blogorrhoea
Thursday, July 24, 2003
 
OH, AND I DON'T AGREE WITH THE SOLOMONS THINGY EITHER ...

Three things occur to me on the vexing issue that is the Solomon Islands. Firstly, that the Anglo-Saxon West's response to the lesson of Somalia is to do it all again. Secondly, that social problems that look ethnic or criminal (or theocratic or tribal or ideological or demagogic) on the surface are typically economic problems at bottom. And thirdly that it's difficult to keep up with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on the whole thing …

Quoth Alex on The Australian's opinion page on January 3, 2003:
"Sending in Australian troops to occupy Solomon Islands would be folly in the extreme.
It would be widely resented in the Pacific region. It would be very difficult to justify to Australian taxpayers. And for how many years would such an occupation have to continue? And what would be the exit strategy? The real show-stopper, however, is that it would not work – no matter how it was dressed up, whether as an Australian or a Commonwealth or a Pacific Islands Forum initiative. The fundamental problem is that foreigners do not have answers for the deep-seated problems afflicting Solomon Islands."

Quoth Alex at the National Press Club on June 26:
"We will not sit back and watch while a country slips inexorably into decay and disorder … Already the region is troubled by business scams, illegal exploitation of natural resources, crimes such as gun running, and the selling of passports and bank licences to dubious foreign interests. The last thing we can afford is an already susceptible region being overwhelmed by more insidious and direct threats to Australia."

Needless to say, I agree with Alex Number One. So do a lot of Somalis and Afghans, I submit.

The problems faced by the Solomon Islands are to do with corruption in Honiara's appropriation and distribution of aid money (that the charmingly grateful Allan Kemakeza's role in all this is may not be beyond question is documented here), with the centralisation of what wealth remains on Malaita or in Honiara (at the expense of the Guadalcanalese outside Honiara), and the way such historical inequities (a function of British imperial divide-and-rule favouritism) come to the surface as the moot benefits of globalisation impose themselves (town versus country; Malaitan versus Gaudalcanalese; Asian crisis etc). Anyway, it all culminated in gunplay between Guadalcanalese seperatists, (the Isatabu Freedom Movement) and the Malaitan police and their mates in the'paramilitary' Malaitan Eagle Force (among whom erstwhile Foreign Minister Alex Bartlett was apparently numbered).

The problems faced by The West are that the British-owned Solomon Islands Plantation (SIPL), the Packer-owned GRM International management firm, the Australian controlled Gold Ridge goldmine and a hundred other Australian companies who have suspended operations just can't make a quid in all the consequent 'uncertainty'. As this soon-to-be-drawn-out military intervention promises to milk the Australian taxpayer to the tune of $300 million-per-annum and may easily deprive some Australians of the odd family member or lover, it's necessary to make the whole thing part of that trusty ol' 'War On Terror' thingy.

To the rescue came the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), whose director, Hugh White regaled the July 2 Dateline (SBS) audience with an argument of Bushian profundity: "You don’t always have the luxury of making strategic policy on the basis of empirical evidence of problems that have already arisen … The question … is whether we want to stand back and see whether that [i.e., crime and terrorism] happens in our part of the world, or whether we want to acknowledge that as a serious risk and take sensible steps now to prevent it occurring." And it's not just military intervention the ASPI want; they want full-scale recolonisation, too. Quoth their Beyond Bali paper of November 2002: "Australian policy since decolonisation has consistently stressed the need to allow these countries to manage their own problems … It seems that as far as our Melanesian relationships are concerned, this approach will no longer work."

It's all there then. The raising of the possibility of terrorist bases later as justification for invasion now, and the implication that those brownish people just can't be trusted to look after themselves.

Oh, woe is us, bent under the white man's burden.

Just how convincing this terrorism argument is, was a question to which Australian economist Peter Urban recently addressed himself:

" The reality is that we don't have significant security interests in the Solomons … To put this in perspective, the Solomons is less than one-fifth the size of Tasmania. Indeed, it is more comparable to the Australian Capital Territory, except the ACT has a Gross State Product of $14 billion, nearly 32 times the size of the Solomons' economy … The capital, Honiara, is more than 3500 kilometres from Sydney. There are also only twice weekly air services from Australia and even communications to and within the the islands are poor … any covert operational use of the Solomons as a terrorist base would be difficult … the small population would make any covert activity fairly easy to detect, except on the most isolated of the islands. And it would be far more practical – not to say far cheaper and more appropriate – for Canberra to establish a small intelligence operation in Honiara than to send a regional intervention force of 2000 personnel."

