28 Jun. 2007

I Hate Howard!


This is why I am changing the name of this blog (again):
Mr Howard said hate is a strong word and should not be used flippantly.

"That word is not used sparingly enough and I suppose the alliteration appeals to some people - hate and Howard - but I think it's rather juvenile," he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"The people who use that language have got the problem, not the object of that language."

I hate the arrogance of this little man, who has overseen the deaths of more than half a million people in Iraq, forcing 4.5 million more to flee their homes, but still cannot even admit he lied.

I hate the cynical opportunism of this racist, who has withdrawn funding from Aboriginal programs and watched their communities plunge further into poverty, alcoholism and despair, yet still cannot even say "Sorry".

I hate the smug satisfaction of this greedy Fascist tool, who has abolished Australia's unfair dismissal laws and other fundamental workers rights, but still seeks to vilify his political opponents a danger to our country's economic well-being.

I hate the blind, willful ignorance of this corporate business stooge, who pretended for so long that global warming does not exist, even blocking scientific evidence to the contrary, until now we are all faced with a planetary emergency.

I hate Howard.

No, it is not too strong a word. Say it with me:
"I hate John Howard!"

That's my election slogan right there.

"I HATE HOWARD!"

UN To Warmongers: "We Told You So"

Maybe the reason it took so long to finally close down the U.N. WMD Inspection Team is that certain people did not want to see the publication of the team's final report:
"Despite some skepticism from many areas within the international community, in hindsight, it has now become clear that the U.N. inspection system in Iraq was indeed successful to a large degree, in fulfilling its disarmament and monitoring obligations," said the unit's 1,160-page summing-up report.

"The UN's verification experience in Iraq also illustrates that in-country verification, especially on-site inspections, generate more timely and accurate information than other outside sources such as national assessments."
And get this:
In other sections, the report said UNMOVIC had found that from the mid-1970s to 1990, more than 200 foreign suppliers had provided Iraq with critical technology, equipment, items and materials used in banned weapons programs. U.N. officials said the report's authors had decided not to name the suppliers.

Your Fat Faced Foreign Minister In Action

Alexander "Baby Face" Downer just made a lightning-fast trip to Baghdad, where he warned, err, I mean... promised al-Maliki that Australia's massive troop presence will never, ever be withdrawn:
"The Labor Party is saying the Australian Government's thinking of just pulling the troops out [of Iraq] before the election for political reasons. We're not doing anything of the sort. I made it very clear to the Iraqis while I was there that we wouldn't abandon them."
Did you hear that, all you 100,000 plus insurgents? Our 1,370 brave Diggers will NEVER abandon you! Never! Bwaaa haaa haaa HAHA HAHA!!!

So, err... why was John Howard recently reminding everyone that his original understanding with the USA "was that after the sharp end was over we were not going to have any troop presence"? I guess it depends how you define "the sharp end". First 50 years of occupation, perhaps?

Downer ploughed on with his interview:
"I was heartened by some of General Petraeus' analysis, which was that the Americans feel they are making very good progress now against al-Qaeda."

Mr Downer said it was too early to make a judgment about the success of the US troop surge, designed to lift security in Baghdad and surrounding provinces. He said the US was only now getting all the troops in place.

"They haven't finished deploying the troops. We will have to give it plenty of time. It's not a time at this stage to make that judgment."
Well, actually, Alex, all the US "surge" troops in Iraq are now fully deployed. Even President Bush says so:
The president ordered 21,500 additional U.S. combat troops to Iraq in January. With those troops finally all deployed, Bush ticked through the details of operations in several areas, declaring with the aid of maps and charts on screens that flanked him that progress already is being made in many places.

He said sectarian murders, after spiking in May, are now down substantially from January levels. Car bombings and suicide attacks continue, but declined in May and June. He cited "astonishing signs of normalcy" such as soccer matches and crowded markets.
Downer just received an honorary degree in Israel, where he pledged another $7 million of Australian taxpayer money to prop up the (previously isolated) pro-Western Fatah Palestinians against the popularly elected Hamas government. Obviously the man is a veritable dove of peace, spreading his message of love across the Middle East:
"I made the point to the prime minister that it is very important that the Iraqis take this whole process of reconciliation further forward and do it more quickly than they are the moment. They have got a lot of work to do, in particular reconciling between the Shia and the Sunnis."
Reconciliation? I thought we'd abandoned that "old politics" in favour of Howard's New Militant Paternalism? Maybe we should declare a National Emergency in Iraq? Oh, wait...!

According to Ha'aretz, Downer is the world's longest-serving Foreign Minister, with over 10 years on the job. You have to wonder how he does it, don't you? Certainly competence, compassion and coherence don't seem to be important criteria for continuing in his post.

Job Vacancy: Massive Salary, Fascists Welcome

The head of the IMF is resigning to spend time with his family. Why have the global media never pointed out that this man is an avowed Fascist?
Mr. Rodrigo Rato, Mr. Aznar's Minister of Economy, [was] responsible for the dismantling of the Spanish welfare state.

Mr. Rato is of the ultra-right . While in Aznar's cabinet, he supported such policies as making religion a compulsory subject in secondary schools, requiring more hours of schooling in religion than in mathematics, undoing the progressivity in the internal revenue code, funding the Foundation dedicated to the promotion of francoism (i.e., Spanish fascism), never condemning the fascist dictatorship, and so on.
Tony Blair's Minister of Economy, Gordon Brown, was Rato's main advocate for the IMF position. Let's see who they come up with as a replacement.

The Revolution May Be Televised After All

Mika's not the only pissed journo in Bush's USA today. The LA Times' Managing Editor has abruptly quit the paper, saying he "would like to return to being a reporter."

And Wall Street Journal reporters across the country chose not to show up for work today, citing threats to their independence and credibility. Never mind that Rupert, poised to gain control of the WSJ editorial as well as the paper, is promising that the new WSJ Page Three girls will have MBA's.

More at the Wendi Deng Watchers Club.

Realization: Paris Hilton is not news

Is It Impeachment Time Yet?


Things just got very ugly in Washington. Yesterday, Cheney got subpoenaed for information on his warantless wire-tapping program. White House press secretary Tony Snow called it "an outrageous request". But that's just one of many snowballing Democrat investigations. And today the White House is point-blank refusing to co-operate with the subpoenas:
"With respect, it is with much regret that we are forced down this unfortunate path which we sought to avoid by finding grounds for mutual accommodation," White House counsel Fred Fielding said in a letter to the chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.
The White House is invoking executive privilege, even though Cheney argues he is not a member of the Executive branch.

This is going to end up in the Supreme Court,as many of us have long predicted. And the Republicans have diligently stacked the court in their favour, and kept Bush's discredited Attorney General in place, in preparation for just such a day. Is it impeachment time yet?

Even Fox News now has Bush at record lows, and in some states he is polling as low as 14%. But Bush is still pleading for patience in Iraq. And you'll never guess which state he has picked as the new "model":
He cited Israel as a possible model for Iraq, signalling that success for US forces there should not be defined by a complete end to attacks, but by creation of a "functioning democracy" despite continuing violence.
NB: Cartoon above by Ted Rall.

27 Jun. 2007

Gandhi Saves The USA From Darth Cheney


I know I shouldn't get pissed about this sort of thing, but...

I wrote this post at Bush Out way back in February 2006:
Bush Executive Order 13292 was released on March 25, 2003 - just five days after the US went to war in Iraq.

As superbly explained by Byron York at the National Review Online, the order is basically a handover of powers from a lazy, ignorant President to a ruthlessly power-hungry Vice President...

The 2003 Invasion of Iraq began on March 20. This order was released just five days later!

Now just try to tell me that the Iraq War was not pre-planned... Cheney and the PNAC neo-cons had this document ready to push right under Bush's nose just as soon as they went to war!!!

So just what has Cheney been keeping secret from the USA?

More importantly, perhaps, what has Cheney been keeping secret from Bush himself???
Did I get hits? No. Did I win Blogger Of The Year award? Not. Did the world change? Nah.

Now, with all the heat suddenly coming down on Cheney, I thought it would be a good idea to forward the link to the good people at Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo site. Couple of days later, and here's Spencer Ackerman at TPM:
The order, known as Executive Order 13292, gives the ISOO the authority to ... That's President Bush's language: he amended the executive order on March 25, 2003.
Clearly, Ackerman is presenting the document in a different light to my post, and focussing on other areas of text. But this could be a big weapon against Cheney. And, after four long years of relentless blogging, a little credit would be nice. Yes, yes, I know...

The dudes at TPM are a very busy bunch, and we are all working towards the same goal, and all that.

But I'm tired and I want my Mummy.

Know what I mean?

Actually, what I want is a real job, where I can do this sort of thing for a living, like the TPM mob. Any offers?

Maybe I'll just go write a book. Or something.

