Buy Now

Hard Copy and Nook

Hard Copy and Nook

iBooks

iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Mac

Google Books Available on Google Play

Google Books Available on Google Play

Terror in Australia

Delivery in Australia & NZ

Kindle

Kindle

abe books

Free Delivery Worldwide

Free Delivery Worldwide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The single most contentious segment of the forthcoming book Terror in Australia: Workers’ Paradise Lost by the veteran journalist John Stapleton is the section known as Soldiers of God. The name is a play on the fact that Jesuits are known as Soldiers of God. The mujahadeen of Islamic State also see themselves as Soldiers of God. There is now a Jesuit Pope in Rome and until recently Australia had a Jesuit trained Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. There has been down through the centuries considerable debate over whether Christians worship the same God as Muslims. While Jesus Christ is a revered prophet in Islam, Muhammad is not regarded as a prophet by the Christians. The diabolically complex situation in the Middle East, the wildly counterproductive interference of the West, the conflation of the Islam and Christianity, the religious beliefs of the world’s major leaders, they have all come together to create a circumstance without historical precedence. Here is Section Four: Soldiers of God in its entirety.

SECTION FOUR

SOLDIERS OF GOD

JOHN STAPLETON

 

Even nonlinear narratives required a set piece, a central point where the past and the present collided, where characters came out of hiding, themes were confirmed.

In those earliest days of the Australian winter of 2015, for Alex, haunted by scenes of violence and the feeling of disturbance everywhere, as if the fabric of the world itself was now sick, it was a conference officially titled “Australia’s Regional Summit to Counter Violent Extremism: Challenging Terrorist Propaganda.”

The conference was opened by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and had many of the lead players in the game in attendance, including the head of ASIO, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop and the Attorney General George Brandis; along with representatives from more than 30 different countries. There was a large Muslim contingent.

His worst fears were confirmed.

The political leadership managing Australia’s terror threat were in large part wrongheaded, if not downright dangerous.

Or so it seemed to Alex.

He wasn’t a terror expert. He hadn’t set out to write a book about terror. His only objective had been to write a snapshot of Australia in 2015 called Workers’ Paradise Lost. And one thing led to another; the story that was impossible to ignore.

The conference was held at Pier One, nestled under the southern flank of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, once a bustling wharf shipping wool out of the colony, in the latter decades of the 20th Century a bedraggled fun pier full of dilapidated slot machines, in 2015 an upmarket conference venue.

From its front windows the Pier had striking views of the Sydney’s major landmarks, including the world famous Sydney Opera House and Luna Park; all of them now terror targets and graced with additional security.

Perhaps by coincidence, as he assumed his seat, Alex sat next to one of the senior figures in the NSW Islamic Council; a quiet man whose smart phone instantly translated his texts into Arabic, one of those men one saw on the edge of markets and crowd scenes, smoking a quiet cigarette, dignified, self-contained, a wise man who kept his thoughts to himself.

Except when he was directly asked.

“Sceptical?” Alex asked.

The man shrugged: “It’s the situation on the ground.”

The usual cluster of media waited outside Pier One for Abbott to arrive. Alex knew some of them and felt a stab of nostalgia for all those days he himself had spent as part of the media pack waiting for someone famous or infamous to arrive or depart from one venue or another.

On the way to the conference Alex had listened on the car radio to Abbott doing his morning rounds of media, answering soft questions from media supporters.

There would be no press conference at the Summit itself, no awkward questions to dodge or regret.

Pier One had already been of considerable interest to the city’s jihadists and therefore of considerable interest to the nation’s security forces. There was every reason to have security for the conference at the highest levels possible.

Already on camera and having passed by burly security guards, Alex joined the queue, had his identity checked and ticked off, and passed through a metal detector; not a common feature of news events in Australia.

Twelve years before, in mid-2003, an Islamist known only as Mansour J decided to treat himself and bought a boat.

Mansour J, later to face terrorism charges in Beirut, had come to the attention of authorities both for his associations with jihadists and for his criminal activities. By the late 1990s he was accused of being involved in at least three shootings. As Martin Chulov described in Australian Jihad: “He advocated the law of the streets in Sydney’s south-west, where, among some sections of the Middle Eastern community, rough justice is regularly and ruthlessly imposed and turf claims are brutally enforced by stand over figures and their henchmen…”

Mansour J was particularly feared because of his sociopathic approach to work, he had a habit of laughing as he shot at people.

In 1998 it was alleged that Mansour J was the driver when another man shot up the Lakemba Police station.

In 2001 Mansour J was given his freedom by a District Court judge concerned at the delay in the case going to trial; and concerned that the prisoner had not been able to access regular Muslim prayer meetings or halal food.

Chulov recorded that Mansour J transformed from thug to man of God: “At 28 years of age, J left prison a radically different man from the one who had been incarcerated. During his time in gaol he had gradually embraced the teachings of Salafi Islam – an almost identical doctrine to that underpinning the theology espoused by Osama bin Laden. It called for a pure interpretation of the Koran, and held that every Muslim had a duty to commit jihad.

“J says he had been awakened in prison through the teachings of imams who visited him. One was a prison chaplain…”

The further radicalisation of Australian jihadists under Muslim chaplaincy schemes would later become a major issue.

J walked out of prison six weeks before 9/11 changed the world.

Australians linked to the ideology from which bin Laden’s al Qaeda drew its inspiration were now fair game for scrutiny. In terms of grappling with the terrorist threat, in the early years of the millenium the AFP and ASIO were in their infancy.

They turned their spotlights, “such as they were”, onto a prayer room in Haldon Street, Lakemba, run by fundamentalist preacher Sheik Abdul Salam Zoud; follower of the Wahhabi tradition. He had previously been accused of being Australia’s chief recruiter for jihadist networks, an accusation he denied. He was also on an ASIO list of 23 people associated with al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.

The prayer hall was above a shopping mall in Haldon Street, Lakemba.

The group was a breakaway from the nearby Lakemba mosque; where Zoud was thrown out for his alleged extremist views.

Alex had been dispatched by The Australian’s News Desk to quiz its devotees; but never got very far. The site of an unbeliever on their doorsteps was almost too great an affront to bear; the hostility visible. Unlike the Lakemba Mosque, he was never invited inside.

Ethnic tensions broke across Sydney in several different ways during those first few years of the new millenium, and as a result well-meaning people who wanted to show their support for multiculturalism and the Islamic community made the trip out to Lakemba, middle class white citizens, mostly women, roaming in groups through the Middle Eastern style streets before finding a suitable local restaurant.

Oohing about how lovely the food was, they would then streak in groups back to their BMWs as fast as their social x-ray legs could carry them. Alex always thought it ironic that as they admired the food, upstairs was one of the country’s most radical mosques, where everything those women stood for would be counted as apostasy.

In the Sharia those Muslims so longed for, these women would have been given the opportunity to adopt the veil, or be put to death.

The women disappeared back to the safety of their own white bread suburbs, where they could tell everyone how wonderful it was that Australia was such a diverse and tolerant society.

Of the prayer room Chulov recorded: “There were known to be men and women among them, and elsewhere in the Australian Islamic community, who were admirers of bin Laden and of the work of the terrorists sent to attack New York and Washington in his organisation’s name.”

Mahmoud J was one of them.

Not previously noted as a pleasure craft aficionado, by mid-2003 Mansour J began spending a considerable amount of time on Sydney Harbour in his nine-metre runabout; in particular checking out the Shell Oil Refinery at Gore Cove, the Opera House and Pier One at Walsh Bay.

“Police were in little doubt that what was taking place on the waterways amounted to the early stages of a terror planning mission,” Chulov wrote. “Their suspicions were reinforced by several conversations picked up on phone taps. There were no specifics, just tough talk about attacking those who stood in Islam’s path. As the 2003 holiday season approached, a response was ratcheted up, calling for a full anti-terrorism plan to be activated.”

Others came to different conclusions, in particular ASIO, which concluded that nothing more was going on than a bit of chest-beating. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, ASIO’s judgement would be called into question.

The objections of their senior operatives were set aside and the National Security Committee of Cabinet, led by then Prime Minister John Howard, was convened.

NSW Police were given carriage of what would become one of the biggest Australian police operation of the post-2001 environment. Counter terrorism detectives feared that Mansour J and members of his Lakemba brotherhood would choose a time of attack when there would be hundreds of thousands of revellers lining the harbour foreshore, New Year’s Eve.

Chulov recorded that as New Year’s Eve approached, police activated full command posts at the Sydney Police Centre and AFP headquarters in Canberra. ASIO’s command centre was also on high alert. A bomb unit was put on standby and sniper teams deployed. In total, close to 200 police were tasked to ensure that if Mansour J was up to something, he would be foiled before he had a chance to act. They also made sure he knew he was under surveillance.

In those years Alex almost always put his hand up to work New Year’s Eve. They were easy shifts and his kids were usually away with relatives.

He would almost always be asked to go down to the Harbour foreshore, to get some feel good quotes from the revellers, families excited by the prospect of fireworks, enjoying a night out with their kids; he would jot down enough quotes to keep the News Desk happy, and move through the crushing crowds.

Inevitably, because of production deadlines, he would be asked to file copy on the midnight fireworks, before midnight. That was when imagination took hold. There was, as he discovered over the years, only so much you could say about fireworks, particularly when they hadn’t yet gone off.

It always struck him that the thronging shores of Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve constituted a prime location for massacre, mayhem, maximum casualties. But in 2003, and the years that followed, the explosions and massacres Alex was convinced would occur never came.

Perhaps because of the amount of attention he had attracted, Mansour J lost interest in boating. He was amongst the top five most watched men in the nation. Nonetheless, he managed to leave the country in 2004 on a false passport, heading straight for Beirut, and straight into further trouble.

****

At the Countering Violent Extremism conference, that morning in mid-2015, there would be none of the usual standing around grinning and gripping and welcoming guests for the Prime Minister, as was his wont.

Tony Abbott arrived after everyone was seated, only minutes before he was due to give the Opening Address. A busy man. Or a worried security team taking no chances whatsoever with their charge.

After the usual air pecks and handshakes the Australian Prime Minister settled quickly into his chair in the front row.

Abbott, and Alex, sat and listened to the Welcome to Country ceremonies, those well-meaning rituals practiced by the often blood diluted descendants of the ancient peoples, a ritual invoked by the invaders more to assuage guilt than show respect; while all around them could be felt the land, the spirits, the ancestors.

Alex felt as if, internally, Abbott’s mind was scrabbling towards some ledge, trying to understand a new world order; either that, or he had been instructed to keep his mind blank.

Perhaps he was frightened that someone would find out the depth of his betrayals.

But already, in the progressive collapse of Abbott’s Prime Ministership, too many people knew the depths of the government’s incompetence, from senior members of the bureaucracy to the hunting media packs.

In one of those brief, sliding encounters which had once been a characteristic part of Sydney’s remarkable social fluidity, where you could go out on the town and end up in the beds or on the couches of the filthy rich or the humble poor, a trait long since vanquished, Alex had breakfast in a Kings Cross cafe, sitting next to the handsome son of the head of the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Just as in every sector of society, it didn’t take long to get to the subject of the parlous state of the nation.

Tastelessly perhaps, he quipped: “Who needs a terrorist attack? The place is dead already.“

Although from different eras of Sydney life, they both lamented the passing of Sydney’s inner-city demimonde.

In response to a few sharp questions, the good son let it be known that the country’s most senior bureaucrats hated Tony Abbott.

Alex already knew that, but it was nice to have it confirmed.

It wasn’t the left wing sentiment that ponded in various sections of the bureaucracy, social justice dreams which would remain forever unquenched because reality did not fit theory; it was a disdain of a professional caste for the unprofessional conduct of another.

Tony Abbott was a professional politician. He should have known better; he should have known to seek advice, not to fill his office with political hacks and religious warriors but with professional administrators, he should have known not to look back to previously failed administrations in the search for a future path.

Abbott remained in power solely because of the parlous state of Australian democracy; in a dual party system because the opposition was in such a hapless state and because his disenchanted colleagues had yet to work out how to get rid of him without wearing the electoral stain of political assassination, as had cursed the previous administration.

And then it was the Prime Minister’s turn to give the Opening Address.

Sometimes, or so it seemed, Alex had an almost uncanny knack of knowing what people were thinking. He hadn’t survived as a journalist for so many years, hadn’t dived in and out of thousands of people’s lives, without having picked up some powers of divination.

The thing that startled Alex the most about Abbott’s entry into the conference was that the man was frightened, as if, despite the blanket security, he thought he was about to be blown up. It was not his usual jocular walk onto a field of hostile ideological opponents, which Abbott was used to, but something else entirely.

If the Prime Minister, blanketed by the best security the country had to offer, did not feel safe, who could feel safe?

No one.

Abbott, as a professional politician, with the same folksy down-pat palaver of any country spruiker, went into rote mode, got up and made his speech. For a conference titled Combating Violent Extremism: Challenging Terrorist Propaganda, stacked with international experts on terrorist messaging and with diplomatic representatives from some 30 different countries, many of them Muslim, many of them with no affection for the American crusader, the speech in itself was extraordinary.

Abbott began with a perhaps forgivable hyperbolic lie: “As everyone who has experienced the great city of Sydney knows, there is no more beautiful and easy-going large city anywhere on earth.“

In 2015 many of the charms of Sydney had vanished: the city was trashed, dangerous, bleak, expensive, housing unaffordable for ordinary workers, the entertainment districts virtually shut down and there were increasing numbers of beggars on the streets; it was in the grip of an ice epidemic, deeply divided along ethnic, religious and class lines and in no way at all could be described as easy-going. The general population was simmering with resentment and frustration.

It took no time at all for the Australian Prime Minister to buy into a religious war: “This country has not flourished because success was inevitable or ordained by God; this country has flourished because people from the four corners of the earth have come here to work hard, to respect each other, and to build a better life for their children and grandchildren.

“This country of ours has an indigenous heritage, a British foundation and a multicultural character.

“Yet the tentacles of the death cult have extended even here, as we discovered to our cost with the Martin Place siege last December.

“We have all seen on our screens the beheadings, the crucifixions, the mass executions and the sexual slavery that the Da’esh death cult has inflicted, mostly on Muslims, in the Middle East.

“That is what the death cult has in store for everyone if it has its way.

“This is not terrorism for a local grievance; this is terrorism with global ambitions.

“The death cult now holds sway over an area as large as Italy in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq.

“Its affiliates control parts of Libya and Nigeria; it is active on the Horn of Africa and parts of the Arabian Peninsula and it has ambitions to establish a far province in South East Asia.

“Its senior members are routinely calling on sympathisers to kill unbelievers wherever they find them, sometimes specifying Australians.

“In the past year, Da’esh and its imitators have carried out terrorist attacks here and in Melbourne, as well as in France, Belgium, Canada, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Jordan, Denmark, Kenya and the United States.

“At successive conferences such as this, the list of atrocities gets longer and longer.

“Daésh is coming, if it can, for every person and for every government with a simple message: submit or die.”

That was one reference to a Christian God and three references to the “death cult” aka Islamic State in about two minutes flat; in a room full of propaganda and counter terrorism messaging experts, many flown to Australia at taxpayer’s expense purportedly so the country could take advantage of their expertise.

The Prime Minister had been repeatedly warned that the use of the phrase “death cult” was counterproductive, fuelling rather than detracting from recruitment, encouraging rather than discouraging Australian jihadists.

In a room full of some of the world’s leading experts on terrorist propaganda, it was beyond inexcusable.

Dr Anne Aly, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at Curtin University, adviser to governments on terror messaging, had previously said: “Osama Bin Laden used to say, ‘you love life, we love death’. Dying a martyr is their badge of honour, it’s a huge push factor for young Australians and the Prime Minister is putting that front and centre.

“I don’t know who he’s talking to when he says death cult because the people who are thinking about going over there are laughing and walking away.”

Abbott first coined the “death cult” phrase in September of the previous year while announcing Australia would re-enter Iraq.

“I refuse to call this hideous movement an ‘Islamic state’ because it is not a state; it is a death cult,” he told the Australian parliament.

The Sydney Morning Herald managed to count 346 uses of the phrase “death cult” in press releases, transcripts, speeches and video recordings between September 2014 and May 2015.

He even managed to weave it into 36 interviews and speeches that had nothing to do with national security, from press conferences with NSW Premier Mike Baird to doorstops in the Melbourne suburbs.

