9 Apr 2013

John Howard’s Iraq Mea Non Culpa

Why does former Australian Prime Minister John Howard still feel psychologically compelled to defend to the single greatest stain on his God-awful record? We can only wonder. But it is telling that today he has chosen to speak at the US-friendly, Zionist-sponsored Lowy Institute, and published a leaked extract of his speech in fellow warmonger Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspaper.

Clearly, Howard is still working with a safety net while addressing his right-wing circle jerk of admirers, even as he pretends to argue for a broader public consensus. It is a measure of the gutlessness of the man.

The headline is pathetic:
“Errors were made but we did not go to war on a lie”. 
Given that Cheney created the secretive Office Of Special Plans specifically to fool the public into accepting the invasion, even the headline is a lie. And did the Murdoch hack who wrote that headline even realise that “errors were made” is now a ridicule-inducing meme, or was it Howard’s own choice?

The first sentence is another blatant lie:
“The belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was near universal.”
No it wasn't. There were many (including Iraqi defectors) who argued that Saddam no longer possessed WMDs. I read about them for months, but their voices were deliberately ignored. The UN team on the ground in Iraq were not even allowed to finish their fruitless search for WMDs (as former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser notes). Disapproving UK weapons inspector Dr David Kelly was ultimately silenced.

Despite all the media hype, despite all the political scare-mongering, millions of peaceful souls still marched around the world in a desperate attempt to stop what always seemed an inevitable war. Personally, I didn’t bother even marching because it was so bloody obvious – even to me, a middle-aged nobody searching for facts on the Internet - that Saddam did NOT have the capability to use WMDs. I just couldn’t believe the bastards would be stupid enough to invade Iraq. I was wrong.

Howard then cites his own half-arsed 2004 Flood inquiry as support for his criminal act. But even Philip Flood described the evidence on Iraq’s WMD as at best ‘thin, ambiguous, and incomplete’. Howard then quotes Kevin Rudd (who ousted him as PM) saying Saddam’s WMDs were "an empirical fact" in late 2002. But we already know the ALP supported the war, even after Rudd took control, so what’s the point of that quote?

The next paragraph reveals Howard’s gambit: he wants to talk about “the party political division in Australia in the lead-up to the military operation in Iraq”. As if the false dichotomy of domestic Australian politics is the only argument that matters when millions of Iraqis are dead, wounded and displaced!

Let’s be clear: if an ALP Prime Minister had ordered the invasion of Iraq, they would deserve the same condemnation as Howard. But he was the one who did it. Similarly, if Howard’s Coalition had been supporting the invasion from the Opposition benches, they would deserve condemnation just as much as the ALP does today.  No wonder neither party is keen for a real inquiry!

Howard skirts around whether another UN Resolution was really required, as if that would justify his war crimes. But he knows that:

 (a) the USA had no chance of getting another resolution, and
 (b) former UN chief Kofi Annan has stated that the war was “illegal”.

So he pretends that his government “never saw the obtaining of a fresh Security Council resolution as a necessary legal prerequisite”. But of course he doesn’t try to explain why the UK government sought such advice from their own Attorney General, who advised that a further resolution was necessary, and then famously changed his mind under political pressure. Are we supposed to presume that Howard knew nothing about this?

The only critics to whom Howard will concede any ground at all are the “so-called realists” from the H.W. Bush administration, people like Brent Scowcroft, who argued that an invasion was unwise whatever the situation with WMDs. But Howard insists even they were wrong, on two counts:
“To start with, Saddam was not being contained. He had been thumbing his nose at the world body and its WMD strictures on him. The other flaw was that the realist approach did not accommodate the huge psychological shift in US attitudes following 9/11.”
Both these arguments are fatuous. A dictator “thumbing his nose” at other nations does not warrant a pre-emptive invasion. Nor does the psychological state of a nation that has been deliberately terrified by its own government and media for months (remember: even Little League baseball games were cancelled after 9/11/01 – and hey, who was behind those October 2001 anthrax attacks anyway?).

Howard might as well be talking about his own psychological state after 9/11. He met George W. Bush and dined in D.C. with Rupert Murdoch on the day before the attacks. On 9/11, while bodies were still burning in the World Trade Center, Howard pledged Australia’s complete and unconditional support for any US military action whatsoever:
“Australia will provide all support that might be requested of us by the United States in relation to any action that might be taken.”
In retrospect, it is hard to believe Howard ever flinched from that open-ended invitation. But still he condemns those who question “the integrity of the decision-making process” and “the professionalism and integrity of intelligence agencies.” Newsflash, Johnny! The decision makers were wrong. The “sexed up” intelligence was wrong. The consequences were disastrous. So where is the accountability?
“Some of their key assessments proved to be wrong,” argues Howard, “but that is a world away from those assessments being the product of deceit and/or political manipulation.”
So there is no accountability. And we are back to the same old question that plagues the neo-cons and their associates: were they evil or just stupid? And again the proof is right there in the lack of accountability. Mistakes get punished. But deliberate mistakes, condoned at the highest levels, are rewarded with promotions. John Howard even says he wants disgraced US general David Petraeus to return to public life – ‘nuff said?

Howard then waffles on about fictional Zero Dark Thirty interpretations of history, Paul Bremer’s mistakes in the post-war period, and Bush’s desperate political “surge” PR exercise.  It’s all waffle, of course, muddying the waters and dispersing the blame without ever really pointing fingers. Nobody is really to blame. The destruction of Iraq was a team effort. We meant well. Trust us.
“Iraq today is not a full democracy” admits Howard. 
In fact, it’s an endless fucking nightmare. But Howard still talks about the Iraqi people’s much-vaunted “thirst for freedom”. That same “thirst” was used to justify the invasion in the first place, rremember? Now it drives whatever happens to them next. We're "handing over", and it's the Iraqis' fault if things go wrong from here. Don't look back.

Finally, it’s time for some damned lies statistics! The Iraqi economy grew by 10 per cent last year, says Howard (never mind where it was the year before).  Per capita GDP is now "markedly higher than it was before Saddam was removed” (of course many of the “per capitas” are dead, or living abroad in refugee camps). And most importantly:
“Oil exports last year hit a 30-year high at 2.6 million barrels a day.”
That’s right. The oil is flowing. And even though Russian, French and Chinese companies are getting first dibs, US oil companies are finally getting their hands on Iraq’s black gold. Which was, after all, the whole point of the exercise. No wonder many in Washington still believe the war was a success.

If you have bothered to read this far, I thank you. I will leave you with John Winston Howard’s closing paragraph, and let you savour it for yourself:
“Unlike most of its region, Iraq's polity has not been roiled by the Arab Spring. That must have something to do with the democratic framework that has been established there in recent years.”

9 Nov 2008

Demand A Royal Commission Into Australian War Crimes In Iraq

After more than five years of blood and violence, one stark, unpalatable truth remains: Australian troops invaded Iraq in contravention of international law. In the opinion of many people around the world, our nation therefore remains complicit in an on-going War Crime.

Furthermore, reports have suggested that our troops and government officials in Iraq may have been complicit in the torture of captives, and the indiscriminate killing of civilians. If true, these actions are also defined as War Crimes under international laws to which Australia remains a signatory.

Our major political parties and media establishments continue to ignore this inconvenient truth, perhaps because they all share a degree of complicity. But this issue remains critically important, not least because millions of people around the world now view Australia as an outlaw state that supports US Empire-building, Oil Wars, and torture.

If we do not pursue this issue, and hold perpetrators accountable for any wrong-doing, then we sacrifice any future notion of Australian moral authority on the world stage. Future Australian governments may use these precedents to justify similar actions.

Was The War Legal?