It seems to this skeptical soul that a small intelligence operation in Honiara is a sensible notion. Oh, and an aid policy directed at the welfare of Solomon Islanders across the country's regions and ethnic groups, rather than at the welfare of Western companies via a Malaitan compradorial elite. Australians would save money, and the Solomons might actually have a political economy worth living in.
 
Monday, July 21, 2003
 
TWICE THE BLOGORRHOEA!

Please be upsitting and let us join in convivially dismarrhoeaic greeting of blogorrhoea's newest scribe, Glenn Condell. Glenn will be known to many of you as an articulate lurker of comments boxes around the world and across the spectrum. Another young man trapped in a middle-aged body who, driven by the times and permitted by the technology, has decided to say 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking it any more!'

Onya Glenn.

Glenn intends to launch a blog as soon as time and still developing geek-skills permit, and feels a spell at blogorrhoea will serve as a marsupial's pouch. Quoth Glenn, 'a nice warm spot between womb and world from which I can suckle some nourishment before emerging, blinking into the light'.

Onya Glenn.

This blog proudly presents Glenn's damn fine inaugural plunge into the brackish depths of dismarrhoeaic blogorrhoea below.

Onya Glenn.

 
 
UPSIDE DOWN
by Glenn Condell

You know your world has 'changed, changed utterly' when you find yourself nodding in agreement with Norman Tebbitt, Malcolm Rifkind, Max Hastings and our own Big Mal.

These people were pretty much the ne plus ultra of political enemies not so very long ago. They were the right-wingers of their time (an often ugly era now starting to look like the good old days) but hindsight makes them seem moderate. Or rather, comparisons with the radical ascendancy ruling the roost in 'conservative' politics today reveals their relative balance and restraint. All of which makes you wonder.. if yesterday's wingers were pussies compared to today's, what in God's name will tomorrow's be like? Are Ann Coulter and Michael Savage harbingers of the new breed? Better stop, I can feel a Godwin's Law coming on.

Of course, they've only been holding forth on mendacity and incompetence in foreign policy; it's possible they'd still outlaw unions and single mothers
given half a chance. But what struck me in their recent forays was, if you like, the conservative nature of their conservatism. If it ain't broke don't fix it... don't throw the baby out with the bathwater... discretion the better part of valour... you can choose your own proverb to describe the caution that their worldview (and of course their experience) prescribes for the unprecedented set of circumstances we find ourselves in. The very fact of these forays tells you something about the importance these elders attach to getting the word out, but they have the added benefit of casting the actions of their successors in a harsher, more revealing light. It's as if the patresfamilias of a sober, well run family enterprise were clearing their throats to warn their spoiled and footloose youngsters against quixotic and potentially disastrous investments.

In Britain, sad to say, their successors don't answer to the description 'radical conservative ascendancy' but really, they may as well. They certainly don't answer to the description of Labour Party any more. Three of my team are pillars of the British establishment so they might be expected to have a pop at Blair and co, but what's different now is the unbridled contempt for, and fear of America.

One of the characteristics of this time of upheaval is this shifting of apparently eternal political boundaries and affiliations and this is because those
markers have been revealed by relentless pressure from the US to have been built on foundations of sand. The eternal verities of particular groups seem either to be not so very eternal or not so very true, or both. Hence the unprecedented estrangements and alliances we've seen lately. The sense of outraged betrayal in my hand-picked crusties is palpable; they lived their professional lives under assumptions exploded in a few short years of peremptory selfishness. But it's not just the affront of proud men that you discern, there's also a dawning fear, even panic, a presentiment of doom.

I saw Tebbitt talking to Tony Jones on Lateline a few weeks ago. He was in a genial mood and made lots of sense... this is the same man who buried bodies for Thatcher, I thought?

TONY JONES: As you've said yourself, many will be surprised to see you, of all people, springing to the BBC's defence.Why have you done so?

