One could easily say that any act that induces a feeling of terror in its victim/s might rightly be called ‘terrorism’. In which case, the most terrible aspect of the #SydneySiege would be that moment of terror when the police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Café in Martin Place, accompanied by the blinding percussive terror of dozens of flash grenades and 27 rifle shots. Prior to that, the event was simply a hostage situation – albeit one with an imposed flavour of ‘Islamic extremism’.
There are some concerning elements of this siege situation, which took place in the centre of Australia’s largest city on 15-16 December, 2014. The most concerning are sevenfold:
- The failure of ASIO’s threat assessment in the hours prior to the siege
- The media fanfare and gross hyperbole of reporting and political response during and since the siege
- The prophylactic approach to negotiations with the hostage-taker, Man Haron Monis (i.e., nobody was permitted to communicate with him, and police themselves were out of contact for hours at a time)
- tony abbott’s refusal to engage in a ‘radio debate’ with Monis, a decision that may have cost 3 lives and exacerbated the situation for all involved
- The deliberate misinformation surrounding the cause of death of victim Katrina Dawson
- The ‘shock and awe’ entry technique chosen by police when they entered the building to break the siege
- The slow and delayed release of actual information during and since the siege
Let’s take a deeper look at each of those.
ASIO failed to detect or forecast an imminent action by the perpetrator, after having been directed to “Take a look at this man’s website.” This reveals a shortcoming in ASIO’s threat assessment protocols. This should be a relatively easy fix – review and refine the protocols, perhaps broaden the definition of what might arouse suspicion of any impending criminality or terrorist act.
Media and political hyperbole. As usual, the mainstream media (probably all media, actually) went completely apeshit. The issue here, though, is the swiftness with which the ‘ISIS’/’terrorism’ labels were dangled over the whole affair. Yes, the guy was a Muslim; yes, he displayed an ‘Islamic flag’ (actually a shahādah, not an ISIS flag, although he did demand that police provide him with one[!]); yes, he told some hostages to demand publication by the media that “this is an attack on Australia by the Islamic State”. But, just because someone says something does not make it true, and before the police and the New South Wales government had decided to treat the event as if it were a terrorist attack, the Murdoch media specifically labelled it as such and published the sensationalist headlines like those in the image I have posted above. A bit premature and Over The Top…, and, in hindsight, quite a bit wrong. The man was simply trying to make his plight bigger and more imposing than it actually was. The ‘ISIS’ threat was a red herring, a diversion, a smoke-shield. It wasn’t ‘IS’, it was one guy.
The ‘condom method’ of hostage negotiations. All offers of help made by Muslim acquaintances of the hostage-taker were refused. Police themselves had only partial communication during the entire event – sometimes with hours passing between verbal exchanges. Put simply, the guy was left to stew in his own juices while police tried to conjure up a way to approach the situation. This, surely, exacerbated the intensity and impact of what occurred in those final terrible minutes.
abbott. Handed a golden opportunity, on a silver plate, encrusted with flakes of platinum, and the Prime Moron refused to take it. Monis demanded that abbott talk (debate) live on radio regarding Afghanistan. This was the moment when abbott could have intervened and, maybe, perhaps, helped to put an end to the situation. Could have. But refused. Personally, I think abbott might have made it worse – maybe antagonised Monis enough to send him over the edge a little sooner than he eventually did. But we’ll never know. Because abbott is a coward, and abbott wanted victims. abbott wanted a terrorist attack on Australian soil. A war he could wage…
Looks like a gunshot, could be a heart attack. Katrina Dawson was killed when a bullet fired from a police weapon struck her. Perhaps it ricocheted. Maybe the coronial inquest will determine that. But, initially, the police issued a statement clearly describing Dawson’s unfortunate demise as being the result of cardiac arrest. Initially, that sounded plausible. If you see the video of the storming of the café, it would be of little surprise to learn that someone inside there had a heart attack. Maybe that’s why this line was used. But a fatal gunshot is usually easy to detect on a dead or dying human body, and so I am calling this as deliberate misinformation. A lie.
‘Shock and Awe’. I believe this was the entirely wrong way to enter the building. And however they did it, it was done way too late. Dozens of ‘flashbangs’ detonating within seconds. Blinding flashes, acoustic pressure waves, both designed to disorient and distract and incapacitate. Nobody should really have to be subjected to that. THAT is terror. It’s a wonder that there isn’t a real fatality (a real cardiac event) that arose as a direct result of that.
Trickle of facts. In the wake of the siege, there has been a very slow and controlled release of new information. In fact, almost nothing new has come about, mainly because most actual information would appear to contradict the reporting at the time. When compared to other ‘terror’ events, before and since (most other hostage/siege events, 9/11, Charlie Hebdo, subsequent French situations), as soon as the dust settles, the truth begins to assemble itself before our eyes, and we are informed of the facts (well… the information is released, and then it’s up to us to piece it together). We are also accustomed to hearing from the victims themselves, but in this case, as far as I’m aware, not one of the hostages has told their tale. Any number of news programs would surely be keen to hear the heart-wrenching details of how the siege unfolded and how evil and calculated the gunman was, how terrified the hostages were… In the current ‘world paradigm’ and with an political and media agenda to paint the event as an act of terrorism, one would think that doors would be kicked in to get those interviews with the hostages. It would appear that they have been silenced for some reason. Disturbing silence. In this case, also, it has taken over 3 weeks just to establish that a police bullet, not cardiac arrest as originally reported, was the cause of death for one of the victims. A little too slow for comfort…
And, on top of all of that, we also do not know the exact, precise, sequence of events that led to and through the ‘breaking of the siege’. Did the first victim, Tori Johnson, die as a result of gunshot wound from the perpetrator? That is the current official line. And we may have to wait until the inquest and other investigations and reviews are completed before we know the truth of that.
I posit that this event was seized upon by certain elements of politics and media. Perhaps collusion between these two ‘estates’ is not beyond the imagination (of course it’s not). There were/are opportunities for both to harvest from this. And maybe the events that transpired may have done so very differently if established protocols had been adhered to and had the situation been approached on its merits, rather than self-interest at some level or another running interference and ‘engineering’ an alternative outcome that could be ‘milked’… Just saying…
Like all of these ‘events’, the more time that passes, the less chance there is of a cohesive, rational, explanation of how it transpired. There is more time now for speculation (like this post), and more time for alternative narratives to appear. And, like all broadly similar ‘events’ before, we may never now know the full truth.
As more information or thoughts emerge, I may do more on this…
For another view into this, there are two related posts published at: http://fuqd.at/timeout/sydney-siege/ and at http://fuqd.at/timeout/lindt-cafe-siege-observations-12-january-2015/ by krONik. Go read them, too.