Home > Oz Politics, World Events > Wading back into the Big Muddy

Wading back into the Big Muddy

February 23rd, 2005

Just as US soldiers and National Guards who’ve completed their tours in Iraq are being conscripted by stop-loss orders, recalls and the like, then sent back for a second round, Australia has received new orders. The New Europeans (Spain, Poland, Netherlands and so on) are all pulling out, and its up to us to fill the gap.

Of course, there’s no mention of the US in Howard’s announcement. Supposedly, this is a response to personal requests from the British and Japanese Prime Ministers. Older readers will recall that exactly the same farce was played out with our commitment of troops to Vietnam. Anyone who believes the government’s line might reflect on what kind of response Blair and Koizumi would get if they requested from Howard something the Bush Administration didn’t like, such as ratification of Kyoto.

There’s no strategy here, just hanging on and hoping things will change for the better. There’s no sign so far that the presence of 150 000 troops has done any good. The insurgency/resistance/terrorists are far more numerous now than they were a year ago. They gain legitimacy when they attack foreign occupiers, and lose it when they attack fellow-Iraqis. I hope that the new Iraqi government, when it emerges, will maintain its campaign commitment (watered down at the last minute) to demand a schedule for withdrawal, but if it doesn’t, Australia and Britain should be pushing the US to set one.

Tthe decision raises some other big issues for Australia that don’t seem to have been considered. In particular, there’s the possibility of war with Iran. Have we received assurances either that there won’t be any US military action against Iran or that, if there is, Iraq won’t be used as a base? To ask this question is to answer it.

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  1. Jim
    February 23rd, 2005 at 06:45 | #1

    “There’s no sign so far that the presence of 150 000 troops has done any good. ”
    Apart from the removal and capture of Saddam, the rebuilding of schools , roads , hospital and other infrastructure and the first democratic elections in memory?
    Sometimes the answer might be as simple as it looks ; Japan has requested protection for it’s engineers and Iraq is at a crossroads moment when international assistance might mean the difference between the establishment of a system with some respect for human rights or the return of a genocidal dictator.
    The old “Australia as America’s lap dog” argument just doesn’t stack up when China , the ICC , free trade etc are thrown in.

  2. Ros
    February 23rd, 2005 at 07:38 | #2

    Older Australians might also remember with shame how in the end we betrayed the Vietnamese people and left them to the brutal authoritarian government with a penchant for torture and executions.
    We may also remember that great man of Australian politics
    “Whitlam stuck out his jaw and, grinding his teeth, turned to Willesee and thundered, ‘I’m not having hundreds of fucking Vietnamese Balts coming into this country with their religious and political hatreds against us!”
    So i hope that we go the distance with the Iraqis, and if they want our help we give it, and the help that they ask for.

  3. Katz
    February 23rd, 2005 at 07:43 | #3

    Just a small matter of historical parallelism.

    In 1965, after Menzies announced that Australian troops would be sent to save South Vietnam, it was discovered that, mortifyingly, the Australian Government had neglected to ask for an invitation from the South Vietnamese Government.

    Now, in 2005 in Iraq, we’ve heard of pleas from the Japanese and the British (who did quite a good job of disguising their American accents) but NO invitation from the Interim Government of the sovereign state of “New Iraq”.

    The Little Frigger hasn’t forgotten the past has he?

  4. Dave Ricardo
    February 23rd, 2005 at 07:49 | #4

    The historical parallels are striking, but they go further. It will all end in tears of course, but by then Howard will be long gone, just as Menzies was, and his successors will left to cop the blame and clean up the mess.

  5. February 23rd, 2005 at 08:10 | #5

    “There’s no sign so far that the presence of 150 000 troops has done any good. �

    Apart from the dumping of 1,000s of tonnes of nuclear waste in the form of depleted uranium, Cluster bombs and napalm (yes the americans are still using napalm on cities).

    Oh and the whole Islamic law being implemented in Iraq for the first time in 50 years?

    Like pakistan, the US will not accept a democratic outcome that is not pro-US.

    Its not about democracy – its about strategic positioning, wedgeing Iran and applying pressure to syria and saudi.

  6. Ros
    February 23rd, 2005 at 08:14 | #6

    If you are right Katz then when Ibrahim al-Jaafari says go, I agree go we must including the troops that guard our embassy staff. He has made the point that security is his biggest task for without it the rest can’t happen. He may well agree with JQ that violence would be mitigated by the withdrawal of foreign troops sooner rather than later. Thus it is his and his interim government’s call. And we must do as they determine.
    I don’t think you would find many Australians who wouldn’t be grateful to see our troops home. I also don’t think Australians want to leave Iraq without our assistance including military if the Iraqis haven’t built their capacity sufficiently and we were asked to stay
    it is hard to imagine that the Iraqis would agree to be pulled into another war with Iran. This right winger would join voices with all who argued that it was not an option.

  7. Steve Edney
    February 23rd, 2005 at 08:33 | #7

    What to do though? March out now and in all likelyhood see a vast increase in anarchy and bloodshed? I’ve very much of the opinion that the whole thing was a big mistake, but it seems to me that to quit now would make the mistake even worse. We have to go at some point, but to do it before the Iraqi’s have even set up their own proper government and hopefully some sort of effective army is got to be better than leaving now. In the end it may not be successful but surely we still have to give it a try.

    On the other hand Howard’s handling of this smacks again of his deceitfulness. He wouldn’t be honest before the election and say more troops could be sent if they are needed.

    As for Ros’s comment about Whitlam, Howard has made it pretty clear he already has the same attitude minus the swearing. Another historical parallel?

  8. February 23rd, 2005 at 08:49 | #8

    Did someone say infrastructure, schools, hospitals etc?

    Some quotes from Riverbend:

    Christmas Wishlist…
    I have to make this fast.

    No electricity for three days in a row (well, unless you count that glorious hour we got 3 days ago…). Generators on gasoline are hardly working at all. Generators on diesel fuel aren’t faring much better- most will only work for 3 or 4 straight hours then they have to be turned off to rest.

    Ok- what is the typical Iraqi Christmas wishlist (I won’t list ‘peace’, ‘security’ and ‘freedom’ – Christmas miracles are exclusive to Charles Dickens), let’s see:

    1. 20 liters of gasoline
    2. A cylinder of gas for cooking
    3. Kerosene for the heaters
    4. Those expensive blast-proof windows
    5. Landmine detectors
    6. Running water
    7. Thuraya satellite phones (the mobile phone services are really, really bad of late)
    8. Portable diesel generators (for the whole family to enjoy!)
    9. Coleman rechargeable flashlight with extra batteries (you can never go wrong with a fancy flashlight)
    10. Scented candles (it shows you care- but you’re also practical)

    When Santa delivers please make sure he is wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet. He should also politely ring the doorbell or knock, as a more subtle entry might bring him face to face with an AK-47. With the current fuel shortage, reindeer and a sleigh are highly practical- but Rudolph should be left behind as the flashing red nose might create a bomb scare (we’re all a little jumpy lately).


    There hasn’t been a drop of water in the faucets for six days. six days. Even at the beginning of the occupation, when the water would disappear in the summer, there was always a trickle that would come from one of the pipes in the garden. Now, even that is gone. We’ve been purchasing bottles of water (the price has gone up) to use for cooking and drinking. Forget about cleaning. It’s really frustrating because everyone cleans house during Eid. It’s like a part of the tradition. The days leading up to Eid are a frenzy of mops, brooms, dusting rags and disinfectant. The cleaning makes one feel like there’s room for a fresh start. It’s almost as if the house and its inhabitants are being reborn. Not this year. We’re managing just enough water to rinse dishes with. To bathe, we have to try to make-do with a few liters of water heated in pots on kerosene heaters.

    Water is like peace- you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away.


    My cousin kept the kids home from school, which is happening quite often. One of the explosions today was so close, the house rocked with the impact and my cousin’s wife paled, “Can you imagine if the girls had been at school when that happened- I would have died.”

    Three quotes from a wealth of material. And I haven’t even started on the deterioration of the status of women.

  9. Dave
    February 23rd, 2005 at 09:05 | #9

    Sending more troops to Iraq is a good thing – we need soldiers with combat experience to promote to senior roles. In the absence of an opportunity like this, our defence forces would be run by individuals with little experience of war and its consequences. ;)

  10. ab
    February 23rd, 2005 at 09:11 | #10

    “It’s about strategic positioning, wedgeing Iran and applying pressure to syria and saudi.”

    Ok, let me ask you this: if the end result is a democratic nation with ordinary Iraqis participating in a genuine and ongoing political process, does it matter that the US is only in it for themselves?


