Saddam’s will to power

John Wojdylo’s piece, Saddam and the heart of darkness, mounted a powerful case for taking Saddam out. Iraqi Australian Zainab Al-Badry took issue with John in Thank God for Australia because…, and today John responds.

Zainab Al-Badry

Disclosure: I am an Iraqi who doesn’t support a US attack.

I just finished reading John Wojdylo’s article about Iraq and have to write in response:

* The mentality of George Bush is taking over – you are either with us or against us. Why do people assume that not supporting the US plans to attack Iraq means automatically that we favour the alternative, ie Saddam’s regime?

* In talking about the Iraq-Iran war, John conveniently forgot to mention who encouraged and supported Saddam to start and continue the war. It is a well known fact that the American administration, specifically the Republican government at the time, (along with the its allies) helped and supplied Saddam for fear of the growing power of the Islamic regime in Iran.

* George Bush said “the US is committed to lasting institutions like the UN”. If that is the case, why doesn’t the US start by paying off its debt to the UN??? Why doesn’t the US administration consider the consequences of threatening and bullying the UN to do whatever the US dictates or else?? What does that do the credibility of the UN?

* If the US attacked Iraq to change the regime and the war proved to be a longer one than it was predicted or planned for, who would guarantee that the US will not use nuclear weapons to end the war as it did at the end of WWII?

* Like any Iraqi, nothing is dearer to my heart than to live long enough to witness the day my country and my people are set free from this dictator and his regime. However, can anyone blame us if we do not trust the US and back its efforts to oust Saddam? I have been in Iraq during the Gulf war and witnessed how the American troops abandoned my people and left them to the mercies of Saddam and his thugs. Why would I trust the US again? I have no doubt now that the US wants to get rid of Saddam – what I don’t accept (and indeed I find it insulting to my intelligence) is someone telling me (or the whole world for that matter) that the US is doing so for all the good reasons in the world, or that oil is a “secondary factor”. Would the US or any of its allies send their armies and incur all those heavy expenses if Iraq didn’t happen to float on oil?


Saddam Hussein’s Will to Power

By John Wojdylo

In Thank God for Australia because… Zainab Al-Badry makes some important points that I’d like to address.

Zainab writes, “Like any Iraqi, nothing is dearer to my heart than to live long enough to witness the day my country and my people are set free from this dictator and his regime.”

Let us all pray for this. And let us also pray that after this tyrant is gone, Iraqis will have the opportunity and ability to build a stable society with solid democratic institutions.

But while on the subject of a democratic Iraq, I believe caution is in order with the widely prevalent empiricist view (not that Zainab holds it) that a democratic Iraq will begin to exist only when the political entity begins to exist. Democratic Iraq has already begun to exist, in a preborn form, insofar that it exists in the hearts and minds of her expatriates, her numerous emigres and defectors, as well as citizens at home. This means that the strength of the future political entity depends on the strength of the democratic dream being dreamt now.

Conversely, flaws in the present dream will be born as flaws in the future political entity; or worse, may prevent the future entity from being born at all. Is now the time to give democracy a chance? Is now the time to take the risk?

Furthermore, a world view that is informed in every aspect by aversion from risk – whose conclusions and analytical ground are driven by risk-aversion at all cost – can only delegate full responsibility for creating the physical preconditions for a democratic Iraq to others who wield power.

In that case you will almost certainly have no influence on the outcome. Those who take the risk, in contrast, might gain influence – but that is not certain. Hence the risk.

Zainab continues: I have no doubt now that the US wants to get rid of Saddam – what I don’t accept (and indeed I find it insulting to my intelligence) is someone telling me (or the whole world for that matter) that the US is doing so for all the good reasons in the world, or that oil is a “secondary factor”.

Nobody is trying to insult anybody. And I did not say that all the reasons of all American stakeholders in the action are snow-white pure.

(But purity of intention and principle seems to be wished by many. The illusion of purity comes from naivety, or perhaps a religion of purity in which everybody is innocent except the ones who show open belligerence. It ends up being an aesthetic view, in that belligerence is judged to be wrong just because it is ugly, regardless of the good it can do.

The cause and symptom of this is failure to tell – and face – the dreadful truth: this failure pervades many of the news reports and much of the commentary we read, and reinforces the blue-sky world that many want to exist.

This affects perception and cognition of the contemporary world situation – and hence affects the conclusions that people reach. For example, if one is led to believe in the purity of motives of UN Security Council members – where “principle overrides politics” [The Australian, 16/9] – then when the Yanks go charging in on the white horse, no wonder they seem to be smashing all the decent mores of international law single-handedly.

Yet the Russians and French are almost certainly acting out of economic self-interest, if not also political, strategic interest. The Chinese themselves are sensitive to Arab ties, which makes one suspect that their motives are not principled either. (A couple of weeks ago, an exhibition in Beijing marking the anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birth was banned by the communist authorities because it featured a letter written by Einstein in which he declared his support for a Zionist state.)

The reality is that nations almost never act out of purely altruistic motives. Nor should they necessarily. International law is not as well-defined as national law in advanced democracies. Nevertheless, it can and ought to be an essential normative influence in a chaotic world.

I think the Americans have a case when they worry that the moral basis of international law has been undermined in recent times. The US has been outmanoeuvred in the Security Council on the question of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, with Saddam Hussein pulling the strings.

I did say that the most important and overwhelming reason for American action may well be good. In this case, oil is a “secondary factor”, in the sense that action is not out of pure economic self-interest. This difference is of fundamental importance – since otherwise, for instance, stopping Hitler (after which the Americans gained great influence in the world) could be regarded as a premeditated act of American imperialism.

Why was stopping Hitler not an act of American imperialism? Why is stopping Saddam also not American imperialism, if Saddam is as dangerous as he appears to be?

I believe the answers to these questions are pivotal in a moral understanding of the current situation: in trying to answer them, you can discover a lot about what you think is right. Also, it becomes easier to see why many accounts of current events are poor.

In the cases I have in mind, the facts the journalists see as worth reporting are not as important as the facts they leave out; therefore their accounts, although providing some factual basis, do not touch on the most urgent concerns of our time. Worse, they allow the reader to avoid the reality facing us, while diminishing our understanding of the danger. Some of these journalists create the appearance of believing in a sort of absolute objectivity.

For example, Paul McGeough wants to write a historical chronicle in the mould of Herodotus: an amoral account that ostensibly exposes the self-interest of the players. But in his interpretations, their self-interest has become axiomatic, to the point that he is incapable of distinguishing between self-interest and a wider good, even if it did exist. He rules it out in advance. He is not objective. (Paul McGeough on the oil factor is atsmh).

He fails to see the contradiction in his position: the fact that he is able to write openly about current events at all depends on the free world having imposed its will in the last half century. But he writes as if all impositions of will are merely acts in self-interest.

But things could have turned out differently. Keeping to the Herodotus theme, and drawing on a rather long illustrative bow, had the Assyrians conquered the Lydians, the Greek cities would have fallen to the Cimmerians, and Herodotus would have been writing not about history, but about training horses. [Barbara Porter, “What If? Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been”, Pan Books.]

McGeough then might have been covering intrigue at the races at some Babylonian race meet, where he would be beheaded if he wrote anything the dictatorial ruler arbitrarily disliked.

We take our freedoms for granted, but these had to be won by our forefathers (and mothers). The free world must retain power if it is to enforce its views of justice, human rights and law. Power comes first, law later. McGeough appears to take as axiomatic that power equals self-interest. The poverty of this view is evident in all his articles.

The problem is, we are being denied a picture – certainly, one picture from a plurality – that may in fact turn out to be the right one. If it is proved right, then we may now be making a terrible mistake in downplaying Saddam Hussein’s threat. It may be the last major historical mistake we make.


In my Webdiary piece Saddam Hussein and the Heart of Darkness, I mentioned oil. I’ll now clarify its role.

Oil is inextricably bound in the problem: it is unavoidable to think of oil when thinking about Saddam Hussein and American strategy against him.

But the meaning one attaches to oil as an American motive depends on only one thing. What do you believe Saddam Hussein’s ambitions are? And how close is he to realizing them?

We must think of oil not just because of the Americans, but because oil can become Saddam’s weapon once he gains a nuclear device which he can then use to threaten the countries around him and impose his will. This can be within 18 months if he is supplied with weapons-grade fissile material today. In the mafia economies of Eastern Europe, how long will it be before some muttra or politician chooses instant wealth over the lives of millions?

Oil is undoubtedly important. If Hitler had held off invading the Soviet Union in 1941 and instead massively reinforced Rommel’s troops in North Africa, then he could have captured the oil fields in the Middle East. More important than being “good for business”, it would have won him the war.

I repeat: it would have been more than “good for business”.

Hitler would have gained political control over much of the world, and probably even conquered a lot more of it. The Holocaust would have been extended to Australia.

Many historians consider Hitler’s choice in 1941 one of his greatest blunders. What if Saddam Hussein has learned from Hitler’s mistake?

So I ask you: What do you believe Saddam Hussein’s ambitions are? And if you think that they are not much, how do you account for the consistent signals to the contrary manifested over more than a decade?

What do you think he intends with his explicit pan-Arab supremacism; with his indominatable manifest efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction; and statements like the ones he made in 1996 at a meeting of military officers, as told to Mark Bowden by Major Sabah Khalifa Khodada, former career officer in the Iraqi army:

He told Khodada and the others that they were the best men in the nation, the most trusted and able. That was why they had been selected to meet with him, and to work at the terrorist camps where warriors were being trained to strike back at America. The United States, he said, because of its reckless treatment of Arab nations and the Arab people, was a necessary target for revenge and destruction. American aggression must be stopped in order for Iraq to rebuild and to resume leadership of the Arab world. Saddam talked for almost two hours. Khodada could sense the great hatred in him, the anger over what America had done to his ambitions and to Iraq. Saddam blamed the United States for all the poverty, backwardness, and suffering in his country. [Mark Bowden, “Tales of the Tyrant”, Atlantic Monthly, iraqwatch]

Four weeks ago Saddam threatened a sovereign nation (Qatar) with “total annihilation”. Why do commentators like Paul McGeough not address Saddam’s explicitly stated ambition and his manifest intention to fulfil it, and instead write conspiracy theories about American motives, or banalities about Toyota truck mechanics in Baghdad?

It is known that Saddam Hussein has an advanced design for a nuclear device that will work if he can only find weapons-grade fissile material – does he have the material already, or are the WMD he now has enough to carry out his threat against Qatar? Why has nobody even asked this question in the Australian media? Why is contemplation of the reality not penetrating through to the Australian public? Why are we losing ourselves and pushing away all cares under the brilliant blue skies of spring? Are we making a terrible mistake?

Or perhaps Saddam’s threat was just an empty boast? But then: On what grounds do you, Zainab, dismiss Saddam as harmless, especially as you know very well how dangerous he can be? As you said, you have seen it with your own eyes.

If you have confidence that Saddam Hussein is not as dangerous as he says he is, why not apply the same level of confidence to the Americans? Alternatively, why does Saddam Hussein not enter your thinking? Why the obsession with America?

Zainab Al-Badry“I… witnessed how the American troops abandoned my people and left them to the mercies of Saddam and his thugs.”

I’ll come back to this later.

Saddam told his official biographer that he isn’t interested in what people think of him today, only in what they will think of him in five hundred years. On what grounds do we discount his manifest intention to unify the “Arab people”, inspire a flowering of Arab culture and power – and to seek revenge on the United States for causing “all the poverty, backwardness, and suffering” in his country?

Does he intend to extend his terror to the entire Middle East and Caspian Sea area? As I argued previously, I think not – I think he wants to facilitate the fall of the West and be remembered for 500 years because of it.

He said this explicitly in 1996, at the meeting of military officers that included Major Sabah Khalifa Khodada. (See the quote above.) On what grounds do journalists dismiss out of hand his repeated statement of his intention?

At 66 years of age, he knows he is too old to reign over an empire. And he knows he must act soon. His regime would not survive his death – but then how do you feel about Islamists gaining control of Middle East and Caspian Sea oil?

I think there’s good ground to believe that Saddam Hussein presents an urgent and substantial threat to Americans, as well as to the rest of the free world. That’s why even if the Americans benefit from control over oil, this fact is of secondary importance. The most important thing is that Saddam Hussein is stopped from fulfilling his ambition. Just as Hitler was stopped from fulfilling his.

Paul McGeough was therefore wrong when he wrote:

For now, the urge to give history a label even as it is happening has forced many to embrace Bush’s name for this global upheaval – the war on terror. History, however, may well record it as the first oil war of the 21st century.

It is not a war over oil: it is a war for freedom. Just as the muppets say it is.

On the other hand, perhaps McGeough doesn’t believe that Saddam is much of a threat. But he has never explained why. And his work is clearly not objective, because it excludes outright the possibility that Saddam means what he says.

Zainab Al-Badry asks: “Would the US or any of its allies send their armies and incur all those heavy expenses if Iraq didn’t happen to float on oil?”

They did in Normandy. They did in Korea and Vietnam. And to a lesser extent in Kosovo. The Americans, on occasions, really do seem to be possessed by this dream of a “free world”. Can such a dream only ever be an illusion, and must all efforts to achieve it necessarily amount to self-interest?

As I said, it is unavoidable to think of oil when thinking about Saddam Hussein and American strategy against him, because oil can become part of Saddam’s strategy to achieve his ambitions.

(It already has become part of his strategy. The advantage he has gained in courting France and Russia, and getting them even more deeply involved in oil in Iraq, is that he now has the automatic support of two members in the UN Security Council.

Paul McGeough: In a telephone interview from Amherst, Michael Klare observed that… Saddam had selected companies from the nations that were most likely to blunt any US designs on Iraq: “His hope was to persuade them not to act against Iraq and this now has become a part of the diplomacy at the United Nations…”)

But as I said, the meaning one attaches to oil as an American motive depends fundamentally on only one thing: What do you believe Saddam Hussein’s ambitions are? How close is he to realizing them?

This is the starting point for evaluating American or anyone else’s actions on the question of Iraq.

On the other hand, on what grounds do you discount the threat of Saddam Hussein? Why does he not enter your thinking about the dreadful situation we are in now? Why do you believe Saddam’s will cannot have consequences for you, even if you live in Australia? What is the basis of your certainty?

I believe that we have been forced into a dreadful choice by the destructive will of Saddam. His destructive will exists, we just have to deal with it.

Zainab Al-Badry writes: “I… witnessed how the American troops abandoned my people and left them to the mercies of Saddam and his thugs. Why would I trust the US again?”

I’ve met people who fought in the Warsaw Uprising, where the Polish Home Army was eventually crushed while Stalin’s troops waited a few kilometres away in the outer suburbs. After the war, Stalin had many of the surviving hero officers shot, because they were among the cream of Polish society and could have posed a threat to Soviet rule.

Why might Bush Snr’s betrayal in 1991 not be equivalent to Stalin’s betrayal in 1944?

One reason: what if Saddam Hussein had carried out his threat to use biological weapons in the event that Coalition forces entered Baghdad? He had certainly brought a significant part of his stockpiles in around Baghdad. What if Coalition forces entering Baghdad would have meant the death of countless civilians?

Perhaps Saddam’s threat of germ warfare was taken seriously, and the potential catastrophe of mass civilian casualties was enough to persuade Coalition leaders to back off and give the tyrant a chance to prove his virtue by conforming to international law.

The point is, the Americans may have had good reason – or, at least, may have made a difficult choice – for the tragic betrayal of the Iraqi and Kurd insurrectionists, who had bravely taken control of 14 out of 18 provinces.

Coalition leaders may have believed that the rule of international law was strong enough to allow the civilians of Baghdad to be spared while neutralizing the tyrant’s threat in the long term through diplomacy and inspections. This optimism would have been particularly strong after Bush Snr’s bombastic and far-fetched pronouncement that victory in the Gulf War was the beginning of a “new world order”.

In the decade since, instead of proving his virtue, Saddam has brazenly outmanoevred all organs of international law and continued on the path towards fulfilling his ambition. The skill and effectiveness of his manoevring becomes absolutely clear when his international dealings are collected together and placed in sequence. (I recommend the paper, Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and the 1997 Gulf Crisis, Middle East Review of International Affairs, meria)

Why should the US be trusted this time to do the job properly and get rid of him? Each Iraqi must answer this question for themselves. You are the ones who have most at stake in supporting a possible liberation of your country. It’s your risk: You must make the choice alone.

Why might anyone have confidence that the Americans are more committed this time? For one, the US military appears to be planning an invasion of Iraq by one hundred thousand or more American soldiers – this time, the US is staking the lives of many more of its sons and daughters on regime change.

The immense stake the Americans are laying down this time seems to me to signal a far greater commitment than in 1991; a commitment, for one, to seeing a stable government in Iraq following Saddam’s removal.

At least the noises coming from Washington sound promising:

Mr Powell tried to assure Congress and US allies that Washington would not allow Iraq “to be broken up into three pieces”.

He also warned Congress it would be costly. “It will take a strong American presence,” he said, both military and political. “We recognise we are on the cusp of a very, very demanding and long-term commitment if we have to go down this road.”

But, reflecting the President’s optimism, he added that there was also the opportunity to create a government “that could be a model for other nations in the region”. [SMH 27/9]

The optimistic noises ought not lull anybody into a sense of security. The future is never certain. We do not know whether the Iraqi officers who will be ordered by Saddam Hussein to fire their germ weapons will ignore him; we do not know if Israel will respond with nuclear weapons; we do not know if Arab and Muslim states will rise up against their governments after Arabs are killed by nuclear weapons.

We do not know if Saddam Hussein will win in the end anyway, by provoking a national “suicide” (in fact it would be murder-suicide) and thereby rousing the Arab and Muslim masses in the Islamic belt around the equator, in a wave that would overthrow their authoritarian rulers.

But the question you must answer is: Are the risks – for democratic Iraq, for the region, and for the free world – of not acting greater?

And the choice for everybody – Iraqi, Kurd and outsider alike – is: Are we morally bound not to take the risk in stopping him now? Must we wait for Saddam Hussein to achieve his ambition? This would give him the power to threaten us with unleashing the Holocaust unless we submit to his will.

(Or, we may reject the concept of alternative altogether, and hope that Saddam is amassing WMD merely for his private collection.)

Saddam Hussein’s will for destruction has forced us into a horrific dilemma. If we don’t act soon, when we are relatively powerful, we may be condemning free civilization to oblivion. But if we act now, many, many people may die.

Absolute compassion – whereby any form of killing is forbidden – backs us into a corner. Absolute respect for human life means we must submit to Saddam Hussein’s will, whatever the cost.

Many of the antiwar voices we are hearing are in fact people yearning for an absolute. They elide at all costs the horror of the choice. In fact, the horror of responsibility, of having killed.

There are always risks for the Iraqi who decides to trust the Americans this time. The post-war situation may turn out to be too hard for the Americans, who may then settle for a strongman-led puppet government.

But there are always risks when trusting anybody. The Iraqi opposition is too weak to effect change by itself: it must rely on somebody, and the Americans appear to be the best bet.

In every scenario, even the seemingly most straight-forward case, Iraqi pro-democracy forces must battle for a just, democratic Iraq.

Each individual Iraqi must make the choice for themselves. It’s not for me to say.

Zainab Al-Badry: Why do people assume that not supporting the US plans to attack Iraq means automatically that we favour the alternative, ie Saddam’s regime?

I did not say this. The choice is between acting or not acting, not between being for or against Saddam. “Not acting” does not mean you support Saddam. It means that you do not want to be part of this attempt to get rid of him by force, for whatever reason.

Ultimately it also means you are ready to submit to his will, whatever the cost. It doesn’t mean you are for him – but it may mean you will be forced to collaborate with him. See the example of Tariq Aziz below.

Finally, Zainab Al-Badry writes: In talking about the Iraq-Iran war, John conveniently forgot to mention who encouraged and supported Saddam to start and continue the war. It is a well known fact that the American administration, specifically the Republican government at the time, (along with the its allies) helped and supplied Saddam for fear of the growing power of the Islamic regime in Iran.

Zainab is probably too young to have witnessed or to remember the circumstances surrounding that war. So I begin by quoting from the The New York Times (“He’s too unreasonable for deterrence”, Kenneth Pollack, 28/9):

In 1974, for example, he attacked the Kurds even though Iran had been arming and supporting them (with American and Israeli support). He believed, for reasons unknown, that Iran would do nothing to help its proxies. The shah responded decisively, sending troops into Iraqi Kurdistan, mobilizing his army and provoking clashes along the border. To stave off an Iranian invasion that he feared would end his regime, Saddam signed the humiliating Algiers accord, which gave Iran everything it wanted from Iraq, including contested territory.


The contested territory, whose loss was so humiliating for Saddam, was the Shatt-al-Arab, a sixty-mile strait formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as they flow into the Persian Gulf [Mark Bowden]. He was obsessed with it, then in 1980 Saddam attacked Iran under the misguided assumption that the new Islamic Republic was so unpopular that it would collapse after one good shove. He embroiled Iraq in a war that nearly destroyed his own regime. [Kenneth Pollack]

The Shatt-al-Arab was at the forefront of his mind when he attacked Iran. In fact, the Shatt-al-Arab was so important to him that despite the terrible consequences of that war, he believed he had won a great victory by reclaiming it:

It ended horrifically, eight years later, with hundreds of thousands of Iranians and Iraqis dead. To a visitor in Baghdad the year after the war ended, it seemed that every other man on the street was missing a limb. The country had been devastated. The war had cost Iraq billions. Saddam claimed to have regained control of the Shatt-al-Arab. Despite the huge losses, he was giddy with victory. [Mark Bowden, “Tales of the Tyrant”]

Finally, I cannot believe, as Zainab Al-Badry claims, that Saddam Hussein needed any encouragement from the Americans to start and continue the war; or that such encouragement influenced him even if they did give it. As amply demonstrated on many occasions, he has a mind and a will of his own.

It is wrong and a falsification to claim – as Paul McGeough and many others repeatedly do – that Saddam was a pliant servant of the Americans so it is they who are therefore to blame for his actions. By denying that Saddam has a mind of his own, it is much easier to avoid facing the reality of the threat that Saddam Hussein poses to the free world today.

The irrelevence of the Americans in Saddam’s planning for war against Iran is clearly demonstrated in the recollections of Salah Omar al-Ali, former Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, of a conference of unaligned nations in Cuba, September 1979.

“Well, Salah, I see you are thinking of something,” Saddam said. “What are you thinking about?”

“I am thinking about the meeting we just had, Mr. President. I am very happy. I’m very happy that these small problems will be solved. I’m so happy that they took advantage of this chance to meet with you and not one of your ministers, because with you being here we can avoid another problem with them. We are neighbors. We are poor people. We don’t need another war. We need to rebuild our countries, not tear them down.”

Saddam was silent for a moment, drawing thoughtfully on his cigar. “Salah, how long have you been a diplomat now?” he asked.

“About ten years.”

“Do you realize, Salah, how much you have changed?”

“How, Mr. President?”

“How should we solve our problems with Iran? Iran took our lands. They are controlling the Shatt-al-Arab, our big river. How can meetings and discussions solve a problem like this? Do you know why they decided to meet with us here, Salah? They are weak is why they are talking with us. If they were strong there would be no need to talk. So this gives us an opportunity, an opportunity that only comes along once in a century. We have an opportunity here to recapture our territories and regain control of our river.”

That was when al-Ali realized that Saddam had just been playing with the Iranians, and that Iraq was going to go to war. Saddam had no interest in diplomacy. To him, statecraft was just a game whose object was to outmaneuver one’s enemies. Someone like al-Ali was there to maintain a pretense, to help size up the situation, to look for openings, and to lull foes into a false sense of security. Within a year the Iran-Iraq war began. [Mark Bowden, “Tales of the Tyrant”]

Tariq Aziz, smiling and amiable, is nowadays doing excellently as a replacement al-Ali. He is a weak man who has chosen submission to Saddam’s will, despite the tragic personal cost to him:

I suppose I can just about bear to watch the “inspections” pantomime a second time. But what I cannot bear is the sight of French and Russian diplomats posing and smirking with Naji Sabry, Iraq’s foreign minister, or with Tariq Aziz. I used to know Naji and I know that two of his brothers, Mohammed and Shukri, were imprisoned and tortured by Saddam Hussein – in Mohammed’s case, tortured to death. The son of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was sentenced to twenty-two years of imprisonment last year; he has since been released and rearrested and released again, partly no doubt to show who is in charge. Another former friend of mine, Mazen Zahawi, was Saddam Hussein’s interpreter until shortly after the Gulf War, when he was foully murdered and then denounced as a homosexual. I have known many regimes where stories of murder and disappearance are the common talk among the opposition; the Iraqi despotism is salient in that such horrors are also routine among its functionaries. Saddam Hussein likes to use as envoys the men he has morally destroyed; men who are sick with fear and humiliation, and whose families are hostages. (Christopher Hitchens)

I hope I’ve given a satisfactory answer to Zainab Al-Badry.

To summarize my general position:

Saddam Hussein plays to win. He has manipulated and deceived the United Nations for the last decade, splitting it so that it cannot hinder his ambition. He has repeatedly stated that he intends to revenge himself against the US and Israel, and facilitate the creation of a pan-Arab state that will be the premier power the world. He already manifestly has biological and chemical weapons, and is very close to obtaining a nuclear weapon, if he hasn’t got one already. These weapons are very easy to hide, especially in a country as vast as Iraq; and we know enough about Saddam to foresee that this is what he will do if UN weapons inspectors return. (The citations supporting this are in Saddam Hussein and the Heart of Darkness.)

The mistake we’re making is the typical empiricist flaw: we believe that if we cannot see a smoking gun, then it cannot exist. We have lost the ability to imagine people’s true appearance – what another person actually looks like through the outlines they leave behind. (Not merely conjuring their surface appearance, which is the surface they want us to see.)

Under the brilliant blue spring sky, we are not even interested in recording the outlines. Thus we place ourselves at the mercy of one who might be willing our destruction.

Saddam Hussein’s will for destruction has forced us into a horrific moral dilemma.

If we don’t act soon, when we are relatively powerful, we may be condemning free civilization to oblivion. But if we act now, many, many people may die.

Do we resist assimilating evidence against Saddam Hussein, and deny that he intends to establish a pan-Arab nuclear dominion in the Middle East while exacting “revenge” against the US and Israel, because we want to avoid the horror of the choice and responsibility that would entail?

And if you think that Saddam’s stated ambition does not amount to much of a threat, please account for the consistent and dense matrix of signs over the last six years that clearly outline his intention to fulfil that ambition.

Do not trust any journalist or commentator who does not take such an account seriously.

* * *


The news article appeared about 1.30pm Saturday in Der Spiegel. Four hours later, it appeared in the BBC News website. Twenty hours after Der Spiegel, the story hit Australia and appeared on the ABC website. Both the Australian and the Herald are carrying it in their Monday editions, while at the ABC it didn’t make it to a “top story”.

According to the Anatolia news agency, Turkish authorities had arrested two men who were transporting 15.7kg of weapons-grade uranium in a lead canister under the seat of a taxi. They were stopped near the Syrian border, 250km from Iraq. The uranium was thought to originate from an ex-Soviet bloc country.

I had just finished writing the following paragraph:

We must think of oil not just because of the Americans, but because oil can become Saddam’s weapon once he gains a nuclear device which he can then use to threaten the countries around him and impose his will. This can be within 18 months if he is supplied with weapons-grade fissile material today. In the mafia economies of Eastern Europe, how long will it be before some muttra or politician chooses instant wealth over the lives of millions?

An objective news organisation – one which has not ruled out in advance the possibility that indications suggesting Saddam is attempting to fulfil his ambition, as described above – would have recognised the significance of this story immediately, and given it serious billing, regardless of the fact that it came from the Turkish news agency.

It is a frightening story. But if you do not understand the background, if you have not made it a point to understand Saddam Hussein’s point of view, then it sounds like just another smuggling bust.

15kg is the text-book figure for the approximate amount of weapons-grade uranium required to make a single atomic bomb, particularly with the advanced design the Iraqis have. (The Australian, in “Uranium Raises Saddam Link” (30/9), quotes the wrong figure: “The atomic bomb used on Hiroshima in 1945 contained about 25kg of weapons-grade uranium.” They should have checked a physics book, not a history book. And they should have been up to date with Iraqi atomic bomb design.)

Two paragraphs in Kenneth Pollack’s New York Times article, “He’s too unreasonable for deterrence” (28/9), stand out:

“In August 1990, after he realized that America might challenge the invasion of Kuwait, he ordered a crash program to build one nuclear weapon, which came close to succeeding. (It failed only because the Iraqis could not enrich enough uranium in time.) His former chief bomb-maker has said that Saddam intended to launch the bomb as a revenge weapon at Tel Aviv if his regime were collapsing.

Iraqi defectors and other sources report that Saddam told aides after the war that his greatest mistake was to invade Kuwait before he had a nuclear weapon, because then America would never have dared to oppose him…”

Has Tel Aviv been saved because of the actions of a few alert Turkish security personnel?

But wait! Just as knowledge causes us to take fright, scientific knowlege, in this case, also allows us to relax for a while. For there’s no way any dealer would have risked seeing $10 million vaporized in an instant by packing a critical mass of enriched uranium in such a small space. The standard practice is to break it up into distinct lumps and to keep these far apart.

Either the figure of 15.7kg is wrong, or the uranium is not weapons-grade.

But the angst felt at the initial reading of the likely false news provided the spur to read Kenneth Pollack’s article more closely, and to understand Saddam Hussein a little better. So here’s the article, originally in theNew York Times.

* * *

He’s too unreasonable for deterrence

By Kenneth M. Pollack, Saturday, September 28, 2002

Saddam the miscalculator

The writer, a former CIA analyst of the Iraqi military, is director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and author of “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.”

WASHINGTON: Some have suggested relying on deterrence to deal with Saddam Hussein. They admit that the containment regime which constrained Iraq during the 1990s has frayed beyond repair, but they argue that Saddam can be kept in check by American threats to respond to any new Iraqi aggression with force – including nuclear bombardment, if necessary.

Certainly deterrence is a seemingly reasonable alternative to war; after all, it worked with the Soviet Union for 45 years. Unfortunately, those who seek to apply it to Iraq base their views on a dangerous misreading of Saddam.

Proponents of deterrence argue that he will not engage in new aggression, even after he has acquired nuclear weapons, because he is not deliberately suicidal and so would not risk an American nuclear response. But Saddam is often unintentionally suicidal – that is, he miscalculates his odds of success and frequently ignores the likelihood of catastrophic failure.

Saddam is a risk-taker who plays dangerous games without realizing how dangerous they truly are. He is deeply ignorant of the outside world and surrounded by sycophants who tell him what he wants to hear. When Yevgeni Primakov, a Soviet envoy, went to Baghdad in 1991 to try to warn Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait, he was amazed to find out how cut off from reality Saddam was. “I realized that it was possible Saddam did not have complete information,” Primakov later wrote. “He gave priority to positive reports … and as for bad news, the bearer could pay a high price.” These factors make Saddam difficult to deter. His calculations are based on ideas that do not necessarily correspond to reality and are often impervious to outside influences. In 1974, for example, he attacked the Kurds even though Iran had been arming and supporting them (with American and Israeli support). He believed, for reasons unknown, that Iran would do nothing to help its proxies. The shah responded decisively, sending troops into Iraqi Kurdistan, mobilizing his army and provoking clashes along the border. To stave off an Iranian invasion that he feared would end his regime, Saddam signed the humiliating Algiers accord, which gave Iran everything it wanted from Iraq, including contested territory.

In 1980 Saddam attacked Iran under the misguided assumption that the new Islamic Republic was so unpopular that it would collapse after one good shove. He embroiled Iraq in a war that nearly destroyed his own regime.

In 1991, rather than withdraw from Kuwait and head off a war, he convinced himself that the American-led coalition would not attack and that even if it did his army would win. The best evidence that Saddam can be deterred comes from the 1991 Gulf War, when he refrained from using weapons of mass destruction because of U.S. and Israeli threats of nuclear retaliation. But a closer look at the evidence provides a more ominous lesson.

When Secretary of State James Baker met with Tariq Aziz in Geneva on the eve of the war, the letter he presented from President George H.W. Bush to Saddam threatened the “severest consequences” if Iraq took any of three actions: use of weapons of mass destruction, destruction of the Kuwaiti oil fields or terrorist action against the United States. This did not stop Saddam from destroying the oil fields or dispatching hit teams to the United States, so the notion that he is easily deterrable is dubious.

Saddam did not use chemical munitions against coalition ground forces because he initially believed that he did not need them to prevail. Nevertheless, he did keep stockpiles farther back from the front, suggesting that he planned to use them if the battle did not go as he expected. As it happened, the coalition’s ground advance was so rapid that Iraq’s forces never had a chance to deploy those weapons.

A better case can be made that Saddam was deterred from launching Scud missiles tipped with chemical or biological agents at Israel for fear of Israeli nuclear retaliation. But even here the evidence is hardly perfect.

After the war, United Nations weapons inspectors reported that Iraqi engineers knew that their warheads were awful and probably would have done little damage if they had worked at all. For this reason, Saddam might have considered the conventionally armed Scuds to be the most potent arrows in his quiver.

After the Gulf War, UN inspectors and Iraqi defectors revealed a set of secret plans and orders issued by Saddam, which are disturbing at best.

He had set up a special Scud unit with both chemical and biological warheads that was ordered to launch its missiles against Israel in the event of a nuclear attack or coalition march on Baghdad. Since no one outside Iraq knew about this unit and its orders, it was clearly intended not as a deterrent but simply as a force for revenge.

In August 1990, after he realized that America might challenge the invasion of Kuwait, he ordered a crash program to build one nuclear weapon, which came close to succeeding. (It failed only because the Iraqis could not enrich enough uranium in time.) His former chief bomb-maker has said that Saddam intended to launch the bomb as a revenge weapon at Tel Aviv if his regime were collapsing.

Iraqi defectors and other sources report that Saddam told aides after the war that his greatest mistake was to invade Kuwait before he had a nuclear weapon, because then America would never have dared to oppose him. What all this suggests is that if Saddam is able to acquire nuclear weapons, he will see them as tools to achieve his goals – to dominate the Arab world, destroy Israel and punish the United States. He will brandish them to deter the United States from interfering in his efforts to conquer or blackmail neighboring countries.

Both invasion and deterrence carry serious costs and risks. But a well-planned invasion, one that mustered overwhelming force and the support of key allies, could keep those risks to a minimum. Staking hopes on a policy of deterrence would run the much greater risk of postponing the day of reckoning to a time of Iraq’s choosing.

Given Saddam’s history of catastrophic miscalculations and his faith that nuclear weapons can deter not him but America, there is every reason to believe that the question is not one of war or no war, but rather of war now or war later – a war without nuclear weapons or a war with them.

Saddam’s heart of darkness

“Who has looked the threat in the eye and come back to report it? To get to the bottom of it, to find out what you believe and why, is so damned hard.” John Wojdylo.

The heat is on. Former Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke, former Liberal leader John Hewson, former governor-general Bill Hayden, former defence chiefs General Peter Gration and Admiral Alan Beaumont, former chief of navy staff Admiral Michael Hudson and RSL chief Major-General Peter Phillips say no to us joining a unilateral United States invasion of Iraq.

The text: smh. The killer quote:

“We put this conviction directly and unequivocally: it would constitute a failure of the duty of government to protect the integrity and ensure the security of our nation to commit any Australian forces in support of a United States military offensive against Iraq without the backing of a specific United Nations Security Council resolution.”

John Howard, you’re wrong. The wonder – and the horror – of it is that the Australian people knew it long before he did.

I’ve just watched Hawkie on the 7.30 Report. Powerful stuff. He dismissed the Blair dossier Howard had so roundly praised as final proof with: “There has been no evidence produced that something has changed to an immediate threat. There is nothing immediately new about the Blair dossier.”