Defenders of the invasion initially pointed to United Nations Resolution 1441 as proof of the war's legality. This begged the obvious question: why did Bush, Blair and Howard desperately seek a further UN resolution before the invasion? We later learned that their top legal experts (including, at least originally, the UK Attorney General) had advised that any invasion would be illegal without additional UN authorisation. The last word on this matter goes to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who personally declared the invasion illegal in September 2004:
"I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."
Nowadays war supporters reluctantly acknowledge that the invasion of Iraq was "technically illegal", but claim such actions have become necessary in this "new, post-911 world". They argue that international laws such as the Geneva Convention are "quaint" antiquities, and the "war" against terrorists demands a whole new "framework of thought", including the right of "pre-emptive" invasion and new attitudes towards the detaining and torture of prisoners.

In making such claims, these warmongers set themselves in opposition to a wide range of existing laws, both domestically and internationally. They do so defiantly, arguing that those who are prepared to operate outside the law are actually "brave" and "patriotic".

Ironically, these war supporters invoke twisted interpretations of those very same laws in order to keep themselves and their "heroes" out of jail. They do not allow their ideological opponents the same scope for defying existing laws. They do not seek to test their claims at the highest legal levels, nor have they proposed a new framework for international laws.

Instead, they baulk at the very idea of international legal institutions like the UN or the International Criminal Court (ICC). They favour the neo-conservative model of a 21st Century US Empire, where a heavily-armed Uncle Sam operates as a frontier sheriff, with regional "deputies" enforcing his "with us or against us" rules. Those who seek legal clarifications in this new world order, such as the families of detainees in US gulags like Guantanamo Bay, are eternally disappointed.

Government Stances

In Washington, the ultimate legal defence for war supporters is the concept of an over-riding "executive privilege". As Richard Nixon once expressed it:
"When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."
That didn't go down too well with the US public back in 1974. But a young Dick Cheney (who worked under Donald Rumsfeld in Nixon's administration) clearly thought it could be presented as a legitimate legal argument. Successive US Attorney Generals have shared Cheney's narrow interpretation of such "executive privilege", which is based on a very selective reading of the US Constitution (where the term is not even mentioned). Although George W. Bush has repeatedly invoked this executive privilege, it has never been fully tested in US courts.

In London, the British government continues fending off strong demands for a full inquiry into the Iraq War. Twelve Labour MPs rebelled when a demand was tabled in the Commons on March 17th this year. PM Gordon Brown reluctantly promised a full inquiry, but delayed it until the British military “work is over” in Iraq. Foreign Office minister Mark Malloch-Brown clarified these remarks on BBC television, promising that the inquiry will be held once there are no British troops "deployed and in danger in front line roles in Iraq.” It's still not clear when that might be, although British troops have now withdrawn to bases outside Basra and did not take part in recent military action there.

So much for the UK and US positions. What is Canberra's excuse for failing to pursue a full inquiry into Australia's shameful role in Iraq? The concept of "executive privilege" exists only very loosely in Australian law. And the British excuse of "protecting the troops" (which has never even been proffered here) will no longer be tenable once Australian combat troops are withdrawn from Iraq in a few months time. So how does the Australian government defend our nation's involvement in this War Crime?

The shocking fact is that Canberra has never even tried to mount a legal justification for the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Avoiding The Question

When John Howard first articulated his support for Bush's concept of "pre-emptive" invasion, the horror of 9/11 was still fresh in our memories. The Australian media and large parts of the population went along with the idea. As we later learned, however, Saddam had no WMDs, did not support Al Qaeda, was being contained by UN sanctions (like them or not), and therefore did not pose a credible threat to anybody (least of all us). Public support for further pre-emptive action died down, but the Howard government never admitted any wrong-doing.

The new Rudd government has so far refused to even contemplate the idea that the invasion might have been illegal. Rudd is walking a fine line: removing "combat troops" (what other kind are there?) from Iraq while leaving other Australian soldiers in the country with massive naval and air support, and still loudly supporting the Australian participation in Afghanistan. As anti-war activists noted before the election, Rudd's stance is really not all that different to Howard's, just slightly less unappealing at the ballot box.

It is left to outsiders like Mahathir Mohamad to raise the issue of War Crimes in the media. But even Mahathir's recent speech was muffled when British police restricted entry to the Imperial College London venue where the former Malaysian PM accused Bush, Blair and Howard of War Crimes.

Does the lack of media interest reflect a lack of public support? I don't think so. Readers' comments at ABC Online and even sites like the (Murdoch owned) Perth Times regularly show significant support. I ran a poll on this blog which was showing overwhelming support until Tim Blair's rightwing blog readers arrived.

As Gandhi once said of Western Civilisation: "I think it would be a good idea". The same might be said today of Western support for international laws. Our governments love to invoke such laws when it suits, but consistently undermine them when it does not. And over the past decade, sadly, that seems to be increasingly the case.

In the absence of government or media support for such international laws, we, the people of the "free" world, must demand accountability. And given Kevin Rudd's evident reluctance to even discuss these important issues, there's only one way we Australians are going to get answers about our nation's recent past: we need to demand an Royal Commission into the Iraq War now.

UPDATE: Prof Q solicits legal advice. Duplicated at Crooked Timber, where a reader supplies some valuable links to legal opinions on the war.
And when the last law was cut down and the devil turned around on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think that you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
- From "A Man For All Seasons"
"We really don’t need anybody’s permission.”
- George W. Bush, as quoted in NYT on March 11, 2003.

A Good Long Look At John Howard’s War In Iraq

The Australian media appears to have given up the task of asking Prime Minister John Howard hard questions about the Iraq War. This is regrettable, given that Howard has never provided a credible explanation for why our soldiers went into Iraq, what they are doing there, or how and when they will ever come home. A proper analysis of these questions reveals some hard facts about Australian society, the business of politics, and Australia’s place in the world today.

Why The USA Invaded Iraq

To understand why Australia supported the invasion of Iraq, one must first understand why the USA invaded Iraq. The answer has nothing to do with Saddam Hussein, WMDs, terrorism or spreading democracy.

Washington invaded Iraq – in contravention of international law and UN resolutions – to gain control of Iraq’s oil resources, and to further secure those resources by establishing a strong US military presence in the Middle East region for generations to come. The hawks in the Pentagon call this “securing America’s national interests”. To such people, “national security” and “economic prosperity” are one and the same thing.

US control of Iraq’s oil was deemed necessary because US global economic domination was being threatened by the peak oil phenomenon, coupled with economic booms in China and India. In such a competitive global environment, rogue oil states like Saddam Hussein’s were threatening to drop the US dollar as the default currency for international oil transactions. These were the big issues discussed by Dick Cheney’s secretive “Task Force” of Big Oil executives in the first two weeks of the Bush administration.

More than a dozen massive “enduring” US military bases are now being built in Iraq, along with a gargantuan “embassy” in the very heart of Baghdad. These installations became necessary after Bush (very quietly) acquiesced to Osama Bin Laden’s key post-9/11 demand: the withdrawal of US troops from Saudi Arabia. Remember: most of the 9/11 hijackers had Saudi connections, anti-US sentiment was rife in Saudi society, and the USA knew they could not stay there long without further destabilising the Bush family’s friends in the House of Saud, thereby putting their own oil supplies at even greater risk.

Donald Rumsfeld called for an invasion of Iraq within hours of the 9/11 attacks. Just a month after that invasion, Rumsfeld declared that Saudi support for the Iraq War was no longer necessary. Within four months, up to 60,000 US troops were relocated from the kingdom (ostensibly to Qatar, but effectively to Iraq). Justifying the US withdrawal, Washington neoconservatives began hinting that the Saudi royals were due for their own dose of “democratization” any day now. Ironically, anti-US sentiment is now even stronger in Saudi Arabia, across the Middle East and around the world.

