No surprises here
It’s a while since I’ve done a full-length post on the AWB scandal, so I thought it might be time to see if anything surprising had emerged. Based on past experience, it seemed pretty clear that we could expect to find out that
1. Both Downer and Howard knew that the AWB was paying kickbacks to the Iraqi regime
2. This information was transmitted in a way that preserves deniability, so no conclusive proof will emerge
3. No government minister will resign
4. Endless hair-splitting defences of the governmentâ€™s actions in this matter will emerge from those who have previously made a loud noise about Oil for Food.
The only surprise has been how thoroughly each of these has been confirmed.
On point 1, if you haven’t followed the news closely, Tim Dunlop at Surfdom
has a good job. On point 2, we’ve seen the word “know” stretched to its absolute limits, but the government is still maintaining the line that despite cables, meetings, inquiries and so on, no-one in Cabinet knew what was going on. Point 3 is even more of a foregone conclusion than before. With virtually all the government’s senior ministers (except Costello) implicated, there’s no point in tossing a junior minister to the wolves. If Vaile weren’t leader of the Nationals he might possibly have gone, but that’s purely hypothetical.
Point 4 is most interesting in relation to the blogosphere. The mainstream media, notably including Murdoch’s Oz, have been quite critical of the government’s performance on this. But the right-wing blogosphere, has been, as far as I can see, solidly behind the government. The main lines have been:
* They really, truly, didn’t know. Here’s the normally sensible Currency Lad, as of 1 Feb, pushing this line. And here’s Tim Blair on 19 Jan. Those pushing this line have mostly gone very quiet in the last few weeks, but none, so far as I know, has changed their view.
* This is the way of the world/everybody does it. Some defenders of the government have been positively Parisian in their cynical disdain for Anglo-Saxon notions of propriety, others have blustered about looking after Aussie wheatgrowers. This defence runs into trouble with the fact that the Canadians were asked for the same bribes, and refused to pay. Of course, they didn’t get the deal.
* It’s all the UN’s fault. By setting up Oil-for-Food, the UN created an opportunity for bribery and corruption, and of course we took it, thereby proving that sanctions wouldn’t work and that the only thing to do was go to war.
The only good thing about this tawdry episode is that it’s demolished, once and for all, the claim that blogospheric supporters of the war have the interests of the Iraqi people at heart. If they did, they would be outraged at a deal that stole $300 million from the Iraqi people, dividing the proceeds between Saddam’s regime (who got the lion’s share), the high-flyers at AWB (who paid themselves handsomely out of the proceeds) and wheatgrowers (who got the crumbs).