LORD TEBBIT: Well, let's put it this way, I've had my criticisms of the BBC because it is essentially an institutionally Labourist organisation. It trades people with this Government ... you know, lots of BBC journalists have gone to work for the Government, they've gone in as Labor MPs, things like that. But nonetheless, I think there is a very strong ethical sense in the BBC and a very strong conscience, and I think that conscience has been aroused by the fact that the Government was dragged into this war in a way which is offensive to a great many people within the Labor Party... Now, you see, I'm a black-hearted old Tory and I didn't think we needed to go and ask the UN before we went down to the Falklands to sort out the Argentinians and I think a war is legal if Parliament says it's legal, but Mr Blair doesn't take that view. He believes in the UN and all things like that. So he's in a difficult position. You can justify the war on the basis that Saddam was a very evil man, that he was a menace to a lot of people around the place and the world is a better world with him gone, if he has gone...But nonetheless, if you are going to justify your war on the 45-minute weapons of mass destruction, then you begin to look a bit silly when you can't even find a 45-month weapon of mass destruction, and that's why Blair is in trouble. Was the BBC coverage unfair? Myself, I thought that it was perhaps dwelling a bit on the negative side most of the time, but of course if you now look at it in retrospect, and see the problems
arising in Iraq after the war has ended, then perhaps you might say the BBC at times were a bit closer to the mark than we thought.'

Rifkind, foreign secretary under Major, wrote this the day before David Kelley disappeared:

'A decision to go to war is the most serious and most difficult decision any prime minister will ever take. When that war is to be with a country that has not attacked you, we are in new territory for a modern British government. When it is, furthermore, a war waged without the express approval of the UN and with the nation and parliament deeply divided, the reasons and the justification have to be clear, demonstrable and consistent. ...

This attempt at moral blackmail will not do. The issue is not whether the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. Of course it is. It would also be a better place without Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro and a host of other tyrants and despots, but there is no intention of the British government to support wars in order to get rid of them.

Nor did Tony Blair call for an invasion of Iraq during the first five years of his prime ministership, when Saddam was as evil as he was last year. During that period the prime minister supported the strict enforcement of sanctions and the no-fly zone that had been the policy of the Clinton administration in Washington and the Major government in London...

It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of the failure to find WMD and the resultant deep belief that parliament and the public were misled on the supreme issue of peace and war.

The failure to find WMD is also crucial to the credibility of the new US doctrine of pre-emption. There is nothing illogical, unethical or undesirable in hitting an enemy first whom you know is planning to hit you. That is no more than a form of self-defence. But that must be subject to two major considerations. First, it cannot be a right for the US alone. If it is valid it must be available to any member of the UN in comparable circumstances. That alone would make the world a very dangerous place. Second, pre-emptive war could only be justified if, either before or after you launch it, you are able to produce credible evidence of the intention of the other state to attack you.'

Implicit in these statements is a proper recognition of the consequence of lies; the loss of trust in governments and institutions. Graham Richardson informed a shocked populace a few years ago that politicians did tell the occasional white one, but these particular betrayals are at the phylum rather than the species level. Decisions over war and peace are at the core of a government's relationship with it's people and if that core is rotten, it won't be long before the infection spreads out through the flesh to the very skin of a nation's democratic credentials.

Even more direct was former Telegraph editor, Falklands 'hero' and leader of the fox-hunting Country Alliance, Max Hastings. The title of his blistering piece says it all.. 'I was silly to trust America'.

'Some of us, who accepted public and private Whitehall assurances about WMDs, today feel rather silly. Robin Cook is crowing, and well he may. He said that WMDs did not exist. He appears to have been right. It is irrelevant that the Allies won the war. The Prime Minister committed British troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit, and it stinks...

It remains vital to engage with Washington. Even in the face of great difficulties, the diplomatic effort must continue, to restrain American unilateralism. But a heavy blow has been struck against our faith in American rhetoric and judgment. The struggle against terrorism, and the management of the world look harder today than they did a week ago, thanks to Washington's frightening surge of unforced errors.'

Fraser went ballistic in the Herald, prompting much of his former contituency to write huffy letters to the editor complaining that he ought to stay in his bolthole and turn from blue to reddish green privately. How dare he be allowed to fulminate now, they fulminated. Had he come out and attacked the boat people of course he'd have been feted by the same people for his continuing relevance.

'Hicks and his family are right to be concerned about the conduct of this trial. Our Government is convinced that the trial will be just. The British Government is much more concerned about its citizens in the same situation. Important as this is to the individuals, the issue says much about the relationship between Australia, Britain and the United States. The issues are fundamental and more serious for Australia than Britain, which has a choice between the US and the European Union.

It is clear the Australian Government has determined that Australia's interests will be best served by avoiding any argument with the US and supporting its policy. This change in Australian foreign policy is even more fundamental than the Government's announcements some weeks ago would indicate. They go to the heart of what we are about as an independent nation. They raise more starkly than ever the question of identity and purpose. Are we indeed able to stand for Australians who may need the protection of their nationality?