Of course there are other major issues which help explain why the USA invaded Iraq:

- political manipulation of evangelical Christian extremism,
- ideological fantasies of a US empire,
- Bush’s expressed desire to be a “War President” with the “political capital” he believed his father had squandered after the Gulf War,
- the irrational military logic of the pro-Israeli lobby.

These factors helped build a consensus of support for the invasion. But documents that have come to light over the past four years, revelations by those who were involved in the decision-making process, and the harsh logic of events on the ground in Iraq, conclusively prove that the single main reason for the US invasion was exactly what anti-war campaigners have always insisted that it was:


Howard Decides

So what about Australia? Why did we help the USA invade Iraq?

The decision was announced by our Prime Minister, John Howard, on March 20, 2003, even though polls at the time showed that only one in four Australians supported military action without UN support. Howard said that Australian military forces were joining the USA’s pre-emptive invasion “because we believe it is right, it is lawful and it's in Australia's national interest.” He said that while Australia’s relationship with the USA was an important factor, it was “not the dominant reason” for his support. So what was the dominant reason? According to Howard, it was Saddam’s WMDs, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iraq, and the broader threat of Saddam-sponsored terrorist wreaking havoc on a global scale. All of these threats proved to be illusory.

Was Howard misled by hyped intelligence from Dick Cheney’s infamous Office of Special Plans? Or was he well aware of the more profound strategic and economical rationales behind the US invasion?

The Day That “Changed Everything”

John Howard famously spent the day before September 11th, 2001, meeting with President Bush and then dining with Rupert Murdoch in Washington. On 9/11, while bodies were still burning in the World Trade Center, Howard pledged Australia’s complete and unconditional support for any US military action whatsoever:
“Australia will provide all support that might be requested of us by the United States in relation to any action that might be taken.”
Howard seemed to have an immediate grasp of how the 9/11 attacks would be spun to the international media over the coming weeks and years. Indeed, Howard’s comments from the day after 9/11 remain almost uncannily in tune with the today’s PR mantra for the “Long War” on terror:
“Nobody should imagine that they’re immune from this. Australia is not immune from this kind of possibility and anybody who suggests that Australia is somehow or other different and that precautions taken by other nations don’t need to be taken by Australia and Australians are deluding themselves. The ease of travel, the ease of communications, the ease of globalisation of so much of the world now means that nobody is immune from the possibility of this kind of outrage and all of us have to take that on board.

In many respects, yesterday marked the end of an era of a degree of innocence following the end of the Cold War and a decade in which it seemed as though things which posed a continuous threat were behind us. But regrettably we now face a possibility of a period in which the threat of terrorism will be with us in the way the threat of a nuclear war was around for so long before the end of the Cold War. I think it is as bad as that and I don’t think any of us should pretend otherwise.“
Conspiracy theorists who believe that US neoconservatives orchestrated or were fore-warned of the 9/11 attacks might like to ponder John Howard’s supporting role during these critical days. Just a year earlier, the neoconservative authors of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) had acknowledged that widespread public support for their militant imperialism would not be possible without “some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor". 9/11 provided that event in a very timely fashion, and John Howard was right there to help “catapult the propaganda”. After all that has happened since, this is a coincidence that merits further attention.

The Decision To Go To War

Howard visited the White House again in June 13th, 2002, just a week after Tony Blair had visited Bush’s Crawford ranch. According to media reports at the time, the main topic of conversation between Bush and Howard was the two countries’ planned Free Trade Agreement.

But as we now know, Bush had already made up his mind to attack Iraq. Six of the leaked Downing Street memos detail frenzied meetings between senior US and UK officials in the month before Howard’s visit. The memos describe how top UK officials struggled to find legal justification for various military options proposed by the USA, and how Blair’s office implored Bush not to completely dismiss the UN route in his headlong rush for war. Where was Australia in all this discussion?

Within a month of Howard’s visit, the USA had already begun secretive “spikes of activity” designed to provoke Saddam, and UK officials were helping Washington to “fix intelligence around the policy” of a provoked or pre-emptive Iraq invasion. And the original “Downing Street Memo” (dated July 23, 2002) makes it quite clear that the pressure for an Iraq invasion was coming directly from the White House itself:
“Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.”
In such a climate of excitement, it is impossible to imagine that Bush did not eagerly inform Howard of his resolute determination for war when they met in June, 2002. And it is impossible to believe that Howard did not immediately reconfirm his unconditional pledge of Australian military and diplomatic support. And given that, it is also impossible to suppose that Australian government departments, including DFAT and Defense, were not fully advised of the President’s, and the PM’s, decisions.

Of course, Howard has always insisted that a “final decision” to go to war was not made until Bush formally requested Australian support on March 17, 2003. No senior Australian whistle-blower has ever stepped forward to contradict him, and no documented evidence is available to conclusively disprove his claim. But the evidence available today reveals the charade.

Howard’s shifting memory on this issue suggests (in the kindest possible interpretation) that he may be getting senile. On June 24, 2007, he said that Australian ground forces were not in Iraq until April 2003. But he has previously admitted that Australian SAS troops were already on the ground in Iraq when he declared war in March 2003:

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.

MATT BROWN: Mr Howard says the invasion was legal, and the decision to invade was not taken before the proper processes had been followed in Australia.

JOHN HOWARD: I certainly made it very plain to Bush that we needed to have a Cabinet meeting for a final authorisation, that I could not commit my forces, the Australian military forces to action in Iraq until such time as that Cabinet meeting had taken place.

And it did take place. He did ring me two or three times that week to inform me what had happened, and that's what transpired. But I was certainly diplomatically very supportive, we did pre-deploy. And we made it very clear that we were putting ourselves in a position to be involved, but the final decision to be involved was not taken until after those conversations.
In other words, our troops had already invaded Iraq before we officially declared war, and before Saddam’s public ultimatum from Bush had even expired. According to International laws to which Australia remains a signatory, that is a War Crime.

On March 18th, 2003 , Bush gave Saddam a 48-hour ultimatum to get out of town. While Saddam publicly mocked the ultimatum, a former Saddam aide later claimed that Saddam secretly offered to yield to all US demands. His offer was ignored. As Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told the press, US-led troops were going to enter Iraq "no matter what".

Foreign diplomats and UN weapons inspectors were forced to leave Iraq for their own safety. Tony Blair pleaded for cabinet unity as a third top UK official resigned. French PM Jacques Chirac vainly insisted on the truth:
"Iraq today does not represent an immediate threat that justifies an immediate war.”
It made no difference. Bush’s “shock and awe” campaign had already begun.

De-Bunking The Myths

Defending his unpopular decision to go to war, Howard chose his words very carefully indeed. In his address to the nation on March 20, 2003, Howard presented the evidence for Saddam’s WMDs in a hypothetical framework. He described Saddam’s former actions rather than his present ones. He also repeatedly stressed the importance of Australia’s relationship with the USA:
"The Americans have helped us in the past and the United States is very important to Australia's long-term security. It is critical that we maintain the involvement of the United States in our own region where at present there are real concerns about the dangerous behaviour of North Korea. The relationship between our two countries will grow more rather than less important as the years go by.

A key element of our close friendship with the United States and indeed with the British is our full and intimate sharing of intelligence material. In the difficult fight against the new menace of international terrorism there is nothing more crucial than timely and accurate intelligence. This is a priceless component of our relationship with our two very close allies. There is nothing comparable to be found in any other relationship - nothing more relevant indeed to the challenges of the contemporary world.”
Those words now ring as hollow as the concocted “intelligence”, delivered by Britain and the USA, that was used to justify the invasion.

