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MH17: why wars are our collective problem

Armed rebel soldiers guard the debris at the main crash site of the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in an an area that has seen heavy fighting between separatists and Ukrainian government forces. EPA/Robert Ghement

It’s easy to sit in suburban Melbourne and flick past the news of the latest conflict in some far corner of the world and think that it’s none of our business.

Sure, it’s been a bad few years in Syria, some Islamic sect in Iraq has persecuted another, suicide bombers are taking revenge for that and a bunch of crazies are flocking to join the latest jihad somewhere in the middle east.

But in Australia we’re okay. The Carbon Tax has been repealed, the footy season is coming to the pointy end and Clive Palmer is keeping us all entertained in the parliament.

Then some lunatics grab a piece of advanced weaponry and blow an airliner out of the sky and cause the tragic deaths of not just some random foreigners, but our fellow citizens.

All of a sudden the images we’ve been seeing of heavily armed masked men half a world away are our problem. Our citizens’ bodies lie among the wreckage, reports of looting and lawlessness abound. The chaos that accompanies civil war is there for the world to see. We feel frustrated and angry.

We want to see the perpetrators brought to justice but in all likelihood the region they’re in is not really controlled by anyone. If we think Russian President Vladimir Putin is about to come to our rescue, we’re dreaming.

The latest online edition of Pravda suggests that the perpetrators were Ukrainian troops, not the rebels.

Incredibly amid our grief our parliamentarians start behaving like adults and have their own “cease-fire” after weeks of taunts about the price of lamb and budget emergencies.

Tony Abbott appears on the ABC’s Insiders and gives his best and most Prime Ministerial interview since his election. No slogans, no sniping at the Opposition, just common sense. Labor’s Bill Shorten recognises the difficulties the government faces. The people come together.

But the Malaysian Airlines MH17 raises a bigger issue that we don’t want to face. And that is that turning a blind eye to conflicts in other lands ultimately comes back to bite us.

We start to wonder if there’s something that we could have done? For months there’s been images of masked men in battle fatigues occupying buildings and behaving like thugs in various parts of the Ukraine. We’ve just shrugged our shoulders and left them to it.

Whether it’s refugees seeking a better life, airliners being shot down, or religious and ethnic hatreds being fanned by violence, war is everyone’s problem.

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