5 Nov. 2007

Chez Downer: Ain't Nobody Home



Last night a senior Iraqi politician very diplomatically urged Australia to leave his country as soon as possible:
He says Australian troops have made a valuable contribution in Iraq, but the US military is capable of taking over if they leave.

"The role is still there, but it can be executed through the agencies of the US military, so if Australia pulls out tomorrow it will not have a significant effect on the combat and the battle situation in Iraq," he said.
Alexander Downer is not having a bar of it:
"This is hardly the time, just as we are making real progress there, to throw the whole situation into turmoil by going around arguing that western forces should be withdrawn from Iraq."
Downer would rather talk about Kevin Rudd talking Chinese:
"He likes to show off, and you get that a bit with certain people in life. I'm familiar with those types of people who like to show-off ... "
I bet you are, Alexy. People like Benazir Bhutto, for example:
Her record isn't pretty, but her backers in Washington, London and Canberra seem to have developed an acute bout of amnesia about her abilities.

Witness Alexander Downer's unbounded regard for Benazir Bhutto, now angling for a third stint as Pakistan's Prime Minister. Downer said last week he thought Bhutto was "a good woman", someone who "stands for the things we stand for in Australia". Perhaps Downer sees in Bhutto shades of another irrepressible politician dear to him. Ambition also unbounded, Benazir qualifies as a subcontinental "Lazarus with a triple bypass", in trademark white headscarf instead of a Wallabies tracksuit.

But Downer is more correct than he might imagine (and here's that possibility of "something else"). Like the AWB oil-for-food scandal he claimed ignorance of in his departmental backyard, Bhutto has a very similar skeleton dangling in her closet; allegations raised by the same UN probe that fingered AWB of some $US144 million in dubious Iraqi oil trades her company made when Saddam ruled Baghdad.
That's from a great Eric Ellis article in Fortune Magazine, looking at the corruption of Pakistan's Epaulette Empire, a $US40 billion sprawl of businesses controlled by Musharraf's comrades in the military:
Controlling around 10-15 per cent of the economy, the military is the biggest single stakeholder in Pakistan's booming economy. Property, tourism, construction, transport and telecommunications, there's barely a business sector not tinted with some sort of brass hue. The generals even own a popular breakfast cereal brand, alongside bakeries, petrol stations, farms, banks, and some listed on Karachi's soaring stock exchange.

Pakistanis grumble that other countries have a military, but in Pakistan the military has a country.
Obviously Alexy is not too worried about that little military dictatorship problem. In fact, he is giving Musharraf even more money:
"We don't want to withdraw aid that might be helping to stabilise the country," he said.

"We announced recently an increase in aid into the western part of Pakistan in order to try to contribute to stabilising that part of the country and reducing the influence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda."
Ah yes, it's not the corrupt men in shiny suits we need to worry about, it's the terrrrrrrsts! Funny, that's exactly what Musharraf says...

Another thing Alexy doesn't want to talk about is interest rates. Let's talk about Sheikh Al Hilali instead, shall we?