Alternatives to war

Stop Press: The impending war is boosting support for the Greens in the NSW state election due in March – could this be why the Greens number 3 candidate for the Upper House, Ben Oquist, has just withdrawn his candidacy? A few months ago the Greens thought they had a bit of a chance of their number 2 getting up! Ben, who is Bob Brown’s adviser in Canberra and has his sights set on a Senate spot, assured me late last year there was no chance he’d get elected in NSW so he’d hang in there.


Now we’re at the pointy end of the war debate writers and Webdiarists are proposing alternatives to an invasion of Iraq and thinking about how to avoid such wars in future.

In the Herald yesterday, Christopher Kremmer suggested a massive expansion in the weapons inspectors’ manpower and resources:“Expanding the inspectorate would bolster confidence in its findings. Giving it permanent tenure would send a strong signal to Baghdad that certification and an end to sanctions could be postponed indefinitely unless it sees reason and disarms fully.” (smh)

Jack Robertson’s column today, Looking for John Curtin, sets out a detailed proposal to reconcile the UN and the US. It’s a great piece which I highly recommend. In this entry, M. Mercurius in Sydney tells the hawks and the doves they’re both wrong. American reader Ralph Boecker, Webdiarist Mike Lyvers, an American in Queensland, and Queensland Webdiarist Karen Jackson suggest ways to avoid a unilateral strike or prevent a repeat crisis, and John Nicolay (nom de plume) replies in detail to yesterday’s Carmen Lawrence column, The price of war. To end Nicholas Crouch, who’s contributed once before to Webdiary by commenting on the forum itself, debuts on a substantive issue with a piece putting the case for war. No Webdiary tomorrow – back Monday.

John Wojdylo’s column today is on the ethics of Webdiary (John30Jan). I asked him for a couple of pars on the topic for inclusion in a chapter I’m writing on adapting my ethical obligations – drafted for hard copy journalism – to the net. Naturally I got an essay instead, and as usual its top quality.

For John Pilger’s white-hot reaction to the Bush speech go to mirror and for Christopher Hitchens’ latest on why the war is necessary go to mirror.

For the reaction of American weblogger and Webdiary reader Dawn Rivers Baker to the Bush speech, go to microenterprisejournal

American reader Tony Wisniewski pulls me up on my statement yesterday that “it was telling that he devoted such a long portion of his speech to the disadvantaged and the world’s environmental crisis – a crisis the world is trying to address without – so far – support from America”.

What appears to be constantly overlooked is that America is a multi-faceted country. Here’s data: usaiddevelopment and usaidenvironment.

I’m certain you will pull links that denounce the US for what we have not done or what we have disagreed with. That’s fine. They too should constitute a data-driven discussion. Please remember that America is not one collective mind. One man, president or not, does not wield empirical power. The beauty of this country is that people are free to think, act, feel, give and react differently from one another. We cherish that ability. Because of it you will find that the government espousing war is the same one providing assistance to the environment and the less fortunate worldwide. I welcome your opinions. Whether I agree or disagree, all viewpoints must be considered when attempting to make an informed opinion . It is absolutely important however that you base your comments on data. What I ask is that you make certain to craft your opinion on fact not rhetoric. Those of us once curious in your opinion will stop listening if you continue to defend baseless statements.”


M. Mercurius in Summer Hill, Sydney

One of the luxuries in trying to filter through the Iraq/SH debate is that if anybody offers you a simple solution, you automatically know they’re wrong.

“Bomb Iraq” is wrong. “Do nothing” is also wrong.

Naturally, and for all the right reasons, the doves are outraged by the needless slaughter of innocent Iraqi civilians that will take place if we go to war. But if they’re so worried about the fate of the Iraqi people, where has their concern been for the last 20 years while SH has systematically gaoled, tortured and massacred those people, and then corrupted the UN sanctions so that they do nothing but starve civilian populations of food, medicine and education?

I would like to see the pacifists apply the same passion they apply to the question of what happens to the Iraqi people if we go to war to the question of what happens to the Iraqi people if we let SH terrorise them for another 20 years.

Ethically, we are confronted the same question as a doctor with a terminal patient – if you don’t operate, the patient will die a slow painful death, if you do operate, the patient may not survive the surgery. What do you do?

Naturally, and for all the right reasons, the hawks are worried that SH is a dangerous menace. But if he’s a dangerous menace now, he was even more of dangerous menace 20 years ago, but back then he was OUR dangerous menace, so that was OK.

This is why the hypocrisy of the hawks is so transparent to many people – we are reacting in our gut to the knowledge that Western interests aided and abetted SH in his war on Iran and his subsequent chemical weapons programme he so infamously tested on the Kurds. We know that if a deranged pit bull goes on the rampage, it is the pit bull’s trainer who is responsible – and collectively, that’s us.

So the doves quite rightly don’t buy the argument that war on Iraq is about liberating the Iraqi people, because we know if that were the reason it would have happened 20 years ago. We know the hawks’ message is hypocritical because SH is their Frankenstein’s monster.

But we also see that the doves’ high-handed rhetoric is misguided because they’ve suddenly whipped up a concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people that has been conspicuously absent until now.

The doves are also rightfully suspicious of the hawks ever-changing rationale for war. First the priority was a war on terrorists, then ‘regime change’ in Iraq, then weapons of mass destruction. If the hawks can’t get their story straight, why shouldn’t we be extremely skeptical about their motives?

Meanwhile, on the domestic scene, those loud voices who call the doves “traitors” and call to “lock them up” are showing that they have the same tyrannical and dictatorial instincts as SH. Locking up anybody who disagrees with you is a practice of which SH would be proud.

Every thinking person knows that the defence of freedom and democracy means the defence of other people’s right to say and do things that you despise. Locking up dissidents, conscientious objectors and the like is exactly what we berate SH for doing, so let’s not become the pot calling the kettle black.

And the doves can get down off their high horse and stop lumping the hawks in the same camp as SH and that debating chestnut, Adolf Hitler. Please. If the doves want to raise the rhetorical stakes like that, I could draw parallels between the present pacifists with the attitude of the pre-WWII British and Europeans who simply ignored the evidence and disbelieved that anything like the holocaust could possibly be happening in the ‘civilised’ West – or the post-WWII world that ignored the ethnic cleansing in Serbia until it was too late.

To dogmatically rule out war as a viable option is to ignore 1500 years of debate which has helped to define and refine the principle of ‘Just War’. You remain ignorant of that kind of intellectual inheritance at your peril.

A lot of the ill-will and name-calling can be taken out of this debate if we recognise that we all dropped the ball on this one. The hawks created a monster and now try to seize the moral high ground when he doesn’t do as he’s told. The doves have ignored Iraq’s 20-year nightmare and now try to seize the moral high ground with claims they want peace because they have a concern for human rights in that country.

Nobody wants a war, and nobody wants SH to continue raping Iraq. OK hotshot, you tell ME what we should do?


Ralph Boecker

I’m probably not your usual emailer, being an American, but your topic touched very close to home so I thought I’d take time to write you. I view web pages from around the world (English-speaking as I’m mono-lingual) as part of my job and like to read tomorrow’s newspaper today.

President Bush’s speech was reassuring, and frightening.

Both my parents grew up in Germany on the receiving end of an Allied coalition and have conveyed some of the horror of war. I drove past the Pentagon when it had a gaping hole and blackened walls and cried because I’d worked there in the past. And I know things about Saddam Hussein that make me nervous. With that behind me, I’ll give my personal take on things.

A simple visit to multiple web sites humbles me with the power and influence of my country. There is no doubt that we can kick the butts of just about any takers while sipping a beer and watching TV. But having won, what do we do?

Twelve years ago, Saddam raped Kuwait, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. I understand that many of the cars that were shipped back to Baghdad are still being driven by favored political cronies. There is no opposition outside of a cemetery. And Iraqi leaders say they are preparing for chemical combat because the US might use it on them, despite the fact that, other than side effects from Agent Orange, we have avoided chemical warfare for 85 years.

Still, I’m not completely convinced that we need a war to remove Hussein and Company (it’s not just him, after all). And we have a terrible record as kingmakers. So I’d like to propose a compromise solution.

Why don’t we (the US) go ahead and get rid of the rascal, and the rest of the powers (maybe the UN or EU) can offer to step in and help rebuild so we don’t get accused of wanting too much. The world community has been doing nothing long enough. Whether or not war is the right answer, in the silence that follows requests for original solutions it seems to be about the only thing left.


Mike Lyvers

There is a clear middle path available. The U.S. threatened war, forcing the U.N. to take action by resuming inspections. As long as those inspections are happening, there is little that Saddam can do (he doesn’t dare bring out his hidden arsenals, for example). So Saddam is effectively bottled up by the inspections. That’s why they should be continued: They keep Saddam under wraps without having to go to war to do so. That’s why I oppose invading Iraq.


Karen Jackson, member of the Democrats, Queensland

I feel the need to make a few comments about my ‘Ten Reasons to be Anti-American’ piece (Oh Superman). Firstly, yes, I was rather cross when I wrote it, so it is a little extreme in places and I apologise for that.David Makinson’s comments in In Defence of America express in a far better way why people shouldn’t use this term.

At the same time, I still think those ten points are very good reasons to feel angry at the US. Indeed, many of them lie at the heart of peoples distrust of their current motives.

Mike Lyvers in Waiting for George correctly picked me up on this sentence: “What’s more, the propaganda that says the terrorists hate our freedom is just so much bullshit. It’s not freedom that these people hate; it’s America’s hypocrisy.” I don’t doubt that Islamist terrorists do hate our freedoms – women’s freedom from masculine oppression, the freedom to express sexuality, the freedom to follow ones own religion, or do without it.

Nonetheless, I also think that groups such as al-Qaeda also have a political motive, based on a hatred of the way the US treats the rest of the world, most particularly in the case of Israel where their hypocrisy is most glaring.

David’s piece defending the US, along with Bush’s conciliatory speech, has made me want to clarify where I stand in opposition to this war. The fact is, I don’t want to be accused – as you were by Jack Stack(Placing confidence in a Loving God) of defending dictators and oppressive regimes. I realise, when it comes down to it, that liberating Iraq would be a wonderful thing. It’s just that I don’t agree with the way it’s happening.

So it’s time for me to crank up John Lennon’s Imagine, get all starry eyed, and articulate what I think should be done.

Ideally, I want to see a world where human rights are respected, where people engage in true participatory democracy, and where the true causes of terrorism and violence are addressed – ie we work toward eliminating poverty and ignorance. (Let’s pause while all those macho critics out there laugh and call me names. Yes, of course I’m a bleeding heart. You’re right, how loony of me to imagine such a utopia.)

Yes, I want this for Iraq. And for Zimbabwe, and Saudi Arabia. For Pakistan. For Indonesia, East Timor, North Korea, Iran. And for Australia.

So this is where the UN comes in, but not the UN we have now. What I want to see is an impartial UN completely supported in all its efforts by all member nations, especially the United States. I want the UN to be well funded, well organised, and respected as a legitimate entity by the entire world.

I want to see the UN become the worlds policeman, not the US following its own agenda. I want it to make sure every country is democratic and respecting human rights, *without exception*. I also want it to become the real forum for airing grievances, the global court of King Solomon, where all know they will get a fair hearing, where there are no vetoes based on self interest.

And I want the US to be its main right hand, so all that money and influence and, yes, firepower can be used for the greater good, not just for those lucky few who were born in America. So that, for example, when the UN says to Robert Mugabe: Hold fair elections and stop persecuting your people, he might actually do what he’s told, or the US will use its considerable force.

What’s the difference between this idea and the current situation?

For a start no-one would be accusing the UN of being “impotent” or defying international law because it was perceived to be biased or useless. When it came to Iraq, any dispute would be conducted in a far more diplomatic nature than has occurred so far. If the Iraqis trusted the UN, they would perhaps be more inclined to co-operate. Yes, that is a big IF, but, like John Howard, I’m talking hypothetically here. And if they can do it with North Korea, how hard can it really be?

If it came to an attack, it would be legal. It wouldn’t be an invasion. Police don’t invade; they keep the peace. And police dont get to keep what they find when they attend a domestic disturbance. They make sure nothing else gets broken and leave it to the owners.

In my little utopian vision, any attack on Iraq would really be about liberating the Iraqi people. And it would be followed up with a great deal of aid and support to help rebuild that nation. It would mean that Iraq’s oil wealth could go toward feeding and education Iraq’s population.

You wouldn’t get newspaper articles crowing about the $5 million dollars generously donated to build a hospital in Afghanistan. You’d get real, ongoing help to rebuild and stabilise a new democratic nation.

And you’d know that it wasn’t just a selective thing, based purely upon greed for oil. You’d know that every other country in the world would face the same thing if they didn’t toe the UN line on democracy and human rights.

If we HAVE to accept the US as the only superpower in the world, we want it to be decent and fair – we want it to live up to its own hyperbole about democracy and freedom – because at the moment these words seem awfully hollow. We really do want it to use its power for good, not evil – and yes, killing people to gain control of oil reserves is just as evil as flying planes into office towers.

We don’t like hypocrisy. We want consistency and fairness in how “difficult nations” are dealt with. We want less greed colouring international relations. We don’t want to kill people if it is at all possible.

And I think we really just want to be left alone to live our lives in peace. Not just us – the Iraqis, the Koreans, the East Timorese – they feel the same way too.

Is it all too simplistic? Perhaps. But at least now I have a simple reply to the with-us-or-agin us argument. Integrity, co-operation, democracy, human rights. For all.


John Nicolay

I read Dr Lawrence’s column with a mix of disbelief, exasperation and despair. Is this sort of emotive, patronising nonsense really what passes for analysis and argument on the left these days? I have been a member of the ALP since my teenage years, but if this is the sort of analysis and reasoning that she would bring to decisions of state, I would have trouble voting in good conscience for Labor at any election that was likely to install Dr Lawrence in a position of responsibility.

What is missing entirely from her screed is an understanding of the fact that ALL available options have consequences that must be analysed. She seems to think that if she can point to bad things that might happen if one option were pursued, there is no need to apply her imagination to possible horrors if the other is followed – it has already won the argument!

In my view, you simply cannot be taken seriously as an opponent of war unless you are prepared to acknowledge what sort of leader Saddam Hussein is, extrapolate what his record suggests about his intentions and ambitions, and recognise that his conduct towards weapons inspections leaves no other rational possibility other than that he has or is developing weapons of mass destruction and intends to keep them.

By no means does recognising all those facts lead inexorably to the conclusion that war is necessary, but it is only once you do take these things into account that you engage in the duty that real policy-makers have in a situation like this: of considering all possible outcomes and choosing the one with the least worst results.

Dr Lawrence goes on to repeat a series of propaganda points that fall into the “no sane person with basic research skills could possibly believe” category. For example, the cant about sanctions “killing” over 500,000 Iraqi children.

Let us for a moment assume that, indeed, 500,000 Iraqi children have died since 1991 as a result of inadequate nutrition and medicine. This is not a country where the resources to provide properly simply do not exist. We know exactly what resources Iraq has – they sell large quantities of oil under a U.N. program. But Saddam’s regime chooses to spend massive amounts of that revenue on things like palaces and weapons programs, in preference to food and medical supplies. How, exactly, then, are the results of those spending priorities the fault of the sanctions? This is supposed to be an argument in favour of leaving Saddam Hussein in place?

I wonder also whether Dr Lawrence has any idea of the source of the “500,000 children” factoid. In fact, the Madeleine Albright quote she uses comes from the very exchange that gave the figure its currency. In 1996, Secretary Albright was confronted by Lesley Stahl of the American 60 Minutes program, who asserted that figure (on the basis of “evidence” that turned out to be manifestly untrue) and asked her whether it was “worth it”. Secretary Albright responded with the quote that Dr. Lawrence reproduced – and she has subsequently, repeatedly and vociferously, repudiated both the asserted figure and her response when put on the spot by Ms. Stahl.

The closest real source for the “500,000 Iraqi children” figure I can find is a UNICEF report that states that “if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998”. In other words, the figure is based on an extrapolation of the rate of decline in the 1980s throughout the following decade – an heroic assumption to begin with – and involves no attempt to isolate the various possible causes for the discrepency – one of which just might have been that during the period, Iraq launched an offensive war against a neighbouring state. To use the UNICEF figure to make the assertion Dr. Lawrence repeats is, simply, foolish.

And then to repeat the “predictions” of MedAct, the left-wing UK anti-war group, as if they were some sort of scientific estimate as opposed to a clever piece of press-release advocacy . . . just how gullible does Dr. Lawrence think her audience is? Would it surprise anyone to learn that MedAct also opposed U.S. action in Afghanistan, warning that it would result in a “massive humanitarian disaster”.

Dr Lawrence also fails to note that the “group of health workers based at Cambridge University” that she cites as an additional source for casualty estimates has a name, which is “Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq”. I don’t know much about this group, but I’m prepared to go out on a limb and bet that it is not composed of disinterested observers with no axe to grind.

Speaking of bets, I’m also prepared to lay one that Dr Lawrence’s sole source for all of the studies that she cites was a single MedAct press release, rather than her independent review of those sources, as she implies. Just so we know whose word we’re taking . . .

Next, Dr Lawrence seems to go out of her way to prove her credulousness by repeating the report that the U.S. is “said to be planning” to use nuclear weapons. She, and her selective quoting, makes it sound like a decision has been made that they will be used, or at least that they will be used in certain circumstances.

In fact, all the article actually asserts is that possible uses of nuclear weapons are being studied as part of the overall planning process . . . well, duh! They’ve got ’em, so they ought every now and then fire up the old brain cells and work out in what circumstances they’d actually use ’em.

Something else about the article should have occurred to Dr Lawrence – the source. The report was based on “multiple sources close to the [planning] process” that is being undertaken within the U.S. Strategic Command. Did it not occur to Dr. Lawrence that it was unlikely that “multiple sources” at the top of the U.S. military planning process were unlikely to have spilled their guts just by accident, or to have become so overcome by remorse at what they were considering that they all felt the need to rush out and let the LA Times know what they were up to?

No. This was a deliberate release of information by the U.S. military. Can anyone guess why? Might it possibly be that they decided that they wanted the Iraqi top brass – the only people who are actually able to prevent a war by getting rid of Saddam Hussein – to reach certain conclusions about their personal safety in the event that war is not averted?

Congratulations, Dr Lawrence: you have become a dupe of the U.S. military. It’s a little sad that this is likely to be her most significant contribution to averting war!

