind you; I'm a "hard evidence" kind
of guy, myself, but it's certainly plausible.

I'd love to hear a view on this from any Indonesians or other South-
East Asians on the list.



PS: It's way too early for me to be at work.

More information about the thechat mailing list