Bring our troops home


Madness. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies.

OK, I’m convinced. Despite the fact that our troops are fighting this mad, bad war, Australians must protest for all they’re worth to bring our troops home and extricate Australia from this American imperial crusade before it’s too late.

Adele Horin’s article in Saturday’s Herald made a compelling case for continuing, intensive protests to keep the Coalition honest in their conduct of this war.

But there’s a broader issue. Australia is at grave risk. This should never have been our war. We would have been obliged to participate if the UN sanctioned this war for the sake of our alliance with the US, but without that we should have done a Canada and stayed out of it. Australia is an innocent abroad in the Middle East. Unlike Britain, we have never been a colonial power. Unlike the US, we have never propped up evil regimes like Saddam’s. We must get out, as soon as possible.

It’s clear we’ve been lied to by Bush and by Howard, both about this war’s purpose, and its risks. The blind arrogance of Bush and his mates is beyond belief. Bush is in the process of uniting Arab peoples around the world by turning Saddam, of all people, into a martyr for Islam. And the war on terrorism? What chance help from Indonesia, Pakistan and the rest now that their peoples are on the march.

I realised Bush was mad when his army chiefs starting calling suicide bombers and guerilla fighters “terrorists”. For God sake, it’s their country, and they’re facing overwhelming force! The US is INVADING Iraq, to take it over – their bodies are in some cases the only effective weapon they’ve got.

It’s so obvious that what Bush is doing will case an arms race, not reduce it. No country can hope to beat the Yanks off with conventional weapons – they’ve got air, sea and land completely covered. The only recourse is chemical, biological and nuclear weapons (the Yanks used them in Vietnam, and have not ruled out using them in this war). It’s all there is that can deter a rampaging rogue superpower which has trashed international law and international institutions to get its own way.

(Margo, April 1: Several readers have pointed out that my turn of phrase is loose here, to say the least. I did not mean to allege that the Americans used nuclear weapons in Vietnam. My apologies. They used chemical weapons in Vietnam – Agent Orange. The Americans have denied reports from embedded journalists that they are using napalm in this war. The Americans have consistently refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Iraq – the latest example was at the press conference of Bush and Blair post war summit. The Americans used depleted uranium in the first Gulf War, and have not ruled out using it in this one. The Americans are also investigating developing small nuclear weapons for use in war.)

And as I’ve said before, if Australia is attacked, it’s no longer terrorism. We have invaded Iraq. Iraq, or its new allies, have every right to attack back. Again, they haven’t got the weapons and systems to launch a conventional attack, so why wouldn’t they use unconventional methods? Because they would kill civilians? We’re doing that right now in Iraq.

There is no comfort at all in knowing that Bush, Blair and Howard knew exactly what risks they were taking and have no excuses. The top level intelligence leaks, the warnings from former top defence brass, the foreign affairs warnings, all were to no avail. What role did Australia play in this misconceived plan of attack? Why did Howard ignore his intelligence advice that this war would increase, not reduce, the risk of terrorism? Why did he deny that the threat to world stability posed by this conflict was far worse than Saddam – head of a third world, internationally isolated, obsessively monitored regime?

In Tony Blair: The whole world’s in his hands I published a Jane’s Defence Weekly analysis of March 5 of the disquiet in the British and American intelligence community about what was going on. An extract:

While Bush administration officials deride opposition to a war against Iraq as the usual “peacenik” reflex, Jane Defence Weekly sources say that dissenting views are now also coming from those who have traditionally supported military action.

…The fundamental questions of why now, and why Iraq, have not been adequately answered, intelligence, military and legislative sources in Washington told JDW. Sources said that the Bush administration’s changing arguments for military action appear to confirm that none of them is sufficient to justify the use of military force.

One congressional source said that the arguments in favour of a war increasingly seem to be a “smokescreen” to hide the real reasons the administration is set on war.

Indeed, both the US and UK intelligence information supposedly justifying a war with Iraq raise serious questions. “[Chief of the UN weapons inspectors Hans] Blix’s criticism pokes holes in [US Secretary of State Colin] Powell’s intelligence,” said Joseph Cirincione, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “And the UK’s intelligence dossier was shown to be a complete fraud.”

A US military source said that Bush and his inner circle seem to be suffering from what is known in the Department of Defence as incestuous amplification. This is a condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation. An illustration of this was Bush’s address to the American Enterprise Institute – a right-wing think tank in Washington – last Wednesday on why military action was required.

Today John Bennett sent me “Once more into the swap” by The Toronto Sun’s contributing foreign editor Eric Margolis, which includes this chilling summary of the bloindness of the madmen in America:

The immediate uprisings against Great Satan Saddam, the quick, almost effortless “liberation” of Iraq, and the joyous reception by grateful Iraqis promised by the neo-conservatives who misled America into this increasingly ugly war have been exposed as a farrago of lies or distortions.

…The CIA and many American generals warned for months that: a) there might be no mass uprisings against Saddam’s regime; b) over-extended U.S. communications would be vulnerable; c) the invasion force lacked sufficient ground troops to conquer Iraq; d) Turkey’s refusal to admit the U.S. 4th Mechanized Division would wrong-foot the campaign.

In his eagerness for war, President George Bush ignored these warnings. So did the civilian neo-con war hawks running his administration, few of whom, save Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, had ever served in their nation’s armed forces.

We’ve been lied to. Howard has lied to us – witness his dismissal of ONA defector Andrew Wilke, who warned that this war had nothing whatsoever to do with WMDs and would increase the risk of terrorism, not reduce it.

Howard has already proved himself a failure as a war time leader. Instead of trying to pull the country together, he has played his standard wedge politics game – thus further enraging the opponents of war. WebdiaristChris Munson sums up his latest disgusting trick:

“I notice that John Howard is using his saddening tactic of drawing a false conclusion, and then presenting lots of awesome facts to defend it. Last week it was something like: “I would like to say to those pacifists who declare that the war should have been over by now ….. should take a reality check and be aware that …”

Well, just like the other great lies of John Howard, I know of no-one who has ever said that. This is the same tactic as “if you are against the war you are against our troops” and “If you believe in giving Saddam and the weapons inspectors more time, then you are participating in the destruction of ANZUS, NATO, the UN and bringing forward the end of the universe”.

This tactic is sickening, but it was seemingly successful in the kids overboard and Tampa. So much so that in Canberra only one solitary liberal voice uttered words of concern about our participating in the US/UK/Aust “Axis of 3” That solitary politician said simply that he had concerns about it.

This does not bode well for Australia, for our future Prime Minister was silent, as were the other 40 or more liberal politicians who must also have had concerns. In the face of deputy sheriff John, they all were silent!

Where is Paul Keating now – we need him!

The reality is the opposite, of course. As a Webdiarist wrote recently, it is the pacifists in this debate who were the realists, not the warmongers. It is the American madmen who promised a quick war. Former Webdiarist Tim Dunlop is tracking the lies, and the new spin, on his wonderful weblog The road to surfdom. He writes:

There is a big conservative campaign going at the moment to rewrite history and pretend that they, the officials who launched this war, have told us from the beginning that it would take a long time. The fact is, it is the antiwar types who have warned that this might drag on, not hawks like Howard. The notion of sacrifice and difficulty has been notably absent from most of the President’s public script-reading.

The fact is the pro-war commentary, from the blogs through to the Whitehouse, was filled with endless reassurances that this would be a quick, clean war, in and out like a flash, with the Iraqi people falling at our feet. To pretend now that this is something they warned us about all along is patent nonsense; or if you prefer, par-for-the-course lying. Where they have dealt with the scenario that it mightn’t be that quick and easy, they have played it down, mentioned it as an afterthought, and always preceded it with the rosier, “most likely” option.

Listen to Dick Cheney a mere few weeks ago:

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

Now, if we get into a significant battle in Baghdad, I think it would be under circumstances in which the security forces around Saddam Hussein, the special Republican Guard, and the special security organization, several thousand strong, that in effect are the close-in defenders of the regime, they might, in fact, try to put up such a struggle. I think the regular army will not. My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely as well to want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces, and are likely to step aside.

Now, I can’t say with certainty that there will be no battle for Baghdad. We have to be prepared for that possibility. But, again, I don’t want to convey to the American people the idea that this is a cost-free operation. Nobody can say that. I do think there’s no doubt about the outcome. There’s no question about who is going to prevail if there is military action. And there’s no question but what it is going to be cheaper and less costly to do it now than it will be to wait a year or two years or three years until he’s developed even more deadly weapons, perhaps nuclear weapons. And the consequences then of having to deal with him would be far more costly than will be the circumstances today. Delay does not help.

Even at the launch of the war, there was not much attention payed to length and difficulty and again, it was played down. Bush said:

“Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures and we will accept no outcome but victory.”

The tone and emphasis now has shifted considerably, as Howard’s “reality check” comment shows. In fact, Howard’s comments directly contradict the President’s as Howard is claiming the moral highground by pointing out the fact that they are using “half-measures” to lessen civilian casualties.

The really stupid thing is that, by almost any standards, this war is going quite quickly and is relatively casualty free. It is still appalling, and the humanitarian disaster is probably in the not-too-distant future, but so far things could certainly have been worse.

As with everything else about this war, the official hawks and their spruikers in the public sphere have oversold and misled creating false expectations. And if you want to to prepare yourself for the next build-up and backdown, you need look no further than the promise that the US will get out of Iraq very quickly. Cheney again, same interview:

MR. RUSSERT: The army’s top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. We need, obviously, a large force and weve deployed a large force. To prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement.

How long before “we” are asked to take another “reality check”?

Labor has betrayed Australia by failing to force Howard to account for his proposed actions before he went to war. It is still betraying Australia by not holding him to account for what he’s done. Crean has failed, utterly. A decent ALP would get rid of him and agree on a successor to take over immediately. The ALP has been cowed by Howard’s political ascendancy. This must stop now.

With the world at “tipping point”, some strands have begun to develop in your emails. There’s the state of the war on the ground, the global strategic earthquake, the propaganda war, the politics of the war in Australia, and the protest movement. From now on I’ll publish Webdiaries on each of these strands, like I did after the Tampa.

Tonight, lots of recommendations, and contributions from Esselle Nattom, Peter Ryan, Paul Walter, Oscar J and David Palmer.


Tim Gillin in Sydney: Your recent discussion on globalisation and the war (America’s war a threat to globalisation) may have its parallel in the “family feud” between two brothers, none other than the pro-war left winger Christopher Hitchens and anti-war right winger Peter Hitchens. Peter outlines his feelings about the Iraq war at spectator and femail. Chris outlines his views at opendemocracy and slate. Peter of course had his last public dust up with Chris over the Abolition of Britain. What’s the core of their disagreement? Peter believes in good institutions. Chris believes in good ideas. Peter has the best ideas.

Earl Mardle in Sydney: Go here for a closer look at the company we keep in GWII: A Coalition of Weakness. It begins:

As U.S. officials look for political cover after losing the drive for a second UN Security Council resolution, the recently renamed “Coalition to Disarm Iraq” is the Bush administration’s only opportunity to salvage a semblance of international legitimacy for war. A closer look at the countries involved reveals that claims to multilateral action in the name of democracy are grossly exaggerated. In reality, the U.S. is isolated internationally, and a few of the countries signing on to “liberate” Iraq have human rights records that rival Saddam Hussein’s.

For what when wrong in getting Turkey onside, Scott Burchill recommends Diplomatic Missteps With Turkey Prove Costly in the Washington Post.

Clem Colman: “The amount of information out there to absorb is simply staggering. One very interesting one (like you need another URL right?) is whatreallyhappened which is mainly a list of links to mainstream media stories where the editors read something between the lines.

Aslam Javed: Please visit aljazeerah for a perspective on the suicide bomber who killed four American soldiers.

Tony Kevin recommends former UK Cabinet Minister Robin Cook’s piece in the Sunday Mirror demanding Britain bring its troops home. “It is 100% relevant to the present situation of our Australian servicemen and women in Iraq – except that we have not yet taken service casualties as the UK forces have. Things are soon going to get very much much worse in Iraq. The seige of Baghdad is set within days to become a major humanitarian disaster. Australia – regardless of our own rules of engagement – will share complicity for the coming great crimes against humanity that will undoubtedly be carried out by the invasion coalition of which we are a part. How are we going to get our Australian Defence Forces (and our nation) out of this tragic and shameful mess that John Howard has unnecessarily embroiled us all in? Is there any way the opposition majority in the Senate could trigger an election on this issue, as a national emergency? The time for creative political thinking is now.” See Bring our lads home: Let’s send Rumsfeld and his hawks to war instead. It begins:

This was meant to be a quick, easy war. Shortly before I resigned a Cabinet colleague told me not to worry about the political fall-out. The war would be finished long before polling day for the May local elections.

I just hope those who expected a quick victory are proved right. I have already had my fill of this bloody and unnecessary war. I want our troops home and I want them home before more of them are killed.

…We were told Saddam’s troops would surrender. A few days before the war Vice-President Dick Cheney predicted that the Republican Guard would lay down their weapons. We were told that the local population would welcome their invaders as liberators. Paul Wolfowitz, No.2 at the Pentagon, promised that our tanks would be greeted “with an explosion of joy and relief”.

… Having marched us up this cul-de-sac, Donald Rumsfeld has now come up with a new tactic. Instead of going into Baghdad we should sit down outside it until Saddam surrenders. There is no more brutal form of warfare than a siege. People go hungry. The water and power to provide the sinews of a city snap. Children die.

… Washington got it wrong over the ease with which the war could be won. Washington could be just as wrong about the difficulty of running Iraq when the fighting stops. Already there are real differences between Britain and America over how to run post-war Iraq.

The dispute over the management of the port of Umm Qasr is a good example. British officers sensibly took the view that the best and the most popular solution would be to find local Iraqis who knew how to do it. Instead the US have appointed an American company to take over the Iraqi asset. And guess what? Stevedore Services of America who got the contract have a chairman known for his donations to the Republican Party.

The argument between Blair and Bush over whether the UN will be in charge of the reconstruction of Iraq is about more than international legitimacy. It is about whether the Iraqi people can have confidence that their country is being run for the benefit of themselves or for the benefit of the US.

Ron Stodden in Melbourne reckons it’s about time Webdiary mentioned the Euro-$US theory on the reason for the war. See Ailing dollar strikes at euro in Iraq war, by Geoffrey Heard. An extract:

There are many things driving President Bush and his administration to invade Iraq, unseat Saddam Hussein and take over the country. But the biggest one is hidden and very, very simple. It is about the currency used to trade oil and consequently, who will dominate the world economically, in the foreseeable future – the USA or the European Union.

Iraq is a European Union beachhead in that confrontation. America had a monopoly on the oil trade, with the US dollar being the fiat currency, but Iraq broke ranks in 1999, started to trade oil in the EU’s euros, and profited. If America invades Iraq and takes over, it will hurl the EU and its euro back into the sea and make America’s position as the dominant economic power in the world all but impregnable.

It is the biggest grab for world power in modern times.

America’s allies in the invasion, Britain and Australia, are betting America will win and that they will get some trickle-down benefits for jumping on to the US bandwagon.

France and Germany are the spearhead of the European force — Russia would like to go European but possibly can still be bought off.

Presumably, China would like to see the Europeans build a share of international trade currency ownership at this point while it continues to grow its international trading presence to the point where it, too, can share the leadership rewards.

Peter Nusa: “Hi Margo. I follow your web diary every day.Thought you or your other readers might be interested in this BBC report, Up close with Naji Sabri, where “Mark Doyle describes his hotel lobby encounters with Iraq’s foreign minister and hopes he is not killed”.