Finally, Dr Lawrence wheels out the old line that the United States and United Kingdom used to tolerate bad old Saddam, and even helped him with his early attempts to acquire the weapons of which they now complain. The only sensible response to that argument is “so what”?

If it is a problem today, what possible difference does that history make to the logic of the case for or against action? You could take it one step further: If Saddam is really the monster of the U.S. and U.K., surely it is more, rather than less, incumbent upon them to neutralise the threat for the safety of themselves and the rest of the world.

God knows we need prominent voices leading a debate on this, especially given that our Government is so reluctant to give us one. But surely there is a case to be made against the war that is rational, serious and honest.

Not firmly in one camp or the other, I find myself most persuaded of the need for war when I contemplate the possibility that rubbish like this is the best that the antiwar side can come up with.


Nicholas Couch

If America invades and occupies Iraq there will be civilian casualties. It is difficult to estimate, but certainly they would be in the thousands. Margo, you and those like you don’t want thousands of innocent people to die. I understand that. It sounds reasonable. But how many innocent Iraqi civilians will die if there is NO war? How many more people will Saddam kill? Given his past history surely you must say thousands.

Given Saddam’s age and his seeming incredibly strong hold on power, he could reign for another 15 years. And when he dies what then? It is no certainty that he will be replaced by anything better – very likely one of his sons or murderous generals will take over, and how many more people will die as the new dictator exerts his authority?

So Margo, if those of you who are working so hard to prevent war miraculously succeed, then by all means you will be able to say that you helped save many thousands of innocent Iraqis from being killed in a war. But you must then also accept the consequences of stopping the war – and those are the effects of the continued reign of Saddam Hussein and his successors, and the thousands of innocent Iraqis that will die because of that. It is no good starting sentences with “I don’t like Saddam Hussein but…” If you don’t like Saddam, and you have the capacity to, then you have to DO something about it.

People on the left of this issue are full of good intentions and your aims are noble – unlike the far right whose aims are based in bigotry and hate – but just because the far left has good intentions does not make it less dangerous. Jimmy Carter is almost universally acknowledged as the worst US President in modern history. He also probably had the best intentions, the best ideals – and still does. I like him, but he is a far better former president than he was a President.

Sometimes good intentions and noble sentiment can’t solve the world’s problems. Sometimes it takes missiles and bullets and a few weeks of darkness, so that the sun will shine brighter for the years to come.

Those against the war are prepared to allow the skies to be overcast for the people of Iraq indefinitely. Living under dictatorship and tyranny is a constant dreary, grey day. People struggle to just stay alive. No one is really living, not as we people who have freedom understand it.

The far left’s views are nice to listen to. We all want to avoid war where we can – everyone prefers to live in peace – but sometimes the price of peace is too high to pay.

I heard a political analyst recalling how former US president Teddy Roosevelt made a speech during his presidency regarding the US civil war which is relevant to the current situation. Roosevelt said the easiest thing for the North to do would have been to make peace with the South, and overlook their practise of slavery. It would have saved the hundreds of thousands of lives that were lost during the war. And surely a number of people living in slavery was not worth costing hundreds of thousands of deaths, not to mention the economic impact on the still relatively young republic.

But Roosevelt concluded that there are fates in life worse than death, and living under tyranny is one of those. Sacrificing principles for convenience is not always an acceptable option.

The USA is willing to put the lives of its sons and daughters on the line for principle, for people’s freedom, for a safer nation and a safer world.

The easiest thing to do would be to do nothing and hope Saddam never uses his weapons of mass destruction and never develops nuclear weapons and never uses them. There is probably a good chance he never would. But are we prepared to take the risk?

Jimmy Carter would be, so are you Margo, but a real leader wouldn’t. A real leader would stand up and say that he was stronger than Iraq, and therefore do not have to be bullied by Iraq or constantly worried about a threat to their security.

George W. Bush is such a leader. I don’t like his domestic agenda – I’m a moderate lefty myself in most matters – but we don’t have to be weak to be compassionate, and we have to realise that having a nation that values liberty so much and has no appetite for conquest as the world’s sole superpower is a good thing, and that our special relationship with that superpower is to our advantage.

With the overthrow of Saddam everyone will win. The Iraqi people will have the UN sanctions lifted and will be able to prosper again. Their government will be free of the barbaric practices of Saddam, and eventually democracy will reign. The free world will be rid of the threat posed by a genocidal mad-man who has a history of military aggression and a disturbing obsession with weapons of mass destruction and a history of using them.

And yes, the USA – and the rest of the developed world – will have greater security of oil supply and price.

But to suggest that this is the only, or even primary reason for war with Iraq is outrageous. To suggest that Western World leaders would wage war on another country purely to secure a resource is an unforgivable slur. That sort of thing might have happened back in the days of the British empire, but to suggest that it is happening today is foolish and uninformed.

I said that “Everybody wins” from a war with Iraq – I mean everybody except those who are killed. This is the reality, that people will have to make sacrifices for a greater cause. Some of them may be allied soldiers who walk into their duty with their eyes open, others may be Iraqi women and children who die after being hit by an off-target US bomb, whilst they are sheltering in a basement in Baghdad, scared out of their minds. None of this is pleasant, it is just reality.

Yes it is sad, and unfortunate, but doing nothing is even worse. Doing nothing leaves our principles and security compromised. The deaths of all those who die from the torture and executions that are routine in Iraq under Saddam are no less sad, but they happen every day. It is no good coming up with a way to prevent people dying from US bombs without coming up with a way to stop them dying anyway, but with no benefit from their sacrifice.

After September 11 most people agreed that Afghanistan had to be invaded. It was unacceptable for a country to provide safe haven for terrorists. It seems so obvious now, but if an American president had proposed to invade Afghanistan well before September 11 2001, would the reaction have been the same? No, people like you Margo would have said that nothing major had happened, and the evidence on all the training camps there was a bit fuzzy, and think about all the poor innocent Afghan people that would die from the US bombs.

A lot of lives could have been saved if Afghanistan was invaded shortly after the Taliban came to power, and began allowing terrorists to use the country as a training ground. If the US did nothing about Iraq, and in 7 years time a dying Saddam decided to use his new and secretly developed Nuclear weapons on Tel Aviv or gave weapons to terrorists so he could see revenge exacted on Washington DC or another American city, everyone would agree that something should have been done years before. People would say: “He’d used WMD before! How could we not see this coming. We ruined his country – of course he would have his revenge”.

The American administration has seen the danger posed to its security by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and they want to act before he does something, and the world needs to understand why.

If the US had had their pre-emptive doctrine when Osama Bin-Laden was first given refuge in Afghanistan then thousands of US lives would have been saved. The USA has learnt from its mistakes and I don’t blame them.

Looking for John Curtin

Principles and premises


This best course of national action is based upon the following principles and premises:

1. Australia’s global and regional interests are both best served by a strong and effective United Nations implicitly underpinned by benign superpower military force, but aims to overstride and where necessary fine-tune, as a desirable state of world affairs, an international community of messy interlocking and counter-balancing sovereign state interests.

It would pursue this aim through established government, trade, military, diplomatic, legal and Non Government Organisation mechanisms. The UN must actively foster a multilateral and apposite dispersion of global power across many nations and blocs, rather than allow any excessive unilateral concentration of global power in one nation or bloc. The former global state is predictable and stable; the latter is neither, regardless of where the power is allowed to concentrate.

The current crisis demonstrates this. America, a hitherto benign superpower, is now destabilising, not stabilising, the world.

2. As a low-middle power, if Australia is ever forced to choose between increasing the long-term strategic influence, power and global credibility of the UN at the expense of that of any superpower, or the reverse case, then it must always choose the first option.

3. America intends to invade and occupy Iraq in early 2003. A UN Security Council decision to either a) sanction such an action, or b) not sanction such an action, will now have an equally damaging effect on the long-term strategic influence, power and credibility of the UN.

4. The resolution of this crisis that can best avoid serious net damage to Australia’s short, mid and long-term security interests is the removal of Saddam Hussein prior to the commencement of any American-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

Australian action

As soon as possible:

1. The Australian government should advise the US Ambassador, and then publicly announce, that Australia will continue the deployment of her committed military assets in preparation for American-led military activities, but that Australia will not participate in any invasion of Iraq without a new and rigidly-limiting UNSC resolution authorising this as a collective UN action.

Australia should simultaneously, with this public announcement, thank the US President for his recent praise of Australia’s loyalty and commitment to ANZUS in agreeing to deploy our forces, and announce that Australia is seeking a joint meeting with the German and French governments, to propose an alternative approach to Iraq.

Australia’s current internationally acknowledged status as one of only three countries publicly to commit her forces to American pre-invasion preparations will ensure a) good international exposure of this clarification of Australian policy; and b) increase Australia’s chances of securing quickly a meeting with the French and German governments.

2. The Australian government should present to the French and German governments, as the basis for their own subsequent adoption of an alternative approach within the UNSC, the following broad arguments:

A. Iraq now poses a WMD threat to global security. More accurately, Saddam Hussein is now perceived by the world as posing such a threat. True or not, America is now irrevocably committed to disarming him. US disarmament of Saddam Hussein means removing him from office. America currently intends to invade and occupy Iraq to achieve this.

B. North Korea now poses a serious confirmed WMD threat. America is the only country with the military capability and geographic and diplomatic reach required to deal effectively with this genuine ‘rogue nation’ threat, and in a way acceptable to the broad international community.

C. It is now in the interests of the United Nations and the international community, including America, to achieve disarmament of Saddam Hussein without necessitating and/or allowing a full-scale American invasion and subsequent unilateral occupation of Iraq to occur. This latter development would represent a serious global threat over-reaction which will force upon America unpredictable military-strategic, diplomatic-alliance and political-economic changes, of a magnitude likely to hinder at least her short-term capacity to deal properly with the immediate, serious WMD threat posed by North Korea. It will also increase the threat to global security posed by violent expressions of Islamic Fundamentalism through intensified anti-Western terrorism, increasing internal instability in large Muslim countries (some possessing WMD), and greater international co-ordination, co-operation and coalescence of many diverse extremist groups. This is particularly the case in Australia’s immediate region.

D. Australia now has a very strong interest in urging the international community to remove Saddam Hussein from power prior to an American invasion and occupation of Iraq.

3. The Australian government should press upon the French and German governments, in an attempt to influence their posture within the UNSC, Australia’s preferred approach to achieving this end. The following hypothetical progression of events from now is how I would present it to them:

1. UNSC passes a new resolution authorising US invasion and occupation of Iraq under one circumstance only (see below). The current UN weapons inspection process continues, with extensions of time as requested. The full provision of all remaining American WMD intelligence to these teams occurs. American U2 and other reconnaissance overflights of Iraq are authorised, without limitation. A UN protection force is assembled, possibly consisting of lightly-armed French and German troops and multilateral police personnel, possibly commanded by a New Zealander; this supplements the inspection teams as soon as possible. The new UNSC resolution authorises immediate freedom of all US military activity, including unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq, only if this protection force is refused access to Iraq and/or subsequently hindered in its inspection movements and/or threatened and/or attacked. Military commanders and inspection team leaders to jointly manage an increasingly aggressive pursuit of WMD inspection teams aims, using on-ground discretion.

2. US conduct of surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence, and invasion preparations continues at a mid-term sustainable level. UNSC new resolution also authorises limited US-coalition Special Force and target-specific aerial bombing operations against any identified Al-Qaeda-derivative terrorist enclaves in northern Iraq, and suspected attempts to move WMD beyond Iraq’s borders while inspections progress. Following any such operation, the US to brief the UNSC, which in turn formally ‘advises’ Iraq (within normal operational security limitations), re-iterating each time the strict limitations of the new UNSC resolution (that is, blocking ‘sanctioned’ US invasion and occupation in all but the one circumstance).

3. UNSC directs a UN committee represented by Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Canada, the Gulf Security States and Iran, to prepare a plan for a post-Saddam UN transitional administration. Canada to assemble and deploy the command-and-control skeleton of a peace-keeping force to support the administration, with major assets and personnel to be cherry-picked from US invasion forces already in AO Iraq. UNSC requests humanitarian agencies to launch humanitarian operations in Iraq as extensive as logistics and security will allow. UNSC directs the ICC to begin preparing CAH cases against Saddam Hussein and identified senior regime figures. These charges, and the UN plan for transitional administration, to be formally presented to the Iraq Ambassador. (UNSC continually to re-assure Iraq’s UN Ambassador that invasion and occupation of Iraq by America will not be sanctioned, except in the one circumstance of aggression against the inspection teams.) The UN accepts on behalf of the international community in principle responsibility for the cost of the on-going US military deployment in AO Iraq, provided the US continues to abide by the terms of the UNSC new resolution; UN begins negotiating a reparation scale and schedule with all UN member states.

4. International Criminal Court (ICC) formally requests, through the Iraqi Ambassador, Iraq to present for trial Saddam Hussein and names Iraqi ‘Co-conspirators against Humanity’. These first round suspects are targeted with the help of internal sources, so best to skew Saddam’s current regime through selective isolation, and foster opportunistic internal re-positioning and plotting.

5. The United Nations continues the armed inspection – and disarmament – process. The US-coalition continues military operations monitoring for signs of WMD-terrorist movement; to strike hard and precisely where necessary, and withdraw; and to maintain invasion readiness. All regional governments and authorities, and international commercial and NGO organisations, continually urged by the UNSC to exert maximum pressure on, and where possible provide maximum assistance to, anti-Saddam forces within Iraq. The international community to wait for the Iraqi people to decide their fate for themselves.

6. The secular, liberal, democratic West holds our secular, liberal, Western democratic nerve.

7. Saddam is toppled from within Iraq, preferably handed to the ICC alive. The UN-transitional administration, supported by the Canadian-commanded US peace-keeping force, assumes control of Iraq. American invasion plans are shelved. Remaining US-coalition forces disperse and continue the war against terrorism

Could we pull off something like this within three months? Six? I think so, if we really wanted to do it this way. Is it now impossible, given the US military build-up and tempo of events? Almost certainly.

But if Australia is truly an ally of the US, it could and should make an unexpectedly bold use of its temporarily-enhanced – if only marginally – world leverage, in at least some way. We’re small, we’re usually politically insignificant, we’re geographically remote, and we’re probably still a bit naive and unsophisticated when it comes to global realpolitik, but Iraq is our best shot at affecting world history for the better. I think our kids will truly regret our lack of guts if we don’t have a go. It all depends on how hard those who want to avoid a US invasion and occupation of Iraq are prepared to fight for an alternative resolution, and how hard those who positively crave an invasion will fight back.

John Curtin would give it a rip, anyway.


The thing that has been troubling Australia lately is that if Iraq is invaded by military force, the people of Iraq will never consider themselves truly free until the invader is repelled by force. President George W. Bush was wrong about ‘freedom’ – hopelessly wrong. Freedom is not ‘God’s gift to Humanity’ either, George. Freedom is every man’s gift to himself. No-one else controls it. Not a God, not a President, not even a brave, bronzed ANZAC with a gun. That simple truth represents the one – the only – bright and eternal light towards which Humanity has spent all of its recorded history stumbling, lunging, and very occasionally soaring.

President Bush seems not to have read our history beyond the Renaissance, at best.

Somehow, you sense that something very precious is at stake for us all here, still smack on the cusp of a brand new millennium. The way the international community, and America in particular, chooses to resolve this crisis will have far-reaching implications, in many ways for Australia more than most countries.

That the world’s only remaining superpower has contrived to be drawn into this wretched impasse by a minor regional thug just when it is facing two real and immediate threats – North Korea, and the rise and rise of Islamic Fundamentalism – is something for American voters to ponder next year, I suppose. I hope.

But in Australia we should be under no illusions. Once the US has invaded and occupied Iraq with our help – my alternative above, or anything like it, now being a forlorn fantasy – our country will have been changed forever, too. Maybe only a bit, but what we’ll lose we’ll never get back.

I oppose an American-coalition invasion and occupation of Iraq, UN-sanctioned or not. We don’t have to do it this way. We have choices. There are alternatives. Mine is above. It might seem a bit fantastical, but it’s far better and safer and more efficient and more honest and more moral than a full-scale pre-emptive invasion, supposedly to remove one evil man – an evil man Donald Rumsfeld today casually said the US might allow to go and live peacefully in exile, anyway.

Improvements or variations on my cunning plan are welcome. Meantime, hope like hell that Saddam is toppled from within soon anyway. It’s now Australia’s best realistic outcome.

On Webdiary ethics

As I see it, Webdiary is a moderated forum for readers’ contributions run by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, online edition. Two features distinguish Webdiary from typical Internet forums on other news websites such as those at the BBC and Der Spiegel in Germany. First, the moderator, Margo Kingston, plays an active role in kick-starting discussions by including and elaborating on articles written as part of her normal journalistic duties.

Second, reader contributions vary in form from simple comments to articles to fully-fledged essays. The speed and cheapness of the Internet makes publishing a 50-kByte essay as straightforward as publishing a photograph illustrating the latest sporting event. The space restrictions – and concomitant imposition of form over substance – of commercial print media do not apply on the Internet. A commercial news organization can exploit the Internet’s strengths in this way when a moderator is prepared to put in a substantial amount of time to select and vet the contributions to be published.

The running conversation that arises between readers is richer in form than at any of the Internet forums I have seen, with the exception of a handful of Usenet newsgroups. The exciting thing about the format is that Webdiary has the potential to be part of the pulse of contemporary life, influencing and being influenced by it.

The moderator controls what is published in Webdiary, and it comes out under her name; therefore, “Webdiary ethics” means “the moderator’s professional ethics”. The moderator selects the contributions to appear and often makes minor alterations to them.

I understand that the Sydney Morning Herald’s online editorial hierarchy occasionally demands alterations to published material, which is very easily accomplished online. In other words, ultimately, the Sydney Morning Herald takes responsibility for content published on its website, and the company therefore imposes its own standard of ethics.

What ought to be a moderator’s ethics in a forum such as Webdiary, over and above what is expected of a journalist? Clearly, an essential difference with Webdiary is the volume and variety of readers’ contributions. Readers with many different types of worldview – both secular and religious, realist and antirealist, or partially-roasted melanges of all of these – with various levels of care of presentation, interact at “close quarters”. This can easily lead to clashes between personal ethical systems and a contributor’s conviction that somebody is behaving offensively towards them. This is particularly so when the argument is robust – a common occurrence in some “real world” circles, non-existent in others.