  11. Jim
    February 23rd, 2005 at 09:42 | #11

    “There’s no sign so far that the presence of 150 000 troops has done any good ” isn’t the same as “haven’t made any mistakes”.
    The fire bombing of Dresden/Hamburg/Tokyo were all morally indefensible but they didn’t invalidate the reasons for opposing Nazi Germany and Japan.
    There’s no credible evidence that civilians in Iraq were deliberately killed by Americans. In fact there is evidence ( I recall particularly a reference to RAAF targeting parameters ) that considerable effort went into avoiding civilian casualties.
    There isn’t a problem with an Islamic constitution for Iraq – if that’s what the people of Iraq genuinely want and if they retain the power to change it.

  12. Katz
    February 23rd, 2005 at 10:03 | #12

    You’re right ab, but your if is an enormous if.

    And let me add a but…

    BUT if we are hoping for some unintended outcomes, why should Australia add even a teaspoon of the blood of its soldiers to the gallons of American Amercan blood spilled in pursuance of a fools’ errand?

  13. michael.burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 10:15 | #13

    I think some of the participants in this debate would do well to read an article in Slate by Christopher Hitchens who is one of the few on the left (or on any side of politics for that matter) to come out of the debate with any credibility and provide any insight besides the mindless anti-Americanism on one side and were with the yanks all the way on the other side. It is clear that these two events are completely different – the human rights violations of the Vietnamese government after the war can hardly be used to justify the view that American intervention was justified and that they should have stayed and finished it of like they should in Iraq. If the US had not intervened we might well have had a far more democratic Vietnam and certainly much suffering would have been avoided. Furthermore, as Hitchens points out the most appalling excesses were committed by U.S. forces, this is clearly not the case in Iraq. ‘In Iraq, the crimes of mass killing, aerial bombardment, ethnic deportation, and scorched earth had already been committed by the ruling Baath Party, everywhere from northern Kurdistan to the drained and burned-out wetlands of the southern marshes. Coalition forces in Iraq have done what they can to repair some of this state-sponsored vandalism.’

    Not only is the situation completely different, I further note that little is said about the potential for democracy to spread throughout the region, the fact that Iran and other countries now start to worry more as a result of this example when the US starts to put pressure on them to reform or stop pursuing nuclear weapons (Iran), or about the US’s positive role in getting rid of the Taliban, stopping the Serbs murdering ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, and continually putting pressure on the Chinese to respect human rights (the Europeans and others only see china as a market). An obsession with Marxism among many on the left as now been replaced by cultural relativism and anti-Americanism – it is little wonder that the right of politics have been able to dominate so easily.

  14. michael.burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 10:16 | #14
  15. Katz
    February 23rd, 2005 at 10:26 | #15

    You’re right ab, but your if is an enormous if.

    And let me add a but…

    BUT if we are hoping for some unintended outcomes, why should Australia add even a teaspoon of the blood of its soldiers to the gallons of American Amercan blood spilled in pursuance of a fools’ errand?

  16. February 23rd, 2005 at 10:37 | #16

    Nobody knows the full extent of civilian deaths in Iraq because no-one is counting. Read this shameful report


    Why did we invade Iraq in the first place? Why should our troops or any troops die for the idealogical passions of the small group of useless neo-cons running the Whitehouse?

    Honest John specifically said before we went that we were not interested in “regime change”. We were going to eliminate Iraq’s WMD The legal charter that was supposedly used to invade Iraq. did not mention ‘regime change’ This is from http://www.cpa.org.au/garchve03/1130crime.html

    “The resolution makes no mention of “pre-emptive strike” or of “regime
    change” — phrases often repeated by US President Bush.

    However, the resolution retains the wording demanded by the US and Britain
    that Iraq face “series consequences” if it continues “in violation of its

    This was its obligation to eliminate WMD which subsequent investigations have concluded that Iraq did comply making the invasion of Iraq totally illegal.

  17. February 23rd, 2005 at 11:08 | #17

    The beginning of hoWARd’s end.
    Our troops are needed @ home! NOT@WAR!

    We do need our troops here in Australia, protecting our own country and fellow Australians. That way if one life is ever lost in that process, we can all know it was worth it and for the right reasons. And the decision to send troops should only be taken by the parliament, not the irresponsible cabinet or the deceitful PM.

    The rest are just excuses, excuses from hoWARd, excuses from the cabinet, excuses from the chicken hawks in these blogs, excuses to suck up and protect the USA, Japan, UK.

    This decision will come back to haunt the Aust. gov. And just like our initial involvement, still no clear reasons for it, no clear benefits, no clear exit strategy, no honor, just deceit and no respect for our serving soldiers.

    Only COWARDS with deceitful and wimpy excuses.

  18. michael.burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 11:57 | #18

    Carlos, it is cowardly and morally bankrupt to argue that we should only take an action if it is our own self-interest – tell that to the Rwandans who could have done with some western intervention (that is apart from the French who if I remember correctly initially supported those guilty of genocide because they were pro-French).

  19. gordon
    February 23rd, 2005 at 11:58 | #19

    If we must send our army as mercenaries to Iraq and later Iran, surely we should get paid. I’m amazed how wimpy the Howard Govt. is about this. During the 17th and early 18th Centuries armies of smaller powers frequently fought as mercenaries in the pay of larger belligerents, the negotiation of numbers of troops, price and terms of payment occupying the relevant diplomats all through the winter before the campaigning season opened. Surely it is ridiculous to offer our army to the US without even negotiating for a couple of oil wells, deliverable on conquest, as the price!

  20. Katz
    February 23rd, 2005 at 12:02 | #20

    Another piece of historical parallelism. Taking their cue from Gerard Henderson:


    about how the contemptible elites “just don’t get it” when it comes to understanding the ordinary folk’s support for Howard’s foreign policy, Michael Burgess, among others observe “it is little wonder that the right of politics have been able to dominate so easily.”

    Yep, the same thing happened during the 1960s as well. Whitlam himself blamed Jim Cairns for losing him the election of 1969 by banging on about Vietnam when Gough didn’t want to Mention The War.

    But as Mickey Malthouse (Collingwood coach for all you outer barbarians) observed: “The plough is slow, but the ox is patient.” With enemies like Howard we lefties don’t need too many friends.

    Perhaps Howard should have had his deaf aids installed earlier. No doubt beyond his inner clique Liberals are growing a little concerned about their electoral prospects.

  21. Dave Ricardo
    February 23rd, 2005 at 12:06 | #21

    “the US’s positive role in … stopping the Serbs murdering ethnic Albanians in Kosovo”

    Which was bitterly opposed, by the way, by all the Republicans neo cons, including George W, and which led to derisory remarks about the folly of “nation building” by C. Rice and other senior officials – a view they would still hold if it hadn’t been so rudely interrupted by 9/11.

  22. February 23rd, 2005 at 12:25 | #22

    To all the cowards, M.Burguess, included:
    Where were you when that happened?
    Where were you when the kurds were being killed in Iraq? Where were you when the communists were killing dissidents in the ex USSR? When the Chinese occupied Tibet? When Indonesia invaded East Timor?

    There are many who have been speaking out on ALL those occasions, consistently for peace and reason.
    No more lame excuses

    This one’s for you PUNK:

  23. Razor
    February 23rd, 2005 at 12:27 | #23

    Katz said – “NO invitation from the Interim Government of the sovereign state of “New Iraqâ€?.”

    I beg to disagree – there is a standing invitation for more help and the currrent government yesterday welcomed the announcement (unless the ABC Journalist was lying).

    JQ – you opened yourself up with the good old – “What have the Romans done for us?”. I too, am a Monty Python fan. Something in common!

    An interesting point for discussion, if the anti-American/Iraqi/Howard types want to discuss it is the fact that the soldiers being sent actually want to go. They are volunteers and this is what they joined and trained for. In fact there will be many disappointed by being left at home. It is a significant disconnect in the political discussion when those against a military operation think it shouldn’t occur and yet those who would do the job are more than happy to get on with it. I know that I was spitting chips when a good mate was deployed to Somalia straight out of Duntroon and we stayed behind. And then he got his mug on the TV when his Platoon was the first in a fire-fight since Vietnam.

    I look forward to the next few rounds of polling and expect no significant negative impact on the Howard Government.

  24. alpaca
    February 23rd, 2005 at 12:34 | #26

    Of course, the ploy to send more Australian troops to Iraq is an attempt so ensure that there is more collateral damage, more infrastructure destroyed, more oil stolen, more soldiers killed, more pathetic right-wing justification, more irritating left-wing whinging, and more violations of international law.

    All of these things are WAAAY more popular (and distracting) than a 0.5% increase in interest rates.