His record was 17 times in one press conference – a March 3 briefing on military operations in Iraq – and in parliament he had answered 20 questions without notice on “death cult” since September, compared to just one on ice, one on domestic violence and three on Ebola. Questions without notice are those fired by friendly politicians to allow the government to boast about its achievements.

At least 22 other Australian government Members of Parliament had followed their leader and mentioned “death cult” in parliament using adventurous variations like murderous death cult, bloodthirsty death cult and apocalyptic death cult.

A spokesman for Mr Abbott said that he made no apologies – “because that’s what it is: a cult that rejoices in death”.

Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph, badged their terror pages with the logo.

The editors of The Telegraph should have known perfectly well that badging their pages Death Cult was inflaming the appeal of jihad to Australia’s disaffected Muslims.

In the past Abbott had been one of a string of politicians making their way to the headquarters of News Limited in Surry Hills, determined to liaise with the The Australian, and The Daily Telegraph’s senior editorial hierarchy. They would have high ranking meetings with the senior editors while Alex watched from his humble reporters desk. Every Australian politician liked to think they had News Limited in their pocket. Alex had seen them come and seen them go.

Abbott owed his election in part to the unabashed support of the Murdoch press.

It would continue to act as his loudspeaker.

In May of 2015 came the headline: “We’ve Jihad It With You”.

Inflaming Muslim sentiment, as he had been so repeatedly advised not to do, a “defiant” Abbott declared he would not negotiate the cosy return of foreign fighters who had a change of heart and vowed to incarcerate them. Up to a dozen “death cult” deserters were, The Telegraph reported, now attempting to seek repatriation.

Treachery within and treachery without.

“If you go, and you seek to come back, as far as this Government is concerned, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be jailed,’’ Abbott said. “If you go abroad to kill innocent people in the name of misguided fundamentalism and extremism, if you go abroad to become an Islamist killer well, we’re hardly going to welcome you back into this country.’’

When Alex spoke to Professor Anne Aly after the speech and asked her what she thought she virtually rolled her eyes at the repeated use of the phrase “death cult” and of the Prime Ministers repeated references to a Christian God in front of a multifaith audience. She said she believed that in his role as leader the Prime Minister’s statements were a breach of the Australian Constitution, which made it clear that Australia was a secular, multifaith society: “He thinks he is speaking to people like himself.”

Perhaps there was another interpretation, that Abbott thought he was speaking to the unbeliever and it was his destiny to play a higher role; to destroy the faith of Australians in earthly government.

Much about Australia of 2015 made little consistent sense. Nothing was impossible. There were days, with frequent references to God studding his speeches and displaying scant regard for normal political processes, when Alex began to think the Prime Minister was acting like one who truly believed the world had reached the so called End of Days, the prophesied Apocalypse; and mere worldly concerns like good governance were as nothing.

Abbott had access to highly qualified public administrators and professional media management experts, people who actually knew what they were talking about, how to build on strengths, eliminate weaknesses; but with his bumbling administration and mishandling of public perceptions, Abbott appeared to avail himself of none of them

He was marching to his own inner drummer, following his own higher calling, the destiny of the nation in his palm, and with the Ravishing upon the land.

****

Forty years before exactly, in 1975, in one of those peculiar twists of fate, Alex had met a then teenage Tony Abbott.

Alex was, even back then, one of the fastest typists anyone had ever seen, and he used the peculiar skill to help put himself through university, working at the Macquarie University Students’ Council at the time.

The Students Council was always a hotbed of intrigue. Alex had run for President once, but got beaten out by a Trotskyist, Rod Webb. In those days of Vietnam War protests, you couldn’t get far enough left.

In any case, that day he had been sitting typing away, doing all the normal clerical tasks.

And in had bowled Australia’s future Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

He was part of a group from that most elite of Sydney schools Riverview who were, in their final year, inspecting the tertiary institutions of the city which, as was their due as members of the city’s upper class, they never doubted they would attend.

It was simply a matter of which one they would grace with their presence.

Abbott stood out because he was handsome, supremely fit, as he would be throughout his life, and had a certain smiling charismatic self-confidence, a self-assurance about his place in the world found only amongst the sons and daughters of the wealthy. Alex could remember the cocky walk of Abbott in 1975, that same fresh faced heir to the realm confidence you saw on the flushed cheeks of Eton’s playing fields.

He also stood out because he was determinedly interested in politics, which is how he ended up at the Students Council offices, having made a specific request to see it.

What made him stand out even more, in that brief flurry of the lower ground offices, was that even back then he was avowedly interested in conservative politics. Alex, himself eternally beyond polemic, had asked, if memory served, which way Abbott the school boy leaned. He leaned right.

The memory stuck, as would so many others.

Alex leaned neither left nor right. If he leaned in any direction, it was towards the heavens. His favourite lines of the time had been:

In the forest, in the unexplored

valleys of the sky, are chapels of pure

vision. there even the desolation of space cannot

sorrow you or imprison. i dream of the lucidity of the vacuum,

orders of saints consisting of parts of a rainbow,

identities of wild things / of

what the stars are saying to each other, up there

above the concrete and the minimal existences, above

idols and wars and caring. tomorrow

we shall go there, you and your music and the

wind and i, leaving from very strange

stations of the cross, leaving from

high windows and from release,

from clearings

in the forest, the uncharted

uplands of the spirit.

Written by his contemporary, Michael Dransfield, who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 24, in 1973.

Just as Alex himself had done, Dransfield as a young man had sought the assistance and advice of Geoffrey Dutton, who had been a lion of Australian literature back in the 1960s and 1970s, a genuine light on the hill. As a teenager Alex had treasured Dutton’s support, just as Dransfield had done. Geoffrey Dutton died in 1998 at the age of 76. Included in his books was the classic on early, indigenous Australia, The Hero as Murderer. In the Australia of the era, for suburban boys, there was no such thing as an artistic path. And then there had been Geoffrey Dutton.

A naturally gifted writer, Dransfield would never see a day when all the hope, all the pioneering changes in consciousness and compassion that they thought they were delivering to the future would be vanquished in a heartless probity, a brutal, dysfunctional and ignorant age; an Australia Dransfield never hoped for.

A world so dysfunctional, so confused in its convictions, that it was about to be wiped away by the Sharia.

During those tumultuous times, and in the years that were to follow, many of Alex’s friends died of what he referred to as the twin demons of the era, AIDS and overdoses.

That no human sympathy, no empathy, from these very different strands of Australian society, had filtered across lines of class, culture and sexual orientation to the people who had taken the Liberal Party hostage, their lives of rigorous rectitude, Tony Abbott, his mentor and predecessor John Howard and their ilk, was clearly evidenced by their actions and demeanour, their probity, their view of the way the world should be.

Their suits were their armour.

While for most students, going to university was the beginning of their explorations of the world and of their own potentialities, for finding themselves as the quaint expression went, Alex had, or so he felt, already lived several lifetimes before he got there. He had already written several admittedly unpublished books, had read everything from Joyce’s Ulysses to Tolstoy’s War and Peace and a great deal in between, had seen lovers die, acquired heroin habits in Penang and boyfriends in Berlin, climbed the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico and hitch hiked across America, wandered virtually penniless through Franco’s Spain and watched the famous troupe of blind singers on the main square of Marrakesh, the Jemaah al-Fnaa, walked through narrow back alleys and elegant boulevards, travelled all over Europe, been to Asia repeatedly, much of this hyper activity courtesy of the free tickets that flowed from his father’s job as an airline pilot.

And had already been a part of the Sydney’s inner city demimonde since 1960s, where he had quickly adopted the ethos of the street, never sleep with anyone except for money.

While Tony Abbott played Rugby on the clipped sports grounds of Riverview.

Who was he to tell anyone how to live? Who were these people, these sons of the good burghers of Sydney, these emissaries from the comfortable citadels of certitude and privilege, who thought they had the inner running on God?

Forty years on from that chance university encounter and Abbott’s cock-of the-walk Eton strut was a very different story.

****

As someone who came within a hair’s breath of becoming a Jesuit priest, a so-called Soldier of God, and whose Roman Catholic beliefs would determine his actions throughout his life, Tony Abbott could not have failed to understand the notion of Holy War.

Almost every single sentence of Tony Abbott’s speech that conference day appeared to be tailor designed to inflame sentiment.

And it didn’t take him long to swing straight into it:

“The declaration of a caliphate, preposterous though it seems, is a brazen claim to universal dominion.

“You can’t negotiate with an entity like this; you can only fight it.”

The declaration of a caliphate was anything but preposterous; it was an enormously successful religious, political and military strategy and was being taken very seriously indeed by millions of people around the world.

“We’ve sent a strong military force to the Middle East to hit Da’esh from the air and to train and assist the Iraqi army to retake their own country.

“We are talking with our friends and partners about how the air strikes might be more effective and how the Iraqi forces might be better helped.

“American leadership is indispensable here as in all the worlds trouble spots.”

It was all very well to hold lunar right political positions in the privacy of your own home. To inflict them on the populace was an entirely different question.

In Alex’s lifetime America’s leadership had included the disasters of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

If anyone doubted that Abbott was fighting a war of his own imagining, it was to come soon enough: “In the end, though, the only really effective defence against terrorism is persuading people that it’s pointless. We have to convince people that God does not demand death to the infidel. Over time, we have to persuade people that error does have rights.”

Over time, we have to persuade people that error does have rights.

What the…?

The Prime Minister was telling the Australian people, a country founded from the survival instincts of convicts, virtually all of whom had been brutally treated by their English overlords for in most cases minor misdemeanours, that error had rights? Over time, of course.

Alex had made mistakes all his life, done things instantly regretted, thrown himself, or so it sometimes felt, off the appropriate time line or over a cliff, abandonment, comfort in oblivion, from the high road to the low road. Like Moby Dick, diving into the ordinary to avoid detection. It didn’t mean he was a bad person; or that he deserved to be put to death. It meant that he made mistakes, like every other human being.

“We need everyone to understand that it is never right to kill people just because their beliefs are different from ours,” Abbott began his wind up. “Above all, we need idealistic young people to appreciate that joining this death cult is an utterly misguided and wrong-headed way to express their desire to sacrifice.”

It was, in Alex’s humble view, a thoroughly disgraceful performance.

Killing people because their beliefs were different to those of the average Australian was exactly what Australia was doing in Iraq.

Abbott closed his speech with a riff to a Christian God, to a mixed audience of Muslims, Christians, those of no faith and those of minority faiths, including a number of descendants of the first peoples.

“As the world gets smaller, the challenge to find common ground, and to build upon it, becomes more and more urgent. I thank God that more and more people are focussed on the things that unite us and invite everyone to join us in respect for the universal decencies of mankind.”

Abbott had just sat through a Welcome to Country ceremony; its intent ignored by the nation’s leading politician.

May you be safe while you are on our lands.

Safety on Aboriginal lands, as on the land of the vanquished Eora clan groups where he now stood, was a gift from the ancestors.

The ancient culture and profound spirituality which had held sway over Australia for tens of millennia had nothing to do with an Abrahamic God.

As the Prime Minister left the stage, puzzled by Abbott’s peculiar stances, Alex listened as carefully to his own perceptions as he did to the exterior noise; and he thought one thing: “He knows, he knows what he’s doing.”

****

The truth of modern day Australia could be found far more easily on the streets than it ever would be in the corridors of power, grace more likely in extremes than in comfort; but there was no point in telling the rulers of Australia that in 2015.

In 2015, in the Land of Tony Abbott, there was no room for the fallen angels of the street. The Beloved of God. Once a surprisingly cheerful band, exhibiting all the black manic humour of crashed talents, they now looked out without hope; while an uncaring middle class drove past in late model cars. There was no way back across the bridge.

There should have been room for other voices, for the peculiar clairvoyance of the people on the street. There was not.

As far as Alex was concerned, those who failed to understand the fallen angels on the street were the true barbarians, the true failures.

He had always walked the streets in the predawn, and in those days of late autumn and early winter, the atmosphere chilly, distrustful and uncomprehending, he would see firsthand the consequences of the havoc Abbott and his ilk had wreaked on Australian society.

Opposite the Matthew Talbot Hostel, the largest hostel for the homeless in inner Sydney, he could easily count at least 20 people sleeping rough, the nightly overflow from the hostel, curled as mankind had done since the beginning of the species in little nests, clothes, blankets, things to soften, just slightly the hard ground.

Every major city had people who slept rough, whose consciousnesses could not be contained within four walls, who preferred to sleep under the night skies, but now their numbers were multiplying, and much of it now was not out of choice, but were genuine cases of dereliction. Urban decay, a society which had lost its way.

He watched the fallen, the poor, stir in the dark like fronds underwater, restless in those hours before sunrise, as, too, mankind had been throughout its history; and it was in these times, watching these people, that images of some of the worst of the Islamic State massacres would rise to the fore. As if, even in far off Australia, these events were ripping apart the normal fabric of time. He could hear the massacred, weeping through the wires; the dead, the injured, the grief and suffering studding the lives of the survivors. Increasingly, people at random offered up a feeling of disturbance.

It was impossible not to recall the massacre of the Yazidi, in large part due to the astonishing paintings of 31-year-old Yazidi artist Ammar Salim; remarkable in their vivid detail, agony writ large. Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci could not have done a better job given months to complete the task.

One painting showed smoke rising from a Yazidi town in the background, while in the foreground Islamic State flags hovered over a devastating scene, men in traditional black Arabic robes fighting over the spoils, for the young and pretty ones take into sexual slavery, other Arab raising swords to behead an old woman, while around her lie the dead.

The painting depicted the worst that men are capable of.

“We Will Kill you, We know where you live,” Islamic State warned the painter.

Kill the artists. Kill the writers. For ignorance has always been the tool of tyrants.

The paintings held a remarkable similarity to the masterpiece Massacre at Chios by the painter Eugene Delacroix; another imprint of pain across time; another massacre of unbelievers; disease, death, cruelty against a desolate landscape, a child struggling to suckle on her dead mother. Twenty thousand civilians were killed in the attack by the Ottoman Empire, another 70,000 deported into slavery; all in the name of God.

Delacroix spoke of the spirits at the edge of sight, of paintings as a message from one soul to another. Sometimes, it seemed to Alex, he too could see those spirits hovering around the makeshift camps outside the Matthew Talbot, the ice tragics gathering on the corners, disturbed in an age of threat; waiting for the sun to rise, for a better time.

****

The Prime Minister lectured the people on God.

The Muslims lectured the people on Allah.

Yet it was the failure of the monotheistic faiths which had brought this disaster upon the world.

One of the peculiar things about this Holy War was that Islamic State was sweeping the world with barely a protest. As their members were being slaughtered or harassed into submission, leaders of the Christian churches had been remarkably silent, as if, it sometimes seemed to Alex in those inflamed early hours when his mind ran free, Christ himself had vacated the scene; evidenced by empty churches, the lack of fervour in the followers.

Well, he didn’t want to offend the People of the Book, as Christians were often called, but that’s the way it struck Alex; that we all make mistakes, that Christ, a clustered soul, had meant well, had aimed to lift the people up, and deeply regretted the excesses of the Early Church, the massacres and tortures, perpetrated in his name, which had been just as bad as those perpetuated by Islamic State.

But Christ having vacated the battlefield, another tide was sweeping the Earth, a far more powerful collector of souls had taken hold. The Lord of the Worlds. And with every soul offered up to join the millions already bowing down in waves of awe in his heaven, his power grew.

In his image populated fantasies, Alex had always loved the end of Empire, had been happy to return time and time again to the infinite loveliness of the Earth, a jewel suspended in the cosmos, entranced by the frailties and fascinations of its peoples, the lives through which he passed. “The world is so beautiful,” as Buddha was reported to have said on his death bed.

Sometimes Alex would say out loud: “Look at all the trouble the saints have caused. Who would want to be a saint?”

He was drawn to the comments Frances Bevan had written in Three Friends of God, a book about a group of Catholic mystics from the 14th Century: “And so, dear children, there are great experiences, and beholdings of the Face of God, times of joy and adoration, so that we may feel ourselves in the third heaven like the blessed Paul, and yet so much may we be exalted by the very joy of God, that we shall need a messenger of Satan to buffet and beat us.

“Yes, we might be great prophets, and do great signs, and heal sick people, and discern spirits, and foretell things to come.

“In one word, children, we might have and do all things, and yet be worm-eaten apples after all. Therefore beware.”

Well, what would Alex know, but that was the way it seemed; as apocryphal imagery filled the internet; as the streets grew eerily, desolately quiet, with little but human wreckage filling them anymore, and fear corkscrewed into people’s hearts.

