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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Next assignment: the invasion of Indonesia
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition

23 August 2007

Don’t imagine for a second that the election of a Democrat to the US presidency would signal a less bellicose America – advisers to presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton say the difference would just be a matter of “style” and they’re spinning the need for more Australian “engagement” in American adventures abroad.

In a bizarre take on Australia’s role under Bush, Obama advisor Dr Susan Rice told the Sydney Morning Herald: “Howard and Blair were enablers of the Iraq war but they were pursuing an alliance with the US, It would not be in the US interest to tar and feather allies over what has to be considered water under the bridge”.

Let’s see if I’ve got that right: Australia was wrong to encourage America’s Iraq adventure but a future Democrat administration wouldn’t hold it against us. Well that’s mighty big of Dr Susan, and just to show there are no hard feelings she’d like us to send more troops. Funny, I seem to remember the Democrats being almost as gung-ho about the war as Bush himself, but I must be mistaken.

So how much “engagement” do we have, right now? Well, to be fair to John Howard – one of the most successful fakers in Western politics – about as little as we can get away with and still strike a ridiculous pose as a staunch American ally. Now, the advisors to the Democratic hopefuls are foreshadowing pressure for an Australian commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan that goes way beyond our current token effort.

That Australia’s real commitment to Iraq is risibly tiny hasn’t escaped the notice of Barack Obama. In February this year, John Howard criticised him for being a defeatist: “If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats”, Howard told Channel Nine’s Sunday program.

Obama shot back: “... we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr. Howard has deployed 1400, so if he is ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq ... Otherwise it’s just a bunch of empty rhetoric.”

Obama was right of course, although his maths were a bit out. Actually, the Australian ground troop commitment to Iraq is way less than 1,000 (hidden away in the safest places Howard could find) and a per-capita Australian commitment equivalent to the US effort would be 10,000 troops not 20,000, but Obama’s basic point is correct.

Most people thought that the presidential hopeful’s response indicated a firm anti-war position (Howard’s reference to March 8, 2008 was to bring-the-troops-home legislation Obama introduced into the US Senate) but they were being hopelessly naïve. Like all politicians, Obama has found it easy and profitable to posture while in opposition. To see where he or Clinton would really stand if they were elected, and what it means for Australia, we should look to the spin their advisors are putting on the war and future adventures elsewhere.

The very scary Michele Flournoy, Clinton advisor and president of a Washington think-tank called the Centre for a New American Security – the name sounds, to this possum, a lot like the neoconservatives’ ‘Project for a New American Century’ – indicates that a Democratic administration would expect to be in Iraq for two or three years, while supposedly decreasing US troop levels to 40, 000 to 60,000 ground troops and they’d want a braver commitment from Australia. Where have we heard that line about “drawing down” US troop levels in a few months time? From Bush of course. He’s been spinning that yarn for four years and troop numbers have increased. If they gain office, we can confidently expect that either Clinton or Obama would rapidly adopt pretty much the Bush stance since the alternative promises a catastrophic collapse of imperial prestige and influence.

But perhaps the most alarming proposal relates to a future Australian role closer to home.

Flournoy says that under a Democratic presidency we won’t just be expected to pull our weight in Iraq. According to the Sydney Morning Herald she sees Indonesia as a “vital bulwalk against Islamic extremism. And she raises the prospect that increased American engagement in Indonesia could be conducted through Australia: ‘It may be much more effective for the US to support Australia to take the lead in capacity-building there, whether it’s sending aid workers or troops’.”

So there you have it. Influential pro-Democrat foreign affairs think-tank advocates despatching Australian troops to Indonesia to fight “Islamic extremists”.

One wonders what the Indonesian Government might think about that prospect, considering that Islamic extremists don’t actually run the shop there, have little chance of doing so, and the place is actually a bourgeois democracy of sorts, but I suppose that matters little to Washington think-tankers, because Indonesia has oil.

Ms Flournoy’s remarks won’t have gone unnoticed in Jakarta and they’ll be remembering the late Saddam Hussein. He headed up a secular authoritarian government that was actually making a pretty good fist of holding together and running a very difficult country, and he had no links with Islamic extremists and no weapons of mass destruction. He’s dead now, and in pursuit of oil the Yanks killed him and a million of his citizens, drove three million into exile, smashed his infrastructure and reduced his country to a smoking radioactive ruin.


Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope

24 February 2005
John Howard’s decision to double Australia’s ground troop commitment in Iraq was inevitable. The prime minister put off the inevitable for as long as he could, but Australia’s slavish adherence to the American alliance left him no option but to dispatch more troops to George Bush's mad neo-colonial adventure. His justification of the decision as necessary to stop the Coalition crumbling put a desperate spin on the situation that’s at odds with Washington’s upbeat line on post-election Iraq.

It also signaled that the 450 extra Australian troops will not be the last.