  25. MichaelH
    February 23rd, 2005 at 12:41 | #27

    michael.burgess contributed Chris Hitchens comment that,
    “In Iraq, the crimes of mass killing, aerial bombardment, ethnic deportation, and scorched earth had already been committed by the ruling Baath Party, everywhere from northern Kurdistan to the drained and burned-out wetlands of the southern marshes. Coalition forces in Iraq have done what they can to repair some of this state-sponsored vandalism.”

    Along this same vein, it might be worth noting that in thi scurren tpahase in Iraq, it is the US/Coalition forces that are leading the race in the killing of Iraqis. Despite the terrible car-bombings and assasinations, the ‘insurgents’ are coming a distant second.

  26. MichaelH
    February 23rd, 2005 at 12:42 | #28

    michael.burgess contributed Chris Hitchens’ comment that,
    “In Iraq, the crimes of mass killing, aerial bombardment, ethnic deportation, and scorched earth had already been committed by the ruling Baath Party, everywhere from northern Kurdistan to the drained and burned-out wetlands of the southern marshes. Coalition forces in Iraq have done what they can to repair some of this state-sponsored vandalism.”

    Along this same vein, it might be worth noting that in this current phase in Iraq, it is the US/Coalition forces that are leading the race in the killing of Iraqis. Despite the terrible car-bombings and assasinations, the ‘insurgents’ are coming a distant second.

  27. michael.burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 12:44 | #29

    Carlos, in response to your comments about where I was when China invaded Tibet and the Kurds were being murdered by SH etc, well actually for the past 30 years I have been a very active member of Amnesty International and other organisations concerned with human rights. I resigned from Amnesty last year when I could take no more of the fact that they now spend more time criticising western countries and Israel than they do real human rights violators. So where were you?

  28. Katz
    February 23rd, 2005 at 13:10 | #30

    Razor, South Vietnamese Premier Phan Huy Quat (remember him?) also stated in 1965 how pleased he was to host an Australian contingent, when told they were coming.

    These niceties are really neither here nor there in the broad sweep of military/diplomatic history. Such ventures succeed or fail for reasons far more profound than punctilio.

    Nevertheless, given that we all know what the destination and fate of this involvement will be, we may as well enjoy the scenery on the way.

  29. iangould
    February 23rd, 2005 at 13:28 | #31

    I was opposed to the initial decision ot invade Iraq. I remain convinced it was a supremeely foolish and possibly criminal act which has crippled America’s military capacity and undermined its credibility by dividing it from the majority of its European allies.

    However, having actively supported that decision and formally declared itself to be an occupying power for the pruposes of international law, I believe that Australia is morally obliged to do whatever it can to assist.

  30. michael.burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 13:35 | #32

    MichaelH, that is moral accounting at its worst. Whether or not you think it wise for the US to go into Iraq (or that they should have only gone in with sufficient troops), the insurgents are clearly the ones responsible for the loss of life that is taking place – if they wanted the US and their allies to leave all they would have to do is stop their atrocities – but of course the last thing they want is a democratic Iraq – I am also coming round to the view that is the last thing many so called social progressives want. As for the negative comments regarding the so-called neo-cons above and elsewhere on this blog site – well traditionally moderates on the left and right of politics support the spread of liberal democracy and western enlightenment ideas such as free speech and universal human rights – the fact that many on the left have now fallen victim to the cultural relativist/post modern/political correct virus (albeit one that seems to effect them inconsistently) and are now more concerned than not offending the sensibilities of so-called minorities than they are in highlighting issues such as the plight of women in Muslim communities does not automatically mean that those who still subscribe to spreading liberal democracy are raving loony right wingers (although one might certainly quibble with their methods). Oh, I am still waiting for someone to say something nice about the US getting rid of the Taliban and stopping the Serbs committing further genocide.

  31. Katz
    February 23rd, 2005 at 13:49 | #33

    iangould, the Interim Government of Iraq is the sovereign power in that country. The US terminated its status as “occupying power” at the promulgation of the Interim Government.

    You’d be forgiven for missing this signal moment in world history, seeing as the “Coalition Provisional Authority” relinquished its occupying status three days early, under cover of darkness, by tossing it out of a moving car.

    So I guess the US set a pretty demanding moral standard in its handling of the sensitive issue of national sovereignty, a standard that Howard seems determined to emulate.

  32. Razor
    February 23rd, 2005 at 14:05 | #34

    Katz – Yes! Old Quaty, reme,ber him fondly.

  33. Katz
    February 23rd, 2005 at 14:14 | #35

    Then you’d already know that Old Quaty died in a political reeducation camp at the hands of the Communist Vietnamese Government because it was inconvenient for the US Government to save him when they decided to draw a line under their Vietnam adventure.

    Leaders of the present Interim Government of Iraq may be well advised to peruse Old Quaty’s abbreviated biography.

  34. February 23rd, 2005 at 14:37 | #36

    Pr Q gets halfway through a good analysis and then, getting us all to hang on the edge of our seats, leaves the conclusion dangling in mid-air:

    There’s no sign so far that the presence of 150 000 troops has done any good. The insurgency/resistance/terrorists are far more numerous now than they were a year ago. They gain legitimacy when they attack foreign occupiers, and lose it when they attack fellow-Iraqis.

    Its certainly true that Suuni attacks against the US are more popular than Suuni attacks against the Shiites. But if the US left then the insurgency would be free to turn the full fury of its onslaught onto the relativelly weak Iraqi National Guard. This might well reduce the insurgencies legitimacy but not necessarily its chances of victory. THere is a good chance that this would turn Iraq into a full scale failed state at civil war.
    What does PrQ think of the chances of the ING going head-to-head with the insurgents? The evidence shows that they would be a poor bet. They are less than one-sixth required strengh, under-equipped, under-trained and under-mined:

    Pentagon officials admitted that only 40,000 of Iraq’s 136,000 soldiers and police are considered to be sufficiently trained and able to confront any security threat in their country. The Pentagon has estimated that Iraq needs 270,000 soldiers and police officers to adequately secure the country…
    The documents show that 89 of the 90 battalions of the Iraq’s Army and its National Guard – about 54,000 soldiers – “are lightly equipped and armed and have very limited mobility and sustainment activities,” Levin said.

    That means that any US withdrawal would prompt the Shiite Iraqi govt, wishing to survive, to fall back on support from fellow Shiites militants in the region. In practice this would mean the Shiite clerics in Iraq would become beholden to the Shiite clerics in Iran. (Who may have been behind Chalabi’s INC from the git-go.)
    Thus a US withdrawal from Iraq would prompt an Iranian-Badr Brigade power move in Iraq. Just as a US withdrawal from Lebanon prompted an Iranian-Hezbollah power move in Lebabon.
    That is why the US cant leave Iraq. Its not out of concern for Iraqi security or sovereignty. Premptory exit strategies would hand Iraq to Iran on a platter. The main axle of evil would then be in control of the better part of Gulf Oil, with a shot at spreading Shiite militants into Saudi Arabia’s oil rich Shiite eastern provinces.
    What a nightmare for strategists.

  35. Katz
    February 23rd, 2005 at 14:54 | #37

    “What a nightmare for strategists.”

    Exactly Jack. You’d think that by now these highly-paid strategists might recognise that the offer of Australian help is the Kiss of Death.

  36. James Farrell
    February 23rd, 2005 at 15:19 | #38

    With a little beefing up, the Iraqi armed forces should be strong enough to control Baghdad and keep some kind of order in the Shiite cities, as long as the new government has legitimacy in those areas. And the key to legitimacy is the the departure of the occupying forces. With the population on side and a big injection of non-military aid, the Shia-led government should be able to establish itself as a stable authority and nurture some kind of economic recovery. Even if the force is increased sixfold as Jack suggests, the Sunni triangle will remain a no-go area presided over by warlord Zarqawi.

    But what crdebility do I have? Since I’m not a neo-con and I don’t agree with Christopher Hitchens either, I must, by a process of elimination, be just a mindless peddler of anti-American poison. I’d better go and write Bin Laden another fan letter.

  37. February 23rd, 2005 at 16:06 | #39


    Michael Burgess seems to caught in his own infinite loop of anti leftism – self inflated hatred driven by propoganda makes his comments as laughable as the anti american comments *SOME* leftists make.