Amiel Rosario: “Hey there! Remember me? I was a regular back in the Tampa days. Anyway, I’m pro this War – for many reasons – but I write to share with you some links. Are you into International Affairs, check out crisisweb. Keep an eye on some freebie articles/news stories from some of the best schools in the world like the Kennedy School of Government; the Woodrow Wilson School and the Fletcher School. And if you haven’t already subscribed, do so now with Australia’s wonderful new publication The Diplomat. Also see foreignpolicy. The current issue has some interesting articles like ‘An Unnecessary War’, “Think Again: Attacking Iraq’ as well as a debate between Richard Perle and Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Also see The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Iraq War site, and in particular “Contested Case: Do the Facts Justify the Case for War in Iraq? which suggests that there is a lack of evidence and thus that the entire war is suspect. See also ‘Impact of War on Iraq’ from Eldis. Whatever you do, don’t read CNN!!


Esselle Hattom (Australian Representative) Iraqi Prospect Organisation, (an organisation that seeks the implementaion of a secular and proportional democracy in Iraq.

To begin, I was born in Baghdad in 1972. I have many vivid memories of the childhood I spent in Iraq: my grandmother making bread for us in her backyard Tannur on Friday mornings whilst my uncles go to the markets and bring us Kahee, puff pastry inundated in liquid caramel and thick cream; the bombing of Baghdad in 1981 by over 100 Iranian jets and how that, at the age of 8, made me understand how deep fear can run in the human soul; the constant chatter about world politics while I lay my head on my mother’s lap. Most of all, however, I remember the smell of Iraqs mud. It is the only smell I have experienced that I can describe as history running its voluminous pages into the olfactory sense.

I try very hard to imagine the smell every now and then but it is seeping away. I often wonder about the fusion of events in Iraqs history, the most ancient history, the sine qua non of civilisations, that must have bled into that single scent. Was it the smell of a decomposed timber from one of Sergon the Akkadian’s chariot wheels which he used to conquer Sumeria? Was it Gilgamesh’s lion skin melted into dust by time and brought grain by grain by the feet of Sinbad’s sailors as they came to Baghdad with riches and tall stories from the east? Was it the remnants of a tablet from Ashurbanipal’s library that explained how time is measured or how a certain illness is cured or how the deities fought to protect man from Namtar’s bag of diseases unleashed against Ishtar or the birth of mathematics, accounting, astronomy, irrigation, literature, laws, government, writing, or education?

Recollecting the aroma makes me think about the 6,000 years of wars and I wonder how much blood must be in the mud given the incalculable armies that have hemorrhaged their way into obscurity upon it. I am quite certain that the soldiers throughout Iraqs history fought for mere land and prosperity and I am sure that their leaders often invented outrageous reasons for why the enemy was bad and why the enemy must die. The richness of the mud’s fragrance dissuades me from believing that their lies broke anything of substance in the Iraqi spirit.

The Arabs are big on history. I have often felt that they emphasised their own past glories far too much and at the expense of the present, which is dismal, and the future, which may still be so. But having immersed my intellectual nose into my own colossal past, as an Iraqi, it seems to me that the very strength of Iraq’s incomparable history is what runs like fire ants through the veins of its people. There is a strength, a will, a resilience, that emanates from the depths of the Iraqi soul where it confronts fear and subdues it.

The people of Iraq shall prevail and the scent of mud that shall greet me once again when I am back in Baghdad once the tyrant is torn to pieces with the teeth of those he oppressed for decades, shall smell all the richer, from the years we have been apart and with the tears with which I will wet it.


Peter Ryan

Maybe this war is the beginning of a people’s world government (Denial virus alert: It’s alarming) or, as one guest on Philip Adam’s Late Night Live suggested, a world government without people. The later would, initially, seem more likely. Governments so far have heeded only the not so distant voices of of the corporate world rather than the ‘economic units’, the potential consumer. The consumer as an opportunity for wealth production will more or less maintain itself given the right conditions. The opportunity for being strategically placed to capture (invade) and expand that consumer base happens infrequently.

The conditions for such expansion are a world stage upon which leading actors (spin doctors, politicians etc) employ the instrument of language as an opportunity to represent and construct a particular type of reality. Iraq is such a stage and is constituted replete with an ‘evil other’, a mass of ‘undifferentiated ignorant others’ and those fearful of those ‘others’. The economy of the language to date proves meaningful. I feel I am ‘Waiting For Godot’.


Paul Walter in Adelaide

Good to see you are last allowing the big secret re “denial’ out of the bag ( Denial virus alert: It’s alarming)

As some one who had to live through all this sort of denial nonsense during the Vietnam effort, as a young bloke growing up, I can’t express how disappointed I am to be watching this particular replay. What else can you expect? These people (the Yanks, Howard and the like, read about “War between Civilisations” rather than, say, Edward Said and his calls for an attempt to understand the position of “The Other”. Vietnam all over again.

It might not prove as expensive these time around, but it sure reveals how well the hardy underlying pathology is despite all the events of the last several decades.And given the damage Vietnam did, that ought to be REALLY worrying.


Oscar J.

Thanks for the Webdairy – lots of interesting reading and views about the war. I’ll state up front that I’m opposed to it, but I just wanted to raise a couple of things from Webdiary contributions in Australia’s war.

1) From Bill O’Mara: “I do not consider myself a racist but suggest part of our problem is that we have allowed people from the Middle East to live in Australia. Multiculturalism is okay when we all have similar values…but we don’t.”

Ahh Bill, you may not consider yourself a racist but your words betray your real beliefs. Sorry mate, I just can’t see any other way that “I’m not a racist but we shouldnt let people from the middle east live in Australia” can be construed. You may also be off the mark on your understanding of Multiculturalism too. I think the idea is to have a blend of cultures/values… so that we aren’t all the same. I think that’s the Multi part of it. Loved the use of the “Un – Australian” term though. Many of us would have thought that becoming an aggressor in a war

of questionable (at best!) motives was Un Australian too. (NB – UnAustralian is one of John Howards favourite tag lines, along with “Mateship” and “Fair Dinkum”.. I love them too… fantastic stuff!)

2) from K Pham: “My stance on the war is of support. What must be done should be done now. If some people believe so strongly in it, most notably Tony Blair, then there must be enough reason for it… There will always be militants, fundamentalists and terrorists who believe strongly enough that our way of life is wrong and are willing to tear it down through violence and anarchy.”

So basically, what you are saying is that you are support the war because if some people, especially Tony Blair, believe strongly in it, there must be enough reason for it to happen (oh yes, lets use violence!) and then go on to say that militants, fundamentalists and terrorists also believe strongly in their cause (ie our demise, using violence). So using your logic, I guess there is reason enough for their activities as well, simply on the premise that they believe strongly in it. Sorry, I think that you’ll have to do better than someone believing strongly in something to justify it being “right”. I do agree that we would all like a swift end to the hostilities and as few casualties as possible though.


David Palmer in Adelaide

Do you recall the email I sent you about 2 weeks ago re the intelligence view of the length of the war? Why is everyone so surprised that it isn’t “two weeks” – once the Turks stopped the northern front it should have been obvious to anyone that there was no chance of this happening. Furthermore, anyone who knows the history of bombing campaigns in the 20th century knows that bombing urban areas only strengthens resolve – Vietnam being perhaps the best example. The one exception is the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – where everything and everyone within the epicentre were destroyed – plus Japan had wanted to surrender a few weeks before anyway.

As for Ehud Barak’s prediction of “9 weeks” – yes in terms of the immediate war against Saddam, but no in terms of occupation. This war will basically continue until the US is forced to leave. I have no doubt that a new leadership will emerge advocating independence – probably anti-Saddam, but definitely anti-US and anti-British.

Why is it that commentators forget that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and controlled all cities initially – only to be defeated within a decade? And we have British soldiers already saying that the situation reminds them of Northern Ireland. It is amazing that the US military does not comprehend this – as if they haven’t read any history. Comments from these people are virtual quotes from US propaganda during the Vietnam War – “progress”, “light at the end of the tunnel”, and so on.

One prediction that I really hope never happens. If the US decides to bomb the North Korean nuclear weapons facility, it is most likely that the North Koreans will launch a massive attack into the south in retaliation with their army of one million men. The US military believed that had such an attack occurred in 1993 that within a month some 200,000 people would be killed including thousands of US servicemen. This time I think there is no question that the Chinese will immediately attack Taiwan and occupy it – and there will be nothing the US can do short of launching a nuclear war against China. We can expect Northeast Asia’s economy to collapse – and the US to be unable to cope with the situation militarily. Ironically, there will be no threat to Australia (except from nuclear fallout), given that we are in the Southern hemisphere – and really not perceived as “the enemy” by North Korea (despite the rhetoric). Don’t forget – Australia and North Korea have diplomatic relations – unlike either the US or Japan.

Those who support the current invasion of Iraq by the US should consider that North Korea is next on the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld agenda. The consequences are not even worth considering. John Howard has no idea of the possible outcome of his current position, nor has he really thought about the possibility of this eternal “war on terrorism” reaching this level, which it may.

Our one hope is that Bush will be soundly defeated in 2002, given that the US economy will soon go into deep recession, and the Howard too will be gone (along with his government).

We really have no choice – we must become completely independent of the United States militarily – including an end to the ANZUS Treaty, an end to US bases in Australia, and return of Australian troops, ships, and planes to this region. I will be advocating this policy change in forums this weekend: Saturday at Adelaide University (teaching sponsored by Student Association and Resistance); and Sunday at a forum including other academics sponsored by the Democrats.

Denial virus alert: It’s alarming


The Fox v The Fox. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies.

G’day. The whole world is watching this war. For the first time, we get propaganda from both sides, and we become the judge of what is true or false. This is an extraordinary development in warfare, and one creating tremendous accountability pressure, particularly on the Americans. Is this the beginning of world government by the people?

The people’s opinion has already had an enormous impact, by empowering France and Germany to say no and forcing Turkey, Mexico, Chile and others not to say yes. Now the US is being watched by a skeptical world holding it accountable to its rhetoric of liberation.

In my view, the embedding policy is proving a disaster for the Allies. We see the realities of war – the sheer hell of it – stripped of the language of war designed to turn it into an abstract, heroic game. The Herald’s page one photo today says it all. In orange hell, an allied soldier tends to an injured Iraqi. Both are tragic figures. Both are symbols of the failure of their leaders.

Not only that, the field commanders are telling the journos the truth, and the journos can see the truth, in part, for themselves. How can the bosses say the war is going to plan when the soldiers on the ground say they were profoundly misled about the resistance to expect, when American soldiers talk of Vietnam, and the Brits of Northern Ireland.

And how could it not be so? The US and Saddam have been dancing with each other for decades now, first as parties in crime, now in a dance of death. They are joint oppressors of the Iraqi people. It used to be the Brits, first the colonial rulers, then the knowing suppliers of WMDs for money, eyes tight closed to what Saddam was doing with them to massacre his own people. The Iraqi people may be about to take their revenge on all three of their oppressors. And John Howard has put poor little innocent Australia in the middle of the apocalypse.

This 24 hour war, where the public knows both sides are without moral integrity, puts the focus squarely on journalistic ethics. How do they adjust to war? You can feel the tension just watching the Qatar briefings by the US military, as US journos focus on news of casualties, French, German, Chinese and Canadian on the problems with and ethics of the war. Each has the perspective of their country in mind, and the world is split on this war. al-Jazeera journos are under pressure for showing images which humiliate allied soldiers, and are now banned from the New York stock exchange.

This war is a watershed for the role of the journalist, as well as the role of the public. Traditionally, the public is hostage to their country’s propaganda machine, backed by a home media getting behind the war effort. But when public opinion is so split even in allied countries, so the media splits. And when the allies are fighting a war most of the world believes is illegal with overwhelming firepower the Iraqis can’t hope to match, scrutiny becomes almost intolerable, and the allies’ moral case and railing against the tactics of an enemy impossible to credit, almost pathetic.

My feeling at the moment is that all this is greatly improving the truthfulness of both the Iraqi and American war machines. Each wants to get the credibility edge over the other. And don’t think the media has become all powerful here either. The availability of alternative news and views means mainstream media is under unprecedented scrutiny from the people too. The media groups which keep their credibility intact or nearly intact during this war will be big winners with the public after it.

On Wednesday night on Lateline I saw a compelling interview with the former leader of Israel Ehud Barak, an experienced general. He said the unprecedented 24 hours coverage of the war from all sides of the conflict, particularly the reports from embedded troops, was actually affecting how the war was being fought:

“It’s quite normal when you move a quarter of a million of soldiers that you lose several helicopters in crashes and some soldiers are taken prisoners and some lose their lives as well as enemy with soldiers and equipment is lost. It’s part of any war. The only new thing is that this war is covered continuously, like the Truman Show, kind of, appearance and the whole world is watching and every platoon that surrenders becomes a global headline.”

“I know from my experience as a prime minister how complicated it is to keep the expectation of a public in regard to something that is going to happen within a zone of proper expectation. It’s not easy and your need in the media to produce new headlines every two hours makes it even more complicated.”

Today, Jack Robertson’s first Meeja Watch on the war. For relief from the madness, sort of, Polly Bush’s column is how the war is affecting AFL etiquette: No no war in footie, please.


Meeja Watch war

by Jack Robertson

Two views of the war from the Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 2003

1. War is going ‘extremely well’, says Howard

The war against Iraq was going extremely well, Prime Minister John Howard said today. Mr Howard, in his first press conference on the war in several days, said people who believed the war would have been won in a few days misunderstood the nature of armed conflict. “I believe in all the circumstances (it is) going extremely well,” he told reporters. “To those who are suggesting that because it hasn’t in effect resulted in complete victory in the space of a week, I suggest they take a reality check and understand a number of things.”

Mr Howard said one of the reasons the war had gone a little slower than anticipated was because of the way the coalition of the willing was trying to minimise civilian deaths. “The ethical way in which the coalition is conducting this campaign is in stark contrast with the absolute disregard for human life which has been a hallmark of the Iraqi regime,” he said.

2. Nightmare of telling friend from foe

Sergeant Tony Menendez spent the past three days in the Iraqi desert fighting a hit-and-run battle that left hundreds of Iraqis dead and resulted in no US casualties. Menendez, back in camp for his first shower in days, wasn’t boastful. He was sad. “Their technology is sad, so outdated,” said Menendez, of Miami, an Abrams tank gunner. “I saw their faces, and I felt so bad for them.”

Menendez and others of the 3rd Infantry Division who have been struggling for control of An Najaf, about 130 km south of Baghdad, have battled against Iraqi fighters with AK-47s, grenade launchers, anti-tank rockets and mortars as well as 30-year-old Russian built tanks. The Americans lost four tanks in the three day battle, two apparently to laser-guided Russian made, anti-tank missiles. Two others ran off bridges into canals during sandstorms.

But what strikes the US soldiers most is that Iraqis come to battle often in civilian clothes packed in pickup trucks, cargo trucks, taxis and buses with velvet curtains. “The Iraqis took it bad. It was suicide,” said Private 1st Class Jonathan Simatos of Los Angeles, who drives a Bradley fighting vehicle. Similar scenes are unfolding throughout southern and central Iraq with poorly equipped Iraqis, most lacking uniforms, being militarily routed by superior American forces. The Iraqis are not members of the regular army but are Fedayeen, irregular militia members loyal to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Because so many Iraqi fighters lack uniforms and arms and, in some cases, even shoes, American soldiers are having difficulty telling civilians from combatants – and friend from foe. Fear of civilians and concerns about where their loyalties lie was palpable throughout the field yesterday.