War On Aborigines: Nation's #1 Child Abuser Rides To The Rescue


Just over a year ago, the head of the Australian Medical Association in the Northern territory called for the Army to be sent into the Aboriginal community of Wadeye, where violent abuse of children was commonplace. Howard ignored the call for help, and Mal Brough insisted it was a Northern Territory police matter. Brough instead called an Indigenous Violence Summit, rejecting Clare Martin's demand that the problem be escalated to the Prime Minister's COAG meeting. Influential officials ridiculed Brough's summit as a yet another talkfest.

Last night on the 7:30 Report Mal Brough admitted that, if not for Howard's dramatic intervention, "this would have been yet another report that came and went." And there have been plenty of missed opportunities:
KERRY O'BRIEN: Have you asked one of your predecessors Philip Ruddock why he didn't act on the warnings from senior Aboriginal leader, Mick Dodson who at the National Press Club down the road from the Parliament four years ago... when he warned in the starkest terms of child violence in Aboriginal communities, of incest, of paedophilia and rape of youths?

"Our people are experiencing sexual abuse beyond comprehension."

Couldn't have been much more specific than that...

KERRY O'BRIEN: When Senator Heron, another of your predecessors, when he was Aboriginal Affairs Minister right back in 1996 when he announced cuts of $450 million over four years he said, "We want programs that benefit individuals and families in the community. We will deliver results not lip service."

Eleven years later, you deliver a national emergency... declare a national emergency and blame the Territory. You would acknowledge there have been so many reports, surely the Federal Government must front up to some of the blame?

MAL BROUGH: Kerry, I have no issue on personally taking the blame.
While it is a refreshing surprise to see a Howard government minister accepting blame for anything, the person who should be bearing most of the blame for this current situation is the man who has overseen all such failed programs for the past 11 years: the Prime Minister, John Howard.

The more one looks into the details of this latest plan, the more bizarre it becomes. Last night Mal Brough repeatedly refused to answer a simple question: "Are children going to be physically examined for signs of sexual abuse?'
MAL BROUGH: Well, Kerry, it's very interesting how we are having this discussion because, let's turn it around. Let's do nothing.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Mr Brough, that's not...

MAL BROUGH: No, Kerry. No, Kerry.
AFP officers have now arrived in the NT and will get just one week's training before they are sent out into the communities. It sounds very much as if their duties are being made up as we go along.

Bye-bye, Bush's Poodle


UPDATE: Brown immediately elevates a few Iraq War critics to cabinet.
What a typically stupid thing for Bush to say:
"I’ve heard he’s been called ‘Bush’s poodle’. He’s bigger than that.”
A golden retriever, perhaps? But wait, there's more:
"Somehow our relationship has been seen as Bush saying to Blair 'Jump' and Blair saying, 'How high?' But that's just not the way it works. It's a relationship where we say we're both going to jump together."

Bush also said: "Tony's great skill, and I wish I had it, is that he's very articulate.

"I wish I was a better speaker. This guy can really . . . he can talk."
What an idiot. Those comments came in a Murdoch Sun exclusive interview with Bush, by the way. And it was recorded a month ago. I am curious that Bush doesn't have more to say today. Maybe the "special relationship" is not what it once was?

And what a strange thing for Blair to say:
For the first time, he used the word "sorry" in relation to Iraq. While he still believed the war was right, "I am truly sorry about the dangers they [British soldiers] face today in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Why should he be sorry, if (as he still insists) he has done nothing wrong? Are we finally going to start hearing the truth from Bush's poodle? If so, where will that leave Howard?

Gordon Brown is already promising some major changes. In fact, he uses the word "change" at every opportunity. Is that just spin, or will we be seeing some real change? His comments to readers of The Independent don't seem to signal a radical shift:
In an answer of one word, and with the benefit of hindsight, was it wrong to invade Iraq?

No.

You were the one person who could have stopped Blair signing up to the invasion of Iraq, either by threatening to quit or publicly opposing it. How do you feel about putting your career ahead of the lives of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of British soldiers?

I don't doubt that you hold your views about the war sincerely. We know it has been a divisive issue for our party and our country, but I hope you'll accept that I hold my views sincerely too. There's no doubt that mistakes were made in our planning for what happened after the removal of Saddam, and I think it's important to learn the lessons and to go forward knowing that proper procedures are going to be in place that will command the confidence not just of Parliament but the confidence of the public. We will learn all the lessons that need to be learnt.

Do you ever wake in the night and think of all those dead Iraqi children?

Any such loss of life is a tragedy. As Prime Minister, I will work tirelessly for peace and security for all the children in Iraq, and for the safe return of our armed forces once their job is done.
So there is still a "mission" for the troops, and the only mistakes being acknowledged are related to the post-invasion planning, not the manipulated intelligence used to justify the invasion. Still, any new revelations or shifts in policy could pose major problems for Howard.

As for Blair's farcical new role as Mid-east envoy, this post from Antony Loewenstein tells you all you need to know. Little wonder Arabs are not impressed. If Blair is looking for redemption, he has a very, very long road to hoe.

War On Aborigines: Don't Panic Until I Say So!



After declaring a national emergency, sending in the military, and calling this Australia's version of Hurricane Katrina, Howard is now telling the locals not to panic.

A letter sent to the local elders "polititely advises that a small contingent of federal and territory officials, together with at least one Federal Police officer, would like to visit and talk to them this morning." Never mind that the troops are already on the way and the locals' right to deny them access has already been abolished.

And can you believe this:
A three-week investigation of allegations of abuse in the community by a joint police task force last year — including over 100 interviews with local people — failed to find evidence of abuse capable of prosecution in this community, local elders say.
Or what about this:
In one of the many intricate, interwoven dramas complicating the political story of the Howard intervention, the Mutitjulu community administration was tossed out eight months ago by Canberra and replaced by a Perth firm which, only a month back, the locals succeeded in dumping through an appeal to the Federal Court.
No wonder the locals think this is all about Uluru tourist revenues. (Alex Mitchell suspects it could have more to do with the mining industry).

Don't get me wrong - if there are kids in danger, we should do whatever is necessary to help them. But this whole thing stinks to high hell of media spin and political opportunism.

26 Jun. 2007

War On Aborigines: Fear-Mongering Meets Reality


A lot of the Aboriginal mothers out around Uluru have personal experience of the Stolen Generation, a state-sponsored crime for which Howard still refuses to apologise. Little wonder they are terrified and panicking:
Some families have already fled the first community to be targeted, Mutitjulu at Uluru, but the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, blames "liars" who have something to hide from police and military personnel for terrorising people and spreading hysteria.

"The reason people are scared there at the moment is because people are putting around that the army are coming to take their children away, that the army is coming in to shoot the dogs and the Government is going to take away their money and make them sit there and do what they're told," Mr Brough said...

Lesley Taylor, one of the Territory's most experienced child abuse workers, said: "They are scared stiff … This is creating very stressful environments that could lead to even more children being at risk."

Sixty to 70 communities will be targeted, and small teams of police, military and government officers will begin arriving today to audit people's needs. They would be replaced by teams who would stay to meet those needs, Mr Brough said. Public servants will oversee the programs, with a manager in each community responsible for what happens.
Credibility is a bitch, isn't it? On the basis that anything the government denies must be true, here's Howard:
"There's no reason to flee, it's quite the reverse. People are going there to help, going there to save and protect, they're not going there to scare people and steal children."
Righto. But surely the standard government policy on sexually abused children dictates that they must be immediately removed from their parents? Make no mistake: children WILL be removed from their families. And who is going to decide on that action? Howard's chosen few, come from afar.

Meanwhile, out in the hot desert sun...
Mutitjulu leader Bob Randall said the community was waiting to see what happens next.

"It appears to be high security, all we are doing is waiting to see what happens but we all think this is a terrible way to go about it, I mean this is heavy stuff," he said.

"It is quiet as always, this is always a quiet little community.

"We haven't seen anything different yet but we are expecting something to happen today."
As this week's Bulletin says, it is all rather theatrical.
"Well, you just had that terrible running-on-the-spot feeling," says Howard. "You put a lot of effort and a lot of resources into the dysfunctional character these communities, I watched what Noel Pearson was doing in the Cape and it made a lot of sense."
The view from abroad is a little different, as one might expect. South Africans take the Aboriginal perspective (how novel) and see the intervention as 'a land grab':
Indigenous leaders presented a letter bearing more than 90 signatures to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough on Tuesday condemning the plan, which involves Canberra taking control of leases on Aboriginal land for five years.

Pat Turner, who was once Australia's most senior Aboriginal bureaucrat, said Howard's conservative government was trying to reverse hard-fought indigenous land rights.

"We believe that this government is using child sexual abuse as the Trojan horse to resume total control of our land," she told reporters.
Funny how Turner's voice is not being heard in the Oz media, isn't it?

And I am just going to quote Howard's ridiculous Hurricane Katrina analogy here because I am sure I will be coming back to it soon:
"Many Australians, myself included, looked aghast at the failure of the American federal system of government to cope adequately with Hurricane Katrina and the human misery and lawlessness that engulfed New Orleans in 2005. We should have been more humble. We have our Katrina, here and now. That it has unfolded more slowly and absent the hand of God should make us humbler still."
Notice the "five year" lease-grabbing, which will just take us through the next election comfortably. Cynical? Moi?

