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


The fantasy and the shadows

In the end, Tommy organised to fly me in a Cessna from Indonesia to a remote emergency airstrip in North Queensland. We landed a couple of hours before dawn. I shook hands with the pilot and scuttled into the scrub. The little plane swung around and I watched it roar down the airstrip, trailing a cloud of dust, and lift off into the darkness.

At first light I walked out to the main road and hitched a lift with a semi-trailer heading for Townsville. It took me three days to get down to Myall Lakes. When I arrived I came in through Seal Rocks, and walked the long, hot, fire trail south. There was no sense coming in from Buladelah. The Bombah Point ferry was a real trap. If Roger's people were waiting, they'd be watching it for sure.

When I got to our old camping spot by the lake it was 5:30 and the sun slanted down out of a limpid blue sky. I approached through the shadowy undergrowth moving a few metres at a time, stopping to watch and listen.

Then I saw Jo's ancient faded car tent and folding chairs and a rented 4WD, but there was no sign of life. I stayed hidden and whistled our old recognition call. Jo, then Old Possum emerged from the tent. I stood up and walked towards them. Jo and I crashed into each other's arms. Old Possum chuckled and slapped me on the back.

"Listen carefully Possum, and do what I say", Jo hissed in my ear. "We're being watched, but it'll be OK. Now sit down".

I slid off my pack and slumped into a chair. Jo went back into the tent and came out with some cold ciders. She twisted the top off one and handed it to me.

"We spotted Roger while we were birdwatching. He's hiding in the bracken up behind us. He's ..."

"Stand up, hands up, turn around very slowly."

We did as we were told. It was Roger, dressed in rumpled camouflage and waving a pump-action shotgun. He was wild-eyed with fatigue, or maybe amphetamines. "Where's Dalang, where's the money?" he demanded.

"You mean the Indonesian general? fabled mastermind of the Dili massacre? said to be Soeharto's friend? -- officially dead", I said. "Rumour has it he was killed in a melee with a bunch of Ninjas. Dunno anything about money. Ask me about Shane and Nathan".

"Never heard of them", he said.

Just then a National Parks ranger and a couple of cops appeared from the old car tent.

"Put the gun down slowly and step back, buddy", one of the cops said. Roger did as he was told. They arrested him for being in possession of an illegal unlicenced firearm in a national park.

The coppers radioed for the back-up vehicle. Roger gibbering wildly about "billions of dollars", "secret DFA operation" and "top-level security clearance". He was demanding to be put in touch with the foreign minister as they bundled him into the back of the paddywagon.

"Thanks for the tip-off, Jo", the ranger said. "I'll drop in next time I'm down in Sydney. This bloke obviously lives in some kind of weird political fantasy".

"Would you like us to press charges for attempting to 'take or kill' wildlife?", she asked me.

"Aw, don't bother", I said, "My status as wildlife is a bit of a grey area. It'd only complicate things in court".

• • •

"So what will happen to Roger now?" Old Possum asked, as we sat under the paperbarks by the edge of the water, watching the sun setting over the hills. The sound of mullet jumping drifted across the glassy-calm surface of the lake.

"Nothing much", Jo said. "They'll say he cracked up. He probably did, anyway, when Shane didn't report back to him. If it ever gets to court he'll get lots of character references, and they have a special program for disoriented Foreign Affairs officials -- they recycle them through the Indonesia-Australia Institute".

"And General Dalang?"

"The puppet master -- buggered if I know", I said, "Tommy's mob were underground left-wing nationalists of some sort. Maybe they'll turn him over to the official inquiry. Maybe they'll tap into the Soeharto's billions themselves. Maybe they'll kill him."

"The ultimate puppeteer is the world capitalist economy itself", Old Possum said reflectively, "It controls all of us -- Soeharto, Keating, Downer, the little Indonesian farmer, the mightly oil industry executive, Clinton, Yeltsin, John Howard, the economists at the merchant bank, the bloke working on the line at GMH. It pushes us this way and that, we play out our role and cast a shadow on the screen. And all the while we watch the shadows, simultaneously, from the other side of the screen -- that's the media -- and we call it Politics, and pretend we're in control ... but it's all a fantasy".

A water rat emerged from its burrow beneath the paperbark roots and slid into the warm shallow water. The rim of the sun passed beneath the hills. The pink lining faded from the clouds and the long shadows merged into the gloom.


Back to Operation Gareth (the beginning)

Back to Operation Gareth, part 2