deliberately pouring petrol

This seems too obvious to need saying but then again perhaps not. Suppose that, after the Victorian bushfires, a group of survivors took shelter in a nearby town. Suppose that the house in which they stayed somehow caught fire and killled a bunch of people.

Would the media and politicians immediately start speculating, before any investigations, that the bushfire victims were themselves responsible? If they did, what conclusions would they draw? If indeed some of the survivors were involved, what it be suggested that, just perhaps, they were a little traumatised by their ordeal? Or, on the other hand, would the implication be that the tragedy told you everything you needed to know, not just about these bushfire survivors, but bushfire survivors in general; that anyone who fled from a natural disaster was a pyromaniac who needed to be kept in a cage; and that all assistance to bushfire victims should be immediately suspended?

And let’s not even start discussing how the countries producing this fresh round of asylum seekers are all places (Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka) where the Global War on Terror, launched with bipartisan support, has been allowed to proceed full tilt. In not unrelated news, we now learn that 85 per cent of Iraqi victims of aerial bombing in Iraq (a strategy now enthusiastically transported to Afghanistan) turn out to be women and children. Gosh, why would people seek to flee the embrace of our wonderful liberation?

If the journalists and politicians seeking mileage out of this latest tragedy had to experience a fraction of what we’ve done to Iraq and Afghanistan, how many of them would be getting their family on boats and how many would be still banging on about queue jumping and the rest of it?

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

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