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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Operation Gareth



One op and you're off


TIME: Saturday 26.12.98; 10.17 hrs. MISSION: Operation Gareth. ENCRYPTATION: Maximum. AGENCIES CC: Bypass all. GEOPOSITION: Suppressed.

MESSAGE: The situation is now judged to be sufficiently favourable to initiate the snatch. Roger instructs that the following is the operational plan.


Nick is operation controller for this phase. Shane is 2IC. The Target is codenamed "Dalang". Operational timing is to be at the discretion of the op controller.


1. Dalang is to be lifted from his estate home.

2. The target is to be secured by methods involving an absolute minimum of violence. Any guards are to be disabled by non-lethal methods.

3. Dalang's home is to be searched and, commensurate with operational constraints of time and aircraft load limit, all computer discs, hard drives, and hard copy records are to be seized in good order and removed.

4. Dalang is to be rendered unconscious by safe methods and driven, using his own vehicle, to his private airstrip.

5. At this point the team is to split.

6. "A" Group will be Nick (group leader), Nathan (pilot), Captain Ordu (co-pilot) and Shane. They are to fly Dalang and all computer records etc., using his aircraft, to Normanton where they will RV with regular ASIO agents, hand over Dalang and records and be debriefed and disbanded.

7. "B" Group will be Internet Wayne (group leader), Bible Wayne, Tommy. They are to dispose of the expedition vehicles and equipment. CIA will arrange debriefing and dispersal.

8. Should operation miscarry (for example unexpected resistance by guards or accidental death of Dalang), the team is to arrange matters so that blame will be directed to "Ninja"-type groups. Team dispersal and escape will then be responsibility of CIA.


Dalang had decided to flee Indonesia because revelation of to his long history of human rights abuses was imminent. He decided to personally fly his plane, alone, to a Carribean country via Australia, the Pacific Islands and Central America. However Australian security detected his aircraft enroute to Normanton and a decision was taken to apprehend Dalang when he landed in Australia and hold him for trial in relation to the Balibo/Dili killings. It is likely that, once his role has been publicly exposed, Dalang will prefer trial in Australia to return to Indonesia. If he maintains that he was kidnapped, the government will plausibly deny his version. ENDS.



TIME: Saturday 26.12.98; 10.35 hrs. MISSION: Operation Gareth. ENCRYPTATION: Maximum. AGENCIES CC: Bypass all. GEOPOSITION: Suppressed.

MESSAGE: Well, that has revived my faith in the operation! Simple plan, great cover story. Wonderful codename. It means "The puppet master", Tommy tells me. Who are they giving the story to? It'll be an exclusive I suppose. ENDS.


TIME: Saturday 26.12.98; 10.42 hrs. MISSION: Operation Gareth. ENCRYPTATION: Maximum. AGENCIES CC: Bypass all. GEOPOSITION: Suppressed.

MESSAGE: I was interested to know that myself. I presumed they'd give it to David Jenkins, the SMH Indonesia specialist, but Roger said he had in mind Paul Sheehan, or maybe Chris Smith. ENDS.

TIME: Saturday 26.12.98; 10.50 hrs. MISSION: Operation Gareth. ENCRYPTATION: Maximum. AGENCIES CC: Bypass all. GEOPOSITION: Suppressed.

MESSAGE: Ours is not to reason why. They must know what they're doing. At least I now know why Nathan is on the op. Didn't know he was a pilot. Tommy, by the way, has an interesting yarn about the two Waynes. He asked me if I knew about "Three strikes and you're out", and I told him it was a sentencing policy in some reactionary US states. Then he smiled his sly smile and said they were criminals and they were here through a CIA rehabilitation programme called "One op and you're off". I asked him if he knew what they were in for and he reckoned Internet Wayne had written a nasty virus disguised as an operating system called Windows 2000 and Bible Wayne was a pedophile. ENDS.

Blame it on the Ninjas



TIME: Tuesday 5.1.99; 4:34 hrs. MISSION: Operation Gareth. ENCRYPTATION: Maximum. AGENCIES CC: Bypass all. GEOPOSITION: Suppressed.

MESSAGE: Gareth 1, what is going on? No message from you since 27 December. I am frantic with worry. And Roger has not come by either. This is strange as he was dropping in at least every couple of days. Please transmit. ENDS.



TIME: Tuesday 5.1.99; 5:07 hrs. MISSION: Operation Gareth. ENCRYPTATION: Maximum. AGENCIES CC: Bypass all. GEOPOSITION: Suppressed.

MESSAGE: Take a long holiday at the old spot. Now. Immediately. Stay away from Roger. Assume you are under surveillance. Will contact you by alternative means ASAP. ENDS.

Kilat aerogram received by Old Possum, Wednesday 6.1.99. Postmarked Bandung, Indonesia, 1.1.99.