The present answer is clear. Not if such actions cut across relations with the US. Some would believe that we are now a completely subservient ally. It is time Australians started to ask what additional interests are we going to forsake in our support of this current American administration.

There is only one country on which Australians can rely absolutely. That is Australia itself. That capacity should never be prejudiced or diminished by other relationships. Great powers have a history of pursuing their own interests to the exclusion even of the interests of states that have been close friends and allies.

The war on Iraq has arguably made the pursuit of the war on terrorism more difficult. The US has dissipated the friendship generated in September 2001. We have made ourselves the closest of allies in this war on terrorism and have supported strategies which make its achievement more difficult. America's enemies will unnecessarily become Australia's enemies

I do not believe that America, however benign the exercise of its current power, would necessarily use that power for Australia's protection. It has, in fact, become a fundamentalist regime believing fervently that what it judges to be right, is in fact right, and that others do not have anything much worthwhile to contribute. Such an America will not make friends.'

No trust, no friends. Just fearful flunkeys like poodle-dee and poodle-dum. Fraser's rhetoric is perhaps historically brutal; it is surely unprecedented in this country from such a senior figure. There is no attempt to minimise either anger or fear. What should worry apolitically casual observers is the fact that the man who said he looked like an Easter Island statue with razor's up it's arse agrees with him. So does the Silver Bodgie. So do I. We're all conservatives on the question of Australia's independence.

One sentence.. 'The issues are fundamental and more serious for Australia than Britain, which has a choice between the US and the European Union' resonated uneasily with an article in the weekend Herald by David Jenkins. Paid registration is required I'm afraid, but the first sentence reads ... 'Defence experts believe that if the US went to war with North Korea or China, Australia would almost certainly have to join in.'

No arguments from Paul Dibb and Des Ball, who are the only two Australian military experts in civvies I could name. As Fraser pointed out, we have no alternatives, especially given the unseemly haste with which Howard has pulled us out of Asia. It is this lack of choice that drives the urgency of the debate about identity and sovereignty in Australia.

Did I write that? It must have been wishful thinking. Where is that debate? Our gloriously diverse media don't seem to be banging on about it. Do we believe it better to be alive with kneepads or dead without? There's no doubt what the almost Stalinist unity of the Liberal Party executive thinks; they've had the pads on since Florida. It's hard to say what Labor thinks; it's messier, more varied public stance is refeshingly democratic but hardly an electoral winner. Who knows where the Democrats are? Having a meeting about party procedures no doubt, or appearing on telly. Bob Brown is the only political leader having the debate (when he's given the oxygen to do so) but he's talking to himself. At the geopolitical level, we ought to be discussing what we will and will not do for the US, lines in the sand and all that. Any self-respecting nation would. But I wonder if in the near future we might need to be discussing tin tacks issues like 'Are we prepared for a nuclear strike on a city? Have we discussed water, power, priorities for urgent use of emergency services, etc etc?'

To return to trust, truly said to be the glue our democracies rely on to work fairly and effectively. Adele Horin, yet another bleeding heart on the pinko Herald's register of leftist loons, lays into Peter Costello with a vim and vigour that surprised me almost as much as the unadorned 'anti-Americanism' of the grandees quoted above. I reacted in pretty much the same way to Costello's anodyne attempt to claim 'tolerance' and 'social capital' based on 'trust' (he mentioned it 22 times) as the distinguishing feature of his drive to replace his boss.

Trouble is, I seem to recall another conservative politician using just this tack to gain office. Lay low on policy and 'courageous' public statements, preach tolerance and decency and implicitly promise to clear the nation's stables of the ordure left by the previous occupant. No prizes for guessing.

Also, the idea of Costello appropriating trust and tolerance for his ticket is, as I said in another forum, a bit like Keating pretending to follow Collingwood. His heart's not in it and having a brother who's is just won't cut it. It's a sell, but his reticence makes it a curiously muted one. Nearby winds have nothing to fear from his caution.

Which begs the question - if Costello hasn't got the cojones to say what he thinks about social policy (or anything else really), if he's content to speak in platitudes and avoid confrontation on relatively small fry issues in a relatively small fry nation, what can we expect from him as a leader of such a nation in the big wide world? Can we expect a bold departure from the current policy of craven submission to power allied to persecution of the weak as scapegoats and diversions? Policy he has been as responsible for implementing as any of his colleagues bar one. Can we expect a Costello government to resist a re-elected George Bush's insistence that we send thousands of our troops into Iran or Korea to help 'keep the peace'?