I’ve got so many fantastic emails I haven’t even read them all yet. Sorry about that – I’ll catch up tomorrow. Tonight, a piece from me on the politics of the war for tomorrow’s Herald, one from my boss, editor Stephen Hutcheon, on the oil factor, and one of those fabulous epics Webdiarist John Wojdylo treats us to when we’re lucky. It’s called Saddam Hussein and the Heart of Darkness and it asks and answers questions you may not have even thought of. If you want to know who Saddam is, please read John’s piece and be very afraid. It’s long, so part one is in this entry, part two in the next.


When politics is in the blood

By Margo Kingston

I was at high school in the mid-1970s when memories of the Vietnam war were fresh. We learnt that we once did what Britain wanted, but after John Curtin said in December 1941 that “Australia looks to America” we did what it asked.

We were alone down under threatened by alien countries to our north. To encourage America to help if attacked, we paid insurance premiums. Korea and Vietnam were cited. We weren’t told what would happen if we missed a payment, but we were invited to critically assess whether we were right to go to Vietnam.

In July, with America threatening to invade Iraq and the government effectively promising to join it, defence force chief General Peter Cosgrove said “we probably shouldn’t have gone” to Vietnam. The Vietnam veteran went further. The Iraq debate was “in full swing and it should play out”.

“It’s an important issue for the Australian people” and debate was vigorous “on a number of different levels,” he said. RSL president Major-General Peter Phillips, another Vietnam veteran, commented: “It’s timely that the issue is raised now, given the possibility of an American invasion of Iraq.”

Now America asks Australia to invade another country – a country which, unlike Afghanistan, has not housed the attackers of America on S11. We’ve never done that before. We defend countries from attack and repel attackers when the US, with UN backing, demands it, but we are a peaceful nation.

We see the middle-east on TV every night and thank our lucky stars the mess is nothing to do with us. Now America asks us become embroiled in it and won’t tell us what they plan after “regime change” or how long we’ll have to stay on.

But saying no to the USA? Terrifying, even before President Bush said over and over that “you are with us or against us”.

At first blush the politics couldn’t be worse for Labor. Its already bleeding left flank could gush with deserters for the anti-war Greens. Its solid pro-American members and supporters would insist on support for the US. The party split over Vietnam, with many against Arthur Calwell’s opposition – in defiance of public opinion – to Robert Menzies sending a battalion to Vietnam in 1965.

Labor feared John Howard would go for Tampa 2, a wedge to finish it off. So in March it prepared a detailed policy. Kevin Rudd did every interview offered ever since. Labor won’t say yes without strong evidence of an immediate threat from Iraq. The UN should authorise an attack. We’ll leave open the issue of supporting a unilateral military attack.

The unifying theme is support for the UN, a fundamental Labor commitment since Doc Evatt helped construct the UN after WW11 to deny any nation the right to invade another without good cause and to declare the Security Council the supreme global policeman. Evatt believed, as does modern Labor, that international law is the best protection for middle-powers like us.

A Labor heavy says it’s “knots in the gut” time as Labor prays for Iraqi capitulation or a UN mandate for attack.

It’s rare for Howard’s gut instinct to be awry. He said yes instantly and suggested an armoured brigade for a unilateral strike. He felt no need to explain, leaving it to George Bush to sell the case to Australians.

And he tried the wedge. Weeks before Cosgrove’s remarks, Downer said “only a fool” wanted “a policy of appeasement”, predicted a US strike and told Americans “the Australian people don’t have a natural inclination to support acts of appeasement”.

Australians didn’t buy it. The majority wants firm evidence that Iraq poses an immediate threat. Without that we want everyone else on the cart with us via UN authorisation because we don’t want to be singled out as a target. Especially, some whisper, because the world’s superpower mightn’t be thinking straight.

After all, the US Republican establishment – political and military – publicly split on Bush’s plan, some arguing it would trigger more, not less, terrorism. Traditional allies Canada and New Zealand said no to a unilateral strike, as did Europe, and the British people are unconvinced.

Some Australians don’t trust the Americans not to worsen the mess it helped create in Iraq. Others are appalled by Howard’s naked me-tooism. Foreign policy is an avowal of our national identity, and Howard hurt our national pride.

And some, convinced by Howard’s demonisation of muslim boat people and enamoured with Fortress Australia, ask why we should liberate “the ragheads”.

Howard reversed hard. All of a sudden, the UN was important, “we won’t just automatically click our heels and follow the Americans”, and talk of what military assistance we could offer and an assessment of the increased risk to our homeland security was hypothetical.

In the Coalition party room meeting this week, there was no dissent from Howard’s “all the way with GWB” position, despite its echo of Harold Holt’s Vietnam war line. The talk was about “explaining it to the troops”, Liberal slang for voters.

Marginal seat holders were on edge. Peter Lindsay had just publicly opposed a unilateral strike in an unofficially authorised break with public unity. Lindsay owns the marginal North Queensland seat of Herbert, which houses defence force bases. He got local hero coverage in the local papers and he’s done his representative duty, but he shocked many with his venom. “For a nation to just unilaterally decide to go in without proper reason or proper support for the UN, I think, puts that nation in the same basket as the terrorists.”

Coalition members think that if Howard says yes to war without UN backing, patriotism, waving the troops off and all that will do the trick on public opinion. Noone asked Howard what he’d do if the UN said no and Labor said no and the Yanks went in. They think that when the chips are down, Labor will fold its hand.

If it doesn’t, John Howard would be alone at the docks waving off our troops. The absence of Simon Crean beside him, coupled with a lack of majority support, would mean Australia had not taken a collective decision to spill the blood of young Australians in the national interest. The blood would be on Howard’s hands.

If John Howard cannot turn public opinion around if he needs to, he cannot send our troops to war. The legitimacy of Australians dying for us requires that the majority of us endorse the sacrifice in the national interest.

The stakes are too high. As Doc Evatt predicted, we need the UN to deliver.


The oil thing

By Stephen Hutcheon

What if the whole anti-Iraq crusade is not just about a pre-emptive strike against a terrorist-coddling serial pest whose nuclear ambitions and stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons threaten to destabilise the world?

What if this is really as many have speculated – an oil thing? That would certainly explain the ‘Why now?’ question that everyone’s asking since Bush announced it was time for a regime change in Baghdad. And the more I drill down, the more I become convinced that there’s a lot going for this conspiracy theory.

Suppose the Bush Administration has intelligence suggesting the despotic rulers of Saudi Arabia are about to be toppled by a fundamentalist Islamic uprising, the likes of which unseated the Shah of Iran back in 1979?

Suddenly there’s a big question mark over 265.3 billion barrels of crude oil thats about one quarter of the worlds known reserves. A domino effect might also claim oil-rich sultanates such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, taking out another 15 per cent of those reserves. (For the full rundown of who has what reserves see this US Department of Energy page: eia).

Suddenly, an oil crisis becomes an oil catastrophe. It’ll make the so-called “shock” of 1973 look like a harmless jolt. The major economies of Japan and the West will grind to a halt or at least to a crawl sending the world into the economic equivalent of a nuclear winter.

Far fetched maybe, but not impossible. A briefing given in July to the Defence Policy Board, a group of prominent intellectuals and former senior officials that advises the Pentagon, described Saudi Arabia as “the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent” in the Middle East.

“The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader,” according to the briefing prepared by Laurent Murawiec, an analyst with the conservative Rand Corp think tank. “Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies.”

The Administration was quick to distance itself from these incendiary views, but you can’t help feeling that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Obviously there are some American conservatives who believe the Saudis-as-enemies theory. And there are a lot of conservatives in the Administration who don’t need reminding that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia as did the man most responsible for that attack, Osama bin Laden.

So who’s got the second largest reserves of crude oil in the world? No prizes for guessing Iraq (with almost 10 per cent of reserves). Get rid of Saddam, install a friendly regime into what is already a secular country and you have the best buffer money can buy against the virulently anti-Western Islamic regime which may one day run Saudi Arabia.

You don’t have to look far to see that the Bush people are more than a little obsessed with oil issues. One of the first things they did after pushing out the Democrats was to open large tracts of formerly off-limits, pristine Alaska for oil exploration.

Just last week I read a story about renewed US interest in West Africa’s oil reserves. According to the Associated Press, the US has been attempting for some time to lessen its dependence on oil from the Middle East. Presently some 15 per cent of its supplies come from there. Another 15 per cent now comes from West Africa – mostly Nigeria, but it is also boosting the take from promising offshore discoveries in the Gulf of Guinea.

Much of the action is centred on Equatorial Guinea where the US has become the largest single foreign investor. In fact, an ethanol plant there and an associated petroleum pipeline in neighbouring Cameroon comprise the two largest capital investments ever in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the AP report. Moreover, the US State Department recently approved Military Professional Resources Inc, a private firm run by Pentagon retirees, to train those protecting Equatorial Guinea’s coast and offshore oil wells.

Ironically, Equatorial Guinea is ruled by a dictator who came to power in a coup in 1979, around the same time Saddam took over in Iraq. Like Saddam, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema presides over a kleptocratic regime which has siphoned off or squandered millions of dollars of his countrys wealth. Both have trammeled their critics and opponents. They’ve both used torture as an instrument of repression and ensured that their citizens enjoy none of the basic human rights and freedoms. If nothing else, it’s another good example of US hypocrisy.

(You can read the AP story here: washingtonpost. And if you want to read more about Equatorial Guinea, try the US State Department’s own assessment: state, or Amnesty’s take: amnesty, or the CIA’s fact book:cia).

Like any good conspiracy theory, this one is also full of holes. You need only read a profile of US Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, that appeared in the New York Times Magazine last week – (this is a copy, lifted by the Soldiers for the Truth site: sftt ) to find one of those holes.

In this piece, Bill Keller reveals how Wolfowitz has been on a personal get-Iraq mission since 1979 when as a humble analyst at the Pentagon he first raised concerns about Baghdad’s potential menace. The September 11 attacks gave Wolfowitz his chance to bring the Saddam issue on to the “front burner”, as Keller tells it. And it’s been there ever since. If you read Keller’s article you will probably come to the conclusion that the answer to the “Why now?” riddle is Wolfowitz.

But if you like your theories with a conspiratorial edge, keep your eye on the oil angle.


Saddam Hussein and the Heart of Darkness

By John Wojdylo

The coldness is still in the air, even though the sun is shining. The sky is blue again, with a sheen of light like a veil over the darkness of winter. Indistinct memories drift to other days like this, when things were simpler. The glare of the sky, like swimming in light, dissolves thought. Bliss. You wish things could be like this all the time. The coldness on your skin reminds you where you are. Reality gradually returns, you sense its darkness, that nightmare you had temporarily forgotten but now have to deal with. It just never goes away.

Back at the computer, the portal to a much wider world, you read how other people are dealing with the news. Some have gone for a walk under the brilliant blue sky and haven’t returned. Others, attuned to the sunlight, are disgusted by the belligerence they see. Still others rejoice in the belligerence, as they always do.

Who has looked the threat in the eye and come back to report it?

To get to the bottom of it, to find out what you believe and why, is so damned hard.

And it’s not made easier when so much information is steeped in hubris, devoid of substance, as if designed not to inform us at this most crucial time, but to make the belligerent more satisfied, or the disgusted more zealous in their disgust.

The nightmare is not being dealt with, the gap isn’t being bridged. We’re spinning apart.

While reading about Saddam Hussein, trying to get a foothold on what’s happening specifically with regards to Iraq, I imagined what his thoughts might be towards the UN, towards agreements for weapons inspections. And what his ambitions might be. But I found an article, published in May, just before the American attitude changed abruptly, where I didn’t have to imagine them – Iraqi defectors had recalled what he said in similar situations in the past, in an essay by Mark Bowden.

Should I believe that Saddam Hussein has suddenly changed and that he is now harmless? Is our scepticism of the Americans matched by our scepticism of Saddam Hussein’s minders?

How many people have read Saddam Hussein’s speeches – and monitored his deeds lately? Or had a look at his “manifesto” – in words and deeds – for world dictatorship? Why isn’t Saddam Hussein taken seriously, while Bush is the one who is branded a dictator hell bent on ruling the world?

If we can’t think clearly now about whether belligerence – by the Americans and anyone who joins them; or by UN-sanctioned action, if that can be achieved, and this may be crucial to our future – is the right approach against Iraq, then we may be missing a historical moment that would mark the end of our ability to influence the world in the direction we believe is right – whatever this may be.

We’re being distracted from Saddam Hussein and his milieu at a time when we ought to be getting to know him better.

* * *

What causes the distraction?

In Good for Business? (Webdiary September 17) three of the four commentators are avoiding the real issue. The question, “Would a war on Iraq and its aftermath be positive or negative for the world economy?” is nonsense: positive or negative compared to what?

Gerry van Wyngen’s conclusion that war could spell the demise of the US can equally well be drawn in the case that Saddam is allowed to succeed.

We need to understand whether a war is necessary, irrespective of the economic effects. (Can war ever be necessary? Was World War II or Kosovo necessary?)

Each of the articles (bar the last) in that Webdiary have one thing in common: although they discuss future projections of the US and world economies in the event of a US-led war, they do not carry out the same projections in the event that Saddam Hussein is allowed to fulfil his ambition.

On what grounds do Gerry van Wyngen and Clive Williams discount the threat of Saddam Hussein?

No anti-war articles I’ve seen in the SMH or elsewhere try to comprehend what the threat is. It’s somehow just dismissed as irrelevant, or the Americans are dismissed as cowboys. Or bent on world supremacy. (The implied argument – we cannot support the Americans because they are bent on world supremacy – is not an argument for not acting against Iraq, because allowing Iraq to continue on its present course may have consequences for you even if you are anti-American. Why do you believe Iraq cannot have consequences for you? What is the basis of your certainty?)

There’s a clear trend: pro-tough line articles focus on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein; anti-war articles focus on US and world consequences because of US actions – as if no outside force can determine the West’s destiny, and every act rebounds on the West in a sort of eternal closed loop, a modern version of bad karma, where merely being belligerent condemns you to the hell of eternal retribution, regardless of the good that belligerence achieves (eg World War Two, recently in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia).

Others bawk at UN backing for force – there should be no unilateral action. UN backing is indeed crucial in avoiding a massive anti-American backlash in the event of many Iraqi casualties. But if the price of inaction is high enough – if Saddam Hussein will indeed have a nuclear device within two years if allowed to continue – then the terrible risk of unilateral action must be taken. The moral ball is in the UN’s court to fulfil its duties to disarm Saddam Hussein.

Is belligerence sometimes necessary, being the lesser of two evils? Can we be belligerent and remain moral people? Every person has power of one form or another – we can and must use it responsibly. Is now the time for this?

I’d like to see anti-war journalists face the scenario of Saddam succeeding – or explain in detail why it is either unlikely or not of paramount significance. We’ve heard a lot about Yank ambitions, now what are Saddam Hussein’s ambitions?

The articles in Good for Business? read as if the authors are lost in the “blue sky dream”, avoiding the horror of the choice that is facing us now.

If we’re aware of Saddam Hussein’s threat at all, why do we focus on the US and not Saddam Hussein? Answer: We’re afraid of being responsible for collateral killings in the cause of avoiding some threatened event in the future that some say can only ever be speculation – until it happens.

Some perhaps believe that they don’t want to be responsible for collateral killings because “we’d only be fighting for a dictatorship hell bent on world domination”; but this extreme view is also just an excuse for inaction. The basic questions are: do you believe Saddam presents an urgent threat, and if so, do you want him to win? Alternatively, on what grounds do you believe Saddam Hussein will not go through with fulfilling the ambition that he has repeatedly stated? Al Gore recognized the same dicotomy in his speech the other day.

Others reject action because of the certainty of loss of life, and the real possibility of massive loss of life if we attack. Is the price of inaction higher? What might this price be, anyway? Is this been properly dealt with in the media? See below.

How can one rationally think about threats that can only be realized in the future? This is a major question. I broach it in the last part of this piece, giving a historical example. Does rationality entail that we can only contemplate eternal light, with future nightmare scenarios banished by the glare of Reason? Can we only ever focus on the moral consequences of our own actions, and of those who ostensibly act in our name? How, then, do we deal with the “outside”, with new things, the threat of somebody who wills our destruction? Is Reason a trap? Does it – as one of a number of possible obstacles – actually hinder us seeing a part of the world that lies outside our rational constructs (e.g. a foreign threat, alien to our way of life, what we are capable of imagining, or willing to imagine)?

We know a lot more about the US than about Saddam Hussein, so it seems rational – even though it is foolhardy – to put US motives and moral outcomes under the microscope while ignoring the challenge posed by Saddam Hussein, excluding the alternative from our thinking: that Saddam Hussein can succeed. What do you think Saddam Hussein’s ambitions are and how close is he to achieving them? Later in this piece, I include a number of excerpts from Saddam Hussein’s speeches, and reports of recent incidents, that indicate what Saddam Hussein’s intentions might be.

If you think he’s just a tin-pot megalomaniac who likes building monuments to himself, then US efforts, unsurprisingly, would seem extremely aggressive. The risk of the Arab world rising up against the “anti-Muslim” West would then be highly influential in your judgement. The US would then be seen as mad to step into this danger – or greedy for oil, as the smiling and amiable Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, keeps saying.

A lot of people take that conclusion as a starting point or do not apply equal standards of analysis to what is known about Saddam Hussein. In so doing, they avoid the issue.

But Tariq Aziz is Saddam Hussein’s fall guy – a new Salah Omar al-Ali. Salah Omar Al-Ali used to be Saddam’s fall guy, but defected when he found out who Saddam Hussein really was. He told his story to Mark Bowden, author of Blackhawk Down, who wrote an excellent essay on Saddam Hussein the person, “Tales of the Tyrant”, in The Atlantic Monthly, May 2002. It is available online at iraqwatch. I highly recommend this essay, which is based on interviews with many defectors and is a serious effort to sort out the myth from the facts (and keep the facts). For instance, Saddam likes Ernest Hemingway, particularly The Old Man and the Sea.

Two of these anecdotes are particularly relevant to understanding Saddam Hussein’s dealings with the UN, especially his present acquiescence to the return of the weapons inspectors.

In September of 1979 Saddam attended a conference of unaligned nations in Cuba, where he formed a friendship with Fidel Castro, who still keeps him supplied with cigars. Saddam came to the gathering with Salah Omar al-Ali, who was then the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, a post he had accepted after a long period of living abroad as an ambassador. Together Saddam and al-Ali had a meeting with the new Foreign Minister of Iran. Four years earlier Saddam had made a surprise concession to the soon-to-be-deposed Shah, reaching an agreement on navigation in the Shatt-al-Arab, a sixty-mile strait formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as they flow into the Persian Gulf. Both countries had long claimed the strait. In 1979, with the Shah roaming the world in search of cancer treatment, and power in the hands of the Ayatollah Khomeini (whom Saddam had unceremoniously booted out of Iraq the year before), relations between the two countries were again strained, and the waters of the Shatt-al-Arab were a potential flash point. Both countries still claimed ownership of two small islands in the strait, which were then controlled by Iran.

But al-Ali was surprised by the tone of the discussions in Cuba. The Iranian representatives were especially agreeable, and Saddam seemed to be in an excellent mood. After the meeting al-Ali strolled with Saddam in a garden outside the meeting hall. They sat on a bench as Saddam lit a big cigar.

“Well, Salah, I see you are thinking of something,” Saddam said. “What are you thinking about?”

“I am thinking about the meeting we just had, Mr. President. I am very happy. I’m very happy that these small problems will be solved. I’m so happy that they took advantage of this chance to meet with you and not one of your ministers, because with you being here we can avoid another problem with them. We are neighbors. We are poor people. We don’t need another war. We need to rebuild our countries, not tear them down.”

Saddam was silent for a moment, drawing thoughtfully on his cigar. “Salah, how long have you been a diplomat now?” he asked.

“About ten years.”

“Do you realize, Salah, how much you have changed?”

“How, Mr. President?”

“How should we solve our problems with Iran? Iran took our lands. They are controlling the Shatt-al-Arab, our big river. How can meetings and discussions solve a problem like this? Do you know why they decided to meet with us here, Salah? They are weak is why they are talking with us. If they were strong there would be no need to talk. So this gives us an opportunity, an opportunity that only comes along once in a century. We have an opportunity here to recapture our territories and regain control of our river.”

That was when al-Ali realized that Saddam had just been playing with the Iranians, and that Iraq was going to go to war. Saddam had no interest in diplomacy. To him, statecraft was just a game whose object was to outmaneuver one’s enemies. Someone like al-Ali was there to maintain a pretense, to help size up the situation, to look for openings, and to lull foes into a false sense of security. [Tariq Aziz, smiling and amiable, is doing excellently.] Within a year the Iran-Iraq war began.

It ended horrifically, eight years later, with hundreds of thousands of Iranians and Iraqis dead. To a visitor in Baghdad the year after the war ended, it seemed that every other man on the street was missing a limb. The country had been devastated. The war had cost Iraq billions. Saddam claimed to have regained control of the Shatt-al-Arab. Despite the huge losses, he was giddy with victory. By 1987 his army, swelled by compulsory service and modern Western armaments, was the fourth largest in the world. He had an arsenal of Scud missiles, a sophisticated nuclear-weapons program under way, and deadly chemical and biological weapons in development. He immediately began planning more conquest.

In the Koran, Allah says, ‘If you thank me, I will give you more.’ In the early nineties Saddam was on TV, presenting awards to military officers, and he said, ‘If you thank me, I will give you more.’ He no longer believes he is a normal person. Dialogue with him is impossible because of this. He can’t understand why journalists should be allowed to criticize him. How can they criticize the father of the tribe? This is something unacceptable in his mind. To him, strength is everything. To allow criticism or differences of opinion, to negotiate or compromise, to accede to the rule of law or to due process – these are signs of weakness.”

To Saddam Hussein, the United Nations is a weak organisation because it allows him to toy with it. He does not see it as hindering his ambitions at all; at worst, it’s just a nuisance. He does what he wants. But what does get through to him is sabre-rattling – unaesthetic and ugly belligerence.

Addressing Congress on September 19, Colin Powell noted that “it was only after the president’s speech at the UN that the phone lines to Baghdad went hot. Iraqi envoys were falling over themselves to reach him”.

By accepting the recent Iraqi letter, with its glaring omissions, Kofi Annan has allowed Saddam Hussein to have his way. Annan has been duped – or is a weak man – and has no idea how to handle him. The Americans have a better idea of who Saddam Hussein is, and will engage in even uglier sabre-rattling, putting on more and more pressure in graduated stages, at each stage allowing the pressure to take effect in Saddam’s milieu, opening up the possibility of various mechanisms taking effect, with the ultimate aim of removing him from power. Ugly belligerence – particularly when it is willed by one side no matter what anyone else says – is an essential part of getting the message through.

Saddam Hussein undoubtedly plays cat and mouse games with UN inspection teams. He plays to win. UN inspections – if they’re not completely unfettered and backed by force – will be farcical. Just one example:“Iraq’s known bioweapons labs were so carefully hidden that UN officials failed to discover them until 1995 – four years after the start of inspections. Only after the defection of the program’s chief, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, did inspectors find secret laboratories that were producing lethal bacteria by the ton.” [Washington Post, July 31, 2002.]

Another take on the same story, by Laurie Mylroie in the Middle Eastern Review of International Affairs, Volume 1, Number 4, December 1997:

“An attack using unconventional agents and carried out by professional terrorists trained by a state, according to former CIA director James Woolsey, could result in 50,000 or more fatalities; a biological attack could produce 500,000 or more fatalities.”

“One would think that, given such dangers, the most extreme care would be taken to ensure that Iraq never had the opportunity to use such material. But that has not been the case. In August 1995, Hussein Kamil, Saddam’s son-in-law who had overseen Iraq’s unconventional weapons program, defected to Jordan. Until then, it had been thought that most of Iraq’s proscribed agents had been destroyed during the 1991 Gulf war and that UNSCOM was slowly but steadily removing what remained.

“Following Kamil’s defection, it was learned that was not true. Iraq’s most lethal agents had survived the Gulf war and Baghdad had managed to conceal that from UNSCOM. Moreover, even after UNSCOM learned of the concealed stockpiles, Iraq refused to turn over any of the proscribed agents since it claimed already to have destroyed the material. Thus, every report that UNSCOM has produced since December 17, 1995, has detailed the problem of the considerable unconventional capabilities Iraq retains.

“Yet until quite recently the United States acted as if the information that came to light as a result of Kamil’s defection was insignificant. Washington’s response was merely to affirm the old policy of maintaining sanctions on Iraq, while dissuading others from raising the problem.”

This refers to Clinton, but it could equally well have referred to Bush until a few months ago. Clinton, however, did almost wage war against Iraq in 1998, without further UN approval for action. Saddam Hussein sent a letter to Kofi Annan just as the B-52s were over the Atlantic.

In an interview with Arms Control Today, Vol. 29, No. 4 June 1999 (“The lessons and legacy of UNSCOM”; iraqwatch), Richard Butler repeatedly refers to systematic deception on the part of the Iraqis:

“There are U2 pictures that show things like 100 heavy trucks with Republican Guard markings gathered in the Iraqi desert, 100 kilometers from absolutely nowhere. They had been flushed out by UNSCOM inspectors and zipped off into the desert. And we happened to have our bird overhead and took photographs of this and said to Iraq, “What were those 100 trucks doing in the desert having disappeared from a place where we thought weapons materials were kept?” And Iraq looked us in the eye and said, “What trucks? There were no trucks.” In the name of God, we had photographs of them. Iraq said it buried missiles in certain places. We took photographs of those places, no burial pits. But they were elsewhere, where we did find them. I could bore you to death going on like this. I could go on and on about the degree of deception, the elaborateness of Iraq’s program to maintain its weapons capabilities. I have no doubt that it is Iraq’s second-largest industry, after oil.”

Not only the Americans avoided the problem of Iraq. It was a general malaise in the world, as represented by the United Nations. Richard Butler continues:

“Putting all this together, I’m now alarmed – and I’m saying this publicly for the first time to your journal – that something which only a few years ago was axiomatic has been lost, that a train has been derailed, and that train is called arms control. Up to a few years ago there was a widespread and growing conviction in the international community that arms control was a good thing, that it was an integral part of a good security policy, that the smaller the weapons package you had to deal with in maintaining your own national security, the better, and that this required sacrifices by you as well as by others. Arms control was a going concern….The Security Council is walking away from dealing with him and his weapons. They have decided it’s too hard.”

ACT: Are all members of the Security Council walking away from the problem, or are the United States and Britain trying to hold the line?

Butler: I would put the membership of the Security Council into three categories. One is those who have clearly and avowedly decided for whatever reason to bring about an end to the Iraq crisis. Either they’re very friendly to Iraq, or they’re of the view that enough’s enough and we can’t go any further with this. Russia, China, France and, in the present Security Council, Malaysia fall into that category.

The second category is made up of the United Kingdom, supported by the Netherlands and the United States, saying there remain disarmament obligations to be fulfilled, that we need ongoing monitoring in Iraq and that Iraq must accept these facts before any suspension or relief of sanctions. They’re the harder-line states, and they’re in the minority…

ACT: What are your impressions of the specific draft proposals that are now being considered by the Security Council?

Butler: All of the proposals on the table involve some kind of diminution of the vigor with which the Council will pursue the disarmament of Iraq. The Russian-backed proposal would basically say that it’s over, Iraq is disarmed, which is simply to call black white and they know it. Were they to say, “We’ve got other fish to fry, this continual pursuit of Saddam’s arms is not as important to us as those other fish,” they would be telling the truth. But when they argue it’s over, there’s nothing more to pursue in terms of disarmament in Iraq, they’re not dealing with reality, and they know it.

The British proposal is far closer to the truth, far more robust, but it does involve some political concessions to Iraq’s resistance to the Security Council. I don’t think it involves capitulation on the arms control side, but it tries to find some other form of political concession to get Iraq to come back into cooperation with the Council. While I think their attempt is brave and I understand it, they’ve got to be very careful that it doesn’t result in a lot of countries in the world thinking, “This is interesting, all you’ve really got to do with the Security Council is be prepared to wait, to tough it out for a long time, to take a few bombings, but to still say, ‘No, we won’t do what you say,’ and in the end they’ll cave in.”

The ideals of the United Nations were already beginning to be corrupted.

ACT: What are the members of the Security Council subordinating arms control to? What is their primary interest?

Butler: It depends on what country you’re talking about. One could go through the motivations of each of the permanent members that is supportive of Iraq – Russia, France, China – and it wouldn’t be an edifying spectacle.


The point is, there were serious grounds for concern about Iraq even back in 1999. And 1998. The sudden change a couple of months or so ago by the Bush administration can be understood even without a conspiracy theory: taking the lead and kicking the UN Security Council into action – which had clearly fallen into a corrupted, self-interested malaise on the Iraq question – is a good in itself.

Those that do not see Saddam’s threat as urgent naturally treat the timing of the acceleration with suspicion. Yet any military action must occur in winter (otherwise it’s too hot); and last winter was too soon after September 11: this event is the one that focussed American minds on the new type of threat that terrorism – and the type of war Saddam would fight – presents. But congressional elections are to happen before this winter, which would make action this winter impossible – hence the urgency. By next winter, Saddam Hussein could well have a nuclear device.

No conspiracy theory – eg “Bush wants to rule the world” – is necessary to understand the current urgency. The manner in which Bush pushes the case is inept, but Bush is not as talented as Blair.

Not believing (yet) that Saddam is much of a threat, the American Democrats nevertheless believe that “the war debate is a manoeuvre by President Bush to deflect attention from his domestic political problems, such as the finance scandals and the weak economy”.

“One can’t help noticing that the sudden urgency of a war against Iraq comes exactly at a time when stories about company scandals are peaking, poll results for the republicans are sagging, and the prospects that they will win a majority in the senate are diminishing, ” said Jim Jordan, director of the Democratic Campaign Office, to a Washington Post journalist. “Other priorities exist in the USA, the war against terror and the economy,” said Tom Daschle, the Democrats’ leader in the senate, where they have a majority. [Der Spiegel, 16/9]

Colin Powell rebutted the claims: “Bush has taken a tougher line against Iraq right from the start of his presidency.”


But even if the “tougher line” Powell refers to doesn’t explain the apparent large variation in toughness between now and a year ago, the impact of September 11 and the Saddam’s progress does.

Why this winter, rather than 18 months from now? Because his weapons program – which undoubtedly exists – will be 18 months more mature by then. He already has weapons of mass destruction (I cite more details below); and is getting too close to the ultimate prize of nuclear weapons. If he obtains weapons-grade material in that time, then 18 months is ample time to fit it to the designs he already has successfully tested:[Iraq Watch Report, August 2002 iraqwatch]

When the UN inspectors left Iraq, they concluded that Iraq was still withholding drawings showing the latest stage of its nuclear weapon design. In addition, they found that Iraq was withholding blueprints of individual nuclear weapon components – including the precise dimensions of explosive lenses – and drawings showing how to mate Iraq’s nuclear warhead with a missile. Iraq claimed that these things either did not exist or were no longer in its possession. Iraq had also failed to turn over documents revealing how far it got in developing centrifuges to process uranium to weapon-grade, and failed to provide 170 technical reports it received showing how to produce and operate the centrifuges. Iraq claimed that all these documents were secretly destroyed. Nor did Iraq account for materials and equipment belonging to its most advanced nuclear weapon design team. In fact, Saddam Hussein has taken pains to keep his nuclear teams together and to prevent any of their members from leaving the country.

Iraq’s nuclear procurement efforts have also continued. Iraq is allowed to import medical equipment as an exception to the U.N. embargo, so in 1998 Iraq ordered a half-dozen “lithotripter” machines, ostensibly to rid its citizens of kidney stones, which the lithotripter pulverizes inside the body without surgery. But each machine requires a high-precision electronic switch that has a second use: it triggers atomic bombs. Iraq wanted to buy 120 extra switches as “spare parts.” Iraq placed the order with the German electronics firm Siemens, which supplied the machines but forwarded the order for the extra switches to its supplier, Thomson- C.S.F., a French military-electronics company. It is uncertain whether the French government barred the sale. Stephen Cooney, a Siemens spokesman, claimed that Siemens subsequently provided only eight switches, one in each machine and two spares. Sources at the United Nations and in the U.S. government believe that the number supplied is higher. It only takes one switch to detonate Iraq’s latest bomb design.

This episode shows that Iraq is still determined to obtain nuclear weapons. And according to the U.N. inspectors, Iraq is closer to the bomb than most people think. The inspectors have learned that Iraq’s first bomb design, which weighed a ton and was a full meter in diameter, has been replaced by a smaller, more efficient model. From discussions with the Iraqis, the inspectors have deduced that the new design weighs only about 600 kilograms and measures only 600 to 650 millimeters in diameter. That makes it small enough to fit on a Scud-type missile. According to inspection records, up to nine of Iraq’s Scud-type missiles are still unaccounted for.

The inspectors have also determined that Iraq’s bomb design will work. Iraq has mastered the key technique of creating an implosive shock wave, which squeezes a bomb’s nuclear material enough to trigger a chain reaction. The inspectors have learned that the new Iraqi design also uses a “flying tamper,” a refinement that “hammers” the nuclear material to squeeze it even harder, so that bombs can be made smaller without diminishing their explosive force. Thus, Iraq now possesses an efficient nuclear bomb design. The only thing lacking is the fissile material to fuel it.

Why the military option rather than weapons inspectors? And why the urgency for this?

Following Saddam Hussein’s acceptance last week of UN weapons inspectors, Salah Sheihli, spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress (an organisation of emigres in the US that occasionally advises the US government) said: “Saddam Hussein is playing for time, because he has his own calculations. Weapons inspectors won’t appear in Iraq for several weeks, and he’ll use the time to scatter the military objects that the committee might find. From our sources, we know that chemical and biological materials – which don’t take up much room – have previously been hidden in schools, hospitals, private homes and even at a cemetery…. The end of the year will come, and we’re still going to have long debates in the UN…” [Gazeta Wyborcza, 17/9]

Richard Butler, writing in reference to Kofi Annan, conjured the “Hitler 1938” analogy, and referred to Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement. Is this too harsh? Or will history indeed judge Annan as a Chamberlain figure?

“Kofi Annan has failed to win Iraqi concessions on key weapons inspection points. The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, did not use the words “peace in our time” when he announced that the letter to him from the Iraqi Foreign Minister stated that Iraq would “allow the return of the United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq, without conditions”.”

“The economy of Annan’s statement did suggest, however, that he thought, like Chamberlain had when he returned from Munich in 1938, that the problem had been solved and war had been averted. Sadly, it appears that Annan will be on no safer ground than was Chamberlain.”

Overnight, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, was pointing out the glaring deficiencies of the Iraqi letter and saying that a new Security Council resolution would still be required while his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, was expressing satisfaction with the letter and urging that it be accepted without any further resolution. The French followed Russia.

If the US fails, it is not clear at this stage what it would then agree to in the UN context. The sorry possibility is that it will walk away and implement Bush’s threat that if the UN fails to take up its responsibilities, the US will act alone.

It is a great pity that Annan did not obtain from Iraq a clearer commitment to unfettered inspection. He seems to have a problem in dealing with Saddam.

His visit to Baghdad in March 1998 to head off the conflict that was brewing at that time proved to be an abject failure. He signed an agreement with Iraq, another piece of paper which he proclaimed would bring peace in our time, only to see Iraq violate it virtually before his aircraft had touched down back in New York.

“More important, however, is the now very real prospect that the hard men in the Bush Administration who were always sceptical about the UN, the Security Council and the rule of international law generally, and who above all prefer to solve the Iraq problem by simply going to war, will say: “We told you so,” and then firmly advise the President that the time for war has come.” [SMH, 18/9]

A meeting between Iraqi and UN officials to plan the inspections will take place in Vienna in October. If you believe the Iraqi defectors’ and emigres’ reaction to Saddam Hussein’s letter to the UN, and notice the reluctance of the UN to hurry, knowing what is at stake – by late October the bioweapons will be well hidden in private homes, and the labs will have been cleaned – would you too be inclined to act alone if the UN didn’t get around to approving action?

In any case, if Saddam is really determined, hiding bioweapons is a piece of cake. You can hide enough weapons-grade anthrax in your fridge at home to kill a lot of people. Not that you need a fridge. Saddam did it during the first four years of UN weapons inspections (at least), while producing bioweapons by the ton under the noses of the inspectors. There are good grounds why inspections can only fail. See “Why Iraq Will Defeat Arms Inspectors” (iraqwatch ).

