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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Brushtail Graphics

Dead men talking

26 October 2000

I don't usually spend any time in the Sydney Hotel; it has none of the quiet elegance and civilisation of the Brushtail Café.

The old pub has gone downhill over the years. Once, they had jazz bands on Saturday night and you could have a quiet drink at other times, but that was before the poker machines. The clientele has changed too. Now they're a strange lot: pimply currency dealers and sleek yuppies from the merchant bank clump together up one end of the bar and layabouts and lumpens hung around near the pokies.

The carpet is sticky, the furniture has seen better days and somebody has scrawled "Phonecard -- helping ugly young men have sex since 1994" on the wall next to the public phone.

But sometimes it's a good place to meet a certain type of contact. The constant tinny jingle of the pokies makes it difficult to be overheard, so I was waiting there for a man who said he could tell me more about Paul Reith's London job.

I was nursing a cider and watching a man work his way from one group of drinkers to another. I remembered him from a police line-up a few years back, but now he was wearing a very flash suit, and he looked like some sort of Canberra spin doctor.

A couple of the local heroin dealers smiled at him but shook their heads. He looked over in my direction, vaguely remembered me, and ambled over.

"Gidday. Your name's Possum, isn't it? How'd you like to earn a lot of money, real quick, and make the world a better place?"

"What's the job?"

He sat down, pulled a couple of photos from his pocket and shoved them under my nose.

"Recognise these blokes?"

Of course I did, It was Peter Reith and Peter Collins. I nodded.

"Got a client who'd like to persuade these motormouths to keep their cakeholes shut. Permanently. Made trouble for the boss ... know too much."

Holy mother of Darwin, I thought; coming in here is getting to be like a night out in Cabramatta. "How would I persuade them?" I asked, slyly.

"We can give you all the arguments. But it has to be a good job ... permanent solution you understand". He reached into his coat pocket and pulled a big stainless steel Smith & Wesson semi-automatic half-way out, where only I could see it. After a couple of seconds he pushed it back in.

"Gee, I dunno", I said. "I reckon I might have a conflict of interest on the bald one. Nobody'd care too much about him, but it'd be messy, and this other job's looking a bit stale. He's already written his memoirs, and dumped on everyone in the Liberal Party from Kerry Chikarovski to Nick Greiner. It'd be a bit late to, ah, persuade him. Any other work going?"

"Yeah, got a contract for this fella and a few of his mates. No trouble. Overseas job. Pays well."

He pulled out a snap of a mean-looking young man wearing a camouflage shirt and a mullet haircut – Eurico Guterres.

"Yeah, seen him on TV", I said. "A real a charmer. Clearly knows too much. Who's the client?"

"Bunch of Javanese politicians in Jakarta."

Just then, the contact I was waiting for came through the door.

"Thanks for giving me the chance to put in a quote, but I think I'll give it a miss", I said. "Why don't you call the Indonesian Army, I've always found them helpful and very professional".