The rules of engagement were clear: Don’t shoot anyone who isn’t armed; if they are armed, shoot them. “We’re looking for black flags, black uniforms and people with weapons,” one commander told his troops.

160 km away along Highway seven busloads of civilian-garbed, poorly armed, and sometimes shoeless Iraqis have driven directly at American convoys. The outcome is always the same: US forces pour rounds from Humvee-mounted .50-caliber machine guns into the buses. Most onboard die. The rest are taken prisoner. Southeast of Najaf, soldiers guarding an ammunition and fuel depot were wary of Iraqi civilians as well. Seemingly civilian vehicles – white vans – have actually been armed with rocket-propelled grenades.

But [such tactics have] sown some confusion among American soldiers about who to trust – and made it difficult to win the hearts and minds of Iraqi civilians. At one point yesterday in the sweep outside Najaf, soldiers rounded up 48 civilian villagers, forcing the men to lie face down in the sand and, in a violation of Islamic custom, patting down the women. No weapons were found on those civilians. “This is about the oddest situation I’ve ever been through in my life,” said Private 1st Class Matthew Pedone, 19, of Springdale, Arkansas, as he cradled a light machine gun across one knee. “Just look at the primitive living conditions. Some of them don’t have shoes.” When asked if he believed the villagers were Iraqi militia who had fired mortars, Pedone said he was unsure. “I don’t know,” he said. “Intel said it was a training camp or something. I’m just doing what I’m told to do. If the leadership tells me to check them for weapons, I do it.”



AAP, Friday: THE UNITED NATIONS SANITY COUNCIL HAS CONFIRMED that the virulent Denial Virus which swept the Anglosphere this week, leaving millions in the Coalition Of The Willing dangerously deluded and deteriorating into terminal adolescent insanity, was almost certainly the work of the fictional global terrorist ‘Dr Stupid’, brother of the slightly-more-notorious-but-equally-contrived ‘Dr Evil’.

Officials said the virus, which can attack the scepticism and irony systems in powerful or influential opinion leaders of both pro and anti-war sentiment, bore all the hallmarks of the most self-destructive of the many ‘Axis of Evil’ masterminds which had been self-created from thin, hot air by the West since September 11.

Speaking only-barely-on-the-record at the Oscars ceremony, Sanity Council spokesman Michael Moore said that the Denial Virus, which to date has infected only human beings but has never-the-less prompted several Gods to issue pre-emptive statements denying complicity in the fighting in Iraq, represents a serious escalation in the ‘War on Terror’, one that the UNSC has long feared.

“Every Anglospherian with a public platform, including many of us who are against this war, is living in an infected fictitional bubble right now, a McCluhanite Mass Meeja fantasyland which is now apparently resistant to any inoculating dose of raw, ugly truth at all. We’ve hit this sucker with reports from embedded war correspondents, we’ve tried live feeds from Bagdad under bombardment, we’ve lifted gruesome al-Jazeera footage and we’ve even tinkered with on-air ‘ethical dilemma assaults’ from temporarily-doubtful anchors who should have learned about the high cost of a self-deluding, self-excusing media way back in Vietnam. And yet all these high-profile Boomer cretins still haven’t grasped the ugly fact that launching an aggressive war of choice automatically puts an invading army on the wrong side of the ‘moral clarity’ equation when things start to turn messy in the field,” wailed a desperate Moore. He elicited what he later denied was anything other than unanimous applause from the gathering of Selfless Hollywood Geniuses, among them Best Actress winner Nicole Kidman, who in her acceptance speech also underscored how important it was for contemporary ‘Artists’ to deny the existence of the real world completely.

Quoting himself at admirable length, Moore went on:

“Not even my brilliantly iconoclastic books and documentaries seem to be smashing home the reality of the terrible mess the Anglosphere has now blundered into in Iraq. This Denial Virus is causing the most tenacious outbreak of wilful self-deception the world has seen since 1930s Germany. Such a weapon of mass delusion in the non-existent hands of a stateless rogue like Dr Stupid could ultimately lead to catastrophe for the gentle, democratic West.”

As the global denial crisis gathered momentum, Kofi Annan called for an immediate suspension of hostilities in Iraq, announcing that France, Germany and Russia would push next week for a new Sanity Council resolution incorporating a plan to disarm the world peacefully of the virus, although a spokesman for French President Jacques Chirac flatly denied that the resolution would need to include an automatic trigger for a resumption of military action in the event that Stupid himself failed to comply.

The spokesman said that the proposed new resolution as drafted was already “as unavoidable as the Maginot Line, as uncompromising as the Vichy Treaty, and as undeniable as the prosecution case against Dreyfuss.’ In a breaking development, however, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun denying rumours that a rift with France has already opened up, reportedly over joint Russo-German moves to add the phrase “and as ultimately successful as Napoleon Bonaparte” to the new resolution’s preamble.

US-Coalition leaders and neo-conservative commentators remained resolutely unmoved by both the new disarmament proposal and the Sanity Council warnings, denying that the Denial Virus had led to any change of Coalition military strategies in either the Liberation Of Terror or the War On Iraq. “We don’t deny that some isolated cases of serious denial of reality have occurred in the past – perhaps,” said Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer, arguing that while the pending legal action of key invasion strategist Richard Perle against journalist Seymour Hersch might be seen by some as a particularly illuminating case of denial, Perle’s shock resignation from the influential Defence Advisory Board today “clearly demonstrates that at least some harsh reality is finally dawning on this Administration”.

Fleischer continued, however, to deny other specific reports of denial among key Bush officials, including claims by White House reporters that Secretary of State Colin Powell had recently denied that he was considering resignation over his ‘diplomatic failure on Iraq’ – itself a charge Powell vigorously denies – and reports coming from Kuwait that General Tommy Franks was now denying any split with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over coalition force strength and disposition.

“It’s a war, and in any war situation, obviously you’re going to get rumours of delusion and denial being tossed all about,” said Fleischer, stressing that President Bush had always sought to embrace a frank and open policy on “the whole denial-of-worldly-reality issue”, and in fact “prayed every morning with John Ashcroft and Paul Wolfowitz for Divine Guidance” on the matter.

Fleischer also denied that the Bush Administration had ever argued that the Iraqi people would welcome the Coalition forces as ‘liberators’, repeatedly accusing White House journalists of “getting the titles of the two distinct security campaigns we’ve been running since S11 mixed up”.

He also vigorously denied that resentment, hostility, hatred and sustained violence directed by Iraqis at US, British and Australian forces operating in the Persian Gulf was at all representative of the “average Iraqi’s true feelings”.

“All these critics who are so eager to claim that angry mobs chanting anti-American slogans and shooting at GIs distributing food are somehow being anti-American are, quite frankly, simply knee-jerk anti-Americans in total denial of the reality of this situation,” he said.

“You have to keep these things in perspective. It’s a war. Of course you’re going to see some denial of America’s benevolence, from what I would call pro-regime elements of the Iraqi population, such as the grieving fathers of newly-dead kids, bombed-out market stall owners, and the southern Shi’ites Saddam tortured, raped and murdered during the 91 uprising. But it’s important to deny Saddam a propaganda victory by not blowing these isolated denials of reality out of perspective. What’s absolutely undeniable is that most Iraqis love us, and are deeply grateful for this invasion of their homeland. They love us to bits, and they understand that part of learning to love America to bits – a sad part, sure, an undeniably difficult part – is accepting that America may need to blow some of them to bits, first. OK, so some stubborn Iraqis may deny that subtle reality, but we strongly deny that individual denials of that nature constitute anything like a denial epidemic.”

The US Administration’s denial denials were echoed in London London even as Tony Blair emerged with Bush at Camp David from their first denial council since the invasion of Iraq was launched, to jointly deny that they both remained in self-denial about the magnitude of what they had started.

In the lead-up to the critical weekend, Blair’s Press Secretary Alistair Campbell had already moved behind the scenes to deny rumours that differences in British and American attitudes on post-Saddam reconstruction were already weakening the Coalition’s wartime unity. Leaking off-the-record denials via the Hustler letters page, Campbell made it undeniably clear to Westminster lobby hacks that however much the British Prime Minister’s denials of the harsh reality of in-theatre developments in Iraq might differ “in nuance, tone and focus” from those emerging from the White House, there remained a “fundamental, Trans-Atlantic denial accord”, and that “Britain and America would together persist, endure, persevere and prevail” in what was still “our broadly bipartisan bout of geo-political self-delusion, poised as we are together at this portentous turning point in the history of global democracy”.

International Development Minister Clare Short, in a Downing Street doorstop interview clearly authorised by Blair, was typically more blunt: “My ideas for the post-Saddam Iraq received a brilliant hearing from Richard Armitage in Washington earlier this week,” she said. “I am confident that Mr Bush’s Administration will not deny Britain or the UN a full and controlling involvement. You only have to consider the contractual processes to date; who can deny the transparency and fairness of the Halliburton oil-fire deals, for example?”

Short said that after her meeting with Armitage, her conscience remained “as clear as ever”, but played a dead bat to questions regarding speculation among Labour rebel backbenchers that if post-Saddam events proved her wrong, she would immediately not resign from the Cabinet again in protest. “I’m neither confirming nor denying that,” she said. “One must keep one’s powder dry.”

In Baghdad, which many proponents of the Iraq invasion have argued has links with Dr Stupid and other global terrorists, six Saddam Husseins again appeared on State Television denying any connection with the Denial Virus, or any other weapons of mass delusion. Reading from written statements, the Saddams declared that Iraq “has no need to make joint cause with Dr Stupid and his weapons of mass denial, for even though we would be proud to know this great anti-Western warrior, we Iraqis are capable of such tactics all on our own, praise Allah”.

Appearing relaxed and untroubled by the gun barrels behind their ears, the Saddams denied that they were dead or injured, claiming that they remained in full control despite “this illegal invasion and occupation by Imperialist Crusaders of Iraq’s rightful sovereign territory, such as Kuwait City”.

Several of the Saddams appealed to the international anti-war community to “take to the streets in protest again to stop this unlawful killing of innocent Iraqis, which is surely for us alone to do”. They repeatedly denied anew that the regime possessed any weapons of mass delusion, calling upon the UNSC to halt hostilities immediately so that the new French-draft resolution would give them “the opportunity to continue our denials of weapons of mass delusion peacefully”. If the UNSC failed to do this and allowed the Crusaders to enter Baghdad, the Saddams warned, they would unleash every weapon of mass delusion they had, in what they menacingly described as “the Mother of All Mass Denials”.

In Canberra, Prime Minister John Howard continued to deny that Australian had already irrevocably committed forces to the invasion of Iraq, but praised the “bravery, commitment, courage and skill of our soldiers, sailors and airmen” who, he told Parliament, had been singled out many times by Pentagon officials for their effectiveness in the fighting.

In a final fiery question time before Parliament rose, Howard also passionately denied that Australia would ever commit troops “in any way, shape or form” to what he dismissed as the “purely hypothetical” matter of any post-Saddam “Liberation Stabilisation Force” the US might establish, but told the House that his government would certainly commit troops to such a force once it ceased to be hypothetical, since it would then become his “passionate belief” that helping with the “heavy denying” would be in the national interest.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer denied that Australia’s non-involvement in the Coalition Of The Willing in Iraq would increase the terrorist threat faced by Australia, before advising Australian journalists in the north of Iraq that following the commencement of Coalition operations they were now being specifically targeted by Ansar al-Islam terrorists operating there, and that while as Australians they should always remain relaxed and comfortable, they should also now endeavour to become alert but not alarmed.

In other mass denial news, anti-war protesters in Sydney who threw rocks, marbles, chairs and themselves at police have heatedly denied that they are dangerous hypocrites, while NSW Police Minister Michael Costa has denied that police threats to take legal action denying a similar protest next week represents any denial of civil liberties.

Opponents of the invasion of Iraq who argued that “it is all about oil and US economic hegemony” are denying that America’s spiralling war costs are making them look pretty dumb in retrospect, broadsheet Op Ed commentators who took the doctrine of pre-emption or the Washington neo-cons seriously for a minute are rushing to deny they ever did, and the Federal ALP continues to deny that it is unelectable.

In etymological developments, ‘Peace’ once again denied that it was ‘War’ and ‘Liberation’ sought to distance itself from ‘Invasion’, while everyone in the gentle, democratic West desperately, desperately, desperately tried to deny the dawning truth: that this is a disaster for America, Britain, Australia, Iraq and the world, an act of unnecessary, tragic aggression, and a bitter betrayal of our soldiers by our politicians. God help us all in the months and years ahead.

Finally, pre-empting predictable outrage from various closet-Trekky warbloggers, Meeja Watch writer Jack Robertson coldly denied that writing stuff like this while American, British and Australians were killing and dying in Iraq was treachery, and recommended that each of them not waste any time calling him un-Australian or anti-American again, but instead try turning off their computer, heading down to the local recruitment centre, and translating their tiresome cyber-warmongering into a little real world action for a change.

Maybe one fine day in the long, bloody years ahead – if any of them make it through basic training, that is – they might finally, finally, finally grasp what it actually means to go to war in the real world. As are all the poor bastards they helped send off to Iraq right now.

America’s war a threat to globalisation

What is the link between globalisation and the war on Iraq? It’s central, and helps explain Tony Blair’s enigmatic position in a war that will reshape not only the world’s security framework but its economic order, writes former head of international equities at Bankers Trust, Christopher Selth.

Christopher Selth first contributed to Webdiary after September 11, when he argued that the catastrophe marked the end of “naive global capitalism” His essay today develops that theme in the light of the war on Iraq, and is compelling and deeply thought-provoking reading. It attempts to answer, in part, the intriguing question of where Tony Blair is in the crisis enveloping the world, and why. After reading Christopher, it’s worthwhile re-reading Blair’s first major speech after September 11, at Blair vision. I’ve republished two previous Webdiary pieces by Christopher after his essay.

If, as Christopher argues, globalisation forces are at odds with US unilateralism, where does that leave the anti-globalisation/peace movement? It leaves it with some hard thinking to do. As Blair said in his vision speech post September 11: “This is a moment to seize. The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us. Today, humankind has the science and technology to destroy itself or to provide prosperity to all. Yet science can’t make that choice for us. Only the moral power of a world acting as a community, can.”


America’s war on globalisation

by Christopher Selth

I appreciate the quality of so much that has appeared here in the Webdiary with regard to the Iraq disaster. In trying to understand the causes and the possible consequences of the current disaster, as Kim Beazley rightly describes it, I would like to consider an additional element which does not seem to have been much touched upon, the economics of globalisation. I find it amazing that this issue which so dominated debate prior to 9/11, and is still in many ways central to understanding the politics of the current situation, seems now so invisible. I think that it is with reference to these forces that the position of the most enigmatic figure in this crisis, Tony Blair, can be understood.

The objections of so many of us around the world to the war in Iraq have centred on two primary arguments.

Firstly, there is the question as to whether the disarmament of Saddam Hussein could be achieved without recourse to war. Increasing pressure through the auspices of the United Nations and the weapons inspection process might have achieved this outcome without risking the horrific loss of life implicit to war.

Secondly, there is the deep anger and suspicion inspired by the US and the coalition of the willing acting unilaterally, ignoring the protocols that form the basis of what we consider to be international law. These actions could fundamentally weaken structures that have been developed since the Second World War. Rising from this are a number of profound concerns:

1. It represents the effective declaration of an American Empire. We have lost sovereignty. This suggestion is not just some paranoid fantasy by critics from the left, inside and outside of the US. It is equally argued with a positive spin by neo-conservatives within the US.