The moderator has to decide on some system of dealing with complaints – and which values out of a contradictory flux to uphold. This is a crucial point, for it brings into focus the enormous distance between a list of ethical behaviour delivered from “above” by the management or by a professional body, and the actual practice of ethics “at the coal-face”.

Quoting “professional ethics” out of some handbook is futile without personal judgement of how the guidelines are to be applied. Having the ability to judge implies the ethics have to be internalised and interpreted: they must be lived and asserted. Mindlessly regurgitating generalized guidelines cannot answer the question of whose definition of, say, “offensive” prevails; and certainly not every sensitivity can be catered for, nor should it be. Personal choices must be made, and personal responsibility must be taken.

I’d like to give two examples to illustrate the moderator’s necessity to choose and assert a value system. A strict Islamist would find any discussion of Allah or any questioning of Islam offensive; however, it is prudent that non-Muslim individuals, as well as non-fundamentalist Muslims, attempt to understand the nature of Islamic fundamentalism’s challenge to the modern order. In my opinion, in this case, a moderator must choose secular values of free enquiry, despite the fact that this will be offensive to some irrespective of how “sensitively” the discussion is carried out. In many countries, where barbaric mobs have ascended to power, free enquiry is punishable by death. We ought not be intimidated by this: we must do what is necessary for us to understand ourselves and our world. We must not allow our minds to be held captive by the barbaric mobs and their apologists. And we must be free to determine if our mind is already captive.

The second example is possibly somewhat more familiar to some Western readers of the present book. A commentator may notice a pattern of thinking in another interlocutor’s contributions that seem to predetermine the conclusions they reach. The commentator may attempt to tease out the main threads of the pattern, and construct something of a critical imprint of the interlocutor’s mind. However, a third reader may consider such an undertaking dreadfully ad hominem, preferring that all contributors be allowed to remain behind the mask of their choosing, without having their flaws paraded in public, which is aggressive and offensive. The charge is typically accompanied by a call to stop “playing the man”, and stick to the topic.

There is another view, however, that states, roughly: “history is to be understood in the present”. What is meant by this? Our picture of history can change radically if new evidence – or a new, valid interpretation consistent with the evidence – is discovered today. Moreover, our ability to discover things depends on how we put ideas together, how we learn to distinguish evidence from the chaff, how we see with the mind’s eye; in other words, whether and how we develop a hierarchy of thought – a standard of truth. The ability to know the past depends on the shape of our mind now.

It used to be widely accepted that knowledge of history, as well as of places and cultures separated from us in space rather than time, depends on the individual here and now; but this truth has faded from sight – from the mind’s eye – with the illusory fragmentation of disciplines in the last century or so.

So, a discussion about Iraq, or wherever, whenever, whose history is certainly currently relevant, can naturally end up focusing on the interlocutors. Generally, there are several shapes of mind, each with their strengths and weaknesses. If we are censored from speaking about personal weak points, then we are being prevented from understand ourselves and our world.

Whichever decision the Webdiary moderator makes, the result is aggressive: it isn’t possible to satisfy everybody, because some demands are contradictory. In a democracy where journalists are supposed to be scrutinizing power – in other words, in a secular and open society – there are far more important principles than being at pains not to hurt anybody’s feelings. Least of all the feelings of those abusing power. Knowing how to use power responsibly is the essence of ethics – in Webdiary, or anywhere else.

Placing confidence in a Loving God

Imagine giving a speech you know will be watched by the world, a speech which must at once unite your people behind you and convince the rest of the world to stand with you. George Bush is the head of the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. He personifies America.

What was your reaction to George Bush’s state of the union address? See smh.

I thought he was polished and flawless in presentation, although the strain of appealing to two vastly different audiences was always going to prevent perfection. The constant stand-up, applaud, cheer ritual – the certainty, the self-righteousness, the insistence that God was on his side – must go down well over there, and is guaranteed to grate with both acolyte nations and enemies of empire.

To me, it was telling that he devoted such a long portion of his speech to the disadvantaged and the world’s environmental crisis – a crisis the world is trying to address without – so far – support from America. Whether he means it or not, whether he’ll press hard for implementation or not, the emphasis on a caring, sharing America showed just how anxious he is to convince a divided country to pull together, and to rebuild America’s moral authority to mollify antagonistic world opinion. This part of speech could easily have been said by Bill Clinton. His pledge to apply compassion to “the homeless, the fatherless, the addicted” was one right out of the box. And his program to address the AIDS epidemic in Africa resonated strongly with Tony Blair’s focus on Africa in his vision speech after September 11.

On Iraq, he set the timetable for war. On February 5, The American’s most credible spokesman in the eyes of the world, Colin Powell, will give the Security Council America’s evidence for war – evidence it will be hard-pressed to make convincing since it’s come so late, and only after America gave itself no choice but war by amassing an invading force in the Gulf.

Bush’s rhetoric has transformed over the past year – he no longer insisted the goal was regime change. The invasion, he now says, will be to disarm Saddam. He said nothing about his plans for Iraq after winning the war or of the implications for the region. Tragically, the region’s most pressing problem, the Israeli/Palestinian war, rated a throwaway line.

But he dropped his constant refrain that nations were either with America or its enemy. Overall, I felt his tone and rhetoric were more conciliatory than previously.

I thought it very significant that Bush kept the heat on Iran, one of the “axis of evil” nations he identified in last year’s state of the union address, while at the same time indicating that he had no plans to do an Iraq on it. It was a “behave and you’ll be OK, for now” message. The world will notice, of course, that he singled out a former client state and said nothing about the many middle-eastern client states with similar records.

It was a compelling hours viewing. Maybe he was just throwing trinkets to the natives to get them onside, maybe he was just being calm and reasonable to in over the home front in the dash to war in the world’s most volatile region. Whatever he’s doing, he’s the most powerful man on earth, the man to whom John Howard has handed the fate of our troops, and of our nation. We’re with you George, like it or not. And crossing our fingers.

I’ve devoted this entry to critics of Webdiary’s coverage of the war, and to a critic of a critic.


Jack Stack

Don’t get your knickers in a knot, love. The so-called war in Iraq is not going to be a war. Why? because the moment the US fires the first shot the Iraqis will crap their pants and start running just as they did in The Gulf War. It was OK for the Fascist thug Saddam to invade the Kuwaitis, gas the Kurds, slaughter the Shi’ites, execute his opponents and torture dissenters because they couldn’t fight back, but when the big boy on the block confronts the bully we see the stuff these cowards are really made of.

I expect to see Saddam either on a plane to Libya where he can live next door to that raving nutcase Kaddaffi (maybe they can swap outfits), dangling like Mussolini from a pole or being machine gunned by his own people like Ceaucescu.

I would suggest you get your moral compass repaired because it has lost its direction. That’s why the Left always found excuses for Soviet expansionism, brutality and oppression but castigated the US as they defended the West. You are the spiritual heirs of the people who turned their back on Hitler’s aims and his persecution of the Jews, overlooked Mussolini’s murder of the Ethiopians and Libyans, ignored Turkey’s slaughter of Armenians, excused Stalin as he starved Russian peasants and praised the Soviet “experiment” even as the commissars consigned millions to the wasteland of the Gulags.

You didn’t give a damn about Japan’s atrocities in China or Communist China’s persecution of peasants, minorities and dissenters. Need I add Cambodia, Tibet, Rwanda, Serbia and the post-war purges and executions in Vietnam. You praise Castro while ignoring the thousands who flee every year, the dissenters he jails, the Gays he persecutes, the artists he punishes. You paraded for “peace” during the years of The Cold War.

Now let’s tell it as it is: You aren’t concerned about a war, you just hate the US and Americans. You hate this George Bush like you hated the last George Bush and Reagan before him and Eisenhower and Truman and any other US President who has a clear policy of standing up to aggressors.

And don’t give me BS about the US being the aggressor because if it wasn’t for its sacrifice we’d be pulling rickshaws, most of Europe would be speaking German and South Koreans would be as hungry as their kin in the North. And if it’s about OIL (that tired old shibboleth) why didn’t the US stay in Kuwait and steal their oil?

As an Australian-born American citizen, I wish the US would retreat to its pre-WW2 policy of isolationism, kick the UN into Geneva, stop foreign aid, defend only North and Central America and let the world go to hell. Within months you’d be begging for those “rotten Yanks” to come out of retirement.

Margo: Jack, I’m a small-l Liberal. I’m often critical of the traditional left. I believe in finding consensus if at all possible. I believe in open debate. The bedrock of my beliefs is a commitment to the UN universal declaration of human rights. I’ve never supported the communist or fascist regimes you mentioned. Never.

I am not anti-American, but I have strong doubts about the war. I fear it could increase the risk of terrorism worldwide, including in Australia. I fear the consequences of a unilateral American invasion of a country in the most volatile and dangerous region in the world, especially in the light of America’s record in the region. I’m concerned that invading another country would create a dangerous precedent in international law. I fear the implications of America’s new national security strategy, which asserts the absolute right to pick and chose countries which flout the UN to punish, and to withdraw from UN treaties and not comply with international norms itself. I’m very concerned that neither the government of the United States or of Australia will address these matters.


Below is an exchange of emails today between occasional Webdiarist Richard Moss and I. I’ve said this before and it remains true – readers critical of me or my views have a much better chance of being published than those who praise me or agree with me. Webdiary readers decide the tone and overall views of this forum. It’s self-selecting. Most readers are either small l liberals or lefties, and this is why I privilege reader’ contributions which aren’t in that vein. I want discussion, I want people to think, and I want people to understand what other people think, and why. What gets me about most of the hate mail I get is that those who write it don’t submit pieces explaining their views or why they disagree with others. Instead they blow up readers who do and hurl insults at me. There are many forums – right and left wing – in which people tell each other they’re right and the rest of the world is wrong. This isn’t one of them.

Richard Moss in Canberra

What a great pity that Webdiary, which started as a great experiment in media democracy, has degenerated as far as it has, into a tediously repetitious propaganda site for the trendy left. The outrageous bias, the metaphorical slogan shouting, the mindless anti-Americanism, the selective outrage, the repetitious preaching to the converted, the self-serving “analysis” and the sickening self congratulation have all become Webdiary’s constant characteristics and have made it a watchword in journalistic onanism.

It could have been so much better. Think of the real, intelligent debate that might have been possible on any number of topics, if only other voices had been able to be heard. The Iraq issue provides an excellent example. Rather than the mindless anti-American slogan shouting which characterises Webdiary’s “discussion” of the issue, it might have been possible for the other view to be heard, for other questions to be raised about how the world ought to react to such a situation.

But you and Webdiarists are not interested in such real analysis: it is much more satisfying to indulge in mutual applause and self congratulation. I guess if you are absolutely certain of your own righteousness, you really aren’t interested in discussing it.

I guess for me the low point was your decision to publish the insultingly moronic view from some European resident that our alliance with the world’s greatest democracies – an alliance which has saved the world from fascism at great cost – and our mutual desire to address the threat to the world presented by Saddam Hussein is due to some lingering Anglo-Saxon desire for Imperial glory. What puerile, racist, laughable nonsense – unworthy of even you, Margo.

It is revealing that you chose to publish such crap, while contributions I have provided in the past have been suppressed – eg my attempted analysis of the trendy lefty mindset last year. One can only surmise as to how much else you have suppressed in the interests of creating a site which clones your own views. Well congrats – you have succeeded, at the cost of any interest in the site from a cross-section of the community.

Margo: Hi Richard. I led with one of your anti-left pieces last year. I’ve published most of what you’ve written. Can’t remember the one you refer to. Four of my columnists write regularly about the war – two, John W. and Harry, are vehemently pro-war, and I’ve published acres of John’s analysis on the evils of Saddam. Since you find it tedious, I’m surprised you still read it.

Richard: I don’t very often these days.

The odd concession does little to relieve the consistent bias. Also, it’s the tone of so much of the material which is so troubling – the constant intemperate abuse of America (a liberal democracy) and its leadership, and the attribution of evil motives to our own leadership and all those who disagree with the accepted Webdiary viewpoint is extremely disturbing, and certainly not conducive to any rational debate. The “why America wants war” discussion is typical. But the views I mentioned in my first message about some sort of alleged desire to recreate the British Empire, really take the cake!

Margo: I’m publishing people’s views, not agreeing with them. If you read to get a feel for the feelings about the war of others, why slam-dunk the forum? Many readers of Webdiary would disagree with your views – does that mean I shouldn’t publish them?


Daniel Maurice (See Waiting for George for Daniel’s critique of my comments and my reply.).

Issue 1: “scorched earth/mass murder”

During the Second World War the allies routinely carpet-bombed German cities. While the bombings were not “indiscriminate” (they had military targets) they were also deliberately designed to destroy the German people’s will to fight. They led to huge numbers of civilian casualties because the allies lacked the technology to drop their bombs precisely onto designated targets. One infamous raid late in the War over Dresden is believed to have caused 60,000 civilian deaths IN ONE NIGHT. Certainly hundreds, if not thousands, of German civilians died in every raid.

Allied political leaders such Churchill, Roosevelt and Curtin (Australian airmen participated in the raids) clearly knew of, and authorised, these raids. By the morality standards you are seeking to impose today, these leaders were all “mass murderers”.

What happened in WW2 far exceeds anything that Bush has contemplated or will implement in Iraq. I haven’t seen one scrap of evidence that indiscriminate mass bombings of Baghdad is part of the US plans. The report that seems to have excited you refers to leaked plans about unleashing a concentrated wave of precision guided weapons which would be aimed to achieve a quick, demoralising blow to Saddam’s war capabilities. You’re too intelligent not to know that, so why resort to hysterical language and distortions?

It’s blindingly obvious that the US approach reflects the exact opposite of what you outrageously claim in your article, that is it seeks to keep Iraqi civilian casualties to a minimum. Indeed, if you want to take a different line, you should focus on the dangerous concept that somehow war can be made almost “painless” because technology allows it to be conducted with surgical precision.

Of course there will still be Iraqi casualties from any allied military action, no matter how carefully it is planned. However, I’ll pay more attention to your professed concern for these innocents and your moralising about Bush/Howard when you acknowledge the far more widespread suffering that the Iraqi people have suffered at the hands of the brutal Saddam regime over the last 25 years. Don’t the Iraqi people have the rights to life, liberty and freedom that you and I have? Is their liberation only to be pursued if it can be achieved at no cost?

Issue 2: Ethical Journalism

I began my last email with a quote from one of your Iraqi pieces earlier this week. Just a few days before that, you intro’ed another piece, this time on the HIH collapse, with these words:

“The (present Federal) government did a lot of crazy things in the name of neo-liberal ideology when it first came to power – often for the benefit of its big business benefactors at the expense of the citizens who elected it. Senior ministers – including Peter Costello, former finance minister John Fahey and former higher education minister David Kemp – grotesquely misconceived the role of government and completely failed to fulfil their duties to the people. The result has been disaster for the nation and its people, yet the perpetrators blithely refuse to admit error, rethink their principles for policy, or even wipe the self-satisfied smirks off their faces.”

Different issue, same crazy hyperbole! As always it’s not just enough for you to disagree with policies, you must attack motives and even the morality of those behind them. Others who do not share your views and values are not just wrong, or misguided, they’re plain EVIL! (Another example: in the refugee debate you regularly claim that the Government is “vilifying” asylum seekers. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.) John Howard is not actually the devil incarnate.

Margo, your approach toward reporting is essentially those that extremists everywhere adopt, whether their issues are religious, cultural or political. Extremists will not tolerate those who do not share their views and values and ultimately learn to justify any action on the grounds that it’s the necessary means to a noble. In your case, you are never justified in promoting HATRED of our political leaders or our democratic system, using exaggeration and extreme language to “prove” a point or passing off your prejudices as objective reporting.

I don’t pretend to know the nuances of ethics, but here’s a few rules I wish you would follow:

1. Always use moderate language – no hysteria or hyperbole. Read back your words and ask yourself “Do I REALLY believe what I have just written?”

2. Acknowledge that while you might disagree, strongly, with the views and policies of the Government, you do not claim moral superiority over it, and accept that those views are sincerely held and the policies are usually motivated by intentions that as as valid and “noble” as your own. Further acknowledge the that you understand that you are sometimes wrong.

3. Clearly separate out in your writing “fact” from “opinion”. Don’t pretend you’re reporting the former when actually you’re just giving us the latter.

4. Do not engage in vilification of the political system which gives you freedom to express your opinion. For all the faults you see in Australia you have the luxury of engaging in public criticism without fear for your own life and liberty. This is a luxury which very few of your trade have around the world. Care and nurture it, do not abuse it.

Margo: Hi again. Gee, you’re hard!!! There’s lots of reports around that the US could use nuclear weapons in Iraq – I didn’t mention that because I just can’t contemplate that they would, even though they’ve said they don’t rule it out. Sure, you don’t like my style, but I really don’t think that’s an ethical question. You seem to set extremely precise standards for me – I can’t think of any right wing commentator doing the rounds in the mainstream press who would come anywhere near meeting them! I also make a point of publishing just about all publishable criticism about my work – unlike most commentators.

As for the scorched earth point, the Pentagon official said in that article that nowhere in Baghdad would be safe and that it would be an unprecedented bombing campaign. I was talking about a unilateral invasion not sanctioned by the UN, not a defence to invasion like World War II. No-one questions the fact that Saddam is a systematic abuser of human rights. I’m talking about the human right to life here, the most basic human right of all.

On the style thing, in the first Webdiary this year, ‘New Year Resolutions’, I said I’d try to be more measured etc, and that’s what I am trying to do. The times require more measured discourse. However I stand by the HIH quotes. I have personal experience on the IT outsourcing issue – a lot of reasonable people tried to reason with/engage government ministers on this, and their eyes glazed. They weren’t open at all. They deserve strong criticism for this failure of policy, in my view. That’s just my view, of course. I’d be happy to run a piece from anyone with a contrary view. The government hasn’t sought to explain itself at all, just dropped it.


Mark Worthington

We live in interesting times. How reassuring to find the following quote from Daniel Maurice“I despair. My last vestiges of respect for you as journalist, indeed a human being, have disappeared.”

A human being! Did he really SAY THAT! Oh yes he did, and thus (by dehumanising you Margo) he clears away all the coded language and reveals his true feelings. At last. You may recall Daniel Maurice doing all of this (and some) when we were debating the fate of the asylum seekers aboard the MV Tampa and SIEV-X. On that occasion he was careful to avoid direct language. Not so this time. Funny (not) that he should mention Hitler and Pol Pot in the same rant. Dehumanising people makes it so much easier to make them ‘disappear’ from your moral compass.