I should mention that recent articles (in the SMH and the Australian) by Richard Butler seem much more simplistic and idealistic than the views he expressed in the interview with Arms Control Today in 1999. Perhaps this is because of lack of space in the column format of Australian newspapers. Or, having been an outside observer these years, perhaps he has simplified his thinking. I come back to this presently.

The French and the Russians, too, are possibly wondering why the American attitude has changed so much in recent months. If the Americans had tolerated the threat for so many years, and allowed them to pursue their interests in Iraq, why change now? Especially since in the absence of American oil companies – which were forbidden to operate in Iraq by the US government – the Russians and French took the chance to put down roots in Iraq, and now have large oil interests there. They would not want to see their investment go down the gurgler in an unstable, postwar Iraq. [Der Spiegel, in “The Battle for Caspian Oil”, an eight part series of articles about oil interests in the region, including an excellent clickable map showing oil and gas reserves and pipelines; in German spiegel]

What this means is that the Russians, especially, will be looking to be bought off by the Americans in return for support at the UN Security Council. The Russians will be brazen about it; the French will do it in secret while proclaiming the opposite. China will oppose US action until it sees itself isolated; then it will uphold the principle of the group ethic and change its vote – but only to the extent that it will abstain. China is sensitive about its ties with some Arab states. (A couple of weeks ago, an exhibition in Beijing marking the anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birth was banned by the communist authorities because it featured a letter written by Einstein in which he declared his support for a Zionist state.)

When the Russians openly come out selling their vote on the Security Council, we’ll see that it’s not just American unilateralism that is diminishing the rule of international law. [Indeed, “Russia puts a price on its support” (SMH 20/9): Russia has asked the United States for economic guarantees worth tens of billions of dollars, plus help getting into the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in return for its support in the campaign against Iraq. ]

I’m not sure if Richard Butler considers bought unity in the UN Security Council as constituting “rule of international law”. The law ought to be based on something more substantial than bribes. The headline in theAustralian (16/9) is just schein-ethics all over again, which wants us to believe that the UN Security Council is a place where “principle overrides politics”. So when the Yanks go charging in on the white horse, no wonder they seem to be smashing all the decent mores of international law single-handedly.

Yet UN backing for current US military action may be crucial in determining the course of world events in the next decade. It may be the crucial dressing that determines Arab reaction in the event that Iraqi casualties are high and Israel attacks with nuclear weapons. The UN must face its responsibility now.


Richard Butler writes:

“A little more than 50 years ago, an argument as old as recorded history was apparently settled. The meeting at San Francisco adopted the Charter of the United Nations. It sought to answer affirmatively the ancient question: Could relations between nations be conducted in accordance with some basic agreed rules of conduct, international law? Or would the main determinant of those relations remain what it had been in the past – power politics?

“The impetus for this extraordinary attempt to rid the world of “the scourge of war”, was the two world wars of the 20th century, and their attendant horrors, that killed some 70 million people.

“At the core of the charter’s commitment to “the maintenance of international peace and security” is the Security Council. It was given singular powers – its decisions are binding in international law and the council may authorise the use of force to bring about compliance with its decisions.

“The authors of the charter had learned from history. They were aware of the potentially destructive conflict between the notion of international law and the habits of power politics.” [The Australian, 16/9]

Compare these high and pious ideals with what Richard Butler knew to be the case in the interview with Arms Control Today (above).

Although the charter’s ideals undoubtedly have a positive normative influence in many UN’s decisions, glaring deviations from perfection have been the rule rather than the exception throughout the organization’s existence. Butler notes that “the veto power was abused subsequently, particularly by the US and the USSR, who in the subsequent 40-year Cold War period, each used their power more than 250 times in protection of their client states”. And in the Arms Control Today he advocates more sensible veto rules.

Nowadays Butler appears to confound normative ideals with something more absolute. Thus he exaggerates the dire consequences of American unilateral action at the moment on the Iraq question, without giving credit to the resilience of the UN in retaining its shape after shocks.

If the Americans go ahead with unilateral action now, he says, it could spell the end of the UNSC as a relevant body. “Failure by the Security Council to act on Iraq could lead to its end as a viable institution. We would all also, assuredly, have to reckon with the revival of sheer power, as the major determinant of outcomes in international relations.”

It should be noted that these two consequences are held to be desirable by some key members of the Bush administration.

It certainly might. And that might be a good thing, if it comes back with a new lease of life, functioning as it is supposed to in the maintenance of international peace and security. By his own admission in Arms Control Today, the UN Security Council had become (in my words) moribund and corrupt:

ACT: What challenges did you face in balancing the work of UNSCOM with the delicate, complex politics of the Security Council?

Butler: “Complex” is an accurate way to describe the Council, but “delicate” certainly isn’t. The word “delicate” doesn’t sit well other than as an oxymoron for the somewhat thuggish behavior that is often seen inside the Council. The Council is a place where power is deployed rather unsentimentally, particularly by states that have the veto and that are prepared to throw their weight around – very often without getting to the meat of things in other than perfunctory terms. For example, if someone says to China, “Why do you want x?” the answer “Because I say so” is hardly an answer. It says, “Because I’m powerful.” That’s not a rational answer, and one hears answers like that. You hear a little bit more than that very often, a sort of papering over by saying that it would be bad for international peace and security if China or Russia, for example, didn’t get its way.

So I think the largest challenge in the Council is truth telling. The basic function of the Council lies between the exercise of great power, which is typically exercised in terms of separate national interests, and the justification for it, which is supposed to be presented through the Council’s reports in a way that demonstrates what was done was in fact good and right. And if those reports are not readily capable of ambiguous or elliptical interpretation, then the naked exercise of power, in terms of national interests, gets uncomfortably exposed. And I think that became characteristic of the last few years of UNSCOM.


The most urgent question is: What do you believe Saddam Hussein’s ambitions are, and how close is he to realizing them?

If you believe that the threat is great and urgent, then acting against him should be the UNSC’s uppermost imperative, if it’s acting according to its charter. So the aims of the Americans and the UNSC should coincide, now and for as long as Saddam Hussein’s ambition is alive (it could be carried on by pan-Arab Islamists after his death). Otherwise – if the UNSC doesn’t act – it’s not acting according to its charter, and the Americans are justified in taking the law into their own hands – and hoping that the UN rebounds later to the form it ought to have. And hoping the consequences among Arab states are not too dire.

And why should the UN Security Council gain a new lease of life at all, given that Bush has embarked on a path of global domination that not even Hitler, Stalin, or his protege Saddam Hussein could match? Because in his National Security Strategy Report to Congress (submitted in accordance with Section 603 of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Department Reorganization Act of 1986, and meant to be an American account of American responsibilities presented to Americans – hence the frequent use of the “our” and “we” and the world out there, just as Clinton had it in his reports (almost: Clinton used more inclusive phrases to sweeten his unilateral duties, that was his style)), Bush writes:

“We are also guided by the conviction that no nation can build a safer, better world alone. Alliances and multilateral institutions can multiply the strength of freedom-loving nations. The United States is committed to lasting institutions like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States, and NATO as well as other long-standing alliances. Coalitions of the willing can augment these permanent institutions. In all cases, international obligations are to be taken seriously. They are not to be undertaken symbolically to rally support for an ideal without furthering its attainment.”

Why doubt Bush, if we doubt Saddam Hussein?

So, maybe the Americans are just after the oil. But serious people like Powell have faith in the cause. In any case, if you believe that Saddam Hussein’s ambitions are great and he is dangerous – as I think the American leaders do, irrespective of other sleazier motives that some of them almost certainly have – then it would seem justified that the nations that stand up to the tyrant get some of the oil booty to help allay the costs of the war. After all, they would have single-handedly enforced the international law that the UN Security Council had impotently mumbled throughout the 1990s. But oil is clearly not the aim.

Again, material gain could well be a secondary issue – the real question is, what do you think the threat from Saddam Hussein is? This is the starting point for evaluating American or anyone else’s actions on the question of Iraq.


Saddam’s heart of darkness, Part 2

“What underlies your certainty? What is the basis of your disbelief?”

Saddam and the heart of darkness

Part two

By John Wojdylo

Earlier in the same article in the Australian, Richard Butler had warned against the consequences of American exceptionalism:

“This hinted at another problem deriving from the notion of US exceptionalism and the Bush doctrine, namely the growing phenomenon of inconsistency in international relations. How is it, for example, that Iraq’s WMD are so despicable but no mention is now made of those of India, Pakistan and Israel, let alone the US and other permanent members of the Security Council, who are overwhelmingly the main owners of WMD? Why is it that Iraq’s non-compliance with the UN Security Council’s resolutions is so alarming, when Israel’s long-standing non compliance is not? The point here is that the answers to these questions are best sought within a framework of law not simply the raw exercise of power.” [The Australian, 16/9]

Butler is wrong here. The reason why a case can be made against Iraq in particular is hinted at in what he said in 1999:

“Iraq constituted one of the most conspicuous cases in modern times of rejection of the world’s assertion that no one should have weapons of mass destruction.”

Arms Control Today: What are the broader ramifications of UNSCOM’s removal from Iraq for arms control?

Richard Butler: The Security Council-mandated effort to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction is the major test case for the world’s attempt to prevent the spread of those weapons. Since the current crisis started last year on August 3 when Iraq decided to stop all of our disarmament work, I have said many times-to the Security Council, in public lectures, in private conversations and to the media-that the issue of Saddam Hussein is far bigger and larger than his own attachment to weapons of mass destruction.

In the last month or so, that view has strengthened. When I was dealing directly with Iraq, I felt strongly about the deceit we were faced with and about the attacks that were made upon us by Iraq and its supporters, many of which rested on falsehoods that were very damaging. That made me feel strongly about getting the job done with Iraq, but I also felt very definitely that Iraq was a paradigm case for something the world has been trying to do since the mid-’60s when the modern attempt to restrain the spread of weapons of mass destruction began-the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and so on.

ACT: What made Iraq the paradigm case for arms control?

Butler: The Iraq case had three elements. First, above all else, there was cheating from within the arms control regimes. The biggest nightmare of parties to these treaties is that a treaty partner will sign up but cheat. Iraq is a party to NPT and a party to the Biological Weapons Convention. It hasn’t ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, but after the 1925 [Geneva] Protocol no state was supposed to use chemical weapons.

Secondly, it was given the highest form of command in international law – namely Security Council resolutions, which are binding on all states under Article 25 of the UN Charter – to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction.

And finally, Iraq constituted one of the most conspicuous cases in modern times of rejection of the world’s assertion that no one should have weapons of mass destruction-something of indisputable importance…

That’s why I argued for the last year that it was essential to win the case against Iraq and its weapons because of what was at stake in the larger sense: the authority of the Council, the willingness of the Council to enforce the regimes of non-proliferation, the viability of those regimes, the moral standard that they represented. Those things are truly important. If Iraq succeeds in facing down the Security Council, what will be at issue is not that one rogue state will have gotten away with its wicked ways, but something far larger than that…

Put that alongside the other developments in the world and I see a confluence of events that suddenly relegates arms control to a secondary or even tertiary position in the thinking of those who run this world.


In September 2002, there’s even a stronger case that there is no inconsistency in WMD policy with regards Iraq. The reason is already clear, without recourse to a “framework of law”: Iraq’s WMD are despicable because Saddam Hussein has used them in the past against his opponents: Kurds and Iranians. And his deputy prime minister, the smiling and amiable Tariq Aziz, has said that the “biological weapons are for the Jews and for the Kurds” [to Richard Butler himself].

But most importantly – and this possibly explains the present urgency of the Americans – three weeks ago, Saddam threatened to use weapons of mass destruction again by explicitly threatening to “totally annihilate” a sovereign nation: Qatar.

Saddam Hussein has made his intention to fulfil his ambition – a pan-Arab state in the middle East – clear. None of India, Pakistan or Israel have threatened to use their WMD to “totally annihilate” their enemy, as Saddam Hussein did against Qatar. However flawed, these countries certainly still keep to at least a thread of international law – I believe much more than just a thread. But more important than keeping to a thread of international law, they keep to threads (great chunks, I believe) of self-imposed limits.

Saddam Hussein, beyond any doubt in his dreams, and more and more in his explicit threats, does not.

Butler here seems to be thinking of a neat and tidy notion of law and order – an ideal that is certainly realized in Australia’s richest suburbs – where everything basically runs smoothly and deviations from the law are fairly easily dealt with. But in a chaotic world full of imperfections – e.g. any suburb in any Eastern European city – although the ideal informs implementation of the law, one is often forced to target the most urgent cases first (without necessarily losing sight of the less urgent ones).

The nature of international treaties – e.g. the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – is often tenuous, just as the notion of international law is; these are, nonetheless, invaluable normative influences in a chaotic world.

The Qatar incident – unreported in Australia, yet possibly pivotal – occurred in Baghdad at the end of August. Here is the article from Der Spiegel [Saddam Droht Katar mit Zerstoerung, 11/9 spiegel ].

According to the Cairo newspaper, Al-Gumhuria, a loud argument broke out between Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and the Qatari Foreign Minister, Sheik Hamad Bin Jazim al-Thani. The dictator from Baghdad threatened the foreign minister, saying that he would completely annihilate Qatar.

The encounter at the end of August began brotherly enough. The newspaper report, citing Iraqi sources, said that at the meeting between the Iraqi president and al-Thani, the Qatari foreign minister had at first urged Saddam Hussein to allow UN weapons inspectors back into the country. Otherwise “hell will be unleashed.” “At the American military base al-Udeid in Qatar,” said al-Thani, “I have seen weapons that I have never laid eyes on before.” Hussein listened to this calmly.

Al-Thani continued, saying that “these weapons would be used against Iraq in the event of an American attack.” Saddam jumped up in rage. He shouted at the foreign minister. According to the Cairo newspaper, he asked his guest whether Qatar was prepared to be an agent of the USA and, on the side of the enemy, strike against the Arab nation. Should the small Gulf emirate “allow the US army to attack Iraq from al-Udeid”, he would “completely annihilate” the country.

The foreign minister drove straight to the airport after the meeting. There, Al-Thani said to journalists: “I have determined that Iraq wants to cooperate, but I have a few doubts.”

After the Qatari’s visit, referring to the Qatari’s urging him to allow weapons inspectors into the country, Hussein explained that he had told the foreign minister that “Iraq has already fulfilled its UN obligations.”

The American reaction to Hussein’s threats is not yet clear.

Three weeks later, the American reaction seems clearer.

The blue-sky dream reaction to Hussein’s threat is to treat it as the ravings of a harmless (to the West) megalomaniac lunatic. But then, on what basis do you discount the reality of his threat to totally annihilate a country?

Coupled with his self-declared pan-Arab ambitions, and his continual referral to the “Arab nation” as some homogeneous entity (in the excerpts in this Webdiary piece, these recall the myths of “das deutsche Volk” and “Blut und Boden”), it seems utterly foolhardy nonchalantly to claim that he has neither the capability nor the intention of carrying out his threat.

Does this not make disarmament even more urgent? As Rumsfeld said, disarmament is the objective, not UN weapons inspections. How is he to be disarmed when he always plays to win with UN inspection teams? (And all indications are that so far, he has won.)

Finally, it is known that Saddam Hussein takes frequent showers (up to five per day). Sounds like a case of hypochondriac disorder. But every person summoned to his presence must shower – to wash off radioactive powder, a means of assassination first used by the KGB – and disinfect their hands. Each of the officers, in his underwear, was searched and passed through a metal detector. Each was instructed to wash his hands in a disinfecting permanganate solution. [Mark Bowden]

The people who meet Saddam Hussein most often are those who make his power base function, who are responsible for making Saddam Hussein powerful, in whichever way he commands them to. If there were no biological weapons in Iraq, then Saddam Hussein would be unconcerned about their hygiene when meeting them.

* * *

The core issue is: What do you believe Saddam Hussein’s ambitions are? And how close is he to realizing them?

If you believe Saddam Hussein’s ambitions are great, then the recent American call to action against him starts to seem understandable. The moral situation is then like Hitler in 1938: Do we “bomb Hitler” and accept responsibility for possibly many, many innocent deaths – but thereby avert a Holocaust?

There are any number of horrific scenarios. In the best out of a range of possible outcomes of their belligerence, the Americans are hoping that by applying pressure on him and his inner circle, somebody will take the opportunity to assassinate him. (Saddam doesn’t have many friends left.)

But if it comes to a ground war in Baghdad, Saddam may well use bioweapons, as he threatened to do in the 1991 Gulf War if the Allies entered Baghdad. The Allies – the Americans, naturally – threatened to nuke Baghdad if he did. It could happen this time.

But perversely, the Americans would then be vindicated. The world would now have its “smoking gun”. Even more perversely, the Americans will be blamed for the catastrophe.

By going to war, if Saddam Hussein turns out to be dangerous, at a potentially horrendous cost in lives, the Americans would regain their honour; and if he is not dangerous, it’s very likely that Saddam’s troops will desert en masse (many defectors have said this), and the Allies would have a relatively easy victory.

Would the region explode? It may be that Saddam’s neighbours (apart from Syria) are more afraid of him than of their own people rising up in sympathy. Given his continued vigorous pursuit of his nuclear program – which would give him the symbol of power he really needs – I suspect that Saddam thinks more than an infidel invasion is needed to rouse the Arab masses – ie a show of nuclear weapons, made in Iraq.

What is the moral alternative? Are we morally bound not to take the risk in stopping him now? Must we wait for Saddam Hussein to achieve his ambition? This would give him the power to threaten us with unleashing the Holocaust unless we submit to his will.

This is our choice.

(Or, we may reject the concept of alternative altogether, and hope that Saddam is amassing WMD merely for his private collection.)

Absolute compassion – whereby any form of killing is forbidden – backs us into a corner. Absolute respect for human life means we must submit to his will, whatever the cost. Many of the anti-war voices we are hearing are in fact people yearning for an absolute. They elide at all costs the horror of the choice. In fact, the horror of responsibility, of having killed.

In the case of Saddam Hussein, I believe the cost of waiting is much greater than is generally being reckoned with. For perhaps he’s not even interested in bargaining for our submission. Just the fact of his obsession with weapons of mass destruction may be telling us something. What are Saddam Hussein’s ambitions? Mark Bowden again:

Saddam sees the prophet less as the bearer of divine revelation than as a political precursor – a great leader who unified the Arab peoples and inspired a flowering of Arab power and culture. The concocted link of bloodlines to Muhammad is symbolized by a 600-page hand-lettered copy of the Koran that was written with Saddam’s own blood, which he donated a pint at a time over three years. It is now on display in a Baghdad museum.

“If Saddam has a religion, it is a belief in the superiority of Arab history and culture, a tradition that he is convinced will rise up again and rattle the world. His imperial view of the grandeur that was Arabia is romantic, replete with fanciful visions of great palaces and wise and powerful sultans and caliphs…

“Even as Saddam rhapsodizes over the rich history of Arabia, he concedes the Western world’s clear superiority in two things. The first is weapons technology – hence his tireless efforts to import advanced military hardware and to develop weapons of mass destruction. The second is the art of acquiring and holding power. He has become a student of one of the most tyrannical leaders in history: Joseph Stalin.”

Said Aburish’s biography, ‘Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge’ (2000), tells of a meeting in 1979 between Saddam and the Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman. It was an early-morning meeting, and Saddam received Othman in a small office in one of his palaces. It looked to Othman as if Saddam had slept in the office the night before. There was a small cot in the corner, and the President received him wearing a bathrobe.

Next to the bed, Othman recalled, were “over twelve pairs of expensive shoes. And the rest of the office was nothing but a small library of books about one man, Stalin. One could say he went to bed with the Russian dictator.”

It was noon. Saddam was wearing a military uniform. Staying seated behind his desk, Saddam did not approach al-Bazzaz or even offer to shake his hand.

“How are you?” the President asked.

“Fine,” al-Bazzaz replied. “I am here to listen to your instructions.”

Saddam complained about an Egyptian comedy show that had been airing on one of the TV channels: “It is silly, and we shouldn’t show it to our people.” Al-Bazzaz made a note. Then Saddam brought up something else. It was the practice for poems and songs written in praise of him to be aired daily on TV. In recent weeks al-Bazzaz had urged his producers to be more selective. Most of the work was amateurish – ridiculous doggerel written by unskilled poets. His staff was happy to oblige. Paeans to the President were still aired every day, but not as many since al-Bazzaz had changed the policy.

“I understand,” Saddam said, “that you are not allowing some of the songs that carry my name to be broadcast.”

Al-Bazzaz was stunned, and suddenly frightened. “Mr. President,” he said, “we still broadcast the songs, but I have stopped some of them because they are so poorly written. They are rubbish.”

“Look,” Saddam said, abruptly stern, “you are not a judge, Saad.”

“Yes. I am not a judge.”

“How can you prevent people from expressing their feelings toward me?”

Al-Bazzaz feared that he was going to be taken away and shot. He felt the blood drain from his face, and his heart pounded heavily. The editor said nothing. The pencil shook in his hand. Saddam had not even raised his voice.

“No, no, no. You are not the judge of these things,” Saddam reiterated.

Al-Bazzaz kept repeating, “Yes, sir,” and frantically wrote down every word the President said. Saddam then talked about the movement for more freedoms in the press and the arts. “There will be no loosening of controls,” he said.

“Yes, sir.”

“Okay, fine. Now it is all clear to you?”

“Yes, sir.”

With that Saddam dismissed al-Bazzaz. The editor had sweated through his shirt and sport coat. He was driven back to the Cabinet Building, and then drove himself back to the office, where he immediately rescinded his earlier policy. That evening a full broadcast of the poems and songs dedicated to Saddam resumed…

In the Koran, Allah says, ‘If you thank me, I will give you more.’ In the early nineties Saddam was on TV, presenting awards to military officers, and he said, ‘If you thank me, I will give you more.’ He no longer believes he is a normal person. Dialogue with him is impossible because of this. [Saad al-Bazzaz, in Mark Bowden’s essay]…

I will now tell you my opinion,” Saddam said calmly, confidently. “Iran will never interfere. Our forces will put up more of a fight than you think. They can dig bunkers and withstand America’s aerial attacks. They will fight for a long time, and there will be many casualties on both sides. Only we are willing to accept casualties; the Americans are not. The American people are weak. They would not accept the losses of large numbers of their soldiers.”


What does Saddam want? By all accounts, he is not interested in money. Saddam told his official biographer that he isn’t interested in what people think of him today, only in what they will think of him in five hundred years…

In a speech this past January 17, the eleventh anniversary of the start of the Gulf War, Saddam explained, “The Americans have not yet established a civilization, in the deep and comprehensive sense we give to civilization. What they have established is a metropolis of force … Some people, perhaps including Arabs and plenty of Muslims and more than these in the wide world … considered the ascent of the U.S. to the summit as the last scene in the world picture, after which there will be no more summits and no one will try to ascend and sit comfortably there. They considered it the end of the world as they hoped for, or as their scared souls suggested it to them.”

Arabia, which Saddam sees as the wellspring of civilization, will one day own that summit again. When that day comes, whether in his lifetime or a century or even five centuries hence, his name will rank with those of the great men in history…

Major Sabah Khalifa Khodada, a career officer in the Iraqi army, was summoned from his duties as assistant to the commander of a terrorist training camp on January 1, 1996, for an important meeting. It was nighttime. He drove to his command center at Alswayra, southwest of Baghdad, where he and some other military officers were told to strip to their underwear. They removed their clothing, watches, and rings, and handed over their wallets. The clothing was then laundered, sterilized, and x-rayed. Each of the officers, in his underwear, was searched and passed through a metal detector. Each was instructed to wash his hands in a disinfecting permanganate solution.

They then dressed, and were transported in buses with blackened windows, so that they could not see where they were going. They were driven for a half hour or more, and then were searched again as they filed off. They had arrived at an official-looking building, Khodada did not know where. … When Saddam appeared, they all rose. He stood before his chair and smiled at them. Wearing his military uniform, decorated with medals and gold epaulets, he looked fit, impressive, and self-assured. When he sat, everyone sat. Saddam did not reach for his tea, so the others in the room didn’t touch theirs. He told Khodada and the others that they were the best men in the nation, the most trusted and able. That was why they had been selected to meet with him, and to work at the terrorist camps where warriors were being trained to strike back at America. The United States, he said, because of its reckless treatment of Arab nations and the Arab people, was a necessary target for revenge and destruction. American aggression must be stopped in order for Iraq to rebuild and to resume leadership of the Arab world. Saddam talked for almost two hours. Khodada could sense the great hatred in him, the anger over what America had done to his ambitions and to Iraq. Saddam blamed the United States for all the poverty, backwardness, and suffering in his country…

Perhaps he will fail in the struggle during his lifetime, but he is convinced that his courage and vision will fire a legend that will burn brightly in a future Arab-centered world.



What is the nature of our disbelief?

Do we react because of substance, or because of hype? Are we living in a blue-sky dream, where the terrifying reality – the horror of the choice before us, and the responsibility either way – is pushed out of our consciousness? Is inability to face reality leading us to a disastrous decision?

If we don’t act soon, when we are relatively powerful, we may be condemning our civilization to oblivion. But if we act now, many, many people may die.

Sean Richardson writes in Don’t Believe the Hype, “It is a very sad indictment on our current crop of representatives that we should probably ASSUME that the government will lie without shame if it suits them”. But this is self-defeating: if you distrust every word the government says, how is it supposed to convince you with the evidence that you demand to see? Barrier. A recipe for disbelief and inaction, even when presented with material that you ought to assimilate immediately and build into your planning or worldview.

Sean mentions another form of disbelief: “Daniel Pipes was surprised to find an audience of professional military officers questioning the need to go to war with Iraq after his presentation at the Australian Defence Force Academy.” This is part of a normal debate in Australia – we’re so far away from the rest of the world, why should our sons and daughters die for other countries’ problems?

The same debate (at least in some quarters) was had at various times about our participation in each of the world wars and the Vietnam War. The answer depends on what you believe the connectedness between nations is, the threat a nuclear-armed Hitler poses, on the connectedness of freedom. If Hitler had won World War Two, would we still be living in a land of the free? How much of a threat to freedom is Saddam Hussein? These sorts of questions.

The course of history can turn on seemingly fortuitous happenings. Or just one blow can sometimes have great repercussions. History is about power, not law. Law comes later. Our ability to implement institutions of justice, human rights, civilization in our image depends on us holding power. (A recent defamation case – Joe Gutnick versus an American Internet publisher – is a banal illustration of this. The American publisher can laugh at the outcome in Australia because it cannot possibly affect him. Australian law is powerless in the US, apart from extradition treaties etc.)

The fact that we are able to read Webdiary as a forum of free speech is contingent on Australian forefathers (and mothers) having stamped their influence on this part of the world, through asserting power. The shadows of our ancestors permeate our lives in making the freedoms we take for granted possible. Most of us have not had to make the sacrifices that they did; and if it wasn’t for Saddam Hussein, perhaps we would never have had to.

We all have power – in every personal aspect – and have a duty to use it, and learn to use it, responsibly.

History turns on singular events and decisions. If Hitler had held off invading the Soviet Union in 1941 and instead massively reinforced Rommel’s troops in North Africa, then he could have captured the oil fields in the Middle East. More important than being “good for business”, it would have won him the war. He would have gained political control over much of the world, and probably even conquered a lot more of it. The Holocaust would have been extended to Australia, as I’m pretty confident enough willing collaborators would have been found here. (This would be an interesting hypothetical to write.)

What if Saddam Hussein’s ambition is to establish a pan-Arab dominion in the Middle East? What if he intends to do that by amassing nuclear weapons, which are the most effective symbol of power? When he is powerful enough, and has proven his power, Arabs will bury their animosity towards him and take him as their leader. The new Saladin is undoubtedly how he sees himself even now. So if you believe that Saddam’s ambitions are great, and he is capable and willing to realize them, then the risk that an imminent war against Iraq would incite Arabs to rise against their governments is worth taking, especially since relatively few Arabs support him just at the moment.

Does he intend to extend his terror to the entire Middle East and Caspian Sea area? I think not – I think he wants to facilitate the fall of the West and be remembered for 500 years because of it. At 66 years of age, he knows he is too old to reign over an empire.

These questions should be investigated further. Maybe his regime would not survive his death – but then how do you feel about Islamists gaining control of Middle East and Caspian Sea oil? How would that affect Australia?

Another aspect of the disbelief question: do we judge the words people say by our image of the person who said them, or do we look for the substance of what they say? Do we compare the words to evidence we’ve been at pains to build up? Do we dismiss words just because we imagine “him and his kind” saying them with liturgical fervour?

But even words spoken by the proverbial idiot can have a wider truth. Or are also spoken by people who know a lot more about the situation than you or I or the idiot. Sometimes village idiots get lumped with a role much bigger than them, and try to fulfil it despite their inadequacies. Is this what we are seeing?

Why should you believe British Prime Minister when he presents the long-awaited “new evidence”? There are always a thousand reasons for disbelieving evidence – ever higher levels of burden of proof, theories to the contrary that get bigger and bigger. Does your disbelief follow a pattern? How many times have you disbelieved something that turned out to be true?

One step in a solution for testing the words you hear: find out who said it first. For instance, the Bush-muppet – and Bert and Ernie in Australia – say “regime change is the only way.” The Muppet Show gets tons of flak often just because it’s the Muppets that said it. That’s the worst reason for disbelief. This time I believe Australia’s Bert and Ernie are right.

The Muppets get flak for repeating what serious people have said. Dig around, find credible sources, according to whatever your definition of “credible” is. Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post, July 31, 2002:

Iraq’s shopping list contains no ‘smoking guns,’ according to experts on Iraq’s past nuclear weapons program. Most, if not all, of the listed items have multiple industrial uses apart from uranium enrichment, the sources said. But one person with intimate knowledge of Iraq’s earlier attempts to build a bomb said he believes the real evidence of Iraq’s nuclear efforts will not show up on official shipping manifests. Khidhir Hamza, an Iraqi nuclear scientist who defected to the West in 1994, said a decade of trade sanctions has taught Hussein to become much better at getting what he needs through a combination of smuggling, bribery and improvisation.

“Any watch list you have becomes meaningless,’ said Hamza, who describes Iraq’s prewar nuclear program in an autobiography titled Saddam’s Bombmaker. ‘Iraq is increasingly able to manufacture what it needs locally.’

Hamza contends that Iraq will eventually acquire a nuclear bomb if Hussein is allowed to remain in power long enough.

‘No one who has ever gone this route has backed away because of political pressure alone,’ Hamza said. ‘The only way to stop him is by changing the regime.”

The point is, every Iraqi defector is saying the same thing. Even if you believe American government reports are full of lies, read what independent witnesses are saying. But don’t believe just one. Put what Ritter is saying side by side with what Butler said about Ritter, what the UNSCOM reports have said, and what Iraqi defectors are saying.

Richard Butler to Arms Control Today (1999):

“UNSCOM was particularly hurt by Scott Ritter’s carrying on. We can argue about what influenced the decisionmakers – there are different versions. But when you claim to be in the room when you weren’t, when you claim to be part of the conversation when you weren’t, when you claim that conversations took place that never did – the false assertion that I met [Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright in Bahrain in March 1998, for example-when you make those kinds of claims that are factually so wrong, that’s very different from having a more honest argument about what went into certain decisions.

“I don’t know why he’s behaved that way. Some say he’s not just dishonest, but he’s actually delusionary, that he actually thinks he was there. You know there was one inspection that he implied he was on, and it was canned by the Iraqis, and there was a big fuss. He wasn’t ever on that inspection. He wasn’t in country then. It’s just wrong, but Ritter got to a point where he thought he was UNSCOM, that everything that happened there was him. And if you look at his interviews, you hear that coming through. He actually said on public television, thumping his fist on the table, “I was UNSCOM! I was it!” So, his claim late in 1998 that I somehow sold the store to the CIA is dramatically untrue. And on the contrary, as I said, I actually scaled down the extent to which we were using member states’ intelligence input to do our work because I was concerned about what it could do to our reputation. I was concerned about protecting the independence of multilateral disarmament activities.”

In categorical contradiction to Ritter’s recent well-publicized claims, UNSCOM itself concluded that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction. “In a report to the U.N. Security Council in 1999, UNSCOM concluded that Iraq had concealed nearly 160 bombs and more than two dozen missile warheads filled with anthrax or other pathogens.” [Washington Post July 31, 2002]

Ritter is in effect denying the conclusions of the UNSCOM team he worked for. I’d believe UNSCOM before I believe Ritter – but I may end up believing neither. Why should I believe Ritter, when he seems to have forgotten basic details of his work seemingly just so he can run his campaign? And that’s what it is, a campaign.

Go for primary sources, or near enough, anything to get behind the sensationalist facades projected by the media. Compare them.

A huge problem in the way the debate is being conducted in Australia is that nobody quotes primary sources. Everybody says “the Yanks say this” and “Shrub said that”. The fact is, serious people said it first. It creates hubris, a barrier that divides people into camps of simplistic beliefs and defeats the purpose of the debate.

Herald journalist Paul McGeough does it all the time, almost palpably blindly deriding the Americans for their belligerence – but he is not objective when he does it, it’s his opinion, not the facts. It seeps through his work and diminishes its authority, as well as perhaps his ability to see what’s important.

McGeough writes as if banality in itself contains insights, as if the zero-point of nothingness that banality contains allows us to see more clearly what is actually going on. But banality in itself is a lie, because it makes us believe the appearances that dictators want us to see.

While Paul McGeough was in Baghdad reporting on the business-as-usual of mechanics fixing Toyota trucks – he manifestly ignored the fact that they live in a military dictatorship and a mafia economy, whereby if they said anything against the regime they would have been executed – Saddam Hussein was threatening Qatar with total annihilation.

The overriding fact, against which all scenes in Iraq must be weighed, is that Iraq is a military dictatorship. “What colour was the sky in Baghdad?” “Why, it was blue!” But it is not blue. The Toyota mechanics had an invisible gun pointed at their heads. It made the sky black. Even if they were willing players in the mafia economy, the gun was real. McGeough did not seek to portray the gun that was there.

Because he could not see it. And if the smoking gun cannot be seen, it cannot exist.

A Soviet era maxim: Never trust the impressions you get from seeing what a dictator lets you see. Especially one that models himself after Stalin.

Paul McGeough wants to contribute something of substance when he is taken as a guest of the Iraqi government to “inspect” some site where “the Americans claim the Iraqis are producing weapons of mass destruction”. He sees one building out of several, nothing suspicious, and reports this. Freely admits the limits of his visit. But he is not neutral. Not objective. In his quest for absolute objectivity, he has portrayed a lie that the dictator wanted him to tell.

For even if there was indeed no bioweapons plant in that building, he portrayed a little piece of Iraq to make it look as ordinary and familiar to us like a factory in an outer Sydney suburb. Now when we think of our images of Iraq, we think partly of an ordinary outer Sydney suburb. Nothing too unpalatable, just a bit of blue sky and a pesticide factory. And suddenly Saddam’s terror is made a little bit more banal, more palatable, acceptable.

But the banal image is a lie. The instant Paul McGeough elicits the only answer of substance, his interview is terminated and he is sent back to Baghdad. As a consequence of his presence, a person was sentenced to death. Or could have been, because he let the cat out of the bag: 80 percent of the workers here had previously worked on bioweapons projects. I wonder if the guy still works there. Will McGeough go back and find out? This could be substance.

Each of us has power, even when we think we don’t. Perhaps the one duty we are born with is to learn what power we have, and how to use it responsibly.

McGeough also spun the weapons production site claim by dismissively attributing it to the Americans. Because of his carelessness, his articles add to blind hype in this way. This is not objectivity. His reports always contain an implicit factual error: in reality, such claims usually originate from defectors or informants on the ground – scientists, people who know much more about what is happening in the military dictatorship than either I or Paul McGeough does – and the Americans later try to corroborate them using spy satellites. A futile effort if the spy satellites are looking for “small labs built underground or concealed inside specially modified trucks”. Or “hidden in schools or private homes.”