My Darling Jo, Old Possum,

I can only hope you receive this letter OK. I am OK and holed-up with Tommy. We are holding General Dalang. All the others are dead. The mission has gone in a totally unexpected direction. You and Old Possum must disappear quickly. Go to our favourite old spot. Stay away from Roger. Assume you are being watched.

The snatch attempt was on New Year's Eve. Dalang's home is on a huge estate in the hills. A big old Dutch colonial mansion. We had had it under surveillance for a week. On New Year's Eve the team reached it by hiking overland through the jungle. Strangely -- it seemed at the time -- there were only ever two guards, down at the front gate. They were easily overpowered by the two Waynes. We tied them up and left two dozen empty Bintang bottles lying around.

The attack was set for around 18:00 hours, exact timing at my discretion. General Dalang was apparently at home alone. We watched the two servants leave at 17:35 hours. According to the plan, Captain Ordu and Shane covered the rear of the house. Tommy, Nathan and I lay up in the jungle at the edge of the lawn in front of the house.

At 18:00 the two Waynes walked up to the front door. They were supposed to be lost backpackers. They knocked on the door. It opened, but only a bit. Bible Wayne shouldered the door down and the two of them pushed inside.

Almost immediately there was a burst of gunfire inside the house. It was followed by two or three more bursts. Maybe there were twenty shots. A burst broke one of the front windows.

I got to my feet to rush the door but somebody grabbed my tail and jerked me backward. I fell on my face. Just then there was an explosion in the house. A few of the windows blew out. It was one of the stun grenades the Waynes were carrying. I looked around. Tommy was still holding me by the tail. He said: "No, Tuan Possum! Too dangerous! You must go in by the back". It seemed like a great idea.

I took Nathan, left Tommy covering the front, and circled around to the back of the house. Maybe five minutes elapsed. No sign of Ordu and Shane. The back door was open. We entered very slowly. There was a long hallway through to the front. Everything was quiet. I could see a body lying at the far end of the hall facing the front door. We edged forward. It was Captain Ordu. He had fallen across his AR16 and his blood was spreading slowly across the hall. His back was ripped by exit wounds.

The hall opened into a huge front room. The ceiling fans were turning slowly. Bible Wayne's body wasn't far from the door. He must have been shot first. Internet Wayne's body was sprawled against the wall behind a baby grand piano. There was no sign of General Dalang. I tried to see what had happened. Ordu must have opened the door to the Waynes, then stepped back and shot them as they stormed in. But he didn't kill Internet, who retreated across the room, threw the stun grenade and shot Ordu before dying himself.

Nathan and I looked at each other. I motioned back down the hall. We worked our way slowly back. On my side a door we had passed was slighly ajar. Nathan covered me as I pushed it slowly open. It was a study. Shane and Dalang were there. The General was sitting on the floor with his hands on his head. He looked just like the photos of him -- a chubby Javanese with slicked-back grey hair. Another AR16 was lying on the floor. Shane was covering him. He said: "Jesus, where were you guys? what happened out there?"

I lowered my gun. I said: "Seems like Ordu slipped into the house just before 18:00. He and the General must have ambushed the Waynes. We've been set up. Where were you?"

He said: "I didn't see him come in. Just after the explosion I came in through the back. I bailed this guy up in the hall."

I remember thinking that it didn't make sense, but I don't remember anything more till I came to. My nose was pressed into the floor and the back of my head felt like I'd been hit by a brick. I opened my eyes very slowly.

Dalang, Nathan and Shane were piling computer disks and piles of printouts into cardboard boxes. Crazy. I must be dreaming. I tried to rub the back of my head, but my arm wouldn't move. My paws had been tied behind my back. I rolled on my side.

Shane saw me move. He giggled. Dalang and Nathan left the room. After a while they came back. They were dragging a body by the feet. It was the body of an elderly Indonesian man. It had been hacked with some sort of edged weapon. Probably a machete. Dalang took off his watch and slipped it on the dead man's wrist.

Shane said: "Welcome back, but not for long, Possum. Tomorrow morning we'll be in Canberra laundering Soeharto's billions, and you'll be roaming the great sclerophyll forest in the sky. You never did get it, did you?"

That seemed like a reasonable statement, so I shook my head a little.

Shane said: "This was never the kidnap mission, dickhead, this was the rescue mission".

I said: "But why would Canberra want to rescue this arsehole? What about Timor. He has the blood of hundreds, maybe thousands on his hands".

The General smiled. He spoke excellent English with a faint Australian accent. He said: "Not even one person have I ever killed... until today ... and today? A hacker, a pedophile, and soon, a marsupial -- a primitive life-form of the southern continents. It is a pity about the Captain, but he died doing his duty. You see, I am just an ABRI accountant, a businessman. Mr Ghalib and the official inquiry will never find Bapak Soeharto's money because I have spread it around the world".