What a fucking blatantly transparent farce. Shame on all those who refuse to call it for what it is: a desperate election stunt from a morally bankrupt racist who truly doesn't give a fuck.

Global Military Spending Hits $1.2 Trillion - Guess Who Is Paying For It?


As the Cold War fizzled to an end in the late 90's, who would have believed that global military expenditure was about to rise by 37 percent in a decade? The latest figures show that world military expenditure rose 3.5% to $1.2 trillion in 2006, with Bush's USA accounting for nearly half the total figure.
“The United States and the European Union countries continue to supply vast quantities of arms to the Middle East, despite the knowledge that it is a highly volatile region,” said Siemon Wezeman, SIPRI’s arms transfers project leader...

Among the top 10 importers were five Middle Eastern countries. While arms exports to Iran put Russia under the spotlight, deliveries from the United States and European countries to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were significantly larger, said the SIPRI report.

“Especially worrisome are deliveries of long-range conventional strike systems to these states and the effects this may have on regional stability. Because the development of large weapon systems is becoming increasingly costly, nearly all countries have become, or soon will become, dependent on other countries for weapons or weapon technology,” said the report.
What a scam. And we Australian taxpayers are up to our necks in it:
The 2000 Defence White Paper committed the Government to increase Defence spending by an average of 3 per cent real growth a year from 2000-01 to 2010-11, adding a further $28.5 billion of resources to Defence over that timeframe.

Now, the Government has decided to continue to increase Defence spending by 3 per cent real growth a year until 2015-16. This will mean an additional $10.7 billion for Defence over the period 2011-12 to 2015-16.

These commitments mean that the Defence budget will grow from $12.6 billion in 2000-01 to $26.7 billion by 2015-16...

A 15-year commitment to an average of 3 per cent real growth in Defence funding is unprecedented in our history.

25 Jun. 2007

War On Aborigines: The Troops Will Be Home For Christmas!

Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough let the cat out of the bag when he revealed that all states except WA are sending police to the N.T.
"I think Alan Carpenter has been bloody-minded towards his neighbour," Mr Brough said...

WA is the wealthiest state and the federal government is not asking him to pay "one red cent", but only contribute 10 officers who will be returned in six months, Mr Brough said...

"WA is on its own in denying these kids a better future and it appals me to think he would be playing politics with this issue."
Gosh, here we are less than six months from a federal election, and Howard has already decided that he will be declaring Mission Accomplished as soon as the election's over. What a bloody farce.

War On Aborigines: Time To Invade QLD


Twenty years ago, I worked as a teacher on a cattle station about 300km west of Mareeba, in Far North Queensland. Racism was rampant in the area. In fact, it's the reason why I quit my job after just two months. The locals referred to sex with the black girls as "black velvet", a term which I also heard when I got back to Sydney. Even one of my uncles, married with four kids, told me there was "nothing like it".

The Aboriginal "ringers" I worked with would labour for months on the local cattle stations, then head into town on a Friday night, with a few hundred dollars in their pockets, and blow the whole lot in a couple of days. On Mondays, white farmers would drive up to the Chillagoe pub in their 4WDs, pick up half-paralytic black bodies from the side of the streets, and drive them out to their stations for another few months' work.

One of the older Aboriginals I worked with still had scars on his back from childhood beatings with a chain by white property owners. He told me how they used to have leg-irons in those days.
"Not so bad these days, mate," he said.
A younger bloke called Francis complained that he used to enjoy school, but he and his friends frequently went bush, and the government had a policy of never allowing Aborginals to repeat a year of classes (it would look bad on government stats, you see). After a few years he just couldn't understand what the teachers were talking about any more, so he dropped out.

Twenty years later, nothing has changed. Peter Beattie is telling Queenslanders not to worry about yet another black death in custody:
Mr Beattie said the death would be "fully and properly investigated".

"We've demonstrated here that none of these get covered up," he said.
Yeah, right. Tell that to the Mulrunji family, Pete.

So far the "facts" indicate that the latest victim just upped and died all by himself. He just happened to be in the back of a police van at the time:
Police said the middle-aged man was being transported to the Mareeba watchhouse for questioning when he was found dead in a police vehicle.
Obviously the problems so recently detected by John Howard in the Northern Territory are widespread. Given that Howard's preferred solution involves military and police action, it's surely just a matter of time before he sends dozens of cops into Queensland, and then WA, and western NSW, and South Australia, and a few other areas too. I would like to nominate Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley as leader of a new national force. If we are short of cops, I'm sure Howard's friends at Blackwater could help out.

What a bloody farce, what a national disgrace.

US Media Goes After Murdoch

A couple of big Murdoch-watching stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker today, with even more juicy stuff still to come. Details at The Wendi Deng Watchers Club.

Uh-oh! The Banker's Bank Says We Are Headed For Another Great Depression


Not good:
In its annual report the Bank for International Settlements noted that the conditions which led up to the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Asian crises in the 1990s were reflected in the current environment.

"Each downturn was preceded by a period of non-inflationary growth exuberant enough to lead many commentators to suggest that a 'new era' had arrived," the bank said.

The BIS, the central bankers' bank, pointed to a confluence of worrying signs, citing mass issuance of new-fangled credit instruments, soaring levels of household debt, extreme appetite for risk shown by investors, and entrenched imbalances in the world currency system.
The BIS has robust criticism for China, but only "thinly veiled" criticism of equally irresponsible profiteering from the US Federal Reserve. Oddly enough, there is nothing at all about the Howard-Costello economic "miracles" of the past decade. Funny, that.

WaPo Shines A Bright Light On Dick Cheney's Dark Corner


Yesterday the Washington Post started running a major four-part series investigating US Vice President Dick Cheney. This really is Pulitzer-quality journalism, which should permanently shape the US public's low view of the criminal Bush White House. Here's a taste:
In a bunker beneath the East Wing of the White House, Cheney locked his eyes on CNN, chin resting on interlaced fingers. He was about to watch, in real time, as thousands were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Previous accounts have described Cheney's adrenaline-charged evacuation to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center that morning, a Secret Service agent on each arm. They have not detailed his reaction, 22 minutes later, when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

"There was a groan in the room that I won't forget, ever," one witness said. "It seemed like one groan from everyone" -- among them Rice; her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley; economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey; counselor Matalin; Cheney's chief of staff, Libby; and the vice president's wife.

Cheney made no sound. "I remember turning my head and looking at the vice president, and his expression never changed," said the witness, reading from a notebook of observations written that day. Cheney closed his eyes against the image for one long, slow blink.

Three people who were present, not all of them admirers, said they saw no sign then or later of the profound psychological transformation that has often been imputed to Cheney. What they saw, they said, was extraordinary self-containment and a rapid shift of focus to the machinery of power.
Part One here.

Part Two here.



"We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world we operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective."

- Dick Cheney, just days after 9/11.

*

"Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole? It's a nice way to operate, actually."

- Dick Cheney

24 Jun. 2007

Howard's Iraq "Withdrawal" Strategery


A headline like this has gotta make you sit up and pay attention:
US military bets all on Iraq campaign

Under mounting political pressure at home, the US military is betting all that a summer-long campaign against Al-Qaeda in Iraq will leave it in a position to begin drawing down US troops by early next year.

General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, has only three months to bring about a major change in security conditions, a goal that has eluded all his predecessors.

Should he fall short, analysts say, an angry Congress is almost certain to act to take matters into its own hands.
I think this explains how Howard will approach the Iraq War issue during the election campaign. Indeed, he has already begun hinting at an Aussie withdrawal scenario:
Recently an Australian soldier in Iraq told the Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, that Australia was "not pulling its weight" and said its forces were "being withheld from actual combat roles".

When this was put to Mr Howard on Channel 10 yesterday he referred to Australia's understanding with the US. He had "made it very clear that … if we did commit forces, they would be committed for the sharp operational stage, the invasion stage, if you like, and then after that we would not be leaving forces on the ground".

It was not until April 2005 that Australia sent ground forces to Iraq, Mr Howard said.
Well, that last bit is certainly not true. Howard himself has previously admitted that Aussie troops were on the ground in Iraq even before Bush's cowboy-style deadline to Saddam had expired:
MATT BROWN: On Melbourne radio 3AW the Prime Minister has confirmed this morning that Australian troops entered Iraq before the deadline George W. Bush set for Saddam Hussein to surrender expired.

JOHN HOWARD: I think Senator Hill has indicated that that did happen.

INTERVIEWER: But it was denied at the time.

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I think what we said at the time was that we did the right...that we went in, in...

INTERVIEWER: I remember asking you whether troops went in, after we'd been told they were, and you said no.

JOHN HOWARD: Did I say that?

INTERVIEWER: "Not to your knowledge", yeah.

JOHN HOWARD: "Not to my knowledge". Well, that could well have been the case at the time.