Intelligence whistle-blower Andrew Wilkie resigned from the Office of National Assessments (ONA) on March 11th, 2003, just a week before war was declared, claiming top ONA officials were ignoring his protests that there was no evidence to support the government’s WMD claims. But as we now know, Wilkie was dead right. There were absolutely zero WMDs in Iraq, and Saddam’s WMD program had been non-existent for over a decade.

There were other incidents of ignored intelligence too. The British Government's Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) warned the ONA more than a month before the US-led invasion that Australia would face a heightened terrorist risk because of its role in Iraq.

The JIC report was issued on February 10 and sent to Australian intelligence eight days later. It said a war leading to regime collapse would increase the risk of chemical and biological weapons getting into terrorists' hands and lead to a heightened terrorist threat to Western nations.

Howard repeatedly denied this risk. Under questioning from Labor’s Simon Crean in September 2003, Howard said neither he nor any of his ministers had been briefed on the JIC findings. Howard said all his major Iraq speeches had been checked by the ONA and he had accepted every suggestion for change. A Howard spokesman declined to reveal whether the ONA had concurred with the JIC report, as Andrew Wilkie claimed.

Then there is the little-publicized story of former Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) employee Trent Smith. In February 2003, Smith leaked details of an October 2002 conversation between Alexander Downer and the NZ High Commissioner, Kate Lackey. Here’s Downer’s response when Lackey asked “whether Australia would prefer a UN mandate for action in Iraq”:
"Mr Downer said that Australia would indeed prefer UN backing. However, and this was not a point that could be made publicly, Australia was not in a position, if the UN process broke down, to withdraw our ships and other presence from the Gulf."
Downer feebly insisted that he was talking about existing Aussie forces in the Gulf, who were there to enforce the UN blockade of Iraq. By this time, 2,000 more Australian troops were already “pre-deployed” in the region, and HMAS 'Kanimbla' was steaming towards the gulf. Then the mother of a sailor on board that ship leaked further embarrassing facts:
"During September and October 2002, in the weeks prior to Alexander Downer making those statements to New Zealand's High Commissioner, HMAS 'Kanimbla' was performing beach landing exercises off Townsville with the troops from Ross Island, some of the same troops now on board on their way to the Gulf.

Following this exercise, the crew of the 'Kanimbla' were on stand-by to go to the Gulf it would appear not to replace one of the ships doing sanctions but to carry Australian troops to Bush's war on Iraq."
So in September 2002, just three months after Howard met Bush, our Foreign Minister was secretively discussing impending “action in Iraq” with our allies, and Australian armed forces were already practicing amphibious landings (funny way to enforce a naval blockade).

The DFAT whistle-blower, Trent Smith, was stood down and investigated for 3-and-a-half years, at a cost of $1 million, while police sifted through 8,000 emails. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, but then sacked, in July 2006, for referring a Labor staff member to publicly available Senate records. He remains locked in an unfair dismissal case with his former employer.

The broader threat of Saddam’s “state-sponsored terrorism” has also been conclusively de-bunked. Documents discovered in Baghdad conclusively prove that Saddam had absolutely no links whatsoever to Al Qaeda. In fact, he saw their Islamic radicalism as a threat to his secular dictatorship. Although it is true that Saddam was buying popularity by giving money to the families of anti-Israeli suicide bombers, the only known terrorist living in Iraq at the time of the invasion was Muhammad Zaidan (aka “Abu Abbas”), an aging thug who had publicly renounced terrorism and apologized for hijacking the Achille Lauro nearly two decades earlier (Zaidan died in US custody in March 2004, after eleven months of interrogation which yielded no useful evidence).

So did John Howard know that his justifications for war were bogus, or didn’t he? Howard would prefer to leave the question unanswered, so that he does not have to face accountability either way. He insists that it does not matter, because he and his ministers “believed” the evidence presented to them. But the facts show that Howard and his cabinet actively conspired to ignore and suppress any evidence contrary to their own pro-war spin.

As Howard said, his government supported the invasion “because we believe it is right, it is lawful and it's in Australia's national interest.” Notice the clever ambiguity, so typical of Howard. Is he saying the war “is lawful” or “we believe… it is lawful”? There was plenty of advice to say it was NOT lawful, and a group of former Australian Prime Ministers and Defense Force chiefs had even sent Howard a letter to that effect back in September 2002:
“It would constitute a failure of the duty of government to protect the integrity and ensure the security of this nation, to commit any Australian forces in support of the US military offensive against Iraq without the backing of a specific UN resolution.”
As we now know, even the UK Attorney General was pressured to change his original advice that the war was illegal. But if there was any doubt, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan later confirmed the obvious: the war was illegal. The pre-emptive invasion of a sovereign nation without UN support is (once again) a War Crime under International Laws to which Australia is a signatory.

Even if we take Howard at his word, there is really no escaping accountability here.

On the one hand, if John Howard was not fully aware of the USA’s unstated economic and military goals when he committed Australian troops to the invasion of Iraq, then he was duped into committing our troops to a dangerous military adventure which has developed into a bloody quagmire, killing something like a million people, rendering 4.5 million homeless, and throwing the entire Middle East into chaos. He did so in the face of overwhelming public opposition to military action, while actively suppressing contrary intelligence. In such a situation, Howard’s failure to confirm the facts can only be judged an unforgivable failure, for which he should have resigned long ago.

On the other hand, if Howard actually was aware of the real reasons for the US invasion of Iraq, then he – like Bush and Blair - has lied repeatedly, brazenly and shamelessly to the whole world, particularly the Australian people and our troops. He has committed Australia to a subservient military and economic role, entirely dependent on US decision-makers, without ever consulting the Australian public or even (it would seem) his own cabinet. Furthermore, he has committed our nation to a policy of illegal pre-emptive invasions, a dangerously immoral precedent which continues to destabilise the globe without producing any evident benefits for anyone but the US military industrial machine and their Big Oil friends.

The Real Reason For Australian Involvement

The real reasons for Australian participation in the invasion of Iraq are there for all to see, who care to look. The facts, which have slowly accumulated over the past four years, now speak for themselves. Let’s look beyond the lies.

Howard knew.

His government actively worked with Downing Street and Washington to manipulate intelligence and sell an unpopular, pre-emptive war on false premises. The real goals of the Iraq War were US economic and military domination, and Howard was well aware of that hidden agenda. His own actions and words at the time of the invasion (and since) belie the fact that he never believed his own over-inflated war-mongering hype. Nevertheless, he eagerly hitched Australia’s wagon to the US juggernaut.

The real question is: “Why?”

Howard claims that he did what he had to do for the long-term benefit of the Australian people. He concurs with the opinions of disgraced US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who says that “quaint” post-world-war international laws, such as the Geneva Conventions, simply do not apply after 9/11. He presumably agrees with US Vice President Dick Cheney, who says that governments in this dangerous new world are forced to work on “the dark side, if you will”.

But Howard has never presented such arguments to the Australian public, and he never will. He prefers to let the debate rage on the other side of the Pacific. Curiously, the opposition Labor Party, the Australian media, and even the Austtralian people, have been happy to accommodate him.

Howard’s most recent and coherent argument on this matter came in an April, 2007 radio interview:
"There is nothing in it for Australia in seeing America humiliated in the Middle East. And that's the effect of calling for Australian withdrawal…I'm simply not going to support a policy that leads [to] the humiliation, the withdrawal and the weakening of American power and prestige around the world. That would give great power to terrorists."
It’s an astonishing argument. Even if all the justifications for war were wrong, and despite all the death, carnage and mayhem that has decimated Iraq over the past four years, Howard still insists that Australia must maintain its blind support for US policy, now and into the future.

But how does our support for the USA’s military and economic goals in Iraq benefit us? Has Howard made a secret deal to secure Australian companies a share in Iraqi oil revenues? Have we traded military support for agricultural deals? Or have we traded away our nation’s good name just for the promise of military protection, even as we help the USA create new enemies who might one day cause us to need such protection?

