Christchurch shooting: Brenton Tarrant has achieved exactly what he wanted


In less than two weeks Erdogan’s country will go to nationwide municipal elections that are seen as a referendum on his national rule. His Islamist AK party is in trouble in the two cities that matter most: Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

Thus, when Erdogan went to Canakkale to commemorate the Battle of the Dardanelles that saw the fleets of Britain and France defeated in 1915, leading to the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, he grasped at the recent tragedy in New Zealand as only the most cynical and desperate political leader could think of doing.

Erdogan decided to use the horror of an Australian citizen slaughtering Muslims in New Zealand to present himself as a tough leader defending Islam against those who once invaded Turkey.

You could barely imagine a more contemptuous use of a pre-election platform.

“Your grandparents came here… and they returned in caskets,” he warned, as if somehow the single gunman in Christchurch could represent two nations bent on a new war in Turkey. “Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers.”

His history was absurd: Australians and New Zealanders did not go to Gallipoli to wage war on Islam – Turkey had signed a pact to fight for Germany, and those from Australia and NZ were sent to the ill-judged expedition against Germany’s allies by British leaders.

Furthermore, Australians and New Zealanders did not return in caskets. Apart from the single exception of General William Bridges – the only Anzac body to be returned – they were buried where they died, on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

History, however, does not matter to President Erdogan as much as whipping up a pre-election frenzy.

Erdogan’s speech naturally outraged Australians and New Zealanders.


And Scott Morrison, a Prime Minister with a difficult election less than two months away, chose to take Erdogan’s stinking bait and run with it.

It was, of course, reasonable and expected that the Australian leader call in the Turkish ambassador to “please explain”.

But then to declare publicly and loudly he did not accept the ambassador’s “excuses”, and to demand that Erdogan withdraw his remarks, and then to escalate the matter by announcing that in terms of Australia’s response “all options were on the table” carried more than a hint of the election trail. All options?

Erdogan had set out to divide for his own political purposes, and had succeeded.

Morrison, of course, had his own difficulties.

He has been furiously defending himself against the revival of a report from 2011 that accused him of trying to persuade his shadow cabinet colleagues to campaign on public concerns about “Muslim immigration” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.

Chaos achieved. Escalating.

Tony Wright is the associate editor and special writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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