****

At the Countering Violent Extremism conference Tony Abbott was followed by Julie Bishop, who had won widespread respect for her polished performance as Australia’s Foreign Minister. She was one of the leading contenders to replace Abbott, when the time came.

Bishop was a professional to the tips of her fingernails.

All Alex sensed from her was dismay. The situation, and Bishop knew it, was sliding rapidly out of control.

She might have been good at hiding her feelings, but she couldn’t hide her body language.

Bishop spoke to the country’s cognoscenti.

On the streets and in the homes of Australia’s suburbs there was barely any recognition of what was happening. People didn’t want to know. The country had turned inward, because nowhere else made sense.

Jihad, Islamic State, the Sharia, they were all ideas; and unlike the simplistic Western parables of mujahedeen as barbarians, in fact it was amongst Islamic intellectuals and on the battleground of ideas that this war would be won or lost.

Bishop’s speech was a partial reprise of an earlier speech she had given to the think tank the Sydney Institute, when she had stirred controversy by declaring Islamic State, or Da’esh as she insisted on calling them, to be the most significant threat to the global rules based order to emerge in the past 70 years.

“This threat is a form of terrorism. more dangerous, more complex, more global than we have witnessed before, a pernicious force that could, if left unchecked, wield great global power that would threaten the very existence of nation states,” Bishop had said.

“Through traditional and non-traditional means, this form of terrorism has combined the most medieval of constructs with a sophisticated use of technology in a way that challenges the very foundations of nations.

“Australia is not immune.

“Over the past 18 months in my discussions with numerous senior leaders and officials in the Middle East and Europe, many have expressed the fear that we are facing a generational struggle against Da’esh and like-minded extremists and the ideology that drives them.

“Da’esh must be stopped. There must be an international response to Da’esh to prevent a more rapid spread of its ideology and its attraction to people from across the world.”

At the Countering Violent Extremism Conference, just as she had done at the Sydney Institute, Bishop referred to a book which had impressed her: Eric Hoffer’s seminal work from the 1950s, The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of mass movement.

With the foresight of prophecy, The True Believer contained extensive discussions of Islam and Christianity.

Hoffer argued that fanatical and extremist movements, religious and political, arose from identical wellsprings, and similar circumstances, when large numbers of people came to believe that their individual lives were worthless, that the modern world was corrupt and that hope lay in joining larger groups.

“The ideal potential convert is the individual who stands alone…”

Hoffer observed that highly ritualised dying and killing downplayed concerns among recruits about violence, as they saw themselves as part of a ceremony.

“This is grimly exemplified by the brutal murders by Da’esh, which they publish prolifically, and include beheadings, and crucifixions and mass murders portrayed in a way the makes them part of a ritual,” Bishop said.

Hoffer was himself a fascinating man; had attempted suicide, spent a decade on skid row, read widely despite the lack of a formal education and possessed a compulsion to write, saying his writing grew out of his life as a branch from a tree: “My writing is done in railroad yards while waiting for a freight, in the fields while waiting for a truck, and at noon after lunch. Towns are too distracting.”

He refused to label himself an intellectual, calling himself a longshoreman. He worked on the docks most of his life.

In The True Believer Hoffer wrote: “All mass movements deprecate the present by depicting it as a mean preliminary to a glorious future; a mere doormat on the threshold of the millennium. To a religious movement the present is a place of exile, a vale of tears leading to the heavenly kingdom,

“In the eyes of the true believer, people who have no holy cause are without backbone and character—a pushover for men of faith.

“All the true believers of our time—whether Communist, Nazi, Fascist, Japanese or Catholic—declaimed volubly on the decadence of the Western democracies. The burden of their talk is that in the democracies people are too soft, too pleasure-loving and too selfish to die for a nation, a God or a holy cause. This lack of a readiness to die, we are told, is indicative of an inner rot—a moral and biological decay. The democracies are old, corrupt and decadent. They are no match for the virile congregations of the faithful who are about to inherit the Earth.

“All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and single hearted allegiance.

“There are vast differences in the contents of holy causes and doctrines, but a certain uniformity in the factors which make them effective. However different the holy causes people die for, they perhaps die basically for the same thing.”

The True Believer concluded with a quote from a writer who by 2015 had largely lapsed into obscurity but with whom Alex and many of his generation had been fascinated by, J.B.S. Haldane, who counted fanaticism as among one of the few truly important inventions between 3000BC and 1400 AD: “It was a Judaic-Christian invention. And it is strange to think that in receiving this malady of the soul the world also received a miraculous instrument for raising societies and nations from the dead—an instrument of resurrection.”

The birth of fanaticism.

A malady of the soul, a malady of the spirit.

So, to Alex, it most certainly seemed to be.

Take the words of the Koran and the Bible literally. Stone the homosexuals. Stone the adulterers. Execute the infidels.

It was the opposite of open mindedness, compassion, tolerance. And the West had welcomed it all into their midst.

****

One of the most fantastical, seemingly utterly baffling things about the Land of Tony Abbott Circa 2015 was that ever since he had come to power in September of 2013, from blatant to obscure, every single Counter Terrorism Operation, Police Taskforce and Police Strike Force had been named with what could be readily described as pro-jihad or pro-Islamic tags.

The names highlighted everything from the rising of Islamic State to the Centenary of the massacre of 1.5 million Christians in Armenia to the massacre of Muslims in Bosnia.

How could this possibly be true?

Of all the many things that did not make sense during Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership, this was to Alex’s mind the single most astonishing thing of all, the thing that made the least sense of everything that had happened during Tony Abbott’s entire dire stint as the country’s 28th Prime Minister.

Alex, as an old news hound, counted 18 of them in all.

One, two, three, even half a dozen might have been discounted as coincidence or incompetence, but 18. Not possible.

Perhaps the issue could seem trivial; they were only names.

But in the heightened alert that was Australia 2015, it was all about messaging.

And the names appeared, on the face of it, to be a deliberate attempt to send a message; and the ones getting this message were not the dozing, hypnotised, disaffected, deluded, sports mad, television addicted majority of the Australian citizenry, but the ones most alert, awake and inflamed: the Muslim minority.

The message could not have been more clear: The Holy War had begun.

It was no wonder the Islamists had so little fear, and so little respect, for the authorities.

Jihad was coming, ably assisted by the Australian taxpayer.

To Alex there appeared to be only two conclusions to be reached: either Tony Abbott was as stupid as people liked to think he is; or he was complicit.

Few people in Australia had the will, the education or the internet skills required to decode some of the references. But Prime Minister Tony Abbott did. He had been to the best private Jesuit schools in the country. He had been to Oxford University in England. He had studied at Australia’s leading Jesuit seminary in preparation for his vows as a priest.

Most of his critics liked to dismiss Abbott by insulting his intelligence; and he was frequently called stupid.

Unfashionably, Alex never agreed. He had met Tony Abbott on a number of occasions, had watched him at numerous press conferences and knew perfectly well that the man might be many things, old fashioned views in his views, he might not run with the gobble turkeys of the latest intellectual fads, but he was not stupid.

Alex kept insisting: it doesn’t make sense, his government doesn’t make sense, Abbott doesn’t make sense.

Alex had first picked up on the conundrum of the naming of counter terror and police operations when he noticed that the pre-Anzac day terror raids in April of 2015 had been named Operation Rising. In his research, he had seen the term everywhere; the Rising of Islam, the Rising of Islamic State, even the Rising of the Network Society, as those seeking enlightenment of a different kind were sometimes referred to.

The story got better when in response to questioning he was informed by the Australian Federal Police claimed that the government had nothing to do with the naming of Counter Terrorism operations.

If the Australian government did not have anything to do with the naming of its own counter terrorism operations, then who did?

Perhaps what they meant was that the administrative wing of government had nothing to do with the naming of the operations but that it was in the hands of politicians. There would be no formal explanation.

Alex had dealt with too many incompetent government departments and officials over too many years to expect anything but dissembling from his inquiries as to exactly how 18 government operations costing many tens of millions of dollars and involving hundreds of officers came to be labelled with pro-jihad pro-Islamist names.

Before pestering the Australian Federal Police and the Prime Minister’s Office with questions he knew perfectly well they would not answer, Alex, with increasing astonishment, began to track back all the names and to make a list, in approximate reverse chronological order.

They went as follows:

1. Counter Terrorism Operation Amberd: Reference to the centenary of the Armenian massacre in which 1.5 million Christians died.

2. Counter Terrorism Operation Rising: Reference to the Rising of Islam.

3. Strike Force Dawed: Digital audio workshop, you have been electronically snooped.

4. Counter Terrorism Operation Castrum: Reference to a style of fort used by the Crusaders.

5. Operation Duntulm: A castle on the Isle of Skye, where the Stone of Destiny is believed to have been held.

6. Eligo National Taskforce: The Knight of Reason or the Atheist Knight in crusades.

7. Operation Appleby. A well known radical Islamist preacher.

8. Trident Taskforce. The UK nuclear program opposed by Muslims.

9. Operation Coulter. American columnist and one of the world’s most famous critics of Islam.

10. Project Tricord and Operation Polo. A musical notation from southern Iraq and a reference to Marco Polo, one of history’s greatest critics of Islam.

11. Taskforce Jericho. A former Islamic Caliphate.

12. Operation Zanella. Most likely a reference to the Bosnian massacare.

13. Blue Line. After an American police information depository heavily criticised by Muslims.

14. Strike Force Raptor. A type of plane used in bombing Iraq.

15. Strike Force Duperry. A surname meaning perfect within and perfect without.

16. Taskforce Maxima. Another reference to a staunch critic of Islam.

17. Operation Hammerhead, a security service specialising in radical Islam.

18. National Task Force Attero, reference to a song about suicide bombers.

This was a nonlinear story in a linear format.

Alex could only tell the story as best he could.

Masterful ineptitude. Or destiny. Preordained, the dissolution of nation states. The Rising.

Let the cards fall where they may.

1.

COUNTER TERRORISM OPERATION AMBERD.

This was name of the post-Anzac Day Counter Terrorism Operation, a Joint Counter Terrorism Operation conducted at a residence in the suburb of Greenvale in May of 2015.

Amberd is an area of what is now modern day Armenia; the site of the largest massacre of Christians in history. 2015 marked the Centenary.

An estimated 1.5 million died in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In memorial services the Pope declared it to be the first genocide of the 20th Century.

Turkey promptly withdrew its ambassadors from both the Vatican and Italy. The dispute made headlines around the world and was of particular interest to both Christians and Muslims.

The Armenians had been Christians since the year 301AD, making theirs the first nation to officially adopt Christianity, even before Rome.

The UK Daily Mail said the blood-soaked depravity exceeded even today’s atrocities by Islamic State and began their story with the recollections of a young girl cowering in her bedroom in 1915 as she hears her father being dragged out of the house, and his shouts: “I was born a Christian and I will die a Christian.”

Not until first light did the girl dare to creep downstairs.

She saw an object sticking through the front door: “I pushed it open and there lay two horseshoes nailed to two feet. My eyes followed up to the blood-covered ankles, the disjointed knees, the mound of blood where the genitals had been, to a long laceration through the abdomen to the chest. I came to the hands, which were nailed horizontally on a board with big spikes of iron, like a cross. The shoulders were remarkably clean and white, but there was no head. This was lying on the steps, propped up by the nose. I recognised the neatly trimmed beard along the cheekbones. It was my father.”

2. OPERATION RISING

The AFP had called their pre-Anzac day counter terrorism operations The Rising.

Indeed it was.

This was a common expression amongst the world’s estimated 1.57 billion Muslims and referred to The Rising of Islam or specifically The Rising of Islamic State.

Castle Rising was closely associated with Queen Isabella of France; a name that lived in infamy in the annals of Christian Muslim conflicts; for it was a different Queen Isabella, Isabella of Castile, who had initiated the Inquisition; and had accepted the surrender of the Muslims at Granada. The two were connected through the British royal family. Many Muslims and Jews were forced to convert or put to death during the Inquisition. The Roman Catholic Church gave Isabella of Castile the title of Servant of God in 1974.

3. STRIKEFORCE DAWED

The Middle East and Counter Terrorism Task Force operation in Sydney in May of 2015 was named Dawed.

This is internet slang for Digital Audio Workshop, and the term Dawed translates, to put it colloquially, as “you’ve been electronically snooped”.

With listening posts across Western Sydney utilising Arabic speakers to track the conversations and activities of suspected terrorist sympathisers, being “dawed” was a major issue for the Islamic community.

Strike Force Dawed comprised officers from the State Crime Command’s Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad and was established in February of 2015 to investigate the supply of drugs throughout Sydney. As the Australian Crime Commission confirmed, illicit drugs were a major source of income for gangs channeling funds in the hundreds of millions of dollars towards terrorist groups.

Police conducted extensive searches of 10 properties, during which they located and seized amounts of methyl amphetamine, heroin and cocaine; a pistol, a sawn-off shot gun and ammunition; and approximately $100,000 in cash.

Seven people were arrested and variously charged with supplying commercial quantities of prohibited drugs, knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime, knowingly participating in a criminal group, shooting with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and discharging a firearm in a public place likely to cause injury.

4. COUNTER TERRORISM OPERATION CASTRUM

This was a NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Operation, also in 2015.

Two men were arrested on the 10th of February, 2015, at Fairfield in Western Sydney and charged with preparing or planning to terrorist acts. There is a town in Palestine known as Castrum, a style of Fort used by the “crusaders” throughout Palestine during the Crusades.

The ruins of Castle Castrum in Europe exhibit this style of crusader architecture.

Police alleged that the two men were well advanced in their preparations to undertake a terrorist act in Australia as revenge for incidents overseas.

5. OPERATION DUNTULM

The Castle of Duntulm on the Isle of Skye is believed to have been built on the site of a number of structures dating back to prehistoric times.

The site may in all possibility have been at one time a keeping place for the Stone of Destiny, the most significant stone in Christianity. Legend has it that it is made of the same material or may have once been a part of the same stone as the Kaaba in Mecca.

Exactly why the world’s two largest monotheistic faiths regard a stone as sacred is lost in the early annals of both faiths, and is believed to predate the birth of both faiths.

Legend has it that it contains some of the oldest material on earth. Other legend has it that it was The Stone of Jacob symbolised Jesus Christ, and was once intended as part of the Temple of Solomon. The Isle of Skye is believed to have been the first point of contact between the Islamic world and the Celtic kings.

Operation Duntulm was an ongoing Joint Counter Terrorism investigation into alleged financial assistance for foreign fighters.

On the 10th of January, 2015, a NSW Police-led investigation with members of the Joint Counter Terrorism Team Sydney, NSW Police Tactical Operations Unit, Public Order and Riot Squad, Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad and the Bankstown Local Area Command saw the execution of a number of search warrants across south western Sydney.

Commander of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command Mark Murdoch said Operation Duntulm had been running for more than a year and was focused on a range of support mechanisms being provided for those who had left Australia and were now fighting overseas.

“The operation today is about the gathering of evidence and intelligence to enable us to take action against those who think they can engage in these activities,” he said. “Investigators this morning seized a range of items from the premises searched including documents and computers, and these will be forensically examined. The community is again reminded that fighting in or supporting overseas conflicts is illegal and extremely dangerous. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe in, if you choose to illegally fight in an overseas conflict you are not only breaking the law, you are placing yourself in immense danger.”

6. THE ELIGO NATIONAL TASK FORCE

Eligo was the Knight of Reason, or the Atheist Knight, from the Crusades.

It is also in more recent times the name of a prominent blogger who denies the existence of God, and also the name of a prominent organisation Eligo International, which specialises in high-level diplomacy, including interfaith dialogues between leaders of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. Such dialogue is anathema to the Islamic State.

In Latin the word means to pick out or to choose; for instance in the phrase eligo ratio vel mortem, choose reason or death.

The Eligo National Task Force targeted money laundering, directly associated with the funding of terrorist organisations and had led investigations into the use of alternative remittance and informal value transfer systems by organised crime syndicates.

In 2014 the Task Force claimed to have seized $665 million of drugs and assets, $38.5 million of it in cash, and to have disrupted 18 organised crime groups and identified 128 criminal targets.

7. OPERATION APPLEBY

There were several Islamist connotations to the name Appleby. There was an Australian academic, critical of Tony Abbott’s approach to terrorism, named Appleby. As well, a former AFP Manager of Serious and Organised Crime, Damien Appleby, came to public attention when he broke up a racket importing semi-automatic firearm components.