Are we Australians now content to play the role of an outlying US state? Are we permanently hitching our economy to the USA’s? Is that wise? Is that what the Australian people want? Is anybody ever going to ask us?

These are not idle questions. The fact is that, whether by intent or incompetence, Australia’s Prime Minister is a War Criminal. And that is something that Australians will have to come to terms with, if we are ever to restore faith in our system of government and reclaim a sense of national moral rectitude.


1. Howard Bush press conference June 13, 2002.
2. Bush Blair press conference June 13, 2002.
3. Downing Street Memos.
4. Wolfowitz comments on WMDs.
5. SMH: Australia commits troops to US attack.
6. CNN: Howard on US alliance.
7. John Howard’s Address To The Nation, 20 March 2003.
8. “Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century”, 2000, Project for the New American Century (PDF).
9. Howard admits troops on the ground in Iraq early.
10. Howard reacts to JIC questions from Simon Crean.
11. 7:30 report, Downer and NZHC memo leak.
12. SMH story “One lie leads to another”.

19 Sept 2008

Going Underground

Some people might say my life is in a rut,
But I'm quite happy with what I got
People might say that I should strive for more,
But I'm so happy I cant see the point.
Something's happening here today
A show of strength with your boys brigade and,
I'm so happy and you're so kind
You want more money - of course I don't mind
To buy nuclear textbooks for atomic crimes

And the public gets what the public wants
But I want nothing this society's got -
I'm going underground, (going underground)
Well the brass bands play and feet start to pound
Going underground, (going underground)
Well let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow

Some people might get some pleasure out of hate
Me, I've enough already on my plate
People might need some tension to relax
Me I'm too busy dodging between the flak

What you see is what you get
You've made your bed, you better lie in it
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You'll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns

And the public wants what the public gets
But I don't get what this society wants
I'm going underground, (going underground)
Well the brass bands play and feet start to pound
Going underground, (going underground)
So let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow

We talk and talk until my head explodes
I turn on the news and my body froze
The braying sheep on my TV screen
Make this boy shout, make this boy scream!

Going underground, I'm going underground!

15 Sept 2008

Teh Irony

The new Liberals leader is just one of many privileged elites who have given us Big Shitpile:
Kathleen Day, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer-oriented research group, explained the regulatory lapses more starkly: "The job of regulators is that when the party's in full swing, make sure the partygoers drink responsibly," she said. "Instead, they let everyone drink as much as they wanted and then handed them the car keys."
Either we learn the lessons from Wall Street today, and make adjustments to our own system, or we go the same way.

UPDATE: And I would love to know who paid whom to insert the following anonymous quote at ABC Online:
Shareholders at the Australian Stock Exchange in Sydney say it is a good time to buy.

"I'm not very worried. I think if the market goes down a little bit more and you don't have to sell you may as well just hang in there for the long haul," one investor said.

"I think it's a great opportunity to buy. No risk buying now."
Are you fucking kidding me????! I think it's about time the ABC started adding journo tags to their stories, so we can at least see who is pulling our chains. Somebody should lose their job for that bullshit.

Bye Bye, Conga Line

Malcolm "Moneybags" Turnbull's ascension to the leadership of the Libs spells the end (at last) of John Howard's miserable Conga Line of Suckholes. And that's the main reason Turnbull got the job: all the other former Cabinet ministers are still on the nose, and always will be.

Howard surrounded himself with ambitious fools and immoral sycophants who served only to push their master's agenda. Maybe now the Liberal faithful can finally stop idolising Howard and begin to admit how much damage he did to the country, and to their own party.

PS: But don't take this as an endorsement of Turnbull. The only decent thing he has ever done was challenge Howard on Kyoto. He is a pompous aristocratic twat who will happily distort the truth in whatever way he can to champion the cause of the global financial elite. With Wall Street currently convulsing after 8 years of economic irresponsibility, the last thing Australia needs is more of the same. The Liberals remain the party of Big Business, and Turnbull makes a fitting poster boy.

UPDATE: OK, Peter Martin reminds me of another Turnbull achievement prior to joining the Howard cabinet. As the leader of the failed pro-Republic referendum movement (surely now back on the agenda, Kev?) he dissed Howard for "breaking the nation's heart.” He has also made some half-sane comments about carbon emissions trading. Perhaps the long, crazy era of "inventing our own realities" is finally drawing to a close?

14 Sept 2008

Today's The Day

The Wall Street bears have their picnic.

This is it, folks. This is the tsunami. Just remember who brought it to you: Bush, Blair and Howard.

ABC: Wall street "on the brink".

The Guardian: Wall Street's "model" is "broken".
The future of Wall Street is up for grabs -- and changing by the minute.
CNN: Wall Street's troubles are yours too:
The sale of Merrill and demise of Lehman would reduce the number of independent firms on Wall Street to two - Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) and Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) - from five at the beginning of the year.
Remember, Goldman Sachs is the Bush gang's banker of choice. But even they are now looking shaky:
Analysts also question whether No. 1 investment bank Goldman Sachs Group , which has avoided major damage so far and earlier this year considered acquiring a commercial bank to reduce reliance on market funding, can confidently stand above the crowd.
Goldman, which releases its third quarter results Tuesday, is widely expected to report lower profit with revenues down across the board.
As Atrios notes that the 18th largest company in the world, American International Group (AIG), is also on the brink of collapse if the Fed doesn't prop it up:
We're All Communists Now
It's all blowing up.


Alan "Don't Look At Me" Greenspan:
"There's no question that this is in the process of outstripping anything I've seen and it still is not resolved and still has a way to go and, indeed, it will continue to be a corrosive force until the price of homes in the United States stabilizes. That will induce a series of events around the globe which will stabilize the system."
He adds that the USA cannot afford McCain's tax plans.

Meanwhile, back on Wall Street:
I'm standing outside Lehman Brothers (LEH, Fortune 500) headquarters on 7th Ave and 50th street in New York City watching Lehman Brothers die.

Employees, some in suits, others in casual clothes, are filing out with all they can carry as time runs out.

They are walking down the sidewalk past police barricades as scores of New Yorkers and tourists gawk...
How did it come to this? Prof Q tries to tease out some answers:
My candidate answers:

(1) A big chunk of income goes to the top 1 per cent of households and isn’t captured by the survey. The seminar gave some support to this idea, at least insofar as this group seems to have a big enough share of the total that the choice of the point where the Census Bureau stops measuring income makes a big difference.

(2) A lot of income is flowing to the corporate sector and never being recorded as household income, perhaps because it is distributed in the form of capital gains, which aren’t counted. Again, a very large chunk of these would go to the top 1 per cent.
Anyway, here's the cunning plan on which the future of the Western world depends:
Bank of America, Barclays, Citibank, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and UBS, said in a joint statement they "initiated a series of actions to help enhance liquidity and mitigate the unprecedented volatility and other challenges affecting global equity and debt markets."

They agreed to create a "collateralized borrowing facility" of 70 billion US dollars, with each bank contributing seven billion US dollars, to help ease access to credit...

The 10 banks would be able to tap this facility, with any bank eligible for up to one-third of the fund. The amount may be expanded if more banks join the program.
What could possibly go wrong?

You Talkin' To Me?

You must be talking to me, because there's nobody else here.

30 Aug 2008

Abbott And Costello: Farce Become Reality

Had to laugh at this. Every anti-Howard pundit's dream has come true. Abbott and Costello are hitting the road together at last.

First, some pure comedy gold. Rupert Murdoch's Sky News reports that the Liberals want Peter Costello to take over the leadership. And how do they know this? Because Rupert Murdoch's News Limited reported it!