  38. Ros
    February 23rd, 2005 at 16:31 | #40

    Well poor old Iraqis never is there any good news.
    I think that it is good news that the non Al Qaeda backed insurgents are having back-channel communications with the Americans and releasing it to the press. That they are seeking to have a political face and put their views to the people. It may be because they are feeling the pinch in attrition rates and resources, it may be because the Association of Muslim Scholars are publicly condemning their murder of Iraqis and their attempts to incite hatred amongst them. It’s good anyway.
    That Sunni spokesmen are seeking a place in the political process and the future of Iraq’s democracy. That Iraqi bloggers talk of reconciliation. That , Ibrahim al-Jaafari is both acceptable to the political players and talking about the security and therefore the progress of Iraq. That they had successful elections and are up and running.
    That despite all the worst wishes that come their way this smart gutsy lot are getting on with it while we armchair heroes argue about morality.
    Maybe the Iraqis are pleased at how they are going after all their pain and difficulties. They leave me with the sense that they are optimistic.
    And that for the time being our troops are useful and required.
    Just as a debating point was listening to Neil James and he said he had been carefully through the transcripts and Howard said prior to the election that it was not “planned� to send any more troops. From James point of view that it was you do in a campaign expect change and respond accordingly. I heard Laura Tingle also and even she is of the view that the liar liar is getting a bit tedious.

  39. michael.burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 16:56 | #41

    Alphacoward, like most contributors to this blog you desperately need to take politics 101. Given that I support income redistribution policies, more aid to the developing world, and gay marriage etc I am hardly an anti-leftist or a conservative. However, just as in the cold war era when I (along with a very small number of others) objected to those mindless ideologues on the left who dominated debates and jobs in academia being more critical of the US and other western governments than they were of the Soviet Union, I certainly make no apologies for being critical of those who think many of the current crop of western leaders are a greater threat to human progress than Islamic fascists, or who seem to think its cool to join with hate filled and corrupt Palestinian officials such as Arafat, neo-Nazis and mad mullahs and gang up on Israel. Oh and if people think I am being somewhat hysterical again, I suggest you revist the UNs recent anti-racism conferance which turned into the biggest anti-Jewish hate fest since the Nazi era.

    From the world view of people like you John Howard expressing, as he did in the past some fairly mild (but certainly misguided and worthy of strong criticism) concerns about the extent of Asian immigration to Australia is a far worse specimen of humanity than Islamic fascists who are responsible for the deaths, murder and torture of massive numbers of fellow human being in countries such as Sudan and Iran – and for a sickening level of abuse against women in western countries (and if you don’t believe me look at the comparative stats from countries such as Holland).***Does standing up for the rights of women make me an anti-leftist-

    I do concede however that individuals such as yourself appear certainly in the majority at the moment both on the pseudo-left and among international policy elites – how else does one explain the fact that Israel gets routinely condemned at the Un while the likes of Sudan, Libya and Cuba get on to its human rights committees. So called social progressives and leftists joining with Islamic fascists to take on democracies, Karl Marx and other such as George Orwell and Arthur Koestler must be turning in their secular graves. A final question for the peace in our time crowd – should the US have intervened in Rwanda – or is it simply tasteless and anti-leftist to mention this country given that one group of non-whites murdered another group – lets get on with criticising Howard instead.

  40. Razor
    February 23rd, 2005 at 17:54 | #42

    Katz – absolutely agree with you – we stay until the job is done. You are obviosly a fan of JFK then – “No Price to Great. . .No Burden to heavy. . etc” (I paraphrase).

    Welcome aboard the RWDB train to freedom from tyranny.

  41. peter kemp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 18:02 | #43

    JQ—Iraq is not at the tipping point as John Howard claims. The real tipping point you touched on is whether or not the US attacks Iran and if so, whether they use Iraq as a base.

    I would posit that Iran would use Iraq as a base to to hunt the US out of Iraq—50,000 trained Iranian infiltrators, some with Strella missiles and the other gear would bog the US down and kick a lot of arse, making the current insurgency look like a picnic. This doesn’t include the use of Russian Sunburn missiles (mach 2.5, sea skimming and violent end manouvres to avoid Phalanx and its AMM replacement) which could make mincemeat of a carrier group bottled up behind the straits of Hormuz, the closing of which would hurt fellow M.E. oil exporters but cause lots of damage to the US economy as collateral damage.

    If one must debate an Iraqi tipping point, it is that only a political solution can detach the Sunni insurgency from the Zaqawi crazies enabling the new government to isolate the latter in the event of quick US and coalition (of unrepresentative swill) which would then require minimal forces to deal with that remnant. Some dialogue is proceeding with some of the insurgent groups (non Zaqawi insurgents) and the US military right now, to the dismay of the neo-cons one presumes.

    Legitimacy of the new government of course would be markedly inproved with US withdrawal.

    Arguments on this post that Oz should persevere on the basis that we were involved from the beginning holds as much water as Italy sticking with Germany when the writing was on the wall in the latter part of WW2, as it is NOW in Iraq.

    450 of our troops in a safe area bordering Saudi Arabia (as Paul McGreogh notes this morning—SMH) is pathetic in its overall influence but serves as a wake up call that John Howard may get Oz sucked in, Vietnam style, when George Bush attacks Iran and may cause our troops to have to defend themselves against Iranian wrath as well.

    What people don’t understand is that neo-con strategy is to widen the conflict to give more excuses for the US to stay and build up bases and military infrastructure in the M.E., even to the extent of provoking Iran into all out war so that if the latter creamed a US carrier fleet, the US would, by its stranglehold on the media for propaganda purposes, and unique ability to bullshit a majority of Americans in these sorts of situations, justify itself in nuking Iran.

    This is what’s at stake: Iraq is in reality a side-show compared to what the neo-cons have as , dare I say it, a ”final solution.”

  42. Michael Burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 18:36 | #44

    Peter Kemp, your views are even sillier than many of the regular commentators – So it is the US that is conspiring against Iran – Silly me, I thought it was the fact that they are in the process of building a nuclear bomb. Even the ‘peace in out time’ European policy elites are scared shitless by this – although their approach is essentially that of trying to scare Iran with the equivalent of a dead sheep – talk tough but run a mile when the going gets tough and hope that the Yanks or the Israel’s step in and step in and do the dirty work and then after breathing a sigh of relief express outrage at their actions.

  43. February 23rd, 2005 at 18:46 | #45

    Hey Michael Burgess – well argued stuff. Completely agree with you.


  44. Ros
    February 23rd, 2005 at 19:06 | #46

    Peter I would agree with you that the shift in the non Al Qaeda insurgents could represent a tipping point.that is the one dramatic moment that could change the insurgency all at once.it may be the little cause that has big effects, that it will be contagious and we will know soon enough because a tipping point doesn’t occur gradually but at one dramatic moment. The tiiping point’s cause could be the postion of the Association of Muslim Scholars because they may be the few who have the influence that is critical to a epidemic of resistance to the insurgents. They may be the salesmen who do it. Or maybe the Baathist Sunnis who are maybe looking to stop fighting and move to political outcomes. While Z may be committed to fighting for the rest of his life it does not seem likely that these individuals are looking to do that. They may be changing direction and they may have the salesmen skills to dramatically change things. The young men they currently pay to kill Americans could be as open to change as those in Sadr City. Or Ibrahim al-Jaafari and his coolleagues may have the skills to create a political environment to counter the violence environment, that their ideas will move iraqis to action. And of course that the contextual environment is right for a tipping point. The disgust of the Iraqis with the violence, particularly the murder of Iraqis may be the context and the disgust may stick. There is I believe most certainly an changing environment that could deliver for the Iraqis. One can only hope.
    I don’t follow your US attacking Iran with Iraq as a base as a tipping point though.

  45. peter kemp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 19:09 | #47

    Michael Burgess, where’s your proof that Iran is building a nuke? Because Dick Cheney said so? Same American standard of proof as with Iraq dare I ask?

    You obviously know nothing of EU methods of international relations and public policy culture, and your supposition that their ‘policy elites’ are ‘scared shitless’ does not qualify as rational thought let alone argument.

    Why don’t you present some rational argument to dispute my points instead of mouthing off like the neo-cons?

  46. MichaelH
    February 23rd, 2005 at 19:09 | #48

    michael b – Yes, there is a moral accounting going on. Saddam killed loads, so anything we do is lesser and therefore acceptable. This was Chris Hitchens point wasn’t it?
    The ‘insurgents’ are killing innocent people which can’t be condoned, but discussion of the killings by the Coalition forces has an air of ‘killing them to save them’ about it. The Iraqi deaths at the hands of the ‘good guys’ is worth it in the quest for democracy – this is utilitarianism at its worst.
    As well I find it a curious notion that the ‘insurgents’ are responsible for all the deaths in Iraq, because they have responded to the US led invasion.

    Michael.b wrote,
    “are now more concerned than not offending the sensibilities of so-called minorities than they are in highlighting issues such as the plight of women in Muslim communities �

    As has been pointed out, in the new democratic Iraq you’ve alluded too, womens’ rights are diminishing not improving.

    An aside – the quote above came from a 130 word sentence. Can anyone beat that!

  47. Katz
    February 23rd, 2005 at 19:30 | #49

    “Welcome aboard the RWDB train to freedom from tyranny. ”

    Keep working on your sarcasm Razor. One day you may achieve irony.