Maybe it’s the thrilling prospect of a war that makes someone so overexcited as to say such things. It can have this effect on people. Like sharks smelling blood in the water. Permit me to hold a mirror up to Daniel Maurice and bounce his own words, with slight modification in parentheses, back at him:

“All (that) I see now is a hate-filled ideologue, not interested in objective analysis or reporting, so determined are you to (digest) self-serving distortions of facts and motives to feed your own peculiar prejudices. Forget about Bush and Howard, it’s people like you I really fear.”

Yep, that sums up the way I feel about Daniel Maurice perfectly. But all that makes him very human. And if he doesn’t retract his appalling slur on you Margo (as he most certainly should) well that makes him all the more human, and therefore deserving of sympathy, and in equal parts contempt.

In defence of America

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King

Throughout history, warmongers of all persuasions have taken refuge in false patriotism. If you do not agree with us, the argument goes, you are being disloyal, you are unpatriotic. It’s a boring old tactic, designed to stifle debate. Of course, it remains popular – because it works.

In today’s world, dominated as it is by a single nation, the twist on the old story is the accusation of being anti-American. This has been a big part of the debate on the looming suppression of Iraq. If you disagree with us, say the warmongers, you are anti-American. This is somehow meant to devalue the worth of your viewpoint. Your bias renders you incapable of balanced judgement.

The obvious opposite, naturally, does not hold true. Being pro-American does not compromise your judgement in any way.

It’s all so much nonsense that it’s almost not worth debating. But we hear it every day. You are just another anti-American. It’s used by politicians and journalists alike, and it is parroted time and again on internet forums in often hysterical tones by pro-war contributors. And it’s because its still being trundled out, and because people are still buying the line, that it needs to be confronted.

The recent Webdiary offering from Hal Wilson (George Bush, Australia’s war leader) is a prime example of the great lie. Mr Wilson’s belligerent little message is typical in its absence of insight, its refusal to question and its passive acceptance of the trite and tired nonsense peddled by his government and ours. In Mr Wilson’s case, one has to suspect that the myopia is irreversible. You’re with us or against us. If you don’t agree with us, you are anti-American. Sorry, Mr Wilson you’re just plain wrong. Your crassly simplified world just doesn’t exist. You cannot comprehend the danger you personify: You cannot and will not grasp that your own entrenched ignorance flew co-pilot on the September 11 jets.

A quick aside on Karen Jackson’s response (Oh Superman): Karen, you’re understandably cheesed off with our friend Mr Wilson, but ‘Ten Reasons to be anti-American’ doesn’t really help, as I’m sure you’ll agree in a moment of quieter reflection. Mr Wilson will take it as evidence that he is correct. Which, I repeat for emphasis, he most certainly is not.

My starting point here is to state categorically: I am pro-American. As an Australian, I am a committed supporter of the special relationship we have with the United States. Should that country come under attack, I would be among the first to say that Australia should lend its aid, however small and symbolic. Symbols are important.

Supporting unprovoked wars of aggression is another thing altogether. No way, Jose.

I remain implacably opposed to the Bush Administration’s drive to subjugate Iraq. No case has been made. This does not make me anti-American. I also remain implacably opposed to Australia’s involvement in this attack. Here too, no case whatsoever has been made. This does not make me un-Australian. My pride in my country and all it could be is not (yet) diminished by the acts of politicians.

Just as in Australia, growing majorities in America are opposed to the Bush Administration’s drive to war. A profound scepticism and distrust is emerging and American voices of dissent are getting louder every day.

In Oh Superman Harry Heidelberg put forward a number of possible reasons for the upcoming war, but Harry missed what is probably the biggest driver to war: Bush’s domestic political agenda. This presidency is not going well. He needs a win to cover the losses.

More and more Americans are tuning in to this. Most Americans (yes, most) are no longer sucked in by the Bush lies about defending freedom and the American Way. What they are seeing is a smoke screen, and they know it. This, remember, from a nation still reeling in understandable pain and shock from September 11. Dissenting voices reject their governments cynical exploitation of those horrors, and bring the lies into the bright light of day. It is these voices that are the embodiment of the liberty and democracy that George W. Bush so prostitutes. And it is because of these voices that I am pro-American.

From independence to civil war, from Vietnam to Iraq, America has been shaped like few other nations by dissent. Often, America goes wrong. Very wrong. Today, an unrepresentative administration – the true enemies of freedom – have hijacked the American agenda. Given the shape of the world today, this means they have hijacked our agenda too.

John F. Kennedy once famously claimed to be a Berliner. He was expressing a commonality of spirit and humanity. In a similar vein, I believe Australians can also claim to be American. At the very least, we are kindred spirits.

I want to highlight some Americans of independent mind. People who uncompromisingly exercise their right of question and challenge. My focus is on the activists, the public speakers, the writers, musicians and poets. I have often thought that America is blessed with an eloquence that eludes other nations. An ability to encapsulate grand ideas in words of elegance and power. And I am a great believer in the magic of words.

American Voices

It is in the words of dissident Americans that we find all the reasons we need to be pro-American. People like Frederick Douglass, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Noam Chomsky, and the hordes who just will not be brainwashed are the real voices of America. These people are Americas redemption and therefore ours.

In her essay/speech ‘Come September’, the writer Arundhati Roy reflects this viewpoint:

“The most scholarly, scathing, incisive, hilarious critiques of the hypocrisy and the contradictions in U.S. Government policy come from American citizens. When the rest of the world wants to know what the U.S. Government is up to, we turn to Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, Ed Herman, Amy Goodman, Michael Albert, Chalmers Johnson, William Blum and Anthony Arnove to tell us what’s really going on.”

Absolutely. And we have to realise that the only people who are going to change America are the Americans themselves. The full text of the speech (compulsory reading, I think) is at comeseptember.

I am of a mind with Alex Pollard (Waiting for George):

“Criticisms of Americans often unconsciously confuse the USA (the nation) with Americans (who I shall call ‘United Staticians’)”, says Alex, hitting the nail on the centre of the head.

There is an American legend that an angel, speaking of the future of America, told George Washington that the whole world united shall not prevail against her. But all prophecies are double edged and tricky, aren’t they? Will America (the notion, not the nation) end up destroying itself? The incumbents in Washington are lined up as destroyers, even if one or two of them have good intentions. The dissidents may in the end be the only hope we have.

America its own worst enemy? As far back as the 1860s, Abraham Lincoln, as quoted in Jack London’s The Iron Heel, sensed the growing internal threat of vested interest:

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country…Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

And if the ideal of America does fall irrevocably into corruption, vested interest and deceit, what then? What hope the world if the new Roman Empire falls? A new Dark Age?

Musical Voices

There’s something happening here,

What it is ain’t exactly clear.

Theres a man with a gun over there,

Tellin me I gotta beware.

I heard the old Buffalo Springfield classic on the radio the other day, and it got me to thinking about the importance of the protest song as a catalyst for change. I am hopelessly out of touch with the music scene today, and I will be very happy to be proved wrong, but there seems to me to be a void of conscience in today’s music scene.

At some point in the late 1970s, I discovered Jackson Browne. His music and particularly his lyrics continue to speak to my soul and mind today. In the mid-1980s, Browne released an album called Lives in the Balance. His focus at the time was his government’s criminal actions in Nicaragua. In a song called ‘For America’, Browne wrote:

I have prayed for America

I was made for America

It’s in my blood and in my bones

By the dawn’s early light

By all I know is right

We’re going to reap what we have sown

I am not given to flights of fancy, but with hindsight, this almost feels prescient (though I think Browne would not appreciate the idea). Remember, this is an American voice. And it’s clearly not anti-American. In the same song, he highlights the dishonesty of some people’s patriotism:

As if freedom was a question of might

As if loyalty was black and white

You hear people say it all the time-

“My country wrong or right”

I want to know what that’s got to do

With what it takes to find out what’s true

With everyone from the President on down

Trying to keep it from you

The song ends at the heart of the problem:

I have prayed for America

I was made for America

I can’t let go till she comes around

Until the land of the free

Is awake and can see

And until her conscience has been found

In summary, a stark criticism of policy but an unequivocal commitment to his country. (Try transposing Australia for America, and see how it tastes).

On the title track of the album, Browne railed against the dishonest motives of those, the men in the shadows, who promote wars. It defies summarisation, so here’s the full lyric:

I’ve been waiting for something to happen

For a week or a month or a year

With the blood in the ink of the headlines

And the sound of the crowd in my ear


You might ask what it takes to remember

When you know that you’ve seen it before

Where a government lies to a people

And a country is drifting to war


And there’s a shadow on the faces

Of the men who send the guns

To the wars that are fought in places

Where their business interest runs


On the radio talk shows and the T.V.

You hear one thing again and again

How the U.S.A. stands for freedom

And we come to the aid of a friend


But who are the ones that we call our friends–

These governments killing their own?

Or the people who finally can’t take any more

And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone

There are lives in the balance

There are people under fire

There are children at the cannons

And there is blood on the wire


There’s a shadow on the faces

Of the men who fan the flames

Of the wars that are fought in places

Where we can’t even say the names


They sell us the President the same way

They sell us our clothes and our cars

They sell us every thing from youth to religion

The same time they sell us our wars


I want to know who the men in the shadows are

I want to hear somebody asking them why

They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are

But they’re never the ones to fight or to die


And there are lives in the balance

There are people under fire

There are children at the cannons

And there is blood on the wire

These words have incredible resonance today. And Browne, though perhaps mellower with age, has maintained his rage. His opposition to the Iraq war is a matter of record. In his latest album, The Naked Ride Home, he castigates his Casino Nation as a weapons-producing nation under Jesus. He hits on a fascinating irony here, this whole murky mixing of apparently devout but deeply warped religion and an addiction to violence. It’s very American, a subject for another time.

I dont know if linking Jackson Browne and Bob Dylan is completely legitimate in a musical sense, but you can’t think about words of American dissent without thinking about Dylan, and certainly the two men address the same themes, though Dylan’s lyrics often contain a harsher edge. ‘Masters of War’ is one of his best known earlier works, and today it is being quoted liberally on many dissident websites:

Come you masters of war

You that build all the guns

You that build the death planes

You that build the big bombs

You that hide behind walls

You that hide behind desks

I just want you to know

I can see through your masks


You that never done nothin’

But build to destroy

You play with my world

Like it’s your little toy

You put a gun in my hand

And you hide from my eyes

And you turn and run farther

When the fast bullets fly


You fasten the triggers

For the others to fire

Then you set back and watch

When the death count gets higher

You hide in your mansion

As young people’s blood

Flows out of their bodies

And is buried in the mud

Historical Voices

The American dissident voice is not a new phenomenon. The nation was, after all, founded in rebellion. The uncharitable will say that the American Revolution was little more than tax avoidance with guns, but this is churlish. And the founding ideals of the nation that emerged from their Revolution remain authentically inspirational.

Born a slave in Maryland in the early 19th century, Frederick Douglass rose to become one of the most remarkable Americans – perhaps one of the most remarkable human beings – in history. Douglass escaped from slavery, then worked tirelessly to eradicate it. He was instrumental in persuading Abraham Lincoln to make emancipation a central cause of the American civil war. Douglass was no pacifist, and campaigned actively for the acceptance of African Americans into the armed forces to fight for the Union.

To him, the civil war, once it was a war on slavery, was the most just of wars, and he committed himself to it unequivocally. It would be fascinating to hear him today. What would he make of the question of war on Iraq? Would he see this as a just war?

In his long and extraordinary life he did and said uncounted extraordinary things. I’ll quote one passage from a speech given on 5 July 1852. The precise date is important, as the title he gave to the speech was ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July’. It says much of the courage and character of the man, and equally of the country that (a hundred and fifty years ago) let him say it:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

The full text of this astonishing speech is at douglassarchives. I have read it several times now, and still, to borrow an Americanism, I’m like – wow!

This is the voice of America. And it is in the end the only voice that America will ever listen to. And although it may well take decades or longer, in the end America hears.

Fast forward: Just over a century later, and whilst Douglass’s great battle is long won, the struggle continues. Martin Luther King now has the dream. Much of King’s oratory is well known, but again I’ll include a passage. Here King, an advocate of non-violent activism, is trying to reconcile his world view with that of a government entangled in the Vietnam war:

My third reason [for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision] moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers.

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.

But they asked – and rightly so – what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

America listened in the end. The Vietnam war is done and condemned. King, the dissident, is a national hero. An international hero. And even death has not silenced his voice.

Voices Today

I want to end my piece with some references to the voices of today’s Americans dissidents. Not wishing to sound too melodramatic, but these people are the hope of the world, and they need our support.

I was going to start this section with a passage by Noam Chomsky, but then I found this, from an American gentleman called Frank Drazan. It was originally published on 25 January 2003 in the Chicago Tribune:

I am 82 years old. My generation has been identified as the “greatest” generation by many, primarily because we have survived through many turbulent years. I do not agree. We are not the greatest generation; we are the worst. We are the me-me-me generation.

Seniors have the most powerful lobbyists in the world that suck the blood out of our kids’ hands while we sit around doing absolutely nothing about political disasters that surround us. Why are the senior citizens standing mute while George W. Bush is promoting wars? Don’t we know the consequence of war, the killing, the destruction of cities and infrastructures, and the creation of hate for Americans? If we win the wars, will we be safer?

What I am proposing is that the seniors of America use our almost unlimited power to end this drive to make war on any country that displeases us. America was a peace-loving country before Bush was elected. Why should we be the biggest threat to peace on the planet? Have we forgotten the Vietnam War or the Korean War or the Bay of Pigs?

Why do we allow Rambo Bush to plunder our environment, ignore treaty obligations and ignore the problems of the inner cities when one bomber less would fund many programs for the poor?

Professor Chomsky, for all his unquestioned skills, could not have put it better. I do not think he would object to being supplanted by Mr Drazan. Speaking of professors, here’s the thoughts of Prof. Jack Balkin of Yale:

Bush is right about one thing, however. The world faces a single man armed with weapons of mass destruction, manifesting an aggressive, bullying attitude, who may well plunge the world into chaos and bloodshed if he miscalculates. This person, belligerent, arrogant and sure of himself, truly is the most dangerous person on Earth.

The problem is that his name is George Bush, and he is the President of the United States.


What about the commentators, the purveyors of opinion, the makers of manners? Robert Scheer in the LA Times recently:

It’s truly frightening when facts don’t matter as a nation prepares for war. Once the bombing begins, any search for truth will end. Now is the time to question a pattern of egregious distortion of the facts on the part of a White House that apparently feels it needs a war to retain its fading popularity.

You don’t always find this material on the front pages of the major papers, but it is there if you go looking. A personal favourite of mine is an article by Mark Morford in the San Francisco Gate. For those whose tastes lean towards the scathing, the full article is at sfgate. Here’s an appetiser:

This is not a war. Iraq will not be a war. Do we understand this? We do not seem to understand this. This is heavily corporatized power brokers killing each other for oil and capital. Oh yes it is.

Let’s be perfectly clear. You cannot have a war when the so-called enemy has done nothing to provoke you and is absolutely no threat to your national safety and has no significant military force and has negligible chance of even setting off a firecracker near your own overwhelming death machines, and whose only weapons of minimal destruction are the rusty short-range warheads and biochemical agents we sold him 20 years ago, and kept selling to him, even after we knew he was gassing his own people.

You cannot have a war when there is nothing to fight against, when it’s essentially going to be a huge U.S. military stomping/bombing exercise, when, just like Afghanistan, we stand to suffer zero U.S. casualties (except for those we seem to kill ourselves), and we just bomb and bomb and kill and kill and shrug. This is a Mack truck versus a Pinto. This is an F-16 versus a paper airplane, a Tomahawk missile versus a spit wad. There is no contest. “War” is exactly the wrong term. The U.S. attack on Iraq will be, of course, a massacre. Go team.

In a piece which celebrates the growth of grass roots war opposition in her city, Ruth Rosen in the San Francisco Chronicle observes that:

Never before in human history has an anti-war movement grown so fast and spread so quickly. It is even more remarkable because the war has yet to begin.

Ms Rosen attributes this unprecedented growth rate at least partly to the internet. I’m sure she must be right. I suppose that’s why I’m sitting here typing away at 3.14 in the ******* morning. (Yeah, yeah get a life). I would not be so presumptuous as to claim any personal impact in trying to turn the tide, but the sheer weight of accumulated protest must be having some sort of effect. The speed and reach of the internet leaves the liars and warmongers with no place to hide. They do read this stuff, you know. (A thought that is simultaneously encouraging and frightening).

Getting away from the big cities of the US, I found this from The Roanoke Times, by one Alwyn Moss:

There is something very strange and troubling when the world’s foremost military power; the only nation to possess thousands of nuclear bombs, nuclear weaponry, missiles; the only nation to have actually used atomic bombs on a civilian population, demands the total disarmament of a small, devastated nation under threat of pulverizing that nation into total submission and regime change.

Incredibly, this threat includes the possible use of nuclear weapons to deal with the possibility that the other nation might have some nuclear capability.

We would like to believe that the United States could be the force of change that might deliver humanity from its present misery, often as not due to poverty aggravated by endless wars. Yet it is well known that the United States leads the world in sales of weapons of every variety. The character and quality of a nation – even a superpower – can be judged by its priorities.

I have deliberately stayed away from the more public dissidents in these quotes. I wanted to see what lesser known people are thinking. Of the people I’ve quoted, I think only Robert Scheer is relatively well known, though I could be mistaken. I found a lot of the references above at a site called Common Dreams at commondreams.

Those who want Chomsky, Said, Zinn, Jensen and others (and I for one frequently do) know where to look. (zmag is always a good starting point, particularly for Chomsky). You’ll also find the British connection here, people like Fisk and Pilger (I confess I am not particularly a fan of Pilger, but he does warrant a mention) as well as our own Scott Burchill. Its a great resource.

One more reference, then I’ll close. Ed Garvey, in the Madison Capital Times:

But when I see poll after poll showing us to be the most unpopular country in the world, “The Ugly American” sadly comes back into focus. Why are we hated? Why were there demonstrations last Saturday in New Zealand, Great Britain, Australia, Islamabad? The answer is simple: Arrogance of power. We have told the world we don’t care about their attitudes. Hot news. No one loves the bully.