INTERVIEWER: How early did they go in?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, certainly after the ultimatum was rejected.

INTERVIEWER: No, but did they not go in before the deadline expired?

JOHN HOWARD: Yes, but once an ultimatum is rejected the deadline is irrelevant.
Never mind. We are all accustomed to Howard's lies these days. Right?

Seems to me that Howard will be going into the election with the US military pumping out good-news stories from Iraq to support his "nearly there, not quite" thesis. After the election, it will be entirely up to Howard and his US masters whether we actually withdraw or not.

Same goes for the US politicians: they just want to get through to November 2008 without a complete withdrawal of forces, then the US military-industrial complex can carry on doing what they like for another four years.

The War On Aborigines: Howard's Wedge At Work


The wedge hath been planted! All must choose sides! As Howard says:
"These questions about who spoke to who when and whether it's going to happen in the next two hours or the next five days is really missing the point. The point is whether what we're doing is right or wrong, and what we're doing is clearly necessary and overwhelmingly needed given the scale of the problem."
And yet, there are dissemblers who desist from this stark choice...

Malcolm Fraser, for one, is not impressed:
"There is an emergency but people have known of it 10 years, for every year of the life of the current government. One could ask 'why now?'," he told ABC radio.
I agree with weez at Machine Gun Keyboard - this is Tampa 2007:
If you could reasonably (and constitutionally) shut off the booze and send in the Army to Vaucluse to stop their abuse problems, you should reasonably be able to do it to aboriginal people - but not before. HoWARd couldn’t get any traction demonising migrants, diseased or otherwise, so aboriginals are the Liberals’ election wedge for 2007.
Rudd has taken the bait, however. Kim at Larvatus Prodeo highlight's Rudd's feeble response:
Rudd says a Labor Government would create a bi-partisan ‘war cabinet’ to deal with the national emergency in indigenous communities.
Kim concludes that the Rudd Labor Party deserves to lose this election:
If it hadn’t been for WorkChoices, buddy, you couldn’t even count on a preference from me now. Wedge, meet target. Same dynamic as Tampa - the left deserts Labor, and swinging voters return to “strong leadership”. But, honestly, it took Beazley longer to cave, and he did it with more embarrassment. Mr Howard is a very clever politician. But Mr Rudd stands for nothing.
Frank in the LP comments compares Rudd's response with that with WA Premier Alan Carpenter:
"This is not any plan from the prime minister, this is just a thought bubble that erupted when he needed something to run as an issue on for the federal election."

Mr Carpenter queried the prime minister's commitment to the issue when he was cutting funding to programs in WA which deal with domestic violence, child abuse and alcoholism.

"Why is the federal government pulling funding out of programs right now, the funding will come to an end at the end of June, if he is serious about his intentions?"

The WA premier said if Mr Howard really wanted to stop pornography going into indigenous communities he should ban the sale of the material in Canberra.
Carpenter also says Howard's grog ban won't work:
"If Mr Howard is serious on the alcohol ban why is it only for six months? What's that going to achieve?" Mr Carpenter told the Nine Network.

"Most of the big Aboriginal communities in Western Australia are dry communities, but these issues are still happening in those places so there are other things that you have to be looking at."
Here's the NT Government's original Wild-Anderson PDF report into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse (via Leftclick).

Do you think this wedge will have legs as an election-changing strategy? Seems to me that there is a very good chance that the draconian police deployment, along with other harshly authoritarian decisions, will provoke a violent backlash from some Aboriginals. And I think Howard is counting on exactly that. Get the TV cameras out into the outback, film some anti-police violence, cut to the poor kids quivering with fear in the background... Bingo! Then back to the studio for comments from our paternalistic PM.

PS: More about the rather interesting image above here.

Lawsy: One More Election, Then I'm Done


Looks like Mr Golden Tonsils doesn't know the election date either:
"I'm staying here until November I think, I don't know. I mightn't stay that long. It certainly won't be any longer than November."

...

A spokesman for the Prime Minister, John Howard, confirmed that Mr Howard would be making a live call to Laws this morning to congratulate him on his 50 years of radio work.
Before we say a tearful goodbye, let's pause to remember how Laws was found guilty of "cash for comments" when promoting companies including Optus (now Howard's #1 choice for wireless bush broadband) and Foxtel (who gave Laws his own TV show, which was launched by John Howard). Might be a good time to review that Enough Rope episode...

UPDATE: Irony:
The retirement of veteran radio identity John Laws has been greeted by the financial markets, with shares in his employer, Southern Cross Broadcasting Ltd (SBC), climbing quickly.

By 1049 AEST, SBC shares were up by nine cents to $15.80...

Have We Become A US State Yet?

An Aussie convicted of software piracy is deported to the USA and jailed. A US soldier tries to lure a 14 year old Aussie girl into sex, but the US military insist they should take over handling of the case.
"The US military is asking for jurisdiction in this case, but they will investigate the matter and take appropriate action,'' said US military spokesman Lieutenant Chris Maddison from the US embassy.

He said such a move was allowed under a bilateral "status of forces agreement''.
What have we signed up to?

The War On Aborigines

It's not political, OK? Howard is just blaming the NT Labor government for a decade of neglect, and then refusing to meet with other State governments.
[A] spokesman for Mr Howard says the public has had enough of meetings and now is the time to act on Indigenous child abuse.
Just as 9/11 "changed everything", so has this new report:
Mr Howard says the Federal Government is taking over because no territory based approaches have worked.

"The reality is that the old approach hasn't worked, that's why we're acting," he said.

"Everything that was done in the past was within the old paradigm and the old approach, now I don't want to criticise people about the failures of the past - that's not the purpose of this exercise - it is to do something about the problem now and into the future.

"For this government to stand by and let that go on without intervening would be a terrible dereliction of duty."
Sure, let's not talk about the failures of the past. What good would that do? People might even start talking about who's been in charge of this country for the past eleven years, and how his attention has been on the world stage rather than his own backyard.

23 Jun. 2007

Do You Think God Will Forgive Us For What We Have Done?

A must read:
A few streets over, dried blood is still visible on the front step of one home. A Shiite woman named Iman was shot there as she was returning from a trip to the store for bread. Her 7-year-old son, Mohammed, had rushed through the front door and cradled his mother in his arms.

No one had stopped to help until Amal Mohammed Thaifa saw her friend's body bleeding on the ground, and she rushed to the little boy.

She took him inside. "Let's clean you up," she recalled telling him.

"No, I want to stay covered in my mother's blood," he replied. "Auntie, just wait until I grow up. You will see what I will do."

Let's Remember How This Whole Thing Began

Howard seems to have decided that a militant approach to Aboriginal issues will be a vote winner, a passion-churning big issue that could turn his electoral fortunes. So let's remember how this all began:
The Federal Government has announced a response to the report into sexual abuse of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory, including widespread bans on alcohol sales on Indigenous land for six months.

Prime Minister John Howard says the Federal Government is not happy with the NT Government's response to the issue.

He says the widespread child abuse in Territory communities, as outlined in a recent report, is a national emergency.

All Indigenous children in the Territory are to undergo a medical check.

"We will provide the resources and we will be appealing directly to the Australian Medical Association to assist," he said.

"We will bear the cost of medical examinations of all Indigenous children in the Northern Territory under the age of 16."

The Commonwealth is to link welfare to school attendance, and 50 per cent of welfare to parents of children in the affected areas will be quarantined for food and other essentials.

The Federal Government will take over the running of townships using five-year leases.

There will be a special session of Parliament if needed to amend land rights legislation and self-government legislation.

"The Commonwealth Government will take control of townships through five-year leases to ensure that property and public housing can be improved and if that involves the payment of compensation on just terms as required by the Commonwealth Constitution, then that compensation will be readily paid," he said.

"We will require intensive on-ground clean-up."

Mr Howard says the changes are a dramatic and significant Commonwealth intervention.

"We're doing this because we do not think the Territory has responded to the crisis affecting the children in the Territory," he said.

Mr Howard says he will also scrap the permit system for entry to Aboriginal land.

There will also be a ban on x-rated pornography in the affected areas, and an increased policing presence.

"It is interventionist, it does push aside the role of the Territory to some degree," he said.

"I accept that but what matters more - the constitutional niceties or the care and protection of young children?"
There's your classic Howard wedge there, and you classic straw man argument.

So was this unprecedented Federal intervention really necessary? Every decent person in Australia is delighted to see something - anything - finally being done about this disgraceful situation, but Howard's rush to blame the NT state govt seems misplaced:
One of the authors of the child sex abuse inquiry, Rex Wild QC, says... the Prime Minister's criticism of the Northern Territory Government's response time is unfair.

"They've only had the report for a fairly limited time," he said.

"To my knowledge, they've already sent the report through to the relevant departments and I understand they are working on the recommendations."
I smell a rat.

21 Jun. 2007

Who's Sorry Now, Ya Bastard?


After more than a decade of willful neglect, the problems of Aboriginal poverty and disenfranchisment have blown up in Howard's face.