  48. Michael Burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 19:34 | #50

    Peter Kemp, you ask ‘where is the proof that Iran is building a nuclear bomb’ – are you serious – What about Khan’s nice little earner in selling Pakistan’s nuclear technology – a fact that he was pardoned for rather put up against a wall and shot as he deserved. Also, the Europeans have offered Iran a deal by which they could pursue peaceful nuclear energy but not develop peaceful nuclear weapons – this has been rejected. Finally, call me naïve and overly concerned with the human rights of non-western people, but I simply do not trust a regime that has a history of extensive murder, torture and rape. And, according to reports from dissidents much of this atrocity took place in cells while religious music was being played – I suppose it beats being murdered while listening to rap music.

    MichaelH are you really suggesting that the Americans are primarily responsible for diminishing women’s rights and the deaths that are occurring and not the insurgents. This is a bit like arguing that the allies were the bad guys or just as bad as the Nazis at D Day because innocent French were killed in the landing. Sorry I can’t now resist the temptation to point out that the Americans were very heavily involved in the second world war (I hope this does not shock too many people), kept Europe and Australia safe in the Cold war (although some developing countries did not come out of it so good), and prevented massive starvation and political unrest in South Asia with their support for the green revolution. Unlike the French and Austrians (and I am keeping an eye on the Belgium’s), they have also not recently come close to electing an extremely racist party.

  49. Ros
    February 23rd, 2005 at 19:36 | #51

    I do not understand this women were better off under Saddam They were beheaded raped executed, particularly for being “prostitutes” I have not forgotten of that poor young woman whose father killed her because Urday raped her.This in a society which in theory carried a 3 year sentence for honor killing(oh wow) but men were hardly ever prosecuted. Their husbands sons and fathers were murdered. So they were murdered by secularists, terrific. They were better off because of rules such as 5 years maternity leave.An example of the great feminist Saddam, in 1998, Saddam ordered all women secretaries working in government agencies be dismissed.
    I am not persuaded that those who trot out the women were better off under Saddam give a hoot for women.
    They should look through the eyes of a man forced to watch his daughter, wife, mother or sister gang-raped by Saddam’s agents says Masa Hussaain

  50. grace pettigrew
    February 23rd, 2005 at 19:41 | #52

    So Howard is sending 450 more of our troops to a “safe” place in Iraq, to replace the Dutch, who are withdrawing because of domestic opposition.

    Is this because Bush whispered in Howard’s hearing aid that he needs more help from his deputy sheriff in propping up a diminishing coalition of the willing? And in return we should be grateful for the FTA? Payola for the national party, paid for in the blood of our soldiers.

    Or is it because the Japanese asked for our protection, and our balance of payments suggest we should oblige? What does this have to do with “doing our bit for democracy in Iraq”? Have we sunk to the level of mercenaries for hire? Perhaps we should be demanding that the Japanese pay our troops for their protection.

    And exactly what are the Japanese doing in Iraq, despite massive domestic opposition? Does this have anything to do with the 130,000 barrel-a-day Al-Gharaff oil field, just 65 kms away from their camp in Samawah, to which the Japanese were negotiating access during the 1990-91 Gulf crisis? Their engineering expertise is undoubtedly being put to good use in building the appropriate access infrastructure.

    Once again, why are we sending 450 Australian troops to protect the Japanese in Iraq? And let’s do without all the sanctimonious baloney about “seeing it through”, and not “cutting and running”, as we “bring democracy to the brave Iraqis”.

    When Iraq becomes a Shi’ite theocracy under sharia law, there will be no democracy for women. Further, the americans have forced the Iraqis to sign a law that opens all their national resources and services to foreign exploitation for the next 40 years. Any attempt to nationalise those resources and services will be met with retaliation from the military bases established by the coalition of the willing throughout Iraq as the occupation entrenches.

    That’s not democracy. Australia should have no further part in this desperate and farcical adventure if we value our national honour.

  51. February 23rd, 2005 at 20:01 | #53

    Why are the Dutch withdrawing from Iraq? Is it, as suggested above, because of domestic opposition? But I am sure that would not be the only reason. We are lucky to be blessed with a leader with “the heart of a gambler”.

  52. peter kemp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 20:01 | #54

    Michael B, Iran has not rejected the Franco/German/UK initiative,—get your facts straight. The Iranians have agreed to temporarily halt ENRICHMENT which can be used for BOTH peaceful purposes and nukes depending on the degree of enrichment.

    Its fine not to trust the Iranian regime and Khan undoubtedly sold the Iranians some technology, perhaps even the gas centrifuges–uranium/hexafluoride enrichment system. That doesn’t prove Iran is making a bomb as the IAEA will agree.

    The point is that the onus is on you to prove they are making a bomb and even if they are, like the DRK, for you to refute that this is the only way for the Iranians (given political realities) to guarantee deterrence to a US attack.

    No comments as to why Israel should have a bomb (widely accepted) but Iran can’t?

    Explain to us the sense of US non-proliferation policy –invading on trumped up pretexts– when those actions are to create the very opposite effect ?

    We don’t trust Robert Mugabe either, nor the undemocratic anti-human rights torturing DRK, Egypt, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia inter alia, but I don’t see your arguments for clobbering them, exposing some inconsistency perhaps in your ‘no trust’ doctrine?

  53. Ian Gould
    February 23rd, 2005 at 20:19 | #55


    So given your outrage over the torturwe of Iraqi women under Saddam howe do you feel about former senior Ba’athist Iyad Allawi rehiring thousands of former secret police officers?

  54. Michael Burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 20:37 | #56

    Peter Kemp your that ‘The point is that the onus is on you to prove they are making a bomb and even if they are, like the DRK, for you to refute that this is the only way for the Iranians (given political realities) to guarantee deterrence to a US attack.’ Well another way to stop a US attack would be to completely open up too inspectors and open ones country up to free elections. As for your comment on Israel having the bomb, well I have absolutely no problem with this. They have been repeatedly attacked and threatened with complete annihilation by far more numerous neighbours. I also do not think that Israel will drop a bomb on Australia but I do not have that much faith where Islamic crazies are concerned.

  55. MichaelH
    February 23rd, 2005 at 20:39 | #57

    michael b – When Coalition forces kill Iraqis, in Iraq, they are responsible for their actions and no one else.
    Is this unreasonable?

  56. MichaelH
    February 23rd, 2005 at 20:44 | #58

    Ros – Women could drive, vote,dress as they wished and attend university.

    Yes, some were killed or saw members of their family killed, but not because they were women. Saddam killed or oppressed anyone who opposed him.
    Saddam – the equal opportunity tryant.

    Women in Iraq are now expressing fears that they may loose some of these fundamental rights.

  57. MichaelH
    February 23rd, 2005 at 20:44 | #59

    Ros – Women could drive, vote,dress as they wished and attend university.

    Yes, some were killed or saw members of their family killed, but not because they were women. Saddam killed or oppressed anyone who opposed him.
    Saddam – the equal opportunity tyrant.

    Women in Iraq are now expressing fears that they may loose some of these fundamental rights.

  58. John Quiggin
    February 23rd, 2005 at 20:56 | #60

    “What about Khan’s nice little earner in selling Pakistan’s nuclear technology – a fact that he was pardoned for rather put up against a wall and shot as he deserved. ”

    But Pakistan is on our side, as witness the Pakistani govt’s actions in the Habib case. Make up your mind who’s wearing the black hats here.

  59. Ros
    February 23rd, 2005 at 20:56 | #61

    Ian, Juan Cole I presume. And your point?
    Expressing fears, and very sensible too. But the fact is that Saddam had women raped beheaded gaoled and sacked from their jobs. And yes they were killed because they were women, check Amnesty International on “prostitute” killings. So the point about an Iraq where 60% of the population are women and they were set up to win 25% of the place in the election. And you seriously offer vote as a right under Saddam! At least they really did get to vote on Jan 30

  60. peter kemp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 21:06 | #62

    Michael B: As I said ”political reality” meaning Iran is not going to allow itself to be humiliated by bowing down to a unilateral US whose military capacity is somewhat reduced these days. Iran has friends as well, such as Russia who are building a REACTOR for them, and China who will veto any US Security Council sanction resolution.

    By saying you approve? that Israel has the bomb illustrates the double standard perfectly. You don’t feel threatened by Israel but the Iranians do and therefore your perceptions must have precedence. Where is the logic in that?

    You like many, are incapable of putting yourself in their shoes just for one minute, let alone understand the dynamics of a nation which WILL be the regional dominant player in years to come, in what is fast becoming a multi-polar world.

    By ‘Islamic crazies” I assume you mean the Iranian government, a partly democratic one which neo-con policy (and yours) cuts the ground from right under Khatami and his fellow moderates. Congratulations !

