Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Indonesia Sends a Signal to Itself

The acquittal of Abu Bakar Bashir of the most serious charges against him sends the strongest of all possible political messages in Indonesia: keep killing Australians, you'll only get four years. Who can forget the sternness (Click, you gotta see it!) with which the Indonesian police presented Bali bomber Amrozi to the press. Bashir must have known he was home free at that moment. While Abu Bakar Bashir is  probably not in the operational chain of Al-Qaeda command, he is a "spiritual leader" given to such pronouncements as "Australia will be destroyed instantly"  and giving his blessing to the bombing of Christian churches throughout Indonesia on Christmas eve, 2000. He was the symbol of an entire movement that aims to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state.

Perhaps finding the cleric not guilty of operationally leading the Jemaah Islamiah and alluding to his frail health as a pretext for leniency gives the Indonesian government the leverage to deal more severely with action men like Hambali while avoiding a political backlash from Bashir's supporters. But that gives the Indonesians too much credit. After all, it was the Americans who caught Hambali. It was the Singaporeans and Filipinos who caught Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi. The Indonesians have only the lowly village mechanic Amrozi and a few henchmen to show for all their efforts. No other could they find. Therefore the upshot of this verdict is to announce that passes to kill Australians and Americans are being handed out at the Indonesian courthouse door. No Indonesian Muslim need unduly fear punishment for killing 'white people' if he has more political influence than a local grease monkey.

But the Amrozi verdict is also a warning to Australia, which took the foolish line that the Bali attack was not an act of war directed against it, but simply a large criminal act which the Indonesian authorities could be counted on the punish. That policy, which was a denial of facts to start with, is now in ruins. Having denied the obvious, Australia must accept the inevitable. Bashir will be free in less than four years to take up the jihad against the foolish white men, who even now, are seeking ways to commute the death sentence of his disciple Amrozi on 'humanitarian' grounds. Who seeks death, the jihadi or the western liberal? Now that's a tough one.