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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Cat piss and journalism

17 September 2001

"If you're going down to see the vet, you'd better take the cat and have him desexed -- he's been spraying in the flat again", Joadja said. The stench of cat piss was so bad it made you forget the other problems around the place.

The beast in question was a very daggy tabby, an urban feral. Jo had given him sanctuary and half-tamed him. He must have been a good-looking kitten, but something had gone terribly wrong. He walked with a stiff arthritic strut, like a mechanical toy, he had a prissy, plaintive voice, his neck was permanently swollen, he dribbled, his muscles were tightly bunched and he was always distracted and jumpy.

Luckily, there wasn't much of a queue at the vet -- just a middle-aged bloke with a handlebar moustache who looked at me without acknowledgement and a white bull-terrier bitch with piggy little eyes. The dog ignored the cat, but she growled at me. "Nice doggie", I said, "What's she called?"

"Pauline", the man muttered without a glance in my direction.

Dr Gupta's silk sari rustled as she ushered me into the surgery. "I enjoy your visits, Nick. I don't often have the luxury of talking to my patients. What's the problem?"

"I'm afraid I'm having a relapse of Possum Creek fever. Terrible nightmares again. I keep seeing ethnic massacres and a man ranting about the River Tiber flowing with much blood".

"Indeed, this is not at all surprising, It is hardly a dream", Dr Gupta said. "There are such horrible things now, they are giving me nightmares also."

She spread out a pile of newspaper clippings about the Great Tampa Afghan-Lebo-Muslim Bankstown Rape Crisis. At the top were some columns from the Sydney Morning Herald by 'senior reporter' Paul Sheehan.

"Let us put this problem in context", she said. "We have had a spate of nasty rapes, committed by a a tiny group of very stupid young men of Lebanese ancestry. These were not refugees, but people born or raised here. They were not at all typical. In the past, most crimes of this nature were committed by atypical men of Christian background.

"Mr Sheehan is pushing a lot of nasty buttons here. Just look at the subtext: filthy Arabs defiling white women. What a demagogue!

"Of course he asserts that the crimes were racially or ethnically motivated. What dangerous inflammatory rot. Criminals usually try to 'justify' their crime with some ideological gloss or excuse but the crime is motivated by the desire to exercise violent power over women. Remember the rape of Aboriginal women by European men. Remember 'gin jockeys'. They are not exactly an unknown feature of European colonisation.

"At first Mr Sheehan is hiding as usual behind the claim that he is just reporting what the majority believe, but then he begins to stir in some new mischief of his own: Lebanese people are not cost-effective migrants, he says. There are too many of them in jail, they are too poor. But think of those who are even poorer and certainly over-represented in jail: Aboriginal people. Today it is Arabs, tomorrow it will be Koories and the day after? Vietnamese perhaps, some of whom deal drugs?

"But this I find the most dangerous: he says here a 'large Muslim population has been brought into this country with barely a shred of consultation or consent'. This can only be read one way: 'Christian' Australia should be asked if it wants to accept Muslims as migrants or refugees. What does Mr Sheehan want in this country? a Christian theocracy? that a person's religion should be a basis for rejection?

"My understanding of our Constitution is that we are blind to religion. That is a very fine thing, for the foundation of religious freedom -- as well as the freedom not to believe -- lies in the secularity of the state."

"Doc, I can't disagree with a word of that", I said.

- - -

"Mr Possum, I think we may have found the problem", Dr Gupta said when I went back to the surgery in the afternoon to pick up the cat.

"The scrotum was horribly twisted, and one testicle was up inside his body. It must have caused him pain and irritation. It was leaking, and semen was backing up under the skin. It may even have backed up into the brain. I am thinking that this may have caused the hormones to run out of control, inflamming all his glands. This would explain why his neck is so swollen. The poor thing, we must keep an eye on his progress."

She gave me some industrial-strength flea treatment plus a free cat collar with little bells on it to warn the local wildlife, and started to fill out his patient card. "By what name does he go?" she asked.

"Funny that ... Joadja calls him Paul Sheehan", I said.