2. There is a fundamental inconsistency between the breaking of international law to initiate a war and the western values that George W. argues he is claiming to defend. This suggests these values are in fact under attack within the West, not just be the terrorist threat, but by the neo conservative elements within the US administration and its allies. That attack can be seen not just within the war itself, but in the overturning of civil liberties and the manipulation of the media. Doubts grow as to whether the attack on those values is an unintended consequence, a necessary evil, or an explicit objective to control opposition.

3. These actions, rather than promoting global security, are likely to stimulate a global arms race, and promote terrorist activity. In a world where the US administration is suggesting the only real basis of security is might, other governments are going to have to get some muscle. The marginalised people of the earth are going to have to resort to terrorism to be heard, as they lose faith in institutions not backed by force.

Forgive me for repeating these arguments, but there is one question I find intriguing in them, intriguing by way of its absence. Whatever happened to globalisation?

I believe that alongside the moral outrage, part of the energy that has driven the peace movement derives from the same source as the anti-globalisation protest movement. There is a strong sense around the world, by the man on the street, that the structure of our daily lives has been shaped by forces outside of the control of our communities. And then we got September 11.

To a cynic it would seem hardly surprising that “the terrorist threat”, a “law and order” issue, has been used by politicians of any persuasion to sidetrack the globalisation debate and the electoral damage of a weakening economy. I in no way want to downplay the significance of the tragic loss of life in New York, Washington, Bali, or in Palestine and Israel for that matter, but there is little doubt that times like these are ripe for political exploitation.

With the war on Iraq, US unilateralism, and the much publicised manifesto of the “Project for a New American Century”, however, the fears that were latent in the anti-globalisation protests appear to have crystallised.

Yet they have crystallised in an extraordinary and perverse way. What has transpired in the diplomatic lead up to the Iraqi War has run significantly counter to what was the suggested by proponents of the globalisation juggernaut.

I quote from last weeks edition of US business magazine Business Week:

Chief executives are beginning to worry that globalization may not be compatible with a foreign policy of unilateral pre-emption. Can capital trade, and labour flow when the world’s only superpower maintains such a confusing and threatening stance.

What is exposed are divisions in what previously had been categorised as a singular elite, widely perceived as dominated by the business community driving global development.

What we have is not just a growing rift between France, and potentially much of Europe with the US, but also Russia, and even more concerning from a US perspective, China. One of the core elements of globalisation was consensus amongst governments weakening the significance of the nation state as anything other than a geographic expression of a potential market. Furthermore, the business community is profoundly sensitive to any breakdown in the rule of law. It sits at the heart of contractual relations.

Will the current situation threaten the multilateral basis of international law? The risk of this is not as fanciful as might first be thought. The US, through its non-ratification of several international agreements, has powerfully intimated that it is only interested in agreements that meet its specific national interests. This position is also made explicit in many of the neo-conservative manifestos that have without any doubt been read with horror in the capitals of Americas trading partners.

What is now made clear is that there is no single global elite co-ordinating world affairs.

Now it becomes obvious that in order to understand how we got here, and where we might end up, we need to understand the positions of heterogeneous collection of powerful interests across the planet. Nor should we fall into the trap of thinking that we can simplify revert to an old fashioned model built around nationalism to explain the situation. This cannot be understood simply as France versus the US, or the UK and Spain versus France and Germany within Europe. I believe this analysis suggests the clearest explanation of Tony Blair’s position, which has mystified so many.

Whilst recognising the risks in using any broad generalisations, in considering the drivers of change through history I find it very enlightening to consider the tension between old money and new money.

Old money tends to reside in mature industries. It uses its clout to get government to either give it monopolistic rights, or to protect it from potential external threats. It argues a politics of nationalism, traditional values, and fear of change to win public support. The Packers are a classic example of this in Australia.

New money will seek to win support by promising opportunity in growth and innovation. It tends to be identified with a rising middle class, with liberal social and cultural values.

Old money has been suspicious if not scared of globalisation. New money has tended to embrace it.

It is interesting that many of the positions held by neo-conservative elements dominating the White House were formulated prior to the ascendancy of neo-liberal politics over the 80s and 90s, and the move to an increasingly trans-national economic order.

But it is also telling that if one were to politically deconstruct the Bush White House, its key agenda had always been domestically focused. Its key backers were “old money”; the oil industry, the defence industry, the auto industry. Its positions have consistently played to those constituencies. Furthermore, the “new money” identified with globalisation and the economic boom of the 90s has been in retreat; primarily the technology and telecom sector, but also the financial community.

As the Business Week quote suggests, it is hard to believe that these groups are comfortable with the current US government position. Do transnational US companies appreciate the risks to the multilateral trading environment? Alan Greenspan, head of the US federal reserve, and some time guru to the “new world order” has been widely criticised by the neo conservative establishment for not being supportive of the Bush economic stimulus package. There was already significant concern about the blowout in the US budget deficit. This is no script that the “globalisation” camp ever called for.

I have built a scorecard looking across countries and industries to try to explain the national position with reference to the stances of these various nations to the current situation. It is extraordinarily accurate.

I only want to refer to the two obvious swing players – Britain and France. This analysis can be fruitfully applied however to everyone.

In France there is a fascinating synergy. There are significant “old money” groups who have tight relationships with the government, and have a nationalist view of the world. They are commonly labelled by critics of the French as “Gaullist”. The French farmers that generate so much ire in Australia are the tip of the iceberg. Yet, French companies targeting pan European or global markets could also be seen as having a stance powerfully opposed to that of the Bush administration. They want a world governed by global agreements, not US ones, and/or want to be seen as neutral and independent of US unilateralism.

In the UK, on the other hand, economic interests face the inverse dilemma. British companies are heavily exposed to the US. Many have been trying to explicitly position themselves as domestic players in both the UK and the US market. That means the UK must tread very carefully as to not burn bridges in America. Furthermore, the greatest wealth generated in the UK over the past 20 years has been in the booming financial hub that is the City of London. The City is increasingly dominated by US investment banks, that have used it as a platform to penetrate both the British and the continental markets. In fact it would not be much of an exaggeration to describe London as the capital of the “globalised world”. The interests of the financiers are not strictly aligned to the Bush camp, but they are desperate to protect the fabric of the global order. It is the bedrock of their business.

Oh what an excruciating bind for Tony Blair! He was so clearly trying to manoeuvre what he must have seen as the perilously unilateralist Bush administration into adopting a position that might protect the global institutions that British commerce has been built on in the 90s, whilst protecting English economic interests in the US, in the face of a hostile Labour Party! And maybe have an impact on fighting the threat of terrorism. If Blair had pulled it off, he might have been the saviour of the globalisation new order.

The business interests that drove globalisation in the 90s find themselves equally in a bind. Clearly their preferred outcome is the reconstitution of a consensus which permits a return to the old status quo. Sadly, I think issues of morality will be secondary in these negotiations. But the question remains, can it be done? Is it consistent with the way the neo conservative agenda is playing out now in the United States? Are there old money nationalist business constituencies on either side of the Atlantic that will resist such compromises?

“Global” business might think that it is better to protect the increasingly integrated global economic structure, even if it is at the expense of surrendering political sovereignty to the neo conservative Bush administration. Conversely, it might see that the Bush position as ultimately inconsistent with that economic order, and business would either be better served by an attempt to rebuild it led by the Europeans, with China as their key ally. Or they may see the reemergence of distinct regional trading blocks as the new reality that they will have to learn to live with. Publicly they will say nothing. They do not want to be identified with the losing side.

John Howard’s behaviour demonstrates the centrality of these calculations in even Australia’s strategic thinking. He hasn’t signed up just as part of the coalition of the willing. He is aggressively negotiation a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States. This is pretty clear evidence of a fundamental shift away from the 90s multilateral globalisation paradigm. The end result, however, is unlikely to be one that anti-globalisation protesters were seeking.

I apologise if this reads as callous. The “financial markets” tend to be as callous as the bureaucrats who have initiated this ugly war. Of course, one must also remember that Saddam Hussein is nothing if not callous.

So what about we, the people? Well the good news is that its not all over for us, yet.

Elections are far enough away not to be caught up excessively in wartime jingoism, but close enough to make a difference. Is that what the French were actually playing for? Chirac has popular support across Europe. France looks like it has miscalculated, and divided Europe. But what happens if Blair or Aznar succumb at the polls? Or more significantly if Bush fails? He would not be the first one term Bush.

Maybe that is the most bizarre irony. For the sake of our moral convictions the global peace movement must fight on. But what are we fighting for? Is it the multilateral world that was the foundation of the globalisation the public was so afraid of? Or are we, hopefully, fighting for a new form of globalisation? One that has a popular mandate, for the people, by the people, of the people.


Christopher Selth, 20 September 2001, published in What happens next?

I have been travelling in Europe during this time of crisis. It has been illuminating and disturbing to witness the varied responses to the horror of the attacks on New York and Washington. It is with this experience I read with interest the piece you included by John Wojdylo in Terror unlike movies. I agree with much he has reported and many of his views, particularly with respect the CNN coverage. On other fronts, however, there are deep issues which I feel are avoided in his analysis.

I do not think it is adequate to analyse the dynamics of Islamic fundamentalist extremism in isolation, no matter how sophisticated that analysis is. I agree that these acts cannot be tolerated, but to characterise them solely as the product of sophisticated extremists misses the key point. Why is the audience these extremists play to so fertile?

There is a deep centered anger about the inconsistencies and injustices of global capitalism that are more than just the ravings of extremists. I was in Covent Garden during the 3 minute silence. Behind me, a man of Indian or Pakistani extraction held a series of conversations on his cell phone. It was hard not to feel that this was not an act of terrorism, at the most personal, small level, flouting our moral expectations. I was angered. But I also understood that the problem was deep, and broad.

Some of your readers made reference to Marx. Marx is very relevant here, and I do not come from a background that would seen as traditionally marxist. I was a senior fund manager, a primary witness to global capitalism. Speaking with some of my associates here in London there is a perception, which I strongly share, that this terrorism reflects the end of imperialism, of naive global capitalism. That is what financial markets are trying to digest, Tony Blair refers to the end of an era. Paul Keating is now talking about this.

The West’s involvement in the region is reasonably well documented, even though its moral implications do not seem to be widely understood by the man on the street. The West supported the Shah of Iran and other totalitarian regimes in order to fight the ogre of communism and guarantee the supply of oil, even when these regimes flouted the democratic rights the West so grandly espouses as the basis of its moral superiority.

The support of the creation of the Israeli state was in part to assuage Western guilt at complicity in the holocaust, and the strength of the Jewish electorate in the United States. The fate of Palestine was a side issue which the West saw for a long time as not of its concern.

The endless, morally ambiguous partnerings driven by the Kissinger-driven philosophy of my enemy’s enemy is my friend as evidenced by the support of Sadam Hussein by the US, to fight Iran, and US support of the Taliban to fight Russia, has seen the West create its current foes.

The rule of law has been applied selectively. UN Security Council motions have justified the bombing of Iraq, but have not produced an effective censure of Israel. The basis of these inconsistencies is the tendency, throughout history, of the establishment to reinterpret history, and morality, to justify its own actions.

On a personal level, I firmly agree that the action in New York cannot be tolerated but it is not enough to dismiss the actions of the terrorists as nihilistic or insane or immoral. These people are the disenfranchised. Why should they confront the West on the West’s terms?

The rules of contract and law, which are the basis of western capitalism, look like locking 75% of the world population in poverty for the foreseeable future. Why are the acts in New York any more morally reprehensible than what happened in Rwanda? In Kampuchea? In Sri Lanka? The only reason why the west is involved in the Muslim world at all is the presence of the oil that drives our economies.

What we are witnessing must be interpreted on one level as the end of acceptance of the rules of the game by the 75%. That is why there was dancing in the streets in many parts of the world inhabited by the have nots. A friend of mine was in Cairo last week. It was clear that the anti western sentiment was not just held by extremists.

Yes, we must track down the perpetrators of these acts, but if we do not face up to the new reality, that the desperate of the globe will play by their rules, not ours, to change the global playing field, this struggle will go on indefinitely. The planet could resemble a giant Beirut or Northern Ireland.

We must finally face up to the legitimate concerns of the underprivileged, and not dismiss them as just the way things are, whilst we continue to enjoy our consumerist society and our superficial support of liberal humanist ideals when they suit us. It is time to be positive, and fight to make the world a better place.


Christopher Selth, September 27, 2001, Left, right … how politics will march forwards

In response to Greg Weilo’s view of left and right (Retrospective Hansonism), I am not sure whether or not Greg is confused about the appropriate labels to apply to his position. He is either naive or disingenuous with respect to the label appropriate to his positioning on the political spectrum. More significantly, the underlying politics of his position reflects the deep fissures in our society that the tragedy in New York is opening up.

I would like to respond to the underlying philosophical points Greg raises before coming back to labels. The two issues are, however, very linked.

Firstly, one must distinguish between underlying belief systems, and the strategies adopted by political parties. This distinction can be seen either as reflecting the notorious disconnect between politicians and voters, due to the cynical pursuit of power, or alternatively as the disconnect between high principle, or abstract theory, and its application to the practicalities of government.

A further problem appears from the difficulties, if not bankruptcy, of left and right wing economic theories in generating convincing practical outcomes. Marxism and Socialism, and Economic Rationalism no longer offer the political machines of left and right easily saleable policy stances. Note, so-called Economic Rationalism is in f act the pure application of a brand of capitalist, neo-classical economic theory. It has become clouded with the realiti es of practical, rational, economic policy.

Political parties need to be understood in terms of the electoral base to which they appeal, and the strategies they need to adopt in order to get over the line, to win elections. So-called left wing parties have two traditional constituencies; the working class, which tends to be economically left wing, but culturally conservative; and the liberal humanist intelligentsia, which is more economically rational in orientation, but culturally very liberal.

The right wing parties have a parallel fault line. One constituency is old money and small business. There are a number of sub groups here, including owners of businesses that are often local monopolists, but tend to be averse or incapable of taking on global challenges, farmers, and small businesses. These groups tend to favour state intervention to protect their positions from globalisation and the stresses of change. Their politics can ironically parallel the socialism of the working class, but for powerfully different reasons. Their cultural politics tend to conservatism.

The other group comprises global capitalists and technocrats. This group is not defending its position, it is seeking to expand its wealth. It is confident and pro-globalisation and economic rationalism. It is culturally liberal humanist.

You can see in this matrix the divides that have been evident within the Australian political landscape for some time. It is why the Labor Party has resisted homosexual law reform, and why the Coalition has locked in the positions of Kerry Packer, Qantas, and parts of the agricultural lobby, rather than promoting free trade. Left and right wing parties pursue policies in stark divergence from some simplistic understanding of their supposed underlying support base.

This is why right wing parties tend to push socially conservative and populist policies that appeal to the working classes. It will transfer votes from the traditional left to the populist right. It is key to winning a parliamentary majority. In America these were the so called Reagan democrats.

Pauline Hanson undermined the Australian right wing’s ability to claim this ground. That’s why she was so dangerous. This was why the Tampa was such a crucial turning point for John Howard. Behind this rhetoric, however, the right has little interest in the broad agenda of the working class, other than protecting jobs when it simultaneously protects the economic interests of its support base.

The globalist faction in the right, witness Peter Costello, is invariably outraged by this positioning.

The old left was interested in pushing its liberal humanist agenda to win middle class champagne socialist support, whilst being careful of not alienating its working class base. This was the Gough Whitlam strategy. You can see how long Labour stayed out of power in Australia and the UK as a result.