I'm not hopeful. Trust has been lost.. is this the man to restore it?

 
 
UPSIDE DOWN
by Glenn Condell

You know your world has 'changed, changed utterly' when you find yourself nodding in agreement with Norman Tebbitt, Malcolm Rifkind, Max Hastings and our own Big Mal.

These people were pretty much the ne plus ultra of political enemies not so very long ago. They were the right-wingers of their time (an often ugly era now starting to look like the good old days) but hindsight makes them seem moderate. Or rather, comparisons with the radical ascendancy ruling the roost in 'conservative' politics today reveals their relative balance and restraint. All of which makes you wonder.. if yesterday's wingers were pussies compared to today's, what in God's name will tomorrow's be like? Are Ann Coulter and Michael Savage harbingers of the new breed? Better stop, I can feel a Godwin's Law coming on.

Of course, they've only been holding forth on mendacity and incompetence in foreign policy; it's possible they'd still outlaw unions and single mothers
given half a chance. But what struck me in their recent forays was, if you like, the conservative nature of their conservatism. If it ain't broke don't fix it... don't throw the baby out with the bathwater... discretion the better part of valour... you can choose your own proverb to describe the caution that their worldview (and of course their experience) prescribes for the unprecedented set of circumstances we find ourselves in. The very fact of these forays tells you something about the importance these elders attach to getting the word out, but they have the added benefit of casting the actions of their successors in a harsher, more revealing light. It's as if the patresfamilias of a sober, well run family enterprise were clearing their throats to warn their spoiled and footloose youngsters against quixotic and potentially disastrous investments.

In Britain, sad to say, their successors don't answer to the description 'radical conservative ascendancy' but really, they may as well. They certainly don't answer to the description of Labour Party any more. Three of my team are pillars of the British establishment so they might be expected to have a pop at Blair and co, but what's different now is the unbridled contempt for, and fear of America.

One of the characteristics of this time of upheaval is this shifting of apparently eternal political boundaries and affiliations and this is because those
markers have been revealed by relentless pressure from the US to have been built on foundations of sand. The eternal verities of particular groups seem either to be not so very eternal or not so very true, or both. Hence the unprecedented estrangements and alliances we've seen lately. The sense of outraged betrayal in my hand-picked crusties is palpable; they lived their professional lives under assumptions exploded in a few short years of peremptory selfishness. But it's not just the affront of proud men that you discern, there's also a dawning fear, even panic, a presentiment of doom.

I saw Tebbitt talking to Tony Jones on Lateline a few weeks ago. He was in a genial mood and made lots of sense... this is the same man who buried bodies for Thatcher, I thought?

TONY JONES: As you've said yourself, many will be surprised to see you, of all people, springing to the BBC's defence.Why have you done so?

LORD TEBBIT: Well, let's put it this way, I've had my criticisms of the BBC because it is essentially an institutionally Labourist organisation. It trades people with this Government ... you know, lots of BBC journalists have gone to work for the Government, they've gone in as Labor MPs, things like that. But nonetheless, I think there is a very strong ethical sense in the BBC and a very strong conscience, and I think that conscience has been aroused by the fact that the Government was dragged into this war in a way which is offensive to a great many people within the Labor Party... Now, you see, I'm a black-hearted old Tory and I didn't think we needed to go and ask the UN before we went down to the Falklands to sort out the Argentinians and I think a war is legal if Parliament says it's legal, but Mr Blair doesn't take that view. He believes in the UN and all things like that. So he's in a difficult position. You can justify the war on the basis that Saddam was a very evil man, that he was a menace to a lot of people around the place and the world is a better world with him gone, if he has gone...But nonetheless, if you are going to justify your war on the 45-minute weapons of mass destruction, then you begin to look a bit silly when you can't even find a 45-month weapon of mass destruction, and that's why Blair is in trouble. Was the BBC coverage unfair? Myself, I thought that it was perhaps dwelling a bit on the negative side most of the time, but of course if you now look at it in retrospect, and see the problems
arising in Iraq after the war has ended, then perhaps you might say the BBC at times were a bit closer to the mark than we thought.'

