At a time when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has emerged as the bedrock of the US-led ‘war on terrorism' and of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington has tabled a proposal for the creation of a ‘global partnership' that will make it even more effective in implementing the US government's imperial and anti-Islamic programmes. The idea is to establish formal partnerships with countries that unquestionably support Washington's international plans and that will be prepared to provide troops to join or even replace those of NATO and the US in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The countries already in the scheme are Australia and New Zealand, and Japan and South Korea are to join shortly.
France is strongly opposed to the plan on the grounds that it is a gambit to unite countries that are more likely to see issues from Washington's point of view. Already New Zealand andAustralia have sent troops to NATO operations and are present in Afghanistan although they have no formal partnerships with NATO. France, despite being no friend to Islam or Muslims, is objecting to the scheme not because it is directed against ‘Islamic terrorism' but on nationalist grounds. But what some people will no doubt find surprising, although it can be argued that it is not, is that Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO, is not objecting to the US's plan.
Both Australia and New Zealand are not only anti-Islamic but highly racist. Last December, Australia was "in the grip of its worst race clashes since independence", according to newspaper reports at the time. Large numbers of white Australians attacked men and women of Middle Eastern appearance and destroyed their cars and other properties, many of them shouting "No more Lebs [Lebanese]" as they did so. According to Roland Jabbour, chairman of the Australian Arabic Council, the unrest had been stirred by politicians and journalists. "Arab Australians have had to cope with vilification, racism, abuse, and fear of a racial backlash for a number of years, but these riots will take that fear to a new level," he said.
In these circumstances it is not surprising that young Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, are feeling threatened and unaccepted in Australia although they were born there and grew up there. According to the Lebanese youth leader Fadi Fadi Rahman, many young people in his community are beginning to wonder whether they will ever be accepted in Australia. "Let us not forget these kids are born and raised in Australia; they were not born and raised overseas," he said. "We are heading for disaster as far as I'm concerned."
This intensely racist and anti-Islamic feeling is not confined to the public but is shared, albeit a little more discreetly, by politicians and civil servants. John Howard, the prime minister, for example, makes no secret of his hatred of immigrants; in fact he won the general election of 2001 on a hardline immigration platform. Racism is also common in New Zealand, as it is in the US. An alliance between the governments of the US, Australia and New Zealand in a NATO partnership scheme is certain to reflect the racist and anti-Islamic feeling that is apparent in their national policies. Already, the manner in which Muslims are killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and abused in Guantanamo Bay and other detention centres around the world, shows how contemptible and expendable they are in the eyes of their tormentors.
Even more alarmingly, Western member-states of NATO – such as the US and Britain – are seeking to amend international law and remove international conventions they regard as hindering their ability to wage war against Muslim countries and torment Muslim detainees. On December 3, for instance, John Reid, the British defence secretary, said in a speech that the Geneva Conventions were out-of-date and should not be in force because the world is faced with a new enemy (‘Islamic terrorism') that obeys no rules. He said that the Conventions should be amended to allow British and other Western soldiers to mount military actions against other states. Clearly this is the line that the US and its allies in NATO will take at any NATO partnership meetings, and Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea will see no reason to disagree.
The plan for a "global partnership" with these four US allies will be discussed at a NATO summit in November. The task of Turkey, a longstanding member of the organisation, is clear enough. Ankara must not only oppose the plan at the summit but must also make its opposition public and clear well before that. But NATO already operates a Partnership for Peace programme with 20 countries, including several from the former Soviet bloc, and also has formal ties with seven Mediterranean countries and six Gulf states. Some of these are Muslim countries which, though they are not members of NATO, must use their ties to the alliance to oppose the proposed global partnership.
One surprising aspect of the issue is the failure of the Muslim world's press and broadcast media to report and discuss the issue, let alone oppose it. There is clearly a case for public debate not only in the media but by governments and private organisations so that the issue becomes too hot to be wrapped up at the NATO summit in November. However, it seems likely that this will not happen, simply because the ostriches with their heads in the sand are utterly awed and cowed by the West.