Warning the Czar (cross-posted from Crooked Timber)

Australian news rarely makes it out of the sporting pages internationally (and we’re not looking too good there just now) so it’s pretty exciting for us to make into New York Times coverage of the presidential election campaign. The occasion is a statement by our prime minister, John Howard, to the effect that a vote for the Democrats, and in particular for Barack Obama, would be a vote for Al Qaeda*.

This is not the first time an Australian political leader has commented on the choices available to US electors. A few years ago, then Opposition leader Mark Latham described Bush as ‘incompetent and dangerous’, but this accurate observation did not seem to have much effect in the 2004 US election campaign and probably contributed to Latham’s defeat in the Australian election the same year.

Latham was well known as a loose cannon, and this kind of remark was in character, but Howard has generally been seen as the embodiment of cautious solidity. As far as US politics go, he’s generally been seen as an advocate of unconditional support for US policy, regardless of the political colour of the Administration. He’s been very happy to cash in on his close relationship with Bush, but he was quite keen enough for photo-ops with Clinton. So what possessed him to take a high-risk, low return line like this ?

The obvious explanation is the collapse of Howard’s domestic position, primarily as a result of issues where he has followed the lead of George Bush.

First, of course, there’s the Iraq war. Howard’s approach to this has exemplified the traditional Australian approach to the US alliance, which combines uncritical public support for the US with ruthless pragmatism. In this case, the objectives were twofold – to keep the Iraq wheat market, and to avoid any casualties. At the time of the last election, it seemed as if both goals had been attained. Australian troops were pulled out not long after Mission Accomplished day, with no serious casualties. Meanwhile, having bribed Saddam to secure the wheat market until the day the war began, our marketing monopoly, AWB turned up in Baghdad straight afterwards, demanding that we keep our position as a reward for membership of the COW.

All this has gone sour. Bush demanded we send troops back, and while they are still in fairly safe locations (the only fatality has been a rather mysterious shooting death in barracks), the pressure to take a frontline role is growing. Meanwhile, the AWB machinations were exposed, though, as usual, the government maintained plausible deniability on the issue. Most importantly, the disaster in Iraq has been so obvious that even in the absence of casualties, our participation has become highly unpopular.

The second problem for Howard is David Hicks, an Australian who was in the first batch of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and is supposed to be going up for trial under the Military Commissions Act, some time soon. Unlike Blair and most other US allies, Howard has refused to push for the release of Australian detainees (a second detainee was released a while back, making claims of torture that have never been effectively denied). While debate on Hicks’ case has gone back and forth, the public as a whole has run out of patience with the US.

The third problem is global warming. Australia was set to ratify Kyoto (having negotiated a very favourable deal) when Bush dumped it, and Howard promptly followed suit. Until 2006, the government suffered very little for this, and its allies in the media pushed a denialist line, with Howard’s sotto voce support. In the last year, though, the denialist position has collapsed, as the weight of evidence has finally got through to the public at large. Howard is scrambling to find a credible response that does not involve signing Kyoto, but hasn’t been able to find one.

Finally, after a string of leaders who were unelectable for one reason or another, Labor has finally picked a winner – former diplomat Kevin Rudd, who comes across as a safe pair of hands, having enough new ideas to be interesting, but not the kind of visionary who scares Australian voters. The government is lagging badly in the polls (an election is due this year) and Rudd has even passed Howard as preferred prime minister, a contest where the incumbent has a huge advantage.

At this point, realpolitik provides an obvious response. Howard’s biggest problems stem from his ties to Bush, a lame duck who will be gone in two years’ time regardless. The logical solution is to pick a fight with Bush over Iraq or Kyoto, and cut him loose.

But despite his Australian reputation as a master politician, Howard is not the man for this kind of Machiavellian response. He is stubborn, loyal to his allies, and convinced of his own rightness. So, dumping Bush is not really an option for him.

I read Howard’s attack on Obama as a natural, if counterproductive, response to this situation. Rather than do the logical thing and dump Bush, or take the cautious path of saying nothing, he has lashed out at one of Bush’s most effective opponents.

* The precise quote “If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.”

44 thoughts on “Warning the Czar (cross-posted from Crooked Timber)

  1. I really doubt any Crooked Timbers wil get the allusion about warning the Czar.

    The key point is that Howard is loyal to Bush. This is why Howard has never agreed to ratify Kyoto. On September 12 2001 Howard was in the White House when Bush asked him not to ratify Kyoto. Howard agreed – how could he refuse anything of Bush on that day? – without telling his ministers, including his environment minister David Kemp who on that very day said in the House of Representatives that Australia would soon be ratifying Kyoto.