Howard is looking to dump the blame on the NT government. But that ignores the fact that such problems are endemic in other states as well.


Since the first days of colonisation, this has always been a Federal problem, and has always required a Federal solution. Unfortunately, the racist, insensate and greed-driven mindset of successive Australian governments, which has consigned Aboriginals to over two centuries of misery, has been alive and well in the Howard government.


A man who cannot even bring himself to say SORRY for past abuses is never going to provide the solution for future generations. What is urgently needed is not just plain, ordinary, human compassion, but a change of leadership.

How Low Can He Go?


Bush is now polling at 26%. But don't worry, George - John Howard is with you all the way!

Only 23% of US citizens now approve of the way Bush is handling Iraq, with 73% disapproval (an 8-point jump since the last Newsweek poll). There are also majority disapproval figures (around 60%) for Bush's handling of immigration, the economy, and health care.

The only presidents who have ever gone lower than G.W. Bush are Nixon (23%) and Truman(22%). Jimmy Carter and H. W. Bush bottomed out at 28% and 29% respectively. Newsweek poll data here.

The conservative WSJ is normally pro-Bush, but even they have registered a five point drop this year, to a new low of 29%. The bad news for the USA (and the world) is that nobody has any confidence that Congress will hold Bush accountable, stop the war, and restore the dream that was America. So it looks like it's up to "we, the people" to fix the problems.

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney is claiming that procedures for the guarding of classified national security info do not apply to his office, because it is not an “entity within the executive branch.” If so, Cheney should get out of the White House.

Rupert Murdoch Under Investigation!


Oooh, yes! The New York Times is launching a multi-bureau investigation into Rupert Murdoch and his global News Ltd operations. The investigation will led by NYT managing editor Jill Abramson.
“Bill has asked me to lead an investigative project for the next month, which I’ll mainly do from home,” Ms. Abramson wrote at the time. “It involves a group of domestic and foreign reporters, but I obviously can’t tell you what it is.”

Well, the group includes one obvious choice: media reporter Richard Siklos, who authored Shades of Black, the 1995 biography of disgraced press baron Conrad Black.

Although Mr. Siklos is currently covering the Black trial in Chicago, he’s also been busy reporting on Mr. Black’s fellow media mogul, Rupert Murdoch: He has had nine bylined pieces, including a 3,300-word cover story in the Sunday Business section, since News Corp.’s bid for Dow Jones was announced on May 1.

The investigative project also includes, according to a source at The Times, investigative editor Matt Purdy and reporters Jo Becker (in New York), Jane Perlez (in London) and Joseph Kahn (in Beijing).
Murdoch is reportedly aware of the investigation. Gosh, wouldn't it be nice to see Murdoch spluttering and squirming in the dock like Conrad Black has been doing?

Remember, Murdoch is a chief enabler, if not architect, of the Iraq War. This is the man whose media outlets helped bring Bush, Blair and Howard to power. If the NYT's best reporters cannot find some big time dirt on him, they are just not doing their jobs properly.

The big question may be whether Sulzberger, who backed Judith Miller to the hilt, will publish the dirt on a fellow traveller. I'm thinking the latest Dow Jones revelations on Murdoch's sleazy China deals may have just tipped the balance.

Popcorn, anyone? This journalistic feast is going to make the Eric Ellis profile of Murdoch's wife (disgracefully spiked by Fairfax) look like a tasty hors d'ouvre.

20 Jun. 2007

Nigerian Grinds To A Bloody Halt


And it's all the unions' fault, obviously:
Streets in the main cities were deserted, but this was partly due to a five-day-old strike by road tanker drivers which has left most of Nigeria without fuel.

Very few buses were operating. Banks, schools and most government offices were closed. Unionists barricaded streets in many cities and ejected some workers who turned up at government offices in the capital Abuja.

Some international and domestic flights were cancelled because of a shortage of jet fuel and general shipping ports were shut. Nigeria is also the world's fourth largest producer of cocoa.

"There are no marine services so there are no vessels coming in or going out," a shipping line manager in Lagos said.

Many Nigerians support the strike because the majority lives below the poverty line. Fuel subsidies are seen as one of the few benefits they receive from a government that has failed to deliver power, water, healthcare or schools.

Nigeria's four oil refineries have been shut for months because of sabotage and mismanagement, and Africa's largest producer of crude oil is entirely dependent on imports to meet its fuel needs.
In fact, the problems driving poverty, violence and despair in Nigeria are identical to those in the Middle East: corruption at the highest levels, and Big Oil corporate executives happily greasing the palms of dictators and autocrats.

There's A Hole In The Bucket, Dear Johnny, Dear Johnny..



Not just one leak, either, but seemingly a bunch of leaks forming a steady trickle of unpleasant truths. Yesterday's SMH leak of Liberal Party poll data was just an appetiser. Today there's even more:
The documents, which were obtained by the Herald, reveal plans for the campaign are well advanced, with the survey groups shown scripts of four test advertisements: "Journey", "New Ways", "Independent Research" and "Unions".

"Unions does a good job of creating the threat and undermining support for the unions' position," the research says. "In spite of the claims that they don't like negativity, this ad works."

"New Ways" is "the stand-out of the positive ads", which prompted those surveyed to envisage such scenarios as "bosses and staff enjoying a drink".
Remember that Helen Coonan has launched a leak investigation into her own department. Alan Ramsay first noticed the problem a few weeks back:
The issue: Howard's proposed advertising campaign on what his Government intends doing about global warming. Howard dissembled outrageously. Yet Labor had caught him. It has a mole somewhere in the chain. It knows exactly what the Government is doing, almost step by step. Howard has not looked so threadbare, so less like a Prime Minister in control, since he got there 11 years ago.

The iceberg is getting nearer.
If Howard's own people are so sick of him that they would rather stick a knife in his back, let the truth be told, and regain a measure of self-respect, who are we to stop them? We could soon be approaching a situation similar to the current Bush GOP's "rats from a sinking ship" debacle, where top Libs start giving up the next election as lost, and actively distancing themselves fromt their Lame Duck leader. Watch how much leaks will come out THEN!

More popcorn, please!?!


UPDATE: Howard is clearly sticking with his favourite fear-mongering modus operandi and going in hard with the very negative "Unions" campaign:
"They are salivating at the prospect of a Labor victory," he told Sky News.

"You heard Mr McDonald talking about people working at Hungry Jacks, I mean what he's really saying is 'if Rudd wins, we'll be back in town, we'll be running the country again, and we'll make sure you don't have a job'," he said.

Western Promises of Transparent Justice Are A Shallow Farce

The USA is sending another six Guantanamo prisoners home without charges, including Abdullah bin Omar, a 50-year-old Tunisian who has been held without charge since August 2002:
Attorney Zachary Katznelson of the British human rights group Reprieve said bin Omar faces "grave risk" of abuse and torture in Tunisia for his involvement with Ennahdaha, which he described as a moderate, nonviolent Islamic political party.

"I hope and pray Tunisia is going to do the right thing but I don't know that we can rely on that," Katznelson said in a phone interview from London. "We are truly, truly concerned for Mr. bin Omar."

He said Reprieve tried without success to persuade the U.S. to halt or delay bin Omar's transfer after his family said he had been convicted in absentia and sentenced to 23 years in prison for his involvement with a banned political group.

Katznelson said he had only been able to meet once with bin Omar, who may not have known he had been convicted.
Chances are that bin Omar, who is married with eight children, will be arrested on arrival in Tunisia and sent to one of the same torture cells the US government uses for outsourced CIA renditions. And all because he joined a non-violent, democratic political party, just as the US government loudly encourages disgruntled citizens to do!

There are still "about 375" prisoners in Gitmo. 405 have been released. "About 80" have been cleared for release but are trapped in administrative hell. David Hicks, who made a deal with the devil to escape his hellhole, remains the only detainee to have been (cough! cough!) "lawfully" processed.

Western Promises Of Transparent Democracy Are a Shallow Farce

Eric Margolis looks at the fallout from The Mother of All Scandals:
One of the major reasons for the fast-spreading influence of militant Islamic groups like Hezbullah, Hamas, and Taliban has been their success in uprooting the Muslim world’s endemic corruption and nepotism. We are so used to Islamists being demonized as “terrorists” that their highly effective and popular social accomplishments are rarely noted. In fact, their appeal and popularity is based primarily on their welfare and incorruptibility.

Islamic militants insist the west exploits their nations by keeping deeply corrupt regimes in power. In exchange for protection from their own people and neighbors, and fabulous wealth, these authoritarian Arab regimes – always termed “moderates” by western media – sell oil on the cheap to the west and do its bidding. US-installed governments in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan are all noted for egregious corruption, including secret payoffs from Washington to their leaders.

No wonder Prince Bandar was always so amiable and accommodating. Or that he managed to fly out a planeload of Saudis the day after 9/11 when all US flights were grounded. Or that the Bush administration was trying to position the always amenable prince as the next Saudi monarch.

