Parke wary of war drums

FREMANTLE federal MP Melissa Parke has again broken step with Labor party bosses, criticising the country’s build up to war in the middle-east.

Despite Labor leader Bill Shorten being in lock-step with prime minister Tony Abbott’s military actions against Isis, Ms Parke is warning the country is rushing towards an “open-ended fight”.

“One has to ask why on earth the UN was not our first port of call, especially at a time when we occupy a valuable seat on the UN security council, where we can examine with other countries who are more familiar with the situation in the region that we are, the potential for political and diplomatic solutions,” the former UN human rights lawyer told parliament Monday.

“In my view we should be endeavouring to ensure that there is a broad-based international partnership engaging moderate Islamic states such as Indonesia and Malaysia as well as neighbouring middle-eastern states such as Jordan and Turkey.”

Ms Parke contradicts Mr Abbott’s claim our military role won’t mean higher risks for Australians: in 2003 when working for the UN she was specifically advised to keep secret her nationality when Australia joined George W Bush’s ill-fated invasion of Iraq.

“I was advised by security officers of the heightened risk I faced as a result of Australia’s involvement in that debacle,” she told MPs.

Ms Parke says death threats aren’t reserved for Isis and its Australian sympathisers: she revealed there had been calls on social media for her to be executed for treason for daring to question Australia’s rapidly escalating role in the Iraq-Syria Isis conflict.

“A call for my execution may be extreme, but it demonstrates how the beating of the drums of war and the hysteria this generates inevitably prevent the kind of calm, serious and rational discussion that is called for when decisions are being made to commit Australians overseas to kill and potentially to be killed,” she said.

While graphic videos of David Haines, Steven Sotloff and James Foley being murdered on screen are offensive to people’s sense of humanity, Ms Parke says it is important to fight the natural instinct to retaliate, particularly as the murders are designed precisely to elicit outrage and fear: “As the Ottoman Turks discovered, and as has become ever clearer since, these issues are never going to be resolved by outsiders, especially not outsiders with guns and bombs, and not by approaching this as a crusade against a death cult.”

She criticises the arming of so-called moderates in the region as “delusional”, noting they’d already allied with Isis in fighting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and had committed their own beheadings and other brutalities.

“As one writer most succinctly puts it: ‘the terrorists fighting us now? We just finished training them.’”

Ms Parke wants a formal debate in parliament before Australia commits troops overseas, saying it might not change the outcome but will make the decisions more transparent and ensure MPs’ concerns are aired and understood.


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