Why did hundreds of thousands of Americans – young, old, veterans, pacifists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, students, professors, iron workers, farmers – hit the streets to raise hell about “no blood for oil”? I’ll give you a hint. We remember the burials during Korea, we remember the body bags in Vietnam. Ask a neighbor with a 19- to 25-year-old son if she would sleep well with a flag in the house that had draped the coffin of her boy following a war to enrich Halliburton, Exxon and Mobil.

That is what this is all about. Would we, middle-class America, send our sons or daughters into combat to satisfy the dream of W’s advisers and to make billions for the oil companies? If not, is an American war OK if only the poor whites, blacks and Hispanics give their lives and health?

These are all American voices. They are the reason we cannot be anti-American.

So this is my case for supporting America. The real America. George W. Bush is not America. He is small and mean-spirited. He is an embarrassing but temporary pimple on the face of a much loved friend. Be anti-George by all means (I know I am, and always will be) but anti-American? No. The Americans I admire may not stop this war, but they will keep trying even once it starts.

All we can do is raise Australian voices too. We may not always have American eloquence. We certainly do not have their volume. But Australian support, whilst small in the scheme of things, is symbolic. And symbols are important. John Howard knows this. George W. Bush knows this.

But so do we, boys. And were going to keep shouting until you hear.

Ah boy, boy

This world is not your toy…

(Jackson Browne)

Waiting for George

Hi. At 1 pm tomorrow George Bush will tell Australians what he, and therefore we, might do next. In the meantime, I’ve published a sample of the stacks of emails on yesterday’s question: Why does America want war?

In response to John Howard’s post Blix report press conference this afternoon, our war commentator Scott Burchill writes:

“The PM said he thought it was significant that Blix didn’t ask for more time to complete his work. Could someone explain to Mr Howard that Dr Blix didn’t need to? Today wasn’t a deadline for UNMOVIC. It was an interim report on progress, to be followed by subsequent reports. No-one in UNMOVIC regards today as a deadline for their work. They have another 350 sites to inspect. Assuming they had more time, why would they ask for more? Such is the poverty of ill-informed soundbites.”

Scott’s also intrigued by Colin Powell’s statement at Davos on Australia Day that “We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action on Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing.” “Really? What sovereign right would that be? Under the UN Charter, no member-state can take military action against another without explicit UN Security Council authorisation, or in self-defence. Neither conditions exist. In fact even UNSC 1441 only talks about a Security Council meeting following UNMOVIC reports. There is no authority for individual members to take unilateral action.”

“You can see where Powell, Downer and co are heading. Because UMNOVIC has failed to uncover any WMD, the Iraq issue has now become a question of “co-operation” rather than “disarmament”. They are going to have to argue the case for war on the basis of Iraq’s lack of enthusiasm for, and pro-active co-operation with, weapons inspectors. Good luck – they will need it.”

Scott has updated his January 14 essay, ‘Counterspin: Pro-war mythology’, at smh. His original essay is in New year resolutions.



Yvonne Francis, a member of the Nuclear Disarmament Party in Queanbeyan, NSW: “On Sunday at the Governor-General’s Australia Day flag raising ceremony by Lake Burley Griffin, surrounded by police and the armed forces, Ben Smith and I waved placards saying NO WAR and NO BLOOD FOR OIL. We were not arrested. When an F18 screamed over a few feet above our heads children cried out and sobbed. TV cameras avoided us but the Anglican Bishop of Canberra George Browning walked over to shake hands and thank us.”



Jozef Imrich recommends “The State Of The Union Address I’d Like To Hear”, by Arianna Huffington, at workingforchange and ‘Why the Rush to War?’, by Robert Higgs, in independent.

Greenpeace have a set up for letters to go to the Security Council at greenpeace

Peter Kelly recommends “Why I will not rally around the president”, by Robert Jensen, at zmag or counterpunch.

A reader recommends American anti-war site unitedforpeace

Melody recommends ‘The U.S. Is Looking for an Excuse To Fight’, by Adam Hochschild, at alternet


Please, the American people are doing good

Alex Pollard

Criticisms of Americans often unconsciously confuse the USA (the nation) with Americans (who I shall call ‘United Staticians’).

While ordinary United Staticians are a bit too self-engrossed for their own good, the problem with the USA is its elite. The US elite is what crushes unions, directs covert ops and invents mind-boggling rationales for mass murder. The US elite claims the USA is a democracy, but since before World War Two it has been morphing from a Republic in to an Empire, and as the Romans found out, the two are incompatible.

The tradition of US isolationism comes straight from the Founding Fathers. The US media has forgotten all about that wisdom. It’s a credit to United Staticians that they are discerning the facts about Iraq in spite of their elites’ spin media, and are developing their own hypotheses.



Daniel Maurice in Sydney

Webdiary yesterday (Oh Superman) began: “John Howard’s decision to incorporate our troops into the United States invasion force means Australia has consented to its invasion plan. If yesterday’s reports about those plans are true, he has agreed to a scorched earth invasion which would indiscriminately kill a huge number of civilians. If the Yanks go to war without UN authorisation, just about every country in the region, Muslim nations around the world and many Australians would see this as mass murder. What are we doing? Why?”

Do you actually BELIEVE what you write? Do you honestly, in your heart, think that Bush or Howard or whoever in the US/Australian governments “has agreed to a scorched earth invasion which would indiscriminately kill a huge number of civilians”? Think of the power of those words. They mean that Bush or Howard rank in the Hitler, Pol Pot etc class of true genocidal maniacs. You REALLY believe this?

I despair. My last vestiges of respect for you as journalist, indeed a human being, have disappeared. All what I see now is a hate-filled ideologue, not interested in objective analysis or reporting, so determined are you to peddle a self-serving distortions of facts and motives to feed your own peculiar prejudices. Forget about Bush and Howard, it’s people like you I really fear!

What you are doing is not ethical journalism.

Margo: Sorry, but I don’t get your point here. I was careful to preface my comment by saying they were premised on the assumption that the reports were true. I don’t believe or disbelieve them. Time will tell. I hope they’re not, for the reasons you give. “It is based on a strategy known as “Shock and Awe”, conceived at the National Defense University in Washington, in which between 300 and 400 cruise missiles would fall on Iraq each day for two consecutive days. It would be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the entire 40 days of the 1991 Gulf War. ‘There will not be a safe place in Baghdad,’ a Pentagon official told America’s CBS News after a briefing on the plan. ‘The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before.'”(smh).



Mike Lyvers

Karen Jackson wrote in Oh Superman: “What’s more, the propaganda that says the terrorists hate our freedom is just so much bullshit. Its not freedom that these people hate; it’s America’s hypocrisy.” Karen chokes on her own bullshit here. Clearly from the terrorists’ frequent proclamations, hypocrisy is never once mentioned as a reason they hate us. Our lack of fundamentalist Islamic belief and behaviour is.



Chris Murphy

You may have to read these at least twice. From the Washington Post, 27 January 2003: “In this era of globalization, it isn’t just the State Department that thinks beyond U.S. borders. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson says he has secured $5 million in the upcoming federal budget for health care in Afghanistan. The money, if approved by Congress, would rebuild a large women’s hospital in Kabul and four satellite clinics across the war-torn country, according to information released by Thompson’s office yesterday.” (

From The Dawn (Pakistan), 3 December 2001: “The cost of the US campaign in Afghanistan will be relatively modest compared to recent military engagements such as the Gulf War of 1991 and the 1999 Kosovo campaign, experts and Pentagon figures suggest. The Defense Department calculated at 1.481 billion dollars the supplementary, or incremental, cost of operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ between the day of the terrorist onslaught September 11 and November 8, one month into the US bombing campaign that began October 7.”(dawn)



On rereading In Australia’s best interests, I reckon I was too rough on Steve Liebmann. My argument was that John Howard should not have fronted his terrorism ads with a media person not involved in the issue, but with someone who was, and thus accountable to the people, and able to answer their questions. I wasn’t meaning to disparage Steve’s professionalism, which is acute ( I worked briefly with Steve when I was at A Current Affair, so have some personal knowledge of this). Sorry, Steve.



Yesterday in Oh Superman, I asked what you most feared for Australia if we joined a unilateral US attack. Harry Heidelberg asked: “What is the main reason for invading Iraq?

1. Weapons of mass destruction (apparently not – Scott Burchill and Jack Robertson have deconstructed this one out of the debate)

2. Oil (Europeans most strongly believe this one)

3. George Bush Jnr completing dad’s unfinished business

4. The start of a new order in the Middle East

5. A human rights improvement project

6. The US showing that it will implement a new security policy for global dictatorship

Andrew Asquith, in an isolated oil town in China

I was truly saddened tom read of the reported US strategy of using 800+ mega-bombs in 2 days. September 11 was so ghastly, it’s heart breaking to see it repeated. No matter what the leaders say it’s, still murder. My guess as to the reason? 1) Oil, 2) Doing it for Daddy.


Jackson Manning (nom de plume)

The world doesn’t trust George Bush and his regime because:

* It fears Bush’s administration of Hawks is fuelled by post-Cold War hubris and dreams of a (ruthless) hyper-power hegemony. Some of these Hawks are so cuckoo they reckon it’d be a good idea to attack China.

* It fears the Bush administration’s brief is to re-make the world for the benefit of its own benefactors – US corporations, many of them already shown to be mean and inhumane. Though most don’t protest in the streets, many share the suspicions and sentiments of anti-corporate protesters.

* The the administration has already thumbed its nose at the rest of the world through Kyoto and the International Criminal Court.

* Recent Republican administrations (in particular) have an ugly history of corrupt and arguably evil dealings (the bombing of Cambodia, Watergate, the Chilean coup, Iran-Contra etc etc).

* Although we may like their brainless sitcoms and nutritionless burgers, we still like to think we’re wary of swallowing any ol’ crud served up to us. Soylent Green anyone?

* Bush’s rhetoric is all cowboy, with little evidence there’s any cattle in his top paddock. This is real life, George, not a John Wayne movie!

*And ultimately, because no evidence has been given. It’s one thing for Bush, Blair and Howard to say they have no doubts Saddam has WMD, but we require incontrovertible proof before launching a war that will kill tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent people. If the case for war is so strong, they must prove it.

What are my main fears about the possible consequences for Australia of joining a US invasion?

* that many Australian service personnel will be killed and maimed.

* that the Middle East will go ‘feral’ and we’ll quickly become a top line and relatively easy terrorist target. And for what? A Free Trade agreement that will likely kill off Medicare, subsidised medicine and force us to adopt a US-style health care system.

* that the UN will collapse, and with it a multilateral security system and 50 years of gains in human rights infrastructure.


Damien Jandes

1) Oil

2) NASDAQ a mess

3) Military like to use their toys from time to time.

4) Unfinished Family Business

5) Only real president’s can start a war.

6)Andersen, Enron, World Com too hard!

7) Easier than finding Osama.

8) Can find Iraq on map, also know who leader is.

9) Some sort of treaty thingy????

10) Human rights have been abused (ha ha joke)


Trevor Kerr

Do you reckon the US is aiming to plant itself as semi-permanent nuclear power in the Middle East, and that was the aim all along, not just the oil? The editorial in The Oz today talks up the Indyk proposal for Israel (Martin Indyk of Brookings/Saban): “So too is a proposal for Israel to hand the West Bank and Gaza to a temporary international protectorate with security maintained by a multinational force. This “trusteeship” would make way for Palestinian rule after a period of nation building.”

Indyk is trotting around a plan for US & UK & Oz to be trustees. I couldn’t see it before, because the US would not be allowed in. It makes more sense if the US is a major overseer of region, based in Iraq. Indyk has commentary in the New York Times at

I really liked John Howard’s prompt reply to Kerry O’Brien last week that he wouldn’t countenance Ozzies going to a nuclear battleground. That sounded like he had special knowledge that Bush has sworn off nukes (for the sake of Israel). And now they are busy clarifying (what they have been quietly saying all along) that all bets will be off, and, anyway, since they have reclassified some nukes as ordinary weapons, who should care?

Now I can understand why the US wants the inspectors out as soon as possible.

And I guess it makes sense, that if you say you will use nukes if provoked, you had better be prepared to set them up in Iraq as part of the long-term occupancy. Having got to that point, it then becomes the dominant strategic focus. How will JH get himself out of this one? Maybe he has his sick certificate already filled out, bar the date.


Mark Sergeant

Why doesn’t the world trust George Bush and his regime?

First: Anyone, anywhere, with a bit of education is at least vaguely aware of Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua. They know the list is a lot longer, but it gets hard to remember the details. And this is not just history today there is Israel/Palestine, Venezuela and, of course, Iraq. A large part of the world has pretty direct experience of US intervention, and the rest knows about it.

Second: See In Europe, don’t mention the Yanks. A lot of this applies to the rest of the world as well.

Third: “Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?” 83% in a Time poll say the US.

Check out the National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Manifesto for world dictatorship). Keep in mind the first and second points above, and you may find yourself agreeing with the third.


W Jansson

The only reason I can come up with that makes any sense (if war ever can) is to ensure a nice smooth supply of oil in case the US goes after the Saudis. Most of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and the US is well aware of anti-American sentiment in that country.

The US administration have been deadly silent on this fact, but for the US to do anything about that they would need a different supply of oil so as not to heavily cut into their strategic reserves. My guess is that it is about maintaining supply rather than total control in the event of a conflict with the Saudis (although total control is the likely outcome).

Iraq would also make a good staging point for any conflict with the Saudis. Nothing else makes sense to me, except that Bush is just plain crazy. It’s obvious no link can be drawn between Iraq and Al Qaeda, otherwise that would have been done by now.


Peter Kelly

My opinion is No. 2 – oil followed by 6 – muscle flexing and 4 – remaking the Middle East. But oil is primarily what the war is about.

The world discovery curve has declined since 1962 and 80 % of today’s oil comes from fields discovered prior to 1973. Newer discoveries are both fewer and smaller. The world today discovers about 6 billion barrels of oil a year but the world uses four times this amount. The larger pre-1973 fields will need to be replaced by today’s smaller discoveries and for this reason oil production will decline from 2010, give or take a few years, causing permanent recession world wide.

The US will control Iraq’s oil to allow it to continue to grow its consumption. Allies who kow tow to the US will also benefit. This is probably the angle the US is using to strong arm Russia, Germany and France. Russia and France will lose their contracts if the US war is successful but will lose even more if they do not agree to US action. From Iraq the US may be able to control all the Middle East and its oil. Pretexts for intervention to achieve this can be manufactured. But for the US and allies to continue to insulate themselves, others will lose out.

These will be nations opposing the US and the third world, particularly China. China now has to import oil and its ascendancy in economic power is dependent on oil. The US wants to contain China. Part of the “big game” in central Asia is to keep pipe lines away from the Caspian Sea – China route and instead position them through to Turkey or to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan.

It is very ugly policy and in George Bush the US has the very worse president and an oil mafia in the White House. Should the war succeed the Bush administration will have learnt how to do it again for Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait. It is extremely dangerous. The world by 2010 will be infinitely more unstable than it is today.

I wonder who the “Germany” is when protagonists compare Iraq to 1930s Germany? The hegemonic militarist state looks like the USA.


Jack Robertson in Sydney

I’m not sure whether or not Harry was being slightly tongue-in-cheek, but just to re-iterate – Scott Burchill and I have not tried to ‘deconstruct the WMD out of debate’ at all. What we have argued is more complicated and now far more urgent, as Hans Blix says he is worried about approximately 8,500 litres of anthrax and 6500 chemical warheads that is still ‘missing’. The crucial question regarding WMD remains – is a balls-and-all invasion and occupation the best way to safely disarm it if we haven’t got a clue where it is? If Hans can’t find this stuff in the pre-invasion calm, why will the 101st Airborne Division have any more luck during battle, and post the massive bombardment?

The next crucial question is: Does the US in fact know something about WMD locations that they aren’t telling UN inspectors? It’s surely dangerous to go chasing rattlesnakes with a sledge-hammer and both eyes closed, yet they’re readying themselves for the biggest conventional invasion/occupation since WW2. So will these large missing stockpiles suddenly’ turn up a few days after D-Day? Forgive me for sounding cynical, but an important safety tip with stuff like VX and anthrax is presumably to ensure that your own bombardments don’t blow stockpiles of it skyhigh, right?

So has the American High Command been told even vaguely where this stuff is? If not, how can they plan the biggest two-day Tomahawk barrage ever seen with confidence that they won’t inadvertently create a localised WMD disaster? And if so, they should tell the inspectors now. Either way, the US should stop just saying they have ‘secret evidence’ they’ll reveal ‘later’. We’re all on the same side here. Unless, that is, your side plans to invade Iraq no matter what the inspectors achieve. Or don’t. Or aren’t allowed to, now.


G. Norton in France

As a European who lived in Australia for about 15 years, I would like to try and answer the question, as to why Australia, like Britain, is following the US into war. To me, who was not born in an English-speaking country, the answer is very straight-forward and simple – because John Howard and obviously a lot of his conservative party colleagues are still, deep in their hearts, bemoaning the loss of the Empire and the power and influence it brought.

They, like the British upper class in the case of Britain (the constant insistence on wielding a disproportionate influence on European politics and the continuing efforts to drive wedges between members of the EU in order to halt consensus are ample evidence of this), cannot come to terms with the fact that Australia is only one of many, that it is only a small country which therefore cannot expect to have much to say on a world scale.

But since they still dream of grandeur and more power than they deserve in a world that craves for democracy, they attach themselves to the US.

For any continental European, the banding together of the English-speaking world in the looming war speaks volumes! Evidence for the likely correctness of my analysis in the case of Howard is also his staunch support for the role of the queen as head of Australia. I do not think, that his support is only based on some attachment to the current queen, but rather to the institution it used to represent, The British Empire. Clinging to the US and acting as one with them is the next-best thing to bringing it back.

Anti-gravity and us

Webdiarist Malcolm Street has a unique theory on why Britain and Australia are backing Bush on Iraq. Welcome to the anti-gravity arms race.

Australia, the UK, anti-gravity and the Iraq crisis

by Malcolm Street, Canberra

Are you sitting down? Good, because this is going to blow your mind.

This item is going to sound like a bad reject from conspiracy publications like Nexus or New Dawn, or an X-Files fanzine. It isn’t. The indisputable fact is that both the US and the UK are putting serious money into anti-gravity research with military aerospace applications. The only question is how far it is from operational status. There is informed speculation that it is already used in the American B2 bomber.