When McGeough got the chance to ask a really interesting, potentially definitive question – as when he interviewed the spiritual leader of Hamas – he missed his opportunity. The question that he missed was: “What do you see is the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?” I suspect that he avoided the question because the answer would have been too revealing. It would have made his readers come to a judgement about the nature of Palestinian extremism.

Isn’t it better to know the truth, however ugly it is, and to deal with it?

Extremism on all sides. Condemn Israeli extremism, too, but don’t avoid the truth.

Another problem with media presentation of the Iraq issue in particular is exemplified by the continual publication of Scott Ritter’s view on Iraq without publishing expert commentary that critiques it – so that people can at least try to judge for themselves. Ritter’s views are obviously controversial, so good editorial policy ought to have some “mainstream” expert (Richard Butler, say) critique it.

The problem is, we are presented with testimony from a guy with impressive credentials who is contradicting much of what the muppets are saying – stealing the wind from their belligerence, and puffing up antiwar hubris – which would be valuable if he was right. But the more you look into his claims, the more they seem deceitful. How are ordinary members of the public supposed to judge what he’s saying? (His claims are matters of fact, not mathematical models.)

Ritter is interesting because one of his central arguments captures precisely the denial mode of many proponents of the no-war-at-any-cost view. The argument is familiar from other fields.

In 2001, Ritter had a brief stoush with two scientists from something called the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, Gary Milhollin and Kelly Motz, who had published an article (“Shopping with Saddam Hussein”) in Commentary Magazine iraqwatch detailing how Saddam Hussein is smuggling military hardware despite UN sanctions.

The most important points made in the article by Milhollin and Motz are the following: it is certain that Saddam has actively been seeking military hardware – including nuclear-related equipment – despite giving assurances to the UN that he will not; numerous military component companies, particularly in Belarus, Romania, Russia and Ukraine, have proven their willingness to supply these parts despite the UN sanctions; and an effective and widely used system exists of smuggling goods via Jordan and paying for them through undeclared oil. It is detailed in the article.

Given these certainties, the fact that no military hardware has turned up in a truck at the few border crossings (perhaps only one) between Jordan and Iraq – where UN monitors check the cargo – is irrelevant to the assessment of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein. From this report and others, the tracks are clear – only the smoking gun is missing. This does not mean it doesn’t exist; and it doesn’t mean that we may not form a judgement that we ought to believe it exists.

Scott Ritter’s central argument is that until we find the weapons, we cannot be sure that they exist, despite every sign that points to their existence. This is deceit. It’s the same argument used by those who say: “The signed document ordering the Final Solution has never been found;… therefore the Final Solution never happened.” Or: “Nobody has seen a black hole, therefore they don’t exist.” (No astrophysicist actually says this anymore.) We know they are there by the traces they leave behind.

Scott Ritter’s apparently unsolicited reply to Milhollin and Motz’s article is revealing for other reasons. Ritter’s letter, and Milhollin and Motz’s reply, are at iraqwatch.

The relevant concept here is “manifest intention”: there is no smoking gun yet, but that need not and must not stop us from forming an image of Saddam Hussein’s manifest intention; ie the dense matrix of indicators that outline his intention, whatever it actually is.

Part of this outline is the following:

“Inspectors concluded that Iraq retained at least 157 aerial bombs and 25 missile warheads filled with germ agents, spraying equipment to deliver germ agents by helicopter, and possessed enough growth media to generate three or four times the amount of anthrax it admitted producing. Iraq either claimed that these items were destroyed unilaterally, claimed they were used for civilian purposes or simply refused to explain what happened to them. Nor could the inspectors account for the results of a known project to deliver germ agents by drop tanks or account for much of the equipment Iraq used to produce germ agents. Finally, Iraq contended that many essential records of its biological weapon program, such as log books of materials purchased, lists of imported ingredients, and lists of stored ingredients, simply “cannot be found.”

“What U.N. inspectors know for certain is that Iraq did not account for all the biological agents it made before the Gulf War, and that it produced anthrax on an industrial-scale and loaded it into warheads. In addition, Iraq admitted filling R-400 bombs and developing drop tanks to deliver anthrax, as well as developing and testing the so-called “Zubaidy” device for helicopter dissemination. Finally, Dr. Rihab Taha, a senior Iraqi biologist, told inspectors that one goal of the Iraqi genetic engineering team was to develop a strain of anthrax that was resistant to antibiotic treatment.

“Dr. Spertzel confirmed that Iraq had made progress in drying anthrax; he said that instead of grinding anthrax into a fine powder, Iraq used a dryer and chemical additives. According to Dr. Spertzel, the Iraqi technique was a novel one-step process that dried the spores in the presence of aluminum-based clays or silica powders. He said inspectors destroyed one of two industrial dryers that Baghdad used in its static-free experiments, but had not managed to destroy or remove the other, which would still be available for Iraqi use. Thus, Iraq had learned how to dry anthrax and get it to a size that would allow it to be an effective weapon.[From the latest Iraq Watch report iraqwatch]


The poll results Margo Kingston quoted in Don’t Believe the Hype could mean anything – for instance, that few Australians can recall anything but generalities on Iraq in recent years, generalities that have become so much of a cliche that they’ve lost their meaning and impact. We ought to look at the groundswell of details that are periodically summarised in good articles or reports.

As a starting point, I recommend the Iraq Watch website: iraqwatch .

A number of key United Nations disarmament documents on Iraq that have been made public are at: iraqwatch

Too little of the information at places like Iraq Watch is available to, say, the audience of Channel Nine’s Sunday program during debates, who are then polled to see what they think of the government’s view. How are people supposed to make an informed judgement when very little of the groundswell of evidence seeps through the lacquer of set opinions?

We ought not rely on one or two “king hits” of evidence that are supposed to convince even the most die-hard disbelievers. People who really want to win – and Saddam Hussein is one of them – aren’t so stupid as to make mistakes that would let their enemies in like that. The real king hits – the ones nobody can deny – always come too late. By then it will be much more difficult for anybody other than Saddam to have a say in the matter.

Do we resist assimilating evidence against Saddam Hussein, deny that he intends to establish a pan-Arab nuclear dominion in the Middle East, because we want to avoid the horror of the choice and responsibility that would entail?

* * *

Some more passages from Mark Bowden’s essay.

He is long-limbed, with big, strong hands. In Iraq the size of a man still matters, and Saddam is impressive. At six feet two he towers over his shorter, plumper aides. He lacks natural grace but has acquired a certain elegance of manner, the way a country boy learns to match the right tie with the right suit.

While he served as vice-chairman, from 1968 to 1979, the party’s goals had seemed to be Saddam’s own. That was a relatively good period for Iraq, thanks to Saddam’s blunt effectiveness as an administrator. He orchestrated a draconian nationwide literacy project. Reading programs were set up in every city and village, and failure to attend was punishable by three years in jail. Men, women, and children attended these compulsory classes, and hundreds of thousands of illiterate Iraqis learned to read. UNESCO gave Saddam an award. There were also ambitious drives to build schools, roads, public housing, and hospitals. Iraq created one of the best public-health systems in the Middle East…. Today all these programs are a distant memory. Within two years of his seizing full power, Saddam’s ambitions turned to conquest, and his defeats have ruined the nation. … his single, overriding goal throughout was to establish his own rule.

“In the beginning the Baath Party was made up of the intellectual elite of our generation,” says Hamed al-Jubouri, a former Command Council member who now lives in London. “There were many professors, physicians, economists, and historians – really the nation’s elite. Saddam was charming and impressive. He appeared to be totally different from what we learned he was afterward. He took all of us in. We supported him because he seemed uniquely capable of controlling a difficult country like Iraq, a difficult people like our people. We wondered about him. How could such a young man, born in the countryside north of Baghdad, become such a capable leader? He seemed both intellectual and practical. But he was hiding his real self. For years he did this, building his power quietly, charming everyone, hiding his true instincts. He has a great ability to hide his intentions; it may be his greatest skill. I remember his son Uday said one time, ‘My father’s right shirt pocket doesn’t know what is in his left shirt pocket.'”

Yet no man is without contradictions. Even Saddam has been known to grieve over his excesses. Some who saw him cry at the lectern during the 1979 purge dismiss it as a performance, but Saddam has a history of bursting into tears. In the wave of executions following his formal assumption of power, according to Said Aburish’s biography, he locked himself in his bedroom for two days and emerged with eyes red and swollen from weeping. Aburish reports that Saddam then paid a brazen though apparently sincere condolence call on the family of Adnan Hamdani, the executed official who had been closest to him during the previous decade. He expressed not remorse – the execution was necessary – but sadness. He told Hamdani’s widow apologetically that “national considerations” must outweigh personal ones. So on occasion, at least, Saddam the person laments what Saddam the tyrant must do.

* * *

It’s tempting to speculate that the publication of Bowden’s essay and views in April/May may have influenced the US government to step on the accelerator. Much seems understandable after reading these two works.

Excerpt from an interview with Mark Bowden, author of “Tales of a Tyrant”. By Sage Strosser. Published in Atlantic Unbound (online), April 25, 2002. (iraqwatch)

What end do you foresee for him? Are there circumstances under which his own people would overthrow him without outside help? And how receptive would the Iraqi people be to assistance from the U.S. in eliminating Saddam and/or in setting up a successor government?

My guess would be that Saddam will fall, probably fairly soon. He’ll probably be killed by somebody in his inner circle. But it will be connected in some way to an American effort-in conjunction with American military strikes. That’s just pure conjecture on my part, but that would be my guess. If the military people around Saddam were convinced that the United States was definitely going to invade, they would know they were going to be defeated. And since I doubt that there’s really any intense personal loyalty to Saddam, I suspect that the people around him would not fight to the death to protect him, but rather would begin to maneuver to try and head off an American invasion and defeat by getting rid of Saddam themselves.

So you don’t think the United States will end up having to go after him?

I don’t think so. But we have to be ready to do it, and that has to be apparent to Iraq. We may even have to launch some strikes into Iraq, just to demonstrate that we are serious about getting rid of him. If we do that, I think he will be gotten rid of.

Knowing what you know, how would you advise the decision-makers in Washington to deal with Saddam?

After working on this story, I really do think that Saddam poses a serious threat to the United States and the rest of the world – not that he will attack Israel or the United States directly, but if he possesses or develops nuclear weapons of mass destruction, I have no doubt that he will find a way to get those weapons into the hands of groups like al Qaeda and others who will use them. Saddam has been making a very serious effort for some years now to develop the kinds of weapons that really can only be developed by a state. So I think that in the interest of self-defense it’s really important that we do something to end his regime. But as for how to go about it? I’m afraid that’s, as they say in the military, “over my pay grade.”

* * *


How can one rationally think about threats that can only be realized in the future?

Winston Churchill did this – and was right. The range of reactions to Churchill on a certain issue – almost entirely hostile – is the same as current reactions to the Americans. Are we committing the same mistakes as the West did in the 1930s and 40s?

Martin Gilbert, author of The Holocaust (1985) as well as a biography of Winston Churchill, discovered this surprising aspect of Churchill, seemingly unique among westerners at the time. [The following is quoted from]

“When in November 1932, shortly before Hitler came to power, and Churchill was in Munich doing some historical research about the First Duke of Marlborough, his ancestor, an intermediary tried to get him to meet Hitler, who was in Munich at the time and had high hopes of coming to power within months. Churchill agreed to meet Hitler, who was going to come to see him in his hotel in Munich, and said to the intermediary: ‘There are a few questions you might like to put to him, which can be the basis of our discussion when we meet.’ Among them was the following question: ‘What is the sense of being against a man simply because of his birth? How can any man help how he is born?’

“This may seem a simple sentiment to us now, but how many people, distinguished people from Britain, the United States and other countries, who met or might have met Hitler, raised that question with him? So surprised, and possibly angered, was Hitler by this question that he declined to come to the hotel and see Churchill.

“From the moment that Hitler came to power, Churchill in his public speeches, and in his Parliamentary speeches, made it clear that the racial aspect of Nazism was a central concern. He always insisted on raising this issue, and pointing out the relevance to his listeners of the Nazi racial policies, and this he did again and again.”

So Churchill was Britain’s Donald Rumsfeld, totally convinced of the validity of the “manifest intentions” argument, that the dense matrix of indicators that outline intention must be taken seriously, for they can point to the potential for catastrophic acts in the future; and knowing what is at stake, since we cannot know the true mind and can only suspect it from flimsy signs, we have to act to avoid the potential catastrophe: the apparent aggressor must prove they do not intend to perpetrate the catastrophe. If they refuse to provide credible proof, we must force the issue, or be prepared to accept moral responsibility for our inaction.

We already know of Hitler’s intentions towards the Jews from Mein Kampf, published nearly two decades before the order for the Final Solution was given. People at the time had good reason to fear the worst when he came to power and was given the opportunity to fulfil his ambitions.

Churchill feared what he saw, even in 1933. Martin Gilbert describes Churchill’s prescient note:

“I also found in an article which he wrote in April 1933, some two months after Hitler came to power, an extraordinary forecast or foresight, the recognition, which I haven’t seen elsewhere at the time: that it was not only the 500,000 Jews of Germany, but many other Jews, many millions of Jews elsewhere, who were now threatened. This is what he wrote:

‘There is a danger of the odious conditions now ruling in Germany, being extended by conquest to Poland and another persecution and pogrom of Jews being begun in this new area.”

But Churchill’s attitude was not cool enough, not balanced enough, for the higher echelons of Western power. The most unpalatable thing for his interlocutors was that at the bottom of his views on Hitler lay a judgement, a conviction that seemed to irrationally focus on a particular horrific future. He burned bridges instead of leaving the options open to align himself with the wind, whichever way it would blow. I also imagine they almost certainly resented being presented with a nightmare every time he spoke on the matter. They did not want to face the horror, because it means they would have had to make a dreadful choice. They would have to comprehend that they were complicit in the worst mass-murder in history.

“It is interesting to note, sad in a way, that Churchill’s constant ‘harping’ on the Jewish issue – as his contemporaries sometimes described his concern – was more and more held against him in the general argument about his lack of reliability, balance, judgement and statesmanship.”

Churchill’s confronting the nightmare vision with rationality increased his humanity. He saw some things from others’ perspective better, went beyond himself, his private visions, his self-interest.

President Roosevelt’s comprehension of the Jewish situation was inferior to Churchill’s. It made him reluctant to do certain things. (I believe this has resonances with Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.) Martin Gilbert again.

During my Churchill researches, I found an account of a lunch which he had in April 1943 with the Spanish ambassador in London. During the lunch, Churchill brought up the recent closing by Spain of the Pyrenees frontier to Jews who were seeking to escape from France. “I must warn your government,” Churchill told the ambassador, “that if you prevent these unfortunate people seeking safety from the horrors of Nazi domination, such a thing will never be forgotten and will poison the relations between the Spanish and the British people.”

Churchill then enlisted Roosevelt’s help to put pressure on Spain. At first Roosevelt was reluctant to participate, but in the end he agreed. Having to argue this case at a very difficult and dangerous moment of the war, with great military forces in violent contention both in Europe and the Far East, Churchill wrote to Roosevelt: “Our immediate facilities for helping the victims of Hitler’s anti-Jewish drive are so limited that surely the ability of removing some of them to safety is all the more incumbent upon us.”

Years before World War Two, because of his harping on about Hitler’s threat to the Jews, Churchill was treated like George Bush or Rumsfeld are today, when they harp on about Saddam Hussein’s threat to the entire Middle East – especially Israel. When Churchill spoke, he fuelled disbelief in whatever he said on the matter, and his credibility suffered. The problem is that he was right; and it seems that history has now primed the same set of circumstances, and public reaction is much the same.

Jan Karski got an even stronger reaction when, in 1943, he met President Roosevelt and a number of American Jewish leaders, and presented microfilm of Nazi documents and his eye-witness account of the Warsaw Ghetto and the murder of many Jews at a transit point along the road to the Belzec concentration camp. His accounts of the Nazi “manifest intention” to carry out the Final Solution, though they should have been utterly convincing, were dismissed as self-interested propaganda – many said he was trying to win attention to his own people’s cause, that it was just another example of his prejudice. Or they dismissed his testimony simply as unbelievable, without any further thought.

In the words of Karski’s biographer, “He came face to face with the adherents of Realpolitik in the British and American governments who argued for caution, argued for prudence, argued for routine in both the democratic world’s alliance with Stalin and its struggle against Hitler. Karski argued for action. His mission was a failure.”

Finally, Martin Gilbert writes the following on Churchill and Neville Chamberlain:

When in May 1939 the British government put on the statute book the limitation of immigration to Palestine, Churchill led the opposition to it in the House of Commons and spoke very bitterly of the policy of closing the gates of refuge at the very moment when they were most needed. But just as his friend had said to me, “He was too fond of Jews,” so I found a letter at the time of the Kristallnacht, the destruction of Jewish synagogues, property and lives, a letter in which Neville Chamberlain wrote privately to his sister: “Jews aren’t lovable people, I don’t care for them myself.” Although this expression of opinion killed nobody and hurt nobody physically, it was symptomatic of a terrible malaise which, in enabling the gates of rescue to be closed, did incredible harm, in those few months leading up to the outbreak of war.

What underlies your certainty?

What is the basis of your disbelief?

* * *

Come on, baby, take a chance with us

Come on, baby, take a chance with us

And meet me at the back of the blue bus

This is the end, beautiful friend

This is the end, my only friend, the end

[copyright the Doors Music Company (ASCAP); from Apocalypse Now Redux]

What if Al Gore had won?

Al Gore, the man who nearly beat Bush for US presidency – and who did beat him according to analysis of disputed votes in Florida – this week presented his alternative to the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive, unilateral wars to protect America from terrorism.


Al Gore, Former U.S. Vice President

Speech to the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, 23 September 2002

Like all Americans I have been wrestling with the question of what our country needs to do to defend itself from the kind of intense, focused and enabled hatred that brought about September 11th, and which at this moment must be presumed to be gathering force for yet another attack.

I’m speaking today in an effort to recommend a specific course of action for our country which I believe would be preferable to the course recommended by President Bush. Specifically, I am deeply concerned that the policy we are presently following with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.

First Thing First: War On Terrorism

To begin with, I believe we should focus our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on September 11th and have thus far gotten away with it. The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized. I do not believe that we should allow ourselves to be distracted from this urgent task simply because it is proving to be more difficult and lengthy than predicted. Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another.

We are perfectly capable of staying the course in our war against Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network, while simultaneously taking those steps necessary to build an international coalition to join us in taking on Saddam Hussein in a timely fashion.

I don’t think that we should allow anything to diminish our focus on avenging the 3,000 Americans who were murdered and dismantling the network of terrorists who we know to be responsible for it. The fact that we don’t know where they are should not cause us to focus instead on some other enemy whose location may be easier to identify.

Nevertheless, President Bush is telling us that the most urgent requirement of the moment – right now – is not to redouble our efforts against Al Qaeda, not to stabilize the nation of Afghanistan after driving his host government from power, but instead to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein And he is proclaiming a new, uniquely American right to pre-emptively attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat.

Moreover, he is demanding in this high political season that Congress speedily affirm that he has the necessary authority to proceed immediately against Iraq and for that matter any other nation in the region, regardless of subsequent developments or circumstances. The timing of this sudden burst of urgency to take up this cause as America’s new top priority, displacing the war against Osama Bin Laden, was explained by the White House Chief of Staff in his now well known statement that “from an advertising point of view, you don’t launch a new product line until after labor day”.

Nevertheless, Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.

Moreover, no international law can prevent the United States from taking actions to protect its vital interests, when it is manifestly clear that there is a choice to be made between law and survival.

I believe, however, that such a choice is not presented in the case of Iraq. Indeed, should we decide to proceed, that action can be justified within the framework of international law rather than outside it. In fact, though a new UN resolution may be helpful in building international consensus, the existing resolutions from 1991 are sufficient from a legal standpoint.

We also need to look at the relationship between our national goal of regime change in Iraq and our goal of victory in the war against terror. In the case of Iraq, it would be more difficult for the United States to succeed alone, but still possible. By contrast, the war against terror manifestly requires broad and continuous international cooperation. Our ability to secure this kind of cooperation can be severely damaged by unilateral action against Iraq. If the Administration has reason to believe otherwise, it ought to share those reasons with the Congress – since it is asking Congress to endorse action that might well impair a more urgent task: continuing to disrupt and destroy the international terror network.

I was one of the few Democrats in the U.S. Senate who supported the war resolution in 1991. And I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration’s hasty departure from the battlefield, even as Saddam began to renew his persecution of the Kurds of the North and the Shiites of the South – groups we had encouraged to rise up against Saddam. It is worth noting, however, that the conditions in 1991 when that resolution was debated in Congress were very different from the conditions this year as Congress prepares to debate a new resolution. Then, Saddam had sent his armies across an international border to invade Kuwait and annex its territory. This year, 11 years later, there is no such invasion; instead we are prepared to cross an international border to change the government of Iraq. However justified our proposed action may be, this change in role nevertheless has consequences for world opinion and can affect the war against terrorism if we proceed unilaterally.

Secondly, in 1991, the first President Bush patiently and skillfully built a broad international coalition. His task was easier than that confronted his son, in part because of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Nevertheless, every Arab nation except Jordan supported our military efforts and some of them supplied troops. Our allies in Europe and Asia supported the coalition without exception. Yet this year, by contrast, many of our allies in Europe and Asia are thus far opposed to what President Bush is doing and the few who support us condition their support on the passage of a new U.N. resolution.

Third, in 1991, a strong United Nations resolution was in place before the Congressional debate ever began; this year although we have residual authority based on resolutions dating back to the first war in Iraq, we have nevertheless begun to seek a new United Nations resolution and have thus far failed to secure one.

Fourth, the coalition assembled in 1991 paid all of the significant costs of the war, while this time, the American taxpayers will be asked to shoulder hundreds of billions of dollars in costs on our own.

Fifth, President George H. W. Bush purposely waited until after the mid-term elections of 1990 to push for a vote at the beginning of the new Congress in January of 1991. President George W. Bush, by contrast, is pushing for a vote in this Congress immediately before the election. Rather than making efforts to dispel concern at home an abroad about the role of politics in the timing of his policy, the President is publicly taunting Democrats with the political consequences of a “no” vote – even as the Republican National Committee runs pre-packaged advertising based on the same theme – in keeping with the political strategy clearly described in a White House aide’s misplaced computer disk, which advised Republican operatives that their principal game plan for success in the election a few weeks away was to “focus on the war.” Vice President Cheney, meanwhile indignantly described suggestions of political motivation “reprehensible.” The following week he took his discussion of war strategy to the Rush Limbaugh show.

The foreshortening of deliberation in the Congress robs the country of the time it needs for careful analysis of what may lie before it. Such consideration is all the more important because of the Administration’s failure thus far to lay out an assessment of how it thinks the course of a war will run – even while it has given free run to persons both within and close to the administration to suggest that this will be an easy conquest. Neither has the Administration said much to clarify its idea of what is to follow regime change or of the degree of engagement it is prepared to accept for the United States in Iraq in the months and years after a regime change has taken place.

By shifting from his early focus after September 11th on war against terrorism to war against Iraq, the President has manifestly disposed of the sympathy, good will and solidarity compiled by America and transformed it into a sense of deep misgiving and even hostility. In just one year, the President has somehow squandered the international outpouring of sympathy, goodwill and solidarity that followed the attacks of September 11th and converted it into anger and apprehension aimed much more at the United States than at the terrorist network – much as we manage to squander in one year’s time the largest budget surpluses in history and convert them into massive fiscal deficits. He has compounded this by asserting a new doctrine – of preemption.

The doctrine of preemption is based on the idea that in the era of proliferating WMD, and against the background of a sophisticated terrorist threat, the United States cannot wait for proof of a fully established mortal threat, but should rather act at any point to cut that short.

The problem with preemption is that in the first instance it is not needed in order to give the United States the means to act in its own defense against terrorism in general or Iraq in particular. But that is a relatively minor issue compared to the longer-term consequences that can be foreseen for this doctrine.

To begin with, the doctrine is presented in open-ended terms, which means that if Iraq if the first point of application, it is not necessarily the last. In fact, the very logic of the concept suggests a string of military engagements against a succession of sovereign states: Syria, Libya, North Korea, Iran, etc., wherever the combination exists of an interest in weapons of mass destruction together with an ongoing role as host to or participant in terrorist operations. It means also that if the Congress approves the Iraq resolution just proposed by the Administration it is simultaneously creating the precedent for preemptive action anywhere, anytime this or any future president so decides.

The Bush Administration may now be realizing that national and international cohesion are strategic assets. But it is a lesson long delayed and clearly not uniformly and consistently accepted by senior members of the cabinet. From the outset, the Administration has operated in a manner calculated to please the portion of its base that occupies the far right, at the expense of solidarity among Americans and between America and her allies.

On the domestic front, the Administration, having delayed months before conceding the need to create an institution outside the White House to manage homeland defense, has been willing to see progress on the new department held up, for the sake of an effort to coerce the Congress into stripping civil service protections from tens of thousands of federal employees.

Far more damaging, however, is the Administration’s attack on fundamental constitutional rights. The idea that an American citizen can be imprisoned without recourse to judicial process or remedies, and that this can be done on the say-so of the President or those acting in his name, is beyond the pale.

Regarding other countries, the Administration’s disdain for the views of others is well documented and need not be reviewed here. It is more important to note the consequences of an emerging national strategy that not only celebrates American strengths, but appears to be glorifying the notion of dominance. If what America represents to the world is leadership in a commonwealth of equals, then our friends are legion; if what we represent to the world is empire, then it is our enemies who will be legion.

At this fateful juncture in our history it is vital that we see clearly who are our enemies, and that we deal with them. It is also important, however, that in the process we preserve not only ourselves as individuals, but our nature as a people dedicated to the rule of law ..

Dangers of Abandoning Iraq

Moreover, if we quickly succeed in a war against the weakened and depleted fourth rate military of Iraq and then quickly abandon that nation as President Bush has abandoned Afghanistan after quickly defeating a fifth rate military there, the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam. We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.

We have no evidence, however, that he has shared any of those weapons with terrorist groups. However, if Iraq came to resemble Afghanistan – with no central authority but instead local and regional warlords with porous borders and infiltrating members of Al Qaeda than these widely dispersed supplies of weapons of mass destruction might well come into the hands of terrorist groups.

If we end the war in Iraq the way we ended the war in Afghanistan, we could easily be worse off than we are today. When Secretary Rumsfield was asked recently about what our responsibility for restabilizing Iraq would be in an aftermath of an invasion, he said, “that’s for the Iraqis to come together and decide”.

During one of the campaign debates in 2000 when then Governor Bush was asked if America should engage in any sort of “nation building” in the aftermath of a war in which we have involved our troops, he stated gave the purist expression of what is now a Bush doctrine: “I don’t think so. I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I’m missing something here. We’re going to have a kind of nation building corps in America? Absolutely not.”

The events of the last 85 years provide ample evidence that our approach to winning the peace that follows war is almost as important as winning the war itself. The absence of enlightened nation building after World War I led directly to the conditions which made Germany vulnerable to fascism and the rise to Adolph Hitler and made all of Europe vulnerable to his evil designs.

By contrast the enlightened vision embodied in the Marshall plan, NATO, and the other nation building efforts in the aftermath of World War II led directly to the conditions that fostered prosperity and peace for most the years since this city gave birth to the United Nations.

Two decades ago, when the Soviet Union claimed the right to launch a pre-emptive war in Afghanistan, we properly encouraged and then supported the resistance movement which, a decade later, succeeded in defeating the Soviet Army’s efforts.

Unfortunately, when the Russians left, we abandoned the Afghans and the lack of any coherent nation building program led directly to the conditions which fostered Al Qaeda terrorist bases and Osama Bin Laden’s plotting against the World Trade Center.

Incredibly, after defeating the Taliban rather easily, and despite pledges from President Bush that we would never again abandon Afghanistan we have done precisely that. And now the Taliban and Al Qaeda are quickly moving back to take up residence there again. A mere two years after we abandoned Afghanistan the first time, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Following a brilliant military campaign, the U.S. abandoned the effort to destroy Saddam’s military prematurely and allowed him to remain in power.

What is a potentially even more serious consequence of this push to begin a new war as quickly as possible is the damage it can do not just to America’s prospects to winning the war against terrorism but to America’s prospects for continuing the historic leadership we began providing to the world 57 years ago, right here in this city by the bay.

What Congress Should Do

I believe, therefore, that the resolution that the President has asked Congress to pass is much too broad in the authorities it grants, and needs to be narrowed. The President should be authorized to take action to deal with Saddam Hussein as being in material breach of the terms of the truce and therefore a continuing threat to the security of the region. To this should be added that his continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially a threat to the vital interests of the United States.

But Congress should also urge the President to make every effort to obtain a fresh demand from the Security Council for prompt, unconditional compliance by Iraq within a definite period of time. If the Council will not provide such language, then other choices remain open, but in any event the President should be urged to take the time to assemble the broadest possible international support for his course of action.

Anticipating that the President will still move toward unilateral action, the Congress should establish now what the administration’s thinking is regarding the aftermath of a US attack for the purpose of regime change.

Specifically, Congress should establish why the president believes that unilateral action will not severely damage the fight against terrorist networks, and that preparations are in place to deal with the effects of chemical and biological attacks against our allies, our forces in the field, and even the home-front.

The resolution should also require commitments from the President that action in Iraq will not be permitted to distract from continuing and improving work to reconstruct Afghanistan, an that the United States will commit to stay the course for the reconstruction of Iraq.

The Congressional resolution should make explicitly clear that authorities for taking these actions are to be presented as derivatives from existing Security Council resolutions and from international law: not requiring any formal new doctrine of pre-emption, which remains to be discussed subsequently in view of its gravity.

Pre-emption Doctrine

Last week President Bush added a troubling new element to this debate by proposing a broad new strategic doctrine that goes far beyond issues related to Iraq and would effect the basic relationship between the United States and the rest of the world community.

Article 51 of the United Nations charter recognizes the right of any nation to defend itself, including the right in some circumstances to take pre-emptive actions in order to deal with imminent threats. President Bush now asserts that we will take pre-emptive action even if we take the threat we perceive is not imminent.

If other nations assert the same right then the rule of law will quickly be replaced by the reign of fear – any nation that perceives circumstances that could eventually lead to an imminent threat would be justified under this approach in taking military action against another nation.

An unspoken part of this new doctrine appears to be that we claim this right for ourselves – and only for ourselves. It is, in that sense, part of a broader strategy to replace ideas like deterrence and containment with what some in the administration “dominance.”

This is because President Bush is presenting us with a proposition that contains within itself one of the most fateful decisions in our history: a decision to abandon what we have thought was America’s mission in the world – a world in which nations are guided by a common ethic codified in the form of international law – if we want to survive.

America’s Mission in the World

We have faced such a choice once before, at the end of the second World War. At that moment, America’s power in comparison to the rest of the world was if anything greater than it is now, and the temptation was clearly to use that power to assure ourselves that there would be no competitor and no threat to our security for the foreseeable future.

The choice we made, however, was to become a co-founder of what we now think of as the post-war era, based on the concepts of collective security and defense, manifested first of all in the United Nations. Through all the dangerous years that followed, when we understood that the defense of freedom required the readiness to put the existence of the nation itself into the balance, we never abandoned our belief that what we were struggling to achieve was not bounded by our own physical security, but extended to the unmet hopes of humankind. The issue before us is whether we now face circumstances so dire and so novel that we must choose one objective over the other.

So it is reasonable to conclude that we face a problem that is severe, chronic, and likely to become worse over time.

But is a general doctrine of pre-emption necessary in order to deal with this problem? With respect to weapons of mass destruction, the answer is clearly not. The Clinton Administration launched a massive series of air strikes against Iraq for the state purpose of setting back his capacity to pursue weapons of mass destruction. There was no perceived need for new doctrine or new authorities to do so. The limiting factor was the state of our knowledge concerning the whereabouts of some assets, and a concern for limiting consequences to the civilian populace, which in some instances might well have suffered greatly.

Does Saddam Hussein present an imminent threat, and if he did would the United States be free to act without international permission? If he presents an imminent threat we would be free to act under generally accepted understandings of article 51 of the UN Charter which reserves for member states the right to act in self-defense.

If Saddam Hussein does not present an imminent threat, then is it justifiable for the Administration to be seeking by every means to precipitate a confrontation, to find a cause for war, and to attack? There is a case to be made that further delay only works to Saddam Hussein’s advantage, and that the clock should be seen to have been running on the issue of compliance for a decade: therefore not needing to be reset again to the starting point.

But to the extent that we have any concern for international support, whether for its political or material value, hurrying the process will be costly. Even those who now agree that Saddam Hussein must go, may divide deeply over the wisdom of presenting the United States as impatient for war.

At the same time, the concept of pre-emption is accessible to other countries. There are plenty of potential imitators: India/Pakistan; China/Taiwan; not to forget Israel/Iraq or Israel/Iran. Russia has already cited it in anticipation of a possible military push into Georgia, on grounds that this state has not done enough to block the operations of Chechen rebels.

What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of standards for the use of violence against each other. That concept would be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States.

I believe that we can effectively defend ourselves abroad and at home without dimming our principles. Indeed, I believe that our success in defending ourselves depends precisely on not giving up what we stand for.

Debating SIEV-X

SIEV-X continues to intrigue many readers.

Barbara Andrews says Australians wouldn’t care about the SIEV-X dead whatever the Government did or did not do. Mary Werkhoven wouldn’t be concerned had the Government not exploited the issue at the election, Richard Goodwin warns us not to dismiss a “stuff up”, and SIEV-Xers Kate Wildermuthand Kay Kan reply to Tam Long in SIEV-X: Truth is out there


Barbara Andrews

I begin by saying that this will be self-indulgent, and that I openly admit openly that, while not a Labor supporter by nature or nurture, I am extremely disappointed that Kim Beazley never became Prime Minister. I believe that having a decent, fat, nice, jolly bloke in The Lodge would have gone a long way towards removing the aggressive selfishness which most would admit is growing in our society.

That is not why the story of SIEV-X distresses me. On the same night I heard about the sinking, my then-1-year old son crawled up to me for the first time as I sat on the floor and gave me a hug. This brought home to me more strongly the anguish of watching my child drifting away on the water and then sinking beneath it, with me remaining above. I imagined losing this person who was my life.

Imagining it is bad enough, and you can only imagine it if you have a child. Parents may know what I mean, but I’m beginning to believe, having heard people’s reactions to the story, that not all parents either feel the same, or ascribe their own feelings to other parents.

The government of this country does not care, because they know the people of this country do not care. Hit us with more proof of the lies we were told and wanted to believe, and we just dig in more. The Prime Minister knows his people rather better than we would care to admit.

As an example, try this. Please note, you who are of opposing mind, that this is not a conspiracy theory, and I do not suggest or believe the following is the case. I use it as an extreme example of what the Australian people would do.

Imagine that the impending surge of non-legal arrivals last year was known to Government intelligence, and was to be used as the lifeline for the Government. (In this case the Tampa incident would have been a lucky break allowing them to send in the defence forces in front of TV cameras.)

Imagine further that the Government expressly planned to allow these vessels to approach Australian territory in order to demonstrate just how much they had to be repulsed. Imagine again that the boat designated SIEV-X was, in fact, known to be coming, but surveillance was withdrawn so it could approach Christmas Island, thereby fulfilling its political purpose.

But then you-know-what happened, which would not have happened had surveillance been kept up or had the boat been turned back or its occupants rescued.

If this were the case, and it became public knowledge, I believe quite firmly that it would not sway the Australian people from their rejection of compassion for the victims, or from their rejection of any notion of the Government’s responsibility . On the contrary, I believe we would block it out and solidify our support for the government in the same way that many people do when they see that any of their closely-held beliefs has been proved patently and unutterably wrong.

There is no point appealing to our sense of truth and justice; they are no longer as important to us as having someone to blame. This is what Australia has become.