Operation Appleby, however, was most likely to have been named after Tariq Appleby of the Muslim Heroes Project. Based in Malaysia, it was a part of a worldwide effort to rediscover and resurrect Islam’s past martyrs and noble warriors. Appleby’s particular areas of interest were the education of youth and the encouragement of the institution of marriage.

Operation Appleby was an ongoing operation being conducted by the Sydney-based Joint Counter Terrorism Team which was investigating persons suspected to be involved in domestic terrorist acts, foreign incursions into Syria and Iraq and the funding of terrorist organisations. Sixteen people were detained on 16th of September, a day after Abbott announced military intervention in Iraq.

8. THE TRIDENT TASK FORCE

The Trident Task Force was likely to be named after the UK Trident Nuclear Missile program, the British nuclear defence system, which was been opposed by Muslim groups.

Throughout 2015 the acquisition of nuclear weaponry by Islamic State had been a subject of increasing concern. A whistle blower claimed that the Trident Nuclear Missile security was so poor it was only a matter of time before nuclear submarines became a target for terrorists.

In 2003 UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon declared that the UK would use Trident in Iraq if chemical or biological weapons threatened British troops.

The Trident Hotel in Mumbai, part of the Oberoi complex, was the subject of terrorist attacks in 2008. There were other associations.

The Trident Taskforce disrupted a number of drug running operations; and seized large quantities of drugs, steroids and human growth hormones. The Taskforce consisted of members of the Victorian Police, the AFP, Australian Customs and Border Protection, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Crime Commission.

The Trident Taskforce also broke up some of the biggest organised illicit tobacco syndicates in the country’s history, including rackets importing large volumes from Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

9. OPERATION COULTER

Coulter was a famous, or infamous, conservative American columnist who declared after the September 11 attacks: “We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That was war. And this is war.”

She also famously said: “Not all Muslims are terrorists – but all terrorists are Muslims” and “If only we could get all Muslims to boycott airlines, we could dispense with airport security altogether.”

Operation Coulter was also involved in disrupting drug syndicates.

10. PROJECT TRICORD & OPERATION POLO

This was a joint agency operation in Western Australia.

The Islamist reference in Project Tricord was not clear, but could refer to a media organisation Tricord Media, which has produced a CD series Burning Questions which relates to questions of faith and inter-faith issues, including the Islamic faith; interfaith dialogue anathema to fundamentalists. The series quoted Jews, Christians and Muslims and asked Which Religion is true?

It was also possibly a variation on the spelling of trichord, a musical notation found particularly in southern Iraq. There is no correlation in Western music.

In May of 2014 500 police were involved in executing 38 search warrants. Half a million dollars in cash and 21 firearms were seized and 19 people charged with drug related offenses, including dealing with proceeds of crime in excess of one million dollars. Some 130 foreign nationals working for the drug syndicate were questioned and detained.

Marco Polo, often referred to simply as Polo in the literature, was a famous early traveller.

While there were doubts over its authenticity, in a quote which had gained widespread currency on the internet Polo was reported as saying: “The militant Muslim is the person who beheads the infidel, while the moderate Muslim holds the feet of the victim.”

Marco Polo was considered Islamophobic. Of the Muslims of Iraq, he wrote: “According to their doctrine, whatever is stolen or plundered from others of a different faith, is properly taken, and the theft is no crime; whilst those who suffer death or injury by the hands of Christians, are considered martyrs.” He was repeatedly critical of Muslims, the enslavement of women and the murdering of infidels; including the caliph of Baghdad whose “daily thoughts were employed on the means of converting to his religion those who resided within his dominions, or, upon their refusal, in forming pretenses for putting them to death.”

11. JERICHO WATERFRONT TASKFORCE

Jericho in the Middle East repeatedly came under the control of Arab caliphates. It was known as the fertile City of Palms. Arab geographer Al-Maqdisis wrote in 985 that “the water of Jericho is held to be the highest and the best in all Islam.” In earlier years it was part of the Jund Filastin, the Military District of Palestine. Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab exiled Jews and Christians to Jericho. The city flourished until 1071 with the invasion of the Seijuk Turks and the subsequent upheavals of the Crusades.

In Australia the Jericho Waterfront Taskforce was established to combat criminality on the Queensland docks, which were even more lax in their security arrangements than docks to the south. They were believed to be major transport hubs for drugs into Australia. In June of 2015 the Taskforce conducted 604 vehicle checks and 50 roadside drug tests as part of a blitz on the Gladstone Port in northern Queensland. Agencies involved included the Australian Federal Police, Queensland police Service, Australian Customs, Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.

12. OPERATION ZANELLA

There are numerous Islamic associations with the name Zanella. The Piazza Zanella in northern Italy had been a focal point for Muslim demonstrations, with one in 2015 on the theme Islam and Immigration: the duty to defend ourselves.

There were also a significant number of prominent Islamic scholars with the name Zanella, including British Muslim academic Yusuf Zanella, a contributor to the magazine Islamica.

President Zanella of the Free State of Fiume, an independent state between 1920 and 1924, annexed by Italy and now part of Croatia. Alex’s reading of the maps showed that it covered the area of the Bosnian massacres.

Zanella was also the name of an Italian politician who has spoken out in defence of free speech and condemned the attacks on the Islamic intellectual Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose most recent book Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now resulted in numerous death threats and the provision of 24 hour security.

Operation Zanella was the AFP code name linked to the Eligo National Taskforce which specifically targeted money laundering operations. In September of 2014 significant volumes of documentation believed to be related to the laundering millions of dollars out of Australia were seized in raids across four states.

13. BLUE LINE

Would appear to be based on the American operation known as The Thin Blue Line, which is accessible to past and present law enforcement officials in the US and described by American Muslims as extremely offensive to their faith; and whose material is reported to include advice on how to detect a jihadist, such as finding Muslim Student Association literature in a Person of Interest’s car. There were other more offensive charaterisations. In Australia it operated as a similar central source for information.

14. STRIKE FORCE RAPTOR

There were numerous news stories of ISIS members being killed by Raptors, a type of drone.

Raids by Strike Force Raptor were conducted in 2014, seizing firearms, drugs and cash, major sources of funding for Australian based terrorists.

The F22 being used to bomb Iraq was also known as the Raptor.

Strike Force Raptor was particularly associated with motorbike gangs, major distributors and suppliers of drugs within Australia. There was a strong Lebanese contingent within the Clubs. There were a number of major raids in 2014.

15. STRIKE FORCE DUPERRY

According to the online Urban Dictionary this is a surname which translates as: Someone who is extremely beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. Someone with this name has potential in everything and is born to make the world

On the face of it this is a reference to the Prophet Muhammad.

On the 20th of May, 2014 detectives investigating a drug trafficking syndicate seized 60 kilograms of precursor drugs for the manufacture of ice.

Strike Force Duperry was a joint investigation by the NSW Police Force’s Organised Crime Squad, the Australian Crime Commission and the NSW Crime Commission, with support and assistance provided by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Four men in the early twenties were charged with large commercial drug supply. All were refused bail. Seizures included passports suspected of being counterfeit, mobile phones, cash and documents.

Previous seizures by the Strike Force included an assault rifle and ammunition, ice with a potential street value of $2 million, heroin with a potential street value of $870,000 and cash.

Joint intelligence analysis had previously indicated that members of the syndicate were involved in the importation of 42 kilograms of pseudo-ephedrine, a precursor to ice, in sea freight from China.

Australian Crime Commission CEO Chris Dawson said the operation led to the dismantling of a high risk, serious and organised crime syndicate that had been highly resilient to traditional law enforcement approaches.

16. TASKFORCE MAXIMA

Taskforce Maxima was established in Queensland as part of a crackdown on drug trafficking in Queensland, particularly motor cycle gangs.

There are a number of Islamic connotations for Maxima, including the Mecca Maxima cosmetics company, established in October 2013 and with a branch in Tony Abbott’s electorate. Their recent most advertised brand was Urban Decay.

There were also waves of Muslim protests in Indonesia over the release by Maxima Pictures of a movie by a porn star.

An early Christian female saint of the same name was flayed to death.

The most important reference however is to Queen Maxima of Holland, who had been active in the debate over whether Muslim immigration was destroying the traditional way of life in Holland. Author Ayaan Hirsi Al had been under 24-hour guard ever since the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh was killed by Islamists because of the film Submission, in which she highlighted the plight of millions of Muslim women. She was forced to return to Holland after America refused to provide her with protection.

Ali claimed that Dutch multicultural polices which encouraged large Muslim intakes had been a mistake which was destroying the country. “In no other modern religion,” Ali wrote, “is dissent still a crime, punishable by death.”

There were still other government Operations which could be easily interpreted as having pro-jihad tags.

17. OPERATION HAMMERHEAD

Operation Hammerhead appeared not to be a reference to the Hammerhead shark, common off the east coast of Australia, but to a security group targeting radical Islam.

The riot squad, traffic patrol and mounted police formed part of the high visibility operation on Sydney’s streets to guard against potential revenge attacks and other conflicts following counter-terrorism raids in September of 2014 and the announcement that Australia was re-engaging in Iraq. Some 220 police officers covered transport hubs, landmarks and public areas.

18. ATTERO NATIONAL TASK FORCE

The Attero National Task Force appeared to be a direct reference to the third album of Swedish heavy metal group Sabaton. Songs on the album involved considerable glorification of the Nazis, with whom the Muslim world sided in the Second World War; and song titles included Rise of Evil, The Final Solution and In the Name of God, about suicide bombers in the Middle East.

The lyrics for In the Name of God ran in part:

Hide from the public eye, choose to appear when it suits you

Claim you’re just, killing women and children

Fight, when you choose to fight, hide in a cave when you’re hunted

Like a beast spawned from hell, utilizing fear

Chosen by god or a coward insane?

Stand up and show me your face!

Suicidal, in a trance

A religious army

Fight without a uniform and hide in the crowd

Call it holy, call it just

Authorized by heaven

Leave your wounded as they die, and call it gods will

The names were beyond coincidence, from the celebration of massacres to right wing columnists.

When he first raised the issue with terror message expert Professor Anne Aly she said: “That’s no coincidence.”

None of it engendered confidence.

What next, Alex thought, Operation Sharia.

Might as well.

As was the nature of journalism in contrast to reportage, questions forged the story.

So although he did not expect any coherent accounting, he asked the questions of the Australian Federal Police’s Media Office in any case:

1. What is the traditional way in which Counter Terrorism Operation names are chosen; who is responsible, what vetting is done by senior members of the AFP over the use of these names to ensure that they do not give inappropriate signals?

2. Has the process changed since the Abbott government came to power?

3. Has the Prime Minister’s Office, the Prime Minister himself or anyone in his office directed the AFP as to the choice of names since he came to office in September of 2013?

4. Has the Prime Minister or anyone in his office expressed any concern whatsoever to the AFP over the choice of names for the country’s counter terrorism operations? Has anyone within the AFP at any time ever been directed by any member of parliament, or anyone at all outside the organisation, as to the choice of names?

5. Has there at any time been any concerns raised by any community, judicial or parliamentary group over the choice of names?

6. Has any public servant, senior departmental head or anyone else within the public service ever expressed concerns to the AFP over the naming of the counter terrorism operations?

7. Has the AFP at any point in time expressed any concern to the Prime Minister’s Office over the naming of counter terrorism operations since Tony Abbott came to power? Has the AFP ever felt under any political pressure to name the operations in one way or another?

The response: that the Australian government had nothing to do with the naming of Australian counter terrorism operations.

An answer so bizarre it was instructive within itself.

He asked a similar set of questions of the Prime Minister’s office; had the Prime Minister or anyone in his office ever made any directions as to the naming of police and counter terrorism operations?

There was no answer.

In a land of ailing democratic institutions, where there was no accountability, where those who ruled had forgotten they also served, there would be no answer.

The average Australian might not have known that Operation Amberd was a direct reference to the largest massacre of Christians in history; but the Prime Minister would have. The average Australian might not have known that Operation Coulter was a direct reference to one of the world’s most famously barbed critics of Islam, that Operation Zanella a was a direct reference to the Bosnian massacres of Muslims, or that Operation Polo was a reference to one of history’s greatest critics of Islam, that Taskforce Maxima was a direct reference to one of the world’s leading academic critics of Islam, a woman who had famously written: “Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice”.

But the Prime Minister would have.

And so should the nation’s security organisations to which he had gifted more than a billion dollars in additional funding, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Australian Signals Directorate.

The fact that not one good Muslim pointed out to the nation’s security authorities that they had been naming their counter terror operations with pro-jihad tags showed how deeply, totally the security apparatus was compromised.

The public was entitled to ask, if a simple matter like the naming of operations in a manner so as to avoid sending counterproductive messages could not be got right; what other things were going wrong in these administrations almost entirely immune to public scrutiny?

Alex had once lived next door to Philip Knightly, the famous journalist. They would meet on their respective doorsteps sometimes. Alex couldn’t have been a bigger fan. Knightly, a true gentleman of the old school of journalism, was the author of that brilliant book, “The First Casualty”.

As in, The First Casualty In War Is Truth.

And so, so terribly, it remained the case.

No truer a phrase, no better a truism.

****

The Prime Minister did not stop long enough to hear the next speaker, Muslim Abdul-Rehman Malik, a London-based journalist who contributed regularly to the BBC and was program manager for a group calling itself the Radical Middle Way. He decried the use of “death cult” rhetoric as unhelpful.

Then he demanded of the audience, in a kind of pantomime he had clearly done before: “What do you see in this picture?”

He held up a well-known picture of a man with graying hair, his hands bound behind his back, blindfolded, being held by two Islamic State captors on the ledge of a tall building. The man was accused of being a homosexual. For the crime of loving in a different way, he was about to be shoved to his death.

In the well-known incident, when it became apparent that the man had not died on impact, the crowd below stoned him to death. Ironically, it was an image frequently used because it was less confronting than many others.

In the name of Allah The All Merciful.

In the name of the Merciless Prejudices of the Mob.

“What do you see in this picture?” Malik demanded again.

“A mobile phone,” one of the audience volunteered.

“That’s right,” he said. And went on.

The thing that was most striking about the scene was not that yet another homosexual was being killed by Islamic State, but that the scene was being filmed from both sides, the two perpetrators both had mobile phones, were both filming, and the footage would be up on the internet via Twitter within a blink.

Just as with executions filmed on Mobile Phones, so the facing of Network Seven onto Martin Place, once deemed a terrific marketing ploy, with curious onlookers gathering in shots behind morning hosts and the glassed in Seven Studios becoming a Sydney institution, had now made Martin Place one of the most dangerous places in Australia.

The Seven studios were exactly like a mobile phone.

They amplified through their cameras actions of symbolic import.

The nightmare that was now visiting Europe, the death of the old cultures, the institution of Sharia, restive, dangerous, alienated and growing Muslim populations convinced of the divine rightness of their cause, had well and truly arrived in Australia.

There were now many hundreds of jihadists within Australia who would gladly gift their souls to Allah.

In the night, in the morning, thoughts came unbidden in some sort of heightened state.

“You are under attack.”

Alex didn’t know how reliable they were; he couldn’t know, for every moment changed in decaying, corporeal forms, these bodies of the flesh, unfounded of spirit.

But he issued the advice, as if someone was listening: “Triple the watch on Martin Place. It has all the symbols, a secular place without a mosque; the cenotaph, deemed a celebration of previous invasions of Muslim lands, the banks, the Post Office, law firms, insurance companies, an upmarket hotel. nearby Parliament House and the law courts where a number of Muslims had now been tried; all of them are now targets, all of them are now profoundly unsafe.”

How they would do, when they would do it, these things could not be easily divined; that was the point of terror. No one knew where. No one knew when. Everybody was frightened. The agents of chaos, with their lone wolf calls and ceaseless plotting, had made the situation totally unpredictable. The only way out was the worship of Allah. The Lord of the Worlds. The All Merciful.

After the Prime Minister had given his speech Alex stood off to a distance and watched the glad handing of various conference attendees, many of whom Abbott would have known or recognised from the diplomatic circuit. His large-boned Chief of Staff, the oft hated Peta Credlin, hair dyed a not very fetching shade of blonde, hovered nearby, clipboard in hand, worried expression across her brow, shepherding him along.

She couldn’t get her boss out of there fast enough. The pair of them left Pier One as quickly as dignity would allow. There would be no sitting around listening to the experts. And no talking to the media.