I believe that access to this potentially revolutionary and obviously highly secret technology, perhaps via the JSF/F35 fighter program, could be behind the otherwise (in my view) inexplicable level of support given Bush over Iraq by Howard and Blair.

For the record I am a mechanical engineer who spent over two years at a British Aerospace guided missile R&D site in the early 1980s and have continued to take a strong interest in aerospace technology. I am a member of ASRI (Australian Space Research Institute). I am not a crank.

The most puzzling aspect to me of the American obsession with invading Iraq even without UN sanction is the continuing support provided by Tony Blair and John Howard. The USA’s reason is obvious; to gain control of a major oil supply as insurance against increasing instability in Saudi Arabia. (If it’s about human rights and weapons of mass destruction, why the kid gloves treatment of North Korea?)

One could stretch to say that Blair has the interests of BP and the half-British Shell oil companies, but if it comes to a vote in the Commons he could well be rolled. However nothing apart from blind loyalty seems to explain the support given by Australia, and even with a conservative government there are rumblings from Howard’s back benches and a population largely opposed.

So why are Blair and Howard, both consumate political operators, taking such a huge political risk for a war that no-one but the Americans want, which could destroy the structure of international law and result in both the UK and Australia becoming international pariahs?

My hypothesis is the supply of information from the United States that is so secret it is only known to the very highest levels of government and is of such strategic importance that it is worth taking such risks.

My initial thoughts were that the US was blackmailing both leaders over continued supply of intelligence information gained from the Echelon system via the UKASA agreement. But that could have been done at any time over the last couple of decades. However, the current timescale however coincides interestingly with the crucial development phase of the F35/JSF fighter aircraft program…

The JSF (Joint Strike Fighter), which is front-runner to replace the RAAF’s F-18s and F-111s in what would be our largest ever defence order, is quite unlike any previous supersonic US fighter project available for foreign allies. Unlike the earlier F104 Starfighter and F16 Falcon programs, there will be no generalised offset agreements, by which foreign manufacturers will be able to supply components to the whole program. Technology transfer in the JSF will be very tightly controlled, with only the UK (developing a version to replace the Harrier jump-jet) so far as an inner partner.

Australia is trying hard to get on board, with (according to a local TV news item some months ago) three firms in Canberra alone tendering for parts of the project.

There is a precedent for Australia sucking up to a larger power in the hopes of gaining access to its advanced weapons technology; the agreement given to conduct British nuclear tests on Australian territory in the 1950s in the hope of getting transfers of British atomic bomb technology. (See Dr Wayne Reynolds’ book “Australia’s bid for the Atomic Bomb”). In turn a major theme of this book is the use the UK made of its own program as a bargaining chip to get access to US atomic technology.

The July 2002 issue of the British magazine Air International had an article entitled “JSF UK – more than just an aircraft” by one Robert Hewson which deals with the JSF program, particularly the extensive participation of British companies (notably BAe Systems and Rolls-Royce) in its development:

“One reason the US is keeping such a tight hold over the industrial elements of the JSF is the thorny issue of “stealth” and how to control access to the classified stealth technologies which are built into every aspect of the JSF design. The US and UK have a special (and classified) agreement that allows the two countries to share data on common stealth research, but all other discussion of the subject is closed. The question of how the US will supply this sensitive set of technologies to other JSF customers goes unanswered – but the underlying message is that the US is reluctant to do so and that somehow there will be different standards in JSF “stealthiness” between friends, good friends and others.”

So we know there is a sweetheart classified deal between the US and UK over stealth technology in the JSF, and that apparently the full stealth technology will not be supplied to outside customers. Why couldn’t it cover other highly classified technology as well? What if this other US-UK technology was so revolutionary that the inner partners’ versions of the JSF would have a massive advantage over anything else in the air for years to come, something that could give them a colossal and unassailable strategic advantage, as great as, perhaps, the atomic bomb?

There is such a technology on the horizon: anti-gravity. Yes you read that right! Both the US and UK are publicly running research programs investigating anti-gravity under such headings as “propellantless propulsion”. The UK effort, run by BAe Systems, is called Project Greenglow (see bbc for an overview), while in the US Boeing is running an anti-gravity program in its Phantom Works (Boeing’s equivalent of Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works) in Seattle (see janes). In addition, NASA is looking into overlapping areas under the “Breakthrough Propulsion Physics” project (home page nasa). (An interesting selection of links on anti-gravity links, albeit with the odd crank, can be found at eskimo).

How far away is anti-gravity technology? It may already be operating…

Towards the end of an otherwise routine article on aircraft propulsion in Air International in January 2000, reprinted at aeronautics, well-known and highly respected aviation writer Bill Gunston speculated that the American Northrop B-2 Spirit heavy bomber already uses some form of anti-gravity technology:

“I have numerous documents, all published openly in the United States, which purport to explain how the B-2 is even stranger – far, far stranger – than it appears. Most are articles published in commercial magazines, some are openly published US Patents, while a few are open USAF publications by Wright Aeronautical Laboratory and Air Force Systems Command’s Astronautics Laboratory. They deal with such topics as electric-field propulsion, and electrogravitics (or anti-gravity), the transient alteration of not only thrust but also a body’s weight. Sci-Fi has nothing on this stuff.”

What really put the cat among the proverbial pigeons was a feature published in a March 1992 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, entitled “Black world engineers, scientists, encourage using highly classified technology for civil applications”. For the first time in open literature, this article explained how the B-2’s sharp leading edge is charged to “many millions of volts”, while the corresponding negative charge is blown out in the jets from the four engines.

“Take-off thrust of the [B2 engine] F118- 100 at sea level is given as ‘19,000lb (84.5kN) class’ by Northrop Grumman and as ‘17,300lb (77.0kN)’ by the USAF. These are startlingly low figures for an aircraft whose take-off weight is said to be 336,5001b (152,635kg) and which was until recently said to weigh 376,0001b (170,550kg). Aircraft usually get heavier over the years, not 20 tones [sic] lighter. Even at the supposed reduced weight, the ratio of thrust to weight is a mere 0.2, an extraordinarily low value for a combat aircraft.”

In other words, Gunston is implying that the B2 is seriously underpowered unless there is some means of reducing its mass or of increasing its lift beyond that provided by conventional aerodynamic means.

“Other writers have commented on the size of the B-2 wing and noted that its stealth depends on the huge black skin being made of RAM (radar-absorbent material). This, say the physicists, is ‘a high-k, high-density dielectric ceramic, capable of generating an enormous electrogravitic lift force when charged’.”

So is this why the B2s cost US$1 billion each?

Gunston’s article is controversial, (an interesting discussion on it in the rec.aviation.military Internet newsgroup is archived at google under the title “B-2A and electrogravity”) but there is a precedent for a radical, cost-is-no-object, highly classified US military aircraft using two major sets of new technologies, one secret and the other VERY secret.

The legendary Lockheed A12/SR71 “Blackbird” reconnaissance aircraft was increasingly declassified in the late 70s/early 80s, with major details released on the structural and propulsion technologies that enabled that incredible aircraft, one of the great masterpieces of aeronautical engineering, to cruise at Mach 3. What wasn’t declassified until several years later, long after the F117 stealth fighter had been unveiled, was the fact that it was also a stealth design! While stealth took second place to speed, the fact was that stealth elements were a major factor in the airframe configuration, design of which dated back to the late 1950s,twenty years before stealth technology was even mentioned by the US government.

Another example is the even more legendary North American P-51 Mustang fighter of World War 2. For years its outstanding performance was explained by its “laminar flow” wing technology (also used in the B24 Liberator bomber).

Shortly before former senior manager and engineer at North American Aviation, Lee Atwood, died a few years ago he wrote articles for a couple of aircraft magazines (see, for example, airspacemag) giving the real explanation. Using a phenomenon known as the “Meredith Effect”, the Mustang’s characteristic under-fuselage duct for the engine’s radiator was so shaped internally that the heat from the radiator converted it into, effectively, a low-temperature ramjet, thrust from which at high speeds offset most of the drag produced by the radiator in the first place! Not even the servicing crews knew that this was the true function of the duct design!

We know that the JSF/F35 will incorporate a high degree of stealth, like the B-2, with the degree of stealth apparently varying between inner and outer customers. However, stealth is relatively old-hat; the F117, the first stealth aircraft, turns up regularly at air shows, much of the US 70s and 80s stealth program has been declassified and the general principles, if not specific applications, of stealth technology are now well-known in the unclassified world. I can’t see it being worth risking the fall of the UK or Australian governments.

So are Howard and Blair playing a very high-stakes game to gain access to a revolutionary military technology more secret, more important, than stealth, one that’s perhaps being pioneered on the US-only B-2? Like anti-gravity technology only available to the select inner partners of the JSF/F35 program? And has the US threatened to boot them out if they don’t toe the Bush line on Iraq?

In Europe, don’t mention the Yanks

I always liked Clinton. From the beginning, through the highs and lows and until the end, I liked him. Just before Christmas he made some comments (refer below).

In the Clinton era, Europeans were happy about the American president. Even in the Monica Lewinsky period, the affection continued and even increased in many quarters. The Europeans appreciated his politics and his view of the world.

The current president is less appreciated. This week his Defense Secretary, Rumsfeld, called France and Germany “old Europe”. Relations are at a new low. To dismiss the the two driving force countries behind the EU, a region of 370 million people, as being the “old Europe” shows the point to which it has come. This approach is ratcheting up anti-American feeling across the continent. The feeling on the streets is strong. Mention America at a cafe and you’ll soon get a scowl.

The comment from Rumsfeld about old Europe was made in the very same week that the entire German and French governments gathered in Versailles to remember their past and reflect on their future. A European identity is emerging and there is no doubt Germany and France – the two powerhouses of Europe – are the key are the key to the new Europe. Britain remains isolated off the coast. A different currency in so many ways.

Continental Europeans are fed up with the attitude of the US. They resent the “you are either with us or you are against us” stance of the US. This is not just the feeling of some. It is the feeling of the overwhelming majority. Most of the governments on this continent, including the two most influential, disagree with the US policy. They feel they should be able to disagree without being branded as an enemy.

The promise of the 21st century for an evolving European identity revolves around multilateralism and faith in institutions. The EU and the Euro could not exist without this mindset. In the past decade or so, Europe has undergone a revolution. Communism has fallen, the EU has been created and continues to expand. A new currency, the Euro, has been introduced seamlessly. All the while, a common identity is forming bit by bit.

Diversity will always be the essence of this continent, but an emerging pride in uniquely European shared values is a feature of the new Europe. Everyone knows the driving force behind the new Europe has been France and Germany.

To call these two countries “old Europe”, is insulting and incorrect. Germany and France are the very essence of the NEW Europe! The new members of the EU will come from the East but they come to join an order that has largely been set by the countries Rumsfeld dismisses as “old Europe”. No one is forcing them to come. They come to join a group of nations with some shared values that are hard to beat.

These “old” European countries are setting an order, a multilateral order, the likes of which this world has never seen. It is too easily forgotten or dismissed.

If Rumsfeld and others feel they can dismiss Europe as “old” or identify the two largest countries as “problems”, they will find they are buying some trouble.

Of course it is true that European and American values coincide in so many ways. Democracy, the rule of law immediately come to mind. After that there is some divergence. Europeans will never give up the social contract. Despite Margaret Thatcher saying “there is no such thing as society”, on this side of the English Channel, society tends to even come before the individual.

This is a continent that has been torn by war and all kinds of turmoil. For Europeans, consensus, social cohesion, fairness, secular rational values and respect for multilateral institutions come higher on the agenda. Europeans are also more comfortable with higher degrees of ambiguity and can see shades of grey. They are particularly aware of anything that smacks of dogma or absolutism.

I feel torn between the two. I’ve lived in the US and know that many cliches about America are totally unfair. On the other hand, as a friend of America, Rumsfeld’s comments made me cringe and drew me much closer to the European attitude.

As the war of words intensifies, I was most struck by the comments of another person I have long admired, Joschka Fischer. This week the German Foreign Minister said in English, “Cool down, cool down”. Cool words from a cool individual. A nice circuit breaker in a trans Atlantic battle that sometimes seems to be getting out of control. Schroeder is not so popular but there is something about Fischer, this Green man who has a knack of saying the right thing at the right time. The four words and the way he delivered them were the most eloquent of this wretched week.

When the only solution seems to be increasing emotion, wild statements and hatred, sometimes it takes someone with vision to see beyond it. Cool down, cool down.

When America was about to erupt right after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy heard the news while at a rally in Indiana. The country was tearing itself apart. Robert Kennedy emerged from his car shaken and announced to the crowd:

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black … Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

The above he delivered impromptu beside a car. I’ve always thought RFK was remarkable. He was also killed. Europe loved RFK.

There is a practical side to disarming the creep, Saddam Hussein, which I strongly support. I believe he will develop weapons and they will be deployed. That said, I think a strength in difficult times is to listen. Robert Kennedy spoke at a time of crisis in his own country. The world is now in crisis and we would do well to now apply the words he used for his own country to the world.

The question remains how “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life in this world”?

Doing things together and less sniping between friends would be a start.


The United States should lead, not dominate

by William J. Clinton, December 16, 2002

William J. Clinton is the former president of the United States. In this article he echoes former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s Nobel peace prize acceptance speech last week calling on the United States not to act unilaterally but work with the United Nations.

The United States stands at a unique moment in human history, with our political, economic and military dominance. But within 30 years the Chinese economy could be as big or bigger than ours. The Indian economy could be as well if they stop fighting with Pakistan and wasting money on armaments. Within 30 years, if the European Union continues to become more united politically and economically, it will in turn grow more influential politically and economically. Then, in an interdependent world, we can lead but not dominate.

The United States will be judged based on how we used this ‘magic moment’. Did we try to drive the world into the 21st century? Did we try to force people to live by our vision? Or did we instead try by leadership, example and persuasion to build a world in which people will treat us in the future the way we’d like to be treated because of how we acted at our moment of ascendancy?

My mentor, Sen. J. William Fulbright, once said the best thing America could do was to be “an intelligent example of the world through material helpfulness without moral presumption”; that ‘‘we should make our own society an example of human happiness, make ourselves the friends of social revolution and go beyond simple reciprocity in the effort to reconcile hostile worlds”. He said he would far prefer to see us be a“sympathetic friend of humanity rather than its stern and prideful schoolmaster”.

Now, of what relevance is that in the present day? Does that mean America should not have a strong military? No. Does that mean we should never use it? When force is required to save massive numbers of lives? No. But it does mean that we should be humble enough to remember that there are rarely any final solutions in human affairs. Therefore, quite often the way we do something is as important as what we do.

We must recognize that our global interdependence, while a wonderful thing for those of us well positioned to take advantage of it, is still very much a mixed blessing. Our openness to one another in a world full of political, religious, economic and social divisions also increases our vulnerability and intensifies the pain and alienation of those who feel shut out from the blessings of interdependence. After all, on Sept. 11, Al Qaeda used the same open borders, easy travel and access to information and technology that we take for granted to kill 3,100 people from 70 countries, including more than 200 Muslims.

So the question is: What is America’s responsibility at this moment of our dominance?

I believe it’s to build a world that moves beyond interdependence to an integrated global community of shared responsibilities, shared benefits and shared values.

We must support the institutions of global community, beginning with the United Nations. The United Nations is an organization still becoming, still imperfect. We have not always done our part in it, but it is all we have, and now that we live in an interdependent world, it must have our full support in building an integrated global community.

We must have a sound security strategy using the power of America to prevent the actions of and punish the people who mean us harm.

And we must also remember the example of Gen. George C. Marshall and the Marshall Plan, of Sen. Fulbright and the Fulbright Program, and build a world that has more friends and partners and fewer terrorists. That is the purpose of foreign aid and debt relief, of fighting AIDS and putting all the world’s children in school. We should not be too utopian in our expectations, but always utopian in our values and vision.

From the dawn of human society up to the present time, we have been bedeviled by a persistent curse: the compulsion people feel to define the meaning of their lives in positive terms with reference to those who are like them racially, tribally, culturally, religiously, politically, and by negative reference to those who are different. People then feel compelled to oppress those who are different when they are small and powerless enough not to prevent it. Increasingly wider circles of interdependence, however, have taught people to accept the humanity of those they once degraded.

Indeed, the whole course of human history can be seen as a constant struggle to expand the definition of who is ‘us’ and shrink the definition of who is ‘them’. From the dawn of time until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it was never really possible to build a global community of cooperation, in which we celebrate, not just tolerate, our diversity, on the simple theory that our differences make life interesting, but our common humanity matters more.

When the United Nations was set up, global community was not possible because of the Cold War. Then, in the 1970s, China started moving toward the rest of the world. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. So we’ve had just 13 years to work on finding practical expressions of the dream of an integrated community of nations.

To further that goal, we ought to be working with other countries on banning nuclear testing, reducing global warming, establishing an International Criminal Court and strengthening a convention against biological weapons. I am disappointed that the current administration has withdrawn from, or failed to strengthen, agreements in each of those areas. It sends the wrong signal to the world just at the time when we need more and stronger alliances to help us target terrorists and defend our nation.

But despite these setbacks, I remain an optimist. In the last 13 years, the European Union has grown together, the United Nations has proved to have greater capacity to deal with problems in the Balkans and elsewhere; Russia and China have moved closer to the West; the Good Friday Accord was adopted in Northern Ireland; we had seven years of progress toward peace in the Middle East before Yasser Arafat rejected my last proposal, which he now agrees all parties should embrace; and the world’s wealthy nations began to do more, with the global debt-relief initiative and increased funding to fight AIDS.

We have no choice but to learn to live together, to choose cooperation over conflict, to give expression to our common humanity by following simple rules: everyone deserves a chance, everyone has a role to play, we all do better when we work together, we’re not as different as we think.

We do not yet have the institutions to run that kind of world. That is the work of politics, and in that work there will always be differences of opinion, conflicts of interest and values, and as we see today even in the simple evaluation of the evidence.

But, on balance, I think the world is moving in the right direction because it has become inconceivable that we can solve the problems of the world without solving them together. All of us should do our part to see that it happens as soon as possible.

This article was first published in clinton

Oh Superman

John Howard’s decision to incorporate our troops into the United States invasion force means Australia has consented to its invasion plan. If yesterday’s reports about those plans are true, he has agreed to a scorched earth invasion which would indiscriminately kill a huge number of civilians. If the Yanks go to war without UN authorisation, just about every country in the region, Muslim nations around the world and many Australians would see this as mass murder. What are we doing? Why?

