An Evening with Kevin Rudd

One of the great perks of being an ALP member in the ACT is that you get invited up to parliament house on a semi-regular basis to attend interesting events. Tonight our local federal representatives Andrew Leigh, Gai Brodtmann and Kate Lundy kindly arranged for a briefing from the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Australia’s foreign policy.

Now I am by no means a foreign policy buff, but I was interested in going along if only for the chance to see the former PM in person.

Kevin Rudd spoke to us for half an hour on a broad range of topics relating to Australia’s foreign policy including:

  • The G20
  • Creating a multi-Lateral security institution in Asia
  • How the Middle East is relevant to Australia’s national interest
  • Climate change

I have never met Kevin Rudd before. I was impressed. He was completely on top of his brief (which is not a surprise). He spoke for thirty minutes without notes and delivered the perfect amount of detail. He is obviously a passionate, well informed and active foreign minister. I think that it will be a shame if Labor loses the next election and Kevin Rudd is replaced by July Bishop. JB may have a mean death stare, but I am yet to hear her say anything interesting on foreign affairs.

Anyway, I didn’t gain any grand insights from the speech, but I thought I would share nonetheless. I do think this event provides a great example of the benefits of being a Labor party member in the ACT. If you are interested in centre-left politics and you live in the ACT, you should consider joining.

If you are interested in reading more on Australia’s foreign policy check out Kevin Rudd’s speech from the 21st of January:

Kevin Rudd’s Press Club address on the Middle East

My thoughts on the death of Osama Bin Laden

Today while I was coming back from my lunch break my twitter feed started buzzing with the reported death of Osama bin Laden. Once ABC News 24 went live with Al Jazeera English, and US President Obama announced a press conference it was clear that this was for real. Osama bin Laden, the principal bad guy of my adult life, had been killed by a team of US navy seals in Pakistan.

When I was 18-19 years old my political beliefs tended towards the bat-shit-insane leftie. I believed that globalisation was horrible (wrong), that the US was an imperialistic evil empire (wrong) and that John Howard was the devil (wrong).

I also felt a misguided support for Al-Qaeda as an underdog against the big bad US. I didn’t agree with Bin Laden’s methods; I along with most people watched in horror and amazement as passenger jets crashed into the twin towers on September 11 2001. All the same I somehow thought that the aims of al-Qaeda were correct.

I am ashamed that I ever thought this. Bin Laden was a murderer. He was prepared to kill innocent people, who were just going about their business, to advance some dubious political aims. I wish I could go back in time and slap some sense into me for thinking such a hateful, ridiculous thing. This serves me as a shameful reminder that when you are 18, you have some crack pot ideas about how the world works, that change quickly as you come to understand that things aren’t black and white.

As an 18 year old I was also reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s (a german pastor killed for his resistance to Nazis and participation in a conspiracy on Hitler’s life) biography and his ‘Letters and Papers from Prison’. Bonhoeffer grappled with the question of how killing Hitler could be justified as a Christian. How do you reconcile Exodus 20:13 ‘Thou shalt not kill’ with letting a mass murderer live? As a young Christian this question fascinated me.

I was reminded today of this dilemma while watching President Obama announce that US Navy Seals had killed bin Laden in Pakistan. I was obviously not the only one as I read comments like this on twitter. President Obama was proclaiming justice was served by killing bin Laden – but surely justice makes an uncomfortable bedfellow with cold-blooded killing.

Jesus was quite unequivocal on the whole killing your evil enemies business:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. —Matthew 5:38-39 NIV

So how does a Christian such as President Obama reconcile ordering bin Laden captured or killed with this instruction from Christ? My younger, more certain self would have struggled to reconcile these two view points. I still do not envy Obama’s power to decide the life and death of another human being.

On balance however, I agree with Bonhoeffer and President Obama. Sometimes killing another person is the right thing to do.

This was a man who through his acts had forfeited his right to life. The world is a better place without Osama Bin Laden in it. Had he been captured and brought to trial, he would have used it as a pulpit to preach his twisted version of Islam, bringing further grief, suffering and division to a world that already has enough of all three.

I think that this quote, attributed to Mark Twain, might sum up my sentiments on hearing this news best:

“I’ve never wished a man dead, but I’ve read some obituries with great pleasure” —Mark Twain

So, that is the end of Osama bin Laden. Here’s hoping that the recent cry for democracy in the Middle-East will also herald the end to his politics of hate and murder.