  2. If you have Foxtel at home you can watch Fox News. Its a little hard to stomach but an enlightening experience. You realise you could not watch this channel and take it seriously for more than half an hour unless you believed all sorts of absurd things. Its so absurd it feels like you’re watching really good parody being played straight. Fox’s audience really believes this stuff.

    Consider this quote:
    “A few days ago our Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told me a secret. He said, that after he’d a particularly bad day on the political hustings, he slinks home and he does three things: he sits down on a sofa with a glass of whisky, he turns on the television to watch FOX news and downloads the latest offerings from Mark Steyn, just to remind himself that there is some sanity in the world.”

    Its certainly a credible statement as Downer has made at least three quite friendly appearances on the channel. What this suggests is that our foriegn minister is one of the people who live inside the Fox bubble.

    I think it fair to say that when it comes to international affairs Downer and Howard have the same views. Howard’s comment makes sense if you assume he is as far inside the alternative right wing reality as Bush himself is. My take on it is that his usual position and comments on Iraq are actually a very large moderation of what he really believes. I think if you got an honest comment from Howard on what he thinks most people would be shocked at how extreme his views are. I also think he is aware of this and so keeps those views private, except in this case.

  3. So what possessed him to take a high-risk, low return line like this ?


    On Monday night we had hoWARd and a very senior 4 star US general plus some very senior diplomats making him “look� like the respectable statesman, maybe as a build up to Cheney coming later in the month to ask for our support after a manufactured Iranian “attack� and the knee-jerk excalation that will follow.

    The US ambassador is giving a speech at the Press Club later this week.

    14 February, 2007
    Robert D. McCallum Jr
    Ambassador of the United States of America to Australia
    “Address to the National Press Club of Australia�

    PM hoWARd’s desperate idea is to try to shift the focus onto “securityâ€? and “terrorismâ€? his supposed strenghts. But instead, the finesse and media ability he used to have to move the focus into his prefered topics seems to be gone. The Bushistas’ demented idea is to drag the US into escalating attacks and a full blown invasion of IRAN.

    Rudd’s numbers on the polls would have taken hoWARd a bit by suprise I imagine, and perhaps he had to rush this topic into the public eye, earlier than he wanted. Or perhaps he was simply asked (or told!) to return the favour by Dubya.

    Or perhaps he’s just lost his mojo and ability to read the public’s reaction and his old ability to manipulate it accordingly.

    Then again, it’s just as likely that both the bushistas and the hoWARdistas have simply started to believe their own BS! 😉

  4. Personally, I blame Margaret “The Lady’s Not For Turning” Thatcher and her devotees for championing this ridiculous never-say-die, never-look-back, never-admit-you-were-wrong attitude to government spin. It’s a philosophy which is founded on the perceived courage of one’s convictions rather than the factual merits of one’s arguments, and it is clearly incapable of adjusting to new realities.

    After a decade in power, Howard has become mired in his own excrement, which is now piled up to his ears even as he refuses to move.

    It’s bad enough that he started out with a retro 1950’s Menzies vision of Australia, but it is clearly not in the national interest to continue pursuing the Howard government’s discredited policies on Iraq, water, climate, Hicks, etc. The Australian public can see that pretty clearly now. Even the Libs can see it, they just don’t have the balls to throw Howard out the door like the Conservatives finally did to Thatcher.

    George W. Bush today said he was “more concerned than I’ve ever been in my life” about his father (Bush 41) “because he’s been paying too much attention to the news.” A pity Bush Jnr and his “mini-poodle” don’t pay as much attention. They might learn something.

  5. I reckon the old rodent really is beginning to lose it. It’s most uncharacteristic of him to make the sort of unforced errors that he has recently.

    Who knows – maybe Janette will have a word in his good ear and we’ll get a surprise retirement announcement.

  6. As for Latham’s old comment:

    “Bush himself is the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory.”

    While the prescient comment may have been shocking at the time, Latham was, in retrospect, 100% correct. And Labour’s continued criticism of the Bush administration is not just popularly in tune with Australian and US domestic views, but also totally correct in a factual sense.

