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Verballed

March 17th, 2004

I was a bit distracted from the news yesterday by my own concerns, as a result of being verballed by Tim Blair and his goon squad. So I missed the more important fact that much the same thing was being done to AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty, who was accused by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer of “expressing a view which reflects a lot of the propaganda we’re getting from al-Qaeda”.[1] Under this attack, and more pressure from Howard, Keelty buckled and said his remarks had been taken out of context. Meanwhile, Downer put in a truly pathetic performance on Lateline trying to back away from his smear of Keelty (link via Chris Sheil).

A point of minor interest is that the Oz buries the entire story deep in a feel-good piece headed “Terror war gets $400m budget lift”. Clearly, Murdoch is in full campaign mode.

UpdateThis is truly pathetic

fn1. As readers should be aware by now, I don’t in fact agree with the view, imputed to Keelty, that our participation in the war in Iraq raised the risk of a terrorist attack because it offended Osama bin Laden. But Howard, Bush and Blair have increased the risk of a terrorist attack in Australia. They have done this by failing to fight terrorism effectively, preferring instead to go after Saddam Hussein, alienating much of the Islamic world in the process. It is they, and not Keelty who have assisted Al Qaeda’s propaganda machine. (I have scanned the preceding as carefully as possible for any source of ambiguity that might leave me open to (Tim) Blairing. I can’t find it, but no doubt Blair will).

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  1. Homer Paxton
    March 17th, 2004 at 08:59 | #1

    It is interesting to note that no-one has been able to show how it was taken out of context.

    Even more interesting the comments of ‘sources close to Keelty’.

  2. jr
    March 17th, 2004 at 09:07 | #2

    Fisk the traitor!

    “…readers should be aware by now, I…in fact agree with the view…that our participation in the war in Iraq…[was] a terrorist attack because it offended Osama bin Laden…They [Howard-fascist, Bush-fascist and Blair-fascist] have done this…to fight…the Islamic world…it is they…who have…[a]…propaganda machine…”

    Silly old appeaser you, JQ, thinking that generous engagement and good faith in the human ideas behind words still matters more than brute will and Baudrillardian relativism.

    A new age of magic interpretation, indeed.

  3. March 17th, 2004 at 09:14 | #3

    I don’t see how the war in Iraq alienated the Islamic world against us more then it already was. Bali, for example, took place long before Iraq happened.

    Murdoch in full campaign mode? I would be interested to know how the Courier Mail is covering politics- here in Adelaide, the ‘Tiser is actually pretty neutral. I think Murdoch is, um, covering his bets.

  4. John Quiggin
    March 17th, 2004 at 09:27 | #4

    Scott, JI and Al-Qaeda aren’t “the Islamic world”. Nothing we do will affect their attitude – they want to kill us – but we can affect the attitudes of other Muslims towards JI/AQ and towards us.

    The war in Iraq alienated the vast majority of Muslims who do not support terrorism, and thereby made our task in fighting terrorism harder.

  5. March 17th, 2004 at 09:38 | #5

    I must admit it’s hard for me to tell the difference between the antipathy Muslim nations had for America and Australia before Iraq to the antipathy they have now. But then I’m not an authority in the grades of antipathy.

    I am thinking of places like Malaysia, for example.

  6. March 17th, 2004 at 10:16 | #6

    Pr Q makes a true statement:

    The war in Iraq alienated the vast majority of Muslims who do not support terrorism, and thereby made our task in fighting terrorism harder.

    Nonetheless, I get the feeling that deposing Saddam Hussein may have attracted the vast majority of Iraqis to our civil system, which may help us in the long term, if democracy takes root in Iraq.

  7. March 17th, 2004 at 10:57 | #7

    Another point regarding Australias role in this tragedy which is rapidly descending into farce.It seems that we are involved in two phony wars:
    War on Terrorism fundie-propagators: focused on Afghanistan, when the real enemy is in Saudi Arabia
    War on Rogue State WMD-proliferators: focused on Iraq when the real enemy is Pakistan
    Australia’s real effect on both wars is minimal, we are responsible for our own security, which is best enhanced by building up long term credit with the US. So going along with these phony wars does not cost us much, and the damage to the UN by our actions is minimal.
    However the recent examples of political manipulation of professional security services, in both the US and AUS, is alarming. Perhaps the parties of the Right are not the best party for security (or prosperity, for that matter).

