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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Brushtail Graphics

Trust the generals: peak oil is the future and the future is fraught

4 May 2010

In the washup, oil has been the bane of our time, I thought, as I sat in the Brushtail Café sipping a cider, munching on one of Joadja’s vegetarian pides and reading the latest gloomy news about the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster. The stuff poisons the air and fouls the water, and for a Third World country, finding heaps of black gold under your turf typically leads to social disaster.

“Didja see this about the US Joint Chiefs of Staff saying that oil production is set to go downhill? What the hell is going on?” Tarkis, was waving a newspaper he’d found in the free reading pile on the table.

“It says here ‘The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.

‘The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.”

‘By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day’”.

He looked bewildered.

“Actually, they were being conservative”, I said. “Oil production is already going down. We’re over the peak. It happened in 2008. We’re going gently downhill on a bumpy plateau and The Valley looms before us. Only the generally wonky economic climate is now holding the price down”. 

Trust the soldiers, I thought. At least they’re ‘responsible’, in the special and limited sense that they’re always searching the horizon for the next threat. And their minds are particularly focussed by the fact that the tanks, the planes, the warships – the whole goddam war machine – runs on oil … has done since the Second World War. The future of oil is of acute importance to the US army because it’s the world’s biggest single user of petroleum products.

The first prophetic move in that direction came in 1912 when the British Government decided that their next generation of battleships were going to run on oil, rather than coal. A couple of years later they went into the First World War with less than a thousand motor vehicles and a handful of flimsy planes. Four years later they fielded 120,000 motor vehicles and 4000 planes.

When the Second World War rolled around, when you strip away all the high-flown rhetoric, it was fought for, and won by, control of oil resources. That’s why Hitler ordered the lunge across southern Russia – to get to the Russian oilfields. That’s why the Russians fought like tigers at Stalingrad – to stop him getting there. That’s why Hitler lost the war. He had a huge, and sophisticated, coal-to-oil industry, but German synoil was expensive and labour-intensive. Hitler’s back-of-the-envelope calculation was that German casualties in an invasion of the Soviet Union would be no greater than the number of workers tied up in his synoil industry. Grabbing the Soviet supplies looked like a bargain but it turned out to be perhaps the most disastrous decision in history.    

“And hey, listen to this”, said Tarkis. I could see he wasn’t going to give up.   “‘While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India’”.

“Perhaps? Perhaps? Are they kidding? Did you know that the Chinese are putting their thumb on every source of oil they can find. Why do you think they have something like 20,000 of their troops in Africa, guarding oil wells they own . They badge them as ‘private’ security officers of course, but they’re  People Liberation Army, just the same. And the Chinese are outbidding the Yanks in Central Asia too.”

The crazy thing is that the US joint Chiefs of Staff are way ahead of the government energy departments, who keep blindly insisting there’s oceans of oil still to be found, and the politicians, who still don’t want to know about it.