The Bandar scandal is hugely embarrassing for Blair and Bush, who claim to be leading a crusade to bring democracy and good government to the benighted Muslim world. It starkly confirms Islamists’ accusations that the west promotes corruption. And it dramatically exposes the dirty underbelly of the west’s much-vaunted “special relationship” with the Saudi royal family.

The Truth Will Out

Even if it takes five centuries:
The records maintain that a few hundred conquistadors, led by Francisco Pizarro, used their superior weaponry and horses to repel an attack by tens of thousands of Inca, led by Manco Yupanqui. After breaking the siege, the Spaniards tracked down and killed many of the Inca who had attacked them.

But the archaeological evidence casts the conquistadors in a less heroic light, making it clear that the Spaniards were accompanied by a large group of Indians who were fighting the Inca to escape subjugation.

And while as many as three of the Inca warriors were shot and others had injuries made by the Spaniards' metallic weapons, most of the 72 victims were bludgeoned with more primitive stone weapons wielded by other Indians.
One day we will find out what all those private contractors in Iraq have been doing.

19 Jun. 2007

Spot The Lie


Which of the following statements is not true?

(a) Phillip Ruddock's office is running a secret political 'dirt unit', or

(a) ASIO routinely vets journalists, or

(c) Federal MPs have just recieved a 6.5 per cent pay rise.

If you answered (c), congratulations! Yes, the payrise was actually 6.7 percent (more than double the rate of inflation). Mind you, Ruddock vehemently denies both (a) and (b) as well.

The Next Big Scandal: DFAT, Hoes, Suicide and Saudi Arms Dealers

Expect to hear a lot more about this story and this story very soon.

Another $11 Billion For Corporate Warfare


The rampant militarization of Australia continues apace. Howard has just announced that a much-anticipated Navy contract will be going to a company 100% owned by the Spanish government. Aussie taxpayers will be paying for three air warfare destroyers, at a cost of $8 billion, plus two landing ships for a further $3 billion.

Howard stressed the importance of these vessels for, umm... "disaster relief efforts":
"They will be able to land over 1,000 personnel along with their vehicles - the new M1 Abrams tanks, artillery and supplies, and using integrated helicopters and water craft."
Howard boasts that a quarter of the construction work will be performed in Australia, generating about 600 jobs and providing $600 million in revenue. Isn't that great news? We send $11 billion to the Spanish government, but we get $0.6 billion back, and six hundred people get a job for a few years.

The Adelaide consortium doing the assembly work includes notorious US-based company, Raytheon, the fifth largest military contractor in the world, who are currently building a heat-based weapon for urgent deployment in Iraq. At low intensity, the Active Denial System burns the skin of targets, forcing crowds to disperse. At higher intensities... well, nobody wants to talk about that. Expect to see them on the streets of Sydney by the next time an APEC meeting comes around.

It's interesting that Adelaide seems to be a growing hub of activity for the War Of Terror.

UPDATE: More analysis from Richard Tonkin at WebDiary. Tonkin notes that Howard stole the limelight by making the big announcement personally rather than leaving it to Brendan Nelson. Tonkin is surprised the contract did not go to Halliburton Inc and their US military-industrial buddies, but that's globalisations for you, innit? Nevertheless, while the actual ship is Spanish, "the technology that makes it so effective is to be installed by the Pentagon's favourite defence companies". The AEGIS system seems to be the critical part of the deal, as it will allow Australia to work more closely with US military units. And Tonkin thinks the Australian contract-holders in Adelaide could soon find themselves in foreign hands:
The ASC is due to be sold next year. "Local companies" BAE and KBR have experience in ship (and sub) construction in the UK. When KBR left the UK's Devonport dockyards recently, BAE was attempting to take it over with the help of everybody's friends, Carlyle.

I wonder who'll be sniffing around to buy Adelaide's "choc-full o' conracts" defence construction firm?

Your Government At Work For Big Business


Moir was spot on. Big business is launching a $6.5 million pro-Workchoices campaign, which will be designed and co-ordinated by... guess who? Yep, the federal government!
The campaign is sponsored by the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

It has since gained the support of the Minerals Council of Australia with the Master Builders Association also likely to join, Fairfax reports.

The document states the campaign will run for five to six weeks in July and August, comprising television, print, internet and billboard advertising.

The government's chief pollster, Mark Textor, will devise and coordinate the campaign.
Interesting, this news comes out as yet another leak to the Fairfax press. As Alan Ramsay noted a few weeks back, there appears to be a mole in the upper reaches of the Liberal Party, although in this case it could also be a quoted businessman who was not impressed by the approach.

In other news, Howard patches another abyssmal gap in the moral fabric of Australia by throwing money at senior Australians and carers.
The one-off, non-taxable payments will be handed out to about two million Australians in the next 10 days at a cost of about $1.7 billion to the commonwealth.
You have to wonder if such cash bonus payouts are deliberately left until just before an election, however much they may be needed years earlier.

Oh, and the AWB is facing yet another class action from the USA.
The complaint has been filed on behalf of Dennis Brothers.

The complaint alleges that, by reason of AWB's conduct in relation to the United Nations oil-for-food program, AWB engaged in conduct contrary to US antitrust laws and the US Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act.
UPDATE: There seems to be some confusion about the degree and form of collaboration between Big Business and the government on this ad campaign. The key point is that the planned business campaign will be 100% co-ordinated with the government's own campaign, because both campaigns will be run by one and the same person. Kevin Rudd spells it out:
Mr Rudd today said he welcomed and accepted the business community's right to campaign on industrial relations.

"But I find it interesting that the Liberal Party's principal pollster Mark Textor, based on this report ... is himself going to be the campaign director of this campaign on behalf of certain big businesses," he said on ABC radio.

"I would have thought, well it's a matter for the business community themselves, but if you're going to have a Liberal Party pollster running this campaign, I suppose it's a question of degrees of separation between the Government on the one hand and these various big businesses on the other.

"But Mr Textor, as we know, is the architect of the Liberal Party marginal campaigning techniques, he's Liberal Party through and through, and this therefore, is being run, it seems, based on this report, as a Liberal Party campaign."

A spokesman for the BCA would not comment on the report, saying only that the organisation was still considering whether to run an advertising campaign.
As we have seen in Iraq, the Howard government and their friends think that anything at all - even an illegal pre-emptive war - can be sold to the voters with the right amount of spin. And this big business campaign is just more spin. Can they really convince workers to vote for a system of laws that are inherently bad for them? How stupid do they think we are?

More to the point, given that Australians have already voted for Howard three times, how stupid are we?

18 Jun. 2007

Steve Bell's War

You really should bookmark Steve Bell:
















Bell is the UK Guardian's #1 cartoonist. Martin Rowson is not too far behind him.

I was unlucky enough to live in the UK for protracted periods during the long and dull post-Thatcher epoch known as The Major Years. In the cold dark days of a rather bleak London existence, Bell's cartoons became a bulkhead for my sanity. He drew John Major with a massive top lip (screaming out for a moustache), dancing around in over-sized Y-front underpants, which were worn on the outside of his suit. There were penguins from the Falklands War still wandering through his strips, and monkeys with attitude giving street-wise advice. I used to buy The Guardian newspaper every day, mostly for the cartoon, and part of me died whenever Bell took a vacation.

What's best about Steve Bell's cartoons is that they capture an idea which is almost always critical to a deeper understanding of the issues of the day (and frequently not evident in the press reports). It's one thing to be funny, but you need to be very well-informed on a wide range of subjects to keep coming up with cartoons like these day after day.

What Every Australian Should Know About Iraq

David Michael Green's article is titled What Every American Should Know About Iraq, but Australians should also be aware of these salient facts:
* Mesopotamia has long been a playground for great powers. The British invaded the area in 1917, causing a widespread revolt of the Iraqi people. Britain later ruled under a League of Nations mandate that produced the artificial creation of the country Iraq (and Kuwait), and continued to control oil production in the region. Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour said at the time, “I do not care under what system we keep this oil, but I am quite clear it is all-important for us that this oil should be available”.

* Saddam Hussein started his career as a political thug, on the payroll of the CIA during the 1950s and 1960s, torturing and murdering Iraqi leftists whose names were provided by American intelligence, and participating in an armed coup against the Iraqi government.

* In 1972, the United States conspired with Iran and Israel to support a revolt of the Kurdish people within Iraq against their government.

* In 1980, the United States provided encouragement, weapons, intelligence, satellite data and funding for Saddam’s Iraq to invade Iran, launching an eight year war - the longest and probably the bloodiest of the post-WWII era.

* During this war, Ronald Reagan dispatched Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to improve relations with Saddam. The United States then restored full diplomatic relations with Iraq, despite the administration’s clear awareness that Saddam was using chemical weapons at the time.

* The Reagan administration also knew that Saddam had used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds rising up again against Baghdad (this was the incident George W. Bush would later repeatedly invoke, saying of Saddam, “He gassed his own people”), but nevertheless authorized expanded sales to Iraq of highly sophisticated equipment that could be used to manufacture weapons, only two months after the Halabja incident.