  8. d
    March 17th, 2004 at 16:06 | #8

    I can understand your justified annoyance at the puerile way in which Tim Blair treated you on this occasion. On the other hand it is ironic that your complaint is next to a post on Lomborg, who yourself have verballed, so you dont really occupy the moral high ground on this issue either.

  9. John Quiggin
    March 17th, 2004 at 17:57 | #9

    d, I’ll admit that I’ve lost my temper with Lomborg, which is unwise, but I don’t believe I’ve ever verballed him (that is, attributed views or statements to him that he hasn’t in fact expressed). Do you have any examples?

  10. March 17th, 2004 at 19:01 | #10

    I’m curious to know what is “truly pathetic”. Something the Oz has done? Something the terrorists have done? Something the government has done? Something Tim Blair has done? Unfortunately, the link is broken, so I can’t tell which of the usual suspects is guilty.

  11. Jill Rush
    March 17th, 2004 at 21:06 | #11

    The shameful pressure that Keelty has faced despite his strength of character has had him explaining his quoted out of context views and having them explained for him by Costello, Downer and Howard.

    On Monday Mungo MacCullum on Radio National put to air a piece about the politicisation of the public service as the major long term legacy that Howard will leave behind. He discussed the blood letting that accompanied the initial rise of Howard which truly let the mandarins know that they had to please their political masters if they wanted to retain and renew their work contracts. This was done indirectly through Max Moore -Wilton but was nonetheless a clear message to those who value their careers that pleasing the government is much more important than the truth and if the government verbals anyone best to just wear it.

    Thus Jane Halton who failed to pass on the message to the PM that the Children never were overboard is now in charge of her own department.

    The Public Service has a (Howard) code of conduct which opens up disciplinary procedures against anyone who complains about what they have to do in their jobs, even at a family barbecue.

    The Commonwealth has taken all decision making to Canberra to make sure that the reality of many policies never gets out. Public Servants routinely tell it as it should be rather than as it is using feel good weasel words from PR departments which ignore contrary evidence.

    The wonder of it is that Keelty dared express the views so contrary to his political masters in the first place. What a shame that he was left so isolated by everyone else in the public service.

    It takes little imagination to see that the Iraq involvement added to any aggravation felt towards Australia in the Moslem world just for the number of unmentioned Iraqis who are now dead. A fridge magnet does nothing to increase security compared to xray machines at airports. Thanks to the government we have the former but not the latter; the sham not the substance but we have spent plenty of maney fighting terrorism.

  12. d
    March 17th, 2004 at 22:37 | #12

    First, I’m genuinely impressed about your principled admission of regret at of losing your temper over Lomborg. Willingness to admit such things is a sign of character, and allows them to be forgotten. Makes me feel a bit apologetic in noting that you have on this blog offered the judgement that Lomborg was a con man, hypocrite and a fraud, and I doubt that you have objective proof of those assertions. I concede however, I’m a bit fuzzy about exactly what “verballed” means, so lets let you off the hook as a tribute to sound character.
    Clearly Tim Blair is frequently juvenile and over the top but he is (in his own lively way) often amusing if oneself is not his target, and he’s hardly ever boring. For Crikey’ sake, he earns his living as a journalist not as a scholar. If Imre S’s memory is accurate, Blair started the inane rumour that Imre was Professor Bunyip and you went along with that farce I recall. Anyone who knows Shalusz would realise he doesnt have the time to be a Bunyip and their styles are distinct in any case.

  13. zoot
    March 18th, 2004 at 01:12 | #13

    Tim Blair is amusing?? I concede I’m a bit fuzzy about exactly what “amusing” means to you, but it’s the last adjective I would use to describe him.

  14. Homer Paxton
    March 18th, 2004 at 12:32 | #14

    perhaps we all read the statement the wrong way, particularly given how close he came to resigning .
    He may have meant that it was the Ministers that had taken it out of context.

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