The new left added to its arsenal by embracing elements of economic rationalism. This was particularly the case as Marxism and Socialism were seen as failing to deliver under the pressure of global capital and change. It owed few favours to old money. The more sophisticated members of the new left, such as Paul Keating, saw that the only way to improve job prospects in the nation longer term was by making the economy more efficient. This would also win middle class votes.

The problem was that the short term pain would always leave it at risk with its traditional voting base. That is what ultimately brought Labor down. It is why Kim Beazley is so scared of declaring his hand. He is castrated by these internal tensions.

Both sides are constantly doing deals that alienate part of their traditional support base. This is reality. It is a clear outcome of the structure of our electoral process and parliamentary system.

An interesting insight on these issues can be found in the work of the now dead US sociologist, Christopher Lasch. His last book before he died, The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy is particularly thought provoking. The core thesis in this book is that the global technocracy, visible in all our major cities, working for globally focused organisations, have more in common with each other than the culture of their particular national hinterland.

I think there is a great deal of truth in this proposition. People like me, educated affluent technocratic elitist bastards, have more in common with our class compatriots in London, Paris or New York, than we do with the average man of our particular economic hinterland. In Sydney this can be metaphorically conceptualised as the difference of culture and beliefs between inner city and coastal dwellers, and the suburbs.

Lasch comments that this global class tends to be socially liberal humanist. He notes the irony that the elite might support gay rights, but at the same time feel it is for the best that inefficient industries be shut down, even at the expense of jobs and communities This is what Greg would refer to as left wing, social ideology. At the same time it is economically rationalist, which Greg identifies as right wing economic philosophy.

The important question that arises is what is the motivation behind the elite’s espousal of these values? Is it legitimate compassion, or a self-serving identification with the fashionable causes of the day, a champagne socialism that can go hand in hand with the process of personal enrichment? It is the new religion of the upper class, which John Howard often, to his chagrin, runs up against. The have nots of our society often feel these values are hypocritical. Despite all of this, many of these values are of great merit. The irony is that it is this great Western tradition that George W. Bush keeps saying we are fighting for.

Lasch’s work is filled with dark irony. It transcends the distinction of left and right. It hits the fault line on which Greg sits. Whilst Lasch unquestionably has captured a key thread, he does not reach any conclusions. It is a provocative piece.

The attack on liberal humanism, and economic rationalism and globalisation, reflect a common factor, fear of change, fear of the unknown. Human history has seen at these moments objective analysis give way to extremism and hysteria. Legitimate criticisms from both sides are lost. We are at risk of being swept away by this tide. Extremist politics are on the rise.

The question confronting us is: Can we integrate liberal humanism with a new paradigm in economic management? Economic policy needs to balance the dynamic drive of capitalism, with appropriate measures to reduce the shock waves and to humanise the process. Regrettably most such strategies in recent times have been hijacked by traditional interest groups: old money, old unions, and old farmers. The power of governments to act in the face of global forces is itself suspect.

A new economic philosophy and social philosophy is required. We must move forward, not backward. The conservative chest beating post the World Trade Center attack risks the worst outcome.

Greg’s thinly veiled piece emphasises this point. It is not hard to decipher. Greg groups all elements of the community that are not part of his pure national core as dangerous; homosexuals [of which I am proudly one!!!], feminists, pro-abortion groups, multi-cultu ralists. On this front he calls himself a Nationalist. On the economic front, he calls himself a Socialist. A national socialist?

Is it by accident that Greg says that left wing extremists have been running things for the last 50 years, ie the post war period? Fifty years ago there was another National Socialist who was arguing the same thing. His name was Adolf Hitler.

I am afraid that the fight is just beginning against this conservative backlash. I agree with Margo that a new opposition movement is needed. It needs to do more than just say bigotry is wrong. It must address the philosophical and political roots of this problem. It must be a broad movement. It must be self critical to avoid the accusation of elitism. This must be more than just the liberal humanist intelligentsia saying how awful everyone else is.

Webdiary’s state of the war analysis

Hi. Webdiarists Clem Colman and Ross Nelson have done their own analysis of what’s going on in this war Iraq for Webdiary. They have backgrounds in IT Security, scour the net for information, and have an interest in the history of conflict.

They’ve based their analysis on news reports, other information sources, and some background knowledge of warfare. What is stated, whilst based on facts where available, is their opinion.

Thanks guys. I hope you’ll become our resident “‘analysts” on how the war is going. Another Webdiarist has volunteered to track the debate on the legality of the war and will report soon. Is anyone interested in tracking and analysing the propaganda war, the media coverage, or some other aspect of this incredible “tipping point” in world affairs?


Overall Tactical

Iraqi forces are making use of bad weather to launch counterattacks against Coalition forces in a number of locations [breaking news – no real analysis except that Iraq may have overextended herself. If the forces are still in the open when weather clears Coalition Air Power will probably inflict significant damage]

Basra: The Coalition continue to talk up the prospect of revolt in Basra. The basis for this information still seems to be the claim that mortars were fired from one part of the city against the other. However, Al Jazeer, who have access to Basra, have denied the claims. In addition British Commanders near Basra were surprised by the news when questioned by media.

We can probably expect to see one more roll of the Psychological War dice for Basra. The prospect of revolt did result in Rumsfeld changing his rhetoric from weeks back to days, so perhaps this is a significant development.

Around Basra the Coalition claim to have destroyed a division, but they still only have an unconfirmed 3,500 prisoners in the entire theatre. A division typically runs 8,000-12,000, so even at a 30% casualty rate (a heavy number) there are still a minimum of 3,000-4,000 unaccounted for troops from this division. There are either a lot of bodies around Basra, or there are significant elements of the division still in place. The media should probably be challenging the claim of a destroyed division based on this analysis.

For Basra we can probably expect the UK units, with considerably more experience in close quarters infantry combat, to bear the brunt of any assault with support from US marines. However, the Coalition may just decide to lay siege instead.

Baghdad and Surrounds: Iraq probably made use of the unexpected lull to reposition forces to face the threat now that they knows US axis of advance more precisely.

Republican Guard positions around Baghdad have almost certainly come under conventional bombardment by Coalition air. It is not clear at this stage whether B52s are being flown in county to perform these bombardments, as their previous attacks were, we believe, stand off cruise missile attacks from near the Turkish Border. At this stage there may be concerns about the capabilities of Iraqi air defences which prevent the B52s being deployed for conventional bombardment near Baghdad.

Umm Qasar: Umm Qasar continues to prove to be a great propaganda win for Iraq. Although the Coalition has declared the area secure reports continue of sporadic fighting, and the Coalition will probably have to deploy more forces here than anticipated to protect against attack by irregular forces.

Claims in the reports that these positions have been reinforced by Iraqi Armour, seem to be a bit far fetched based on all other information available.

Najaf: The heavy fighting around Najaf has lead to the first admitted destruction of US M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks. Reports say that Iraqi forces are firing Tow missiles from the back of pickup trucks and other civilian vehicles. Importantly, this indicates that Iraqi forces can attrition US Tanks at range without risking significant assets.

Also today there are reports of a column of 1000 vehicles of Iraqi Republican Guard leaving Baghdad headed to Najaf. This deployment was at least started under the cover of the recent sandstorm. This seems a significant deployment, and is discussed in more detail in the strategic section below.


Reports of discussions of troop rotation in Australia suggest that it is now anticipated that this war will drag on longer than expected.

The Psychological War campaign, which the Coalition had invested so much in, in that it could be claimed that they under resourced their conventional forces due to their belief in its success, seems at this stage to have been an abject failure. In terms of why the Iraqi people would still support Saddam Hussein, they may wish to consider this analogy: Stalin killed lots of his own and other peoples between 1925 and 1941. He led a disastrous war in Finland (and learnt from it). His own people would have gladly shot him in the head if they could. But they still hated the Germans more…..

The failure of the Psy War has left the Coalition dangerously under resourced, particularly with respect to armour (at the start of the campaign 500 Main Battle Tanks against the Iraqi’s 2,600, even though the Coalition tanks are individually superior to Iraq tanks). In addition to that, the strategy of bypassing pockets of resistance to reach Baghdad has left the Coalition’s supply lines dangerously exposed. It may well be some time before the lead units within 80km of Baghdad are properly resupplied whilst the Coalition organises appropriately protected convoys (which will pull armour assets back from frontline units for escort duties).

The deployment of 1000 mobile Republican Guard units to Najaf under the cover of a sandstorm leaves little doubt that Iraqi C&C and Communications are still in place, at least to some extent. Furthermore, the Iraqi’s are so buoyed by successes, as well as identifying the Coalition strategy, that they feel confident redeploying assets away from Baghdad. However, this may have been over confident. In a static defence the Iraqis had little resupply concerns. This may change that.

The Units in place near Baghdad have insufficient superiority, and are probably in no condition to begin an assault for some days. However, there may be skirmishes as they attempt to probe the Iraqi defences.

At this stage it seems likely that the Coalition will await the arrival of the 1st and the 4th divisions before attempting any true assault on Baghdad. In short, they have significantly underestimated the enemy, and are unlikely to make the same mistake again.

Coalition forces continue to battle to secure bridges across the Euphrates, which have been reported secure more than once. It seems that they are meeting stiff resistance, and that Iraqi forces are mounting planned and successful counter-attacks against the Coalition.

Finally on a more personal note, it seems from the nature and character of language from Rumsfeld, particularly with chopping and changing between using weeks, then days, etc, that he may well be micro managing Franks.

In the meantime, Saddam Hussein has probably taken great confidence in making comparisons between the Coalition’s advance across Iraq, and Hitler’s advance across the Soviet Union. Seeing himself as Stalin, he may well see many parallels.

Death and vomit: the real meaning of war

The late Peter Smark was one of Australia’s most admired and respected journalists. He still is. Webdiarist Judi Folster of Duffy in Canberra reread a Peter Smark piece in the Sydney Morning Herald after John Howard announced we were at war with Iraq:

I have before me a cutting from page 1 of the SMH dated 7/12/90 written by the late Peter Smark entitled ‘Death and Vomit: let’s not get sentimental about war’.

I have kept this piece of paper because to me it is the most exquisite piece of antiwar writing I have ever read -I also cut out the letters to the editor two days later – they summed up my feelings about that war so well and today as I listened to John Howard in Parliament Peter Smark’s words rang in my ears- and I quote:

“I hear the iron of certainty and resolve enter a politician’s voice and I know the young will die”, and, “You can hear the fools again now talk of a ‘quick, clean war’ in the Persian Gulf, or of a ‘swift surgical strike’. God preserve the young from the follies of middle-aged males. “

Death and vomit: the real meaning of war

by Peter Smark

We came to the hamlet near My Tho through fields green as limes. On the banks of the paddy-fields, palm trees nodded amiably. Under a fierce, noonday sun, three little girls chirped like crickets and giggled behind their hands at the heavy, awkward foreigners blundering into their world.

Tossed like garbage on the clay were the bodies. I remember the number and will never forget, 82. The battle had been the previous day and the flies were already at work. I expected the blood, the grey horror of exposed entrails, the stench. But I hadn’t prepared myself for the flies. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about the flies. Or the rats.

And so, at the age of 24, I discovered what war means. I was lucky it was so late, I suppose. My father’s generation and my grandfather’s had learned the chilling truth in their teens. And they had to carry guns.

As I sweated and vomited that day in 1961, a maelstrom of unconnected thoughts churned through my mind and I can remember them now. I recalled the play-acting of infantry training at Puckapunyal and how the instructors had had to cook the books to make them show I could shoot straight.

In fact, I made the Korea-hardened trainers despair. But, years later, as I watched a cocky little jackanapes of a Vietnamese captain prance through his victory display and a wooden-faced American adviser jerk his strings, I thanked my God he had never sent me for a real soldier and I thank Him again now.

But fate has locked much war into my life and there are dog days when the tide of memories floods. They come when, somewhere, I hear the iron of certainty and resolve enter a politician’s voice and I know the young will die. I remember the flies and the rats. I heard that certainty and resolve in the voices of Bob Hawke and George Bush this week.

History will judge if they are right to feel so certain and so resolute, to be so dismissive of the long haul of blockade and sanctions. I don’t here argue for or against. I merely record some memories to remind myself and others what it is we do when we send young men off to war.

I remember the Plaine des Jarres in Laos and my friend the young Meo lieutenant lying without a leg and about to die from the mortar shell which tore his jeep apart. The morphine was in and his eyes were open and I swear he smiled a farewell to the reporters who had shared a bottle of whisky with him on the last night of his life.

And I remember Homer Bigart of The New York Times, friend and mentor, cynic and wit, gripping my arm until the bruises swelled blue, and chanting “Christ, Christ, Christ” as a machine-gun tore away a supporting section on one of our pleasant days in the Vietnamese countryside.

Homer, who shredded US ambassadors for practice and regarded four-star generals as breakfast, was angry and weeping not from fear for himself but because of the waste and futility of it all.

There are times for tears. Times like the night when General Sir Thomas Daly paced the streets of suburban Manuka in Canberra and cared not a jot that the prudent burghers and bureaucrats could see and hear the Chief of Staff of the Australian army weeping openly. An explosives blunder by friendly forces had killed or maimed most of a truckload of Australian troops in Vietnam, and Tom grieved for them as a father should.

War is much about mishaps and mistakes as generations of Australians from past conflicts can attest. You can hear the fools again now talk of a “quick, clean war” in the Persian Gulf, or of a “swift, surgical strike.” God preserve the young from the follies of middle-aged males.

Follies and malice, feuds and hatreds. I remember Belfast in 1968 when the B Specials swept through the Catholic areas and shot down people in an orgy of officially condoned mayhem.

That was a night for weeping, for to this day the people, all people, are paying the price for this as for so much else. They’ll talk up a storm for you, the middle-aged males, about the just cause and they’ll let the young die to fuel their self-righteousness.

I remember the siege of Seria in Borneo in the early 60s during the Brunei Rebellion. And how a British nurse, one of the hostages held by rebels in a Shell Oil installation, was sent out by her armed captors to carry a message to the encircling British forces, then turned and went back into captivity, not knowing if it was to her death.

I remember we looked at one another, we vultures and reptiles of the press, and didn’t have words enough because we knew we were watching courage and character greater than we could ever summon.

The Queen’s Own Highlanders, tough Scots all, were in awe of her and when they stormed the refinery and freed her, they cheered her like the Queen. Sometimes, war can summon up nobility.

But the memories which press out most urgently are ghastly. Of the tray of a truck in Zimbabwe piled high with dead while soldiers played cards in the shade below. Or the results of a landmine in Ovamboland, a street riot in Singapore, blood and waste, always waste.

And always the politicians and the functionaries, the sanctimoniousness, the fraud. Do you remember how those around Margaret Thatcher hid away the maimed from the Falklands so the victory parade in London would not be marred by the reality of what had happened down in the South Atlantic?

All but a handful of the press were kept from that, of course. And from the US high jinks in Grenada. Vietnam has taught our masters much in information management; whether it has taught them much about the horrors of war remains to be seen.

Australian reporters who have seen much of war are sprinkled still through the media: Peter Cole-Adams, Bruce Wilson, Peter George, Ben Hills, Alan Ramsey, a dozen more. In every one of them, the sound of Bob Hawke’s words will have set the memories stirring this week. Not just what he said, but how he said it.

The ships are moving closer in, we are told, because the UN wants that. Our cause is said to be just, no less than the stamping out of a risk to the stability of the world economy, the international backing for it unprecedented.

