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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What a difference a week makes

1 April 2003

“You have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down”
Adolf Hitler to Field Marshal von Rundstedt before Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.

The profile of the US army’s new Kevlar helmet is ominously reminiscent of the coal scuttle helmet worn by Hitler’s troops; their camouflage uniforms to those of Hitler’s SS units on the Eastern Front. As the war on Iraq entered its second week and the Anglo-US expeditionary force bogged down south of Baghdad after a 450 km dash from the Gulf, these details have taken on an eerie resonance.

It was a long week in both war and politics and Coalition spin-doctoring was amongst the first casualties. On day one, the public was confidently assured the Iraqis would turn out to greet their liberators with flowers and music, by the end of the week it was being warned to expect a long war of conquest against a hostile people.

Militarily and politically, the situation is deteriorating for the Coalition. Their battle plan was based on false and arrogant assumptions: that the Iraqis would believe US promises and turn against the regime, that “shock and awe” would cower them; that the Iraqi army could be brought to battle quickly and on the Coalition’s terms; that the Turks would come on side; that it would all be over quickly. Now consider four factors the pro-war media don’t even like to think about:

Saddamgrad on the Tigris

The Coalition has relied on classic German blitzkreig strategy. In 1941, when he invaded the USSR, Hitler believed he had only to kick the Russian door down and the Soviet house would cave in. German armoured columns crashed through the huge but unprepared and poorly led Soviet forces in breathtaking forward leaps that took them to the gates of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad. But the Nazi war machine ground to a halt on the outskirts of these cities. At Moscow and Leningrad the Panzer generals baulked at throwing their troops into close-quarter urban warfare.

The turning-point of WWII came at Stalingrad on the Volga, where, on Hitler’s insistence, his generals committed their mechanised legions to a bloody, prolonged attempt to storm the city. In Stalingrad’s streets the balanced technical superiority of their war machine gave the Germans no advantage over the desperate, highly motivated, defenders. In the wash-up, the Russians triumphed and 200,000 Germans shuffled off into captivity.

Baghdad has a perimeter of around 100 kilometres. Besieging it is a massive undertaking. The Iraqis are used to the hardship of war and to heavy casualties. In the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war it was not uncommon for tens of thousands of casualties to be sustained in a single battle. The majority of young Iraqi men (and many women) have basic military training. Fierce patriotism will motivate them to fight for every house. Does this sound familiar?

Arab Street is right behind the Iraqis

Demonstrations of support for Iraq are growing daily in the Arab capitals in spite of government attempts to mute them. The pro-Western governments are deeply troubled by the prospect of revolutionary uprisings or military coups. In an effort to placate public opinion the Arab foreign ministers have agreed “not to participate” in the war and called for a Coalition withdrawal. This is in contrast to the Gulf War when some Arab states actively participated on the Coalition’s side. Soon, Arab governments will be forced to move, cautiously at first, from words to deeds. Already, Donald von Rumsfeld has accused Syria of supplying advanced military equipment to Iraq and threatened unspecified consequences. Silly man.

Turkey won’t stand aside

As the war drags on, Turkey will most likely enter Kurdish northern Iraq as a counterweight to the Anglo-US forces. Turkey has always opposed the idea of a separate Kurdish state and its worst nightmare is that US military dependence on the current crop of right-wing Kurdish organisations will make it beholden to the Kurds and lead to the recognition of a Kurdish state. After the Gulf War, Turkey sent 75,000 troops into Iraq to prevent this. If necessary they will do it again.

Iran may decide the outcome

So far, Iran has vowed neutrality and, ominously for the Coalition, Tehran’s Shi’ite front organisation, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has sternly discouraged a Shi’ite uprising in the south.

In the Iran-Iraq war -- the longest and one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century -- the US tilted strongly towards Iraq because they saw Saddam Hussein’s secular Arab nationalism as a bulwark against the Islamist internationalism of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran. Iran has no reason to love Saddam Hussein (although he gave them his airforce at the end of the Gulf War to prevent it falling into the Coalition’s hands) but it knows that George Bush has branded Iran as part of the Axis of Evil and they fear that if Iraq falls to the Coalition, they’ll be next for the treatment.

So expect Tehran to gradually ratchet up pressure on the Coalition as it gets bogged down in a prolonged seige of Baghdad. Iran will be sorely tempted to unleash its irregular forces to bolster Iraq’s Fedayeen in attacks on the Coalition’s long, vulnerable supply lines. Iran’s regular armed forces are not insignificant and if the Coalition’s political (as well as its military fortunes) decline, Tehran may even be tempted to throw these into the balance on Iraq’s side.