Will Peter Costello be able to convince the plebs that he has not orchestrated this takeover very carefully since last November? With Murdoch's help, yes.

Will a leadership takeover boost sales of his upcoming book? Oooh yes, especially if he comes across as The Nice Guy Who Should Have Won The Election.

This news comes just a day after Tony Abbott wrote an OpEd in Rupert Murdoch's Australian which basically sealed the deal. As the Canberra Times reported it:
For most of yesterday, Opposition frontbencher Tony Abbott's phone was switched off.

Caller after caller got the outspoken shadow minister's voicemail and if some of his colleagues are to be believed more than one of the messages left there were of the unprintable variety.

Abbott's ''tribute'' to former treasurer Peter Costello, as deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop labelled the Quadrant essay published in edited form in yesterday's Australian, described Costello as the Coalition's ''best political asset''. It's worth nothing that he managed to deliver backhanders, not only to current leader and apparent non-asset Brendan Nelson by using the present tense and failing to mention him even once but also to Costello by qualifying the praise with ''now that John Howard has gone''.

This apparently thinly-veiled attempt at wooing Costello pleased those of his colleagues who are dearly hoping against hope that he will return to lead them from the wilderness. But it sent a few others into orbit.

Abbott, of course, has been the #1 fan of his former boss, which explains this frosty Canberra resception:
In a move some saw as an attempt to play self-styled kingmaker, Abbott went to see Costello recently to persuade him to stay. Second-hand reports suggest that Costello was amused, nothing more.
In any case, the deal is done. but will this be enough to put the Libs back in contention?

Errr.... no.

But you have to give them credit. At least these power-hungry bastards realise that the media narrative is what it's all about. Labour wonks are still fixated on policy, as if that's what the Plebs want. Get real! We want entertainment!

Meanwhile, Dr Haneef is set to sue Australian taxpayers for several million dollars (well, who do you think is going to pay for it?) for all the entertainment his long-running saga provided us. Fair enough. This shit doesn't come cheap.

1 June 2008

Time To Investigate Howard's War Crimes

A legal brief has been sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleging former prime minister John Howard committed a war crime by sending troops to Iraq.

A loose alliance of peace activists, lawyers, academics and politicians is behind the brief, organised by the ICC Action group in Melbourne.

Organiser Glen Floyd says Mr Howard should be held accountable for sending troops to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations.

"We have produced a 52-page brief of evidence which states to the chief prosecutor of the criminal court that we allege John Howard's actions are war crimes under article 8 of the Rome Statute," he said.

Democrats Senator Lyn Allison says the legal brief sent to the ICC is justified.

Senator Allison, who is one of several eminent people supporting the move, says accountability is important.

"This action has been taken to hold those accountable for their action, so it's essentially our prime minister - he was the one at the time [who] was the executive of government, made the decision," she said.

'It wasn't put to the Parliament and as we all know, it turned out to be unjustified."

A similar brief has been sent by a group from the United Kingdom regarding former prime minister Tony Blair. The United States is not a signatory to the court.
The NSW division of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War has supported the move.

You can visit the ICC Action website here.

30 Apr 2008

Quote Of The Day

Lord Nicholas Stern:
"It's really nice to be outside of politics so you can refer to people like John Howard as appalling."

Back On TV: Howard's Old Ethanol Mate

Remember Dick Honan, the Manildra CEO who in 2003 secured government subsidies for ethanol production after donating more than $300,000 to the Liberal Party? Alan Ramsey called it "the ultimate in old-fashioned driveway service: $30.86 million of public money in 16 months".

Although Howard initially denied meeting Honan, it was later revealed that the pair had at least seven face-to-face meetings.

Despite the scandal, however, the ethanol subsidies remained in place. Cars started sporting ETH-NOL bumper stickers and the stigma attached to the word disappeared as the need for alternative fuel sources became clearer. There was limited opposition to mandatory ethanol blending, and even many die-hard Greens were on board for the ride.

In 2006, Howard government introduced legislation that compensated producers for a 38.14c-a-litre excise on ethanol. Now the whole program is under review. But don't expect a big slap-down for Dick Honan:
In recent years, Manildra has been far more even-handed, and in 2006-07 Mr Honan gave $347,000 to Labor and $244,000 to the Coalition.
There are many problems associated with Ethanol as an alternative fuel source, but the major one today is that when farmers stop growing food to produce ethanol, it drives up the cost of food. But the CEO of the Dalby Bio Refinery, a man with the unfortunate name of Kevin Andrews, is having none of that:
"The price of rice has doubled in recent weeks and not one drop of alcohol for biofuels has come from rice."
Of course, the price of rice has doubled because land is being farmed for other purposes, and because the price of other staple foods has doubled, sparking riots in many parts of the world. So why are these big Aussie refiners still being disingenuous?
The push for agrofuels is driven by the same vested interests that have pushed fossil fuel addiction — and now seek to increasingly replace fossil fuels with biofuels without altering the highly unjust and unsustainable global system that got us into this mess in the first place.
The solution to this mess is second generation biofuels, biofuels produced from non-arable land, and other alternative energy sources. If we approach this problem energetically, scientifically and morally, we can simultaneously help solve our global warming predicament. The moment is now!

Faith, Money, Greed, Bubbles, Karma and Despair

The Reuters headline says it all: "Fed tone may send food and gasoline prices higher". See? It's not the economic realities that drive the interest rate cut, it's the tone of those who deliver it that's the problem. Talk about shooting the messenger.
The increases in food and fuel costs have triggered protests around the globe.

"There had been so much hope that they would say something that would give us some sort of indication that they were done with this insanity," said Peter Beutel, president of Cameron Hanover.
So what do US fund managers like Peter Beutel do in this climate of fear and uncertainty? Do they tuck their heads in and promise to take a more responsible stance in future deals? No, they look for a new opportunity to exploit. And the new buzzwords are "Emerging Markets" even though analysts admit such investments are already over-priced:
"This bubble, like all bubbles, will not be justified by long-term value but at least will be one of the least flaky bubble cases ever," Grantham, chairman of fund manager GMO, wrote in a note to clients.

"Perhaps once in a career any self respecting strategist, even a one trick "mean reversion" one like GMO, should have a go at predicting a major divergence, a true bubble. And this is ours."
And when that bubble pops, it will be all the Fed's fault too.

Wanker Of The Day

Former Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Dibb is obviously worried about cuts to his old Department's budget. He says Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith is being "complacent" about national security in "our part of the world":
Some of the world's major concentrations of military power and potential hot spots are in Asia: for example on the Korean peninsula, across the Taiwan Straits and between India and Pakistan.
But are Korea, Taiwan, India and Pakistan really "our" part of the world? Does Australia really need to get involved in these countries' problems, assuming they ever do flare up into war?
The region now spends more than $285 billion a year on defence (more than NATO, excluding the US) with China alone accounting for $128 billion of this amount (next come Japan with $43 billion, South Korea with $26 billion and India with $24 billion).
Yes but US military spending dwarfs all that, and Australia is right up there (particularly on a per capita basis).
At least one former defence minister, Kim Beazley, thinks a regional arms race is taking place.
Well, he would, wouldn't he? Beazley is just another of the military spending racketeer mobsters in Canberra. And these guys are terrified that Australians might start to realise that the biggest threat to our national security is actually our own aggression towards others.
In the forthcoming Defence white paper it is important that we do not allow our advanced conventional war-fighting capabilities to be sacrificed on the altar of the trendy, so-called new security agenda.
In other words, we need to keep pretending that Indonesia might invade us any day, that China might nuke Darwin next Friday, and that tanks, aircraft, ships and guns are the way to defeat the threat of terrorism. What a load of bollocks.

Pack it in, Paul, and get a real job.

