From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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McGurk killing: how many hitmen were there?

22 October 2009

On Thursday 3 September at 6.30pm Michael McGurk was killed by a single bullet to the head as he stepped out of his late model black Merc on Cranbrook Avenue, Cremorne. The politically-linked loan-shark fell among the hot chips he’d gone with his 10 year-old son to buy, and died on the spot. The hit man, or men, vanished.

Six weeks later, police appealed for three men, spotted near the scene of the crime to come forward. Two of the men – of “white/European appearance”– were seen walking away from the shooting and about 50m from it. One was described as 183cm tall, medium build, broad nose, the other 188cm tall, medium build with dark collar-length hair. Both were wearing business suits. If you saw them in your street, you’d probably think they were estate agents. They walked up Cranbrook Street and were later seen crossing a small park towards Military Road.

Think about it. You’re one of a pair of blokes with legitimate business in the locality and, on the morning of 4 September you open the paper and discover the sensational news that, a few metres from where you had been the previous afternoon, a man was shot dead. It would have been the talk of the office. You and your colleague would have consulted … urgently. You’d have asked yourselves whether you’d seen anybody passing, or heard a gunshot. And then you’d have called the cops and told them what you’d seen … or not seen. Because, for example, the fact that you hadn’t seen anybody hurrying past you would mean that the killer probably fled in the other direction.

And anyway, you’d want to clear up your situation. You’d want to get in quick before a couple of big boofy Ds with Glocks and cheap suits came around wanting to know why you hadn’t called them like a good citizen. Yes Constable, I was in Cranbrook Avenue, but honest, it wasn’t us … ha, ha. I’ve never even held a gun. Me and Ralph were inspecting this property we had up for auction and we were walking back to the office and I know it must have been about 6.30 because I had to get home and no, I don’t remember seeing anything.

But they’re still wanting to talk to these blokes.

The third man was seen “lurking” across the road between noon and 3 pm on the same day. He was of Asian appearance,  perhaps aged in his 30s, about 173 cm tall, of medium build, with a broad face and dark short hair. He wore a blue or black zip-up jacket, khaki shorts and work boots.

So he was posing as a tradesman or technician, right? Otherwise, what was he doing? Just sitting there? For three hours? Think about this. Six weeks after the killing he hadn’t come forward and the cops hadn’t traced him? The first old-fashioned shoe-leather investigative thing the Ds would have done was to go and knock on the doors across the road and ask if anybody had a gardener, or a handyman working there that day. And somebody would have been sent to check with Telstra and Sydney Water and whatever it is we call the folks who deliver the electricity these days whether they’d had a man working in the street.

If there was a perfectly simple explanation for this bloke, it would almost certainly have emerged by now. The serious money is on the theory that the third man was casing the joint.

Now the cops won’t say whether any of the three have come forward so let’s speculate on the basis that they haven’t. What are we looking at here – an assassination team of at least three men? It’s beginning to look like it. Three implies a serious conspiracy – something bigger and better-paid than the usual contract killing, of which there are an average of 12 a year in Australia and for which the average price is $12,700.

This was a very neat, professional, job. The hitman was so confident of his work he didn’t bother with a follow-up shot. Then he pocketed his pistol and walked away. If you have a look at the gallery of News Limited photos of the investigators at work the following day, you’ll notice a lot of peering under cars and searching of gutters and a cop with a metal detector. What they’d be looking for is a cartridge case and a bullet. Did they find them?

Semi-automatic pistols eject a cartridge case after each shot. With revolvers, it remains in the weapon’s cylinder until removed. An ejected cartridge is evidence. It links your weapon to the crime. A real pro would use a revolver for a job like this, or pick up the spent cartridge if he chose an automatic. In the heat of the moment, that would take serious cool.

Apparently there are two copies of the tapes of meetings that McGurk made – the cops have one copy and ICAC has the other. It’s whispered that the Premier’s Department tried to get a copy but the cops wouldn’t give them one. We live in interesting times.