The Prime Minister was shepherded through the protective arms of his security detail, back into his busy life. While Alex went back into the fabric of Sydney, a city full of ghosts.

After leaving Pier One Alex walked through the historic alleyways of Millers Points, past some of the oldest surviving buildings in the colony, climbed back into his car, thankful he hadn’t got yet another parking ticket, and drove back into what for him was an increasingly unforgiving place. In what seemed like an instant, but in fact had been a long time brewing, Sydney had become an extremely dangerous, unsafe city.

 

SOLDIERS OF GOD

Even nonlinear narratives required a set piece, a central point where the past and the present collided, where characters came out of hiding, themes were confirmed.

In those earliest days of the Australian winter of 2015, for Alex, haunted by scenes of violence and the feeling of disturbance everywhere, as if the fabric of the world itself was now sick, it was a conference officially titled “Australia’s Regional Summit to Counter Violent Extremism: Challenging Terrorist Propaganda.”

The conference was opened by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and had many of the lead players in the game in attendance, including the head of ASIO, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop and the Attorney General George Brandis; along with representatives from more than 30 different countries. There was a large Muslim contingent.

His worst fears were confirmed.

The political leadership managing Australia’s terror threat were in large part wrongheaded, if not downright dangerous.

Or so it seemed to Alex.

He wasn’t a terror expert. He hadn’t set out to write a book about terror. His only objective had been to write a snapshot of Australia in 2015 called Workers’ Paradise Lost. And one thing led to another; the story that was impossible to ignore.

The conference was held at Pier One, nestled under the southern flank of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, once a bustling wharf shipping wool out of the colony, in the latter decades of the 20th Century a bedraggled fun pier full of dilapidated slot machines, in 2015 an upmarket conference venue.

From its front windows the Pier had striking views of the Sydney’s major landmarks, including the world famous Sydney Opera House and Luna Park; all of them now terror targets and graced with additional security.

Perhaps by coincidence, as he assumed his seat, Alex sat next to one of the senior figures in the NSW Islamic Council; a quiet man whose smart phone instantly translated his texts into Arabic, one of those men one saw on the edge of markets and crowd scenes, smoking a quiet cigarette, dignified, self-contained, a wise man who kept his thoughts to himself.

Except when he was directly asked.

“Sceptical?” Alex asked.

The man shrugged: “It’s the situation on the ground.”

The usual cluster of media waited outside Pier One for Abbott to arrive. Alex knew some of them and felt a stab of nostalgia for all those days he himself had spent as part of the media pack waiting for someone famous or infamous to arrive or depart from one venue or another.

On the way to the conference Alex had listened on the car radio to Abbott doing his morning rounds of media, answering soft questions from media supporters.

There would be no press conference at the Summit itself, no awkward questions to dodge or regret.

Pier One had already been of considerable interest to the city’s jihadists and therefore of considerable interest to the nation’s security forces. There was every reason to have security for the conference at the highest levels possible.

Already on camera and having passed by burly security guards, Alex joined the queue, had his identity checked and ticked off, and passed through a metal detector; not a common feature of news events in Australia.

Twelve years before, in mid-2003, an Islamist known only as Mansour J decided to treat himself and bought a boat.

Mansour J, later to face terrorism charges in Beirut, had come to the attention of authorities both for his associations with jihadists and for his criminal activities. By the late 1990s he was accused of being involved in at least three shootings. As Martin Chulov described in Australian Jihad: “He advocated the law of the streets in Sydney’s south-west, where, among some sections of the Middle Eastern community, rough justice is regularly and ruthlessly imposed and turf claims are brutally enforced by stand over figures and their henchmen…”

Mansour J was particularly feared because of his sociopathic approach to work, he had a habit of laughing as he shot at people.

In 1998 it was alleged that Mansour J was the driver when another man shot up the Lakemba Police station.

In 2001 Mansour J was given his freedom by a District Court judge concerned at the delay in the case going to trial; and concerned that the prisoner had not been able to access regular Muslim prayer meetings or halal food.

Chulov recorded that Mansour J transformed from thug to man of God: “At 28 years of age, J left prison a radically different man from the one who had been incarcerated. During his time in gaol he had gradually embraced the teachings of Salafi Islam – an almost identical doctrine to that underpinning the theology espoused by Osama bin Laden. It called for a pure interpretation of the Koran, and held that every Muslim had a duty to commit jihad.

“J says he had been awakened in prison through the teachings of imams who visited him. One was a prison chaplain…”

The further radicalisation of Australian jihadists under Muslim chaplaincy schemes would later become a major issue.

J walked out of prison six weeks before 9/11 changed the world.

Australians linked to the ideology from which bin Laden’s al Qaeda drew its inspiration were now fair game for scrutiny. In terms of grappling with the terrorist threat, in the early years of the millenium the AFP and ASIO were in their infancy.

They turned their spotlights, “such as they were”, onto a prayer room in Haldon Street, Lakemba, run by fundamentalist preacher Sheik Abdul Salam Zoud; follower of the Wahhabi tradition. He had previously been accused of being Australia’s chief recruiter for jihadist networks, an accusation he denied. He was also on an ASIO list of 23 people associated with al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.

The prayer hall was above a shopping mall in Haldon Street, Lakemba.

The group was a breakaway from the nearby Lakemba mosque; where Zoud was thrown out for his alleged extremist views.

Alex had been dispatched by The Australian’s News Desk to quiz its devotees; but never got very far. The site of an unbeliever on their doorsteps was almost too great an affront to bear; the hostility visible. Unlike the Lakemba Mosque, he was never invited inside.

Ethnic tensions broke across Sydney in several different ways during those first few years of the new millenium, and as a result well-meaning people who wanted to show their support for multiculturalism and the Islamic community made the trip out to Lakemba, middle class white citizens, mostly women, roaming in groups through the Middle Eastern style streets before finding a suitable local restaurant.

Oohing about how lovely the food was, they would then streak in groups back to their BMWs as fast as their social x-ray legs could carry them. Alex always thought it ironic that as they admired the food, upstairs was one of the country’s most radical mosques, where everything those women stood for would be counted as apostasy.

In the Sharia those Muslims so longed for, these women would have been given the opportunity to adopt the veil, or be put to death.

The women disappeared back to the safety of their own white bread suburbs, where they could tell everyone how wonderful it was that Australia was such a diverse and tolerant society.

Of the prayer room Chulov recorded: “There were known to be men and women among them, and elsewhere in the Australian Islamic community, who were admirers of bin Laden and of the work of the terrorists sent to attack New York and Washington in his organisation’s name.”

Mahmoud J was one of them.

Not previously noted as a pleasure craft aficionado, by mid-2003 Mansour J began spending a considerable amount of time on Sydney Harbour in his nine-metre runabout; in particular checking out the Shell Oil Refinery at Gore Cove, the Opera House and Pier One at Walsh Bay.

“Police were in little doubt that what was taking place on the waterways amounted to the early stages of a terror planning mission,” Chulov wrote. “Their suspicions were reinforced by several conversations picked up on phone taps. There were no specifics, just tough talk about attacking those who stood in Islam’s path. As the 2003 holiday season approached, a response was ratcheted up, calling for a full anti-terrorism plan to be activated.”

Others came to different conclusions, in particular ASIO, which concluded that nothing more was going on than a bit of chest-beating. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, ASIO’s judgement would be called into question.

The objections of their senior operatives were set aside and the National Security Committee of Cabinet, led by then Prime Minister John Howard, was convened.

NSW Police were given carriage of what would become one of the biggest Australian police operation of the post-2001 environment. Counter terrorism detectives feared that Mansour J and members of his Lakemba brotherhood would choose a time of attack when there would be hundreds of thousands of revellers lining the harbour foreshore, New Year’s Eve.

Chulov recorded that as New Year’s Eve approached, police activated full command posts at the Sydney Police Centre and AFP headquarters in Canberra. ASIO’s command centre was also on high alert. A bomb unit was put on standby and sniper teams deployed. In total, close to 200 police were tasked to ensure that if Mansour J was up to something, he would be foiled before he had a chance to act. They also made sure he knew he was under surveillance.

In those years Alex almost always put his hand up to work New Year’s Eve. They were easy shifts and his kids were usually away with relatives.

He would almost always be asked to go down to the Harbour foreshore, to get some feel good quotes from the revellers, families excited by the prospect of fireworks, enjoying a night out with their kids; he would jot down enough quotes to keep the News Desk happy, and move through the crushing crowds.

Inevitably, because of production deadlines, he would be asked to file copy on the midnight fireworks, before midnight. That was when imagination took hold. There was, as he discovered over the years, only so much you could say about fireworks, particularly when they hadn’t yet gone off.

It always struck him that the thronging shores of Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve constituted a prime location for massacre, mayhem, maximum casualties. But in 2003, and the years that followed, the explosions and massacres Alex was convinced would occur never came.

Perhaps because of the amount of attention he had attracted, Mansour J lost interest in boating. He was amongst the top five most watched men in the nation. Nonetheless, he managed to leave the country in 2004 on a false passport, heading straight for Beirut, and straight into further trouble.

****

At the Countering Violent Extremism conference, that morning in mid-2015, there would be none of the usual standing around grinning and gripping and welcoming guests for the Prime Minister, as was his wont.

Tony Abbott arrived after everyone was seated, only minutes before he was due to give the Opening Address. A busy man. Or a worried security team taking no chances whatsoever with their charge.

After the usual air pecks and handshakes the Australian Prime Minister settled quickly into his chair in the front row.

Abbott, and Alex, sat and listened to the Welcome to Country ceremonies, those well-meaning rituals practiced by the often blood diluted descendants of the ancient peoples, a ritual invoked by the invaders more to assuage guilt than show respect; while all around them could be felt the land, the spirits, the ancestors.

Alex felt as if, internally, Abbott’s mind was scrabbling towards some ledge, trying to understand a new world order; either that, or he had been instructed to keep his mind blank.

Perhaps he was frightened that someone would find out the depth of his betrayals.

But already, in the progressive collapse of Abbott’s Prime Ministership, too many people knew the depths of the government’s incompetence, from senior members of the bureaucracy to the hunting media packs.

In one of those brief, sliding encounters which had once been a characteristic part of Sydney’s remarkable social fluidity, where you could go out on the town and end up in the beds or on the couches of the filthy rich or the humble poor, a trait long since vanquished, Alex had breakfast in a Kings Cross cafe, sitting next to the handsome son of the head of the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Just as in every sector of society, it didn’t take long to get to the subject of the parlous state of the nation.

Tastelessly perhaps, he quipped: “Who needs a terrorist attack? The place is dead already.“

Although from different eras of Sydney life, they both lamented the passing of Sydney’s inner-city demimonde.

In response to a few sharp questions, the good son let it be known that the country’s most senior bureaucrats hated Tony Abbott.

Alex already knew that, but it was nice to have it confirmed.

It wasn’t the left wing sentiment that ponded in various sections of the bureaucracy, social justice dreams which would remain forever unquenched because reality did not fit theory; it was a disdain of a professional caste for the unprofessional conduct of another.

Tony Abbott was a professional politician. He should have known better; he should have known to seek advice, not to fill his office with political hacks and religious warriors but with professional administrators, he should have known not to look back to previously failed administrations in the search for a future path.

Abbott remained in power solely because of the parlous state of Australian democracy; in a dual party system because the opposition was in such a hapless state and because his disenchanted colleagues had yet to work out how to get rid of him without wearing the electoral stain of political assassination, as had cursed the previous administration.

And then it was the Prime Minister’s turn to give the Opening Address.

Sometimes, or so it seemed, Alex had an almost uncanny knack of knowing what people were thinking. He hadn’t survived as a journalist for so many years, hadn’t dived in and out of thousands of people’s lives, without having picked up some powers of divination.

The thing that startled Alex the most about Abbott’s entry into the conference was that the man was frightened, as if, despite the blanket security, he thought he was about to be blown up. It was not his usual jocular walk onto a field of hostile ideological opponents, which Abbott was used to, but something else entirely.

If the Prime Minister, blanketed by the best security the country had to offer, did not feel safe, who could feel safe?

No one.

Abbott, as a professional politician, with the same folksy down-pat palaver of any country spruiker, went into rote mode, got up and made his speech. For a conference titled Combating Violent Extremism: Challenging Terrorist Propaganda, stacked with international experts on terrorist messaging and with diplomatic representatives from some 30 different countries, many of them Muslim, many of them with no affection for the American crusader, the speech in itself was extraordinary.

Abbott began with a perhaps forgivable hyperbolic lie: “As everyone who has experienced the great city of Sydney knows, there is no more beautiful and easy-going large city anywhere on earth.“

In 2015 many of the charms of Sydney had vanished: the city was trashed, dangerous, bleak, expensive, housing unaffordable for ordinary workers, the entertainment districts virtually shut down and there were increasing numbers of beggars on the streets; it was in the grip of an ice epidemic, deeply divided along ethnic, religious and class lines and in no way at all could be described as easy-going. The general population was simmering with resentment and frustration.

It took no time at all for the Australian Prime Minister to buy into a religious war: “This country has not flourished because success was inevitable or ordained by God; this country has flourished because people from the four corners of the earth have come here to work hard, to respect each other, and to build a better life for their children and grandchildren.

“This country of ours has an indigenous heritage, a British foundation and a multicultural character.

“Yet the tentacles of the death cult have extended even here, as we discovered to our cost with the Martin Place siege last December.

“We have all seen on our screens the beheadings, the crucifixions, the mass executions and the sexual slavery that the Da’esh death cult has inflicted, mostly on Muslims, in the Middle East.

“That is what the death cult has in store for everyone if it has its way.

“This is not terrorism for a local grievance; this is terrorism with global ambitions.

“The death cult now holds sway over an area as large as Italy in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq.

“Its affiliates control parts of Libya and Nigeria; it is active on the Horn of Africa and parts of the Arabian Peninsula and it has ambitions to establish a far province in South East Asia.

“Its senior members are routinely calling on sympathisers to kill unbelievers wherever they find them, sometimes specifying Australians.

“In the past year, Da’esh and its imitators have carried out terrorist attacks here and in Melbourne, as well as in France, Belgium, Canada, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Jordan, Denmark, Kenya and the United States.

“At successive conferences such as this, the list of atrocities gets longer and longer.

“Daésh is coming, if it can, for every person and for every government with a simple message: submit or die.”

That was one reference to a Christian God and three references to the “death cult” aka Islamic State in about two minutes flat; in a room full of propaganda and counter terrorism messaging experts, many flown to Australia at taxpayer’s expense purportedly so the country could take advantage of their expertise.

The Prime Minister had been repeatedly warned that the use of the phrase “death cult” was counterproductive, fuelling rather than detracting from recruitment, encouraging rather than discouraging Australian jihadists.

In a room full of some of the world’s leading experts on terrorist propaganda, it was beyond inexcusable.

Dr Anne Aly, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at Curtin University, adviser to governments on terror messaging, had previously said: “Osama Bin Laden used to say, ‘you love life, we love death’. Dying a martyr is their badge of honour, it’s a huge push factor for young Australians and the Prime Minister is putting that front and centre.

“I don’t know who he’s talking to when he says death cult because the people who are thinking about going over there are laughing and walking away.”

Abbott first coined the “death cult” phrase in September of the previous year while announcing Australia would re-enter Iraq.

“I refuse to call this hideous movement an ‘Islamic state’ because it is not a state; it is a death cult,” he told the Australian parliament.

The Sydney Morning Herald managed to count 346 uses of the phrase “death cult” in press releases, transcripts, speeches and video recordings between September 2014 and May 2015.

He even managed to weave it into 36 interviews and speeches that had nothing to do with national security, from press conferences with NSW Premier Mike Baird to doorstops in the Melbourne suburbs.

His record was 17 times in one press conference – a March 3 briefing on military operations in Iraq – and in parliament he had answered 20 questions without notice on “death cult” since September, compared to just one on ice, one on domestic violence and three on Ebola. Questions without notice are those fired by friendly politicians to allow the government to boast about its achievements.

At least 22 other Australian government Members of Parliament had followed their leader and mentioned “death cult” in parliament using adventurous variations like murderous death cult, bloodthirsty death cult and apocalyptic death cult.

A spokesman for Mr Abbott said that he made no apologies – “because that’s what it is: a cult that rejoices in death”.

Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph, badged their terror pages with the logo.

The editors of The Telegraph should have known perfectly well that badging their pages Death Cult was inflaming the appeal of jihad to Australia’s disaffected Muslims.