Richard Goodwin in Narara

The labyrinthine goings-on reported in the SIEV-X are far too complicated for me to understand. (You’ve probably been told many times that many Aussies simply don’t care anyway. I have spoken with plenty of people who seriously thought the whole Pacific solution/Tampa episode would have been better handled if the asylum-seekers had been left to drown, because “We don’t want ’em here”).

However there is still plenty of validity in your trying to cast light on what happened. I think this government has been particularly good at obfuscating and introducing red herrings and complications so difficult to follow that people give up trying to understand what happened. They are too bogged down in detail to see the whole picture (it happened with Reithy and the Patricks Stevedore affair).

It would not surprise me if there were a cover-up, but I always remember the old words of wisdom: “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.” You say that newly-released documents show that the government knew of the boat’s location. This begs the question, “Who in the government knew?” and then we have to find out what they did about it, who was told, what they did about it, and so on.

If Ministers were involved, or even highly-ranked bureaucrats, we may never know. However, the procedure for someone knowing, and then action taking place to either aid or ignore the ship, is full of potential mishaps.

I wonder if we’re talking about a balls-up in the bureaucratic process, and the cover-up is retrospective to hide the balls-up …


Mary Werkhoven

Perhaps we Howardophobes would be less bothered if John Howard and his Howardophiles had not, and still did not, sound so much like guilty schoolboys saying “Oh, no Sir. It wasn’t me, Sir. Those Indonesian kids did it. I knew nothing about it. I’m really offended that you are asking me about it.”

When it was known back in October 2001 that SIEV-X had sunk, Howard should have expressed deep sorrow at the loss of life and a regret that our extensive surveillance had not spotted the foundering boat. He should have condemned Indonesian police and officials who collaborated with people smugglers and shown a determination to do everything possible to help the unfortunate survivors.

Instead he played politics and demonised these wretched people.

Phillip Ruddock, alone and palely loitering, seems to have had his soul stolen by a hobgoblin (or by the garden-gnomish John Howard).

Tam Long and others so keen to defend the indefensible should realise that Australians such as myself believe that we should do something about the “beam in our own eyes” before worrying about the “mote in the eyes” of others. Their neglect does not excuse our apathy.


Kay Kan in Sydney

I found Tam Long’s article SIEV-X: Truth is out thereinconclusive. She says she keeps an open mind on all possibilities and seems to want the sinking of SIEV-X to be investigated, yet she seems more intent on criticising those who want that to happen rather than calling for all the facts to be made public.

Tam Long claims that we need to find out what happened with SIEV-X. If so, she would fully support the Senate committees’ request for all the witnesses it requires, as well as the call for a judicial review to investigate all aspects of the people smuggling disruption task force. I do not see that call anywhere in her piece except for her statement that she is troubled that some senior officials were not allowed to give evidence.

Because she considers the reasons for their non-attendance as plausible, Tam Long is prepared to accept the gaps in our knowledge that these witnesses could have completed. Such gaps are not helpful in trying to get to the bottom of Australia’s involvement in SIEV-X.

She claims that she does not exclude the possibility of some Australian involvement, (by omission or perhaps even commission) in the sinking of SIEV-X. Again, if this were so, she would support the attempts to investigate all aspects of Australia’s involvement with SIEV-X and not condemn those who share this view.

Police investigating a crime consider all scenarios and all parties as potential suspects in their search for evidence. After all, when the claims about Justice Kirby met the light of day, they evaporated. If the claims about Australian involvement in SIEV-X are without substance, then they too will evaporate – but this can only happen when the Senate Inquiry or a judicial review has been able to pursue the matter as far as they can.

Tam Long claims that because Indonesia has an appalling human rights record we should prefer to assume they are responsible. This is dangerously close to the accusation that Tam Long has made of others when she says they search backwards to select and analyse evidence in light of predetermined guilt only. Without a questioning perspective, evidence will not present itself. Tam Long says she would be convinced by proper argument. How will that argument emerge if evidence is not sought?

She claims some of those who want to get to the bottom of the SIEV-X matter dislike John Howard and dismisses them as Howardophobes. This labelling is an attempt to discredit those who have serious concerns about SIEV-X. However, if we follow this logic, what are the Howardophiles doing in calling for the appearance of witnesses, evidence and a judicial review?

In fact Howardophiles and Howardophobes should both be calling for an investigation because then the evidence would then be available for all to see.

Tam Long says that the best way to prevent further tragedies is to look forward and stop the people smuggling, and that those who focus on SIEV-X choose to look backwards. This argument is a distraction and muddies the waters in the SIEV-X matter. Firstly, we can only look to the future successfully if we both understand and come to terms with the present and events leading to it, otherwise the future will simply be a repetition of the past.

Secondly, to focus on the future and ignore the present is like letting the pedestrian hit by a car on a busy road bleed to death while we discuss where the pedestrian crossing should be put to prevent further accidents. Saving the lives of people in immediate danger (eg calling an ambulance for the bleeding pedestrian) is a completely different issue to planning future policy (eg deciding where to put the pedestrian crossing). If the ambulance does not turn up, we ask why – and there have been investigations into this, including one in the last few days in NSW. So both issues need to be addressed, and not necessarily by the same people.

In the case of SIEV-X, the equivalent of the ambulance did not arrive despite calls from the Australian Federal Police, Coastwatch and ASTJIC. I would like to know why. Like Tam Long, I am troubled by the possibility that Australia may have contributed to the deaths of 353 people. The only way to deal with something that is troubling is to assess it, and understand it.

That is really moving on. Tam Long seems to think that when something is troubling, or counter-intuitive, then it either did not occur or should not be considered.


Kate Wildermuth

Disclosure: I have written to Webdiary and the SIEV-X site under the nom de plume Charles Diamond. I wish to put my real name to this response as well as future Webdiary contributions.

I have read and contributed to SIEV-X site for months, and I can’t let the latest piece by Tam Long in SIEV-X: Truth is out there go by without comment. It is full of personal attacks and exaggerations of the views held by the people I call SIEVXers.

1. The letter includes offensive comments such as “groupies”. They tell much about Tam Long and nothing about SIEVXer’s.

2. The SIEV-X site is not what Tam Long wishes it to be. The site is dedicated to the question “Did the Australian Government contribute to the deaths of 300 women and children?” Most people read that quote at the top of the home page and understand what the site is about. It is not about the UN, the general issue of refugees or the Indonesian Government. It never pretended to be.

I am an Australian citizen. I am interested in uncovering the truth in relation to the Australian Government and it’s agencies about the unthrown children and SIEV-X. I want to know what was done by the Australian Government in my name. During the election campaign we were told that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters. If that was true SIEV-X would not have been examined by the Senate inquiry.

3. The recent allegations about the AFP disruption program in Indonesia raised by the Sunday program need to be investigated. At this point the accusations of the AFP paying to have boats sunk should be neither dismissed as a crazy conspiracy theory nor seen as proof SIEV-X was sunk by the Australian Government. The issues of the Australian Federal Police’s Disruption Program are lengthy and still unfolding. I urge Tam Long and Webdiarists to read the transcript of the Sunday program as a starting point for understanding this issue. (sievx)

4. SIEVXers have been reading and researching SIEV-X since last year. Tony Kevin and SIEVXers have a wider general knowledge of the issue that goes far beyond one speech. Tam Long’s pieces show a lack of knowledge in relation to SIEV-X. So go away, do a lot of research and reading, and catch up.

Manifesto for world dictatorship

Now we know. The Americans have spelt it out in black and white. There will be a world government, but not one even pretending to be comprised of representatives of its nation states through the United Nations. The United States will rule, and not according to painstakingly developed international law and norms, but by what is in its interests.

In declaring itself dictator of the world, The United States will have no accountability to non-United States citizens. It will bomb who it likes when it likes, and change regimes when and as it sees fit, it will not be subject to investigations for war crimes, for torture, or for breaches of fundamental human rights.

When it asks the United Nations to move against Iraq, it is not demanding agreement to a strong case for action. It now admits it has no evidence that Iraq is preapring to use weapons of mass destruction against any other country. The Americans have stopped pretending, and now demand outright capitulation to its hegemony. The world will be policed in American interests. Full stop.

So now American history screams from background discussion to the forefront of debate. The Americans – despite their promises to be a benevolent dictatorship, do not aim to build, stabilise, and promote democracies. They aim to impose puppets, and agree to Faustian deals which brutalise and disempower citizens. They pay no heed to the disastrous results of such dictatorships when imposed in the past.

Australia’s choice is to become a non-enfranchised satellite state of the United States – and thus responsible for its aggression and a legitimate target for those fighting to win back countries the Americans take by force, or to fight like hell to save the United Nation’s dream of world government by negotiation.

The United Nations itself – the dream of multilateral solutions to problems only the world acting together can solve, is on the brink of collapse. This could be one hell of a debate, and I can’t see Labor going for American unilateralism and the crushing of the UN. Yes, it’s true, much of the sentiment against United State’s behaviour is anti-American. It’s also pro-Australian, French, or whatever country you feel you belong to.

The stunning New York Times scoop – publishing President Bush’s new national security strategy, to be given to Congress – is a frightening document. But as David Plumb said in The Crusade’s progress, “It is time to stop being outraged by the directness and aggression of realpolitic”. What can the rest of the world do?



THE great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom – and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. In the twenty-first century, only nations that share a commitment to protecting basic human rights and guaranteeing political and economic freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity. People everywhere want to say what they think; choose who will govern them; worship as they please; educate their children – male and female; own property; and enjoy the benefits of their labor. These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society – and the duty of protecting these values against their enemies is the common calling of freedom-loving people across the globe and across the ages.

Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence. In keeping with our heritage and principles, we do not use our strength to press for unilateral advantage. We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty. By making the world safer, we allow the people of the world to make their own lives better. We will defend this just peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. We will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.

Defending our Nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the Federal Government. Today, that task has changed dramatically. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank. Terrorists are organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us.

To defeat this threat we must make use of every tool in our arsenal – from better homeland defenses and law enforcement to intelligence and cutting off terrorist financing. The war against terrorists of global reach is a global enterprise of uncertain duration. America will help nations that need our assistance in combating terror. And America will hold to account nations that are compromised by terror – because the allies of terror are the enemies of civilization. The United States and countries cooperating with us must not allow the terrorists to develop new home bases. Together, we will seek to deny them sanctuary at every turn.

The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed. We will build defenses against ballistic missiles and other means of delivery. We will cooperate with other nations to deny, contain, and curtail our enemies’ efforts to acquire dangerous technologies. And, as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. So we must be prepared to defeat our enemies’ plans, using the best intelligence and proceeding with deliberation. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action.

As we defend the peace, we will also take advantage of an historic opportunity to preserve the peace. Today, the international community has the best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the seventeenth century to build a world where great powers compete in peace instead of continually prepare for war. Today, the world’s great powers find ourselves on the same side — united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos. The United States will build on these common interests to promote global security. We are also increasingly united by common values. Russia is in the midst of a hopeful transition, reaching for its democratic future and a partner in the war on terror. Chinese leaders are discovering that economic freedom is the only source of national wealth. In time, they will find that social and political freedom is the only source of national greatness. America will encourage the advancement of democracy and economic openness in both nations, because these are the best foundations for domestic stability and international order. We will strongly resist aggression from other great powers – even as we welcome their peaceful pursuit of prosperity, trade, and cultural advancement.

Finally, the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe. We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.

The United States will stand beside any nation determined to build a better future by seeking the rewards of liberty for its people. Free trade and free markets have proven their ability to lift whole societies out of poverty — so the United States will work with individual nations, entire regions, and the entire global trading community to build a world that trades in freedom and therefore grows in prosperity. The United States will deliver greater development assistance through the New Millennium Challenge Account to nations that govern justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom. We will also continue to lead the world in efforts to reduce the terrible toll of AIDS and other infectious diseases.

In building a balance of power that favors freedom, the United States is guided by the conviction that all nations have important responsibilities. Nations that enjoy freedom must actively fight terror. Nations that depend on international stability must help prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Nations that seek international aid must govern themselves wisely, so that aid is well spent. For freedom to thrive, accountability must be expected and required.

We are also guided by the conviction that no nation can build a safer, better world alone. Alliances and multilateral institutions can multiply the strength of freedom-loving nations. The United States is committed to lasting institutions like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States, and NATO as well as other long-standing alliances. Coalitions of the willing can augment these permanent institutions. In all cases, international obligations are to be taken seriously. They are not to be undertaken symbolically to rally support for an ideal without furthering its attainment.

Freedom is the non-negotiable demand of human dignity; the birthright of every person – in every civilization. Throughout history, freedom has been threatened by war and terror; it has been challenged by the clashing wills of powerful states and the evil designs of tyrants; and it has been tested by widespread poverty and disease. Today, humanity holds in its hands the opportunity to further freedom’s triumph over all these foes. The United States welcomes our responsibility to lead in this great mission.

I. Overview of America’s International Strategy

“Our Nation’s cause has always been larger than our Nation’s defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace – a peace that favors liberty. We will defend the peace against the threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.” President Bush, West Point, New York. June 1, 2002

The United States possesses unprecedented – and unequaled – strength and influence in the world. Sustained by faith in the principles of liberty, and the value of a free society, this position comes with unparalleled responsibilities, obligations, and opportunity. The great strength of this nation must be used to promote a balance of power that favors freedom.

For most of the twentieth century, the world was divided by a great struggle over ideas: destructive totalitarian visions versus freedom and equality.

That great struggle is over. The militant visions of class, nation, and race which promised utopia and delivered misery have been defeated and discredited. America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few. We must defeat these threats to our Nation, allies, and friends.

This is also a time of opportunity for America. We will work to translate this moment of influence into decades of peace, prosperity, and liberty. The U.S. national security strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests. The aim of this strategy is to help make the world not just safer but better. Our goals on the path to progress are clear: political and economic freedom, peaceful relations with other states, and respect for human dignity.

And this path is not America’s alone. It is open to all.

To achieve these goals, the United States will:

* champion aspirations for human dignity;

* strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against us and our friends;

* work with others to defuse regional conflicts;

* prevent our enemies from threatening us, our allies, and our friends, with weapons of mass destruction;

* ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade;

* expand the circle of development by opening societies and building the infrastructure of democracy;

* develop agendas for cooperative action with other main centers of global power; and

* transform America’s national security institutions to meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

II. Champion Aspirations for Human Dignity

“Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities.” President Bush, West Point, New York, June 1, 2002

In pursuit of our goals, our first imperative is to clarify what we stand for: the United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. Fathers and mothers in all societies want their children to be educated and to live free from poverty and violence. No people on earth yearn to be oppressed, aspire to servitude, or eagerly await the midnight knock of the secret police.

America must stand firmly for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property.

These demands can be met in many ways. America’s constitution has served us well. Many other nations, with different histories and cultures, facing different circumstances, have successfully incorporated these core principles into their own systems of governance. History has not been kind to those nations which ignored or flouted the rights and aspirations of their people.

Our own history is a long struggle to live up to our ideals. But even in our worst moments, the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence were there to guide us. As a result, America is not just a stronger, but is a freer and more just society.

Today, these ideals are a lifeline to lonely defenders of liberty. And when openings arrive, we can encourage change – as we did in central and eastern Europe between 1989 and 1991, or in Belgrade in 2000. When we see democratic processes take hold among our friends in Taiwan or in the Republic of Korea, and see elected leaders replace generals in Latin America and Africa, we see examples of how authoritarian systems can evolve, marrying local history and traditions with the principles we all cherish.

Embodying lessons from our past and using the opportunity we have today, the national security strategy of the United States must start from these core beliefs and look outward for possibilities to expand liberty.

Our principles will guide our government’s decisions about international cooperation, the character of our foreign assistance, and the allocation of resources. They will guide our actions and our words in international bodies.

We will:

* speak out honestly about violations of the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity using our voice and vote in international institutions to advance freedom;

* use our foreign aid to promote freedom and support those who struggle non-violently for it, ensuring that nations moving toward democracy are rewarded for the steps they take;

* make freedom and the development of democratic institutions key themes in our bilateral relations, seeking solidarity and cooperation from other democracies while we press governments that deny human rights to move toward a better future; and

* take special efforts to promote freedom of religion and conscience and defend it from encroachment by repressive governments.

We will champion the cause of human dignity and oppose those who resist it.

III. Strengthen Alliances to Defeat Global Terrorism and Work to Prevent Attacks Against Us and Our Friends

“Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. The conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing.”President Bush, Washington, D.C. (The National Cathedral) September 14, 2001

The United States of America is fighting a war against terrorists of global reach. The enemy is not a single political regime or person or religion or ideology. The enemy is terrorism – premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents.

In many regions, legitimate grievances prevent the emergence of a lasting peace. Such grievances deserve to be, and must be, addressed within a political process. But no cause justifies terror. The United States will make no concessions to terrorist demands and strike no deals with them. We make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them.

The struggle against global terrorism is different from any other war in our history. It will be fought on many fronts against a particularly elusive enemy over an extended period of time. Progress will come through the persistent accumulation of successes – some seen, some unseen.

Today our enemies have seen the results of what civilized nations can, and will, do against regimes that harbor, support, and use terrorism to achieve their political goals. Afghanistan has been liberated; coalition forces continue to hunt down the Taliban and al-Qaida. But it is not only this battlefield on which we will engage terrorists. Thousands of trained terrorists remain at large with cells in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and across Asia.

Our priority will be first to disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations of global reach and attack their leadership; command, control, and communications; material support; and finances. This will have a disabling effect upon the terrorists’ ability to plan and operate.

We will continue to encourage our regional partners to take up a coordinated effort that isolates the terrorists. Once the regional campaign localizes the threat to a particular state, we will help ensure the state has the military, law enforcement, political, and financial tools necessary to finish the task.

The United States will continue to work with our allies to disrupt the financing of terrorism. We will identify and block the sources of funding for terrorism, freeze the assets of terrorists and those who support them, deny terrorists access to the international financial system, protect legitimate charities from being abused by terrorists, and prevent the movement of terrorists’ assets through alternative financial networks.

However, this campaign need not be sequential to be effective, the cumulative effect across all regions will help achieve the results we seek.

We will disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations by:

* direct and continuous action using all the elements of national and international power. Our immediate focus will be those terrorist organizations of global reach and any terrorist or state sponsor of terrorism which attempts to gain or use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or their precursors;

* defending the United States, the American people, and our interests at home and abroad by identifying and destroying the threat before it reaches our borders. While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country; and

* denying further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to terrorists by convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities.

We will also wage a war of ideas to win the battle against international terrorism. This includes:

* using the full influence of the United States, and working closely with allies and friends, to make clear that all acts of terrorism are illegitimate so that terrorism will be viewed in the same light as slavery, piracy, or genocide: behavior that no respectable government can condone or support and all must oppose;

* supporting moderate and modern government, especially in the Muslim world, to ensure that the conditions and ideologies that promote terrorism do not find fertile ground in any nation;

* diminishing the underlying conditions that spawn terrorism by enlisting the international community to focus its efforts and resources on areas most at risk; and

* using effective public diplomacy to promote the free flow of information and ideas to kindle the hopes and aspirations of freedom of those in societies ruled by the sponsors of global terrorism.

While we recognize that our best defense is a good offense we are also strengthening America’s homeland security to protect against and deter attack.

This Administration has proposed the largest government reorganization since the Truman Administration created the National Security Council and the Department of Defense. Centered on a new Department of Homeland Security and including a new unified military command and a fundamental reordering of the FBI, our comprehensive plan to secure the homeland encompasses every level of government and the cooperation of the public and the private sector.

This strategy will turn adversity into opportunity. For example, emergency management systems will be better able to cope not just with terrorism but with all hazards. Our medical system will be strengthened to manage not just bioterror, but all infectious diseases and mass-casualty dangers. Our border controls will not just stop terrorists, but improve the efficient movement of legitimate traffic.

While our focus is protecting America, we know that to defeat terrorism in today’s globalized world we need support from our allies and friends. Wherever possible, the United States will rely on regional organizations and state powers to meet their obligations to fight terrorism. Where governments find the fight against terrorism beyond their capacities, we will match their willpower and their resources with whatever help we and our allies can provide.

As we pursue the terrorists in Afghanistan, we will continue to work with international organizations such as the United Nations, as well as non-governmental organizations, and other countries to provide the humanitarian, political, economic, and security assistance necessary to rebuild Afghanistan so that it will never again abuse its people, threaten its neighbors, and provide a haven for terrorists

In the war against global terrorism, we will never forget that we are ultimately fighting for our democratic values and way of life. Freedom and fear are at war, and there will be no quick or easy end to this conflict. In leading the campaign against terrorism, we are forging new, productive international relationships and redefining existing ones in ways that meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.

IV. Work with Others To Defuse Regional Conflicts

“We build a world of justice, or we will live in a world of coercion. The magnitude of our shared responsibilities makes our disagreements look so small.” President Bush, Berlin, Germany, May 23, 2002

Concerned nations must remain actively engaged in critical regional disputes to avoid explosive escalation and minimize human suffering. In an increasingly interconnected world, regional crisis can strain our alliances, rekindle rivalries among the major powers, and create horrifying affronts to human dignity. When violence erupts and states falter, the United States will work with friends and partners to alleviate suffering and restore stability.

No doctrine can anticipate every circumstance in which U.S. action – direct or indirect – is warranted. We have finite political, economic, and military resources to meet our global priorities. The United States will approach each case with these strategic principles in mind:

The United States should invest time and resources into building international relationships and institutions that can help manage local crises when they emerge.

The United States should be realistic about its ability to help those who are unwilling or unready to help themselves. Where and when people are ready to do their part, we will be willing to move decisively.

Policies in several key regions offer some illustrations of how we will apply these principles:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is critical because of the toll of human suffering, because of America’s close relationship with the state of Israel and key Arab states, and because of that region’s importance to other global priorities of the United States. There can be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides. America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living beside Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests, and listens to their voices, and counts their votes. The United States will continue to encourage all parties to step up to their responsibilities as we seek a just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict.

The United States, the international donor community, and the World Bank stand ready to work with a reformed Palestinian government on economic development, increased humanitarian assistance and a program to establish, finance, and monitor a truly independent judiciary. If Palestinians embrace democracy, and the rule of law, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on American support for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israel also has a large stake in the success of a democratic Palestine. Permanent occupation threatens Israel’s identity and democracy. So the United States continues to challenge Israeli leaders to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state. As there is progress towards security, Israel forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000. And consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop. As violence subsides, freedom of movement should be restored, permitting innocent Palestinians to resume work and normal life. The United States can play a crucial role but, ultimately, lasting peace can only come when Israelis and Palestinians resolve the issues and end the conflict between them.

In South Asia, the United States has also emphasized the need for India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes. This administration invested time and resources building strong bilateral relations with India and Pakistan. These strong relations then gave us leverage to play a constructive role when tensions in the region became acute. With Pakistan, our bilateral relations have been bolstered by Pakistan’s choice to join the war against terror and move toward building a more open and tolerant society. The Administration sees India’s potential to become one of the great democratic powers of the twenty-first century and has worked hard to transform our relationship accordingly. Our involvement in this regional dispute, building on earlier investments in bilateral relations, looks first to concrete steps by India and Pakistan that can help defuse military confrontation.

Indonesia took courageous steps to create a working democracy and respect for the rule of law. By tolerating ethnic minorities, respecting the rule of law, and accepting open markets, Indonesia may be able to employ the engine of opportunity that has helped lift some of its neighbors out of poverty and desperation. It is the initiative by Indonesia that allows U.S. assistance to make a difference.

In the Western Hemisphere we have formed flexible coalitions with countries that share our priorities, particularly Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Colombia. Together we will promote a truly democratic hemisphere where our integration advances security, prosperity, opportunity, and hope. We will work with regional institutions, such as the Summit of the Americas process, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Defense Ministerial of the Americas for the benefit of the entire hemisphere.

Parts of Latin America confront regional conflict, especially arising from the violence of drug cartels and their accomplices. This conflict and unrestrained narcotics trafficking could imperil the health and security of the United States. Therefore we have developed an active strategy to help the Andean nations adjust their economies, enforce their laws, defeat terrorist organizations, and cut off the supply of drugs, while – as important – we work to reduce the demand for drugs in our own country.

In Colombia, we recognize the link between terrorist and extremist groups that challenge the security of the state and drug trafficking activities that help finance the operations of such groups. We are working to help Colombia defend its democratic institutions and defeat illegal armed groups of both the left and right by extending effective sovereignty over the entire national territory and provide basic security to the Colombian people.

In Africa, promise and opportunity sit side by side with disease, war, and desperate poverty. This threatens both a core value of the United States – preserving human dignity – and our strategic priority — combating global terror. American interests and American principles, therefore, lead in the same direction: we will work with others for an African continent that lives in liberty, peace, and growing prosperity. Together with our European allies, we must help strengthen Africa’s fragile states, help build indigenous capability to secure porous borders, and help build up the law enforcement and intelligence infrastructure to deny havens for terrorists.

An ever more lethal environment exists in Africa as local civil wars spread beyond borders to create regional war zones. Forming coalitions of the willing and cooperative security arrangements are key to confronting these emerging transnational threats.

Africa’s great size and diversity requires a security strategy that focuses bilateral engagement, and builds coalitions of the willing. This administration will focus on three interlocking strategies for the region:

* countries with major impact on their neighborhood such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia are anchors for regional engagement and require focused attention;

* coordination with European allies and international institutions is essential for constructive conflict mediation and successful peace operations; and

* Africa’s capable reforming states and sub-regional organizations must be strengthened as the primary means to address transnational threats on a sustained basis.

Ultimately the path of political and economic freedom presents the surest route to progress in sub-Saharan Africa, where most wars are conflicts over material resources and political access often tragically waged on the basis of ethnic and religious difference. The transition to the African Union with its stated commitment to good governance and a common responsibility for democratic political systems offers opportunities to strengthen democracy on the continent.

V. Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction

“The gravest danger to freedom lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology — when that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friends — and we will oppose them with all our power.” President Bush, West Point, New York, June 1, 2002

The nature of the Cold War threat required the United States – with our allies and friends – to emphasize deterrence of the enemy’s use of force, producing a grim strategy of mutual assured destruction. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, our security environment has undergone profound transformation.

Having moved from confrontation to cooperation as the hallmark of our relationship with Russia, the dividends are evident: an end to the balance of terror that divided us; an historic reduction in the nuclear arsenals on both sides; and cooperation in areas such as counterterrorism and missile defense that until recently were inconceivable.

But new deadly challenges have emerged from rogue states and terrorists. None of these contemporary threats rival the sheer destructive power that was arrayed against us by the Soviet Union. However, the nature and motivations of these new adversaries, their determination to obtain destructive powers hitherto available only to the world’s strongest states, and the greater likelihood that they will use weapons of mass destruction against us, make today’s security environment more complex and dangerous.

In the 1990s we witnessed the emergence of a small number of rogue states that, while different in important ways, share a number of attributes. These states:

* brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for the personal gain of the rulers;

* display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors, and callously violate international treaties to which they are party;

* are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along with other advanced military technology, to be used as threats or offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of these regimes;

* sponsor terrorism around the globe; and

* reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything for which it stands.

At the time of the Gulf War, we acquired irrefutable proof that Iraq’s designs were not limited to the chemical weapons it had used against Iran and its own people, but also extended to the acquisition of nuclear weapons and biological agents. In the past decade North Korea has become the world’s principal purveyor of ballistic missiles, and has tested increasingly capable missiles while developing its own WMD arsenal. Other rogue regimes seek nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as well. These states’ pursuit of, and global trade in, such weapons has become a looming threat to all nations.

We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends. Our response must take full advantage of strengthened alliances, the establishment of new partnerships with former adversaries, innovation in the use of military forces, modern technologies, including the development of an effective missile defense system, and increased emphasis on intelligence collection and analysis.

Our comprehensive strategy to combat WMD includes:

* Proactive counterproliferation efforts. We must deter and defend against the threat before it is unleashed. We must ensure that key capabilities — detection, active and passive defenses, and counterforce capabilities — are integrated into our defense transformation and our homeland security systems. Counterproliferation must also be integrated into the doctrine, training, and equipping of our forces and those of our allies to ensure that we can prevail in any conflict with WMD-armed adversaries.

* Strengthened nonproliferation efforts to prevent rogue states and terrorists from acquiring the materials, technologies and expertise necessary for weapons of mass destruction. We will enhance diplomacy, arms control, multilateral export controls, and threat reduction assistance that impede states and terrorists seeking WMD, and when necessary, interdict enabling technologies and materials. We will continue to build coalitions to support these efforts, encouraging their increased political and financial support for nonproliferation and threat reduction programs. The recent G-8 agreement to commit up to $20 billion to a global partnership against proliferation marks a major step forward.

* Effective consequence management to respond to the effects of WMD use, whether by terrorists or hostile states. Minimizing the effects of WMD use against our people will help deter those who possess such weapons and dissuade those who seek to acquire them by persuading enemies that they cannot attain their desired ends. The United States must also be prepared to respond to the effects of WMD use against our forces abroad, and to help friends and allies if they are attacked.

It has taken almost a decade for us to comprehend the true nature of this new threat. Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today’s threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries’ choice of weapons, do not permit that option. We cannot let our enemies strike first.

In the Cold War, especially following the Cuban missile crisis, we faced a generally status quo, risk-averse adversary. Deterrence was an effective defense. But deterrence based only upon the threat of retaliation is far less likely to work against leaders of rogue states more willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their people, and the wealth of their nations.

In the Cold War, weapons of mass destruction were considered weapons of last resort whose use risked the destruction of those who used them. Today, our enemies see weapons of mass destruction as weapons of choice. For rogue states these weapons are tools of intimidation and military aggression against their neighbors. These weapons may also allow these states to attempt to blackmail the United States and our allies to prevent us from deterring or repelling the aggressive behavior of rogue states. Such states also see these weapons as their best means of overcoming the conventional superiority of the United States.

Traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents; whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness. The overlap between states that sponsor terror and those that pursue WMD compels us to action.

For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat — most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.

We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terrorism and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction – weapons that can be easily concealed and delivered covertly and without warning.

The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction — and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.

We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions. To support preemptive options, we will:

* build better, more integrated intelligence capabilities to provide timely, accurate information on threats, wherever they may emerge;

* coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats; and

* continue to transform our military forces to ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results.

The purpose of our actions will always be to eliminate a specific threat to the United States or our allies and friends. The reasons for our actions will be clear, the force measured, and the cause just.

VI. Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade.

“When nations close their markets and opportunity is hoarded by a privileged few, no amount — no amount — of development aid is ever enough. When nations respect their people, open markets, invest in better health and education, every dollar of aid, every dollar of trade revenue and domestic capital is used more effectively.” President Bush, Monterrey, Mexico, March 22, 2002

A strong world economy enhances our national security by advancing prosperity and freedom in the rest of the world. Economic growth supported by free trade and free markets creates new jobs and higher incomes. It allows people to lift their lives out of poverty, spurs economic and legal reform, and the fight against corruption, and it reinforces the habits of liberty.

We will promote economic growth and economic freedom beyond America’s shores. All governments are responsible for creating their own economic policies and responding to their own economic challenge. We will use our economic engagement with other countries to underscore the benefits of policies that generate higher productivity and sustained economic growth, including:

* pro-growth legal and regulatory policies to encourage business investment, innovation, and entrepreneurial activity;

* tax policies — particularly lower marginal tax rates — that improve incentives for work and investment;

* rule of law and intolerance of corruption so that people are confident that they will be able to enjoy the fruits of their economic endeavors;

* strong financial systems that allow capital to be put to its most efficient use;

* sound fiscal policies to support business activity;

* investments in health and education that improve the well-being and skills of the labor force and population as a whole; and

* free trade that provides new avenues for growth and fosters the diffusion of technologies and ideas that increase productivity and opportunity.

The lessons of history are clear: market economies, not command-and-control economies with the heavy hand of government, are the best way to promote prosperity and reduce poverty. Policies that further strengthen market incentives and market institutions are relevant for all economies – industrialized countries, emerging markets, and the developing world.

A return to strong economic growth in Europe and Japan is vital to U.S. national security interests. We want our allies to have strong economies for their own sake, for the sake of the global economy, and for the sake of global security. European efforts to remove structural barriers in their economies are particularly important in this regard, as are Japan’s efforts to end deflation and address the problems of non-performing loans in the Japanese banking system. We will continue to use our regular consultations with Japan and our European partners – including through the Group of Seven (G-7) – to discuss policies they are adopting to promote growth in their economies and support higher global economic growth.

Improving stability in emerging markets is also key to global economic growth. International flows of investment capital are needed to expand the productive potential of these economies. These flows allow emerging markets and developing countries to make the investments that raise living standards and reduce poverty. Our long-term objective should be a world in which all countries have investment-grade credit ratings that allow them access to international capital markets and to invest in their future.

We are committed to policies that will help emerging markets achieve access to larger capital flows at lower cost. To this end, we will continue to pursue reforms aimed at reducing uncertainty in financial markets. We will work actively with other countries, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the private sector to implement the G-7 Action Plan negotiated earlier this year for preventing financial crises and more effectively resolving them when they occur.

The best way to deal with financial crises is to prevent them from occurring, and we have encouraged the IMF to improve its efforts doing so. We will continue to work with the IMF to streamline the policy conditions for its lending and to focus its lending strategy on achieving economic growth through sound fiscal and monetary policy, exchange rate policy, and financial sector policy.

The concept of “free trade” arose as a moral principle even before it became a pillar of economics. If you can make something that others value, you should be able to sell it to them. If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it. This is real freedom, the freedom for a person — or a nation — to make a living. To promote free trade, the Unites States has developed a comprehensive strategy:

* Seize the global initiative. The new global trade negotiations we helped launch at Doha in November 2001 will have an ambitious agenda, especially in agriculture, manufacturing, and services, targeted for completion in 2005. The United States has led the way in completing the accession of China and a democratic Taiwan to the World Trade Organization. We will assist Russia’s preparations to join the WTO.

* Press regional initiatives. The United States and other democracies in the Western Hemisphere have agreed to create the Free Trade Area of the Americas, targeted for completion in 2005. This year the United States will advocate market-access negotiations with its partners, targeted on agriculture, industrial goods, services, investment, and government procurement. We will also offer more opportunity to the poorest continent, Africa, starting with full use of the preferences allowed in the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and leading to free trade.

* Move ahead with bilateral free trade agreements. Building on the free trade agreement with Jordan enacted in 2001, the Administration will work this year to complete free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore. Our aim is to achieve free trade agreements with a mix of developed and developing countries in all regions of the world. Initially, Central America, Southern Africa, Morocco, and Australia will be our principal focal points.

* Renew the executive-congressional partnership. Every administration’s trade strategy depends on a productive partnership with Congress. After a gap of 8 years, the Administration reestablished majority support in the Congress for trade liberalization by passing Trade Promotion Authority and the other market opening measures for developing countries in the Trade Act of 2002. This Administration will work with Congress to enact new bilateral, regional, and global trade agreements that will be concluded under the recently passed Trade Promotion Authority.

* Promote the connection between trade and development. Trade policies can help developing countries strengthen property rights, competition, the rule of law, investment, the spread of knowledge, open societies, the efficient allocation of resources, and regional integration — all leading to growth, opportunity, and confidence in developing countries. The United States is implementing The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act to provide market-access for nearly all goods produced in the 35 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. We will make more use of this act and its equivalent for the Caribbean Basin and continue to work with multilateral and regional institutions to help poorer countries take advantage of these opportunities. Beyond market access, the most important area where trade intersects with poverty is in public health. We will ensure that the WTO intellectual property rules are flexible enough to allow developing nations to gain access to critical medicines for extraordinary dangers like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

* Enforce trade agreements and laws against unfair practices. Commerce depends on the rule of law; international trade depends on enforceable agreements. Our top priorities are to resolve ongoing disputes with the European Union, Canada, and Mexico and to make a global effort to address new technology, science, and health regulations that needlessly impede farm exports and improved agriculture. Laws against unfair trade practices are often abused, but the international community must be able to address genuine concerns about government subsidies and dumping. International industrial espionage which undermines fair competition must be detected and deterred.

