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 Sydney Morning Herald and the dirty politics of the religious right

1 November 2004

No story about the 2004 Federal election more clearly illustrates the reactionary role played by the religious right than the Muslim-baiting of Ed Husic, Labor’s candidate for the seat of Greenway in Sydney’s west.

On 27 October Eric Roozendaal, a member of NSW Parliament’s upper house managed to bring out some of the facts in an adjournment debate. He pointed out that, on the night before the election, a bogus ALP brochure saying “Ed Husic is a devout Muslim. Ed is working hard to get a better deal for Islam” was distributed in Greenway.

Husic had been the victim of “a vicious and well-orchestrated attack on his religion and ethnicity”, Roozendaal said. He didn’t say who had produced the brochure, but he told Parliament that the direct beneficiary had been Louise Markus, the Liberal Candidate. Markus is a member of the Pentecostal Hillsong Church, which is also behind the fundamentalist Christian Family First Party.

The Sydney Morning Herald also played a role in this seedy business through its celebrity journalist, Paul Sheehan, long the sly voice of the far right. On 27 September Sheehan set the tone by gratuitously raising the issue of Husic’s religious background.

“As far as I can deduce, while every story about the Greenway contest has mentioned that his Liberal opponent is a member of the Hillsong Church, the largest evangelical congregation in the country, Husic believes there is something sinister about discussing his religious practices. Why? Because his parents, Hasib and Hasiba, are Muslims who emigrated from the former Yugoslavia. ‘I am not a practising Muslim,’ he told The Blacktown City Sun ‘[but] I can't dishonour my parents by disavowing their religion’”, Sheehan wrote.

Sinister? Just the opposite. It’s utterly reasonable and completely honourable that Husic didn’t discuss his religious background, because he followed the tested principle that a person’s religion (or the lack of it) has no business in politics. Of course, if you’re from the conservative Christian right, sectarianism is the essence of what you’re on about, so you advertise your religious affiliations to gain votes.

On 17 October last year the Herald, in an editorial titled ‘Carr’s dangerous game with race’, condemned the Premier’s anti-Lebanese demagoguery, but it seemed to this possum a tad hypocritical that the ‘newspaper of record’ editorialises against the Premier when one of their senior journalists has repeatedly, and with exquisite timing, played both the race card and the anti-Muslim card.

Speaking on ABC radio during the Tampa affair (shortly before the last Federal election) Sheehan cited the Bankstown rape crisis – the work of a small gang of criminals unrepresentative of their community – as a reason why Australia should turn away Middle Eastern asylum seekers. In his Herald column (5 September 2001) he opined that Muslims had been brought to Australia “with barely a shred of consultation or consent”, implying that an acceptable religion should be a criterion for eligibility to migrate here. He also lashed Arab and Lebanese Australians for being the least cost-effective of migrants.

It was Sheehan too, who lauded the fundamentalist Christian madness suffusing the US crusade in Iraq when, in June this year, he wrote “Stripped down to its basics, beneath all the rhetoric, we are witnessing a religious war, the one foreshadowed by … Samuel Huntington.” He also approvingly quoted a chaplain blessing a company of US Marines before their assault on Falluja:

“Today is Palm Sunday. The day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where he broke the bounds of hell. Tonight commences your triumphal entry into Falluja … This is a spiritual battle, and you Marines are the tools of mercy.”

(Far from a triumphal entry, Resistance fighters ejected the Marines from the city, but not before 600 civilians had died, mostly from US airstrikes. Such are the tools of mercy. It should also be noted that Samuel Huntington, author of the Neo-con bible, The Clash of Civilisations, now opines that Mexican Catholics pose the greatest threat to US “democracy”).

Sheehan is a slick operator. He tacks and weaves constantly, at one moment attacking secularism or multiculturalism, on another claiming to be in favour of them. Mostly he advances his agenda by claiming he is only voicing what an oppressed right-thinking majority are thinking – an old and tried technique of demagogues.

The editors of the Herald might argue that “the newspaper of record” must print Sheehan because he represents some strand of Australian opinion, but that is a fake-democratic argument and a moral evasion. They have no obligation to provide a platform for sectarianism and political atavism.

Marching to the drums of madness
1 May 2004
Good Christian boys and girls abusing Iraqi POWs ... John Howard's God Squad lashing out at secularism ... our hero ponders the religious right's march to madness.