From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.

 


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2004 ... bring it on

1 January 2004

On New Year’s Eve the gang gathered in the Brushtail Café for a few quiet drinks. The great cultural wank of Christmas was over and it was a beautiful thing. We had beaten the bugger again and it wouldn’t be back to plague us for another year.

So we sat round with a few nibbles, chewed over ’03 and speculated on ’04, as one does after a few drinks.


“Remember George Bush saying ‘Bring them on’, a few months back, talking about attacks on the American occupation troops? He’s being a bit more circumspect now”, Joadja remarked, handing me another cider.

“Yeah, he was whistling in the dark then, but the whole thing’s a bigger shambles now”, I replied. “And what the hell are they going to do with Saddam? If they give him a fair trial, he’ll spill his guts about how he got his weapons from the Yanks and the Brits, and how they encouraged him to go to war against Iran, and turned a blind eye while he gassed the Kurds. That’ll be an ugly embarrassment. It’s a fair bet the CIA will give him a heart attack before he gets to court.”

Old Possum took a long philosophic swig on his cider. “To my mind the big question for ’04 is this: do the American ruling elite really have what it takes?”

He let it hang in the air for a while, like a challenge.

“What will it take to subdue Iraq? Are they prepared to intern hundreds of thousands of young men in concentration camps, more or less indefinitely? to use torture and summary executions?

“Will they flinch in the face of thousands of Iraqi casualties? are they prepared to declare free-fire zones? will they use air strikes against civilians? dynamite and bulldoze tens of thousands of homes in retaliation for attacks on their troops?

“Will they cop a perpetual toll of three or five soldiers a week killed and a dozen or so wounded, many horribly?

“Theoretically, casualties like those are nothing much. In Vietnam the Yanks lost eight or ten thousand a year, but it’ll hurt politically and the Iraqi partisans could lose many times more fighters and it’d mean zip to them. They’ve got a population of millions of willing recruits to draw on.

“Think about what it’s taken Israel, with a population of five and a half million, to repress four and a half million Palestinian Arabs. Their whole society is militarised, they have the fourth-largest army on earth and they’re permanently reliant on massive subsidies from the USA.

“So are American’s rulers prepared to reintroduce conscription – because that’s what it’ll take if the insurgency drags on for another year?” Old Possum took another swig of his cider.

“Mr Bush has a way out of this, you say, quagmire”, Abdul the Cabbie said. “But I think he is not ready yet to make an alliance with the Shi’ite mullahs against the Sunnis. Whatever they tell you, if the mullahs came to power, through elections, which they would win, they’d set up theocracy like Iran. That would be the will of the majority, in a way, but Mr Bush would not like it. Sunnis will not like it. It will be big mess. Civil war maybe. Perhaps it has already started.”

Old Possum took up the point. “Yeah, it’s a horrible muddle: subduing Iraq will take years, and even then it may not be successful. But think about this: such an undertaking is profoundly incompatible with democracy in the US itself.

“The presidency is the thing. The longer the occupation continues -- it’s really just phase two of the war -- the more ‘imperial’ the president’s rule must become. Tolerance of robust dissent, or even mild criticism will fade. How can you fight a long, unpopular, guerrilla war and political insurrection at home?

“The Homeland Security legislation has drastically curtailed civil liberties, but that’s just the start. Sooner or later the tribal political circus of the presidential elections will have to be ditched. They come every four years and they’re a serious disruption to foreign wars. Ruling the world would be a lot easier if presidents stayed in office longer and some slick means of transferring power from one president to the next was devised -- something which didn’t involve the dangerous possibility of debate.”

“Do you really think so? That’d be a pretty big step. It sounds like the Roman Empire.”

“Well, consider Lyndon Johnson’s fate. As president he wanted to go down in history for ushering in ‘The Great Society’, but he had to throw away the prospect of a second term in office so he could concentrate on negotiating an end to the Vietnam War. He failed because Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sabotaged the Paris peace talks. Nixon was elected, he stepped up the war and it dragged on for another seven years … and the Yanks still lost.

“And nothing critical to US interests was at stake in Vietnam, whereas America’s whole future is dependent upon an absolutely reliable flow of cheap oil from the Middle East at a time when competition for supplies is really hotting up.”