29 Apr 2008

My Life As A "23 Year Old Student Activist"

I mean what sort of loser even reads Mike Whitney:
Yesterday, when Wright took the podium at the National Press Club, he knew he'd be taken to task no matter what he said. He knew that every word he uttered would be twisted by the media to make him look like a hate-monger, or worse, a racist. But Wright faced his critics with dignity and delivered another barnburner. By the end of the speech, everyone in attendance was on their feet applauding wildly for the man the corporate media has chosen to destroy.
You can watch the full video of Wright's speech here (not the edited FOX version) and make up your own mind about whether the man is insane, or just speaking the truth that people in power (and others) don't want to hear.

It's a pity Obama didn't stick with Wright: he would have lost the Dem nomination, of course, but he could have taken a big slice of the Party out the door with him, maybe joined up with Al Gore, and launched a successful White House bid as an independent.

But like Atrios says today:
This election is going to be much much stupider than the last time. Last time much of the stupid was at least nominally about serious issues, this time it's just all about the stupid.
Sometimes life's like that, isn't it?

Who Are We? Where Do We Come From? Where Are We Going?

Elizabeth Farrelly asks the question:
If you were writing the screenplay Australia, we'd be just at the point, about one-third the way in, where the desire line splits. Where Luke Skywalker must decide whether to stay with his childless rels or follow his dream. Where Simba must choose between running away and confronting his destiny. Where the main character - Australia - must face its defining dilemma. What dilemma, where? What's to decide when it seems we might be the only country unaffected by the coming recession? Where's the problem in that?
She could be talking about War Crimes, our continued support of the criminals in Washington, or a host of other important issues. But she's talking specifically about fossil fuels:
Our future wealth, so gleefully proclaimed, depends on selling fossil fuels - oil, gas, coal - to as many people as possible as hard and as long as possible. But our future survival depends on reducing global use of these same fuels, as much as possible, immediately.

... [W]e - on this vast sunny, wind-washed island, abounding with next-century's energy sources, with the necessary space, stability and nous - we also have a responsibility to make it happen. This is our destiny path, as inconvenient as destiny generally is. More exciting than the other but also more testing, it may be our last chance to really stand for something, and it leads - if we have the bottle for it - to the light on the hill.
I have often thought that Australia is in a unique position to take the lead on a host of big 21st Century issues, given our wealth, geography and ethnic mix. Think immigration, defence, education, health, research... In the end, it's our own human greed, fear and other failings that hold us back.

Farrelly mentions the thorny issue of a Bill Of Rights, which would certainly complicate further immoral government decision-making on our behalf. Jack Waterford at The Canberra Times today also considers the issue:
I have myself been sceptical of the need. But I am changing my mind again, because our politicians are not showing themselves great instinctive protectors of rights, just when they are needed. Certainly not Carr or Hatzistergos. Or previously John Howard and Philip Ruddock, in actions scarcely criticised by those who have now succeeded them. And not only over terrorism and refugee issues but also in developing or exploiting moral panic about the state of crime or vice.

The risks are being aggravated by the ever-outreaching power of executive government, by the supine position into which legislatures have been put by modern executives, and by the coordination of incumbency and spin to overwhelm popular criticism. It's not parliamentary rule we ought to fear, but increasingly arbitrary and unaccountable rule by executive government...

The fiction ought to be that power comes from the people, and that the powers of government, at whatever level, or in whatever branch, are only those they have been given... It is a fiction, because in history, particularly British history, the rights of which we boast were ones seized from kings, occasionally by beheading them.
Yes, but that's because the kings seized them from US in the first place! Our human power as individuals, or united as a group, is a God-given right. As Nelson Mandela once said:
"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, fabulous, gorgeous, talented? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You're playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that's within us. It's not just in some of us. It's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we automatically give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others."

Dilbert For President

Tony Abbott reckons Rudd "runs a serious risk of becoming Barack Obama without the cadences". Does Rupert hand out brownie points every time someone bitch-slaps Obama these days?

And why is the Mad Monk getting air-time in the Orifice today, rather than his usual Fairfax press hole? Is it because he is now an irrelevant has-been?

Anyway, Tony's still angry about lots of things. He obviously didn't enjoy Rudd's "bland" address to the Sydney Institute:
John Howard would never have served up such flapdoodle and rightly would have been crucified if he had.
Jesus Christ, Tony! Get a grip, mate. You're the only one who ever got a hard-on watching Howard.

Here's the Mad Monk's stunning conclusion:
If the Government wins a second term, expect a 2012 handover to Julia Gillard, who will then have to decide which inquiry recommendations to implement.
Anybody wanna put money on that one? Anyone...? How about all you Liberals who lost money Costello? Nah...?

What a wanker. But Abbott is outdone in the Murdoch meejah today by the WSJ's Brett Stephens (reprinted in the OO), who insists that Afghanistan is going great guns, despite all the death, poverty, drugs and violence:
Afghanistan has 34 provinces. Twenty-nine of them are more or less at peace, more or less better off than they were six years ago, and more or less governed by someone their own people can live with.
Talk about yer "measurable goals"! Stephens' clear message is that you just cannot trust the media: "things really are getting better in Afghanistan, even if the headlines suggest otherwise". You just gotta have faith, bro'!

Stephens evidently has lots of faith. He also insists that the USA is not in decline. Not financially, not militarily in Iraq, and not even as a global "brand":
[E]ach of these assumptions collapses on a moment's inspection.
Yep, "a moment's inspection" is all you need, as Stephens throws around some big "back-of-the-envelope" numbers (from Josef Joffe's 2006 book "Überpower") and concludes the US economy is really going great guns (anyone wanna put money on that?). The same goes for US Defence Department spending, which implicitly means that the War In Iraq is going great too. Whoo hoo! I can feel the power!
Finally there is the issue of our allegedly squandered prestige in the world. There is no doubt America's "popularity," as measured by various global opinion surveys, has fallen in recent years. What's striking, however, is how little of this has mattered in terms of the domestic political choices of other countries or the consequences for the U.S.
So, OK, yes, US global prestige IS on the decline - it just doesn't matter. Because US billionaires like Rupert Murdoch still have lots and lots of money to pay wankers and fools like this.

28 Apr 2008


Thanks to an anonymous reader for the following email:

Your repeated demands for accountability are not likely to see much response until the next election comes into play. Across government departments, new Rudd appointees are warehousing evidence that may incriminate former Howard ministers (or themselves?) but nothing is going to be announced in a hurry.

DFAT staffers assume there is an office in Canberra where party apparatchiks are trawling the details, looking for ammunition they can use without burning their fingers. As you noted on Iraq, Rudd is walking a thin line: he doesn't want full-scale investigations on multiple fronts in the public eye, where who knows what might come out. Besides, as Tony Kevin recently noted in newmatilda.com, there is a lot of bureaucratic push-back going on.

Expect to see limited inquiries launched prior to the next election, with limited news leaks (just enough to damage the Coalition and win another three years. Don't expect significant change of government direction: inquiries will wind up without major charges, just some serious embarrassment to the old guard.

Don't expect significant shift on the US alliance either: a change in Washington will not change much of substance here. Budget and trade are the big priorities. Plus ca change...

Regards etc.

Here's a link to the article by Tony Kevin in New Matilda which my source references:
To be a good international citizen and actively committed UN member has returned as a major aim of Australian foreign policy.

But are sections of the Australian foreign policy and national security bureaucracies still living, by force of habit, in a world mainly defined by fear?...

Does Prime Minister Rudd want to turn the new orthodoxy around, to restore the kind of capable and often inspired professional foreign policy style that Australia enjoyed before 1996? Or have he and his ministers become so used to national security agencies' dominance of Australia's foreign policy, that they can't see how stultifying narrow and vision-limiting it is?