Rifkind , foreign secretary under Major, wrote this the day before David Kelley disappeared:

'A decision to go to war is the most serious and most difficult decision any prime minister will ever take. When that war is to be with a country that has not attacked you, we are in new territory for a modern British government. When it is, furthermore, a war waged without the express approval of the UN and with the nation and parliament deeply divided, the reasons and the justification have to be clear, demonstrable and consistent. ...

This attempt at moral blackmail will not do. The issue is not whether the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. Of course it is. It would also be a better place without Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro and a host of other tyrants and despots, but there is no intention of the British government to support wars in order to get rid of them.

Nor did Tony Blair call for an invasion of Iraq during the first five years of his prime ministership, when Saddam was as evil as he was last year. During that period the prime minister supported the strict enforcement of sanctions and the no-fly zone that had been the policy of the Clinton administration in Washington and the Major government in London...

It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of the failure to find WMD and the resultant deep belief that parliament and the public were misled on the supreme issue of peace and war.

The failure to find WMD is also crucial to the credibility of the new US doctrine of pre-emption. There is nothing illogical, unethical or undesirable in hitting an enemy first whom you know is planning to hit you. That is no more than a form of self-defence. But that must be subject to two major considerations. First, it cannot be a right for the US alone. If it is valid it must be available to any member of the UN in comparable circumstances. That alone would make the world a very dangerous place. Second, pre-emptive war could only be justified if, either before or after you launch it, you are able to produce credible evidence of the intention of the other state to attack you.'

Implicit in these statements is a proper recognition of the consequence of lies; the loss of trust in governments and institutions. Graham Richardson informed a shocked populace a few years ago that politicians did tell the occasional white one, but these particular betrayals are at the phylum rather than the species level. Decisions over war and peace are at the core of a government's relationship with it's people and if that core is rotten, it won't be long before the infection spreads out through the flesh to the very skin of a nation's democratic credentials.

Even more direct was former Telegraph editor, Falklands 'hero' and leader of the fox-hunting Country Alliance, href= http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fopinion%2F2003%2F06%2F01%2Fdo0108.xml/>Max Hastings. The title of his blistering piece says it all.. 'I was silly to trust America'.

'Some of us, who accepted public and private Whitehall assurances about WMDs, today feel rather silly. Robin Cook is crowing, and well he may. He said that WMDs did not exist. He appears to have been right. It is irrelevant that the Allies won the war. The Prime Minister committed British troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit, and it stinks...

It remains vital to engage with Washington. Even in the face of great difficulties, the diplomatic effort must continue, to restrain American unilateralism. But a heavy blow has been struck against our faith in American rhetoric and judgment. The struggle against terrorism, and the management of the world look harder today than they did a week ago, thanks to Washington's frightening surge of unforced errors.'

Fraser went ballistic in the Herald, prompting much of his former contituency to write huffy letters to the editor complaining that he ought to stay in his bolthole and turn from blue to reddish green privately. How dare he be allowed to fulminate now, they fulminated. Had he come out and attacked the boat people of course he'd have been feted by the same people for his continuing relevance.

'Hicks and his family are right to be concerned about the conduct of this trial. Our Government is convinced that the trial will be just. The British Government is much more concerned about its citizens in the same situation. Important as this is to the individuals, the issue says much about the relationship between Australia, Britain and the United States. The issues are fundamental and more serious for Australia than Britain, which has a choice between the US and the European Union.

It is clear the Australian Government has determined that Australia's interests will be best served by avoiding any argument with the US and supporting its policy. This change in Australian foreign policy is even more fundamental than the Government's announcements some weeks ago would indicate. They go to the heart of what we are about as an independent nation. They raise more starkly than ever the question of identity and purpose. Are we indeed able to stand for Australians who may need the protection of their nationality?

The present answer is clear. Not if such actions cut across relations with the US. Some would believe that we are now a completely subservient ally. It is time Australians started to ask what additional interests are we going to forsake in our support of this current American administration.

There is only one country on which Australians can rely absolutely. That is Australia itself. That capacity should never be prejudiced or diminished by other relationships. Great powers have a history of pursuing their own interests to the exclusion even of the interests of states that have been close friends and allies.

The war on Iraq has arguably made the pursuit of the war on terrorism more difficult. The US has dissipated the friendship generated in September 2001. We have made ourselves the closest of allies in this war on terrorism and have supported strategies which make its achievement more difficult. America's enemies will unnecessarily become Australia's enemies

I do not believe that America, however benign the exercise of its current power, would necessarily use that power for Australia's protection. It has, in fact, become a fundamentalist regime believing fervently that what it judges to be right, is in fact right, and that others do not have anything much worthwhile to contribute. Such an America will not make friends.'