    And surely, all politics aside, that is what really matters. Howard is IN FACT totally wrong on Iraq, and has been from the start. He is unable to articulate any sort of “winnning” position. Here’s Brendan Nelson today:

    “Only when we get through the next six, 12 months or whatever period of time it takes will we be in a position to make any reasonable and responsible judgement about whether the United States, Britain or anyone else is in a position to withdraw.”

    After nearly four years and over half a million lives, that is just not good enough. The same people who swore we would find WMDs all over Iraq are now declaring that we cannot leave because terrrrists will use Iraq as a “haven” to attack the West. Nobody really believes them any more. Credibility is a bitch, John.

  7. a sideline to the main theme, but did anyone notice Gerard Henderson misquoted Howard in the SMH today [“The Prime Minister added that al-Qaeda members in Iraq could “put a circle around 2008″ in their diaries”] whereas the real quote is “March 2008” as cited accurately above. Presumably GH is trying to protect the PM from adverse comments about his choice of date.

  8. I’d say it was a warm up exercise gone horribly wrong. Whereas normally Howard’s ignorance of international affairs and the irrelevance of international affairs to the outcome of Australian politics would go hardly remarked ( e.g our police / armed services chasing terrorists around other countries without those countries permission )but the fallout from this one is not going to be negligible , not least in U.S. inquiries into the AWB.

  9. I imagine Australia’s tragic grub as again acting as just one more small cog in Darth Cheney’s ultra-Zionist inspired plans for middle eastern holocaust, Iran next. Howard wouldn’t have the wit to think up his own reasons for getting these particular headlines for himself (while Cheney hasn’t the mental capacity for anything other than mayhem, evildoing, and pulling Howard’s strings).

    Like I say, it’s the way that I picture it.

  10. “It matters little that he was right.”

    On the contrary, if Howard actually were right, it would make all the difference in the world.

    Howard has taken Australia into an illegal pre-emptive war based on lies. Half a million lie dead, a nation has been torn asunder, millions more are homeless and exiled, yet Howard continues to defend his initial, indefensible position.

    Now he is spitting poison like a cornered rat. A kinder, gentler party machine would put him out of his misery.

  11. Gandhi, all of that spittle on the mirror of yours is irrelevant to that fact that Howard was right.

    Al Quade in Iraq WOULD be thrilled to bits if the USA announced a total withdrawal of all troops and gave a definite date for such withdrawal.

    You are so full of anti-howard bile you are completely & totally unable to see the wood for the trees.

  12. Al Quade in Iraq WOULD be thrilled to bits if the USA announced a total withdrawal of all troops and gave a definite date for such withdrawal.

    why? because they can’t wait to be indiscriminantly slaughtered by shia militias?

    seriously though, america’s invasion of iraq has been such great propaganda for al-qaeda, why would they want it to ever end? it’s (to them) the gift that keeps on giving.

  13. steve,

    Well mate, what do YOU think Al Quaeda makes of the current situation, where millions of people are being radicalized around the globe as a DIRECT RESULT of the illegal, immoral and ultimately illogical actions of the USA and affiliated states like Australia? Do you really believe they are horrified by the looming prospect of a looming defeat in Iraq? Or do you think the continued chaos, violence and bloodshed ultimately serves their wider goals?

    After nearly four years, Howard, Bush and their fellow war-mongers have failed to deliver a genuine prospect for peace in Iraq (or even Afghanistan). Their current offering seems to be More Of The Same Until Everybody In Iraq Is Dead. You happy with that?

    Let me bring you in on a little secret, Steve. For all their gains over the past six years, and for the attention they get on FOX News, Al Quaeda remains a relatively minor player in Iraq. Do not confuse the various anti-US “insurgent” forces with Howard’s favourite “terrrrrrsts”. Most Iraqis just want US-led Coalition forces out of their country ASAP. That is their primary goal. They will deal with rival factions – including Al Quaeda – thereafter. In fact, given the evidence to date, there is every reason to assume that they will do a better job of getting Al Quaeda out of their own country than the USA, Australia and all the other greedy oil-hungry nations who have been shedding blood to date.

    PS: Please print this comment out, go sit in a corner for a while and re-read it several times before you respond with knee-jerk personalized nonsense. You may be disappointed to hear this, but it’s not about YOU, or even your hero John Howard. It’s about people like this:

    There was a curfew so they couldn’t take me to hospital. They called for an ambulance but were told it wasn’t safe to come to to our district, Amiriya.

    For two hours I screamed with the pain as my family sobbed with me.