Perhaps it is so. But we should be in no doubt about the danger to those who now fly our flag. It was when the Falklands War was over that we learned fully how ghastly a weapon is the Exocet missile, learned how ships had become infernos. Our ships will be serving in the area where two Iraqi Exocets hit a US warship late in the Iran-Iraq war; that ship barely stayed afloat.

Perhaps caution will stir in Saddam Hussein and we will be saved the horror and our young men the terror of war. If it does not, and an Iraq toughened by a decade of fighting decides to resist, the possibility of crippling damage to oilfields could produce the very destabilisation of the world economy which the present undertaking is supposed to prevent.

But for now the cry is “Havoc” and the dogs of war are straining at their leashes. Younger reporters than I will cover this war, and I pray God will keep them and those they accompany safe and bring them home whole. And I pray, too, that their memories will not be of carnage wrought because middle-aged males could not contain their impatience.

If that marks me as “soft” or “wet”, let it be so for I’ve seen enough of hard men and the marks they leave behind.

This war is illegal: Howard’s last top law man

Today, David Bennett QC’s predecessor as Commonwealth Solicitor General, Gavan Griffith QC – who represented the Labor and the Howard government in the High Court, gives Webdiary his written opinion that the Government’s claim that the war is legal is “untenable”, and that the legal advice he was forced to release is Alice in Wonderland nonsense. For my discussion of the deeply unsatisfactory nature of the government’s advice see The politics of war and for the Government’s history of abuse of legal advice, see It’s legal, believe me, The government’s legal advice is at smh.

John Howard defended his legal advice this week: ‘I don’t think you can discount somebody whose daily job is to advise not on the theory but on the practice of international law (to) the Australian government.”

For John Howard, the ends invariably justify the means.


by Gavan Griffith QC, Melbourne

The tabled joint “Memorandum of Advice” of the First Assistant Secretary, Office of International Law, Attorney-General’s Department and the Senior Legal Adviser, DFAT, has insufficient substance to bear the weight of the Prime Minister’s reliance to justify the invasion of Iraq by Australian defence forces.

This Advice invokes the authority of Security Council Resolution (SCR) 678 of 15 July 1991 to justify the unilateral use of force by Australia. It is plain that the authority of para 3 for the use of force of that 12 year old resolution expired with the Gulf War and successive resolutions of the Security Council leading to SCR 1441 of 2 November 2002.

Colin Powell in A Line in the Sand wrote that Resolution 678 “displayed the usual fuzziness of documents written by many hands and made it clear that the invasion was only to free Kuwait.” It is now facile to assert that without the further resolution authorising the use of force, now abandoned, SCR 678 has revived (or may be regarded as continuing) as authority for the use of force at the whim of Australia as a self-appointed member of the “Coalition of the Willing”. The question “Willing for What?” has its answer: Willing to act in breach of plain obligations of international law and comity between nations.

I cannot characterize the advice as an opinion. The short paragraphs 14 to 18 of the brief seven page advice read as weak best arguments for the use of force. Para 34 of SCR 678, cited in para 18, denies the continued authority of that resolution to support present action by individual states, as does the entire SCR 1441.

The final sentence of the advice concluding that the authority of SCR 678 to use force “would only be negated by a Security Council Resolution requiring Member States to refrain from using force against Iraq” is a fanciful proposition, an Alice in Wonderland inversion of meaning of plain words in the resolutions themselves. It is unsupportable. The authors are making it up.

It is significant that the authors of this Advice, on the important issue of giving legal sanction to war, do not even entitle it as ‘Opinion’. Its brevity and lack of force is exceeded only by the one-page ‘Opinion’ of the United Kingdom’s Attorney-General tabled in the United Kingdom Parliament, that makes the completely untenable assertion that “all resolution 1441 requires is a report to and discussion by the Security Council of Iraq’s failures, but not to express further decisions to authorize force”.

To this end the Australian and United Kingdom legal advices are entirely untenable. They are arrant nonsense. They furnish no threads for military clothes. It is difficult to comprehend that the fanciful assertions (they are not arguments) of the two advices have been invoked by Australia and the United Kingdom to support an invasion of another state. It does not appear from his published remarks that President Bush made any such attempt to clothe American action with the authority of the Security Council. This has the advantage of making the unilateral basis of his country’s actions plain.

I note that the Memorandum of Advice is not subscribed by Henry Burmester QC, former head of the Office of International Law and now Chief General Counsel of the Attorney-General’s Department and the most senior and experienced international lawyer in Commonwealth service. Nor by Professor James Crawford SC, Professor of International Law at Cambridge, who commonly advises and appears for the Government in International law matters. I could suggest none available to the Commonwealth better qualified to give disinterested and expert advice.

Without knowing their views, I would be inclined to defer to their expert opinion. I am at a loss that this important matter of legal support has not been supported at this highest expert level readily available to the Government. Instead, the Government has been content to table a mere “memorandum” of assertion, signed of at the departmental level of First Assistant Secretaries.

I comment further that the authority of the opinion by 43 Australian international lawyers as to the plain breach of international obligations by Australia absent a further Security Council in no way answered by the loose references to emerging new principles by Professor Ivan Shearer or the American and Australian signatories to the letter curiously published as an op-ed. piece in The Australian on 18 March.

Like-minded lawyers of ambition in America scramble to justify, in arrears, the evolving unilateralism of the USA’s foreign policy. I know few of the American signatories. The Australian signatories have, with but slight exception, common interests more in areas of taxation, defamation and commercial law and none is known in the field of public international law (excepting Professor Waller who has a reputation in the specialised area humanitarian law). The reputations of the Australian and United Kingdom Attorneys-General on the issues of use of force also are elsewhere than in public international law.

I compare the opinion by Robinder Singh QC of Matrix Chambers, London, to be found at web site publicinterestlawyers, which is reasoned and compelling argument for the lack of support provided by the aged SCR 678.


I fell into that war-on-TV trap last night – stared at the screen until 5am – couldn’t get away from it. I watched BBC world coverage on the ABC, and was offended at the tone of some of the commentary.

Nothing was happening, and some talking heads seemed kind of miffed, asking Rumsfeld whether he’d lost the propaganda momentum and the like.

Hang on – to try and take out Saddam early, and do a slow build to encourage the Iraqi people to end this quickly, could save lives. Thousands of them. As Rumsfeld said in his early morning press conference, Iraqis are used to doing what Saddam tells them because they know that otherwise they’ll die. As it sinks in that he will be gone soon, they may well consider defying him. I’d like the Iraqi people to have possible opportunity to get this over with the minimum of damage. Wouldn’t everyone?

War as entertainment. Weird vibe. For the first time I saw Rumsfeld uncut, in his first press briefing. This guy is impressive, to say the least. Then came the news that Turkey had voted to send its troops into Iraq. Oh no. Nightmare territory.

I’ve had lots of feedback to my suggestion yesterday that anti-war citizens shouldn’t take to the streets while the war is on (Watching the war). A colleague came up with an alternative – take to the streets, but with one message on every banner – bring our troops home. I’m on a plane soon – I’ll publish your thoughts on the protest issue and where to from here for the anti-war movement on Monday.

Yesterday David Skinner advised he was having trouble accessing iraqi websites. Steve Davey reckons uruklink ( is still accessible. Indymedia reports that the Yanks have pulled the plug on telephone communications.

I’d like your views on the media coverage of the war – I’ll do a Webdiary on the matter next week.

Stay safe this weekend, and let’s hope our troops stay that way over there.

To end, Webdiarist Clem Coleman comments on Howard’s out-of-the-blue claim in his address to the nation last night that accessing US intelligence was a reason to go to war with Iraq.


Clem Coleman

The PM has now introduced the importance of intelligence sharing with the US and UK as a justification for our war on Iraq. Here is the 30 second guide for people that do not know about this stuff.

Five countries participate in a massive signals intelligence system (as in intercepted radio, mobile phone, satellite communications) which is widely known as Echelon. These countries are: US, UK, Canada, Australia, NZ.

Part of this agreement relates to the sharing of all relevant intelligence with the participating country. That is, if Echelon intercepts intelligence relevant to NZ this should provided this to NZ regardless of where it is intercepted. However, to my understanding all intelligence initially is processed by the US. I could be wrong about this last point. What this means about intelligence sharing from “human” assets I also wouldn’t speculate about.

This arrangement is pretty important to all of these countries, but with the information flow it seems the US probably gains the greatest benefit. For this system to work the positioning of antennae and other interception equipment in places like Australia, NZ and the UK is essential.

Finally, the implied assertion by the PM, that this intelligence sharing would stop if we didn’t support the US, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The US needs the positioning of these interception facilities in our parts of the world.

Furthermore, if this knife was twisted you would have expected to hear NZ and Canada crying foul also, given that they have both come out in opposition to the war.

Today, I Weep for my Country…

Robert Byrd, a Democrat, is the father of the US Senate. He delivered the following speech to the Senate on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. He first detailed his dismay at US foreign policy in a speech to the Senate on February 14, published at A lonely voice in a US Senate silent on war.

Today, I weep for my country….

by Robert Byrd

US Senate, March 19, 2003 3:45pm

I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marvelled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength.

But, today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat UN Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split.

After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America’s image around the globe.

The case this Administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice.

There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group, Al Qaeda, with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on board.

The brutality seen on September 11th and in other terrorist attacks we have witnessed around the globe are the violent and desperate efforts by extremists to stop the daily encroachment of western values upon their cultures. That is what we fight. It is a force not confined to borders. It is a shadowy entity with many faces, many names, and many addresses.

But, this Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war. If we attack Saddam Hussein, we will probably drive him from power. But, the zeal of our friends to assist our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.

The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to “orange alert”. There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home?

A pall has fallen over the Senate Chamber. We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq.

What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?

Why can this President not seem to see that America’s true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?

War appears inevitable. But, I continue to hope that the cloud will lift. Perhaps Saddam will yet turn tail and run. Perhaps reason will somehow still prevail. I along with millions of Americans will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.

Feelings on the eve of war


- Chris Duvall’s cartoon

I’m still stunned. I knew Howard would do it – go to war without the UN – but I still can’t quite believe he’s done it, without a qualm, it seems.

With one decision, we have lost our friends in our region and the goodwill and protection of the United Nations, the body we helped found and, until Howard’s government, championed as a friend of middle-ranking powers like us.

Remember East Timor? Howard asked the US for troops – it replied that this was a regional matter, and we should handle it ourselves. The UN managed the crisis – through it we organised our own coalition of the willing, including several neighbours in the region. They could not help us after this – antagonistic public opinion in their countries would make that impossible.

And strangely, oh so strangely, the government doesn’t seem to understand what declaring war on another country means, and has failed to protect his own people from the possible consequences of declaring war on Iraq. According to Howard this morning, there was no greater risk of attack to Australia since he declared war on Iraq. Yesterday, Greenpeace showed that the Opera House is not secured (smh). Our airports are not secured (smh) Protesters chained themselves to the Lodge gates this morning – so even the Prime Minister’s residence is not secured (smh).

Last week on Lateline, two homeland security experts warned that terrorists did not need chemical weapons – they could ge the same effect from highjacking a chemical tanker on our roads. And yet we have done nothing to protect ourselves from this possibility, either.

John Howard says we are going to war to protect us from terrorism. Yet now, if we are hit, it will not be a terrorist attack, but an act of war in a war we began. We have made allies of our enemies, and enemies of our friends.

Yesterday’s decision was the culmination of policy Howard has steadily and deliberately pursued since his election in 1996. First, disengage from Asia. Second, walk away from what Keating calls the international architecture. We are alone, save for the United States, if helping us suits their interests and they’re not otherwise engaged. I believe John Howard’s decision has imperilled Australia’s national security. I still can’t believe he’s done it.

At the end of this entry, I’ve published some articles written in the lead up to the UN coalition going into East Timor after the massacres, lest we forget the terrible cost to Australia of John Howard’s declaration of war on Iraq. When you read them, imagine a scenario where Indonesia decided to invade East Timor or to fund militia to take it over, and remember that if it said it thought its security could be threatened by East Timor sometime in the future it could go right in under the US precedent of premptive strike about to be estbalished in Iraq. Who would we turn to? And who would say yes?

Tonight, your feelings on the eve of war.

Chris Duvall

I’m so pissed off at being railroaded into John Howard’s bloody war I could only express myself in cartoon form. Words are wasted.


John Augustus


The big eagle caught in the trap,

Feathers of failed diplomacy drifting.

Bin Laden smiling, the hapless waiting,

A swift brutal war, a fractured globe.

The terrorist wins after all.


Marcus Bussey in Maleny, Queensland

Thanks for waving the flag and sticking to your guns. I was thinking this the other night.


On the Eve of War, Again

by Marcus Bussey

Were damned if we do,

Damned if we don’t,

So let’s believe the silvern lies

Of our leaders

And strike down the demon,

Exchanging poison for poison,

The lie for the dagger.


Strike the fear from my eyes,

Cries the child,

Strike the fear from my heart,

Cries the mother.


The only freedom I’ll find

Is in the cave of my being

Were lighted candles flicker

And my shadow dances on the

Walls of my heart.


No sin is clean,

The clear water of our souls

Filters through the grit of our lives,

The lurid aquifer of our days,

Scraping terror from the Moon’s face

Hiding lies in burning bushes

While the would be great

Strut about bleating.


These little men who will not

Do the bleeding on the plain

Utter prayers to hollow gods

Mutter moral sanctions at the stars

Threaten, coerce, cajole till boredom

Breaks a hole in the wall of cant

And purifies the arena with the blood

Of innocents sacrificed for the lie

That evil can sweep away evil

And raise the banner of freedom

When hearts are ignorant

And heads lost in the miasma

Of a tortured soul searching.


The brave are those who believe

The damned are stuck in between

Thus we find ourselves on the eve of war,



Denise Parkinson

A friend just sent this to me and I just cried. What are we going to do?

The Fiddle and The Drum

by Joni Mitchell

And so once again

My dear Johnny my dear friend

And so once again you are fightin’ us all

And when I ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry, and I fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come

To trade the fiddle for the drum


You say I have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But I can remember

All the good things you are

And so I ask you please

Can I help you find the peace and the star

Oh, my friend

What time is this

To trade the handshake for the fist


And so once again

Oh, America my friend

And so once again

You are fighting us all

And when we ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry and we fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come

To trade the fiddle for the drum


You say we have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But we can remember

All the good things you are

And so we ask you please

Can we help you find the peace and the star

Oh my friend

We have all come

To fear the beating of your drum

(From the album ‘Clouds’ 1969)


Alex Sosnov

I cried yesterday hearing John ‘Coward’ speak. I can’t believe the hypocrisy of all this talk about democracy… and he completely ignores the people who he works for – the Australian public. The US and it’s neo-conservative Government is reminding me of what I’ve read about the Roman Empire – just before it began to fall. There is just something not right about this – it’s weird.


John T. Alfonse in Everett Mass. U.S.A.

I would like to say a couple of things to the Australian people.

First thank you for your continued friendship and support over a long, long period of time, including being able to forgive some things of which the U.S. government should rightly be ashamed of doing to a friend. My country is far from perfect.

Regarding the Iraq situation, to quote R.A. Heinlein; a brute kills for pleasure and a fool kills for hate. I truly believe my government is neither. We are taking this course of action because the consequences of not doing it will, in the long run, cost more lives in Iraq and the rest of the world than doing nothing.

There are no sure things in the world. History will judge whether this was a correct course of action or not. I am just a blue collar working stiff with a brother in the national guard, but I wanted to make my feelings known to a nation that I admire, and respect.


Eric Wurtzebach in San Diego, CA

As a resident of the US, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all Australians for your support in our cause in Iraq. Whether you agree with our mission or not, we truly appreciate your support and sacrifices. In the coming days I will be praying for the lives of our soldiers. Support out troops!!