In the past Abbott had been one of a string of politicians making their way to the headquarters of News Limited in Surry Hills, determined to liaise with the The Australian, and The Daily Telegraph’s senior editorial hierarchy. They would have high ranking meetings with the senior editors while Alex watched from his humble reporters desk. Every Australian politician liked to think they had News Limited in their pocket. Alex had seen them come and seen them go.

Abbott owed his election in part to the unabashed support of the Murdoch press.

It would continue to act as his loudspeaker.

In May of 2015 came the headline: “We’ve Jihad It With You”.

Inflaming Muslim sentiment, as he had been so repeatedly advised not to do, a “defiant” Abbott declared he would not negotiate the cosy return of foreign fighters who had a change of heart and vowed to incarcerate them. Up to a dozen “death cult” deserters were, The Telegraph reported, now attempting to seek repatriation.

Treachery within and treachery without.

“If you go, and you seek to come back, as far as this Government is concerned, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be jailed,’’ Abbott said. “If you go abroad to kill innocent people in the name of misguided fundamentalism and extremism, if you go abroad to become an Islamist killer well, we’re hardly going to welcome you back into this country.’’

When Alex spoke to Professor Anne Aly after the speech and asked her what she thought she virtually rolled her eyes at the repeated use of the phrase “death cult” and of the Prime Ministers repeated references to a Christian God in front of a multifaith audience. She said she believed that in his role as leader the Prime Minister’s statements were a breach of the Australian Constitution, which made it clear that Australia was a secular, multifaith society: “He thinks he is speaking to people like himself.”

Perhaps there was another interpretation, that Abbott thought he was speaking to the unbeliever and it was his destiny to play a higher role; to destroy the faith of Australians in earthly government.

Much about Australia of 2015 made little consistent sense. Nothing was impossible. There were days, with frequent references to God studding his speeches and displaying scant regard for normal political processes, when Alex began to think the Prime Minister was acting like one who truly believed the world had reached the so called End of Days, the prophesied Apocalypse; and mere worldly concerns like good governance were as nothing.

Abbott had access to highly qualified public administrators and professional media management experts, people who actually knew what they were talking about, how to build on strengths, eliminate weaknesses; but with his bumbling administration and mishandling of public perceptions, Abbott appeared to avail himself of none of them

He was marching to his own inner drummer, following his own higher calling, the destiny of the nation in his palm, and with the Ravishing upon the land.

****

Forty years before exactly, in 1975, in one of those peculiar twists of fate, Alex had met a then teenage Tony Abbott.

Alex was, even back then, one of the fastest typists anyone had ever seen, and he used the peculiar skill to help put himself through university, working at the Macquarie University Students’ Council at the time.

The Students Council was always a hotbed of intrigue. Alex had run for President once, but got beaten out by a Trotskyist, Rod Webb. In those days of Vietnam War protests, you couldn’t get far enough left.

In any case, that day he had been sitting typing away, doing all the normal clerical tasks.

And in had bowled Australia’s future Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

He was part of a group from that most elite of Sydney schools Riverview who were, in their final year, inspecting the tertiary institutions of the city which, as was their due as members of the city’s upper class, they never doubted they would attend.

It was simply a matter of which one they would grace with their presence.

Abbott stood out because he was handsome, supremely fit, as he would be throughout his life, and had a certain smiling charismatic self-confidence, a self-assurance about his place in the world found only amongst the sons and daughters of the wealthy. Alex could remember the cocky walk of Abbott in 1975, that same fresh faced heir to the realm confidence you saw on the flushed cheeks of Eton’s playing fields.

He also stood out because he was determinedly interested in politics, which is how he ended up at the Students Council offices, having made a specific request to see it.

What made him stand out even more, in that brief flurry of the lower ground offices, was that even back then he was avowedly interested in conservative politics. Alex, himself eternally beyond polemic, had asked, if memory served, which way Abbott the school boy leaned. He leaned right.

The memory stuck, as would so many others.

Alex leaned neither left nor right. If he leaned in any direction, it was towards the heavens. His favourite lines of the time had been:

In the forest, in the unexplored

valleys of the sky, are chapels of pure

vision. there even the desolation of space cannot

sorrow you or imprison. i dream of the lucidity of the vacuum,

orders of saints consisting of parts of a rainbow,

identities of wild things / of

what the stars are saying to each other, up there

above the concrete and the minimal existences, above

idols and wars and caring. tomorrow

we shall go there, you and your music and the

wind and i, leaving from very strange

stations of the cross, leaving from

high windows and from release,

from clearings

in the forest, the uncharted

uplands of the spirit.

Written by his contemporary, Michael Dransfield, who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 24, in 1973.

Just as Alex himself had done, Dransfield as a young man had sought the assistance and advice of Geoffrey Dutton, who had been a lion of Australian literature back in the 1960s and 1970s, a genuine light on the hill. As a teenager Alex had treasured Dutton’s support, just as Dransfield had done. Geoffrey Dutton died in 1998 at the age of 76. Included in his books was the classic on early, indigenous Australia, The Hero as Murderer. In the Australia of the era, for suburban boys, there was no such thing as an artistic path. And then there had been Geoffrey Dutton.

A naturally gifted writer, Dransfield would never see a day when all the hope, all the pioneering changes in consciousness and compassion that they thought they were delivering to the future would be vanquished in a heartless probity, a brutal, dysfunctional and ignorant age; an Australia Dransfield never hoped for.

A world so dysfunctional, so confused in its convictions, that it was about to be wiped away by the Sharia.

During those tumultuous times, and in the years that were to follow, many of Alex’s friends died of what he referred to as the twin demons of the era, AIDS and overdoses.

That no human sympathy, no empathy, from these very different strands of Australian society, had filtered across lines of class, culture and sexual orientation to the people who had taken the Liberal Party hostage, their lives of rigorous rectitude, Tony Abbott, his mentor and predecessor John Howard and their ilk, was clearly evidenced by their actions and demeanour, their probity, their view of the way the world should be.

Their suits were their armour.

While for most students, going to university was the beginning of their explorations of the world and of their own potentialities, for finding themselves as the quaint expression went, Alex had, or so he felt, already lived several lifetimes before he got there. He had already written several admittedly unpublished books, had read everything from Joyce’s Ulysses to Tolstoy’s War and Peace and a great deal in between, had seen lovers die, acquired heroin habits in Penang and boyfriends in Berlin, climbed the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico and hitch hiked across America, wandered virtually penniless through Franco’s Spain and watched the famous troupe of blind singers on the main square of Marrakesh, the Jemaah al-Fnaa, walked through narrow back alleys and elegant boulevards, travelled all over Europe, been to Asia repeatedly, much of this hyper activity courtesy of the free tickets that flowed from his father’s job as an airline pilot.

And had already been a part of the Sydney’s inner city demimonde since 1960s, where he had quickly adopted the ethos of the street, never sleep with anyone except for money.

While Tony Abbott played Rugby on the clipped sports grounds of Riverview.

Who was he to tell anyone how to live? Who were these people, these sons of the good burghers of Sydney, these emissaries from the comfortable citadels of certitude and privilege, who thought they had the inner running on God?

Forty years on from that chance university encounter and Abbott’s cock-of the-walk Eton strut was a very different story.

****

As someone who came within a hair’s breath of becoming a Jesuit priest, a so-called Soldier of God, and whose Roman Catholic beliefs would determine his actions throughout his life, Tony Abbott could not have failed to understand the notion of Holy War.

Almost every single sentence of Tony Abbott’s speech that conference day appeared to be tailor designed to inflame sentiment.

And it didn’t take him long to swing straight into it:

“The declaration of a caliphate, preposterous though it seems, is a brazen claim to universal dominion.

“You can’t negotiate with an entity like this; you can only fight it.”

The declaration of a caliphate was anything but preposterous; it was an enormously successful religious, political and military strategy and was being taken very seriously indeed by millions of people around the world.

“We’ve sent a strong military force to the Middle East to hit Da’esh from the air and to train and assist the Iraqi army to retake their own country.

“We are talking with our friends and partners about how the air strikes might be more effective and how the Iraqi forces might be better helped.

“American leadership is indispensable here as in all the worlds trouble spots.”

It was all very well to hold lunar right political positions in the privacy of your own home. To inflict them on the populace was an entirely different question.

In Alex’s lifetime America’s leadership had included the disasters of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

If anyone doubted that Abbott was fighting a war of his own imagining, it was to come soon enough: “In the end, though, the only really effective defence against terrorism is persuading people that it’s pointless. We have to convince people that God does not demand death to the infidel. Over time, we have to persuade people that error does have rights.”

Over time, we have to persuade people that error does have rights.

What the…?

The Prime Minister was telling the Australian people, a country founded from the survival instincts of convicts, virtually all of whom had been brutally treated by their English overlords for in most cases minor misdemeanours, that error had rights? Over time, of course.

Alex had made mistakes all his life, done things instantly regretted, thrown himself, or so it sometimes felt, off the appropriate time line or over a cliff, abandonment, comfort in oblivion, from the high road to the low road. Like Moby Dick, diving into the ordinary to avoid detection. It didn’t mean he was a bad person; or that he deserved to be put to death. It meant that he made mistakes, like every other human being.

“We need everyone to understand that it is never right to kill people just because their beliefs are different from ours,” Abbott began his wind up. “Above all, we need idealistic young people to appreciate that joining this death cult is an utterly misguided and wrong-headed way to express their desire to sacrifice.”

It was, in Alex’s humble view, a thoroughly disgraceful performance.

Killing people because their beliefs were different to those of the average Australian was exactly what Australia was doing in Iraq.

Abbott closed his speech with a riff to a Christian God, to a mixed audience of Muslims, Christians, those of no faith and those of minority faiths, including a number of descendants of the first peoples.

“As the world gets smaller, the challenge to find common ground, and to build upon it, becomes more and more urgent. I thank God that more and more people are focussed on the things that unite us and invite everyone to join us in respect for the universal decencies of mankind.”

Abbott had just sat through a Welcome to Country ceremony; its intent ignored by the nation’s leading politician.

May you be safe while you are on our lands.

Safety on Aboriginal lands, as on the land of the vanquished Eora clan groups where he now stood, was a gift from the ancestors.

The ancient culture and profound spirituality which had held sway over Australia for tens of millennia had nothing to do with an Abrahamic God.

As the Prime Minister left the stage, puzzled by Abbott’s peculiar stances, Alex listened as carefully to his own perceptions as he did to the exterior noise; and he thought one thing: “He knows, he knows what he’s doing.”

****

The truth of modern day Australia could be found far more easily on the streets than it ever would be in the corridors of power, grace more likely in extremes than in comfort; but there was no point in telling the rulers of Australia that in 2015.

In 2015, in the Land of Tony Abbott, there was no room for the fallen angels of the street. The Beloved of God. Once a surprisingly cheerful band, exhibiting all the black manic humour of crashed talents, they now looked out without hope; while an uncaring middle class drove past in late model cars. There was no way back across the bridge.

There should have been room for other voices, for the peculiar clairvoyance of the people on the street. There was not.

As far as Alex was concerned, those who failed to understand the fallen angels on the street were the true barbarians, the true failures.

He had always walked the streets in the predawn, and in those days of late autumn and early winter, the atmosphere chilly, distrustful and uncomprehending, he would see firsthand the consequences of the havoc Abbott and his ilk had wreaked on Australian society.

Opposite the Matthew Talbot Hostel, the largest hostel for the homeless in inner Sydney, he could easily count at least 20 people sleeping rough, the nightly overflow from the hostel, curled as mankind had done since the beginning of the species in little nests, clothes, blankets, things to soften, just slightly the hard ground.

Every major city had people who slept rough, whose consciousnesses could not be contained within four walls, who preferred to sleep under the night skies, but now their numbers were multiplying, and much of it now was not out of choice, but were genuine cases of dereliction. Urban decay, a society which had lost its way.

He watched the fallen, the poor, stir in the dark like fronds underwater, restless in those hours before sunrise, as, too, mankind had been throughout its history; and it was in these times, watching these people, that images of some of the worst of the Islamic State massacres would rise to the fore. As if, even in far off Australia, these events were ripping apart the normal fabric of time. He could hear the massacred, weeping through the wires; the dead, the injured, the grief and suffering studding the lives of the survivors. Increasingly, people at random offered up a feeling of disturbance.

It was impossible not to recall the massacre of the Yazidi, in large part due to the astonishing paintings of 31-year-old Yazidi artist Ammar Salim; remarkable in their vivid detail, agony writ large. Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci could not have done a better job given months to complete the task.

One painting showed smoke rising from a Yazidi town in the background, while in the foreground Islamic State flags hovered over a devastating scene, men in traditional black Arabic robes fighting over the spoils, for the young and pretty ones take into sexual slavery, other Arab raising swords to behead an old woman, while around her lie the dead.

The painting depicted the worst that men are capable of.

“We Will Kill you, We know where you live,” Islamic State warned the painter.

Kill the artists. Kill the writers. For ignorance has always been the tool of tyrants.

The paintings held a remarkable similarity to the masterpiece Massacre at Chios by the painter Eugene Delacroix; another imprint of pain across time; another massacre of unbelievers; disease, death, cruelty against a desolate landscape, a child struggling to suckle on her dead mother. Twenty thousand civilians were killed in the attack by the Ottoman Empire, another 70,000 deported into slavery; all in the name of God.

Delacroix spoke of the spirits at the edge of sight, of paintings as a message from one soul to another. Sometimes, it seemed to Alex, he too could see those spirits hovering around the makeshift camps outside the Matthew Talbot, the ice tragics gathering on the corners, disturbed in an age of threat; waiting for the sun to rise, for a better time.

****

The Prime Minister lectured the people on God.

The Muslims lectured the people on Allah.

Yet it was the failure of the monotheistic faiths which had brought this disaster upon the world.

One of the peculiar things about this Holy War was that Islamic State was sweeping the world with barely a protest. As their members were being slaughtered or harassed into submission, leaders of the Christian churches had been remarkably silent, as if, it sometimes seemed to Alex in those inflamed early hours when his mind ran free, Christ himself had vacated the scene; evidenced by empty churches, the lack of fervour in the followers.

Well, he didn’t want to offend the People of the Book, as Christians were often called, but that’s the way it struck Alex; that we all make mistakes, that Christ, a clustered soul, had meant well, had aimed to lift the people up, and deeply regretted the excesses of the Early Church, the massacres and tortures, perpetrated in his name, which had been just as bad as those perpetuated by Islamic State.

But Christ having vacated the battlefield, another tide was sweeping the Earth, a far more powerful collector of souls had taken hold. The Lord of the Worlds. And with every soul offered up to join the millions already bowing down in waves of awe in his heaven, his power grew.

In his image populated fantasies, Alex had always loved the end of Empire, had been happy to return time and time again to the infinite loveliness of the Earth, a jewel suspended in the cosmos, entranced by the frailties and fascinations of its peoples, the lives through which he passed. “The world is so beautiful,” as Buddha was reported to have said on his death bed.

Sometimes Alex would say out loud: “Look at all the trouble the saints have caused. Who would want to be a saint?”

He was drawn to the comments Frances Bevan had written in Three Friends of God, a book about a group of Catholic mystics from the 14th Century: “And so, dear children, there are great experiences, and beholdings of the Face of God, times of joy and adoration, so that we may feel ourselves in the third heaven like the blessed Paul, and yet so much may we be exalted by the very joy of God, that we shall need a messenger of Satan to buffet and beat us.

“Yes, we might be great prophets, and do great signs, and heal sick people, and discern spirits, and foretell things to come.

“In one word, children, we might have and do all things, and yet be worm-eaten apples after all. Therefore beware.”

Well, what would Alex know, but that was the way it seemed; as apocryphal imagery filled the internet; as the streets grew eerily, desolately quiet, with little but human wreckage filling them anymore, and fear corkscrewed into people’s hearts.

****

At the Countering Violent Extremism conference Tony Abbott was followed by Julie Bishop, who had won widespread respect for her polished performance as Australia’s Foreign Minister. She was one of the leading contenders to replace Abbott, when the time came.

Bishop was a professional to the tips of her fingernails.

All Alex sensed from her was dismay. The situation, and Bishop knew it, was sliding rapidly out of control.

She might have been good at hiding her feelings, but she couldn’t hide her body language.

Bishop spoke to the country’s cognoscenti.

On the streets and in the homes of Australia’s suburbs there was barely any recognition of what was happening. People didn’t want to know. The country had turned inward, because nowhere else made sense.