    I was bleeding heavily by the time I felt my tiny baby slipping out of me. Suddenly there he was, lying on the sitting room floor at the end of the umbilical cord. He was blue and still.

    “Please do something, please help him,� I cried. “I want him to grow up with me.�

  14. Why do Mr Howard and steve at the pub think they know what Al Qaeda’s attitude to anything is – or are they just making it up as they go along? Is there any evidence to suppose that there is a consensus view about domestic US politics amongst Al Qaeda members?

    Mr Howard is always keen to present the simplistic picture that Iraq is a battle between the good guys and Al Qaeda. I don’t need to tell any readers of this blog that the reality is much more complicated than this – as even the most cursory look at the latest National Intelligence Estimate would tell anyone who really wanted to understand what was going on, rather than score cheap political points.

  15. Of course al Qaeda doesn’t want the big game to stop in Iraq. Neocons in the White House, and their little Aussie cheerleader, have been the answer to Osama’s most fervid prayers. His preferred version of reality includes them just as much as theirs does him – they’re perfect matches for each other.

  16. So, ‘Rudd the Ideas Man’ and ‘Rudd not-the scaremonger’? Well he has shown his true colours, calling to censure the PM for speaking his mind on something which he has not been wrong on. Declaring that the toady PM’s words will bring down our glorious alliance upon our heads! Rudd should get a grip and read up on the politics of moral imperialism as espoused by the US Democratic Party under Bill Clinton. Clinton and later with more gusto Tony Blair – the chief architects of the new code of moral imperialism which forged a collaboration with what became known as AQ. Until Rudd does so he looks like a clueless whiny school-boy snitching to a teacher that couldn’t give a crap.

    John Howard only gave us a half truth, while he continues to ramp up the so called ‘threat’ western civilization is facing from beardy-weirdy nihilists.

    Howard should be more honest and put Rudd in his place. He should point out recent history has shown fewer have given greater succour to the Holy Nihilists than the Democrat Party of the US, except maybe for Reagan’s Republicans during the Cold War that is.

    The mythical AQ, the rag-tag disparate bunch of nihilists, losers and deadbeats, as we have come to know them over the last decade or so, owe their very existence to the ‘morally upright West’. The international nihilist terrorists have great big red circles around days in their pathetic and bloody history, accorded to them by the Democrat Party. Like the day(s) Obama’s Party ushered them safely into Eastern Europe, encouraging Iranian funding and ‘Islamic charities’ to maintain them during the 1990’s.

    Obama’s guru Bill Clinton actively supported the arming and training of mujahideen and encouraged Iranian funding of Islamic nihilists as they moved out of Afghanistan in the early to mid 1990’s and set up camp in Europe, closer to the heart of their enemy, modern secular society. From where they wreaked havoc with their extensive training and support they gained from the international coalition that helped precipitate the Balkan Wars. And from there they went on to a more inglorious future, embassy bombings in Africa, 9/11, train bombings in Madrid, the odd school massacre in Beslan, and beheading of a cycling journalist in Holland.

    Bloody awful being on the receiving end for sure. But hardly the stuff that could bring the world to its knees as Bush and Howard would have us believe. Or warrant the invasion of sovereign nations and the dismantling of our freedoms at home for that matter.

    Rudd’s own version of scaremongering and sad attempts to gain moral capital out of the PM have been quite revealing of our own possible future leader. By trying to gagg him or make him recant he is quite the opposite of an ideas man. He has plenty of moral wind to expel but strikes me as somebody who hasn’t the fortitude to explore the truth of the matter further with Howard. Prefering rather to censure all further discussion on the matter, tut,tut.

    Rudd also missed the important fact that as long as Howard and other Australians feel they have the divine right to intervene in Iraq and Afghanistan they should also have the right to interfere in US domestic politics as well.

  17. I won’t be printing anything Gandhi. Perhaps when you contribute something which is not unhinged ranting, on any thread, I may pay attention to it. You come out with non-stop rot, I have heard more sense from uni students!

    By the way, please cut & paste evidence that John Howard is my “hero”. Or have the good grace to confess that you rant without any basis in fact. Time to wipe the screen isn’t it?

    Snuh, good point. Perhaps Al Quaida prefer endless infidel presence in Iraq, good for recruiting, for stirring up instability elsewhere, etc etc.

    Or would they be so thrilled at any sign of weakness from the number one enemy/infidel that they would be ecstatic?