* Help domestic industries and workers adjust. There is a sound statutory framework for these transitional safeguards which we have used in the agricultural sector and which we are using this year to help the American steel industry. The benefits of free trade depend upon the enforcement of fair trading practices. These safeguards help ensure that the benefits of free trade do not come at the expense of American workers. Trade adjustment assistance will help workers adapt to the change and dynamism of open markets.

* Protect the environment and workers. The United States must foster economic growth in ways that will provide a better life along with widening prosperity. We will incorporate labor and environmental concerns into U.S. trade negotiations, creating a healthy “network” between multilateral environmental agreements with the WTO, and use the International Labor Organization, trade preference programs, and trade talks to improve working conditions in conjunction with freer trade.

* Enhance energy security. We will strengthen our own energy security and the shared prosperity of the global economy by working with our allies, trading partners, and energy producers to expand the sources and types of global energy supplied, especially in the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caspian region. We will also continue to work with our partners to develop cleaner and more energy efficient technologies.

Economic growth should be accompanied by global efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations associated with this growth, containing them at a level that prevents dangerous human interference with the global climate. Our overall objective is to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions relative to the size of our economy, cutting such emissions per unit of economic activity by 18 percent over the next 10 years, by the year 2012. Our strategies for attaining this goal will be to:

* remain committed to the basic U.N. Framework Convention for international cooperation;

* obtain agreements with key industries to cut emissions of some of the most potent greenhouse gases and give transferable credits to companies that can show real cuts;

* develop improved standards for measuring and registering emission reductions;

* promote renewable energy production and clean coal technology, as well as nuclear power — which produces no greenhouse gas emissions, while also improving fuel economy for U.S. cars and trucks;

* increase spending on research and new conservation technologies, to a total of $4.5 billion — the largest sum being spent on climate change by any country in the world and a $700 million increase over last year’s budget; and

* assist developing countries, especially the major greenhouse gas emitters such as China and India, so that they will have the tools and resources to join this effort and be able to grow along a cleaner and better path.

VII. Expand the Circle of Development by Opening Societies and Building the Infrastructure of Democracy

“In World War II we fought to make the world safer, then worked to rebuild it. As we wage war today to keep the world safe from terror, we must also work to make the world a better place for all its citizens.”President Bush, Washington, D.C. (Inter-American Development Bank) March 14, 2002

A world where some live in comfort and plenty, while half of the human race lives on less than $2 a day, is neither just nor stable. Including all of the world’s poor in an expanding circle of development – and opportunity – is a moral imperative and one of the top priorities of U.S. international policy.

Decades of massive development assistance have failed to spur economic growth in the poorest countries. Worse, development aid has often served to prop up failed policies, relieving the pressure for reform and perpetuating misery. Results of aid are typically measured in dollars spent by donors, not in the rates of growth and poverty reduction achieved by recipients. These are the indicators of a failed strategy.

Working with other nations, the United States is confronting this failure. We forged a new consensus at the U.N. Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey that the objectives of assistance – and the strategies to achieve those objectives – must change.

This Administration’s goal is to help unleash the productive potential of individuals in all nations. Sustained growth and poverty reduction is impossible without the right national policies. Where governments have implemented real policy changes we will provide significant new levels of assistance. The United States and other developed countries should set an ambitious and specific target: to double the size of the world’s poorest economies within a decade.

The United States Government will pursue these major strategies to achieve this goal:

* Provide resources to aid countries that have met the challenge of national reform. We propose a 50 percent increase in the core development assistance given by the United States. While continuing our present programs, including humanitarian assistance based on need alone, these billions of new dollars will form a new Millennium Challenge Account for projects in countries whose governments rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom. Governments must fight corruption, respect basic human rights, embrace the rule of law, invest in health care and education, follow responsible economic policies, and enable entrepreneurship. The Millennium Challenge Account will reward countries that have demonstrated real policy change and challenge those that have not to implement reforms.

* Improve the effectiveness of the World Bank and other development banks in raising living standards. The United States is committed to a comprehensive reform agenda for making the World Bank and the other multilateral development banks more effective in improving the lives of the world’s poor. We have reversed the downward trend in U.S. contributions and proposed an 18 percent increase in the U.S. contributions to the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries – and the African Development Fund. The key to raising living standards and reducing poverty around the world is increasing productivity growth, especially in the poorest countries. We will continue to press the multilateral development banks to focus on activities that increase economic productivity, such as improvements in education, health, rule of law, and private sector development. Every project, every loan, every grant must be judged by how much it will increase productivity growth in developing countries.

* Insist upon measurable results to ensure that development assistance is actually making a difference in the lives of the world’s poor. When it comes to economic development, what really matters is that more children are getting a better education, more people have access to health care and clean water, or more workers can find jobs to make a better future for their families. We have a moral obligation to measure the success of our development assistance by whether it is delivering results. For this reason, we will continue to demand that our own development assistance as well as assistance from the multilateral development banks has measurable goals and concrete benchmarks for achieving those goals. Thanks to U.S. leadership, the recent IDA replenishment agreement will establish a monitoring and evaluation system that measures recipient countries’ progress. For the first time, donors can link a portion of their contributions to IDA to the achievement of actual development results, and part of the U.S. contribution is linked in this way. We will strive to make sure that the World Bank and other multilateral development banks build on this progress so that a focus on results is an integral part of everything that these institutions do.

* Increase the amount of development assistance that is provided in the form of grants instead of loans. Greater use of results-based grants is the best way to help poor countries make productive investments, particularly in the social sectors, without saddling them with ever-larger debt burdens. As a result of U.S. leadership, the recent IDA agreement provided for significant increases in grant funding for the poorest countries for education, HIV/AIDS, health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and other human needs. Our goal is to build on that progress by increasing the use of grants at the other multilateral development banks. We will also challenge universities, nonprofits, and the private sector to match government efforts by using grants to support development projects that show results.

* Open societies to commerce and investment. Trade and investment are the real engines of economic growth. Even if government aid increases, most money for development must come from trade, domestic capital, and foreign investment. An effective strategy must try to expand these flows as well. Free markets and free trade are key priorities of our national security strategy.

Secure public health. The scale of the public health crisis in poor countries is enormous. In countries afflicted by epidemics and pandemics like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, growth and development will be threatened until these scourges can be contained. Resources from the developed world are necessary but will be effective only with honest governance, which supports prevention programs and provides effective local infrastructure. The United States has strongly backed the new global fund for HIV/AIDS organized by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and its focus on combining prevention with a broad strategy for treatment and care. The United States already contributes more than twice as much money to such efforts as the next largest donor. If the global fund demonstrates its promise, we will be ready to give even more.

* Emphasize education. Literacy and learning are the foundation of democracy and development. Only about 7 percent of World Bank resources are devoted to education. This proportion should grow. The United States will increase its own funding for education assistance by at least 20 percent with an emphasis on improving basic education and teacher training in Africa. The United States can also bring information technology to these societies, many of whose education systems have been devastated by AIDS.

* Continue to aid agricultural development. New technologies, including biotechnology, have enormous potential to improve crop yields in developing countries while using fewer pesticides and less water. Using sound science, the United States should help bring these benefits to the 800 million people, including 300 million children, who still suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

VIII. Develop Agendas for Cooperative Action with the Other Main Centers of Global Power

“We have our best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war.” President Bush, West Point, New York, June 1, 2002

America will implement its strategies by organizing coalitions – as broad as practicable – of states able and willing to promote a balance of power that favors freedom. Effective coalition leadership requires clear priorities, an appreciation of others’ interests, and consistent consultations among partners with a spirit of humility.

There is little of lasting consequence that the United States can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of its allies and friends in Canada and Europe. Europe is also the seat of two of the strongest and most able international institutions in the world: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has, since its inception, been the fulcrum of transatlantic and inter-European security, and the European Union (EU), our partner in opening world trade.

The attacks of September 11 were also an attack on NATO, as NATO itself recognized when it invoked its Article V self-defense clause for the first time. NATO’s core mission – collective defense of the transatlantic alliance of democracies – remains, but NATO must develop new structures and capabilities to carry out that mission under new circumstances. NATO must build a capability to field, at short notice, highly mobile, specially trained forces whenever they are needed to respond to a threat against any member of the alliance.

The alliance must be able to act wherever our interests are threatened, creating coalitions under NATO’s own mandate, as well as contributing to mission-based coalitions. To achieve this, we must:

* expand NATO’s membership to those democratic nations willing and able to share the burden of defending and advancing our common interests;

* ensure that the military forces of NATO nations have appropriate combat contributions to make in coalition warfare;

* develop planning processes to enable those contributions to become effective multinational fighting forces;

* take advantage of the technological opportunities and economies of scale in our defense spending to transform NATO military forces so that they dominate potential aggressors and diminish our vulnerabilities;

* streamline and increase the flexibility of command structures to meet new operational demands and the associated requirements of training, integrating, and experimenting with new force configurations; and

* maintain the ability to work and fight together as allies even as we take the necessary steps to transform and modernize our forces.

If NATO succeeds in enacting these changes, the rewards will be a partnership as central to the security and interests of its member states as was the case during the Cold War. We will sustain a common perspective on the threats to our societies and improve our ability to take common action in defense of our nations and their interests. At the same time, we welcome our European allies’ efforts to forge a greater foreign policy and defense identity with the EU, and commit ourselves to close consultations to ensure that these developments work with NATO. We cannot afford to lose this opportunity to better prepare the family of transatlantic democracies for the challenges to come.

The attacks of September 11 energized America’s Asian alliances. Australia invoked the ANZUS Treaty to declare the September 11 was an attack on Australia itself, following that historic decision with the dispatch of some of the world’s finest combat forces for Operation Enduring Freedom. Japan and the Republic of Korea provided unprecedented levels of military logistical support within weeks of the terrorist attack. We have deepened cooperation on counter-terrorism with our alliance partners in Thailand and the Philippines and received invaluable assistance from close friends like Singapore and New Zealand.

The war against terrorism has proven that America’s alliances in Asia not only underpin regional peace and stability, but are flexible and ready to deal with new challenges. To enhance our Asian alliances and friendships, we will:

* look to Japan to continue forging a leading role in regional and global affairs based on our common interests, our common values, and our close defense and diplomatic cooperation;

* work with South Korea to maintain vigilance towards the North while preparing our alliance to make contributions to the broader stability of the region over the longer-term;

* build on 50 years of U.S.-Australian alliance cooperation as we continue working together to resolve regional and global problems — as we have so many times from the Battle of Leyte Gulf to Tora Bora;

* maintain forces in the region that reflect our commitments to our allies, our requirements, our technological advances, and the strategic environment; and

* build on stability provided by these alliances, as well as with institutions such as ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, to develop a mix of regional and bilateral strategies to manage change in this dynamic region.

We are attentive to the possible renewal of old patterns of great power competition. Several potential great powers are now in the midst of internal transition – most importantly Russia, India, and China. In all three cases, recent developments have encouraged our hope that a truly global consensus about basic principles is slowly taking shape.

With Russia, we are already building a new strategic relationship based on a central reality of the twenty-first century: the United States and Russia are no longer strategic adversaries. The Moscow Treaty on Strategic Reductions is emblematic of this new reality and reflects a critical change in Russian thinking that promises to lead to productive, long-term relations with the Euro-Atlantic community and the United States. Russia’s top leaders have a realistic assessment of their country’s current weakness and the policies – internal and external – needed to reverse those weaknesses. They understand, increasingly, that Cold War approaches do not serve their national interests and that Russian and American strategic interests overlap in many areas.

United States policy seeks to use this turn in Russian thinking to refocus our relationship on emerging and potential common interests and challenges. We are broadening our already extensive cooperation in the global war on terrorism. We are facilitating Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization, without lowering standards for accession, to promote beneficial bilateral trade and investment relations. We have created the NATO-Russia Council with the goal of deepening security cooperation among Russia, our European allies, and ourselves. We will continue to bolster the independence and stability of the states of the former Soviet Union in the belief that a prosperous and stable neighborhood will reinforce Russia’s growing commitment to integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

At the same time, we are realistic about the differences that still divide us from Russia and about the time and effort it will take to build an enduring strategic partnership. Lingering distrust of our motives and policies by key Russian elites slows improvement in our relations. Russia’s uneven commitment to the basic values of free-market democracy and dubious record in combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remain matters of great concern. Russia’s very weakness limits the opportunities for cooperation. Nevertheless, those opportunities are vastly greater now than in recent years – or even decades.

The United States has undertaken a transformation in its bilateral relationship with India based on a conviction that U.S. interests require a strong relationship with India. We are the two largest democracies, committed to political freedom protected by representative government. India is moving toward greater economic freedom as well. We have a common interest in the free flow of commerce, including through the vital sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. Finally, we share an interest in fighting terrorism and in creating a strategically stable Asia.

Differences remain, including over the development of India’s nuclear and missile programs, and the pace of India’s economic reforms. But while in the past these concerns may have dominated our thinking about India, today we start with a view of India as a growing world power with which we have common strategic interests. Through a strong partnership with India, we can best address any differences and shape a dynamic future.

The United States relationship with China is an important part of our strategy to promote a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Asia-Pacific region. We welcome the emergence of a strong, peaceful, and prosperous China. The democratic development of China is crucial to that future. Yet, a quarter century after beginning the process of shedding the worst features of the Communist legacy, China’s leaders have not yet made the next series of fundamental choices about the character of their state. In pursuing advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, China is following an outdated path that, in the end, will hamper its own pursuit of national greatness. In time, China will find that social and political freedom is the only source of that greatness.

The United States seeks a constructive relationship with a changing China. We already cooperate well where our interests overlap, including the current war on terrorism and in promoting stability on the Korean peninsula. Likewise, we have coordinated on the future of Afghanistan and have initiated a comprehensive dialogue on counter-terrorism and similar transitional concerns. Shared health and environmental threats, such as the spread of HIV/AIDS, challenge us to promote jointly the welfare of our citizens.

Addressing these transnational threats will challenge China to become more open with information, promote the development of civil society, and enhance individual human rights. China has begun to take the road to political openness, permitting many personal freedoms and conducting village-level elections, yet remains strongly committed to national one-party rule by the Communist Party. To make that nation truly accountable to its citizen’s needs and aspirations, however, much work remains to be done. Only by allowing the Chinese people to think, assemble, and worship freely can China reach its full potential.


Our important trade relationship will benefit from China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, which will create more export opportunities and ultimately more jobs for American farmers, workers, and companies. China is our fourth largest trading partner, with over $100 billion in annual two-way trade. The power of market principles and the WTO’s requirements for transparency and accountability will advance openness and the rule of law in China to help establish basic protections for commerce and for citizens. There are, however, other areas in which we have profound disagreements. Our commitment to the self-defense of Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act is one. Human rights is another. We expect China to adhere to its nonproliferation commitments. We will work to narrow differences where they exist, but not allow them to preclude cooperation where we agree.

The events of September 11, 2001, fundamentally changed the context for relations between the United States and other main centers of global power, and opened vast, new opportunities. With our long-standing allies in Europe and Asia, and with leaders in Russia, India, and China, we must develop active agendas of cooperation lest these relationships become routine and unproductive.

Every agency of the United States Government shares the challenge. We can build fruitful habits of consultation, quiet argument, sober analysis, and common action. In the long-term, these are the practices that will sustain the supremacy of our common principles and keep open the path of progress.

IX. Transform America’s National Security Institutions to Meet the Challenges and Opportunities of the Twenty-First Century

“Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is successful because of the hard work, creativity, and enterprise of our people.” President Bush, Washington, D.C. (Joint Session of Congress), September 20, 2001

The major institutions of American national security were designed in a different era to meet different requirements. All of them must be transformed.

It is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military strength. We must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge. Our military’s highest priority is to defend the United States. To do so effectively, our military must:

* assure our allies and friends;

* dissuade future military competition;

* deter threats against U.S. interests, allies, and friends; and

* decisively defeat any adversary if deterrence fails.

The unparalleled strength of the United States armed forces, and their forward presence, have maintained the peace in some of the world’s most strategically vital regions. However, the threats and enemies we must confront have changed, and so must our forces. A military structured to deter massive Cold War-era armies must be transformed to focus more on how an adversary might fight rather than where and when a war might occur. We will channel our energies to overcome a host of operational challenges.

The presence of American forces overseas is one of the most profound symbols of the U.S. commitments to allies and friends. Through our willingness to use force in our own defense and in defense of others, the United States demonstrates its resolve to maintain a balance of power that favors freedom. To contend with uncertainty and to meet the many security challenges we face, the United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. forces.

Before the war in Afghanistan, that area was low on the list of major planning contingencies. Yet, in a very short time, we had to operate across the length and breadth of that remote nation, using every branch of the armed forces. We must prepare for more such deployments by developing assets such as advanced remote sensing, long-range precision strike capabilities, and transformed maneuver and expeditionary forces. This broad portfolio of military capabilities must also include the ability to defend the homeland, conduct information operations, ensure U.S. access to distant theaters, and protect critical U.S. infrastructure and assets in outer space.

Innovation within the armed forces will rest on experimentation with new approaches to warfare, strengthening joint operations, exploiting U.S. intelligence advantages, and taking full advantage of science and technology. We must also transform the way the Department of Defense is run, especially in financial management and recruitment and retention. Finally, while maintaining near-term readiness and the ability to fight the war on terrorism, the goal must be to provide the President with a wider range of military options to discourage aggression or any form of coercion against the United States, our allies, and our friends.

We know from history that deterrence can fail; and we know from experience that some enemies cannot be deterred. The United States must and will maintain the capability to defeat any attempt by an enemy – whether a state or non-state actor – to impose its will on the United States, our allies, or our friends. We will maintain the forces sufficient to support our obligations, and to defend freedom. Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.

Intelligence – and how we use it – is our first line of defense against terrorists and the threat posed by hostile states. Designed around the priority of gathering enormous information about a massive, fixed object – the Soviet bloc – the intelligence community is coping with the challenge of following a far more complex and elusive set of targets.

We must transform our intelligence capabilities and build new ones to keep pace with the nature of these threats. Intelligence must be appropriately integrated with our defense and law enforcement systems and coordinated with our allies and friends. We need to protect the capabilities we have so that we do not arm our enemies with the knowledge of how best to surprise us. Those who would harm us also seek the benefit of surprise to limit our prevention and response options and to maximize injury.

We must strengthen intelligence warning and analysis to provide integrated threat assessments for national and homeland security. Since the threats inspired by foreign governments and groups may be conducted inside the United States, we must also ensure the proper fusion of information between intelligence and law enforcement.

Initiatives in this area will include:

* strengthening the authority of the Director of Central Intelligence to lead the development and actions of the Nation’s foreign intelligence capabilities;

* establishing a new framework for intelligence warning that provides seamless and integrated warning across the spectrum of threats facing the nation and our allies;

* continuing to develop new methods of collecting information to sustain our intelligence advantage;

* investing in future capabilities while working to protect them through a more vigorous effort to prevent the compromise of intelligence capabilities; and

* collecting intelligence against the terrorist danger across the government with all-source analysis.

As the United States Government relies on the armed forces to defend America’s interests, it must rely on diplomacy to interact with other nations. We will ensure that the Department of State receives funding sufficient to ensure the success of American diplomacy. The State Department takes the lead in managing our bilateral relationships with other governments. And in this new era, its people and institutions must be able to interact equally adroitly with non-governmental organizations and international institutions. Officials trained mainly in international politics must also extend their reach to understand complex issues of domestic governance around the world, including public health, education, law enforcement, the judiciary, and public diplomacy.

Our diplomats serve at the front line of complex negotiations, civil wars, and other humanitarian catastrophes. As humanitarian relief requirements are better understood, we must also be able to help build police forces, court systems, and legal codes, local and provincial government institutions, and electoral systems. Effective international cooperation is needed to accomplish these goals, backed by American readiness to play our part.

Just as our diplomatic institutions must adapt so that we can reach out to others, we also need a different and more comprehensive approach to public information efforts that can help people around the world learn about and understand America. The war on terrorism is not a clash of civilizations. It does, however, reveal the clash inside a civilization, a battle for the future of the Muslim world. This is a struggle of ideas and this is an area where America must excel.

We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept. We will work together with other nations to avoid complications in our military operations and cooperation, through such mechanisms as multilateral and bilateral agreements that will protect U.S. nationals from the ICC. We will implement fully the American Servicemembers Protection Act, whose provisions are intended to ensure and enhance the protection of U.S. personnel and officials.

We will make hard choices in the coming year and beyond to ensure the right level and allocation of government spending on national security. The United States Government must strengthen its defenses to win this war. At home, our most important priority is to protect the homeland for the American people.

Today, the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs is diminishing. In a globalized world, events beyond America’s borders have a greater impact inside them. Our society must be open to people, ideas, and goods from across the globe. The characteristics we most cherish – our freedom, our cities, our systems of movement, and modern life – are vulnerable to terrorism. This vulnerability will persist long after we bring to justice those responsible for the September eleventh attacks. As time passes, individuals may gain access to means of destruction that until now could be wielded only by armies, fleets, and squadrons. This is a new condition of life. We will adjust to it and thrive – in spite of it.

In exercising our leadership, we will respect the values, judgment, and interests of our friends and partners. Still, we will be prepared to act apart when our interests and unique responsibilities require. When we disagree on particulars, we will explain forthrightly the grounds for our concerns and strive to forge viable alternatives. We will not allow such disagreements to obscure our determination to secure together, with our allies and our friends, our shared fundamental interests and values.

Ultimately, the foundation of American strength is at home. It is in the skills of our people, the dynamism of our economy, and the resilience of our institutions. A diverse, modern society has inherent, ambitious, entrepreneurial energy. Our strength comes from what we do with that energy. That is where our national security begins.

SIEV-X: Another bombshell

The SIEV-X stalemate has been broken. Last night, the unthrown children inquiry released explosive immigration department intelligence assessments to Philip Ruddock which prove that the government knew from the day Australians learned of the sinking that it sank in international waters.

That’s right, it sank almost precisely where Tony Kevin alleged it sank, 60 nautical miles south of the Sunda Strait, and well within the defence force’s blanket surveillance surveillance zone, which extended to 30 nautical miles from Indonesia.

Unbelievable! Do we have another children overboard lie on our hands? Surely, John Howard will now have to explain why he said so categorically, forcefully and repetitively on October 23 that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters. This is the same day that the immigration intelligence said that SIEV-X sank in international waters. And what about the defence force? It has sworn black and blue from the beginning, as has defence minister Robert Hill, that defence had no idea of where SIEV-X sank, and that it’s only information came from a calculation it did in March which suggested it sank in the Sunda Strait. Yet inquiry evidence is clear that defence received immigration department intelligence. Lots of the text in the documents are blanked out, including, intriguingly, the External Distribution list! I wonder why.

The documents also prove the immigration department believed from at least October 19, when the ship sunk (survivors were rescued on October 20) that it was en route to Christmas Island, again throwing serious doubt on defence force claims that intelligence reports were too sketchy for it to actively search for SIEV-X.

The unthrown children report is due on September 25, after Labor shut it down for party-political reasons. But that date looks likely to be put back as the defence force has so far failed to reply to crucial questions on notice about SIEV-X.

The much-maligned Tony Kevin has argued consistently that SIEV-X sank at the spot the documents now confirm. Why the cover-up? Why?

Here are the relevant passages of the heavily censored documents released last night, new questions to answer, an interview I did today with Philip Ruddock, extracts from previous Webdiaries on the matter, Tony Kevin’s reply to Tam Long in SIEV-X: Truth is out there and SIEV-X comments from Daniel Boase-Jelinek, Peter Funnell, Marilyn Shepherd and Jim West.


In a covering letter to the inquiry, G.W. Petitt of the immigration department’s border protection branch justifies slabs of blacked out text on the basis “of national security, particularly the possibility of exposing collection capability and the need to protect sources from exposure and, in the context of the current people smuggling environment in Indonesia, possible harm”. So why blank out the list of departments/ministers outside immigration to whom the intelligence notes were sent?

Department of immigration and multicultural affairs, border protection branch, intelligence analysis section

Intelligence note 81/2001, October 19

Current situation

Abu Qussay’s boat containing up to 250 passengers that reportedly departed from Cilicap on Tuesday night (Oct 16) has not yet been sighted. It was expected to arrive in the vicinity of Christmas Island late Thursday.

IAS COMMENT: Abu Qussay’s boats often take longer to complete the journey to Christmas Island than those organised by BLANK for example, possibly because of the departure point (south west Java) and the prevailing currents and the use of smaller boats.


The sighting of (BLANK)’s vessel north west of Christmas Island earlier today is probably the vanguard of the anticipated surge and will probably be followed by Qussay’s boat later today.


Intelligence note 82/01, October 22


BLANK boat, carrying up to 300 plus passengers, is probably the vessel moored off Christmas Island. The other vessel believed to be heading for Christmas Island, organised by Abu Qussay and carrying up to 400 passengers, has not yet been sighted but should be in the vicinity of Christmas Island if it was able to depart successfully from the Cilicap area on Friday morning (Oct 19). (THREE BLANKED OUT PARAGRAPHS FOLLOW)

Current situation

Everything, amounting to a page of text, is blanked out.


Intelligence note 83/01, October 23


Abu Qussay’s boat with 421 passengers on board sank last Friday (19 October) (BLANK) with the loss of possibly 352 lives.

Current situation

* Media reporting has highlighted the sinking of Abu Qussay’s boat with probably only 69 survivors from the 421 passengers that boarded the boat. BLANK indicate the heavily overloaded 19.5 X 4m boat departed Sumatra at approximately 0130 hours on Thursday, 18 October. Qussay was said to be at the departure. The boat apparently took shelter in the lee of an island at about 0900 hours due to bad weather. 24 passengers are believed to have left the boat at that time.

* At about 1400 hours on Friday, when approximately 60NM south of the Sunda Strait, the boat began taking water and finally capsized and sank about 1500 hours. The boat resurfaced and started breaking up and 120 passengers were known to be clinging to the debris. There were about 70 lifejackets on board, but were of such poor quality that they were of no use.

* Between 1100 and 1200 hours the following day (Saturday), 44 survivors were rescued by an Indonesian fishing boat and survivors were taken to a port near Jakarta. Another fishing boat picked up three bodies and a lone female survivor. The survivors are now being cared for by the IOM and UNHCR at a campo about one hour from Jakarta.


The consequences of the loss of Abu Qussay’s boat and thew heavy loss of life are unknown. As a relatively small player among the people smugglers, he probably does net have the degree of protection other, more prominent and powerful organisers have. To this end, he may attempt to flee the country. Given the wide international coverage has had, the Indonesian Government can be expected to act, at least against Qussay…


Many new questions now need to be answered.

1. We know that on October 23, the Prime Minster’s people smuggling task force was told that SIEV-X most likely sank in Indonesian waters. The task force did not report to the PM that day, but John Howard stated categorically that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters. He did this in response to claims by Kim Beazley that the sinking was partly the government’s fault. I asked Howard repeatedly for the source of his information. He refused point blank (see below).

Did Howard receive the immigration department briefing?

Did Ruddock tell Howard he was wrong to claim SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters? (Ruddock’s spokesman said last night he “wouldn’t have the foggiest idea” whether Ruddock passed on the intelligence. Ruddock claimed today: “Nobody was absolutely certain, the report indicated it wasn’t certain.” This is patently false. The report is categorical: “At about 1400 hours on Friday, when approximately 60NM south of the Sunda Strait, the boat began taking water and finally capsized and sank about 1500 hours.”

Where did Howard get his information from. Did he have ANY source for it?

2. Ruddock has NEVER admitted that it sank in international waters, and has instead tried to fudge the issue. But in the light of the new documents, he got himself into deep water on Meet the Press on June 23:

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, are you satisfied that the so-called people-smuggling boat ‘SIEV-X’ sank in international waters and that the Australian Navy could do nothing to rescue them?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Let’s go back to what happened. The information that we get is never precise. It comes from a variety of sources and we seek to use that to deal with unauthorised arrivals. The fact is that a vessel did depart with a very large number of people, it was overloaded. There were reports after it sank that it had sunk in Indonesian waters, whatever that meant. Some people are tying to make a point that wherever it sank it was in some way a reflection on what Australia may or may not have been able to do. The fact is that wherever it sank it was in at least the Indonesian air, sea and rescue zone responsibilities. It was quite possibly within its contiguous zone and also quite possibly within the 12 mile limits. We don’t know precisely where it sank. We never did. But the assertion that it was in those areas for which Indonesia is responsible is incontrovertible.

Why didn’t Ruddock tell the Australian people the truth?

Did Ruddock advise the Prime Minister to correct the record and if not, why not?

Late today, I did an interview with Philip Ruddock.

I asked why the external distribution list was blanked out? “I didn’t do this. It was done by the intelligence section,”

I asked who was on the external distribution list. “I don’t know,” he replied.

I asked whether those intelligence notes went to the Prime Minister’s office? He did not answer the question, and said instead: “This document and those comments were based on a collation of media reports. The document was prepared at 2pm on the 22nd of October. I didn’t receive those documents other than by safe hand.” He said he did not get the document on October 23, or the next day, when he was in Penrith. “The document would not have been in my hands at the time the Prime Minister made his statements. It wouldn’t have been received by me on the 23rd or the 24th.”

I asked if he had advised the Prime Minister to correct the record once he read the document? “I don’t normally ring the Prime Minister about intelligence briefs that I received. They were prepared by my department for my own use.” Did he ever advise the PM that he was incorrect to categorically state that it sank in Indonesian waters? Ruddock said he did not. I asked whether he knew the source of Howard’s information that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters? “No I don’t. I haven’t spoken to him about it,” Ruddock replied.

Mr Ruddock persisted with his claim that advice on where the boat sank was contradictory. I said that the only advices made public so far showed that on the 23rd of October, both the Prime Minister’s people smuggling task force and the Immigration Department had been told, and believed, that SIEV-X sank in International waters, and asked what information contradicting this was received. In particular, I asked where he got the in formation that led him to tell Meet the Press that “it was quite possibly within its contiguous zone and also quite possibly within the 12 mile limits”.

Ruddock would not answer. He said: “Nobody suggested anything other than it sank close to Indonesia.” He said the intelligence document findings that SIEV-X sank in international waters was largely based on media reports. This is extraordinary, because Mr Howard claimed when I first asked him where he got his information that SIEV-X sank in international waters partly it came from “media reports”!!!!

I asked if the intelligence document went to the Defence Force? “I don’t know,” Ruddock said.

3. The defence force is in yet another tight spot. It argued from the very beginning that it didn’t have any information about where SIEV-X sank. When asked by Simon Crean where SIEV-X sank, Defence Minister Robert Hill replied in March that it sank “in the vicinity of the Sunda strait”. The head of Operation Relex, Admiral Geoffrey Smith, went further, saying it sunk in Indonesian waters IN the Sunda strait. I pressed Hill for the basis of this advice, and he finally stated that it was a defence calculation, ie a best guess, done after Crean’s question.

Did defence get intelligence advice that SIEV-X sank in international waters? I put this question to defence today. I have not received a reply.

Why has defence constantly stated it had no information or advice on where SIEV-X sank?



More threads in SIEV-X caper, June 16

Here, there, wherever

By Margo Kingston

The government yesterday backtracked on its claim that 353 asylum seekers on mystery boat SIEV-X drowned in Indonesian waters, outside the range of the comprehensive defence force aerial surveillance of international waters between Indonesia and Christmas Island.

Defence minister Robert Hill reversed his position less than two days after telling the Herald he stood by his March assurance that “all indications” were that SIEV-X sank in the vicinity of the Sunda Strait in Indonesian waters. Asked yesterday if “you still maintain that boat was in Indonesian waters”, Senator Hill said, “We – well we don’t know exactly where it sank – what we do is that we didn’t have a capability to assist it because we didn’t know where it was”.

The backflip exposes the Prime Minister to charges that he misled voters during the election campaign on October 24 – the day after Australian Federal Police intelligence said SIEV-X sank in international waters – that “it sank in Indonesian waters – it had nothing to do with the actions of the Australian Government”.

Senator Hill’s reversal leaves Admiral Geoffrey Smith, the head of the defence force search, interception and return operation ordered by the government after Tampa, with yet more questions to answer on the tragedy. He told the inquiry last month that SIEV-X “foundered in the Sunda Straight”, after retracting his evidence that the navy knew nothing of SIEV-X either before it sank on October 19 or when Indonesian fishing boats rescued survivors on October 20.

In his letter of retraction, he admitted he had done nothing to search for SIEV-X after intelligence reports on October 18 and 19 that it was reported to have departed for Christmas Island and on October 20 that it was grossly overcrowded. On October 18, defence briefed the Prime Minister’s people smuggling task force that two boats were expected at Christmas Island with “some risk of vessels in poor condition and rescue at sea”.

A spokeswoman for the defence force said the navy would respond to Senator Hill’s remarks this afternoon.

Coastwatch chief Admiral Marcus Bonser has told the inquiry there was no need for a special search and rescue mission for SIEV-X because “a comprehensive surveillance pattern was in place doing nothing but looking for those boats.” But Admiral Smith’s retraction letter said that on October 19 he had pulled back aerial surveillance much closer to Christmas Island.

Speaking on the Nine Network’s Sunday program, Senator Hill appeared to withdraw his ban on the head of the defence force children overboard inquiry task force, Admiral Raydon Gates, giving evidence on Friday on his review of all intelligence the navy received on SIEV-X before it sank. Last week he banned Admiral Gates giving evidence as scheduled.

Senator Hill said he would now ban Admiral Gates giving evidence only on alleged witness tampering of a defence force witness by Dr Brendon Hammer, a senior office in the Prime Minister’s department. Admiral Gates made the allegation of witness tampering in a memo to Senator Hill on April 29.


The fog of war, June 25

Last Monday I delivered written questions to John Howard, citing his categorical statements on October 23, half way through the election campaign and the day Australians learned of the SIEV-X tragedy, that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters. This was his big, effective counter to suggestions by Beazley that the drowning of 353 asylum seekers was the fault of government policy.

Here is the note:

TO: PM’S Press Office


I refer to comments by the Prime Minister on October 23 and 24, 2001, after the media reported the sinking of SIEV-X and the death by drowning of 353 asylum seekers. The comments concern several public statements by the Prime Minister that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters, including:

October 23, Radio 6PR

1. “It sank in Indonesian waters, yet Mr Beazley has tried to exploit that human tragedy to score a cheap political point. He implied that that happened because of a failure of policy on our part.”

2. “Well his claim that this illustrates a failure of policy on part of the Howard Government, that is a desperate slur. A desperate slur. This vessel sunk in Indonesian waters. Now I am saddened by the loss of life, it is a huge human tragedy and it is a desperately despicable thing for the Leader of the Opposition to try and score a political point against me in relation to the sinking of a vessel in Indonesian waters. We had nothing to do with it, it sank, I repeat, sunk in Indonesian waters, not in Australian waters. It sunk in Indonesian waters and apparently that is our fault.”

3. “Can I just make one other point in all of the interceptions that the Navy has undertaken, lawful interceptions we’ve undertaken, there’s been no loss of life, we’ve been very careful in relation to all of that. Now you’ve got 350 people apparently tragically died in Indonesian waters, we had nothing at all to do with it in any way and Mr Beazley is saying its our fault. Now I think that’s a rotten slur.”

October 24, Radio 6WF

“That boat sank in Indonesian waters, it sank in Indonesian waters. It had nothing to do with the actions of the Australian Government and he sought quite contemptibly to link that with the policy of the Government.”

I ask:

1. Who advised Mr Howard that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters?

2. When was that advice given?

3. On what basis was that advice given?

4. Why were initial reports from Australian Federal Police intelligence (October 23) and contemporaneous media reports that SIEV-X sank in international waters south of Java discounted?

On Tuesday, I received this reply: “The reports and advice available at the time indicated that the vessel had sunk off the coast of West Java in the vicinity of the Sunda Strait and within the Indonesian search and rescue zone.”

At a doorstop on Thursday, I asked Mr Howard whether he got his advice on where SIEV-X sank from his people smuggling task force, which briefed him each day. He said: “I’ll have to check my recollection of that … but my understanding is that the remarks I made on October 23 … were based on reports, you know, not only government reports but also media reports.”

