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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The Great Soeharto Rescue Mission

17 May 1998

I was propped up at the bar drinking Wait-a-while, talking to Joadja and watching the Jakarta riots on TV when "Roger", who claimed to be from the Sydney Bureau of the Department of Foreign Affairs, slouched into the café.

"How's work?" I asked. He pulled up a stool and ordered a double whisky.

"Well, I can't really talk about it", he said, "But it's very big and involves a populous nation to our near north which is going through what we term 'internal difficulties'".

"You must be on the Indonesia Task Force. How are the Soeharto arrangements going?" I ventured. When you're a private dick you learn to bluff your way through on occasions. I flicked a significant sideways glance at Joadja and gave Roger the standard DFA recognition code: "Read Paddy's latest column?"

He was thrown for a moment but then a relieved glint flickered in his sunken eyes. "Profound stuff!" he shot back. "Great to have you on the team, guys. I might have known you wouldn't be far from the action."

"So how's your side of the mission going?" I enquired.

"Bugger's muddle, at the moment", he said, "We sent Bob Carr up there to coordinate the Soeharto rescue team, with some sort of thin cover as a routine trade visit, but the local operations boys got caught in the riot on the freeway and never made it to the airport rendezvous. In the end Bob had to fly out again ... And we're having a horrible time trying to find someone to put up Soeharto and the kids", he said.

"Nah, that can't be true", said Joadja, "The family have lots of acquaintances here. For a start there's that ex-editor of The Australian, Paul Kelly, and Richard Woolcott, who was our ambassador there in '75 when they invaded Timor, and the rest of the mob from the Australia-Indonesia Institute. Word has it the institute is pretty close to the department. Unkind people have even been known to call it a front group. Can't you, I mean, we, just lean on them a bit?"

"Yeah I've tried", Roger said, "It turns out that they'd all love to have him, but they're all renovating or about to move house or something. It's not as easy as you think".

"Well, what about John Howard, He isn't using The Lodge much at the moment. The President would find it a bit downmarket but we're only talking about a few months till they get asylum and set up in business somewhere", I offered.

"No way, couldn't get it past the protocol people and in any case it would upset the, um, delicate balance of, ah, relations with the Pauline Hanson party ... Asians living in the official residence and all that".

"Gareth-Gareth Evans? I seem to remember he got on extra well with Ali Alitas".

"Wouldn't wish that on anybody ... it would be like living with an earnest version of Barry Jones. The Soeharto kids would go crazy inside a couple of weeks".

"Well, Tim Fischer called the old boy one of the greatest figures of the late 20th century", I said.

"Tim just says whimsical stuff like that when he's trying to sell sheep. It wouldn't work. These are sophisticated people used to living the high life. They'll need space to park about a dozen Mercedes, a ballroom, reception rooms, ensuites, servants' quarters, space for their shoes ..."

I could see he had a problem.

"Have you tried Paul Keating?" I asked. "He probably has a couple of spare bedrooms at the Queen Street place and there's that huge neo-classical pile he's built out the back of Wyong. The cars could go next door at John Laws' place and you could get the army to set up some demountables for the servants."

"Gee, that's an inspired thought", he said, "I'll give him a ring in the morning. What part of the operation are you on, by the way?"

"Another bugger's muddle", I replied, thinking fast ... "When the Indonesian army deserts the old boy we'll probably need the SAS to extract him, but they're spread round the world in sub-contract scab operations ... we're trying to get them back from all over the place."

The rain stopped just after "Roger" left. Joadja finished her shift and we walked down to the park to look for the the big field mushrooms that always come up under the sheoaks after a good soaking. The grass glowed green and a warm pink afternoon light tinged the towering storm clouds piling up on the horizon.