  18. Steve at the pub.

    I’m not so sure that AlQ has universal Arab support. Iraq will surely be divided up in a horrible way, but the various parts will not be saying thanks to AlQ. The Arab world cheers when America takes a hit. But it doesn’t matter who does the hitting. AlQ beats up Arabs too. My guess would be that AlQs are a convenience to some power groups but at the end they will be universally outlawed.

  19. The Irish contingent at CT should get the title, Uncle M. The phrase was allegedly coined by the editor of the Skibbereen Eagle in West Cork.

  20. Can’t disagree with you BilB. Lest we overlook it, AlQ is already outlawed or has worn out their welcome in most of the Arab world, hence Osama Bin Laden hiding out in Afghanistan. It would be something like 10 years now since he was forced to hole up there due to things being too hot for him in Arab lands.

    I wonder did JH mean AlQ specifically, when he made is “Obama pulling out will thrill them” comment, or was it a generic label for insurgents opposed to the west?

  21. “The Skibbereen Eagle is watching you”, goes the story. Skibbereen is a place on one of the peninsulas of South-West Ireland, even less significant than Baltimore.

  22. Good title.

    ‘The Skibbereen Eagle has its eye on the Czar of Russia’ was the headline as the paper warned about Russian expansionist policy on China.

    Having spent some time in “Skib” just before xmas 2006 I can tell you it is a great market town in the West of Cork with top pubs.

    The ‘Southern Star’ started up in 1889 and was an Irish a nationalist paper while the Eagle was imperialistic. Michael Collins was one of the Star’s directors.

    The Star came out on top and took over the Eagle in 1929 and is still in print.

    The Skibbereen district was one of the worst afflicted during the Great Famine. There are about 10,000 bodies buried in what amounts to a mass grave in a local burial ground.

    The famine compounded problems caused by land laws that discrimintaded against catholics, the largest section of the population, in particular, and from the subsequent immigration many of the family names from around Skib will be familiar to Australians.

  23. Indeed, there’s a haunting folk song about Skibbereen and the famine. And the folk process is also at work in the appropriation of this story by Australians (I think I’ve heard it attributed to Mount Gambier, SA).

  24. Steve atp,

    I know I should not bother arguing with someone who leaps straight into personalized attacks and refuses to address any salient points, but…!

    You said Howard was right. You said AlQ will be delighted by a US pullout (well, of course they will, but so will most of the world). And yet you, like Howard, deal in oversimplified fantasies while failing to present a viable alternative to withdrawal.

    And you ignore my question. If you don’t favour a withdrawal, what’s your alternative? What’s Howard’s alternative? More Of The Same Until Everybody In Iraq Is Dead? You happy with that? Is that really in our national interest (I assume you don’t care about the Iraqi people) do you think?

  25. Sad to have to say this, but Howard has fallen for the “Neo-Con” bulls*it that an Arab country can become a democracy. They can’t and never will be able to do that until they stop being a tribal society. They are followers of a death cult, just as people living in the Aztec Empire were. They don’t know any better.
    The Allies should pull back to bases in Kuwait and in the north of Iraq, Kurdistan. Then it should be popcorn time, watching the “Religion Of Peace” drones exterminate themselves. On the Shiite side there will be Lebanon, Syria and half of the Palestinians and on the Sunny side Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and half of the Palestinians.
    I learned at a young age to never get involved in family/tribal disputes.

  26. It is a long time since John Howard has been so rattled but at the moment he has the look of a losing politician – the same look that Kim Beazley had not so very long ago. Today I saw him with a great smile on his face – but the hunted look was still there.

    He has been holding Australia back with his client state mentality and whilst we love American ideas, goods and people we are still hapopy to be our own country.

    How many others of us have found his flag hugging activities and patriootism just a little stomach churning and far too American – as for Amanda Vanstone taking 6 years to develop a national song with about fifty words and sung to the tune of a nationalistic USA song – just as sick. Howard’s push to give us an American health and education system are most unpalatable.

    The issues raised by Prof Q resonate with the electorate who want a leader who will look after us not the US.

  27. Personally I thought Howard’s comments elicited exactly the response from Rudd he wanted. Rudd wouldn’t back Obama’s stance. How could he with Afghanistan waiting in the wings? Howard will go now for the failure of the BOL in Iraq and Howard probably knows that. The one thing he would be sure of now is, any successor will wear exactly the same fate in Afghanistan. That’s because it’s the people we’re dealing with and that problem is not going away. Knowing that, why would you do a complete about face in Iraq. Leave that ultimate decision to Rudd and Co and let them deal with the aftermath in Afghanistan.