Henk Verhoeven in Sydney writes: “The US intends to shatter Iraq physically, emotionally and psychologically by raining down on its people as many as 800 cruise missiles in two days. The deadly-accurate 880 km/h missiles can be launched from destroyers to deliver 450 kg bombs that cannot be detected by radar systems. The price of those 800 infernal killing machines? As much as 1,000,000 US dollars each, meaning the total cost could be the equivalent of around 1 billion 350 million Aussie dollars. No figures are available about the cost of the infra-structure needed to launch such a mass of lethal consignments. Who would give a child a stone when it asks for bread? Who would rain down bombs on fellow human beings when they ask for food and medicines?”

It looks like the United States is manipulating the world into a position where the Yanks will allow another few weeks for inspections on condition that war starts soon thereafter, when its invasion force has completed its build-up in the Gulf. In the time left I’d like your thoughts on some key issues.

Harry Heidelberg is interested in what Webdiary readers think is the main real reason for the war. I think intention and motivation is everything. What is the main reason for invading Iraq?

1. Weapons of mass destruction (apparently not – Scott Burchill and Jack Robertson have deconstructed this one out of the debate)

2. Oil (Europeans most strongly believe this one)

3. George Bush Jnr completing dad’s unfinished business

4. The start of a new order in the Middle East

5. A human rights improvement project

6. The US showing that it will implement a new security policy for global dictatorship

“Of course the reality could be a combination of all of the above but since the vast majority of people question the number one motive regarding the weapons, they are then under an obligation to identify an alternative number one motive. In Germany this is easy. They feel it is OIL. I’m curious because I think you can’t deconstruct anything until you put up an alternative. I mean to say, if this is not about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism……then WHAT EXACTLY is it mainly about? As said, the Germans are reasonably clear. I do not get this sense from the Australian debate.”

James Woodcock reckons he’s worked it out.

Regarding the up and coming war, I have been wondering “What the Hell (actually I said the word starting with F) are the Yanks thinking about?? I think I found the answer in Laurie Anderson’s “Oh Superman” written in 1981, a prophetic verbally sparse, almost childlike mantra:

“Here come the planes.

They’re American planes. Made in America

Smoking or Non-smoking?

And the voice said ‘Neither snow nor rain nor gloom

of night shall stay these couriers from the swift

completion of their appointed rounds.’

‘Cause when love is gone, there is always justice

And when justice is gone, there is always force

And when the force is gone, there is always Mom. Hi Mom!

So hold me Mom, in your long arms. So hold me.

Mom, in your long arms.

In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms.

So hold me Mom, in your long arms.

Your petrochemical arms. Your Military arms.

In your electronic arms”.


There’s a great interview with Anderson in last week’s Bulletin magazine where she spoke of its refrain, “here come the planes”, taking on an eerie new meaning post-September 11. “I wrote O Superman during the Iran/Contra scandal,” she said. “Americans have short memories. They don’t realise that this is the same war that’s been going on for 20 years.”

Anderson, who’s touring Australia next month, performed in New York a week after September 11, and referred to the horror as an ‘opportunity’.

“I thought about that word a lot. I really believe that when something big happens, whether it seems good or seems bad, it’s a chance to jump out of your preconceptions. I was very disappointed that there was no dialogue in the year since then. I suppose instead of opportunity the word would be security because we’re now just too afraid – or too lazy. These pools of freedom and fear are really interesting ones. It’s a brand new question, what is it to be free and also afraid?”

I’ve got a related question to Harry’s. Why doesn’t the world trust George Bush and his regime? There’s lots of talk about this in Britain, where people wonder why Tony Blair, an acknowledged master political salesman, can’t convince his people about the need for war. The fashionable theory is that he’s drowned out by the British people’s aversion to George Bush. So why can’t George Bush convince the world he’s doing the right thing? Is it his style, his substance, or both? Why doesn’t the world trust America? And another question: What is your main fear about the possible consequences for Australia of joining a US invasion? If you want to answer any of these questions, how about sending in your answer in less than 200 words so we get a feel for how readers are thinking.

Harry’s column today, In Europe, don’t mention the Yanks, includes a piece by Bill Clinton late last year, ‘The United States should lead, not dominate’, which tries to answer the question: ‘What is America’s responsibility at this moment of our dominance?

The best article on the Yank’s attitude that I read last weekend was by billionaire financier George Soros in the Australian Financial Review, a piece first published in the New Statesman. Unfortunately you have to pay to read it on either website. He wrote that the Nazis and the Russian communists had one thing in common ‘- ‘a belief that they were in the possession of the ultimate truth” – and that America too now shared this fatal flaw.

“Since September 11, the threat (to open society) comes not only from terrorism itself, but from the war against terrorism. Amazingly, the government of one of the most open societies, the US, has embarked on policies that violate the principles of open society. The Bush administration contains a number of ideologues who believe that international relations are relations of power, and the US, being the most powerful state, has the right to impose its will on the rest of the world. They held this belief before September 11 and, to the extent they could, they acted upon it. They renounced international treaties and sought to make American military power absolute by militarising space.

“But they were constrained by the lack of a clear mandate. The events of September 11 changed that. The Bush administration could claim to be acting in self-defence and carry the nation behind it.

“The Bush administration arrogates for itself the right to decide how and where to fight the invisible enemy. It fails to acknowledge the possibility that (philosopher Karl Popper always emphasised – that we may be wrong. Military power is of limited use in dealing with asymmetric threats such as terrorism. The US needs to earn the support and sympathy of the world, and following the precept that might is right is not the way to go about it. Fortunately, the US is a democracy, and if its citizens of the US, believe in the principles of open society, they can prove the Bush administration wrong.”

David Grant was disturbed by the contributions of the two American contributors in George Bush, Australia’s war leader.

“I read the Webdiary correspondence on Saturday from contributors in the US and closer to home and two things struck me. Firstly, I was shocked by the severe degree to which critical analysis of the US (and current Australian) policy on Iraq have been taken to represent some strident anti-Americanism. Secondly I was struck by the failure of some of the writers to comprehend or acknowledge the implications of unilateral action against Iraq (even if that is a gang of ‘likeminded nations’) to the whole culture, history and mission of modern international diplomacy. Things are very dire indeed if we are encouraged to accept that we are doing something wrong when we question our involvement in an American war for oil, while at the same time we are encouraged to accept that there are ‘unseen enemies’ trying to impose upon us ‘a way of life’. If we are not allowed to speak and must run after shadows what hope is there for us?”

Karen Jackson, a member of the Democrats, was so cheesed off by the contribution of American Hal Wilson that she penned a piece she called ‘Ten reasons to be anti-American’.

Karen Jackson

Hal Wilson sent you several paragraphs of the usual simplistic slogans that we have come to expect from today’s war mongers. He also used that tired term “anti-American” so favoured by the “with-us-or-agin-us” brigade. It’s a useful label when trying to bully your way through a reasoned debate. I decided I’d beef out this “insult”, so we know exactly what it means to be “anti-American”.

10 Reasons to be Anti-American

1. They claim to be the greatest democracy in the world, yet only a small percentage of their population even bothers to vote. This means US governments gain power via pathetically small margins about 49,000 votes in the last congressional election. And this is labelled government by the people! Whats more, getting elected in the US now requires vast amounts money, and corporate sponsorship. Naturally this results in big business gaining more than their fair share of government help. Is that democracy? And does that give them the right to invade other nations in the name of their democracy?

2. Americans love trumpeting on about their love of freedom. However, they are currently dismantling a great many civil rights laws in their attempts to rid themselves of terrorism. At the same time, hundreds of prisoners of war remain in Cuba without legal representation, and with no hope of a trial. More murders occur in the US than any other Western country because of their freedom to own guns. The Bush government is keen to crack down on freedom of speech when it comes to sexually explicit material, something the vast majority of Americans indulge in. And sodomy is still illegal in dozens of US states. Is that freedom?

Whats more, the propaganda that says the terrorists hate our freedom is just so much bullshit. Its not freedom that these people hate; it’s America’s hypocrisy.

3. The Americans are supposed to be the good guys. Yet they have, over the last 50 years, engaged in numerous dodgy interventions in other countries, including Vietnam. On many occasions, this has involved supporting despots, and being accessories to mass murder. We have no proof that will allow us to believe they have learned from their mistakes.

4. The US champions free trade for everyone else. When it comes to steel, or their farm products, or any other US product with a vested interest, the rules don’t apply.

5. They have consistently undermined the UN for the last 10 years at least, and then have the gall to say it is a spent force and impotent. Their unswerving support of Israel is part of this, to the point of defending Israel when it defies UN resolutions.

6. When other countries defy or ignore international treaties, they should be bombed. When the US ignores or abandons international treaties, they are asserting their rights as a sovereign nation.

7. The US public has an incredible ignorance of the outside world, thanks to their media, and an accompanying arrogance. When Bali was bombed, we didnt hear a peep out of them. Australia was mentioned in passing as being south of Indonesia. Chances are that most Americans won’t know that Australia is about to be one of their few allies in the coming war. The less you know about the rest of the world, the more mistakes you can make.

8. The general neglect of the US’s own people when it comes to education and healthcare is atrocious. Their system of funding sees terrible inequity in these areas, and reinforces cycles of poverty. The US should be looking to clean up its own backyard, perhaps using some of its defence money to educate its children.

9. The US consumes vast amounts of the world’s resources, and its people are some of the most

affluent in the world. Yet they ignore their responsibility toward the environment (eg Kyoto) and see oil as a birthright. If the US had developed sustainable energy technology and industries, this war with Iraq would not be inevitable.

10. Jerry Springer.

Interestingly, Australia is also guilty of many of these transgressions (for Jerry, read “Stan Zemanek”). Perhaps the difference is that were not as proud of it as the US. Nonetheless, we too should be working to overcome our own hypocrisy and improve our own “democracy” and “freedoms”.

Reasons to like the US

1. The Simpsons and Seinfeld.

2. Star Wars (except for Jar Jar Binks)

3. Squirrels

4. The ideals behind their bill of rights.

5. The Grand Canyon

6. The friendliness of everyday Americans


I’ve republished below two weekend pieces. Peter Hartcher’s piece in the Australian Financial Review let’s you in on the chaos and unintended consequences behind George Bush’s last State of the Union address, and Lisa Wilkinson’s Sun Herald column is the best example of many columns asking the Prime Minister just why we’re off to war.

By the way, I’ve started using ‘Yanks’ again, after being dissuaded from doing so last year by many readers who claimed it was derogatory. The US Defence Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Richard Myers thinks otherwise, and who am I to disagree? He said last week: “Our military relationship goes back to every conflict we have ever been in. Australians have always been side-by-side with the yanks, and we appreciate that very much.”


Bush’s dilemma: bite his tongue or bite the bullet

by Peter Hartcher, 24/01/2003, Publication: Australian Financial Review

When George Bush delivers the President’s annual State of the Union address on Tuesday (Wednesday Australian time), it will be 364 days since his infamous speech declaring the “axis of evil”.

That speech electrified capitals around the world because it seemed to promise the confrontation of the three points of evil on the axis: Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Note that this is not supposed to be the way of State of the Union addresses. They are traditionally dull laundry lists that the President presents to the Congress for it to work on in the year ahead.

They do not typically set out an aggressive global agenda in strident moralistic terms.

And in one sense last year’s speech looks soundly prophetic, signalling the US intention to remove Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Indeed, this has been a fixed goal of Bush’s from the moment he claimed the presidency.

If it has seemed in the intervening year that Bush has wavered from time to time, this is only because of the vagaries and oscillations of the media. Bush himself has been, and remains, singlemindedly determined to prove the dispensability of the man in Baghdad who calls himself the Indispensable Leader.

As 159,000 US troops and four US aircraft carrier moved into position around Iraq, the leaders of Germany and France postured on Thursday as if they were in a position to do something about it.

More likely, France and the other major powers “will make a lot of noise but in the end go along with the US”, predicts a foreign policy expert at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, Walter Russell Mead.

This year’s speech by Bush will be keenly read for what it tells us about the year to come.

And while the White House spokesman says that it will not contain a declaration of war against Iraq or an ultimatum, Bush is preparing to use the speech, carried live on every TV network, to persuade the American public and the world community of the need for the forcible disarmament of Saddam.

But in another sense the “axis of evil” speech looks like a very bad idea. By seeming to signal confrontation with North Korea and Iran as well as Iraq, it was a dangerous piece of rhetorical over-reach. And in the case of North Korea, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The US can bluster, but it can’t do anything to stop North Korea. Pyongyang is too well armed and too dangerously positioned.

So while Washington is ready to spurn the UN to get its way in Iraq, it is now turning to the UN to help it manage North Korea.

The “axis of evil” speech, perversely, seems to have spurred one of the evil ones to move from a state of somnolent sinfulness into a condition of demonic dynamism.

Signalling resolve to confront evil, Bush accidentally provoked it. This was not how it was supposed to be. The presidential speechwriter credited with coining the phrase “axis of evil”, David Frum, says that in drafting the speech “my strong language had concerned only Iraq”.

“Now, Condoleeza Rice and Steve Hadley at the National Security Council wanted to go further. They wanted to take on Iran as well,” Frum says in a new book, The Right Man. Rice is Bush’s national security adviser, and Hadley her deputy. Frum doesn’t tell us who added North Korea to the axis, but he does tell us this: “Bush read the speech closely. He edited it in his own bold hand. He understood all its implications. He backed them with all the power of his presidency.”

That’s what his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, was afraid of. Fearing the provocative power of those words, according to US officials, Powell’s staff asked the White House to remove the “axis of evil” phrase from a draft of the speech, but failed.

So Powell tried to recover afterwards instead. He told the Weekend AFR that the speech “should not be seen as a change in US policy or thinking”.

Said Powell: “We reserve all of our options to do something different, especially with respect to Iraq, but all of our previous policies remain.”

But it was too late. So, while the US wants to marshall all its energies to depose Saddam, it is desperately trying to manage North Korea’s threat of dangerous nuclear escalation at the same time.

So perhaps this year Bush will take greater care with the crises he wants to deal with, and the ones he cannot, and learn to tell the difference.


Can someone explain why we’re off to war?

by Lisa Wilkinson, editor-at-large of The Women’s Weekly, 26/01/2003, Sun Herald

OUT OF the mouths of babes … stopped in traffic the other day listening to the news, my nine-year-old son suddenly asked me a question. “Mum, why are we going to war against Saddam Hussein? What has he got to do with Osama bin Laden?”

We were two more traffic lights gone before I came up with the only answer I could muster: “Well … I just don’t know.”

The one consolation to my ignorance on this subject is that at least I am not alone. All over the world people are asking just what this looming war against Iraq is all about and how precisely it connects to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the whole war on terror.

Noted author John le Carre struck a chord with many last week when he was widely quoted asserting that “how Bush … succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks in history”.

Personally, I pretend to no expertise in matters of geopolitics and am still at a loss to understand why, on the one hand, we are falling over ourselves to sell Iraqis hundreds of millions of dollars worth of wheat and, on the other, wanting desperately to be part of a war on them.

But it is precisely for that reason that I’d like some answers to a few questions of my own …

* First, what is our specific beef with the Iraqi people? What have they done to us that we will send thousands of our soldiers there and put our resources towards visiting death and destruction upon them?

As a country, we have recently suffered the agony of seeing more than 80 of our families lose loved ones in the Bali bombings at the hands of a dozen or so deranged and evil terrorists. Are we, a good and decent country, to be a party to causing equally innocent families in Iraq to lose their loved ones?

Surely one of the lessons of September 11 is that a person with enough hate in them can become a weapon of mass destruction all on their own, and I can’t help but feel that dropping bombs on Baghdad will have the opposite effect to the one intended.

* All other world leaders bar Britain’s Tony Blair and our own John Howard have kept a careful distance from the George W. war rhetoric and, more pertinently, war preparations. Instead of backing America to the hilt, they have backed the United Nations.

So I ask: what can our Prime Minister see that the likes of France’s Jacques Chirac, Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and New Zealand’s Helen Clark can’t? I know there must be something other than the fact that Howard was in Washington on September 11 and so probably feels it all more personally it’s just that I can’t see it.

* Precisely what has the whole UN inspection exercise been about if the US intended to ignore their findings all along? Did we Australians really sign up to a proclamation which said “if we find something we’ll blow you Iraqis away, and if we can’t find anything we’ll still blow you away!”?

* I’m afraid I also don’t understand the whole military mindset. Time magazine reported this week that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had assigned the key sections of the attacking force their tasks and that ‘the commandos’ primary mission will be to disable Saddam’s biological, chemical and nuclear-weapons capabilities.” How does that work?

All the UN inspectors have scoured Iraq for two months and haven’t been able to turn up the famed smoking guns, yet US commandos are magically going to go in and knock them out?

I wouldn’t be surprised if my words here become a target for the hardliners who maintain that my sentiments are typical of the latte-drinking, weak-kneed among us.

But I repeat: I am not alone.

This week, Time Europe has been running an internet poll with a simple question: “Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?”, asking readers to tick off one of three possibilities: Iraq, North Korea or … the US.

Already I know you’re way ahead of me, but after 250,000 people had responded, Iraq was only viewed as the most dangerous by 8 per cent, while North Korea got 9 per cent and lock it in, Eddie fully 83percent voted for the US.

Of course, through all this, our thoughts are with the Australian servicemen and women now on their way to the Middle East. It’s just that many of us wish your cause was more clear.

White House anti-Americanism, Australian patriotic blackmail

OK, so logic now seems to be going out the window. A brief state-of-play:

A) An American-led coalition will invade Iraq, with or without UN sanction, and mostly, supporters claim, to neutralise Saddam’s WMD threat. If necessary the US-coalition will use its own Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) while doing so. If Saddam’s generals use WMD against US troops, America will try them as war criminals, presumably in American domestic courts. UN forums are apparently irrelevant; the US doesn’t recognise the new-born International Criminal Court, and it’s unlikely The Hague War Crimes Tribunal will make its courts available, either, since…

B) …France and Germany are no longer crucial in the European scheme of things, according to Donald Rumsfeld. NATO has yet to state its position on an invasion. Today’s Australian editorial argues that Germany should support an invasion because they know all about the dangers of ‘aggression’, while France, on the other hand, should support it because they know all about the dangers of ‘appeasement’.

C) According to a grab on SBS News on Thursday night, George W. Bush now wants to call the ‘world’ to account, not just Iraq. A silly, if ugly, slip of the tongue? You’d hope so.