  61. MichaelH
    February 23rd, 2005 at 21:25 | #63

    Ros, Michael B was arguing that the US led invasion was, in effect, spreading liberal democracy and therefore improving womens rights. It’s not that simple.

    Now it’s OK for Iraqi women to watch their men be killed and their children maimed by cluster bombs because they came courtesy of the US – “terrific”.

    I’m not persuaded by those who trot out that Iraqi’s are better off now. They should look through the eyes of a woman who watches her child die of an easily preventable disease.

  62. peter kemp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 21:29 | #64

    Also Michael B, if Iran is so crazy, list the number of countries they have attacked in the last 30 years or so. Who pissed them off by helping Saddam attack them in the 80s? Would you really blame them for still being a little pissed off with the US.? This historical background seems to be missing from your ‘clobber them’ thinking.

    Somebody shoots at you and you respect the accomplice who supplied the bullets? Think about it.

  63. cp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 21:37 | #65

    Any advance on June as a nice time to start bombing the sh*t out of Iran to get rid of their nukular weapons programme?

    May be nuts, but then again…

  64. February 23rd, 2005 at 21:41 | #66

    The “new” old US enemy in the Gulf is still Iran. AUS troops are in Iraq to prevent the Iranian Badr Brigades moving in, rather than to stop Suuni attacks.
    The mullahs must be splitting their sides lauging at the fix they have put the Great Satan in.
    Aint the ME grand. The fun never stops.

  65. cp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 21:41 | #67

    (note, all reports seem to come from the same source/reporter, but there don’t appear to be any to the contrary).

  66. peter kemp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 21:46 | #68

    cp, what are ‘nukular’ weapons programs, is this the new Bushspeak?

    Assuming you mean nuclear, there are no guarantees that intensive bombing will eliminate all nuclear facilities, many of which are underground.

    If the US does this unilaterally, what the rest of the world will do to the US economically could be far worse but I would leave that thread to Pro. JQ.

  67. cp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 21:58 | #69

    peter – yes, an attempt at levity. Many sincere and abject apologies if I offended you.

    I think it would be insane to attempt that sort of thing, but I wouldn’t put it past them (the US). Distract, destroy, decamp. Let’s never finish anything off properly, just find someone else to impress (or slaughter) with our big guns.

  68. Don Wigan
    February 23rd, 2005 at 21:58 | #70

    “Well another way to stop a US attack would be to completely open up too inspectors…” MB

    Well, it didn’t work in Iraq recently, did it?

  69. February 23rd, 2005 at 22:02 | #71

    One thing I’d like to know is whether the ADF’s ASLAV’s have been fitted with the Kevlar spall liners. These garments are great for absorbing the impact of IED’s. Seeing the carnage on Iraqi roads, I wouldnt take my vehicle out of the garage without one.

  70. Michael Burgess
    February 23rd, 2005 at 22:07 | #72

    Peter Kemp, what double standards re Israel and why should Iran feel threatened by Israel. Has Israel threatened to destroy Muslim countries and wipe out all Muslims etc. Does Israel systematically teach racist filth at Israeli schools in the same way that anti-Semitic filth is taught in Palestian schools (with the support of EU money) and elsewhere in the Middle East. Israel, it is true, might well take action to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. But they can hardly be blamed for thinking that if they don’t Tel Aviv might soon obliterated. I also suggest you ask young Iranians what they think of the current government or ask your girlfriend or wife whether she would rather live in Israel or an Islamic country. I simply can’t take seriously anyone who thinks the actions of the current regime in Iran have any merit or that the onus is on others to prove that its intentions are peaceful– this is simply taking anti-Americanism and post-modernism to a mad extreme. I also find it amazing that you are so willing to criticise western governments but so easily brush over the evils of Islamic regimes such as Iran.

    I suggest you go to the Apposites of Islam site and read some of testimonies of those who have suffered under regimes like Iran – http://www.apostatesofislam.com/apostates/g1/ibnw_index.htm
    See who they blame for their and their friends and relatives experiences – it is certainly not Israel.

    John, on the issue of Pakistan – well I certainly think the US has made a mistake by tying itself so closely to the current regime. However, there are no easy choices when it comes to dealing with Islamic fascism. In hindsight this might turn out to be a good or a bad call – If Middle eastern and Islamic scholars in western universities paid more attention to such issues and less to playing down the threat of Islam (John Espisito and crowd) and attacking the US we might have more insight.

  71. peter kemp
    February 23rd, 2005 at 22:08 | #73

    Jack S: Yes but it didn’t have to be that way–jaw jaw instead of war war I think WSC said.

    cp, right on

    Don W: The golden rule is, open up to inspections, nothing found, US accuses you of lying and invades.

    Blix expressed this so well-paraphrasing-You’ve been told to find the witches, the fact that there are no witches becomes unacceptable to the US.

    MB. I think you’ve been hung out to dry

  72. Ros
    February 23rd, 2005 at 22:27 | #74

    you are hopeful Peter, the US is germany’s biggest trade partner after Europe and despite all the disagreements and the Iraq war it has been business as usual for both of them. So if you consider Europe the best bet for some kind of sanctions this example wouldn’t offer much hope. I have no doubt that for Asia or South America for example it would certainly be business as usual. Mexico would introduce sanctions against the US, I don’t think so.

  73. February 23rd, 2005 at 22:29 | #75

    The US is beginning to make some political concessions to the Suuni ethnics insurgents, as opposed to Islamic jihadists.
    Patrick Cockburn mentions the fact that the US, never mind the Shiites, is unlikely to win an defeat the mass-based Suuniis.

    US military commanders are now dubious about the chances of winning an outright military victory over the Sunni rebels who have a firm core of supporters among the five million-strong Sunni Muslim community.

    This means the Suunis are now in a position to negotiate with the US. They may be able to cut a deal with the US, agreeing to stop their attacks in order for a time-tabled US withdrawal and a guranteed stake in power.

    Abu Marwan, a resistance commander, is quoted as saying that the insurgents want to “fight and negotiate”. They are modelling their strategy on that of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. This means creating a united political organisation with a programme opposed to the US occupation.

    The only problem with this is that Suuni nationalists and sectarians have been attacking Coalition-symp Shiites these past few years. The Shiites & Kurds are now in the majority. There is no love lost at all between the Shiites/Kurds and the Suunis who have been so busy massacring them these past few decades.

    The slaughter of Shia civilians by suicide bombers has made it very difficult for the resistance to claim that it is a nationalist insurgency representing all Iraqis against the occupation. After six months of suicide bombings orchestrated from Fallujah against young army and police recruits, most Shia Muslims in Baghdad were delighted when the US Marines largely destroyed the city last November.

    Ahh the joys of militant ethnic politics. So the Shiites will not be keen to share power with the Suunis. Iraqi democracy may be in the way of peace.
    And then there is the problem that the Suunis have no oil in their region. Which means that without a guaranteed share of power their income will be close to zero. They will fight hard for a share of the dough.
    But the US has to find some way of stopping the Suuni insurgency turning into a civil war that will force the Iraqi Shiites into alliance with Irani Shiite axle of evil. This will hand Southern Iraq to Iran on a platter.
    Man the ME is complicated. Whose brilliant idea was it to get involved in this mess in the first place? Dont remind me.

  74. February 23rd, 2005 at 22:34 | #76

    re Michael B:

    Iran (or ancient persia) is a culture and a place none of us understand.

    Our reasoning why they can’t have nuclear weapons is justified only by fear and misunderstanding.

    But is it you that opposes the sale of uranium? 4,000 tonnes a year from 1 mine alone in south australia, one of the by products being plutonium, of which some will have a half life of ~325,000 years.

    Iraq sure wasn’t perfect, but how high was it on the list of horror countries? Contrast it with northern african countries such as somalia, and our allies saudi arabia. And not to mention north korea, the country we made the most noise about but seemingly have erased since 2003. Our picking on the small (25million), already contained (quote colin powell) and serverly depleted enemy (how many operational planes where in the iraqi airforce?) guaranteed military success, with little chance of civil resolution.

    Have no doubt, extreme forms of fundamentalism, represents a great threat to our society.

    Fundamentalism has many varieties:
    * communism
    * enviromentalism
    * religious (islamic, christian or jewish)
    * economic rationalism

    I recongize the threat posed by all of the above

    And the extreme forms practiced by bush, mixing religion and politics, leads us down a path as dark and bloody as the crusades.

  75. February 23rd, 2005 at 22:39 | #77

    I can’t believe the army captains are pulling the everyone who is going to iraq wants to.

    Marketing and Damange control by the spindoctors in our country are amazing – and the deepness that this distortion penetrates our media is bewildering.