Jihad, Islamic State, the Sharia, they were all ideas; and unlike the simplistic Western parables of mujahedeen as barbarians, in fact it was amongst Islamic intellectuals and on the battleground of ideas that this war would be won or lost.

Bishop’s speech was a partial reprise of an earlier speech she had given to the think tank the Sydney Institute, when she had stirred controversy by declaring Islamic State, or Da’esh as she insisted on calling them, to be the most significant threat to the global rules based order to emerge in the past 70 years.

“This threat is a form of terrorism. more dangerous, more complex, more global than we have witnessed before, a pernicious force that could, if left unchecked, wield great global power that would threaten the very existence of nation states,” Bishop had said.

“Through traditional and non-traditional means, this form of terrorism has combined the most medieval of constructs with a sophisticated use of technology in a way that challenges the very foundations of nations.

“Australia is not immune.

“Over the past 18 months in my discussions with numerous senior leaders and officials in the Middle East and Europe, many have expressed the fear that we are facing a generational struggle against Da’esh and like-minded extremists and the ideology that drives them.

“Da’esh must be stopped. There must be an international response to Da’esh to prevent a more rapid spread of its ideology and its attraction to people from across the world.”

At the Countering Violent Extremism Conference, just as she had done at the Sydney Institute, Bishop referred to a book which had impressed her: Eric Hoffer’s seminal work from the 1950s, The True Believer: Thoughts on the nature of mass movement.

With the foresight of prophecy, The True Believer contained extensive discussions of Islam and Christianity.

Hoffer argued that fanatical and extremist movements, religious and political, arose from identical wellsprings, and similar circumstances, when large numbers of people came to believe that their individual lives were worthless, that the modern world was corrupt and that hope lay in joining larger groups.

“The ideal potential convert is the individual who stands alone…”

Hoffer observed that highly ritualised dying and killing downplayed concerns among recruits about violence, as they saw themselves as part of a ceremony.

“This is grimly exemplified by the brutal murders by Da’esh, which they publish prolifically, and include beheadings, and crucifixions and mass murders portrayed in a way the makes them part of a ritual,” Bishop said.

Hoffer was himself a fascinating man; had attempted suicide, spent a decade on skid row, read widely despite the lack of a formal education and possessed a compulsion to write, saying his writing grew out of his life as a branch from a tree: “My writing is done in railroad yards while waiting for a freight, in the fields while waiting for a truck, and at noon after lunch. Towns are too distracting.”

He refused to label himself an intellectual, calling himself a longshoreman. He worked on the docks most of his life.

In The True Believer Hoffer wrote: “All mass movements deprecate the present by depicting it as a mean preliminary to a glorious future; a mere doormat on the threshold of the millennium. To a religious movement the present is a place of exile, a vale of tears leading to the heavenly kingdom,

“In the eyes of the true believer, people who have no holy cause are without backbone and character—a pushover for men of faith.

“All the true believers of our time—whether Communist, Nazi, Fascist, Japanese or Catholic—declaimed volubly on the decadence of the Western democracies. The burden of their talk is that in the democracies people are too soft, too pleasure-loving and too selfish to die for a nation, a God or a holy cause. This lack of a readiness to die, we are told, is indicative of an inner rot—a moral and biological decay. The democracies are old, corrupt and decadent. They are no match for the virile congregations of the faithful who are about to inherit the Earth.

“All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and single hearted allegiance.

“There are vast differences in the contents of holy causes and doctrines, but a certain uniformity in the factors which make them effective. However different the holy causes people die for, they perhaps die basically for the same thing.”

The True Believer concluded with a quote from a writer who by 2015 had largely lapsed into obscurity but with whom Alex and many of his generation had been fascinated by, J.B.S. Haldane, who counted fanaticism as among one of the few truly important inventions between 3000BC and 1400 AD: “It was a Judaic-Christian invention. And it is strange to think that in receiving this malady of the soul the world also received a miraculous instrument for raising societies and nations from the dead—an instrument of resurrection.”

The birth of fanaticism.

A malady of the soul, a malady of the spirit.

So, to Alex, it most certainly seemed to be.

Take the words of the Koran and the Bible literally. Stone the homosexuals. Stone the adulterers. Execute the infidels.

It was the opposite of open mindedness, compassion, tolerance. And the West had welcomed it all into their midst.

****

One of the most fantastical, seemingly utterly baffling things about the Land of Tony Abbott Circa 2015 was that ever since he had come to power in September of 2013, from blatant to obscure, every single Counter Terrorism Operation, Police Taskforce and Police Strike Force had been named with what could be readily described as pro-jihad or pro-Islamic tags.

The names highlighted everything from the rising of Islamic State to the Centenary of the massacre of 1.5 million Christians in Armenia to the massacre of Muslims in Bosnia.

How could this possibly be true?

Of all the many things that did not make sense during Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership, this was to Alex’s mind the single most astonishing thing of all, the thing that made the least sense of everything that had happened during Tony Abbott’s entire dire stint as the country’s 28th Prime Minister.

Alex, as an old news hound, counted 18 of them in all.

One, two, three, even half a dozen might have been discounted as coincidence or incompetence, but 18. Not possible.

Perhaps the issue could seem trivial; they were only names.

But in the heightened alert that was Australia 2015, it was all about messaging.

And the names appeared, on the face of it, to be a deliberate attempt to send a message; and the ones getting this message were not the dozing, hypnotised, disaffected, deluded, sports mad, television addicted majority of the Australian citizenry, but the ones most alert, awake and inflamed: the Muslim minority.

The message could not have been more clear: The Holy War had begun.

It was no wonder the Islamists had so little fear, and so little respect, for the authorities.

Jihad was coming, ably assisted by the Australian taxpayer.

To Alex there appeared to be only two conclusions to be reached: either Tony Abbott was as stupid as people liked to think he is; or he was complicit.

Few people in Australia had the will, the education or the internet skills required to decode some of the references. But Prime Minister Tony Abbott did. He had been to the best private Jesuit schools in the country. He had been to Oxford University in England. He had studied at Australia’s leading Jesuit seminary in preparation for his vows as a priest.

Most of his critics liked to dismiss Abbott by insulting his intelligence; and he was frequently called stupid.

Unfashionably, Alex never agreed. He had met Tony Abbott on a number of occasions, had watched him at numerous press conferences and knew perfectly well that the man might be many things, old fashioned views in his views, he might not run with the gobble turkeys of the latest intellectual fads, but he was not stupid.

Alex kept insisting: it doesn’t make sense, his government doesn’t make sense, Abbott doesn’t make sense.

Alex had first picked up on the conundrum of the naming of counter terror and police operations when he noticed that the pre-Anzac day terror raids in April of 2015 had been named Operation Rising. In his research, he had seen the term everywhere; the Rising of Islam, the Rising of Islamic State, even the Rising of the Network Society, as those seeking enlightenment of a different kind were sometimes referred to.

The story got better when in response to questioning he was informed by the Australian Federal Police claimed that the government had nothing to do with the naming of Counter Terrorism operations.

If the Australian government did not have anything to do with the naming of its own counter terrorism operations, then who did?

Perhaps what they meant was that the administrative wing of government had nothing to do with the naming of the operations but that it was in the hands of politicians. There would be no formal explanation.

Alex had dealt with too many incompetent government departments and officials over too many years to expect anything but dissembling from his inquiries as to exactly how 18 government operations costing many tens of millions of dollars and involving hundreds of officers came to be labelled with pro-jihad pro-Islamist names.

Before pestering the Australian Federal Police and the Prime Minister’s Office with questions he knew perfectly well they would not answer, Alex, with increasing astonishment, began to track back all the names and to make a list, in approximate reverse chronological order.

They went as follows:

1. Counter Terrorism Operation Amberd: Reference to the centenary of the Armenian massacre in which 1.5 million Christians died.

2. Counter Terrorism Operation Rising: Reference to the Rising of Islam.

3. Strike Force Dawed: Digital audio workshop, you have been electronically snooped.

4. Counter Terrorism Operation Castrum: Reference to a style of fort used by the Crusaders.

5. Operation Duntulm: A castle on the Isle of Skye, where the Stone of Destiny is believed to have been held.

6. Eligo National Taskforce: The Knight of Reason or the Atheist Knight in crusades.

7. Operation Appleby. A well known radical Islamist preacher.

8. Trident Taskforce. The UK nuclear program opposed by Muslims.

9. Operation Coulter. American columnist and one of the world’s most famous critics of Islam.

10. Project Tricord and Operation Polo. A musical notation from southern Iraq and a reference to Marco Polo, one of history’s greatest critics of Islam.

11. Taskforce Jericho. A former Islamic Caliphate.

12. Operation Zanella. Most likely a reference to the Bosnian massacare.

13. Blue Line. After an American police information depository heavily criticised by Muslims.

14. Strike Force Raptor. A type of plane used in bombing Iraq.

15. Strike Force Duperry. A surname meaning perfect within and perfect without.

16. Taskforce Maxima. Another reference to a staunch critic of Islam.

17. Operation Hammerhead, a security service specialising in radical Islam.

18. National Task Force Attero, reference to a song about suicide bombers.

This was a nonlinear story in a linear format.

Alex could only tell the story as best he could.

Masterful ineptitude. Or destiny. Preordained, the dissolution of nation states. The Rising.

Let the cards fall where they may.

1.

COUNTER TERRORISM OPERATION AMBERD.

This was name of the post-Anzac Day Counter Terrorism Operation, a Joint Counter Terrorism Operation conducted at a residence in the suburb of Greenvale in May of 2015.

Amberd is an area of what is now modern day Armenia; the site of the largest massacre of Christians in history. 2015 marked the Centenary.

An estimated 1.5 million died in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In memorial services the Pope declared it to be the first genocide of the 20th Century.

Turkey promptly withdrew its ambassadors from both the Vatican and Italy. The dispute made headlines around the world and was of particular interest to both Christians and Muslims.

The Armenians had been Christians since the year 301AD, making theirs the first nation to officially adopt Christianity, even before Rome.

The UK Daily Mail said the blood-soaked depravity exceeded even today’s atrocities by Islamic State and began their story with the recollections of a young girl cowering in her bedroom in 1915 as she hears her father being dragged out of the house, and his shouts: “I was born a Christian and I will die a Christian.”

Not until first light did the girl dare to creep downstairs.

She saw an object sticking through the front door: “I pushed it open and there lay two horseshoes nailed to two feet. My eyes followed up to the blood-covered ankles, the disjointed knees, the mound of blood where the genitals had been, to a long laceration through the abdomen to the chest. I came to the hands, which were nailed horizontally on a board with big spikes of iron, like a cross. The shoulders were remarkably clean and white, but there was no head. This was lying on the steps, propped up by the nose. I recognised the neatly trimmed beard along the cheekbones. It was my father.”

2. OPERATION RISING

The AFP had called their pre-Anzac day counter terrorism operations The Rising.

Indeed it was.

This was a common expression amongst the world’s estimated 1.57 billion Muslims and referred to The Rising of Islam or specifically The Rising of Islamic State.

Castle Rising was closely associated with Queen Isabella of France; a name that lived in infamy in the annals of Christian Muslim conflicts; for it was a different Queen Isabella, Isabella of Castile, who had initiated the Inquisition; and had accepted the surrender of the Muslims at Granada. The two were connected through the British royal family. Many Muslims and Jews were forced to convert or put to death during the Inquisition. The Roman Catholic Church gave Isabella of Castile the title of Servant of God in 1974.

3. STRIKEFORCE DAWED

The Middle East and Counter Terrorism Task Force operation in Sydney in May of 2015 was named Dawed.

This is internet slang for Digital Audio Workshop, and the term Dawed translates, to put it colloquially, as “you’ve been electronically snooped”.

With listening posts across Western Sydney utilising Arabic speakers to track the conversations and activities of suspected terrorist sympathisers, being “dawed” was a major issue for the Islamic community.

Strike Force Dawed comprised officers from the State Crime Command’s Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad and was established in February of 2015 to investigate the supply of drugs throughout Sydney. As the Australian Crime Commission confirmed, illicit drugs were a major source of income for gangs channeling funds in the hundreds of millions of dollars towards terrorist groups.

Police conducted extensive searches of 10 properties, during which they located and seized amounts of methyl amphetamine, heroin and cocaine; a pistol, a sawn-off shot gun and ammunition; and approximately $100,000 in cash.

Seven people were arrested and variously charged with supplying commercial quantities of prohibited drugs, knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime, knowingly participating in a criminal group, shooting with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and discharging a firearm in a public place likely to cause injury.

4. COUNTER TERRORISM OPERATION CASTRUM

This was a NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Operation, also in 2015.

Two men were arrested on the 10th of February, 2015, at Fairfield in Western Sydney and charged with preparing or planning to terrorist acts. There is a town in Palestine known as Castrum, a style of Fort used by the “crusaders” throughout Palestine during the Crusades.

The ruins of Castle Castrum in Europe exhibit this style of crusader architecture.

Police alleged that the two men were well advanced in their preparations to undertake a terrorist act in Australia as revenge for incidents overseas.

5. OPERATION DUNTULM

The Castle of Duntulm on the Isle of Skye is believed to have been built on the site of a number of structures dating back to prehistoric times.

The site may in all possibility have been at one time a keeping place for the Stone of Destiny, the most significant stone in Christianity. Legend has it that it is made of the same material or may have once been a part of the same stone as the Kaaba in Mecca.

Exactly why the world’s two largest monotheistic faiths regard a stone as sacred is lost in the early annals of both faiths, and is believed to predate the birth of both faiths.

Legend has it that it contains some of the oldest material on earth. Other legend has it that it was The Stone of Jacob symbolised Jesus Christ, and was once intended as part of the Temple of Solomon. The Isle of Skye is believed to have been the first point of contact between the Islamic world and the Celtic kings.

Operation Duntulm was an ongoing Joint Counter Terrorism investigation into alleged financial assistance for foreign fighters.

On the 10th of January, 2015, a NSW Police-led investigation with members of the Joint Counter Terrorism Team Sydney, NSW Police Tactical Operations Unit, Public Order and Riot Squad, Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad and the Bankstown Local Area Command saw the execution of a number of search warrants across south western Sydney.

Commander of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command Mark Murdoch said Operation Duntulm had been running for more than a year and was focused on a range of support mechanisms being provided for those who had left Australia and were now fighting overseas.

“The operation today is about the gathering of evidence and intelligence to enable us to take action against those who think they can engage in these activities,” he said. “Investigators this morning seized a range of items from the premises searched including documents and computers, and these will be forensically examined. The community is again reminded that fighting in or supporting overseas conflicts is illegal and extremely dangerous. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe in, if you choose to illegally fight in an overseas conflict you are not only breaking the law, you are placing yourself in immense danger.”

6. THE ELIGO NATIONAL TASK FORCE

Eligo was the Knight of Reason, or the Atheist Knight, from the Crusades.

It is also in more recent times the name of a prominent blogger who denies the existence of God, and also the name of a prominent organisation Eligo International, which specialises in high-level diplomacy, including interfaith dialogues between leaders of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. Such dialogue is anathema to the Islamic State.

In Latin the word means to pick out or to choose; for instance in the phrase eligo ratio vel mortem, choose reason or death.

The Eligo National Task Force targeted money laundering, directly associated with the funding of terrorist organisations and had led investigations into the use of alternative remittance and informal value transfer systems by organised crime syndicates.

In 2014 the Task Force claimed to have seized $665 million of drugs and assets, $38.5 million of it in cash, and to have disrupted 18 organised crime groups and identified 128 criminal targets.

7. OPERATION APPLEBY

There were several Islamist connotations to the name Appleby. There was an Australian academic, critical of Tony Abbott’s approach to terrorism, named Appleby. As well, a former AFP Manager of Serious and Organised Crime, Damien Appleby, came to public attention when he broke up a racket importing semi-automatic firearm components.

Operation Appleby, however, was most likely to have been named after Tariq Appleby of the Muslim Heroes Project. Based in Malaysia, it was a part of a worldwide effort to rediscover and resurrect Islam’s past martyrs and noble warriors. Appleby’s particular areas of interest were the education of youth and the encouragement of the institution of marriage.

Operation Appleby was an ongoing operation being conducted by the Sydney-based Joint Counter Terrorism Team which was investigating persons suspected to be involved in domestic terrorist acts, foreign incursions into Syria and Iraq and the funding of terrorist organisations. Sixteen people were detained on 16th of September, a day after Abbott announced military intervention in Iraq.