* George H. W. Bush equated Saddam to Hitler. But, in the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War, after the elder Bush had encouraged Kurds and Shiites to rise up against the regime, he abandoned them, leaving them to be slaughtered by Saddam’s military, in many cases right before the eyes of US forces who were ordered not to intervene.

* The senior Bush had a chance after that war to occupy Iraq and topple Saddam. He chose not to because, in his own words and those of his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, “Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq … would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. … We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. …furthermore, we had been self‑consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post‑cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.’s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different - and perhaps barren - outcome.”

* The younger Bush, George W., never asked his father for advice on Iraq. Instead, he said: “You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to.” Bush has also stated, “I’m driven with a mission from God. …God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq…’ And I did.”

* George W. Bush gave twenty interviews in 1999 to Mickey Herskowitz, a friend of the Bush family contracted at the time to ghostwrite his autobiography. Bush was thinking about invading Iraq at that time, saying “‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander‑in‑chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.” Herskowitz said that Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were shaped by Dick Cheney’s ideas, based on the power and glory Margaret Thatcher earned from her Falklands War: “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.” Herskowitz also reports this interesting note from his interviews with Bush: “He told me that as a leader, you can never admit to a mistake. That was one of the keys to being a leader.”

* During the presidential campaign of 2000, candidate Bush said very little about Iraq, and certainly never suggested the need for urgent action. Somehow, though, in just two years time - during which, if anything, Iraq actually got weaker, not stronger - Saddam and his country became a perilous and imminent threat that had to be addressed immediately.

* Former members of his own cabinet have revealed that Bush planned to invade Iraq from the very beginning of his administration, well before 9/11. All discussions were about the how of doing it, never about the why, the justification, the costs or the wisdom.

* Bush claims he is fighting a war on terror in response to 9/11. But in the first eight months of his administration, his own top terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, could not get a meeting of cabinet-level security officials to discuss terrorism. They finally met, one week before 9/11, and then the meeting was ‘hijacked’ into discussing Iraq instead. In 2004, Clarke said “Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re‑election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11.” Clarke is a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, and also served in the administrations of Bush’s father, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

* Right after 9/11, according to Clarke, “The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, ‘I want you to find whether Iraq did this.’ Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this. I said, ‘Mr. President. We’ve done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There’s no connection.’ He came back at me and said, ‘Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there’s a connection’. And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report. It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, ‘Will you sign this report?’ They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, ‘Wrong answer. … Do it again’.”

* Iraq was not in league with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, whom the administration blamed for the 9/11 attacks. As Richard Clarke put it, “There’s absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever”. Indeed, the opposite is true. Al Qaeda is a Muslim fundamentalist organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the secular regimes ruling Islamic countries, precisely what Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was. Indeed, even the highly religious Saudi Arabia (from which 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers came, none of them being Iraqis) is under violent pressure from al Qaeda for not being theocratic enough.

* Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Even George Bush has now admitted this. However, over the last six years, and still to this day, Bush constantly conflates the two in almost every speech he gives, to the point where in 2003 sixty-nine percent of Americans came to believe that Saddam had been behind the 9/11 attacks. There can be little doubt that the administration used 9/11 to justify the invasion of Iraq, though they had nothing whatsoever to do with each other.

* According to the internal top secret documents later leaked as the Downing Street Memos, we know that the administration itself realized that “the case was thin” for war against Iraq, because “Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”

* Nevertheless, the administration made an internal decision that the war would be marketed around the supposed WMD threat, despite knowing it was false. The allusions to mushroom clouds, centrifuge tubes and all the rest were gross exaggerations and outright lies, and were known to be at the time by the people making them. As the Downing Street Memos reveal, a decision for war had already been made, and the public case for it was fabricated afterwards: “The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”.

* The president claimed in a state of the union speech that Saddam had gone to Africa to get uranium, seriously alarming the American public. Before the speech, the CIA had told the White House to remove that comment because it was transparently false, based as it was on a crude forged letter. Ultimately, the ‘mistake’ of including this lie was blamed on Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who was later punished for this grave ‘error’ by being promoted to National Security Advisor. His former boss, Condoleeza Rice, was punished by being promoted to Secretary of State.

* When Joseph Wilson came home from a trip to Niger and told the truth about the forged letter, the administration revealed the identity of his wife, undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, thus potentially jeopardizing the lives of all her contacts overseas. Eight witnesses recalled nine conversations with Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, in which Libby blew Plame’s cover - an act of treason - in order to punish a political ‘enemy’ for telling the truth. Libby claimed not to remember these nine conversations. Both the jury and the judge in the case thought Libby was unquestionably lying and convicted him of obstructing justice, with jurors commenting that they felt sorry for him because he was obviously taking a fall for Cheney.

* The case regarding Saddam’s chemical weapons capability was similarly trumped up. It was based on the rantings of a single source, code-named “Curveball”, whose handlers in the German intelligence service had repeatedly warned the administration that he was a drunk and a liar.

* The administration continually relied upon Iraqi exiles, many of whom had not set foot in the country for decades, as sources for information about Iraq and as mouthpieces to justify the invasion. But it is unclear who was using whom. Ahmad Chalabi, the most prominent of these, intended to use the US military as a vehicle to become leader of Iraq. Despite being wanted for massive bank fraud in Jordan, Chalabi convinced neoconservatives that he was the “George Washington of Iraq”. His Iraqi National Congress was the primary source for Bush administration claims that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda, neither of which was true. Chalabi gloated about how his influence led the Bush administration to war, and the Pentagon immediately flew him into Iraq following the invasion. The army of followers that he had promised would rally around him never materialized, and his party won zero parliamentary seats in the December 2005 elections. Ultimately, the United States accused him of providing intelligence secrets to the Iranian government and raided his offices.

* Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council sealed the deal for most Americans regarding the case for war. It later became apparent that almost everything Powell said that day was false, and he has described this episode as the low point in his career.

* The Downing Street Memos reveal that the purpose of authorizing UN weapons inspectors to go to Iraq was never actually to assess the threat and destroy any weapons found. Instead, the purpose was to “wrongfoot” Saddam by getting him to reject the inspectors, thus giving the American and British governments a pretext for war. Tony Blair said “It would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. If the political context were right, people would support regime change.”

* To this day Bush claims that Saddam kicked out the inspectors. That had been true five years previously, but not before the war. Hans Blix, the head of the 2002-03 weapons inspection team reported that they were getting good cooperation from the Iraqis, despite the fact that - as revealed by one of the former team members - the US had inserted American spies into prior international weapons inspection teams in Iraq.

* At the time of the invasion in 2003, the weapons inspectors were nearly done with their work, and only asked for a month or two more to finish. The Bush administration claimed that the threat of Saddam and his WMD was too grave and too urgent to wait. Bush’s claim that Saddam kicked out the inspectors is not only false, but masks the actual truth, which is that the administration told the inspectors to leave because of the looming attack, before they could finish their work and by so doing remove the rationale for that attack.

* As war loomed, Iraq made broad overtures to the United States to prevent an invasion, offering to allow full, on-the-ground, American weapons inspections, anti-terrorism cooperation, oil concessions, and even backing for the US position in an Israeli/Palestinian peace plan. The only thing Saddam balked at was regime change, but even then he offered to hold elections within two years’ time. The Americans were also informed by the Iraqis at the time that there were no existing WMD. The Iraqi representatives “could not understand why the Americans were focused on Iraq rather than on countries, like Iran, that have long supported terrorists”. The Bush administration rejected their offer, despite that it met every demand that Bush was publicly making.

* Saddam had never attacked the United States, nor even threatened to do so.

* In March of 2003, when the invasion was launched, Iraq was a gravely weakened military and economic power which could not seriously threaten its neighbors, let alone the United States. International sanctions had seriously damaged its economy and killed vast numbers of its citizens, including about 500,000 children. It had no serious weapons capability. It had lost control over two-thirds of its own airspace to American and British flyers.

* In November of 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1441, requiring that Iraq declare its WMD, disarm, and allow inspections to verify that this has occurred. One week later Iraq announced that it would accept the resolution, and the weapons inspectors were simultaneously deployed.

* Iraq submitted a report to the UN, as required, indicating that it possessed no weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration immediately and definitively asserted that Saddam was lying. In fact, since Iraq had no WMD, and since Bush claimed that Saddam was unquestionably lying in saying so, it was Bush who lied, not Saddam.

* Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said of the supposed Iraqi WMD, “We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat”. But the United States government had never informed the UN weapons inspectors - a team that Bush had demanded be sent - of where to find those weapons.

* Two subsequent reports from teams sent to Iraq by the Bush administration itself revealed that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, though some people continue to this day to say there were some found there. Moreover, these teams scientifically confirmed that such weapons are neither missing nor hidden nor deported, but never existed after the mandated weapons destruction which followed the Gulf War.