    But then i guess i slept through politics 101.

  76. MichaelH
    February 23rd, 2005 at 23:40 | #78

    We all need to be concerned about Iran. George Bush, at a press conference in Germany, has just confirmed that it is a country ruled by “moo-lars”.

    I’m not sure what they are, but they sound nasty!

    How to deal with them isn’t so clear. George went on to say that talk of a US attack on Iran is “ridiculous” but that “all options remain on the table”.

    I hope that has cleared it up for everyone.

  77. February 24th, 2005 at 05:52 | #79

    Those of us here in the US get more of a chance to hear the neocons speak than you folks overseas – most recently this past week at the conservative political action conference. Make no mistake, attacking Iraq was about building an empire, not about doing anything good for Iraqis – not that they are opposed to something good happening but that is beside the point. They are happy to have Australia help out because it gives them political cover at home (we DO TOO have a coalition!) but dont think for a moment that there will be any payback down the road – And as for “defense” we are all worse off, not better off now that Saddam is gone. Sure, he was a bad man but he wasnt going to attack any of us and he HATED the religious crazies. We have opened a can of worms that will probably never be closed again. And it looks like Iraq will now be run by friends of Iran and religious types. Not such a good trade from our point of view.

  78. Garry Culhane
    February 24th, 2005 at 06:03 | #80

    Gosh fellas, here I thought Australia was now a cvilized place with roads, opera houses, Olympics and all that stuff, but it seems you have some people there who will voluntarily read Hitchens. A real shocker, eh?

  79. michael.burgess
    February 24th, 2005 at 08:59 | #81

    1. Alphacoward, You state ‘Our reasoning why they (Iran) can’t have nuclear weapons is justified only by fear and misunderstanding.’ After reading this comment, I have decided (no doubt many people will be pleased to here), that there is nothing usual to gain from trying to argue further with reality challenged individuals such as yourself. Go to the web sites run by people who have fled Islamic countries such as Iran and see how they feel about the likes of Iran having the bomb or who is the biggest threat to human culture Bush and his fellow radical Christian buddies or Islamic fascism. Ibn Warrah – The author of why I am not a Muslim is a good place to start as is Irshad Manji- the Trouble with Islam or Ayaan Hirsi Ali the incredibly brace Dutch politician of Somalian origin who was forced to change sides to the Dutch conservatives because of the refusal of the politically correct in her country to do anything about the appalling issue of violence against Dutch Muslim women by Dutch Muslim Men (not George Bush or Tony Blair). Now of course these individual are not white Anglo Saxon academics theorising about the supposedly unique democracy that Islamic countries (including Sudan see John Esposito) are developing or blaming Israel and the yanks for most of the problems of the world. However, they do have some direct experience of oppression and all live in constant fear of being murdered (not by the Mossed or George Bush by the way). At one time so-called social progressives would have been queuing up to support them –but not now.

  80. Ian Gould
    February 24th, 2005 at 09:08 | #82

    < >

    No, ABC News, The Economist and various other sources. My point is that the most likely outcome of the current situation in Iraq is an authoritarian state – similar to those in Egypt, Syria and Jordan – which pays occasional lip-service to democracy through electiosn to largely powerless assemblies and represses its people – including its women – on a regular basis.

    A regime, in other words, which is most likely to resemble a milder version of Saddam’s regime than anything westerners would recognise as democracy.

    However, given that the likely alternatives are an Iranian-backed thoecracy and an extended civil war similar to that which occurred in Lebanon, we’re probably stuck with trying to produce such an outcome.

    However lets be honest about it and not gush on about “democracy”. Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord carried out terrorist atatcks in Iraq – such as bombing buses and clinics – in the 1990s. Ahmed Chalabi is a convicted embezzler, a murder suspect and has been accused by the US of being an Iranian spy. Jafari, the likely next Prime Minister spent the 1990′s as a guest of the Iranian Ayatollahs – I fail to see how this bodes well for the status of women or religious minorities in an Iraq under his control.

    “Fighting to end the torture” is a much nicer slogan than “killing 100,000+ people and spending US $300 billion+ to make the torture less common and slightly less severe.”

    < >

    and the facti s that since Saddam’s fall there has been a massive upsurge in criminal violence largely targetting women and islamic vigilantism.

    You may regard it as a major advance for women that they’re now being pack-raped by criminal gangs rather than by Uday’s minions and that they’re now being beheaded by islamic vigilantes rather than by members of the secret police. I don’t.

    < >

    Actually I made no mention of the right to vote at all. Try and have a stricter regard for the facts than, say, George W Bush.

  81. Ian Gould
    February 24th, 2005 at 09:13 | #83

    < >

    How about “reality-challenged individuals’ who worry more about the hypothetical bombs Iran might have one day than about the actual bombs Pakistan has right this second?

  82. Fyodor
    February 24th, 2005 at 09:22 | #84


    Your solution to the “reality-challenged” is to listen to people who have “fled Islamic countries”. Why? Are they more objective than you?

    Ibn Warraq is a nom de plume for a person who claims to be from the Indian sub-continent. He’s not Iranian. I’m not sure he’s “fled” from anywhere.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia, but “fled” Kenya (not a Muslim country, BTW) to avoid a marriage arranged by her father – not a problem that’s Islamic, BTW.

    Irshad Manji was born in Uganda (not a Muslim country), and her family might have “fled” from there when she was 1 to Canada, where she has lived since.

  83. Katz
    February 24th, 2005 at 09:34 | #85

    JQ performs a valuable service in initiating conversations on a range of topics and in maintaining an ordered space by balancing the competing priorities of freedom of expression and civility. In addition, one is exposed to mental frameworks, behavioral habits and emotional fixations that one does not usually meet in one’s workaday world. I my case, acquaintance with RWDBs is a novelty to me no less entertaining and educational than a trip to the aquarium, and Melbourne has a very good one, which I recommend.

    RWDBs, I have discovered, come in many shapes and colours. So I do not want to imply that what I have to say about them applies to all of them. I draw upon my memory of several threads and some reference to this thread to make a few observations in the spirit of analysis and in the hope that I neither affront nor offend.

    An important distinction between RWDBs and others is their willingness to believe that US government rhetoric maps closely with US government action. (This is the mirror image of the reflex anti-Americanism of some of the Left that presumes cynicism, hypocrisy and dishonesty.)

    Fathers of daughters may recognise a parallel in this RWDB behaviour. Some adolescent girls fixate upon the imagined admirable qualities of some spotty youth or other. In the heart and mind of these girls this inoffensive but altogether unremarkable chap becomes a knight in shining armour, a paladin who can do no wrong. Most girls grow out of this romanticism and a desire to be tenderly dominated. It seems that frequently RWDBs do not.

    The first fantasy is indomitability.

    The United States is straining its economy and its private and public finances to breaking point. In 1950 the US economy comprised 50% of the world economy. The US was the source of virtually all investment capital. US corporations dominated technological development. In 2005 the US economy comprises around 20% of the world economy and this figure is falling relentlessly.

    The US military is overstretched. Recruitment is plummeting. There is persistent talk of the reintroduction of the draft.

    The second fantasy is unity of American purpose

    Bush won the 2004 election with a paper-thin majority in Ohio assisted by some questionable electoral practices. A majority of Americans now oppose US policy in Iraq.

    Bush’s 2005 Federal Budget attempts to wind back subsidies and support schemes that prop up the economies of the very Red States that voted him back into office. It is likely that many of these voters will ask why their economic security is being sacrificed to an apparently endless venture in Iraq and the wider Middle East.

    The third fantasy is American steadfastness.

    This is the element that forms the closest parallel to the Vietnam fiasco. In 1968 President Johnson was prepared, if necessary, underwrite the US war effort with US gold reserves. He was dissuaded from doing this by Clark Clifford who had been told by Wall St Bankers that this would destabilise the US economy. Sooner or later Wall St is likely to make the same call on the US Middle East adventure, especially now it is clear that it will be impossible to take Iraqi oil as booty. (I recommend a perusal of Executive Order 13303 on this important point.)

    So what does this have to do with Australia?

    On the very day that Johnson was to make his speech announcing a scaling down of the Vietnam War, Prime Minister John Gorton spoke in parliament announcing his steadfast support of military intervention “until the job is done.” In an embarrassing oversight the Johnson administration had neglected to tell its allies about its about-face.

    The United States is neither world saviour nor monster. It is a nation subject to vicissitudes and to consequences of enormous ambitions. It is also a nation that is suffering a progressive dimunition of its freedom of action.

    Australians would be well-advised not to expect too much from the United States.

    And RWDBs need to learn how to cope with their disappointments and to move on.

