Two important stories for John Howard:
1. Seven Saudi nationals held at Guantanamo were released by US authorities and have returned to Saudi Arabia.
Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, the Saudi interior minister, said he hoped the remaining Saudis in Guanatanamo would also be freed soon, Saudi's official news agency reported on Wednesday.Around 50 of the 400 remaining detainees at the camp are thought to be Saudi. Two Saudi prisoners hanged themselves in protest last June. Public anger has grown in the desert kingdom over the treatment of its citizens in Guantanamo.
2. Meanwhile, Iraqis welcome British and Danish pullout:
Sami al-Askari, a Shiite lawmaker and political adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said: "The withdrawal is the wish of the Iraqi government and all the political powers in the country."
"We welcome any withdrawal of British forces from inside the centre of the city," said Hakim al-Mayahi, head of the Basra provincial security council, which has had a fractious relationship with the British...
On Monday, hundreds of Basrawis marched to the British consulate to demand the release of local detainees.
"We want to see British forces leaving as soon as possible. Security is in place in Basra thanks to the Iraqi police and army," said 27-year-old Ali Abdullah, who works at the city's electricity firm.
Law student Muthanna Ihsan, 20, agreed.
"Iraqi forces in Basra are ready and able to ensure security. Every Basrawi wishes to see all British forces leaving at one time not gradually," he said.
And Razzaq Nasir, a 58-year-old oil worker, was categoric: "There is no need for them. The British forces in Basra are a big problem for the Iraqi forces and for ordinary Basrawis."
Australia's position on both Gitmo and Iraq is looking increasingly ridiculous. And John Howard is looking increasingly ridiculous and more like a War Criminal every day. Somebody better call off the attack dogs:
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has warned that coalition forces will not achieve victory in Iraq...Well, sir, it is time to give the Iraqis control over their own destiny. And they have made it abundantly clear that they would welcome an Australian withdrawal, followed as soon as possible by a complete US withdrawal. Isn't it about time we listened to them?
"There is no such thing as victory in Iraq," he said.
"And the Iraqis who've shown enormous courage to vote on three occasions to elect their own government, they should be the inspiration for what we do, but there'll be no such thing as victory.
"The most important thing that we do is to make sure the Iraqis have control of their own destiny, and have the moral fortitude and courage to see the job through until they're in a position to do it."
An Australian withdrawal at Iraq's request is actually a godsend proposition for Howard, if only he has the sense to realise it. And if the Saudis, who were heavily involved in 9/11, are able to get their citizens home from Gitmo, there is no reason why David Hicks should not also come home asap. Indeed, I suspect the US authorities would loudly welcome any such application from the Australian government.
The endgame is upon us. A bright, clear and shining path has opened up before John Howard. Will he take it? Or is he just too bloody obstinate?