Mr Howard also backtracked on his election campaign certainty – repeated several times from October 23 to November 8 – that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters. “There remains conflicting evidence on that but look, I haven’t made a considered study of it in the last few days,” he told a press conference.

The media reports on October 23 were sketchy to say the least – the boat had sunk ‘off Indonesia’, etc, and authoritative reports came after journalists interviewed survivors in Indonesia that day. The Australian’s Don Greenlees filed the most detailed report, published on October 24 under the headline “Overload kills on voyage of doom”. He reported that SIEV-X sunk 80km south of Indonesia, in international waters well within Australia’s comprehensive aerial surveillance zone.

The people smuggling task force did not brief Howard on October 23 that SIEV-X sunk in Indonesian waters – indeed it got a briefing that day that it sank in international waters.

I again asked Mr Howard in writing for the official source of his October 23 statements. I have checked every weekday since. This afternoon, I was advised that no documents have yet been turned up, and that I should get an answer on Wednesday.

Waiting game on SIEV-X saga

Outgoing chief of the defence force Admiral Chris Barrie: Some commentators had concluded that the position of the sinking of SIEV-X is known. The fact is the position where the vessel foundered is unknown and all attempts to estimate the location are speculative at best.

Today I went to Howard’s press conference at Sydney airport before he flew to Europe. Here’s what he said about SIEV-X.




Are you now able to advise where you got the information on or before the 23rd of October that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters?


I haven’t got anything to add to what Ive said.


But you recall that I asked you this question last week and you said that you’d have to check.


Well I’m telling, you I don’t have anything to add to what I’ve said.


So you’re not able to advise –


I’m telling you I’m not adding anything to what I’ve said.


Why not Mr Howard?


Because I’m not adding anything to what I’ve said.


What’s your reason for it?


I’m not adding anything to what I’ve said.



By Tony Kevin

It is hard to know how I can most usefully respond to Tam Long’s second effort to demolish my case for public concern about the sinking of SIEV-X. She is so fearfully verbose! I was taught in my thirty years as a public servant to be economical with the written word. Those skills have been reinforced by efforts over the past four years to supplement my retirement pension a little by writing commentaries that I try to sell to newspapers. Newspapers won’t tolerate verbosity.

So I’m not going to get into detailed textual counter-argument, but will just make a few key points. First: readers might go back and read carefully my 24 August text at the Pax Christi “Tampa and Beyond ” conference in Sydney on 24 August, which Webdiary was kind enough to run in SIEV-X: Mystery unsolved. Most of the answers to Tam Long’s criticisms are already there.

This is about a crime

It is not an intellectual policy debate about migration issues. It is about accountability for the killing of 353 human beings. To plead, as Tam Long repeatedly does, that we should see whatever might have happened in a broader context: that Australia shares a huge international illegal migration problem with other countries, and that whatever is done has to be set in context of the size of the general worldwide problem and what other countries are doing about it – is an ethical cop-out. I will not be drawn into that kind of argument here.

Actually, this is sheerest sophistry, of the same order as trying to justify the terrible crime of September 11 by reference to the grievances aroused in Arab and Middle Eastern countries by American policy errors in the Middle East. Like September 11, this is about killing innocent people or letting them die – very many of them, mostly women and children. We know these people now – they are not nameless faceless ciphers any more. Surviving victims of this atrocity live precariously among us. Please get real, Tam Long!

The premised basic decency of Australians

The argument that Australians are too nice for it to be thought possible that any of us would do such wrong things is unfortunately not validated by our history. Many decent people lived good lives in Australia while Aboriginal communities were being massacred in our frontier wars. Many decent people of my own generation lived good lives in Australia. while Aboriginal kids were being dragged away from their distraught mothers to grow up in cruel orphanages and exploitative white households under evil “stolen children” policies.

I do not have to posit a huge conspiracy to say that something clearly went very wrong in Australian government agencies’ handling of the SIEV-X affair. I only have to posit that a few people in key positions may have made decisions or judgements at crucial points in the People Smuggling Disruption Program our Federal Police were running in Indonesia, and in the border protection surveillance and boat interception operation our ADF were conducting at sea, and for a lot of others involved in these operations who might have got a whiff of something wrong to have simply looked the other way, for 353 people to have died.

It is already clear from Senate testimony that some people in the system were trying to behave decently: Commander Banks of the “Adelaide” (as far as his indecent instructions to keep rescued people on board the unsafe and sinking SIEV 4 until it sank allowed him), AFP Officer Kylie Pratt who phoned through to warn of risk to life on SIEV-X, Admiral Mark Bonser of Coastwatch who acted promptly on that warning, the head at the time of the Australian Joint Intelligence Centre ASTJIC who circulated this report into the operational agencies, RAAF Orions’ Commodore Philip Byrne who would clearly have conducted a diligent safety of life at sea search for the people of SIEVX had Northern Command alerted him to the risk to life. Others in the system – we’re not yet sure who – were less compassionate, at key points in the chain from intelligence to action. To posit this is not to posit conspiracy.

I have never claimed that Australia was solely to blame.

Australia’s now admitted People Smuggling Disruption Program was conducted on Indonesian soil and it required the active cooperation of elements of the Indonesian police and military whom AFP bribed – let’s call a spade a spade – to carry out people smuggling disruption program activities. The key point of AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty’s crucial testimony on 11 July was this: that AFP had no control of how their Indonesian police counterparts whom they had so generously gifted with conferences in luxury Bali hotels, patrol boats etc, chose to repay the general obligation they were put under by this gifting.

They also had no control over what informants like Kevin Ennis did. Keelty admitted that what these police and Ennis were doing was out of AFP control: and everything we so far know about SIEV-X’s voyage fits such a scenario, in terms of admitted previous AFP working relationships and patterns of behaviour in Indonesia. Yes, of course the grey boats in the night were likely to have been Indonesian, and from the same uniformed team who made sure the boat would sink. I have no argument with Tam Long there.

But this in no way absolves the AFP of responsibility. Professor Mark Findlay whose speciality is criminal law was quite clear on the Channel Nine “Sunday” program on Kevin Ennis on 1 September. Read the transcript on the website. He said that if Australian laws were broken in Indonesia , the AFP cannot claim as a defence ignorance of what elements of the Indonesian Police with whom they were working might have been doing to disrupt people smuggling.

The AFP People Smuggling Disruption Program in Indonesia is at the heart of the investigation of the tragedy of SIEV-X, because the Australian Government was the prime mover of this program and therefore bears some part of the responsibility for how it was carried out on Indonesian soil. The issue of failures in the surveillance and interception stage in the Indian Ocean is equally important, and that has been the focus so far of the Senate Committee enquiry.

The so-called Indonesian search and rescue zone is irrelevant to this debate

Testimony – by Clive Davidson (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) and Mark Bonser (Coastwatch) in particular – made clear that while there was a nominal Indonesian search and rescue zone all the way from Java to Christmas Island, the reality is that Indonesia had no capacity or inclination to patrol these waters in a safety sense. But Australia had that capacity and responsibility, as part of the massive Operation Relex air and sea surveillance and interception operation ADF was mounting in that same whole area, as close as 24 miles to Indonesia. The Indonesian government had no operational interest in this area of the high seas at the time – or now. Australia did, and does now.

Actually John Howard pledged when Operation Relex began on 2 September that this operation would be conducted with proper respect for human life. In the case of SIEV-X, it clearly was not. It is as simple and basic as that.

My credentials to engage in this debate

Alexander Downer would enjoy reading Tam Long’s views on this. These days, when Ambassadors can be sacked for getting the cars wrong, there is little status or security in being a minor or even a major ambassador. Centrelink managers have more security of tenure – decisions to end their careers might be less whimsical.

We could argue elsewhere about how important it was to represent Australia in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1991-94 and in Cambodia in 1994-97. But more centrally to SIEV-X, I was trained in 30 years as a diplomat and policy analyst to analyse facts and claims, especially in written form. The very lengthy Senate evidentiary process has brought out important facts that are available to non-specialists in the fields Tam Long cites. I have studied those facts in Hansard and attached documents, and as an informed and mentally active citizen I have drawn reasonable conclusions and further questions from them. I am happy for my work on SIEV X to be judged by Webdiary readers on its merits.

Tam Long’s assertion that it is still not proven that SIEV X sank well inside the Operation Relex surveillance zone

That case is already proven. >See the PM&C People Smuggling Taskforce minutes of 23 October that the boat was likely to have sunk in international waters (these minutes have been on public record since June). Now there’s the new immigration department documents revealing that its intelligence reported on 23 October (to a wide internal DIMIA and blacked-out external distribution) that SIEV-X sank 60 NM from Indonesia.


Daniel Boase-Jelinek

Reading Tam Long’s response to the sinking of the SIEV-X I get the impression that Tam is not really sure what to think. The response was very long and seemed to be more of a plea for help in arriving at a principled position than an argument in support of the Australian Government’s position.

Tam’s response appeared to have three main arguments:

(a) the asylum seekers are at least partly to blame because they are “shopping” for asylum,

(b) Australia should not be blamed because other countries should also take responsibility, and

(c) it is not fair to blame the Australian Government because the full facts are not known

I would like to ask Tam to answer these questions:

(a) if you were living in a situation with no hope for yourself or your family, would you not try to escape by whatever means available? What right do we as affluent people have to condemn people in other parts of the world to lives of desperation?

(b) if you are one of a group of people witnessing a person drowning, are you any less at fault for failing to act just because other people also failed to act?

(c) if a Government actively discourages public servants (by threatening their jobs) from telling the truth, are we not entitled to disbelieve anything that the Government tells us?


Peter Funnell in Farrer, Canberra

I find it impossible to believe that any elected representative of this nation or any ADF person would knowingly contribute or conspire to cause the deaths of those on SIEV-X.

That said, I do believe your article in SIEV-X:Truth is out there is on the mark. The lies, obfuscation and downright unwillingness of government to provide evidence or witnesses to a committee of our Parliament, can only lead a person to conclude that something of great shame and concern did occur. The opening evidence by the Admiral that lied, then recanted, is just amazing.

I also agree that as this matter emerged just days before that election, it would have been handled by the same operational processes, same committee(s) and a number of the same cast of characters as the “children overboard” deception. The rules and expectations for government would have been well understood and distorted (perverted) judgement in ways that could not be predicted. A bit like an aircraft crash – when all the gotchas get in line you get catastrophe and everyone wonders how it could have happened.

The AFP link to this is troubling and hints strongly at other lines of inquiry.

Did the same operational processes that mangled the “children overboard” matter, simply ensure that they bungled the SIEV-X matter?

I hold no hope for getting to the truth of this matter, when the Committee was unable to get all the witnesses and all the evidence. Just as they did in the “children overboard” inquiry, the committee simply did not subpoena witnesses. The PM saying they won’t appear doesn’t stop them from doing so if the committee is determined they should give their evidence.

Why Labour ever allowed this to happen is beyond my understanding and I have no sympathy for their crying now that all has not been told. I find it difficult to forgive them and they have not acted in the best interests of our democracy.

Short of a giant whistleblower, nothing will shake the truth loose and that is awful.


Marilyn Shepherd

I am one of the authors of the article “Long comes up short on SIEV-X” in SIEV-X: The case for concern. I was going to launch a personal rebuttal to Tam Long and Ron Jones in SIEV-X:Truth is out there but have decided to enclose the following speech.


The Australian Government and indeed the public have just become aware of the worst maritime disaster ever seen in our neck of the woods. Three hundred and fifty three men, women and children have perished in International waters off Java while trying to seek asylum in Australia.

We in the government and the opposition are terribly distressed by this news and must confess that we did have knowledge that this vessel may have left Indonesia. We had received intelligence that it was very overloaded and in danger of sinking but believed it had returned to Indonesia. Sadly and tragically we were wrong.

To correct that we will be immediately issuing visas to the survivors with family members in Australia to be accepted as refugees and ordering a full judicial enquiry into how this disaster could have occurred.

We wish to offer our sincere condolences to those who suffered terrible losses and take steps to ensure it never happens again.

Whoever is responsible will be punished to the fullest extent of the law, whether they be Australians, Indonesians or from other countries.

We recognise and understand that whilst it is dangerous to make this journey to Australia it is not a crime and that all people should be accorded their full human rights, be treated with dignity and respect and we all resolve to uphold that pledge in accordance with our obligations under numerous international treaties.

John Howard and Kim Beazley

Sadly, what we heard was Ruddock “they were trying to come here illegally”, “It’s the Labor Parties fault”, Howard “it sank in Indonesian waters, I repeat it sank in Indonesian waters”, “it was not our responsibility”, “Mr Beazley is reprehensible to suggest a failure of policy or to suggest that somehow it was our fault.”

And from Beazley, “That’s a tragedy but it points to a failure of policy”.

Tragically the seven survivors who eventually made it to Australia were forced to wait months in awful conditions, no inquiry was called and only happened by accident, and many questions remain unanswered.

The country I knew as a child, under the true Leadership displayed repeatedly by Sir Robert Menzies, would have made the speech I have outlined. My country today could not and that is the national tragedy which has arisen from the disaster of SIEVX.


Jim West

I am once again grateful to Tam Long for finding the time and energy to provide such a well argued, logical piece on the SIEV-X “conspiracy”. It is terrible to contemplate the disappointment she will likely suffer when she reads the inevitable follow up “rebuttals” to his position. They will be every bit as shrill and wilfully illogical as those he sought to answer.

I have no idea of Tam’s background, but she comes across as some sort of gentlewoman scholar who has somehow managed to avoid contact with, or at least remain blissfully unaware of, the mindset of the conspiracy theorists that he wishes to correct by way of logical argument. Nowhere is this more evident than in the obvious surprise and sadness she expressed in the following two paragraphs of her most recent piece.

“Call me naive if you like, but I find such claims counter-intuitive to commonsense, and Australia’s way of life. They are also a sad reflection on how bad history teaching in our schools has become. There is almost a complete absence of verifiable evidence or reasonable argument to support such sweeping claims.

Few of the supposed arguments pursue a logical line forward from robust factual analysis. Most seem to instead assume Australian guilt and only search backwards to select and analyse evidence in light of that predetermined guilt only.”


Perhaps I can serve to pro-actively alleviate Tam’s coming frustration a little by providing some background information about what he is up against.

I first arrived at University in the early 80s, from a staunch Labor background, imagined myself to be of the left, and that the left was the moral place to be, although I had no intention of being “politically active”. Science was far more interesting than politics for me.

An unexpected and unwelcome discovery for me at Uni was the alarmingly high number of people (lecturers and students alike, concentrated in humanities faculties) who argued their cases in such a shoddy, blatantly selective, and wilfully illogical fashion. Moreover, it was pretty much accepted by the post-modernist, deconstructionist, anti-anything-the-establishment-might-like-or-respect left, of that time, as THE valid way to argue your case.

Yes Tam, it is my melancholy duty to inform you that, for a great many of our current “educated elite” and moral guardians who came through humanities faculties, assuming a position and searching backwards to select and analyse evidence only in light of that predetermined outcome”, is not only permitted, it is expected. They have been formally trained in it, at government expense.

The attraction of such an “analytic system” is obvious. It essentially enables you to justify virtually any previous prejudice or belief you find attractive, against almost any amount of evidence to the contrary. A few examples of the amazing powers of self-justification and self-deception conveyed to believers in this system of logic include:

1) Facts: Communist countries had/have to spend vast amounts of money building fences, laying minefields, and shooting those trying to escape, to keep their populations fleeing to the capitalist countries.

True Believer’s Conclusion: Communism offered/s hope and social justice to the common folk, whilst capitalism offers only misery and exploitation.

2) Facts: Stalin was a mass murderer paralleled only by Hitler, with whom he heartily collaborated in both the dismemberment of Poland, and in the supply of raw materials to the Nazi war machine to destroy the western democracies, right up to the day of the Nazi invasion of the USSR. He greatly exceeded Hitler in his enthusiasm and success in murdering his own citizens.

True Believer’s Conclusion: It was morally imperative to aid Stalin’s USSR and its successor states in any and all ways possible (including providing the secrets of the atomic bomb) in order to ensure that the people within its vast post war zone of influence would remain subject to the workers paradise, rather than join the western democracies.

3) Facts: Australia has had one of the largest immigration programs in the world since WWII, which has been explicitly non-racially biased for over 3 decades, and continues apace. We have a large per capita program for PERMANENT resettlement of refugees, the vast majority of the beneficiaries of which are from racial and religious backgrounds different to the majority of Australians.

True Believer’s Conclusion: Australians are irredeemably racist, are becoming an international pariah nation on a par with apartheid South Africa, and deservedly so.

4) Facts: SIEV-X sank in waters that were within the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone, within the Indonesian area of responsibility for search and rescue, after being overloaded at gun point in an Indonesian port. The nearest Australian territory, a remote outpost, was roughly as far away from the area where the boat sank as Indonesia’s largest and most important city, Jakarta.

True Believer’s Conclusion: Any Suggestions?

The pursuit of virtue

The Corruption Prevention Network conference yesterday was a buzz. And what an interesting concept – a group of academics and bureaucrats in NSW State and local government with an anti-corruption mission form a voluntary association to spread the word. Committee members include people from State Forests, the NSW Audit office, shire councils and the education and health departments.

The conference, called Ethics overboard: No apologies, broadened CPN’s focus to include the ideal of ethical behaviour, a much broader and deeper subject than corruption, and is seeking to spread its broaden its membership base to include people in the private sector and maybe even journalists! Speakers included Peter Riordan from the Australian Securities Commission (ASIC), NSW deputy director of public prosecutions Greg Smith and Mal Brammer from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Some speeches are already online at corruptionprevention

The promotion of disciplined, consistent and uncorrupted decision-making seem to fall largely to Auditor-Generals and internal auditors these days, a sidelight to our fixation with dollar signs and the free market. It is accountants who, in keeping with the strict discipline of their professions, are open to be convinced that, for example, environmental costs should be taken into account in woodchipping and minerals exploration calculations, and when they are, to quantify such costs and pressure bureaucracies to include them in their cost-benefit analyses.

The network attracted double the usual attendees and was booked out early. I was surprised by the almost religious fervour of some speakers and their use of citations from thinkers on human nature, including Shakespeare, in their presentations. Although practitioners of ethical corporate governance and corruption prevention in big organisations are used to being fobbed off with fine words and no action, and to relying on other isolated people in other organisations for support, there was a sense of hope yesterday that this was a time when real progress might be made.

Anyway, I’m going to try to join the network, partly because the conference vibe made me better understand the conclusion of Daniel Boase-Jelinek’s ethics email this week:

Daniel Boase-Jelinek

I suggest that the problem with encouraging ethical behaviour is not that people don’t know what it (ethics) is, but that they don’t know how to respond without losing their jobs.

… A couple of years ago I was invited to run a workshop for Environmental Engineering students at the University of WA. Environmental Engineers face ethical dilemmas all the time because their employers generally are companies that wish to promote projects that inevitably cause environmental destruction, and the environmental engineers are being used to justify this destruction and put a public relations gloss on it.

I (worked) through a whole lot of issues with these idealistic students, searching with them to find a balance between protecting their integrity while keeping their jobs.

The outcome that they arrived at was that people working alone as whistle-blowers rarely survive … and rarely succeed in getting their message out.

The students realised that the only alternative to becoming cynical was to work very hard to develop a community of support within and outside the organisation and to search collaboratively for ways to protect their integrity.


My speech was a work in progress greatly assisted by your ideas – thank you. I’m hoping to work it up into a piece for the paper.


To end a week of remembering September 11, 2001, reflections by Liz McEachern-Hall, an Australian in Boston who wrote to Webdiary the day after the catastrophe, and David Eastwood. To end, John Wojdylodiscusses ethics and redemption. Have a great weekend.


Liz McEachern-Hall in Boston, September 13, 2001

I have thought about responding to some of the comments in this Webdiary from SMH readers and after reading some of the reactions to the carnage in the US I feel compelled to act.

I currently live in Boston with my American husband and the impact of the last few days has certainly been felt in this area. It is hard not to feel vulnerable or afraid. As I write there has been an evacuation of a section of the downtown area in Boston with FBI and police on the scene searching for alleged suspects in the attacks. There are SWAT team members surrounding the area and much confusion on the streets.

I appreciate some of the comments that have come from SMH readers concerning the welfare of the victims and extending thoughts and prayers. In addition some of the sensible responses have shown how great my country is and how great an understanding it has of world issues.

However for those few who have suggested that the US deserves what it has been through I have this to say. You have no concept of what it must be like for people living here and particularly for those in New York City. At one point I had lost a friend down there, but thankfully he is OK.

I may not be an American citizen, but I certainly don’t stand around and think, “Well, they deserve this”. No one does. Just because you live far away doesn’t give you the right to judge my husband, my friends or anyone else.

I am a patriotic Aussie through and through and miss home terribly, especially at a time like this. However, this is my location and situation right now and I see this tragedy as an opportunity for the world community to come together and look beyond nationality, race or religion to help others.

If you want to do something constructive try donating some blood to help the victims, rather than donating your words.

Liz McEachern-Hall in Boston, September 12, 2002

Imagine my surprise when reading this morning to find my letter reprinted for the first anniversary of September 11. I re-read it with mixed feelings. So much has happened since then and in some ways my thoughts have changed.

The tone of the letter was one of sadness mixed with anger and resentment for the comments that had been written by other fellow Australians. I was proud of my husband and other Americans who had used this tragedy as a means to reach out to others in their grief, and I felt that the negative reactions of others were not warranted at such a time.

Reflecting on this time now, I see many different points of view that the emotions of that day had blinded me to before. When you are in the heart of the event it is often hard to think beyond that.

In the lead up to this anniversary I have been thinking a lot about Americans and Australians. How we see each other, the relationship between our countries and our culture. Being married to an American you share different ideas and opinions but you learn to make those a benefit and not a hinderance.

Living in the United States you see how Americans think, what matters to them and how they think of themselves. Emerging from the first anniversary of September 11 is a new wave of thought among some of the American population. People are trying to understand why countries dislike them so much. They are seeing the materialism of what they produce and the ignorance of the government in past decisions, particularly relating to foreign policy. They know that something needs to change but it isn’t going to happen overnight.

I often read the anti-US letters printed in the Herald and become upset and frustrated. But then I look at they way America uses, and often abuses, its position and power and I know that there is justification in their statements.

I feel there is ignorance on both sides. Australians seem to think Americans are very much like their TV shows, while Americans often don’t know where Australia is or who runs the country. Australia sees everything from distant place, while Americans are in the middle of things they don’t even realise.

My concern is for the images and stereotypes that both nations continue to believe. Regardless of what George Bush does or what John Howard says, neither of these politicians reflect the true nature of what it is like to stand proudly under the Southern Cross or sing the Star Spangled banner. They don’t represent the struggling farmer in NSW or the firefighter in Washington D.C.

In a time of fear and uncertainty it is easy to play the blame game. I don’t agree with a lot of what Bush or Howard do, but I won’t assume that my fellow Australians or the people I work with in the US agree with everything they are doing.

My husband and I plan on returning to Australia to live in the next couple of years. When the time comes I hope he will received warmly, not constantly interrogated about his country’s past and policies. We are all proud of where we come from and of who we are. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are individuals and should not be tarnished with the same brush as those who might be making decisions on behalf of the whole.

I work at a radio station in Boston and it has been a long day here – requests, commercial free for most of the day, just letting listeners say what they feel and hear what inspires and comforts them most. I think the general feeling is that once tomorrow comes there will be more moving forward and looking to the future and what can be done to make it better. Hopefully this will become a reality for the American people.

Thanks for providing somewhere for people to comment freely.


David Eastwood in Sydney

At my place I was torn watching the 9/11 ceremonies last night, sitting on exactly the same lounge I was a year before, doing essentially what I was doing back then. I recall thinking at the time that America can only learn and grow from the tragedy of these attacks.

I found yesterday’s Ground Zero ceremony compelling. Simple, subtle, understated and sincere. The litany of names drew me in, reminding me of the stark, dispassionate grief of Camus Plague on one hand, and, counterpointing the photographs held aloft by weeping loved ones, driving home the tragedy, reality and humanity of the event. That this occurred in that most overstated, brash, boastful and complex of cities is the biggest tribute I could imagine to those who died.

Cut to Washington. Monumental staging, podium speeches and bunting, overbearing images of flags waving, even cheers for the speakers. Reminiscent of a Nazi party rally circa 1936. Sugary, soppy and musically simplistic tribute songs reminiscent of the meaningless dirge that accompanies the credits in a disposable Hollywood film, slotted into the program designed in a way to maintain momentum and audience effect.

Warmongering speeches focusing as much on the political agenda of the day, the vested interests of those in power and the military and sending messages to the bad guys as it was on remembering the fallen. Cynical, heartless, crass and programmed mock sincerity, an insult to the memory of those who died there, not so much as serving the nation but just doing their jobs.

I’m with Ted (The Cheesification of 9-11-02 at yahoo)

I sometimes wonder whether America has learnt or forgotten a lesson from these events.


Schein-Ethics and the Loss of Human Capital

By John Wojdylo

Something Ross Gittins mentioned in his article cited in Your Ethics (smh) touches on an ethical fault line – two entirely different conceptions of ethics that are always present and inexorably colliding – that runs through our society, especially in its recent incarnation. I’d like to try to put a finger on it.

What he says about impulse-motivated crimes and punishment reminds me of aphorisms about alcoholism: “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” “You never stop being an alcoholic, you can only ever stop drinking.” What have these aphorisms got to do with ethics?

For Bruce Russell, a former Sydney writer, the term “alcoholic” is a personality type, not necessarily anything to do with drinking. It is somebody who – by nature, genetic make-up, upbringing, whatever – is blessed with incessant craving. As in a sort of twisting force that bends your entire being in excruciating directions, and triggers impulses to do things that are not necessarily good. For yourself or for anyone. I believe it’s related to what Sartre called “anguish”.

Alcoholics who seek help – or anybody given to substance abuse – are taught to confront the reality of their dependency, and to resist the impulse to have a drink. They make a pact with themselves to put up a fight, to enter into a lifelong battle of mind versus body. If they succeed in keeping away from the bottle for a long time, it doesn’t mean they’re cured, it means they have crawled out of a hole into which they can fall back at any time.

I guess there’s some sympathy for the plight of the alcoholic in our society, and there’s some agreement that this is the way to overcome their illness. I suspect that there’s a strong reluctance for anybody to divulge their alcoholism problem to others (such as employers) when, in a rational world, it would be helpful – and the reason is that in our society, it’s better to hide your flaws: people fear they will get branded with these forever, and will be judged by them.

But what if the term “alcoholic” is taken in the broader sense used by Bruce Russell? Camus would say that this person, after staying away from the “bottle” for a decent amount of time, has proven their “virtue”. Camus advocated that people ought to be given the chance to prove their virtue. If they succeed, it’s pointless – from this ethical position – to jail them for a crime they committed before they understood their condition and chose to fight it. Moreover, since they have their “alcoholism” under control, they’re not going to repeat their crime – which means we jail them not for their own good, but for our own reasons, such as “sending a message”, “deterrence”, “revenge”, “makes us feel better”. The issue goes to the core of what we believe about crime and punishment.

But the denial that virtue has any relevance also means we may be preventing good people from contributing to our society, not just in the context of criminal matters, but in society as a whole.(Margo: My emphasis). So Australian efforts to flower as a society misfire.

We may be riding an economic boom, but according to anecdotal evidence I have heard – naturally from (highly-placed) expats – about the way major companies (as one example) in Australia are run, the way of thinking is somehow straightjacketed. Perhaps this is related to absence from the mind-set of the concept of virtue, and the predominance of another way of thinking.

Before the Sydney Olympics, the International Herald Tribune ran a series of feature articles about Australia. Like the anecdotal evidence I heard, one articles argued that despite Australia’s undoubted successes as a wealthy and stable democracy, it was always held back somehow by something akin to a “character” flaw. As an aside – not part of any argument – the newspaper reported that on his visit to Australia in the late 1800s, Charles Darwin wrote that he believed Australia will never be as successful as the United States. He apparently did not explain what he meant, so it’s open to interpretation.

I wonder if, even way back then, Darwin sensed some habitual pattern of thought that subtracts from our ability to recognise the good that people do, and hinders our society from achieving its potential.

Naturally people have different bottom lines in what they regard as ethical behaviour; and accountability, exposing consequential dishonesty by public figures, must be pursued. But perhaps the ideas of “alcoholism” and “virtue” can help us judge whether we’re nailing a basically decent person who has put their past behind them and has a lot to contribute to society.

In the legal context, and metaphorically elsewhere, this position seems to advocate something like the following: rather than thinking purely about imposing jail sentences, allow the “alcoholic” to prove their virtue. Jail them if they fail, if they prove themselves too weak to prevent themselves from being a menace to society.

“Judge’s discretion” is supposed to reflect something like this, but judges are increasingly being hemmed in by mandatory sentencing laws and political pressure.

The virtue view is obviously radically different to the way a lot of justice issues are seen in Australia today, and to where public sentiment is heading. It’s an extremely controversial view, not least because it can be wrongly construed as “ignoring the victim”.

For example, according to this view, Archbishop Hollingsworth was right in giving the priests who confessed to ugly and psychologically damaging (to their victim) acts the chance to fight their “alcoholism” and prove that they are fit to rejoin the human race – and potentially do a lot of good.

Those that failed ought to be dealt with. The real problem with the church’s actions might turn out to be a failure, in too many cases, to follow through this “system of ethics” to its logical conclusion, and enforce punitive measures at a later stage.

Nevertheless, perhaps at the bottom of the church controversy is a misunderstanding between the church and its critics. The problem is, the virtue view does not necessarily produce a surface displaying to all and sundry that the victim is NOT being ignored. So people needing such a surface can be left empty handed, and might then demand what they see as their “right”.

Another potentially explosive example – at least, it could have provoked an uproar in Australia but didn’t – was the scenario in a German mini-series seen on SBS a few years ago called “Heimat” (Homeland), which was a hit in Germany and is also regarded there as a classic.

The main character, a lawyer, rapes a female journalist (I think that was her job). An investigation points to him as the number one suspect, and he is arrested and tried. He fights his own case. He fights tooth and nail to avoid losing, revealing a competitiveness that did not seem to be there before.

Now he understands the threat of jail – before it was just a distant abstraction that had no meaning in his life.

Now he understands the consequences of his act, only now learns what freedom is and desires it at all costs – even while feeling very little sympathy for the victim. That’s because in this film, although the victim wants justice, the more she reveals of her motives, the more the motives really seem to reduce to pure, obsessive, destructive revenge: no vision of the future, for herself or for her attacker. He is like an animal that has to be put down.

I can’t recall if the film indicated the lawyer felt remorse – but in any case, even if he did, he couldn’t have shown it to the court because that would be a public admission of guilt and he’d be put away. Of course, he couldn’t reoffend, because then DNA evidence would nail him, and he would lose his freedom. He could see that he would do a lot of good in the future (e.g. allow justice to prevail for those wrongly accused), and he had to fight for this good at all costs.

In “Heimat”, in this extraordinary and controversial twist, the perpetrator of a heinous crime fights for what we ordinarily recognise as good, while the victim – tragic in the true sense of the word – goes further and further insane.

It would be wrong to dismiss “Heimat” as a misogynist fantasy. It abstracts a historical period, and does it so well that the mini-series is widely regarded as one of the great achievements of German film in the last quarter of a century. It describes a way forward – asserting that doing good, and not succumbing to the insanity that caused the past, is possible – even when one knows one is responsible for the most brutal of acts.

Without the chance to prove virtue, this would be impossible. If crime automatically implies decades in jail, then we are branding the perpetrator with the crime, saying that their will and ability to overcome their flaws and learn from their mistakes, although perhaps admirable, plays no role in our society. The machinery, the automated responses, of a teleological justice take precedence over what is human.

We thereby subtract humanity from our society. Like alcoholism, overcoming flaws and learning from mistakes are an integral part of our society. Those that do not recognise the reality that human beings have problems that they must struggle to overcome – and who demand an absolute purity (or facade of purity) before allowing them to contribute usefully to society – are putting into practice a teleological ideal that destroys the individual and denies what is human.

They will eventually forget what this looks like, and fail to recognise it even when it’s there in front of them. Over a period of time, in a process of natural selection, the human is weeded out as too impure, leaving the teleological middle as a kind of skeleton that supports society. It instils a sense of order, “cleanliness” and closeness to what is right – a surface is promoted in society, whose currency (and usefulness as currency) can last generations.

The dark side can – and does – provide energy for positive developments. If we banish the dark side, if snow-white innocence and purity are the only measures of public acceptability, then we’re all the worse for it.

Germans under the Nazis found the impulse – in fact, the frame of mind – to do things a lot worse than molest and rape people. We gave Germany a chance to prove that it was psychologically strong enough to overcome its past. Now we deal with Germans as if nothing had happened. And rightly so.

If people caught up in substance abuse, and former enemy countries, are given such a sympathetic hearing, why this baying for mandatory sentencing? Is it like the citizen hordes of Revolutionary France calling for the guillotine?

America, too, is a “nation of immigrants”. But somehow this phrase seems more befitting the United States than Australia. Notwithstanding a few exceptions, and notwithstanding Australia’s current sizeable and orderly immigration policy, for more than a century the US has had a far more open policy towards immigrants and refugees than Australia has. That’s because it places more a priori value on human capital than Australia does, and has prospered because of it. The US – not Australia – is the number one destination for immigration.

Just one example: in Australia, Jewish refugees during World War II – many of them without proper travel documents – were placed behind barbed wire and later off-loaded to other countries; but those that arrived in the US were given visas and allowed to live normally, to contribute to society. Australians find reasons to treat with suspicion refugees whose travel documents are not in order. Once a liar, always a liar, and lying to the Taliban or the Nazis is still lying and worthy of suspicion.

In my mind, the clearest (although not the most prominent) recent example of Australia hindering its own prospects is the case of the vice-chancellor of an Australian university who was forced to resign on the grounds that he was a “plagiarist”. I followed the story as a distant observer, so I don’t know how much more there was to it than meets the eye; but if the grounds really were ethical, then the incident would be a clear example of puritanism and teleological justice (that never forgives in a hundred years) gone insane.

I want to focus on this incident, because the same pattern of thinking repeats itself every day in every aspect of Australian life.

The crisis was precipitated by an article in the London Times newspaper, which said that the VC had “admitted to plagiarism in books published in 1979 and 1983” (SMH report, July 12). According to a report in The Age, the story was instigated by the man’s former colleagues in England, who were allegedly horrified that he had become vice-chancellor in Australia after having been publicly exposed in England as a two-time plagiarist.

The Australian picked up the story and beat it up: “plagiarist” became a term of vilification, signifying terminal, inoperable ethical deficiency. It was not only as if the VC had a criminal record for “the most heinous of academic crimes”; despite punishment and “rehabilitation” – public shaming and a glitch in his career – he was being treated as eternally guilty and punishable for his crime at any moment in the future.

The VC defended himself, saying the cases had been dealt with two decade ago: the original authors had accepted his apology, and they weren’t as bothered by the scale of the crime as much as the newspapers were.

Having smelled blood, The Australian continued publishing weekly articles in its Higher Ed section, with the tone that this man must go. An editorial piously warned of the dire consequences of plagiarism to Australia’s entire university system and that it therefore must be stamped out. Many took this to mean the VC should be sacked.

A professor at that university – in fact, a professor of philosophy (which shows just how divergent views on ethics can be) – played a central role in the witch hunt, by exposing another case of plagiarism (“several passages without acknowledging the authors” – The Australian, July 13; “two passages” – SMH). This time it was two-and-a-half decades ago, in 1976. A great deal was made of the VC’s failure to confess voluntarily to this further, previously unknown instance of plagiarism in the job interview for the VC position six years before – as if job interviews are meant to be confessionals for misdeeds that occurred decades ago and that are now justifiably buried.

The allegation that “a number of other cases” of plagiarism had been brought to the chancellor’s attention appeared to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The VC’s position became “untenable” – his presence was “damaging the university’s reputation” – and he was forced to resign. His resignation was greeted with joy in some quarters at the university.