  84. Paul Norton
    February 24th, 2005 at 10:44 | #86

    “Fathers of daughters may recognise a parallel in this RWDB behaviour. Some adolescent girls fixate upon the imagined admirable qualities of some spotty youth or other. In the heart and mind of these girls this inoffensive but altogether unremarkable chap becomes a knight in shining armour, a paladin who can do no wrong. Most girls grow out of this romanticism and a desire to be tenderly dominated. It seems that frequently RWDBs do not.”

    So is it just a coincidence that most RWDBs are male?

  85. February 24th, 2005 at 10:49 | #87

    To all the the cowards and chicken hawks:

    “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience…Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”
    Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950

    “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “The act of those guys climbing up on the Sydney Opera House and painting ‘No War’ on there, I thought that was a fantastic bloody thing. It was disgusting, the fact that they had to graffiti a beautiful landmark in Australia, but that’s what it fucking takes to be heard. They’re not going to let the average person stand up and say, ‘This is what’s wrong’.”
    Heath Ledger
    Sydney Opera House NO WAR

  86. February 24th, 2005 at 10:50 | #88

    to the chicken hawks, et al:

    when is enough, enough?
    or do we stay in Iraq for years, decades?

    Yet, the real question is: how many ADF lives are enough?

  87. Ros
    February 24th, 2005 at 11:06 | #89

    Not sure who you are angry with Ian. it obviously wasn’t clear but the second part of my post was in response to Michael H. as a brief read might have demonstrated. I didn’t understand you point about Allawi in relation to my comments. I am not sure why why you are attacking me though, maybe you aren’t,I assumed I was y, because women still get a bad trott. My aplogies if i am accusing you of not reading correctly and it is fact me that is confused.
    I just don’t like the sanitising of saddam and his henchmen. After all it is those henchmen who targetted women candidates. And as don’t many Iraqi feminists. Kurdish women I find are particulalry offended. And if it me that you are accusing of finding pack rape better if it is criminals I find that remark a bit off.
    The 100,00 as I am sure many have mentioned before does have some problems. However I would not argue that the deaths of Iraqis is not awful who ever or what ever caused them.
    but I am not arguing your side killed more than my side.
    As the Iraqis struggle to build a better society which will it seems require a need for reconciliation and all that entails in the way of forgiveness and abandonment of anger it is wierd that we here have no problem arguing about whose moral and who isn’t and hating those who disagree with us. I guess they can only be greatful that we can’t get any closer to participating in their affairs than shouting on the web.

  88. Ros
    February 24th, 2005 at 11:45 | #90

    Katz help. I think that I am a RWDB and it would seem therefore may have a penchant for spotty faced youth and a desire to be tenderly dominated (oh my god)and if I understand have a tendency to naively see the US as saviour. Before I decide to cope with my disappointments and move on, or seek a brain transplant I don’t know what a RWDB is. Right wing dead Brain? Really Whacko Deceitful Bastard. Reckon World Deserves Bush. Reactionary white do badder. I really don’t know. it is somehow appealing to know when being insulted, or is it a compliment.

  89. February 24th, 2005 at 11:55 | #91

    Hey Carlos – resorting to quoting Heath Ledger?
    Desperate times I guess!

  90. Fyodor
    February 24th, 2005 at 12:07 | #92

    RWDB = Right Wing Death Beast.

    Some folk take is as a badge of honour, most probably worn next to their VC – for “Valourous Chickenhawk”.

    Take it however you like.

  91. Katz
    February 24th, 2005 at 12:18 | #93

    Paul and Ros, I don’t know what gender most RWDBs are. I don’t know what gender you are.

    I do know that a RWDB called Tipper used to post on this blog. I assume it was not Tipper Gore, but beyond that one couldn’t tell for sure whether it was a he Tipper or a she Tipper.

    Tipper caused JQ problems with his/her unparliamentary language and was threatened with exclusion. JQ spared the rest of us the trauma of reading his/her obscenities. Perhaps the content of those obscenities may have provided a clue to Tipper’s gender.

    In short, the gender(s) of most RWDBs remains a mystery to me. All I know is that a large proportion of them write like romantic girls.

  92. michael.burgess
    February 24th, 2005 at 12:43 | #94

    Fyoder, I know I said I couldn’t be bothered arguing with dogmatic individuals such as yourself anymore but I can’t let your latest bit of nonsense go unchallenged. You state that ‘Your solution to the “reality-challenged� is to listen to people who have “fled Islamic countries�. Why? Are they more objective than you?’ Well the current situation is actually like in the early days of the last century when intellectuals could not say enough good things about the Soviet Union while dissidents (and rational lefties such as George Orwell and Arthur Koestler) were very well what the reality was but were not listened to.

    At the present time we have academics such as John Esposito (the most influential middle eastern scholar in the US) who not only pretend that extremism is a minor problem within Islam but actually sing the praises of individuals guilty of massive human rights abuse such as Hassan el Turabi the Sudanese politician/religious leader/opposition leader and general scumbag. Now I would suggest that the testimonies of individuals fleeing the repression he was responsible for in the past and who had relatives murdered and tortured or forced to convert to Islam are more worthy of hearing than some dickhead academic who thinks western men not doing their fair share of the dishwashing is a worse crime.

    Faced with such dilemmas and criticism from real Muslim moderates or from people who not longer regard themselves as Muslim because of the sickening oppression they have witnessed, many social progressives, in an amazing leap of logic, bestow on head banging extremists such as Tariq Ramadan the title of moderate. They are offered university jobs and listened to with respect by social progressive elites. The fact that the likes of Ramadan will not condemn the stoning to death of women etc or distance themselves sufficiently from Islamic extremists is neither here not there.

    Re Sudan – I note that the US though not France, Germany or some other European country is being criticised for not putting pressure on the current Sudanese government – I would like critics of the US to spell out now what they and other countries should do and not wait till after the fact and simply criticise them for whatever action or not action they take. Re Iran what should be the policy towards that country – if the US does not talk tough, whether it intends to invade or not how will the mad mullahs who run that country be persuaded to give up the bomb. But of course that’s not the real issues for as Salmon Rushdie (I think) suggested many western liberals are so anti-western that are unable to recognise that there are worse things that can happen to Muslim women than wearing jeans and listening to rock music.

  93. Razor
    February 24th, 2005 at 13:27 | #95

    alphacoward – you obviously don’t have any close friends in the ADF, in particular the Army. The vast majority of soldiers actually want to do the job they are trained to do. There will be stiff competition to get a place on those next deployments. They are not dumb, they recognise the dangers but they also recognise the good work they get to do and be proud of. Any soldier who said that they did not want to go would quickly and easily be replaced.

    Do I qualify as a Chicken Hawk because I wasn’t deployed on operational duty during my 13 years in the Army? (Despite the dangers I was exposed to like misdirected artillery and tank fire and intentionally directed small arms fire.)

    I love those peacenik signs “Don’t send our Boys overseas” – have they asked them whether they want to go? What if they really want to go? What if they don’t want the pacifists protesting to stop their deployment? Do the soldiers’ views not count?

  94. Katz
    February 24th, 2005 at 13:55 | #96

    Razor, there is no gentle way of telling you the following information:

    Armies are very expensive establishments that sane governments deploy with great prudence in pursuit of attainable national interests and objectives.

    Armies are not travel agencies that cater to the wanderlust and adventurous spirit of its personnel.

  95. Katz
    February 24th, 2005 at 13:56 | #97

    Razor, there is no gentle way of telling you the following information:

    Armies are very expensive establishments that sane governments deploy with great prudence in pursuit of attainable national interests and objectives.

    Armies are not travel agencies that cater to the wanderlust and adventurous spirit of its personnel.

  96. February 24th, 2005 at 14:00 | #98

    Steven Kyle writes:
    “And as for “defenseâ€? we are all worse off, not better off now that Saddam is gone. Sure, he was a bad man but he wasnt going to attack any of us and he HATED the religious crazies.”

    I don’t get it! – Originally, the US was criticised for supporting Saddam. Then it was criticised when the US (largely) went to the aid of a sovereign nation – Kuwait – when Saddam invaded. Then after liberating Kuwait, the US was criticised for not ‘getting rid’ of Saddam. Now that the US removed Saddam, it is criticised again. And added to that, revisionism is occuring to the effect stating that Saddam wasn’t all that bad after all!

    Hey guys, which is it. Pick you poison!

  97. Katz
    February 24th, 2005 at 14:07 | #99

    Roberto, are you arguing against Steven Kyle or are you arguing against the “guys”?

    As one of the “guys” I don’t feel compelled to support Steven Kyle.

    If you think that all of us “guys” think the same way, then prove it and move on to your substantive point.

  98. February 24th, 2005 at 14:10 | #100

    Katz – what are you talking about? The use of “Guys” was not meant to be gender specific.

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