No trust, no friends. Just fearful flunkeys like poodle-dee and poodle-dum. Fraser's rhetoric is perhaps historically brutal; it is surely unprecedented in this country from such a senior figure. There is no attempt to minimise either anger or fear. What should worry apolitically casual observers is the fact that the man who said he looked like an Easter Island statue with razor's up it's arse agrees with him. So does the Silver Bodgie. So do I. We're all conservatives on the question of Australia's independence.

One sentence.. 'The issues are fundamental and more serious for Australia than Britain, which has a choice between the US and the European Union' resonated uneasily with an article in the weekend Herald by David Jenkins. Paid registration is required I'm afraid, but the first sentence reads ... 'Defence experts believe that if the US went to war with North Korea or China, Australia would almost certainly have to join in.'

No arguments from Paul Dibb and Des Ball, who are the only two Australian military experts in civvies I could name. As Fraser pointed out, we have no alternatives, especially given the unseemly haste with which Howard has pulled us out of Asia. It is this lack of choice that drives the urgency of the debate about identity and sovereignty in Australia.

Did I write that? It must have been wishful thinking. Where is that debate? Our gloriously diverse media don't seem to be banging on about it. Do we believe it better to be alive with kneepads or dead without? There's no doubt what the almost Stalinist unity of the Liberal Party executive thinks; they've had the pads on since Florida. It's hard to say what Labor thinks; it's messier, more varied public stance is refeshingly democratic but hardly an electoral winner. Who knows where the Democrats are? Having a meeting about party procedures no doubt, or appearing on telly. Bob Brown is the only political leader having the debate (when he's given the oxygen to do so) but he's talking to himself. At the geopolitical level, we ought to be discussing what we will and will not do for the US, lines in the sand and all that. Any self-respecting nation would. But I wonder if in the near future we might need to be discussing tin tacks issues like 'Are we prepared for a nuclear strike on a city? Have we discussed water, power, priorities for urgent use of emergency services, etc etc?'

To return to trust, truly said to be the glue our democracies rely on to work fairly and effectively. Adele Horin, yet another bleeding heart on the pinko Herald's register of leftist loons, lays into Peter Costello with a vim and vigour that surprised me almost as much as the unadorned 'anti-Americanism' of the grandees quoted above. I reacted in pretty much the same way to Costello's anodyne attempt to claim 'tolerance' and 'social capital' based on 'trust' (he mentioned it 22 times) as the distinguishing feature of his drive to replace his boss.

Trouble is, I seem to recall another conservative politician using just this tack to gain office. Lay low on policy and 'courageous' public statements, preach tolerance and decency and implicitly promise to clear the nation's stables of the ordure left by the previous occupant. No prizes for guessing.

Also, the idea of Costello appropriating trust and tolerance for his ticket is, as I said in another forum, a bit like Keating pretending to follow Collingwood. His heart's not in it and having a brother who's is just won't cut it. It's a sell, but his reticence makes it a curiously muted one. Nearby winds have nothing to fear from his caution.

Which begs the question - if Costello hasn't got the cojones to say what he thinks about social policy (or anything else really), if he's content to speak in platitudes and avoid confrontation on relatively small fry issues in a relatively small fry nation, what can we expect from him as a leader of such a nation in the big wide world? Can we expect a bold departure from the current policy of craven submission to power allied to persecution of the weak as scapegoats and diversions? Policy he has been as responsible for implementing as any of his colleagues bar one. Can we expect a Costello government to resist a re-elected George Bush's insistence that we send thousands of our troops into Iran or Korea to help 'keep the peace'?

I'm not hopeful. Trust has been lost.. is this the man to restore it?

 
Sunday, July 20, 2003
 
BLOG-SURFING UNTO TRUTH?

Shadow of the Hegemon's Demosthenes notes that the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption and abuse, Judicial Watch, has cited documents turned over by the Commerce Department as a result of Judicial Watch's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force. They contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.

Quoth Demosthenes: "So?" One might ask. "So... why would the energy task force have been poring over contracts for Iraqi oil fields when Iraq couldn't sell the stuff? The only way that makes sense is if they knew, way back in March of 2001, that Iraq was going to be able to sell oil again. There's only one way Cheney and Co. would ever have thought that... if the U.S. had removed Saddam from power."