8. THE TRIDENT TASK FORCE

The Trident Task Force was likely to be named after the UK Trident Nuclear Missile program, the British nuclear defence system, which was been opposed by Muslim groups.

Throughout 2015 the acquisition of nuclear weaponry by Islamic State had been a subject of increasing concern. A whistle blower claimed that the Trident Nuclear Missile security was so poor it was only a matter of time before nuclear submarines became a target for terrorists.

In 2003 UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon declared that the UK would use Trident in Iraq if chemical or biological weapons threatened British troops.

The Trident Hotel in Mumbai, part of the Oberoi complex, was the subject of terrorist attacks in 2008. There were other associations.

The Trident Taskforce disrupted a number of drug running operations; and seized large quantities of drugs, steroids and human growth hormones. The Taskforce consisted of members of the Victorian Police, the AFP, Australian Customs and Border Protection, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Crime Commission.

The Trident Taskforce also broke up some of the biggest organised illicit tobacco syndicates in the country’s history, including rackets importing large volumes from Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

9. OPERATION COULTER

Coulter was a famous, or infamous, conservative American columnist who declared after the September 11 attacks: “We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That was war. And this is war.”

She also famously said: “Not all Muslims are terrorists – but all terrorists are Muslims” and “If only we could get all Muslims to boycott airlines, we could dispense with airport security altogether.”

Operation Coulter was also involved in disrupting drug syndicates.

10. PROJECT TRICORD & OPERATION POLO

This was a joint agency operation in Western Australia.

The Islamist reference in Project Tricord was not clear, but could refer to a media organisation Tricord Media, which has produced a CD series Burning Questions which relates to questions of faith and inter-faith issues, including the Islamic faith; interfaith dialogue anathema to fundamentalists. The series quoted Jews, Christians and Muslims and asked Which Religion is true?

It was also possibly a variation on the spelling of trichord, a musical notation found particularly in southern Iraq. There is no correlation in Western music.

In May of 2014 500 police were involved in executing 38 search warrants. Half a million dollars in cash and 21 firearms were seized and 19 people charged with drug related offenses, including dealing with proceeds of crime in excess of one million dollars. Some 130 foreign nationals working for the drug syndicate were questioned and detained.

Marco Polo, often referred to simply as Polo in the literature, was a famous early traveller.

While there were doubts over its authenticity, in a quote which had gained widespread currency on the internet Polo was reported as saying: “The militant Muslim is the person who beheads the infidel, while the moderate Muslim holds the feet of the victim.”

Marco Polo was considered Islamophobic. Of the Muslims of Iraq, he wrote: “According to their doctrine, whatever is stolen or plundered from others of a different faith, is properly taken, and the theft is no crime; whilst those who suffer death or injury by the hands of Christians, are considered martyrs.” He was repeatedly critical of Muslims, the enslavement of women and the murdering of infidels; including the caliph of Baghdad whose “daily thoughts were employed on the means of converting to his religion those who resided within his dominions, or, upon their refusal, in forming pretenses for putting them to death.”

11. JERICHO WATERFRONT TASKFORCE

Jericho in the Middle East repeatedly came under the control of Arab caliphates. It was known as the fertile City of Palms. Arab geographer Al-Maqdisis wrote in 985 that “the water of Jericho is held to be the highest and the best in all Islam.” In earlier years it was part of the Jund Filastin, the Military District of Palestine. Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab exiled Jews and Christians to Jericho. The city flourished until 1071 with the invasion of the Seijuk Turks and the subsequent upheavals of the Crusades.

In Australia the Jericho Waterfront Taskforce was established to combat criminality on the Queensland docks, which were even more lax in their security arrangements than docks to the south. They were believed to be major transport hubs for drugs into Australia. In June of 2015 the Taskforce conducted 604 vehicle checks and 50 roadside drug tests as part of a blitz on the Gladstone Port in northern Queensland. Agencies involved included the Australian Federal Police, Queensland police Service, Australian Customs, Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.

12. OPERATION ZANELLA

There are numerous Islamic associations with the name Zanella. The Piazza Zanella in northern Italy had been a focal point for Muslim demonstrations, with one in 2015 on the theme Islam and Immigration: the duty to defend ourselves.

There were also a significant number of prominent Islamic scholars with the name Zanella, including British Muslim academic Yusuf Zanella, a contributor to the magazine Islamica.

President Zanella of the Free State of Fiume, an independent state between 1920 and 1924, annexed by Italy and now part of Croatia. Alex’s reading of the maps showed that it covered the area of the Bosnian massacres.

Zanella was also the name of an Italian politician who has spoken out in defence of free speech and condemned the attacks on the Islamic intellectual Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose most recent book Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now resulted in numerous death threats and the provision of 24 hour security.

Operation Zanella was the AFP code name linked to the Eligo National Taskforce which specifically targeted money laundering operations. In September of 2014 significant volumes of documentation believed to be related to the laundering millions of dollars out of Australia were seized in raids across four states.

13. BLUE LINE

Would appear to be based on the American operation known as The Thin Blue Line, which is accessible to past and present law enforcement officials in the US and described by American Muslims as extremely offensive to their faith; and whose material is reported to include advice on how to detect a jihadist, such as finding Muslim Student Association literature in a Person of Interest’s car. There were other more offensive charaterisations. In Australia it operated as a similar central source for information.

14. STRIKE FORCE RAPTOR

There were numerous news stories of ISIS members being killed by Raptors, a type of drone.

Raids by Strike Force Raptor were conducted in 2014, seizing firearms, drugs and cash, major sources of funding for Australian based terrorists.

The F22 being used to bomb Iraq was also known as the Raptor.

Strike Force Raptor was particularly associated with motorbike gangs, major distributors and suppliers of drugs within Australia. There was a strong Lebanese contingent within the Clubs. There were a number of major raids in 2014.

15. STRIKE FORCE DUPERRY

According to the online Urban Dictionary this is a surname which translates as: Someone who is extremely beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. Someone with this name has potential in everything and is born to make the world

On the face of it this is a reference to the Prophet Muhammad.

On the 20th of May, 2014 detectives investigating a drug trafficking syndicate seized 60 kilograms of precursor drugs for the manufacture of ice.

Strike Force Duperry was a joint investigation by the NSW Police Force’s Organised Crime Squad, the Australian Crime Commission and the NSW Crime Commission, with support and assistance provided by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Four men in the early twenties were charged with large commercial drug supply. All were refused bail. Seizures included passports suspected of being counterfeit, mobile phones, cash and documents.

Previous seizures by the Strike Force included an assault rifle and ammunition, ice with a potential street value of $2 million, heroin with a potential street value of $870,000 and cash.

Joint intelligence analysis had previously indicated that members of the syndicate were involved in the importation of 42 kilograms of pseudo-ephedrine, a precursor to ice, in sea freight from China.

Australian Crime Commission CEO Chris Dawson said the operation led to the dismantling of a high risk, serious and organised crime syndicate that had been highly resilient to traditional law enforcement approaches.

16. TASKFORCE MAXIMA

Taskforce Maxima was established in Queensland as part of a crackdown on drug trafficking in Queensland, particularly motor cycle gangs.

There are a number of Islamic connotations for Maxima, including the Mecca Maxima cosmetics company, established in October 2013 and with a branch in Tony Abbott’s electorate. Their recent most advertised brand was Urban Decay.

There were also waves of Muslim protests in Indonesia over the release by Maxima Pictures of a movie by a porn star.

An early Christian female saint of the same name was flayed to death.

The most important reference however is to Queen Maxima of Holland, who had been active in the debate over whether Muslim immigration was destroying the traditional way of life in Holland. Author Ayaan Hirsi Al had been under 24-hour guard ever since the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh was killed by Islamists because of the film Submission, in which she highlighted the plight of millions of Muslim women. She was forced to return to Holland after America refused to provide her with protection.

Ali claimed that Dutch multicultural polices which encouraged large Muslim intakes had been a mistake which was destroying the country. “In no other modern religion,” Ali wrote, “is dissent still a crime, punishable by death.”

There were still other government Operations which could be easily interpreted as having pro-jihad tags.

17. OPERATION HAMMERHEAD

Operation Hammerhead appeared not to be a reference to the Hammerhead shark, common off the east coast of Australia, but to a security group targeting radical Islam.

The riot squad, traffic patrol and mounted police formed part of the high visibility operation on Sydney’s streets to guard against potential revenge attacks and other conflicts following counter-terrorism raids in September of 2014 and the announcement that Australia was re-engaging in Iraq. Some 220 police officers covered transport hubs, landmarks and public areas.

18. ATTERO NATIONAL TASK FORCE

The Attero National Task Force appeared to be a direct reference to the third album of Swedish heavy metal group Sabaton. Songs on the album involved considerable glorification of the Nazis, with whom the Muslim world sided in the Second World War; and song titles included Rise of Evil, The Final Solution and In the Name of God, about suicide bombers in the Middle East.

The lyrics for In the Name of God ran in part:

Hide from the public eye, choose to appear when it suits you

Claim you’re just, killing women and children

Fight, when you choose to fight, hide in a cave when you’re hunted

Like a beast spawned from hell, utilizing fear

Chosen by god or a coward insane?

Stand up and show me your face!

Suicidal, in a trance

A religious army

Fight without a uniform and hide in the crowd

Call it holy, call it just

Authorized by heaven

Leave your wounded as they die, and call it gods will

The names were beyond coincidence, from the celebration of massacres to right wing columnists.

When he first raised the issue with terror message expert Professor Anne Aly she said: “That’s no coincidence.”

None of it engendered confidence.

What next, Alex thought, Operation Sharia.

Might as well.

As was the nature of journalism in contrast to reportage, questions forged the story.

So although he did not expect any coherent accounting, he asked the questions of the Australian Federal Police’s Media Office in any case:

1. What is the traditional way in which Counter Terrorism Operation names are chosen; who is responsible, what vetting is done by senior members of the AFP over the use of these names to ensure that they do not give inappropriate signals?

2. Has the process changed since the Abbott government came to power?

3. Has the Prime Minister’s Office, the Prime Minister himself or anyone in his office directed the AFP as to the choice of names since he came to office in September of 2013?

4. Has the Prime Minister or anyone in his office expressed any concern whatsoever to the AFP over the choice of names for the country’s counter terrorism operations? Has anyone within the AFP at any time ever been directed by any member of parliament, or anyone at all outside the organisation, as to the choice of names?

5. Has there at any time been any concerns raised by any community, judicial or parliamentary group over the choice of names?

6. Has any public servant, senior departmental head or anyone else within the public service ever expressed concerns to the AFP over the naming of the counter terrorism operations?

7. Has the AFP at any point in time expressed any concern to the Prime Minister’s Office over the naming of counter terrorism operations since Tony Abbott came to power? Has the AFP ever felt under any political pressure to name the operations in one way or another?

The response: that the Australian government had nothing to do with the naming of Australian counter terrorism operations.

An answer so bizarre it was instructive within itself.

He asked a similar set of questions of the Prime Minister’s office; had the Prime Minister or anyone in his office ever made any directions as to the naming of police and counter terrorism operations?

There was no answer.

In a land of ailing democratic institutions, where there was no accountability, where those who ruled had forgotten they also served, there would be no answer.

The average Australian might not have known that Operation Amberd was a direct reference to the largest massacre of Christians in history; but the Prime Minister would have. The average Australian might not have known that Operation Coulter was a direct reference to one of the world’s most famously barbed critics of Islam, that Operation Zanella a was a direct reference to the Bosnian massacres of Muslims, or that Operation Polo was a reference to one of history’s greatest critics of Islam, that Taskforce Maxima was a direct reference to one of the world’s leading academic critics of Islam, a woman who had famously written: “Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice”.

But the Prime Minister would have.

And so should the nation’s security organisations to which he had gifted more than a billion dollars in additional funding, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Australian Signals Directorate.

The fact that not one good Muslim pointed out to the nation’s security authorities that they had been naming their counter terror operations with pro-jihad tags showed how deeply, totally the security apparatus was compromised.

The public was entitled to ask, if a simple matter like the naming of operations in a manner so as to avoid sending counterproductive messages could not be got right; what other things were going wrong in these administrations almost entirely immune to public scrutiny?

Alex had once lived next door to Philip Knightly, the famous journalist. They would meet on their respective doorsteps sometimes. Alex couldn’t have been a bigger fan. Knightly, a true gentleman of the old school of journalism, was the author of that brilliant book, “The First Casualty”.

As in, The First Casualty In War Is Truth.

And so, so terribly, it remained the case.

No truer a phrase, no better a truism.

****

The Prime Minister did not stop long enough to hear the next speaker, Muslim Abdul-Rehman Malik, a London-based journalist who contributed regularly to the BBC and was program manager for a group calling itself the Radical Middle Way. He decried the use of “death cult” rhetoric as unhelpful.

Then he demanded of the audience, in a kind of pantomime he had clearly done before: “What do you see in this picture?”

He held up a well-known picture of a man with graying hair, his hands bound behind his back, blindfolded, being held by two Islamic State captors on the ledge of a tall building. The man was accused of being a homosexual. For the crime of loving in a different way, he was about to be shoved to his death.

In the well-known incident, when it became apparent that the man had not died on impact, the crowd below stoned him to death. Ironically, it was an image frequently used because it was less confronting than many others.

In the name of Allah The All Merciful.

In the name of the Merciless Prejudices of the Mob.

“What do you see in this picture?” Malik demanded again.

“A mobile phone,” one of the audience volunteered.

“That’s right,” he said. And went on.

The thing that was most striking about the scene was not that yet another homosexual was being killed by Islamic State, but that the scene was being filmed from both sides, the two perpetrators both had mobile phones, were both filming, and the footage would be up on the internet via Twitter within a blink.

Just as with executions filmed on Mobile Phones, so the facing of Network Seven onto Martin Place, once deemed a terrific marketing ploy, with curious onlookers gathering in shots behind morning hosts and the glassed in Seven Studios becoming a Sydney institution, had now made Martin Place one of the most dangerous places in Australia.

The Seven studios were exactly like a mobile phone.

They amplified through their cameras actions of symbolic import.

The nightmare that was now visiting Europe, the death of the old cultures, the institution of Sharia, restive, dangerous, alienated and growing Muslim populations convinced of the divine rightness of their cause, had well and truly arrived in Australia.

There were now many hundreds of jihadists within Australia who would gladly gift their souls to Allah.

In the night, in the morning, thoughts came unbidden in some sort of heightened state.

“You are under attack.”

Alex didn’t know how reliable they were; he couldn’t know, for every moment changed in decaying, corporeal forms, these bodies of the flesh, unfounded of spirit.

But he issued the advice, as if someone was listening: “Triple the watch on Martin Place. It has all the symbols, a secular place without a mosque; the cenotaph, deemed a celebration of previous invasions of Muslim lands, the banks, the Post Office, law firms, insurance companies, an upmarket hotel. nearby Parliament House and the law courts where a number of Muslims had now been tried; all of them are now targets, all of them are now profoundly unsafe.”

How they would do, when they would do it, these things could not be easily divined; that was the point of terror. No one knew where. No one knew when. Everybody was frightened. The agents of chaos, with their lone wolf calls and ceaseless plotting, had made the situation totally unpredictable. The only way out was the worship of Allah. The Lord of the Worlds. The All Merciful.

After the Prime Minister had given his speech Alex stood off to a distance and watched the glad handing of various conference attendees, many of whom Abbott would have known or recognised from the diplomatic circuit. His large-boned Chief of Staff, the oft hated Peta Credlin, hair dyed a not very fetching shade of blonde, hovered nearby, clipboard in hand, worried expression across her brow, shepherding him along.

She couldn’t get her boss out of there fast enough. The pair of them left Pier One as quickly as dignity would allow. There would be no sitting around listening to the experts. And no talking to the media.

The Prime Minister was shepherded through the protective arms of his security detail, back into his busy life. While Alex went back into the fabric of Sydney, a city full of ghosts.

After leaving Pier One Alex walked through the historic alleyways of Millers Points, past some of the oldest surviving buildings in the colony, climbed back into his car, thankful he hadn’t got yet another parking ticket, and drove back into what for him was an increasingly unforgiving place. In what seemed like an instant, but in fact had been a long time brewing, Sydney had become an extremely dangerous, unsafe city.

MEDIA INQUIRIES:

asenseofplacepublishing@gmail.com

Buy Now

Hard Copy and Nook

Hard Copy and Nook

iBooks

iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Mac

Google Books Available on Google Play

Google Books Available on Google Play

Terror in Australia

Delivery in Australia & NZ