Best columns: International
Monuments to colonial cruelty
The Sydney Morning Herald
As the U.S. anguishes over what to do with its Confederate statues, Australia is reckoning with monuments to its own bloody past, said Ben Quilty. Last week in downtown Sydney, vandals defaced historic statues of James Cook, the British explorer credited with “discovering” Australia in 1770, and Lachlan Macquarie, a 19th-century governor who transformed New South Wales from a penal colony to a free settlement. While vandalism is obviously wrong, the statues do need to be rethought—perhaps not taken down, but at the very least given new plaques to add a “layer of historical truth to our streets.” The colonial history of Australia is a “history of massacres” of the indigenous Aborigines. Some of the people honored in stone in our city parks committed heinous crimes against humanity. Where are the monuments to the victims? In 2008, the Australian government finally apologized for stealing Aborigine children from their families and raising them in state-run homes, but it has yet to apologize for the country’s original sin of colonization. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull opposes altering or removing statues, saying to do so would be a “Stalinist exercise” in re-editing history. But that history “was deeply edited from the beginning” to fit a “rigidly British” colonialist narrative. It’s time for an Australian telling of Australian history—one that includes our natives.
A cradle of rebirth for al Qaida
Le Monde (France)
Al Qaida is being reforged in the fires of Yemen’s civil war, said Jean-Philippe Rémy. That already impoverished country is being slowly destroyed by the fight between Iran-backed rebels and a Saudiled coalition, with cholera and famine ravaging the civilian population. The chaos presents an opportunity for al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which “is mulling over its past mistakes and trying to reinvent its future: How to adapt, how to triumph?” In Afghanistan, al Qaida’s main source of income was heroin trafficking, but today in Yemen it gets money by smuggling oil and taking hostages for ransom. The terrorist group has also changed tactics: It no longer imposes brutal sharia law immediately on the inhabitants of newly conquered territory and instead tries to “win hearts and minds.” AQAP pays blood money to tribes if it kills one of their members by mistake, and its militants hand out propaganda videos showing acts of heroism in Syria and Iraq. Instead of talking about jihad, AQAP leaders “focus on public services.” When AQAP took over the port of Mukalla in 2015, for example, it quickly repaired the sewers and set up a charity for the needy. The next generation of al Qaida terrorists to hit the West will surely come from Yemen. ■