The story has been picked up by The Guardian (thanks to Johann for the lead): "Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President and the administration's most outspoken hawk over Iraq, faced demands for his resignation last night as he was accused of using false evidence to build the case for war ... He was accused of using his office to insist that a false claim about Iraq's efforts to buy uranium from Africa to restart its nuclear programme be included in George Bush's State of the Union address - overriding the concerns of the CIA director, George Tenet."

BlogLeft spots a Washington Post story that has Condaleeza Rice claiming that she and Bush did not see the CIA report that the Niger claim was forged. Agency chief Tenet's acceptance of the blame has since been somewhat vitiated. A Washington Post story spotted by Whiskey Bar's Billmon shifts responsibility back to the White House: "The White House, in the run-up to war in Iraq, did not seek CIA approval before charging that Saddam Hussein could launch a biological or chemical attack within 45 minutes, administration officials now say ... Virtually all of the focus on whether Bush exaggerated intelligence about Iraq's weapons ambitions has been on the credibility of a claim he made in the Jan. 28 State of the Union address about efforts to buy uranium in Africa. But an examination of other presidential remarks, which received little if any scrutiny by intelligence agencies, indicates Bush made more broad accusations on other intelligence matters related to Iraq ... For example, the same Rose Garden speech and Sept. 28 radio address that mentioned the 45-minute accusation also included blunt assertions by Bush that "there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq." This claim was highly disputed among intelligence experts ... The White House use of the 45-minute charge is another indication of its determination to build a case against Hussein even without the participation of U.S. intelligence services. The controversy over the administration's use of intelligence has largely focused on claims made about the Iraqi nuclear program, particularly attempts to buy uranium in Africa. But the accusation that Iraq could launch a chemical or biological attack on a moment's notice was significant because it added urgency to the administration's argument that Hussein had to be dealt with quickly."

Tenet seems happily to have joined this shift of responsibility, modifying the mea culpa of last week thusly: "for a presidential speech, the standard ought to be higher than just relying upon one source. Oftentimes, a lot of these things that are embodied in this document are based on multiple sources. And in this case, that was a single source being cited, and he felt that that was not appropriate."

That one source has not officially been identified, but an article in Le Monde Diplomatique's French edition caught General Glut's eye. The good general speaks French, and translated thusly: "According to certain members of Sismi [Italian Secret Military Service], writes the newspaper [La Repubblica], it was Silvio Berlusconi himself who revived the false dossier during a telephone conversation with George Bush, three days before it was mentioned in the State of the Union address".

Just how nasty all this is getting is best exemplified by the tumult surrounding poor David Kelly's demise in Britain. Ken Rufo quotes a chilling story from Ananova. Just before his death, Kelly referred to the Ministry of Defence and UK intelligence agencies as "many dark actors playing games" (Ananova cite the New York Times here). In this communication, Kelly had said "he'd wait 'until the end of the week' before judging how his appearance before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee had gone." In another e-mail, the apparently not-at-all suicidal Kelly had written "he was determined to overcome the scandal surrounding him and was enthusiastic about the possibility of returning to Iraq". The Ananova article also claims that "Dr Kelly's wife Janice told the New York Times her husband had worked on Thursday morning on a report he said he owed the Foreign Office and had sent some emails to friends".

As Paul Krugman notes, all this official sidewinding, obfuscation and blame-casting adds up to a crisis: "In short, those who politicized intelligence in order to lead us into war, at the expense of national security, hope to cover their tracks by corrupting the system even further."

By way of summary, I quote Johann's quote of The Guardian's "20 lies about Iraq":

* Iraq was responsible for the 11 September attacks
* Iraq and al-Qa'ida were working together
* Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa for a "reconstituted" nuclear weapons programme
* Iraq was trying to import aluminium tubes to develop nuclear weapons
* Iraq still had vast stocks of chemical and biological weapons from the first Gulf War
* Iraq retained up to 20 missiles which could carry chemical or biological warheads, with a range which would threaten British forces in Cyprus
* Saddam Hussein had the wherewithal to develop smallpox
* US and British claims were supported by the inspectors
* Previous weapons inspections had failed
* Iraq was obstructing the inspectors
* Iraq could deploy its weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes
* The "dodgy dossier"
* War would be easy
* Umm Qasr
* Basra rebellion
* The "rescue" of Private Jessica Lynch
* Troops would face chemical and biological weapons
* Interrogation of scientists would yield the location of WMD
* Iraq's oil money would go to Iraqis
* WMD were found





 
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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