Andrew Robinson

I’ve never written to your column before. With you and most of your readers and contributors I really don’t know whether to feel disgusted or despairing or angry or resigned, or all of the above. I don’t have a great deal to add to the debate but merely refer you to a beautiful article in the English edition of Le Monde Diplomatique: United States: inventing demons


David Eastwood in Sydney

John Howard has taken us to war, and the big guns are out. Not only does the UN think it’s illegal, it’s been described in the media today as “un-Australian”. The stakes don’t get bigger…

Howard is the most pragmatic politician I’ve ever seen. He could even be French. Poll-driven, not strong ideologically, not strong on foreign policy, not much of a vision of Australia in the world, not strong on ego. So, why has he taken such a controversial, even radical decision that the vast majority of the population disagrees with that could turn out to be another Vietnam?

Why hasn’t the cabinet leaked or dissented? I’m used to seeing TV vision of Saddam Hussein’s cabinet meetings – two dozen men in identikit army uniforms and moustaches, ever noticed that? No dissent there. I wonder if our cabinet donned fake eye-brows to rubber stamp our decision to go to war?

I walked passed Howard in the street in Sydney on Monday as he strode purposefully between engagements – missed him by centimetres. He saw me, lifted the brows, and gave me that same moon-faced idiot grin he gives the media on his morning power walks in foreign towns. He looked cock-a-hoop, despite the gravity of the situation. What’s going on?

What’s driving this insanity, John boy? Is it free trade? Has George threatened punitive sanctions or no progress at all on trade if we don’t play (base)ball?

Not free trade? OK, what is it? Has he threatened to head-hunt Steve Waugh to the national league? I just don’t get it. Why are we doing this? What do you know that we don’t know?


Andrew O’Connell in Edinburgh

It looks like the spiders nest is about to be destroyed and the angry swarm released. The war is going to happen. Innocent people are going to die. An angry, suppressed multitude are about to have a real target for their hatred and there will be further death and destruction. Cheney, Rumsfield, Perle and the good ol boys will have got their way – the new American Century will have begun and they and a lot of their friends are going to get a lot richer.

What happens next? Is Pax Americana now inevitable?

Perhaps, instead, now is the volcanic opportunity that has been needed since the end of the cold war to overcome the apathy that has precluded any real hope of overcoming the latest ism to blight the world. People power has changed lives for the better before and the Brainwashington resistance shows that for the first time any such defiance can be international. It MUST be international and include like minded people from all over the world. We all need reminding that an Iraqi is no more like Saddam than an Australian is a John Howard clone. Palestinians need to see and hear from the Americans who are prepared to represent them.

The millions of people who have been protesting against globalisation are now joined by many millions more. These people who found globalisation too ambiguous a concept to oppose find that they have no such problem resisting those who preach war. Who do we have in Australia to galvanise this community of the disenfranchised? Rick Farley? ob Brown? John Wojdylo? It’s time for someone to stand up. Together we have a chance to forge a new path. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.


Lloyd Mcdonald

Hi Margo. I think The Guardian’s Dilemmas of war speaks for most of us. An extract:

These will be dark days for everyone. Darkest for those caught up in combat – whether they are the civilians whose homes and families are about to be bombarded in an unprecedented display of “shock and awe”, or the uniformed men and women dropping the bombs. They are both about to enter the dizzying, topsy-turvy world of war, where death could come at any moment.

But there is darkness closer to home, too. In these days of anxiety and fear, where should those who have opposed this war put themselves? How should they cope with the coming days of shock and awe?

For some, the start of war will mean an end to the anti-war campaign. For them, to do anything less would be to undermine our armed forces just as they place themselves in harm’s way.

But this is one of those cliches of political protocol that makes little logical sense. As Robin Cook put it in his spellbinding resignation speech to the Commons: “It is false to argue that only those who support war support our troops. It is entirely legitimate to support our troops while seeking an alternative to the conflict that will put those troops at risk.” Indeed, opponents of war can say it is precisely because they value the lives of our service personnel that they wish they were not risking their lives in a questionable cause.

…should those who have argued against this war want it to go well or badly? Only the pettiest and most small-minded peacenik would want American or British troops to die just to bring the satisfaction of saying “I told you so”. Those who wish this war had never happened should now want it to end as swiftly and painlessly as possible – in a US-British victory. The ideal outcome would be an instant decapitation of Saddam and his vicious regime, leaving the body of Iraqi society intact. The longer the war drags on, the more pounding that is inflicted, the more Iraqi civilians will die.

Supporting the troops and hoping for victory: many in the anti-war camp will fear all this sounds too much like giving up. And the pressure to buckle will be immense: the drop in anti-war sentiment recorded in yesterday’s Guardian poll suggests it’s already working its magic. Blair’s “heroic” efforts to get a second UN resolution, anti-French prejudice, the patriotic surge as “our boys” set off for battle – each has played its part in boosting support for war.

All of this will be hard to resist. There will be a momentum, even excitement, to war once the bombs drop and the TV newsmen get deep into their sandpits. Nevertheless, critics of this war have to keep up their own fight. No task will be more crucial than the vigilant protection of the truth as it suffers its very own aerial bombardment.

…Above all, war sceptics need to be braced for the victory that we hope will come soon. Chances are, Iraqis will greet their liberators with flowers and tears of delight. The “torture chambers and rape rooms” that George Bush spoke of on Monday night will be revealed. We will hear confirmed what we already know: that Saddam is one of the cruellest butchers to walk the face of the earth.

But we should be prepared now for what the pro-war camp will say as these pictures emerge. Gloatingly, they will tell us our “credibility is destroyed”, as Melanie Phillips wrote in the Daily Mail this week. “Saddam’s apparatus of terror” will shatter “the whole world view of the left”.

…We need to be ready for that. When the time comes, we will have to remind our accusers that we did not question this war because we believed Saddam was a cuddly grandpa: we knew the depths of his depravity. Our doubts resided elsewhere. For one thing, we never believed that Iraqi liberation was the real motive of this war. Witness Bush’s address, in which the humanitarian argument was jumbled up among the old, bogus ones: Baghdad’s links with al-Qaida and the direct threat posed by Iraq to America’s security. If the pro-war camp says such concerns are academic – who cares about motive, so long as the end result is the same? – we need to have an answer to that too. It is this: our fear is that the Bush administration, given its intentions, cannot be trusted to get Iraq’s future right. Intention has an effect on outcome, and if this war is being fought only peripherally for the benefit of the Iraqi people that fact will have an impact on the post-war settlement. Of course, almost any new arrangement will be an improvement on Saddam. But two arguments made repeatedly these last few months will still hold firm: the price in Iraqi deaths may well be too high and other, less lethal means were possible.

It will be hard to say all this once the killing begins in earnest: the drama of war will make opposition look pale and passe. But doubters should hold their nerve. Our reason for opposition was never that victory would not come easily: most predicted it would. We feared instead for what that victory would cost and what would happen afterwards – and those fears still stand.



The following list of members of the UN Coalition which helped us restore the peace in East Timor is at the United Nations’ UNAMET (United Nations Mission in East Timor) site, UN.

Civilian Police: current deployment = 271 (fully deployed)

Contributions from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Ghana, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA, Zimbabwe

Military Liaison Officers: current deployment = 50 (fully deployed)

Contributions from Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Denmark, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Thailand, United Kingdom, USA, Uruguay.


Australia responsible for E Timor, says US

by Joanne Gray, Washington, September 4, 1999

The US expects Australia to lead any peace-keeping force in East Timor and to push for a United Nations resolution to authorise such a force.

The US State Department also believes that Australia should carry responsibility for seeing through the independence process. Australia should take the role, the department says, because it was Prime Minister Mr John Howard’s letter to Indonesia’s President, Dr B. J. Habibie, last December urging Jakarta to consider self-determination for East Timor that triggered the process.

The way the US State Department sees it, according to one source, “the Howard letter provoked the whole thing. Now Australia has the responsibility to follow through.”

The US is also trying to bolster the role of the UN and limit its own involvement in far-flung peace-keeping action after it had its fingers burned in the Congress and internationally over its near-unilateral actions in Kosovo, where air strikes were launched without UN Security Council approval.

Granted, America’s ability to deal with Indonesia would be much greater if the East Timor issue were resolved peacefully. But the Clinton Administration believes there would be little support in the Congress for the deployment of US peace keepers in Timor, a faraway island whose troubles have found little resonance in the American polity beyond parts of the Portuguese and Catholic communities. Moreover, the US has many other international commitments and its armed forces are already stretched across the globe.

In staying distanced from the East Timor issue, the US is protecting what it believes is a more crucial strategic interest in the stability of Indonesia as a whole. The Pentagon, especially, is worried about the impetus Timor’s likely secession could give to other break-away groups in Indonesia, and fears high-profile US involvement might add to this impetus.

It is not yet clear whether US public detachment from the process could also extend to top-level contacts. Dr Habibie has asked for a meeting at APEC with Mr Clinton, according to sources, but so far a bilateral meeting has not been granted.

UN officials late this week accepted that the rollout of a peace-keeping force could be days or weeks away, rather than months.

Discussions about the make-up of such a force and how quickly it could be deployed have already begun. “One of the big questions is, what is Australia willing to do in terms of peace keeping?” said Mr Doug Paal, director of the Asia-Pacific Policy Centre in Washington.

The US is willing to contribute technical and logistical assistance, but is reluctant to take a high-profile role in a UN deployment.

In some quarters, there is also an expectation that Portugal would contribute, at least financially.

Japan and the US would get involved, Mr Paal said, “as long as [involvement] did not sacrifice their interests in stability in Indonesia”.

Chinese involvement was not out of the question, he said, because China would be delighted if the peace-keeping intervention “went back to using the UN mandate” to sanction the operation, after the US ignored the UN with its aerial war in Kosovo and Yugoslavia.


Australia pushes US over Timor

by Geoffrey Barker, September 8, 1999, AFR

Australia yesterday called in the United States’ debts for support in past crises, urging a reluctant Washington to join an international peacekeeping force for East Timor.

Australia yesterday called in the United States’ debts for support in past crises, urging a reluctant Washington to join an international peacekeeping force for East Timor.

The Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, telephoned President Bill Clinton to say that Australians would find it “very strange indeed” if the US refused assistance in what has become Canberra’s greatest foreign policy crisis since the Vietnam War.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, delivered a similarly blunt message to the US Secretary of State, Dr Madeleine Albright.

“We’ve given very strong support to the US over and over again in many different conflicts … Australians would have a sense of comfort if the US were to be involved,” Mr Downer said last night.

The Australian move came as the Indonesian President, Dr B.J. Habibie, declared martial law in East Timor and told Mr Howard that he “may be willing” to accept an international force if the reign of terror by pro-Indonesian militia gangs does not end.

Reports from Dili last night said the imposition of martial law had not eased the terror in East Timor, with militia gangs roaming at will.

Reports reaching United Nations authorities said the military was using trucks and navy ships as part of a campaign to push thousands of East Timorese into West Timor and further away to other provinces.

Indonesia’s Mines and Energy Minister Mr Kuntoro Mangkusubroto also signalled yesterday that Jakarta was prepared to scrap the 1989 Timor Gap treaty between Australia and Indonesia, which involves oil and gas extraction rights in the Timor Sea.

Australia’s pitch to the US came as APEC and non-APEC foreign ministers were preparing in Auckland to discuss tomorrow morning the uncontrolled violence which has wracked East Timor since the announcement on Monday of the territory’s overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia.

Last night Australian officials were concerned for the safety of East Timor independence leader Mr Xanana Gusmao who was released from prison yesterday.

They said Mr Gusmao, widely expected to be the first president of an independent East Timor, would be in grave danger from militia or army killers when he returned to Dili.

The Minister for Defence, Mr John Moore, telephoned the US Secretary for Defence, Mr William Cohen, last night to seek the Pentagon’s support for US participation.

Mr Moore told BBC radio that 6,000 to 7,000 peacekeepers would be needed in East Timor and that Australia was prepared to play the leading role.

At the same time, Mr Howard was working with the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, to assemble an international force.

So far, Canada, Britain, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines have indicated their willingness to join.

Sceptical Australian officials said it would be clear within 48 hours whether Indonesia’s declaration of martial law in East Timor had significantly reduced violence. If it failed to do so, President Habibie would be under intense international pressure to admit foreign peacekeepers immediately.

Australia is confident it could deploy up to 2,000 troops to East Timor in 72 hours.

Senior officials said international pressure was mounting on Indonesia to agree to peacekeepers and Mr Howard was now more optimistic that it would do so.

Australia’s appeal to the US won immediate and unqualified support from the Federal Opposition Leader, Mr Kim Beazley, who said Australia was entitled to expect US involvement in return for past Australian support under the military alliance arrangements. He said he was disappointed by the initial reluctance of the US.

Senior government officials said last night that the US had signalled its willingness to provide logistics and planning support, but that the Pentagon was concerned about overextending its resources.

Senior officials said Mr Howard was “quietly optimistic” the US would respond positively to Australia’s appeal and he believed it was “overwhelmingly desirable” that US forces be part of a peacekeeping force.

Despite the Pentagon’s reluctance, officials said Mr Howard felt Mr Clinton was disposed to co-operate and understood the sensitivities of US-Australia relations. Mr Howard also believed Dr Albright was sympathetic to Australia’s request.

But Mr Downer said last night Australia would have to go ahead without the US if it refused to participate.

Australian officials revealed that Mr Moore had failed in several attempts to speak to the Indonesian military chief, General Wiranto, who many believe is the key player in the East Timor crisis. His elusiveness contrasts with the regular contact between Mr Howard and Mr Downer and President Habibie and the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Ali Alatas.

Senior government sources yesterday revealed how they believe Indonesia’s wider political uncertainty is influencing the Indonesian leadership’s approach to the East Timor crisis.

One source said it was possible General Wiranto was not exercising as much control as might be expected over the military in East Timor and that his aim might be to help Mrs Megawati Soekarnoputri become president, with himself as vice-president.


Howard pleased with ‘limited’ US support

by Michelle Grattan in Auckland, September 13, 1999, SMH

Each time John Howard spoke to President Bill Clinton last week about a peacekeeping force for East Timor, he put the same strong message. Australians would find it very strange indeed, given history, if the Americans were not conspicuously involved.

Mr Clinton was understanding, but it took days of negotiations to get what Mr Howard now insists he regards as a satisfactory US commitment. Even yesterday, Mr Clinton was saying that any presence the US would have in East Timor would be a “limited” force.

Last Monday, UN Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan asked whether Australia would lead a force. Mr Howard immediately said yes.

By Tuesday morning, there had been indications from New Zealand, Canada and Britain that they would participate. The Thais said they would be interested and Mr Annan had spoken of Malaysia and the Philippines. The Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, had lobbied the US Secretary of State, Dr Madeleine Albright. There was support from her, but the Pentagon was resisting becoming involved at all.

After Cabinet on Wednesday, Mr Howard said “there will at least be logistical support . . . and some other support from the US. The extent of any ground force commitment from the US is unclear.”

Mr Clinton rang Mr Howard at 8.10 am on Thursday. Mr Howard said later the Americans would give “tangible” support.

By Friday morning, Mr Howard was impatient: “We don’t yet have a full-blooded American participation.”

Mr Clinton, about to fly to APEC, said Australia “and many of these other countries have been our allies in every difficulty . . . I believe we should support in an appropriate way”.

Later on Friday, Mr Howard said there would be American assistance, but whether it involved “boots on the ground . . . we’ll wait and see”.