Shane said: "And now the Australian Government will look after it for a while. Just stewardship, you understand. No sense in leaving it here with this bunch of losers. Not with things the way they are. And you, you see, provide a plausible cover. In a few minutes we're going to burn the place down. They'll find the general's body with the two Waynes' and yours in the ashes. You know what the headlines will say: "Indon general dies in bungled abduction bid -- Australian leftist possum led bizarre raid". The General laughed.

I said: "Great cover story, Shane. Plausible even. You should offer it to somebody as an exclusive. Why not Paddy? He's ..."

I didn't finish because Shane turned and reached for his pistol. I rolled across the floor. There were two shots and Shane fell dead. Nathan reached for the AR16 but he never made it. There were two more shots. Dalang shrunk in terror, raised his hands ... and then Tommy stepped through the door.

He motioned to Dalang to lie face down on the floor, grabbed the spare weapons and pushed them to the other side of the room. He frisked Dalang, bound his hands, taped his mouth with gaffer tape and stepped back to admire his handiwork.

Tommy said: "You see, Nick, even the greatest wayang master cannot control everything. You are a very nice animal. I know you will help us. We must move quickly now". Then he cut me free.

We took Dalang's CPU, his disks and all the printouts, then we gathered up most of the guns, left machetes near the bodies, soaked everything down in gasoline, bundled the general into his Jeep Cherokee and torched the place. Pity about the antiques. Blame it on the Ninjas. Why not?

Time to go. Got to catch the post. At the old spot My Darling.

On the run with the living dead

Kilat aerogram addressed to Joadja Murphy, care of PO Hawks Nest NSW 2324, received Tuesday 12.1.99. Postmarked Jakarta, Indonesia, 7.1.99.

My Darling Jo, Old Possum,

I am OK and I am trying to arrange safe passage out of here as soon as possible. Jo, if you have to move from your present location, go to the place where we bogged your old Suzuki.

Tommy's organisation has taken charge of General Dalang. I checked all the disks and papers we took from his home. It's true what he told me. There was nothing there to indicate he had ever been in charge of the Kopassus special forces.

The records show that billions of dollars are invested in property, shares, and even businesses all over the world. But it's all ultimately in Dalang's name ... of which there are many confusing variants. The next stage will be to trace the money back to where it originated before it came into his hands.

The General isn't singing like a bird yet, but he isn't exactly cocky about the prospect of a rescue either. After all, he's not only an embarrasment, he's probably also officially dead. Tommy thinks that General Wiranto's reshuffle of the military command structure may be partly to cover General Dalang's disappearance. Maybe, for all we know, he never officially existed anyway. Whoever chose the General as the surrogate for Soeharto chose well. The General doesn't have a wife or children. He doesn't appear to have any close relatives.

When the army arrived at his home, they would have found what appeared to be his body in the ruins. So far there hasn't been a mention of it in the media here. Tommy says that if ABRI was fooled by the Ninja ruse they'd cover the whole episode up. They wouldn't want to publicise a Ninja assassination of one of their top-ranking officers. If they weren't fooled by the ruse -- if they looked more closely into it -- a bit of forensic would convince them that four of the six bodies in the ruins were European. What the hell could they conclude from that? It would be like trying to figure out what had happened at the end of one of those factional power struggles in the NSW Right. They'd probably think it was something weird the CIA cooked up (which is partly true), and decide that further investigation was not in their best interests.

And Habibie's mob wouldn't want to draw attention to Dalang while the official inquiry into the Soeharto billions is running. They certainly won't want the inquiry to find any more money than it already has.

I still don't really know who Tommy is, or what organisation he belongs to, and, of course, if I did know I wouldn't write it here. They are well organised and have a good system of safehouses. They are questioning Dalang in relays and I think they are capable of keeping him in captivity more or less indefinitely.

Everywhere the situation seems to be slipping out of Habibie's control. The slightest incident turns into a riot. The other day, at a market near here, the police arrested a street trader over something or other. It was just a minor offence, and a rumour started that he'd been assaulted in custody. About five thousand people turned up outside the police station and they just wrecked the place and burned two police cars. People are very sceptical about the new budget. They say the subsidies on rice, fuel and medicine won't go far to ease the deepening decline into real poverty.

And then there's Habibie's plan for the village-based People's Security militia. They've set aside $65 million for this creature. No doubt all sides of politics will try to get their people into it. It's the number one rule of revolutionary situations: when the government starts to hand out guns, line up to get yours. This isn't going to be a great year for tourism.

Yours a long way from home,

Back to Operation Gareth, the beginning

To Operation Gareth, the final part