D) Australia’s deployment to the Iraq AO does not mean we are deploying for participation in an invasion. According to today’s Australian editorial, anti-invasion public opinion polls are ‘soft’; on this occasion, the ‘Ordinary Australian’ doesn’t know what he thinks yet. Once Australian soldiers start fighting, he will. Patriotic blackmail; war-by-retrospective-democratic-mandate.

e) Notwithstanding Rumsfeld’s breezy dismissal of one permanent member and the incoming Chair, if the UN Security Council now fails to endorse what America wants it to endorse, then it will be the end of the UN as a credible world body. Moot, because whatever happens now, it’s probably already stuffed. Fail to endorse US-led action, and the White House won’t care much. Endorse it and every other sovereign country opposed to such an undisguised railroading of the world’s governing body will be deeply estranged from it.

America is now unlikely to back down on an invasion. If that is so, whatever happens in Iraq and beyond, a temporarily-powerful group of hawkish Americans will have engineered, for the country that did more for post-WW2 unity and reconstruction than any other, an unambiguous ascendancy over the UN at last, at the cost of a deep split in the West.

To Americans reading this who think I’m engaging in yet more ‘knee-jerk Yank-bashing’, I’d say this: It’s very hard to imagine a single more anti-American misuse of what is now globally-unmatchable American power than what is transpiring – the final castration of whatever balls the UN might have had.

I think that future leaders and the people of the United States will be grappling with this legacy for a long time. There are more than six billion people in the world. There are under 300,000, 000 Americans. Australia and no doubt much of the West will still support their nation on Iraq. More accurately, we’ll support their soldiers (and ours, and the Brits), probably no matter what rotten mess our leaders end up landing them in.

But the American Administration could at least do us all the courtesy of maintaining a modicum of global perspective. Rumsfeld’s vaudeville act is getting tiresome. Sneering at France and Germany as irrelevant in Europe? How many GIs died at Normandy again, Don? How much dough did America sink into the Marshall Plan? Remember the Cold War, mate?

I don’t know what exactly all this is, but I know for sure that it’s not the ‘American Way’, at least not the one that has proved so globally successful in the past.


The Weapons of Mass Destruction Argument

Harry Heidelberg’s intervention in the ‘Human Rights-invasion’ argument (Yes, it really is about getting the weapons) aimed to point out its secondary status to the WMD arguments, and also to respond to my ‘operational’ questions in Time for a question change on Iraq. On the first matter, I’d invoke Scott Burchill’s myth-busting piece Counterspin: Pro-war mythology, because Harry’s reasoning makes many of the simplistic assertions about the nexus between Osama and Saddam that Scott’s piece has already deconstructed; and also Hamish Tweedy’s response to it in Always willing, we’re off to war again, because it challenges and amplifies Scott’s reasoning to good effect.

My position on WMD is that the pro-invasion lobby still has its work cut out to explain why a Saddam threatened by imminent oblivion will be less, not more, inclined to unleash chemical and biological weapons, and/or ‘hand them off’ to any opportunistic takers, under chaotic cover of the fog of invasion, in a final act of defiance. There are three core possibilities with the WMD line of argument:

A) We know accurately enough what Saddam’s got and where he’s hiding it, and it’s extremely scary and a genuine immediate threat. If this is so, presumably we will seek to neutralise at least Saddam’s delivery capacity as a pre-invasion or very early tactical priority – perhaps using special force and/or aerial attacks. If this is the case, why not just do this in isolation – as did Israel against Iraqi nuclear facilities in the eighties – and better avoid the potential by-product of a pan-Islamic, ‘anti-West’ polarisation that might arise from a full-scale invasion?

B) We’re sure he’s got some dangerous capacity but don’t know what or where, and we’re hoping that some time down the track, our invading ground forces will squirrel the WMD out in their own good time. If this is the case, the invasion-as-WMD-threat-reduction becomes tenuous in the extreme, because the longer that time delay, the greater the motive and opportunity exists for Saddam’s last-gasp use/dissemination of them. Since the inspectors haven’t yet found much of what is ‘missing’, I’d very much like Harry or anyone else to explain exactly how the ‘regime change invasion = safe disarmament’ equation actually stands up to practical scrutiny.

C) The WMD threat has been knowingly hyped beyond its true credibility. If this is the case, Bush’s White House is playing very dangerous games with global security, and it should get back to hunting terrorists.

Harry also claims that North Korea is a different case, more akin to a Cold War MAD stand-off. Why? The claim is that Saddam does have (chemical and biological) WMD. However you look at it, the logic is not quite right here; if a doomed Saddam regime is capable of delivering VX (say) into a tactical sphere occupied by invading US-led forces, it very probably will, regardless of Bush’s ‘war crimes’ threat. In such a case, invading forces may be able to minimise their casualties, but the Iraqi population they’re supposedly there to liberate will not. Harry says we shouldn’t consider invading North Korea because of the MAD principle, but that we should invade Iraq despite it. Logic failure.

As with too many of their arguments to date, the pro-invasion lobby starts with the requisite aim of invading Iraq, and then works backwards, trying to fit the WMD arguments to that aim. To me, it seems palpably clear that, for a range of reasons, strategic ‘visionaries’ in the US Administration have judged that now is the time to establish a major, permanent and essentially autonomous presence in the Middle East. WMD, terrorism, Human Rights, oil, a ‘new century’ of Enlightenment Democracy forcibly ushered into the Middle East – the net merit of these and other arguments for this profound global shift is largely moot as it seems pretty clear that the current White House is determined to own Iraq come what may. There’s little Australia can do to sway her from that strategic aim or even demand that she properly articulate its merits if she doesn’t feel any need to. But for our country, even higher strategic interests like ANZUS and/or Australia’s aspirations to a future Free Trade Agreement with the US are an insufficient basis for our unquestioning support. At the very least, I think the US should be more honest with her allies about her true strategic aims. It’s post-S11; we’re all supposed to be grown-ups re Realpolitik.

The Devil in the Details

In addressing my operational questions, Harry generally displays exactly the lack of precision I was attacking. I asked eight practical questions about the invasion; he notes: “Jack asks a heap of questions that no one can easily answer. That’s the nature of it. I don’t know anything more than anyone else knows. I’m just a schmuck with a column in Web Diary.” Sorry, simply not good enough, Harry. You’re using that ‘schmuckish’ column to argue that our soldiers should invade Iraq; every Australian soldier, sailor and airman, and their families, has a right to more from you than ‘I don’t know anything more than anyone else knows’ on the nitty-gritty details. Try a little harder; alternatively, simply stop arguing for an invasion. This is not a time for pick-and-choose intellectual dilettantes, cyberspace or not.

To respond in depth to just one of Harry’s responses to my questions (to me the most important): I asked what the Rules of Engagement (ROE) would be, given that much of the Iraqi civilian population, including women and children, has now been armed and primed for defensive jihad. Harry answered: “I assume we will only find out the ROE afterwards. I am not sure what is meant either by a “formal distinction”. An armed individual who appears threatening to allied forces will be approached as such. I don’t know how else it could work, no matter how painful this reality may seem. Even civilian police forces act this way. Unpalatable but true.”

Not remotely good enough, Harry. I want to know before the first Australian soldier fires a single pre-emptive shot precisely what his ROE are, if for no other reason than to confirm that there are crystal-clear ROE. Rules of Engagement are not simply issued to give soldiers a rock-hard touchstone in combat situations; they play a critical part in stripping ambiguity, at all command levels, from the entire aim of the mission. Harry’s extra comments here about any ‘armed individual who appears threatening to allied forces’, and the glib comparison with policing, thoroughly miss the crucial point, which is that invading forces will not be assuming a tactically-defensive or even neutral role in response to an existing crisis, but pre-emptively initiating a series of aggressive assaults, with the higher aim of over-throwing a sovereign government and gaining control of an entire country by force. In the absence of a rigidly-limiting tactical ROE, that overall mission risks giving, by default, our soldiers carte blanche to regard every Iraqi with a pointy stick and a nasty leer as an ‘armed individual who appears threatening to allied forces’, if they ‘choose’ in the heat of the combat moment.

The urgent broader point here is that unlike any military operation either the US or Australia has conducted post-WW2, and regardless of the invasion lobby’s claims, in military terms this will be an unprovoked invasion. What that means is that the outcome of any subsequent military engagement will be solely the responsibility of the invading force. This is not Bosnia, it’s not East Timor, it’s not Afghanistan, and it’s not even the Falklands or Vietnam, for that matter; all these interventions were preceded by enemy aggression in one form or another (in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s harbouring of the S11 attack grand architects).

This placed our soldiers firmly on the overall moral high ground, at least in the first instance, even in those cases (like Vietnam, or Somalia, or the Iran hostage-rescue mission) where the tactical outcomes were ultimately disastrous. This not-so-subtle distinction underscores the true military impact of the US strategic shift to ‘pre-emption’ (a term Burchill rightly identified as a misnomer), which is this: any action undertaken under its auspices that fails will automatically cast America (and her allies, and their soldiers) in the role of wrong-doer, since the moral justification for pre-emptive action can only come retrospectively, that is, via a successful outcome. In this sense, far from being a secondary issue, improved Human Rights in post-Saddam Iraq are the only measurable indicator of ‘success’. Right now, Saddam isn’t using WMD on the world. He hasn’t yet been shown to have supplied terrorists with them. The only manifest invasion achievement a US-Coalition will be able to present to the world will be better Human Rights there. The other justifications for it will, in the very best case, remain forever genuinely hypothetical.

What if, in achieving that best case outcome on those hypothetical justifications (terrorist/WMD nexus threat elimination), as an unfortunate by-product we cause great human misery in readily measurable terms – let’s say 30,000 Iraqis and 2,000 Coalition soldiers killed, 200,000 people made internal refugees, and 70 % of those who innocent Iraqis know damned well were responsible for gross HR-abuse getting off scot-free in the name of post-Saddam reconciliation. Against this, how can we ever possibly judge whether or not the invasion was truly justified? More pertinently, how can we ever convince the Iraqi population, and neighbouring Arab States, of that? (If, by the way, WMD are also used during the invasion, and by either side, we’ll make a sick mockery of our WMD hypothetical justification anyway).

We must keep in mind not merely that we can’t get half-way into this invasion and then simply say, Whoops, sorry’, if it starts to go wrong, but also that we haven’t remotely thought through what ‘half-way through’ the invasion even means. If Iran becomes involved in even an indirect way, perhaps we’ll eventually have to invade it too? Or if Kurdish terrorist/freedom groups like the PKK aren’t granted their independent State post-Saddam, maybe we’ll end up fighting them? And so on.

Hard-headed answers to this type of strategic/political question are critical, especially in the context of scant public support for invasion already. We shouldn’t be under any liberation delusions here, either: The majority of the populations in Iraq and just about every country bordering her, even some of those from which this invasion will be based, mistrusts and even hates America with a growing religious passion. ‘Friendly’ Turkey and Saudi Arabia are good cases in point. We must examine closely just how fat is the shit sandwich into which we’re about to bite. Correction: Harry and the pro-invasion lobby must do so. As yet, most seem to be content to ‘suck it and see’.

Still, for all the potential future complexities, Harry might still think the risk of ending up on the wrong side of history is one worth taking in view of the potential gains to be made. Again, it’s not good enough just to leave it there and hope for the best; in reality, it’s a risk that US-coalition soldiers, not the non-military pro-invasion lobby, will actually end up taking. Soldiers don’t set ROE; politicians do, or should. Consider this scenario:

Let’s say ten invading LAV-25s roll into an Iraqi town. A twenty-year old Iraqi hothead takes exception to his aged parents being frightened by all these foreign soldiers, and waves his AK-47 around a bit. Who exactly is threatening whom here? What would the young GI in the LAV-25 turret be doing himself if this was occurring in Baton Rouge, with roles reversed? How will that same GI see things five minutes later, if and/or when he is surveying thirty dead men, women and children from his LAV-25, because the ‘stupid’ Iraqi squeezed off a frantic round or two, and the US commander, rightly not wanting to endanger his own troops unnecessarily, had everyone open up, and the situation descended into a one-sided blood-bath? Is this self-defence? Is this a war crime? Is it just bad luck? And is it the Iraqi kid’s own stupid fault, really? What would you do, Harry? Surrender obediently to an invading soldier who has vowed to overthrow your government, however much you might (or might not) hate it yourself? It’s not as if the kid’s got anywhere else to go.

Regardless of the legal niceties, the GI will have to live with his actions forever, and uppermost in his mind will be the knowledge that his actions occurred in the context of a US invasion that even a great big wedge of his own countrymen simply didn’t support, not a ‘peace-keeping mission’, or a ‘defensive insertion’, or a ‘humanitarian aid project’.

Whatever transpires, the pro-invasion theorisers can and will chatter forever about the ‘what ifs’ of the WMD and ‘Axis of Evil’ arguments, but the GI himself may not be able to buy them forever, especially if the ‘quick, clean’ Iraq campaign turns into something larger and messier. Mostly, he’ll remember a village he drove up to in his APC, a stupid hothead who thought he was protecting his grandparents and didn’t wish to be ‘liberated’ by Americans, and the awful moment when it all got out of hand and he had to pull the 25 mil. trigger. These sorts of messy exchanges happen in every war, even during the liberation of Europe. BUT the GI there – and everywhere else since (to date) – was at least reasonably confident that he was on the right side of history. War is always hell, but any war that turns out to have been an unjust one can become a kind of personal moral damnation for every soldier who took part. The invasion of Iraq is not yet within cooee of being sufficiently argued, by our leaders, as being ‘just’. It won’t simply ‘become more just’ of its own accord as we go along, either. The process usually travels the other way as ugly reality bites.

The tactical situation I outline above, if not the outcome, is exactly what our soldiers are now contemplating, and Harry’s casual lack of interest in a critical matter like ROE is not good enough. Forgive me for being unkind, but I can’t help feeling that his not really wanting to discuss such ‘details’ beforehand is at least partly an unconscious way of leaving himself a convenient moral escape route for later, if such outcomes as that outlined above turn out to be more prevalent than the pro-invasion lobby is apparently expecting.

Maybe this is harsh and unfair, but when Harry says blithely, of the brutalities of military engagement, ‘unpalatable, but true’, I picture a young Australian soldier gunning down suicidal Iraqi ten-year-olds, impossibly caught in a militarily-disastrous, deeply-unpopular, extra-UN invasion that has long turned into a war against an entire hostile region, half a globe away from home.

The soldiers of the Israeli Defence Force, after fifty-odd years of corporate experience of walking the excruciating split-second decision line between aggression and restraint, and in exactly the kind of tactical circumstances we will face in Iraq, still get it wrong far more often than they would like. Why we Western novices think Iraq will be a relative walk in the park in terms of differentiating between dangerous military combatants and scared civilian non-combatants is beyond me.

So my questions are anything but ‘hypothetical’, Harry, and if you consider them ‘unanswerable’, then you have no business arguing for invasion. They are not advanced from of position of ‘knee-jerk anti-Americanism’, or ‘terror appeasement’, or ‘unworldly naivety’ (I wish), or bleeding-heart lefty soppiness. They are hard-headed queries about what it is we are about to ask our soldiers to do, and no-one has yet answered them satisfactorily.

The reason I, and others, are urgently posing them now is to try to force the pro-invasion lobbyists – you – to become un-hypothetical and highly answerable (in painstaking detail), rather than simply allowing the debate to jump straight from hypothetical to fait accompli, which this week’s deployment demonstrates is exactly the way we seem determined to head off to the first aggressive war in Australia’s history.

We are being taken for a ride thus far, and I will kick and scratch and scream all the way if I have to. Every Australian from the Prime Minister up owes our soldiers no less.

Yet I doubt now that we’ll see their bravery, professionalism and commitment treated with any such real respect by our leaders. By far the sickest part of all this is that the leading forces in the pro-invasion lobby – caricatures of ‘The Thoughtful Public Commentator’ like Greg Sheridan – are simply ignoring such questions of devilish detail, content in the knowledge that the second the first shot is fired, and no matter what happens next, even the most extreme anti-war activists – and I’m by no means one – in Australia will feel bound to back our soldiers personally to the hilt, anyway.

The grotesque patriotic blackmail that has been going on since September 11 – the repeated accusations of ‘appeasement’, the relentless ‘straw man’ tactics, the lying and misrepresentation from those many opportunists who now seem to regard S11 as the green light on a giggly neo-conservative race to see who can kick their Lefty bete noirs in the teeth most times per column – now threatens to split this country for years to come.

I still oppose Australian participation in a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq on many grounds, but most of all because our leaders refuse to sink their teeth properly into the real, practical problems that such an invasion will rush upon us. No-one has explained adequately yet why, if an invasion of Iraq wasn’t necessary in the early morning of September 11, 2001, it suddenly is now. Simply saying the ‘world has changed’, over and over again, is not good enough. This is especially true here in Australia, since, from long before S11 but now more than ever, our part of the world has had more than enough of its own human misery, terrorism, HR-abuse and instability for our soldiers to going on with – West Papua, East Timor, the Solomons, Indonesia, North Korea, and elsewhere.

Above all else, I’m bewildered at why the West seems so intent on playing into Osama bin Laden’s nasty hands, so naively, so soon, so completely. America appears to have fallen for his almighty ‘jihad con’ without question. As if Al-Qaeda – a gaggle of half-arsed bloody criminals – could ever have strategically ‘threatened’ Western Liberal Democracy on their own.

In truth what bin Laden really set out to do on S11 was polarise the world, and he’s rapidly pulling it off. A US-led invasion into the heart of the Middle East now will, far more likely than intimidating bin Laden’s remaining handful of globally-scattered supporters, have them cheering in satisfied glee, and saying, of what history might eventually come to assess as the mere opening skirmishes of the WTC and Pentagon attacks: “Mission accomplished, Osama. Now, let the real jihad begin at last.”

We need to be intellectually and morally as tough as nails. We need to hold our nerve and use our brains if we are to truly to hold the secular, liberal, democratic, post-Enlightenment Western defensive line. Mostly, we need to think through what could well be this next ‘one-way’ step far more thoroughly, lest we fall into a Clash of Civilisations by default.

Unfortunately, these days I get the distinct feeling that exactly that – all-out confrontation between ‘The West’ and ‘Islam’ – is exactly what too many people now crave. I hope I’m simply jumping at shadows again. No doubt we will soon find out.

Since Harry asked, I’ll outline my alternative to an Iraq invasion, from where we stand right now, next week. Not that there seems to be much point anymore.