Nothing that came out in public suggested the VC plagiarised in recent years – all the instances happened in a single period two decades ago. The last two instances – at the end of the period – had been dealt with, through public exposure in England and personal apology to authors. It seems this shock was enough to make the VC understand that what he had done was wrong, and he did not plagiarise any more. He had set out to prove his virtue, for what it was worth, and he had succeeded, if only personally.

Moreover, the VC’s academic career was based on many more books than the few that had plagiarised passages. So the argument, “he only got to where he was because of plagiarism; his whole career is a sham”, does not hold. Ironically, one of his academic areas of specialisation was the social effects of alcoholism.

One academic was quoted as saying: “How can I plausibly enforce policy on plagiarism, or even straight-facedly draw it to students’ attention, until and unless the vice-chancellor resigns?” The answer is you point out that plagiarists will be exposed and shamed in public – and this is exactly what happened two decades ago with the VC. This will have adverse – but not necessarily permanent – consequences for your career, because in our thinking about justice, the punishment should fit the crime, and once you have served your sentence, we do not punish you any more – you are free to contribute to society.

Then you point out that people have a choice to resist the urge to take short cuts, and to do the right thing – or you can succumb to insanity. You can point out that our university will reward you if you prove your virtue in the face of your flaws, but will throw you out if you don’t learn from your mistake. Our university values human capital – so go out and prove your humanity.

But when no rational connection exists between what you say the reason for your action is – “enforcing policy on plagiarism” – and your actual motives, then you’ll be lost for words, and the only thing left to do is to bay for blood.

After the VC’s resignation, the Australian’s Higher Ed journalist wrote in a satisfied tone how it took the philosophy professor “just half an hour of idle research in front of the tennis” to discover the plagiarised passages. “Closing the book on a career” (the article’s headline) is such a simple matter, it can be done while lackadaisically half-concentrating on something else.

The philosophy professor was attributed in the same article as saying the VC’s departure “reinforced the integrity” of the university. “So much of academia relies on trust. Plagiarism amounts to academic theft and it is an inherently dishonest practice. Having a plagiarist as head of a university is like having an embezzler running an accounting firm.”

“Reinforcing integrity” must therefore mean something like putting on new clothes, something to show others, rather than strengthening the inner character.

The philosopher spoke in present tense. He used the word “plagiarism” in the sense of a mortal sin, or a conviction for a serious crime, that brands you for life, regardless of your success in resisting the “alcoholic” impulse, in not having succumbed to the insanity for decades. A similar attitude pervaded numerous comments on the matter, even from those who could not have had ulterior motives (rather than those that may have had).

In other words, we can look at the incident from a purely ethical viewpoint, even if the underlying motives may have been base – like revenge on the part of enemies. The ethical questions are much more widely applicable than just in this one university: they comprise a fault line that runs right through Australian society.

For even if the VC was eliminated because of his economic rationalism, and protagonists were invoking the high ground of ethics to hide their dirty linen, the fact remains that in Australia, manifestly (outwardly) “ethical behaviour” – with some sort of official determination process – holds great sway over stakeholders (the public, academia etc.). Perhaps the roots of this attitude lie in England, and the Americans shed it after their revolution.

It gives newspaper editorialists the chance to put on pious clothes and send ethically correct messages for a change. That sense of being officially OK is persuasive, so much so that in seeking credibility for their view, virtually every opponent of the VC remarked on the sinfulness of his plagiarism – in present tense.

And this is the rub with this teleological (never forgive in a hundred years) conception of ethics. As seen in the case of the VC, exactly this conception of ethical behaviour is anti-human: the philosopher’s nonchalant but irrepressible resolve to expose an unethical deed was aimed like a “Pulp Fiction” pistol shot – minimising the guilt felt at snuffing out a career while maximising potency – an act of aggression that denied the human truth of the VC’s success in maintaining for decades his will to overcome flaws in his character.

Everything is officially ridgadidge. And now we see why this conception of ethics keeps getting reborn in Australia generation after generation, possibly (if this was what Charles Darwin sensed) for over a century. A misdeed from the past can at any time be dug up and used against you, irrespective of any effort to make amends. It is effectively like a tattoo on your skin that gets covered over, only to be uncovered and displayed to the world at the convenience of your enemies.

They always claim to be acting in the name of ethics; and their claims will be persuasive because people think of the wickedness of the deed before thinking of the virtue you have achieved. Thus ethical objectives coincide with political objectives – it’s like church coinciding with state: there’s a sense of unity, of identification and empowerment of the group. This accounts for the attractiveness and longevity of this teleological conception of ethics.

But the human truth is private. Who wants to do away with the crutch of God and make decisions totally alone? Who wants to look for mitigating, human circumstances? Who is prepared to believe that proven virtue is closer to the truth about a person than the indelible tattoo of a past misdeed?

The inhumanity – the insanity – displayed in this affair dwarfs the VC’s heinous, decades-old crime of plagiarism.

If the actual grounds for the VC’s removal were political, then his opponents should admit this, instead of hiding their dirty linen behind the high ground of ethics. Of course, this would diminish the ethically correct surface projected by the university.

What did Australia lose? One academic – obviously not an enemy of the VC – said: “I believe he is one of the small number of outstanding vice-chancellors in Australia and possibly the best of our time. In my view, he presented us with an inspirational vision which did not try to emulate other universities, but rather envisaged a university of its own making, to its core a university of quality. … I’m one who believes that his going is a loss to the university.”

Perhaps there is a grain of truth in this. But even if the VC was a rampaging economic rationalist of the worst kind, and deserved to go because he was destroying arts and philosophy departments, then Australia has lost something.

Because then, political conspirators hid behind the pure white clothes of ethics. By invoking a teleological notion of ethics that diverts attention from human mitigating circumstances and proven virtue while focussing on the heinous misdeed, they have further cemented a way of thinking that repeatedly makes Australia’s efforts to flower as a society misfire. For one thing, this ethical system gives the green light to witch hunts carried out under the cloak of civility.

Australia has lost a measure of its ability to value human capital.

Postscript: For those with time on their hands, I’d recommend the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, plato. Click on the link, “Search Encyclopedia”, and type “ethics”. You’ll get articles by the best philosophers about anything from lesbian ethics to teleological ethics.

Margo: It was weird reading this piece, as I began my speech with the confession of a terrible ethical breach I perpetrated just after I started work at the Herald. I agreed to pose as a colleague’s aunt to enrol him in a high school under false pretences so he could do a piece on youth culture. Until the project was leaked to someone in NSW Parliament and exposed, I did not know there was a journalist’s code of ethics, or that I could refuse my boss’s requests on ethical grounds. The scandal was the beginning of my interest in ethics and their purpose.

Buzzword ethics

Ethics, ethics. Reading the Australian Financial Review on the way to work, the topic jumped from lots of pages.

* The corporation watchdog says auditors aren’t fulfilling their “law enforcement” role and are ignorant of the law. Private sector people as law enforcers? Just how stupid have we become?

* HIH insiders fleece the company of $10 million on the eve of its demise – Deutsche Bank keeps $6 million due to HIH, solicitors Blake Dawson Waldron get $1 million after sending an unitemised invoice the day before the collapse, director Charles Abbott is paid $184,000 after special clearance of the cheque, Rodney Adler’s friend Brad Cooper is paid $2 million on the last day, executive Bill Howard converts from employee to consultant, producing a $125,000 payout and gets a waiver of his obligation to repay a $225,000 mortgage.

* The US corporate watchdog investigates huge secret retirement benefits to chief executive Jack Welch, after investors find out through divorce papers filed by his wife.

* The government refuses to answer questions on its ethanol subsidy, which favours a big donor to the party and stops the import of Brazilian ethanol to an importer who the donor has refused to supply.

The “public interest” without conflict of interest – will that old-fashioned concept ever return to favour?

Today, readers discuss the ethics of Philip Ruddock and Janet Albrechtsen in particular, and the world in general.

Contributors are Daniel Boase-Jelinek, Polly Bush, Jim West, Fergus Hancock, Richard Goodwin, Sean Richardson and James Woodcock.

Ken Robertson from the NSW corruption prevention network says that “anyone can join simply by going to website and joining the e-mail discussion list. A shortcut: uts.

Peter Rooke of Transparency International says there’s lots on whistleblowers at transparency. Press releases are at transparency.

“We advocate two parallel actions on whistleblowing:

1. Swift implementation of legislation to protect Commonwealth public sector whistleblowers. This has been languishing in Canberra since the early 1990s. The Commonwealth Ombudsman Ron Macleod supports this move too.

2. Legislation to protect corporate whistleblowers, a move supported by ASIC (in a submission to the joint parliamentary committee on public accounts and audit in Canberra) and ACCC (Alan Fels in an interview in the Courier-Mail on 5 August).

“We believe effective whistleblower protection is essential to encourage disclosure in the public interest both internally in organisations and, if that fails, to auditors, regulators, enforcement agencies and the media. Such protection would include for example a guarantee against harassment and victimisation and from defamation actions.”


Daniel Boase-Jelinek

While watching Philip Ruddock on the ABC’s Australian Story last night, his idealism came through enough to change my opinion of him.

Prior to that program, I had lumped Ruddock in with Howard’s cynical manipulation of Australian xenophobia to win an election. Last night’s program changed all that.

I feel I now understand why he sees no conflict between wearing that amnesty badge and his policies for deterring refugees. It seems that he believes that Australia has only two solutions to dealing with refugees. Either we have a proper process for choosing those that we accept, or else we accept everyone.

He made it quite clear that accepting everyone was not an option, and therefore we need a proper process – one that is based upon people’s needs rather than upon their ability to get together the resources to arrive upon our shores uninvited.

Thus, he appears to have a genuine ideal: that Australia should accept those people who have a real need for asylum. He also appears to have a determination to ensure that he makes that decision.

Sadly, Ruddock appears to have resorted to great brutality to ensure that he gets to choose who he will save. The paradox is that in saving people who he sees as being in need he has created a hell on earth for those who don’t meet his criteria.

I wonder how he deals with the paradox he has created. Unfortunately the program was not able to probe into that. What the program did do was make me wonder about the hazards of being an idealist. Which is worse: being pragmatic and unprincipled or being ruthlessly idealistic?


Polly Bush in Melbourne

The pursuit of duty got me re-reading Camus and looking at some old ethics theories I’d studied at uni.

It’s a great topic ethics, one which can be applied to absolutely anything, like this fascinating Kirsty Ruddock story. When Philip Ruddock says “I have specific responsibilities for Australia” in relation to his portfolio and decision making, he’s taking up the deontological argument of duty and obligation. Often considered the opposite to teleological ethics, deontological behaviour involves putting duty above all else – that is, regardless of the consequences. Regardless of say, the consequences of your daughter leaving the country.


Jim West

Initially I wasn’t keen on entering the debate on ethics on this site, especially a general waffle. However I’ve just been doing the online rounds and have come across a wonderful candidate for an ethics dilemma being played in real time, right under our noses, with connections to the SMH!

I missed the initial shots fired on Media Watch by David Marr as I am currently living in Colombia, but it seems he was extremely scathing in his comments about an allegedly fraudulent Muslim bashing by Janet Albrechtsen in the Australian. I had read the initial Albrechtsen article, but only became aware of its alleged misrepresentations of almost everything through a piece by Robert Manne in the Herald (Open season on Muslims in the newest phobiasmh). Manne basically backed Marr’s claims in passing, as a point incidental to making a case that wes rednecks is a pickin on them po innocent ayrabs too much.

I’ll declare sides here up front here, and say that I immediately doubted Albrechtsen wilfully lied to anywhere near the extent claimed. From her writing style and her photo in the Aus, I would have had no problem imagining her guilty if charged of being anally retentive, being the annoying swot as a child with all the smarty-pants answers, and more generally, with being a bloody lawyer. But charged with lazy lying and selective editing to make her case? No, methinks this more typically belongs within the tax payer funded confines of their ABC.

Bueno, but personal prejudices aside, we guardians of whistle blowers rights, brave deeds and good, here at Webdiary have an opportunity to bear witness, as it were, and even better, PASS JUDGEMENT!! Albrechtsen has made a very spirited, and more importantly, very specific rebuttal at the Australians web site…

Margo: There are several contested allegations, so I suggest that for those interested in Jim’s idea, we focus on the one I found most startling.

The allegation:

Media Watch, Sept 9mediawatch

The Australian’s flinty columnist Janet Albrechtsen blames the rapes on Islamic values.

“French and Danish experts say perpetrators of gang rape flounder between their parents Islamic values and society’s more liberal democratic values, falling back on the most basic pack mentality of violence and self-gratification.” The Australian July 2002

That’s her core argument. Used more than once. Though Albrechtsen denies this, it seem to us she lifted the words from an article in The Times in December 2000.

“Caught between their parents’ Islamic values and societies Christian and social democratic values, some youths appear to have fallen back on the most basic instincts of violence and pleasure.” The Times 5 December 2000

Except they aren’t the findings of French and Danish experts, as Albrechtsen says, just the words of Adam Sage, the journalist who wrote the piece in The Times.

She also lifts and twists what Sage says about a French psychotherapist. Here’s Sage:

“Jean-Jacques Rassial, a psychotherapist at Villetaneuse University, said gang rape had become an initiation rite for male adolescents in city suburbs.” The Times 5 December 2000

And here’s the Albrechtsen version:

“Pack rape of white girls is an initiation rite of passage for a small section of young male Muslim youths, said Jean-Jacques Rassial, a psychotherapist at Villetaneuse University.”

Follow-up, Media Watch, Sept 16

We’ve now heard from Professor Jean-Jacques Rassial, the French psychotherapist who The Australian’s columnist Janet Albrechtsen uses to try to establish a link between Islamic values and rape.

Here’s Janet: “Pack rape of white girls is an initiation rite of passage for a small section of young male Muslim youths, said Jean-Jacques Rassial, a psychotherapist at Villetaneuse University.”

But as we pointed out last week, Janet had added those two little adjectives, “white” and “Muslim”, to the Professor’s argument. He now tells Media Watch:

“There would be grounds, in France, to insist on a correction, even sue for defamation; may I ask you to make it known that I strongly dissociate myself from the remarks attributed to me, which are the opposite of my views.” Professor Jean-Jacques Rassial to Media Watch


The rebuttal

Janet Albrechtsen, Sept 18, The Australian onlinetheaustralian

Media watch next accused me of inventing the findings of French and Danish experts that pack rape of white girls by young Muslim men was an emerging phenomenon.

Media Watch knew their accusation was false.

This is what Media Watch did not tell viewers: I had already referred them to comments of Connie Bjornholm, a spokeswoman for the immigrant information service in the Danish city of Aarhus who described the growing problems.

I referred them to an AFP news story about La Squale, the confronting French movie about “tournante” (take your turn), which French magistrate Sylvie Lotteau described as where one member of the gang would “pick up a young girl a white girl and once she had become the girlfriend of one of the members, he would allow his mates to make use of her”.

On Monday night they repeated that lie by claiming I misrepresented psychotherapist Jean Jacques Rassial’s comments about the problem of gang rape in France.

Again, they failed to tell viewers the facts: Rassial’s comments appeared in a Times piece by Sage which dealt with that same movie and that same issue of tournante. And Sage discussed the clash between Islamic values and French social values.

If, as Media Watch claims, Rassial feels he has been misrepresented, then he should take that up with The Times. If Rassial has retracted his views, then he has some explaining to do.

Media Watch simply ignored Lotteau’s comments about “white girls” and that context of Rassial’s remarks in Sage’s piece.


Jim West’s judgement

Well, we should be able to get one of those just answer yes or no answers so beloved by TV lawyers to the question of who’s telling porkies and misrepresenting the facts on that one. Albrechtsen has been rather specific, providing a perfect opportunity for Marr to directly refute her case in a specific, plain English manner. How about it Dave?

As I said before, I wasn’t keen to enter a generalised waffle on ethics, but this is specific, on the public record, and is amenable to yes/no answers. Let’s pay it some attention, shall we. My money’s on the nerdy looking goody two shoes chick.


My say:

In my view, Albrechtsen totally ignores the allegation that she plagiarised The Times article. She also fails to say why she inserted “white” and “Muslim” into what looks like another plagiarised line from the piece. Contrary to her assertion, Media Watch did NOT accuse her of “of inventing the findings of French and Danish experts that pack rape of white girls by young Muslim men was an emerging phenomenon”. It accused her of lifting that claim from another news story, a claim made by the journalist concerned, not the experts, and not attributed.

Albrechtsen did a conspiracy theory piece in The Australian today, see theaustralian.

I wrote to, which is discussing the matter in its sealed section, as follows:


It’s business as usual for Ms Albrechtsen. Allege baleful conspiracy by the ABC. Smear colleagues for sport. And never, repeat never, stoop to answer substantive allegations of unethical behaviour.

The ABC never suggested she had no right to free speech. It inquired as to the factual basis of her opinions on the alleged propensities of Muslims to commit certain crimes.

This was too much. Watching Media Watch last Monday week I was most stunned by this:

“Pack rape of white girls is an initiation rite of passage for a small section of young male Muslim youths, said Jean-Jacques Rassial, a psychotherapist at Villetaneuse University.” The Australian 17 July 2002

Media Watch alleged that this came from a piece in The Times on December 5, 2000: “Jean-Jacques Rassial, a psychotherapist at Villetaneuse University, said gang rape had become an initiation rite for male adolescents in city suburbs.”

Making up other people’s opinions on anything is bad enough, but on race issues it is reprehensible. Am I hopelessly politically correct to suggest that in matters of race it is even more important to get the facts straight?

I can’t find Ms Albrechtsen’s response to the allegation. More importantly, I can’t find her employer’s response, except that it puffed her piece today in “reply” to Media Watch. May we take from this that The Australian is unconcerned about the factual basis its columnists use to justify their opinions, and that it has rejected the idea of a correction? If the Media Watch allegation is true, the ethical issues are much more important than plagiarism.

I’d like to thank Ms Albrechtsen for smearing me with the line that Media Watch has said nothing on “Kingston’s scurrilous manipulation of the truth about the navy and the sinking of SIEV-X”. I’m used to this sort of blanket character assassination without proof or even discussion of the issues involved. If she’s interested, there a discussion on SIEV-X between opposing sides of the debate on Webdiary now. It’s a merits-debate, where both sides are genuinely engaged with the other’s views. Too tedious for Albrechtsen, I’m sure.

I know it’s useless to ask for examples of my alleged manipulation. Still, when accusing others of conspiracy and smear, Ms Albrechtsen might be expected to have the self-awareness not to indulge in the bad behaviour she’s accusing others of.

Onya, Ms Albrechtsen. Smear anyone you like in your columns, but when the table turns and you’re asked for information to back your opinions, bring in the lawyers and attack the questioner. You’re a credit to the profession.

Margo Kingston


Fergus Hancock

I have particularly enjoyed the discussion of ethical behaviour on and individual and societal level. Facing the dilemmas of ethical behaviour in a decidedly unethical society is the harder choice.

Maybe the fine distinctions between ethics and morality should be simplified. Ethics, ‘the moral principles or philosophy held by a group’, may be discerned from morals, which are the choices individuals make in living out what they see as ethical principles.

The funny thing is that in modern language, morals in Australia have been slanted as puritanical, and almost always involving sex of one description or another, while ethics, while applauded, are a bit like a quote from a forgettable Australian TV comedy, in which the main character says: “I just want my child to have a normal religious education – that is, one that doesn’t have any effect.”

I find it more interesting that in the diary discussions,the ethical/moral positions of various religious leaders are virtually censored, when they have been the most important in terms of defining where the ethical/moral boundaries lie.

Coming from the Christian religious tradition, I would find it extremely unsafe and difficult (in fact, almost unethical) to make comments on religious ideas/leaders outside Christianity. BUT seeing that with all our differences, most religious people accept the ethic that since there is a unity between all human beings, we must adopt behaviours towards each other on the basis of shared humanity – a humanity which is derived, in the end, from God.

Therefore, a common thread between religious traditions is that we must do no harm to each other, or, as Jesus put it, “Do to others as you would have them do you.” So many religious leaders had similar positions, and should be listened to and acknowledged.

This places the radio shock-jock type of teleological moralising in an interesting light, and is consonant with the philosophical ethical comments made by other writers.

If the media (in the worst sense of the word) is always trying to paint a goody-baddy image of teleological ethics, then can we say that Australians are being trained in mis-ethics (that is, ethics-as-good/bad)?

The article by John Wojdylo in The pursuit of virtue (smh) is an excellent case in point. How long would he survive on the commercial talk-back radio circuit? BUT, his major points on ethical behaviour are perfectly sound and just (using a value judgement there!)

If humans find that sticking to an ethical code difficult, with pressure/temptation to leave that code ‘just this once’, then forgiveness and reconciliation must be principle virtues we should aspire to – after all, aren’t we then all in the same boat (differing consequences of our actions notwithstanding)?

To give probably the hottest area of ethical debates some air – what would I do with a person who has an acknowledged history of child sexual abuse who expresses regret/repentance for his past actions and wants to experience positive/normal relationships with families?

My desire to see someone returned to society after turning from an acknowledged wrong conflicts with a desire not to allow a risk of a dangerous wrong to occur. How do I resolve this?

On another level, in my job, some very strange situations arise – including some very ticklish ethical dilemmas.

Daniel Joase-Jelinik in The pursuit of virtue has one of the most common sense protections to ethical behaviour I know. As every inquisitor, interrogator or politician knows: to attack an opponent living in an ethical system, the best means is isolation. Isolate the individual, and her/his determination/certainty on ethical decisions will be undermined. Therefore, to protect oneself from this undermining, the ‘community of support’, the ‘collaborative search for ways to protect integrity’ is critical. I guess the modern method is a more intensive form of networking between group/profession members.

This, surely, is the reason why religious communities were established through most religious movements – the sharing of group goals and ideals.

I do not suggest that this is the great panacea. Many difficulties arise for such a choice – a long list comes to mind. Of course, in historical terms, the greatest danger of such communal structures is politics – as we have seen with various state-run religious organisations. Others include lack of clarity in shared ethical concerns. Probably, though, following Paul, the greatest need for such decision support is love. The lack of love, even in the search for truth, leads to brutality.

In Australia, at present, we are being trained to avoid communal duties/ideals – all of us, little individuals in our special little boxes. Perhaps harking back to the pedophilia situation, the best (ethical?) answer would be to re-introduce such a person to normal community relations, in order to see how normal relationships between adults and children occur – even to the extent of allowing strictly supervised contact with children after a period of time after education and training in dealing with internal conflicts/problems…………a really interesting ethical situation!! Is there a State-sanctioned process for this to occur?

What would your thoughts be on this problem? And how do you feel about the religious/semi-religious threads of the discussion?


Richard Goodwin in Narara

I would hate to see “ethics” suddenly become the buzzword that is incorporated into organisations and staff development without any real commitment. I think we’ve all seen the advertisements for jobs which have essentials such as: OH&S, EEO, Charter of Customer Service/Cultural Diversity, Quality Assurance, etc etc – a list which goes on for so long that you hardly notice the job is a part-time temporary job for 10 weeks.

There is a backlash against corporate fraud, but the reality is that the people who go to the organisation’s ethics courses will be the clerks who already agonise over whether they should take a company pencil home. The smart boys at the top will be unaffected ; the annual reports and mission statements will reflect ethical behaviour, but they will still appoint old school mates, fellow masons and Roman Catholics to their boards ; they will still transfer information about company moves to their mates on other boards ; they will still stack branches ; they will still persecute whistleblowers ; they will still restructure companies illegally and shift assets (possibly aided and abetted by government ministers!) ; they will still retire from Parliament and go straight to Ireland, or to a job with a defence company, or a medical lobby group ; they will still find ways around rugby league salary caps.

This is the legacy of a breakdown of a belief in core moral values in the 60s (there’s no right or wrong, ethics are all situational), combined with the rampant capitalism (greed is good ; deregulation is good) of the 80s and 90s, combined with the reality that this behaviour is rewarded (for example, on a micro level, it’s fine to have a false bidder at your house auction to force up the price).

Paradoxically, I foresee the creation of an ethics industry actually limiting our current vague notions of “ethics”, in the same way that customer service actually reduced the service consumers get – it put the concept into a box of accepted behaviours which limited the broader concept of service, and turned it into an item on the accountant’s ledger book (or spreadsheet).

So I welcome anything which will push ethics into the spotlight, and will take account of the experience-hardened cynicism many of us feel – and I welcome the sight of the Centrelink job advertisements: “Wanted: Philosophers. Company car provided (no fossil fuels used),”


Sean Richardson

If, as John Wojdylo suggests in The pursuit of duty, there is some fundamental totalitarian character flaw in the Australian people, he clearly suffers from it himself. But only in relation to home.

After Germany engulfed the globe in fire and destruction twice in just over 20 years, total-war theories began emerging about “the fundamental flaw in the German character”. John clearly (and rightly I think) rejects such a notion. But he is happy to apply a similar theory to the folks back home, on much less evidence of any general national moral turpitude. I think he’s done this before and begin to see him as some sad Nick Cave style character, forever bemoaning the red necks back home because he was considered a bit of a nerd in high school. Year 11 anti-intellectualism is not just an Australian phenomenon John – you’re obviously living The Best Revenge so get over it.

By the way, Darwin was a naturalist and most would take his comments about Australia’s limited prospects as relating to soil quality and aridity, and the subsequently smaller potential population. My memory of the comments is that this is quite obvious. It would also be true to say that the colonies suffered an extended period of maladministration from the Colonial Office. A well off country English gent like Darwin might not have been impressed upon arrival at the Rocks, resembling as it did all the worst London had to offer and heat besides.

There is something of a wave of puritanism sweeping the western world at the moment. As purity is unachievable, this trend necessarily comes hand in hand with its best mate, hypocrisy. An example is the pretend outrage in the press over the young man recently awarded damages for assault by a publican. Oh no, of course 16 year olds didn’t drink or do mildly stupid things in our day (see Richard Glover’s piece at smh for a fair description of what really happened). Society is going to hell. And so on.

To me, it’s clear that this is being driven by the victory of form over substance. In a saturated media market, simply reporting isn’t enough. You have to be outraged about something to attract attention to yourself. And this is much easier if there’s a Bad Guy for everyone to hate. As Orewell and Livy have noted a couple of millennia apart, politicians also have an easier time if there is a great and powerful enemy to distract the commons from such restrictive side issues as liberty. Hence politicians and media daily the sniff the wind, and if they can detect a slight breeze which doesn’t threaten their interests, will jointly attempt to whip it up into a fully fledged Black Friday style bushfire, riding the fire front into office and increased sales.

If you wanted to be truly intellectually brave, you might say that there has also been an advance in the idea that emotional reactions are as valid as rational ones. When two apparently lovely girls are murdered, there is not a whiff of the following reaction: “Events such as this of course display the worst of humanity. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the odds of this happening to your own children are very small. Indeed there has never been a safer time or place to be a child than in the developed world right now. We could not humanely ask the loved ones of these girls to stay rational under these circumstances, but the rest of us as enfranchised adults must do so.”

Rather, we get factless, emotive stuff like the article from Anne Summers (“Trust Fund Runs Dry in Bleak World”, SMH 9/9/02). It is perfectly “valid” to worry about kids you know when something like this happens kids you don’t, but who look alot like the ones you do. However, to go on and draw the conclusion that the world is less safe and therefore Something Must Be Done, based only on that emotional reaction, is dangerous. In relation to the example, the notion that “the world is less safe for children” is actually the opposite of the truth, so any Thing That Must Be Done that is predicated on that error will almost certainly be the wrong Thing. It is thus that witch hunts are born, Nazis lawfully elected twice and, down here more recently, harmless kids locked up in the desert as potential terrorists.

Perhaps John is right and Aussies just aren’t ambitious enough as a nation to run a decent holocaust. Personally I think the answer has more to do with Tough On Crime Pollies contracting with Outraged DJ Number 11 to provide each other with mutually beneficial crusades. Perhaps made worse when combined with a willingness on the part of intellectuals to enagage in emotionalism, thus robbing their best counter arguments, ie the rational ones, of some of the “force of reason.”

I have no idea what the answer is, by the way. You won’t get the Pollie/DJ syndicate to “wake up to themselves” because in my opinion they know full well that they are being disingenuous for personal gain. Perhaps people like Ms Summers could start the ball rolling by realising that it is indeed a good thing to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.


James Woodcock

John Wojdylo’s piece in The pursuit of duty was certainly thought provoking. While I really liked his thesis on our inability to see virtue in fellow humans, I felt a little let down by some of his arguments and examples.

Wojdylo gives a key example of the current crime and punishment argument. Public pressure to introduce mandatory sentencing has finally replaced a more humanistic practice of Justice. These sentences send messages of punishment, deterrence and vengeance. Thus the Judge’s ability to take into account the circumstances of the accused, his (sometimes her) chances of rehabilitation, expressions of remorse become more and more constrained. Wojdylo abstracts this as an inability of society to take an individual’s good or “virtue” into account. The external adherence to rigid rules of “ethics” “morality” and “the law” overrides everything.

So far so good.

I would only point out that this is not particularly an Australian problem. The Americans are ahead of us on “law and order” and similar things are happening in the UK, France and I would suspect many other Western Countries.

Another example Wojdylo gives of Australia’s inability to see good in people is how we treat immigrants. For me, Australia’s xenophobia has its historical roots in isolation from a mother country and a paranoid fear of the invading Asian hordes. As Tampa and Woomera have shown, these roots are much deeper than we could have ever imagined. Labelling asylum seekers as “illegals”, like accusing them of tossing their children, simply makes us feel better about turning away people whom we were going to turn away anyhow.

Wojdylo’s claim runs something like this: Australians believe that as the boat people have told lies, bribed officials, paid criminals and broken the law to get here, they are not deserving of our trust. “Once a liar always a liar” I would submit that our response to asylum seekers is on a more primitive, racist level. Our treatment of the “legal” (ie offshore) refugees is hardly any better. There are successful applicants waiting 12 months or longer in Indonesia in the elusive queue. One only has to look at how we treated Sondos Al Zalimi (the mother of the three drowned girls on Siev-X) to see if we have got it in only for the “illegals”.

My experience of living in Japan for five years taught me that it is possible for a society to have a very finely tuned sensitivity to individual virtue but to treat outsiders with an equal level of indifference.

Perhaps the other uniquely Australian aspect of this immigrant story is that we have sleazeball politicians willing to exploit racism.

Another piece of evidence I had trouble with was Wojdylo’s claim that Hollingsworth was possibly only trying to see some “virtue” in the clergy that he allegedly protected. I would claim virtually the opposite. To borrow some of Wojdylo’s German; both the Anglican and Catholic Churches produced a schein-Moral – a pseudo morality, a morality of appearance. They could not uphold a facade of righteousness when they had their own scandals brewing so under the carpet it was all swept. Some of these priests were constantly moved around after reoffending. It was not a second chance thing at all. They failed Wojdylo’s own alcoholic test.

Some of the other examples Wojdylo gives like the Australian economy, how our companies are run, our success compared to United States can possibly be attributed to other causes. Australians have always had an impatient streak. We want results now. Of course this short termism is really the Zeitgeist (more German!) of our times. Politicians cannot think beyond the next election. Companies need to keep their stock prices high and their shareholders happy so they sack workers, strip assets and plan nothing beyond tomorrow. I would suggest that Australia has embraced this more than Continental Europe or Japan as the seeds were here to start with.

John Wojdylo’s article certainly made me think and I will try to find virtue in people and places where I do not expect to. I do not want to cheapen his philosophical argument but is this not the underpinning of “a fair go” -something we Australians used to pride ourselves on? Perhaps religious people call this redemption.

The difference between the “virtue” view and “the law” view of humanity also reminds me of the intellectual battle between Jean Valjean and Javert, the Jailer. Time to find and reread my translation of Les Miserables. Failing that I will dust off my London Cast CD’s and give them a spin.

Proud to be Australian

“IT’S Wattle Day today, the day on which generations of schoolchildren have sung The Song of the Wattle:

The bush was grey a week today,

Olive green and brown and grey,

But now the Spring has come this way

With blossoms for the Wattle.” (Column8, Sydney Morning Herald, Wattle Day 1990)

What next? Many Webdiarists have emailed complaints about my “mawkish sentimentality” this week, and Webdiary’s failure to consider the future and what is the best way forward. Many have analysed the state of play in Indonesia and ways to deal with that government. Some, on the extremes, have screamed abuse and blame at other Australians, the Americans, whatever.

The face of the man at Bali’s memorial service yesterday, the man seeking and receiving comfort from John Howard – whose leadership this week I’ve found inspiring – is the face of Australia this week. The shock. The grief. The utter surprise that “the other” did this to us.

It’s a terrible truth that one feels what it is to be Australian at times like this. Really feels it. Tears come every day, yet the tears are not only of grief, but of pride. Pride in how the Australians directly effected are handling their grief. Pride in their care for the Balinese victims. Pride in Australian volunteers on the terrible scene. Pride in who we are. Not only pride. Love.

If you’d like to, please write to me about how you spend your Sunday.

After that, I’ll get right into the extremes of opinion and document them through Webdiarists’ emails. I’ll begin publishing expert and lay analysis of the tragedy. And all that. The next hard bit.

Today, three pieces from Australians who’ve appreciated the Webdiary space this week.


Keith Conley in Canberra

I haven’t hooked into Webdiary for a long time, mainly because much of what I read I found raw and offensive and as combative as anything Parliament throws up, no matter the topic. I stayed out of the kitchen.

Well now that is all in hideous and bloodied perspective. Despite my deep differences with your view of the world, I wanted to say thanks for the sensitive way in which your column is responding to Bali. I couldn’t have chosen a better poem than Henry Lawson’s Freedom on the Wallaby to express my feelings of useless outrage and bitter pride. I guess, like many, the anger has been building all week with no release and I have refused to consider what might have led anyone to commit such a thing. The act is evil, I cannot apply logic or reason to it, whatever the cause. I don’t know how others are so quick to find blame, and so certain of themselves too. The egotism is shameful.

I hope Sunday will help all Australians to find common purpose and strength at this awful point of our history, I hope William Deane can be asked to say some understanding words, and I hope the government finds the men who did this and brings them to a swift and deserved justice.

But above all, I hope that the families and individuals still enduring this agony can find peace and some measure of comfort for their pain. They should be all we worry about for now.


Greg Carroll in Essendon, Melbourne

New York is distant physically and in the imagination; seen in movies, inhabited by celebrities, unreal to most Australians. The go-it-alone shoot-em-dead response seemed fitting, like something we’ve been conditioned to expect by the same movies on which most of us base our perceptions of New York.

Bali is different. Ordinary people in ordinary suburbs, footy clubs etc. People all over Australia know Bali. Hopefully that knowledge, that reality, will bring a constructive reaction, like Bob Howard urges in Searching for hope, rather than a reaction which can only degenerate into impotent raging.

Maybe I’m a dreamer.


Luke Stegemann in Osaka, Japan

I contributed to Webdiary last year post-September 11, and have been a regular follower. Last month I left Brisbane and have been working as a Professor of English at a university in Osaka, so I have been somewhat at a remove from the tragedy of the Bali bombings, nevertheless following opinion, comment and reaction closely through the internet.

I wanted to thank you for two things: firstly, for your suggestion that we adopt Uluru as a symbol of our unity in grief. This simple comment has moved me deeply, and thinking about it today as I walked down a corridor at the university to an undergraduate class, I broke into tears at the very simplicity and beauty of the idea. How central the landscape has always been, not only to indigenous Australians, but later in the formation of the “white” Australian psyche and identity. To adopt this monumental symbol of enduring and eternal strength, so important for our indigenous brothers and sisters, as a symbol now for the grief Australia feels at this unique time strikes me as a marvellously non-partisan and profoundly moving idea.

Secondly, thank you for directing me to the piece by Jennifer Hewett on the horror of the makeshift morgues. Jennifer mentions a grief counsellor from Queensland, Gillian Coorey, who happened to be in Bali on holidays and is helping with identification of victims. Gillian and I met last year when studying for an Education Doctorate together, and she is a wonderful person, full of the type of strength and compassion that would now be required. I can imagine she is doing a tremendous job in what must be indescribable circumstances.