  28. Jill Rush, The “Vanstone Anthem” is sung to the tune of “Land of Hope and Glory”. The song is okay. Might even get into the national prayer book of anthems in a hundred years or so.

    How does it compare for gravitas to the one you wrote? (Which presumably isn’t “sick”)

  29. Steve at the pub.

    The insurgents are the knife dividing the pie. They blow up Americans for the fun of it and to make them leave at the appropriate time. The real aim is to ensure the cut takes place.

  30. Howard is mixing it all together and trying to give it a scary label. AlQuida…BOOO!! It doesn’t work any more does it. Maybe he is really trying to protect some commercial interest. Did any Australians dive into the Iraq post war money pool?

    When you think back to the lolly scramble and the jostling over who would get which contracts, and how the war would be paid for by Iraq from oil receipts, it all seems so…………

    I really can’t think of words to describe the mind blowingly arrogant and incompetence.

    I wonder how the subtitles will look after the show has finished.

  31. Laura Schwartz of White House Strategies on Hannity’s America Sunday

    SCHWARTZ: ” … And I think John Howard was right on the Republican talking points. He was wrong on the generalization that any Democrat victory in 2008 would be great for the terrorists because I think responsible phased deployment is a better way to go without the timelines and the deadlines.

    “Laura Schwartz, Former Special Assistant to the President and The White House Director of Events for the Clinton Administration, an accomplished lecturer, writer, political and event strategist.

    White House Strategies coaches their clients from the political, entertainment, corporate and charity worlds to be empowered through social events and get creative with their own brand, event and media strategies”

  32. I dont think Obama will be around for too much longer, after day 3 of his campaign he has had to apologise for his inconsiderate and ill considered remarks about the US military, he would do well to take a lesson from John Howard.

  33. You said AlQ will be delighted by a US pullout (well, of course they will, but so will most of the world).

    I not so sure about that. While one of the stated goals of al Qaeda is to remove the US military from the Middle East (Saudi Arabia in particular), I’ve read recently (on truthout and in other places) that the leadership of al Qaeda would actually prefer to have the US forces remain in Iraq.

    If you examine the historical legacy of the extreme Islamists in the Middle East (right back to the assassination of Sadat), disengagement has seen support for radical Islam plummet, not increase. If they no longer have foreigners to kill, then they are hardly going to get support for killing the local population.

  34. Sorry Steve at the pub – English nationalistic song by our Mandy. Why didn’t she use the tune of Waltzing Matilda? If I did determine to write a song using another’s tune
    I could do 50 words in a week. There are many sohgs already however and after all I still call Australia home.

    Still this levity doesn’t change the basic idea – under the current Liberal Coalition Australian nationalism is talked about whilst kowtowing to foreign powers. It is having an impact as people reject the abject grovelling. It is unAustralian.

  35. Good point JR

    It is indeed grovelling, and that is unAustralian.

    I am personally looking forward to not having to use the mute button when the Prime minister speaks, next year. And relieved that when the Prime Minister pats some-one on the back it won’t be George Bushes, it will most likely be an Australian’s, and most likely some-one who has done something meaningful, something that I can be proud to hear about.

  36. Well, actually, grovelling to a foreign power has been a pretty dominant theme in the highest levels of Australian society for the past two centuries.

    For John Howard’s generation it was just about reflexive behaviour: my 64-y-o Mum (God bless her) still can’t help putting on an Engish accent whenever she goes out socialising!

    Over the past thirty to fifty years, the object of grovelling has changed from the UK of GB to the USA of GWB, but the mindset remains the same: we are a small (population-wise) colonial nation clinging desperately to the shores of a harsh, far-flung land on the far side of the planet, and we simply cannot survive without the patronage of some massive military power. Besides, we have millions upon millions of dangerous brown and yellow men huddled in the jungle islands to our north, and they are all desperate to swim across the Straits with machetes between their teeth at the first opportunity. It is impossible to understand these people: the best you can do is sign a peace treaty to keep them in their place, then stock the Straits with White Pointers and crocs.

  37. While Howard is entitled to his opinion, I can’t say that I think it will make any difference one way or the other in the presidential election. Honestly, how many Americans could even tell you who John Howard is? It isn’t likely that any of them will either vote for Obama or against him based on anything Howard says.

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