These questions are still unanswered. On border security, the war in Afghanistan, Defence strategic doctrine, regional and domestic counter-terrorism, South Pacific pol-mil interventionism, we still inhabit the politics of fear. It seems odd that while we are still in so many ways living in that world, Rudd seriously thinks we could be elected to a seat in the UN Security Council in 2012. He will be pushing uphill, I fear, unless he can bring about real cultural change at home.

World Government, Anyone?

You too can become a World Citizen.

As founder Garry Davis says (click the audio):
"We are not FOR World Peace - we are already AT World Peace."
Davis is a former WWII bomber who renounced his American citizenship in Paris in 1948 to become a "citizen of the world." He founded the International Registry of World Citizens in Paris in January, 1949, with support from writers Albert Camus and André Gide and the Abbé Pierre.

For an 87-year-old, Davis also has a pretty witty blog:
Hello. (Yawning) What's up Garry? This is a helluva time to call.
But Madame, you practically ran on the 3 am call.
All right, all right! So what's so important it disturbs my sleep?
Well, Madame President, I thought you should be the first to know.
Know what? This better be good.
The World Parliament in Tasmania just passed a resolution outlawing war ten minutes ago.

The Zionist Love-Fest Continues

Australia's out-going governor-general Michael Jefferey attended the opening of a war monument in Israel yesterday. The Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheba is a gift from the Pratt Foundation:
Asked at the end of the military ceremony how he felt, Richard Pratt - who had been thanked many times over by many people - told The Jerusalem Post that he was flattered.

"Why do you feel flattered? You paid for it," he was asked.

"Yes," replied Pratt, "but you pay for a lot of things, and people don't always remember to say thank you."
Ungrateful bastards! Not like Israeli president Shimon Peres, who praised Australia, "which despite not having fought a war on its own territory, had taken on the responsibility of caring for other people's security and independence without asking for anything in return". Oi! Oi! Oi Vay!
Jefferey also appreciated that four Jewish National Fund forests bear the names of Australian leaders. Three are named for former prime ministers Robert Menzies, Bob Hawke and John Howard, and one for former governor-general Sir Zelman Cowan.
Let's not forget that Hawkey was just one of many politicians on Richard Pratt's payroll. And now Pratt, who forfeited less than one percent of his $5.3 billion fortune when convicted of price-fixing, is paying John Howard for speeches:
Markson, the author of Show Me the Money, would not divulge how much money the Pratts had to show Howard for his speaking fee. "That's all confidential. Sorry," he said.
It is NOT anti-Semitic to note that Richard Pratt (born Przecicki) is Jewish. It is NOT anti-Semitic to note that militant Zionists like Rupert Murdoch and Sam Lipski, the CEO of the Pratt Foundation, have a strangle-hold on the Australian media.

But maybe all that helps explain why the Australian media don't want to talk about War Crimes, and why critics like me get "we know where you live" home visits from Israeli agents.

UPDATE: Of course it's not all one-way traffic in the Australian media. Via outstanding Aussie journo-blogger Antony Loewenstein, this SMH story by Peter Manning is a welcome departure from the norm:
... And in Pappe's latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing Of Palestine (Cambridge University Press, 2006), he draws from the archives of David Ben-Gurion, Haganah and Irgun papers and other sources to reveal how deliberate and articulated was the famous Plan Dalet of March 10, 1948 - the plan by Jewish leaders to ethnically cleanse Arab cities (like Haifa and Jaffa) and villages getting in the way of the creation of the Jewish state.

The result was a series of massacres during April and May 1948, the most important in Deir Yassin on April 9. Jewish soldiers burst into the village and sprayed it with gunfire. Those not dead were gathered together and shot. A number of the women were allegedly raped and then shot. Ninety-three villagers were reported to have died.

The Herald of April 10, 12, and 13, 1948, reported the horror as "Jewish terrorism"...

Jewish Australians were made to feel, once again, acknowledged and proud by their federal Christian leaders on March 12. Arab and Palestinian Australians, also damaged by their history, were left feeling outsiders, abandoned, in exile, just as a new government arrived so full of hope and promise.

It would be good if Rudd in May could redress the balance.

27 Apr 2008

A National Hero

China Daily covers the torch relay in Japan:
I could spot no Tibetan on the pro-separatist side, which comprised a purely Japanese-speaking community. Aside from the "snow-lion" flags, there were a lot of Japanese right-wing flags and anti-China slogans.

When a Chinese youth with a five-star red flag mark painted on his cheek passed by the anti-Chinese protestors, several of them screamed and pounced on the lad, covering him with fists and kicks.

My first reaction was a shout of "Tamu!" (No!) And I tried to stop them. But they continued kicking the young man before the police came.

The Chinese young man never hit back. "Be restrained", I heard him shouting to his friends. "We must be civilized!"

He kept standing despite the beating, and was never subdued...

I unbuttoned my overcoat and bore the slogan printed on my T-shirt, which says: "Defend the Olympic Torch!" I strolled in front of the pro-secessionists, and the police quickly drew me away.

Amid the applause of my own people, I returned to the Chinese arrays. Tears rolled down as I saw the five-star red flags in our ranks.

Going through all this, I am convinced that I am on the side of justice.

Tom the Dancing Bug

Just remember: we're still (always) the good guys.

Time To Get Out Of Afghanistan

It appears [ now confirmed: see below] another Australian soldier has been killed in Afghanistan, where things have long been going from bad to worse.

The Reuters photo above shows Afghan troops racing from a Kabul parade ground yesterday when the Taliban launched a brazen attack: bullets struck the back of a stage where Karzai was standing with the British and US envoys.

Juan Cole has video and reminds us that the Central Asia gas fields explain Bushco's interest in Afghanistan.

Ironically, Karzai just called on Coalition troops to stop arresting Taliban insurgents:
'We have to make sure that when a Talib comes to Afghanistan ... he is safe from arrest by the coalition.'
Karzai is facing re-election and this time he cannot win by pushing the Western propaganda line. Like Iraq, this war is over: our governments and media elites just haven't admitted it yet.

UPDATE: Yer military language:
"He died during the conduct of a patrol which was engaged by Taliban extremists in Oruzgan province approximately 25km to the south-east of Tarin Kowt. The engagement in which he died was characterised by a heavy exchange of small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. Four other soldiers were wounded by small arms fire in the same action."
Jason Marks, aged 27, from Broken Hill and Yeppoon, leaves behind a grieving wife and two small children.

From Wikipedia:
Tarin Kowt is the capital of Oruzgan (also written "Uruzgan") province in southern Afghanistan. It is a small and dusty town of about 10,000 people, with some 200 small shops in the city's bazaar. There are no medium- or large-scale economic enterprises in the city. The provincial governor, currently Asadullah Hamdam, lives and works in a compound adjacent to the bazaar. There is also a population of about 2000 Arabs mainly of Iraqi origin in the town.
Just a little visual reminder of why Aussie troops are (still) over there:

LATER: Kevin Rudd explains why we still in Afghanistan:
" We are there because a failed state was giving open succour and support to a global terrorist organisation - al-Qaeda - which then attacked our ally the United States on September 11, 2001, and in the process murdered 3,000 people. Nothing has changed since then."
We have been there for six years. If it's true that "nothing has changed" then we should be asking "Why not?". But things actually have changed: the Taliban has been routed from government, the US has installed a former Unocal oil executive as a puppet president, the people of Afghanistan have realised that Western governments are totally indifferent to their poverty-stricken plight, and now we come full circle: the Taliban are resurgent, and what has all our blood and money brought us? Nothing.

Rudd says Australian commitment "is not a blank cheque and it will be subject to rolling review." Roll on the reviews, please.