By Saturday afternoon, Mr Howard was saying there had been “a very satisfactory movement over the past 48 hours” in the US position. “Our defence people have expressed . . . complete satisfaction”. The offer had gone “well beyond logistical support”.

The march of folly

This is Mark Latham’s speech to Parliament today on Australia’s declaration of war on Iraq. After the speech, comments the man I believe should be the next leader of the Labor Party made in Parliament on the matter yesterday.

War on Iraq

by Mark Latham

In her outstanding book The March of Folly the American historian, Barbara Tuchman, looks at the reasons why nations and governments often act in a manner contrary to their self-interest.

She writes that throughout human endeavour “government remains the paramount area of folly because it is there that men seek power over others – only to lose it over themselves”.

For Tuchman, persistence in error is the problem. When leaders abandon reason and rationality, when they fail to recognise mistakes, when they refuse to withdraw from bad policy – no matter the damage they are doing to themselves and their nations – this is the march of folly.

Vietnam was an example of this process. Fearful of McCarthyism and right-wing opinion at home, successive American leaders – from Eisenhower to Nixon – refused to be the first president to concede ground to communism.

This is why they fought an unwinnable war for so long. This is why they pushed their country deeper and deeper into the folly of a counter-productive foreign policy.

I believe that something similar is happening in the United States today. Post-September 11, the American people want revenge for the attack on their country and the Bush Administration is determined to give it to them.

It is determined to wage war on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Even if this means damaging America’s long-term interests. Even if this means diverting resources from the real war against terror. Even if this means trashing the UN system. Even if this means dividing the Western world and gutting NATO. Even if this means generating a new wave of anti-American sentiment around the world.

After the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, people were worried about what Al-Qaeda might do next. Today they are worried about what President Bush might do next.

This is the march of folly and shamefully, the Australian Government is following the United States down this path. This is the worst piece of Australian foreign policy since Vietnam.

The Prime Minister has made a crude judgement post-September 11 that the world has just one super-power and, in the war against terror, Australia needs to get with the power, no matter the cost to our independence and international standing. He is not interested in arguments about the soundness of US policy or the need for global power-sharing and cooperation. The Howard Government is determined to follow the leader.

This approach is spelt out in the Government’s recent Strategic Review, a remarkably simplistic document that even goes as far as endorsing the Son of Star Wars: American missile defence. Incredibly, this is not to protect Australian cities and territory. Rather, it recognises that under this Government, wherever the US army goes across the globe, the ADF will automatically follow.

This is not a white paper but a tissue paper, to cover the Government’s radical shift in defence policy. The old DOA was Defence of Australia. The new DOA is Defence of America.

The Howard Government has turned Australia’s national security upside down. It has handed over our sovereignty to the United States and left our country exposed to the adventurism of the Bush Administration.

For some of the media-elites, to say these things is seen as anti-American. In my case, I greatly admire the achievements of the United States people. I’m not anti-American. I’m anti-Bush. I’m anti-the right-wing hawks of the Republican Party. I’m anti-war.

The United States is a great and powerful nation. But being powerful doesn’t always mean that nations and politicians get it right.

It is in Australia’s interests to question US foreign policy and the competence of world leaders. Australian lives are now on the line. Our troops in Iraq are effectively under the command of George W Bush. No nation should just sleepwalk into war.

An unnecessary war

When people ask: what is the alternative to war, I say that the answer is quite simple. The alternative to war is peaceful disarmament.

On 7 March the chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix reported that substantial progress had been made and that Iraq could be disarmed peacefully within a matter of months.

He said: “We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.” He refuted US intelligence claims about the use of mobile production units for biological weapons, stating that, “No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found.”

There is a huge credibility gap in the argument for war. We now know – as incredible as it may seem – that large slabs of the British Government’s dossier on Iraq were plagiarised from university students.

In this country, a senior ONA officer, Andrew Wilkie, has blown the whistle on the true nature of Australian intelligence reports. In his assessment:

Iraq does not pose a security threat to the US, the UK, Australia or any other country at this point in time. Their military is very small, their weapons of mass destruction program is fragmented and contained and there is no hard evidence of any active cooperation between Iraq and Al-Qaeda The bottom line is that this war against Iraq is totally unrelated to the war on terror.

So why the mad rush to war? Why does Australia need to act outside the UN system when the independent report of the weapons inspectors has said that peaceful disarmament is possible?

Why does Australia need to launch an unprovoked attack on another nation – a nation that doesn’t threaten us? Why have we sent our best troops and equipment to the other side of the world when they should be here, guarding our country against real threats, against the real terrorists?

Why do we need to be part of a war that involves the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians? Why are our military forces striking a country where half the population is under the age of 15? That’s 12 million boys and girls, their lives now at risk because of George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard.

None of these things need to happen. Peaceful disarmament is possible. This war is simply unnecessary.

More problems than it solves

It will create more problems than it solves. It will cause enormous suffering and instability in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq. It will breed a new generation of terrorists and increase the likelihood of terrorist activity on Australian soil.

The war against terror must target terrorists, not the women and children of nation states. It must solve problems, like catching Bin Laden, wiping out Al-Qaeda and addressing the Palestinian question. It must attack the core reasons for terrorism, rather than being diverted into conflict in Iraq.

The Republican Right in the United States has tried to legitimise its policies by talking of the so-called Clash of Civilisations – the struggle between Western values and Islamic culture. I regard this theory as nonsense.

The real clash is within a civilisation – the civil war within Islam itself, the struggle between militant fundamentalists and moderate Muslims. We need to do everything we can to ensure that the moderates win.

We need to find a lasting peace in the Middle East, not start a new war in the region. We need to address the burning problem of Third World poverty, overcoming the injustices that fundamentalists thrive on. This is why the invasion of Iraq is such bad policy. It is contrary to each of these goals.

A dangerous doctrine

There is another reason for opposing this war: it is based on a dangerous doctrine.

Sixty years ago mankind developed the capacity to destroy itself, most notably through nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Since then the world has managed to survive, mainly through policies of deterrence and containment. In the post-war years, this was known as the Truman doctrine.

The United Nations has also played a role. It may not be perfect, but it is still the best system we have for fostering international goodwill and cooperation. To ignore and then belittle the will of the United Nations at this crucial time represents an appalling shift in Australian foreign policy.

Even worse and without any real debate, the Howard Government has embraced the new Bush doctrine of pre-emption. This doctrine overturns 60 years of successful US foreign policy, 60 years of deterrence and containment. It gives the US a mandate to launch pre-emptive strikes on other nations – nations that it deems to be evil. Bush has abandoned President Clinton’s emphasis on multilateralism and gone down the dangerous path of unilateralism.

Make no mistake. A world based on threats of military action, a world based on pre-emptive strikes is a world about to do itself terrible harm.

The folly of this approach can be seen on the Korean peninsula. Two-and-a-half years ago at the Sydney Olympics, the North and South Korean teams marched together. This was seen as a wonderful sign for the future. It gave the world hope for political and economic cooperation, resolving an international trouble spot.

Eighteen months ago, the North Korean leadership was in China studying the benefits of economic openness and liberalisation. Again, it seemed that the North Korean problem would solve itself. Like other communist regimes, under the weight of economic failure, it was going to reform from within.

Then 14 months ago President Bush included North Korea in his Axis of Evil speech, threatening military pre-emption. Not surprisingly, North Korea is now racing to defend itself, weaponising its nuclear power. In response, Japan has said that it too needs nuclear weapons.

This is the problem with pre-emption. It creates an international environment based on suspicion and escalation. In our country, bizarrely enough, the Prime Minister has said that we need a nuclear missile shield to defend ourselves against North Korea.

This is the madness of escalation. And none of it has anything to do with the war against terror. Not the development of Japanese nuclear capacity. Not the creation of an Australian missile shield. Osama bin Laden must be laughing himself silly.

We cannot run the world according to threats and first-strike thinking. Not a world in which 26 nations have chemical weapons and 20 have biological weapons. Not a world in which India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons. Not a world plagued by the non-stop violence of the Middle East.

History tells us that deterrence and containment are the only answers. Along with the age-old hope of cooperation between nations.

This is where I fundamentally disagree with Bush’s policy. In outlining his new doctrine in September last year, he said that, “In the new world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action.”

I believe in this new world, as well as the old, the only path to safety is international cooperation. Multilateralism, not unilateralism. Containment, not pre-emption. Peace, not an unnecessary war in Iraq.

International power-sharing

Along with most Australians, I do not want a world in which one country has all the power. I do not want a world based on Axis of Evil rhetoric and the constant threat of pre-emption.

There is a better way. It is called the United Nations. This means respecting the findings of Hans Blix. This means respecting international opinion – in this case, the position of France, Germany, Russia and China. It means sharing power across the globe, instead of allowing one nation to appoint itself as the global policeman.

There was a time, of course, when George W Bush seemed to believe in these ideals. During the 2000 Presidential campaign he said that he wanted the United States to take a lower profile in international affairs, to be “a more humble power.”

His radical shift in policy has, in fact, humiliated his nation. He has provoked anti-American sentiment internationally. He has divided the Western alliance and badly damaged NATO.

I ask this simple question: who was the last world leader to unite France, Germany, Russia and China? This is an unprecedented coalition. From the right-wing Gaullists in France, to the social democrats in Germany, to Putin’s Russia, to the Communist Party of China, international opinion has united against the United States.

Around the globe, people do not want a world in which one country has all the power. They want power-sharing and cooperation.

This should be the basis of Australia’s foreign policy. The Howard Government believes in a uni-polar world in which the primacy of the United States is beyond challenge. I believe in a multi-polar world, recognising not just American power but also, China as an emerging super-power, plus the supra-national power of the European Union.

Australia is one of the few countries in the world well-placed to have strong relations with all three. In the Labor Party, this is not just an opportunity for the future. It is part of our political legacy.

Just as Curtin established the US relationship, just as Calwell established the European migration program, just as Whitlam established relations with the People’s Republic of China, the next Labor Government will have to realign and rebalance Australia’s foreign policy. Nothing is more important than getting these relationships right.

The US relationship

The great irony of the Government’s strategy is that it actually weakens our relationship with the United States.

Like any alliance, ANZUS works best when it is based on an equal partnership, when both partners bring something to the table. Under the Howard Government, Australia brings nothing but subservience. This is hurting the strength and viability of the relationship.

In practice, we matter to the Americans when we matter in Asia. The alliance is strongest when Australian diplomacy is able to influence outcomes in our part of the world. This is when the United States has reason to rely on us, to treat Australia as an equal partner.

Under this Government, of course, our influence in Asia is minor. Our neighbours shake their heads in disbelief when they see Australia echoing the American line, when they see our Prime Minister calling himself a deputy sheriff.

These are Asian nations that fought long and hard against colonialism. They are proud nations with little respect for countries that act like client states. They have independent foreign policies of their own, and they expect the same from Australia.

Mr Howard thinks the ultimate guarantor of Australia’s security is the US alliance. That’s nonsense. The ultimate guarantor of Australia’s security is the soundness of our foreign policy and the strength of our armed forces.

We need an alliance with the United States. But we also live in a new world, with new threats and new doctrines. The Howard Government has not handled these challenges well.

The next Labor Government will need to repair the damage, to rebalance the relationship. I support the American alliance, but it must be an alliance between equals – a genuine partnership, rather than the deputy sheriff role we have today.


The key divide in Australian politics is now clear. The Liberals have become an American war party. Labor stands for global power-sharing and cooperation. We stand for national security based on collective security. We stand for an independent foreign policy.

The Liberals stand for war. They stand for unprovoked attacks on other countries, because the United States wants it that way. The Prime Minister is too weak to say No to George W Bush.

This is the march of folly. The folly of bad foreign policy. The folly of a government that refuses to concede its error of judgement. The folly of a government that is sending Australia into an unnecessary and unwanted war, with all the horror of military and civilian casualties.

This is a war that will create more problems than it solves. It will create a new generation of terrorists. It has already divided our nation and broken the Western alliance.

I urge the Government, even at this late hour, to change its mind. Listen to the words of Barbara Tuchman: “In the search for wiser government we should look for the test of character first. And the test should be moral courage.”

Surely there is someone in this Government who can pass the test of moral courage, who can stand up and oppose this war. If just eight Government members were willing to cross the floor, the will of this parliament, the will of our democracy would prevail. We could stop Australia’s involvement in this unjust and unnecessary war.

Six months ago in this place, 24 Government members voted against stem cell research because of what they considered to be the sanctity of life, the sanctity of embryonic stem cells.

Today we are not talking about single cells. We are talking about real human lives. We are talking about the lives of 12 million Iraqi children, little boys and girls and their families.

Where are these 24 MPs today? They’re no longer defending the sanctity of life. They’ve joined the American war party.

I oppose the Government’s motion. I oppose the war in Iraq and I urge members opposite – those who can find the moral courage, those who truly believe in the sanctity of life – to do the same.


APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 3) 2002-2003Cognate bill:APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 4) 2002-2003: Second Reading

Mr LATHAM (Werriwa) (4.00 p.m.) Let me give the Main Committee a list of parliamentary names and electorates: the member for Warringah, the member for Gwydir, the member for Paterson, the member for Macquarie, the member for Mitchell, the member for Parramatta, the member for Makin, the member for Mallee, the member for Wannon, the member for Fadden, the member for Dawson, the member for Lindsay, the member for Robertson, the member for Gippsland, the member for Hinkler, the member for Indi, the member for Sturt, the member for Canning, the member for Hume, the member for Barker, the member for Fisher, the member for Dobell, the member for Lyne and the member for Hughes. Now I move to the other place: Senator Alston, Senator Calvert, Senator Eggleston, Senator Lightfoot, Senator McGauran, Senator Barnett, Senator Boswell, Senator Chapman, Senator Coonan, Senator Ellison, Senator Heffernan, Senator Sandy Macdonald, Senator Minchin and Senator Santoro.

These are the 38 government members and senators who opposed the stem cell research bill just last year but who now support a war in Iraq.

On stem cells, the 38 claimed to be driven by the sanctity of life-a belief that embryo cells, too small to be seen, and which will never develop into a human life, need to be preserved at any cost. Yet, on Iraq, where tens of thousands of innocent civilians, babies, children and women will most certainly be slaughtered by the US war machine, these same 38 members of parliament have no concern for the sanctity of life. These are real lives, not single cells, frozen forever in research laboratories. These are real human lives-babies resting in their cots, children playing in the streets and women caring for their families.


APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 3) 2002-2003Cognate bill:APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 4) 2002-2003: Second Reading

… The media establishment, of course, is a big part of the problem-the self-serving commentariat that claims the right for the suburbs but who, in practice, never live west of Annandale or Yarraville. This is why the right wing elites in Australia are so out of touch with public opinion.

Just look at the disgraceful coverage of the Iraqi issue by the Murdoch press. Under the ownership and control of an American citizen, they have acted against Australia’s best interests; they have acted against the interests of our country. I noticed recently an analysis by Roy Greenslade in the Guardian newspaper on 17 February. He pointed out that there are 175 Murdoch newspaper titles around the world and that-surprise, surprise-175 of them have backed the war in Iraq. One hundred per cent have shamefully backed unilateral American policy with regard to Iraq. Greenslade writes:

How lucky can Murdoch get! He hires 175 editors and, by remarkable coincidence, they all seem to love the nation which their boss has chosen as his own.

The truth is that we need more diversity, more choice and more accountability in the Australian media. We need to transfer power from the insiders to the Australian people. We need to democratise Australia’s media laws. Shamefully, the Howard government is moving in the opposite direction.