* At one point Bush claimed that two small trailers found in the desert were mobile “biological laboratories” and thus declared, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction”, seemingly vindicating his decision to go to war. But even before he spoke, it was known by the Pentagon that these trailers had nothing to do with WMD production, and that fact was reported to Washington two days before the president’s statement. Bush and other administration officials continued to make the claim for nearly a year, despite an unequivocal report filed from the field stating that the trailers were not, and could not be, weapons labs. Scientists and engineers on the investigating team referred to the trailers as “”the biggest sand toilets in the world”.

* Added all together, what emerges from the above-listed facts is that all the carnage and destruction that has ensued was based on the case that Iraq was so imminent a threat - despite in fact being a very weak military power - that America could not wait four to six more weeks for the weapons inspectors to finish their work and reveal that it was no threat whatsoever.

* All the world, including the Bush administration, clearly understood that Security Council Resolution 1441 did not authorize an invasion of Iraq. Thus, in March 2003, the US drafted a second resolution which would explicitly do so. It needed nine out of fifteen votes, with no permanent member vetoes, to pass. In a press conference, Bush was asked whether he would call for a vote regardless of anticipated outcome. He responded, “No matter what the whip count is, we’re calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It’s time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.” But after extensive American pressure, lobbying and even spying on Security Council members, only four countries were prepared to vote in favor of the resolution, with three of the five permanent members opposing. The president quietly withdrew the resolution he had promised “no matter what”.

* To this day Bush says in his speeches that Saddam did not comply with the UN, that Saddam kicked the inspectors out of Iraq, and that Bush had Security Council authorization to invade. None of those statements are true.

* In 2004, after saying that the Iraqi threat of WMD was urgent, Bush was asked by a reporter whether he had concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program, which - unlike Iraq’s - was quite real. In response, the president just opened his palms and shrugged. North Korea has since actually tested a nuclear warhead. Yet there is little expressed concern, the president almost never mentions it, there is no invasion being planned and no war drums being beaten.

* For that matter, there never was when the Soviet Union had more than 20,000 nuclear warheads mounted on ballistic missiles targeted on the US and set to a hair trigger. Bush never explained why nuclear deterrence worked against the Soviets with all their weapons for forty years, but couldn’t have had the same effect against Iraq today.

* Bush also never explained why Iraq had to be invaded, even though more than thirty countries had greater WMD capability at the time.

* When the WMD and al Qaeda link rationales for the war were exploded, the administration began arguing that its central purpose in invading Iraq was to bring democracy to the country and to the Middle East. At the same time, however, it has done next to nothing about Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been murdered in a clear case of ongoing genocide. Since the first requisite for being able to vote is to be alive, it is unclear how invading Iraq in the name of democracy could be so urgent, yet saving lives in Darfur of little concern and no action.

* The administration was told in advance by American intelligence agencies that there was a very high danger that Iraq could explode into ethnic chaos following an invasion. It chose to attack anyhow.

* According to former US diplomat Peter Galbraith, Bush was startled to learn - in January 2003 - that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Responding to the three Iraqi exiles whom he had invited as guests to the Super Bowl, Bush looked at them and said, “You mean…they’re not, you know, there, there’s this difference. What is it about?” As Bush often likes to brag, he governs based on gut feelings, not on intelligence or analysis. Those who know him state that he doesn’t read books, and he himself admitted he doesn’t read newspapers.

* Before the war, General Eric Shinseki testified to Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to govern this country of 25 million people during a post-war occupation. But since the administration was insisting that the war could be handled with far fewer troops and at far less expense, General Shinseki and at least one other general who made the same argument were publicly humiliated and had their long and prestigious military careers terminated for political reasons. Four years later, Bush is now ‘surging’ in Iraq by adding troops to the 140,000 or so that were already there, in addition to the 80,000 or so highly expensive mercenaries the taxpayers are funding. With the total now nearing 250,000 soldiers occupying the country, it is still transparently not enough to keep the peace.

* To say that there was never a plan for the post-war occupation of Iraq is technically incorrect. There was an extensive plan which the State Department had put together, working with experts and Iraqi exiles. But Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn’t want the State Department to have the credit and control for the occupation, so he and Bush threw State’s document in the garbage. Then there was no plan.

* Most of the Americans sent to staff the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) had no technical or professional training or experience in the work to which they were assigned. Rather, they were chosen because they were Republican Party loyalists.

* One of the most significant blunders the United States committed during the occupation was to dismiss the entire Iraqi Army, sending them home unemployed and armed, along with anyone associated with the Ba’ath Party, despite the fact that everyone who wanted to work at a professional level anywhere in Iraqi society had been forced under Saddam to join the Party. The first Chief Executive of the CPA, General Jay Garner, refused to purge all Ba’athists from Iraqi governing institutions, and instead sought to maximize Iraqi control of the post-war government as much as possible. He was quickly fired.

* As a result of this war, over 3,500 Americans are dead, and perhaps 20,000 or so are gravely wounded. Americans have not been allowed to see the caskets returning to Dover Air Force Base.

* The best, most scientific, and least politicized estimate of Iraqi dead suggests that probably close to one million have now perished in the country’s post-war chaos, out of a population of 25 million.

* Nearly four million Iraqis have been forced to leave their homes as refugees from the violence, flooding Jordan and Syria, especially. The United States allowed all of 202 refugees - many thousands of whom have been targeted for death for having cooperated with the US occupation - to settle in America in 2006. America’s major ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, is building a wall to keep them out.

* The United States has spent half a trillion dollars on the war, so far. Estimates suggest that the number could rise to two trillion dollars before the war is over and the continuing costs of medical care and economic displacement are fully accounted for.

* America’s army has been described by Colin Powell as “broken”. Almost all our land forces are deployed in Iraq - a war of choice - leaving none for use in a real foreign crisis.

* Similarly, our National Guard and Reserve troops have been used in ways that were never intended to fight this war - along with about 80,000 highly expensive mercenaries - so that the president could avoid an unpopular draft. This means that Guard and Reserve troops and their equipment are unavailable for use in national emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina.

* As a result of the war, America is far more hated today throughout much of the world, especially the Mid-East, and is seen as a imperialist power. The Iraq invasion thus played directly into the hands of Islamic radicals like Osama bin Laden.

* America’s own intelligence agencies concede that Iraq has become a giant factory for the minting of new terrorists, where almost none existed prior to the invasion.

* Terrorist incidents worldwide have gone up seven-fold since, and largely because of, the invasion of Iraq.

* Iran, a country whose government truly does despise the United States, has been an enormous beneficiary of the war. Prior to 2003, Iran was a natural check on Iraq among Middle East powers, and vice versa. Now Iran is enormously influential in Iraq and throughout the region, its growth in power alarming its neighbors.

* A very real possibility exists that the civil war now raging within Iraq will become a regional war, perhaps drawing in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Israel and others.

* Gas prices have doubled since the war began. The potential also exists for a global depression should further conflict limit the flow of oil to industrialized countries, just as these economies were damaged by OPEC doing the same thing in the 1970s.

* To this day, American troops in Iraq do not have sufficient body or vehicle armor, leading to hundreds of unnecessary deaths. Communities across America have literally held bake sales to raise funds for purchasing armor for their own kids. When confronted by a soldier about this, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replied, “You go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time”.

* Companies like Halliburton, meanwhile, in which the Vice President still maintains financial interests, have received multi-billion dollar contracts for work in Iraq, without having to competitively bid for them, and with the internal influence of Cheney’s office in winning the assignments. Numerous scandals have emerged from these contracts, including billing for work never completed. Eight billion dollars in cash, entrusted to the Coalition Provisional Authority, has gone missing in one incident alone.

* Before the war, when they were marketing it to the public and Congress, administration officials hinted that it would be quick, easy and cheap. After the invasion, George Bush declared, under a “Mission accomplished” banner, that fighting had ceased before the war had really even begun. It has now lasted longer than America’s involvement in World War Two, and the administration has begun to talk about Iraq using the Korean model of a fifty-year occupation.

* The invasion of Iraq was supposedly part of an American ‘war on terrorism’. But, today, the United States is protecting Luis Posada from extradition to Venezuela or Cuba, despite that Posada has bragged about blowing up an airliner and killing seventy-three people on board, as well as a string of other bombings of Cuban hotels and nightclubs. The government claims that Posada cannot be extradited to Venezuela because he might be tortured, even though Venezuela has no such reputation - but after Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and the Attorney General’s renouncing of the Geneva Conventions, the United States now does.

* None of the principals who decided to go to war in Iraq had ever seen combat themselves. George W. Bush used his father’s influence to avoid service in Vietnam. John Ashcroft got seven draft deferments. Dick Cheney got five deferments, and later said “I had better things to do in the Sixties than fight in Vietnam”. Neither Paul Wolfowitz nor Richard Perle nor Condoleeza Rice ever served, and Donald Rumsfeld never fought in a war. The only senior member of the administration who had was Colin Powell. Powell advised Bush to be cautious about invading Iraq, and was thus sidelined from discussions leading up to the war. George Bush’s Secretary of State was not informed of the decision to invade Iraq until after Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador, had been told by the president.