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 truth hurts
Why John Howard needs the sedition laws

28 November 2005

It was late afternoon when I finished emailing the Sydney Morning Herald with the last of the new documents I’d discovered about the brutal bashing of Peter Baldwin. The assault on the left-wing MP was a cause célèbre in 1980, but looking back, it felt like a quaint escapade from a kinder, gentler, world.

The good news was that it was raining as I crossed the lane to the café. I hadn’t seen Old Possum for weeks, but there he was, propped up at the bar.

“I’ve been waiting for your take on the proposed sedition laws”, I said after I’d ordered a cider.

“Well, look at this business about George Bush telling Tony Blair he wanted to bomb the al-Jazeera headquarters in Qatar”, Old said, scratching the fur behind his ear. “Clearly, Bush wasn’t talking about bombing al-Jazeera from the air, after all, Qatar is an ally of the US and you can’t openly bomb your allies. He was talking about a false-flag operation – using a huge car bomb probably – and blaming it on al-Qaeda. That’s the sort of nasty truth the sedition laws are designed to suppress. Just writing about something like that could get you seven years, because drawing attention to ugly facts about our allies will have a tendency to ‘aid the enemy’.”

“But why now?” I asked. “People have been marching and speaking out against the war since 2003. Many have vocally supported the Iraqi resistance. That hasn’t bothered Howard until now, but suddenly it’s so dangerous he has to make it illegal.”

“Many people think that Howard knows exactly where he’s going, but I doubt it. Oh, he has a vision and long-term strategy of course, but politicians feel their way into situations. All these new laws – IR, terrorism, sedition – are driven by an intuitive dread. Howard feels in his bones that turbulent and disastrous times are upon us and he’s arming himself with draconian laws to keep his capitalist friends rich and his party in power.

“Let’s look at some of the horrible things that would be on the prime minister’s mind. He’s a dog-loyal advocate of the American Alliance, and where’s it got him? He finds himself chained to a lame-duck American president who can’t bring himself to act decisively on Iraq, one way or ’tother.

“Bush is just drifting. His army is coming apart but he can’t get it together to introduce conscription, so he can’t get enough boots on the ground to actually suppress the resistance. But he isn’t willing to get out either. That’s dumb. Popular support for the war has collapsed. The soldiers are muttering that the president isn’t serious about winning. And now the Democrats are closing in. They’re moving to knock off Bush’s advisors and confidants – people like Rove and Libby.

“What will happen in the New Year? Nobody can predict exactly, but it’s safe to say there will be some nasty surprises. Even at this late stage Bush might go for conscription, but he’d need a pretty drastic terrorist attack in the US – real or faked – to get it through. And if Bush went that way, Howard would be forced to follow.

“So far, Howard’s done a pretty good job of keeping us out of the war. We’ve got a small bunch of professional adventure tourists with guns hunkered down in a nice safe part of Iraq and Howard keeps telling Bush there’s no way he could send any more. If he sent a real contingent – say five or ten thousand troops – he’d need conscription.”

“And if he introduced conscription he’d really need the sedition laws!” I remarked.

“You got it. Or Bush might be impeached and he might resign. That would leave Dick Cheney in the White House, and he’s sick, tarnished by corruption allegations, has no populist credentials and could also be impeached.

“Cheney would probably appoint Condoleezza Rice as vice president. So if Cheney went out backwards, she might end up as president. Think about that! The first unelected president and she’s black and a woman.”

“Ye Gods! Is she gay? They might have the trifecta!”

“Fun to speculate, but Howard wouldn’t laugh about it. American prestige and influence would collapse. Plus, the US debt problem is getting worse. The US is something like $8 trillion in debt and government debt alone now exceeds all the debt of all the administrations since the American Revolution.” He took swig from his cider.

“And now there’s that other looming problem: peak oil”, I said. “Slowly, the mainstream media are picking up on the story they’ve been avoiding for ten years. I’d be astounded if Howard hadn’t been privately appraised of the awful implications. We’re talking runaway price inflation, mass impoverishment, strikes, truckies’ blockades, social dislocation, business collapse.”

“Yep. The gathering problems are simply too great and they’ve come too suddenly to be smoothed away by the market forces that created them in the first place. The problems are converging and magnifying each other. For example, what if Bush widens the war into Syria or Iran? That’ll drive the price of petrol to astronomical levels.

“The only real solutions to the crisis are collectivist and redistributionist. Unless society becomes more equalitarian it’ll fall apart. We need to reorganise all our infrastructure and the whole economy. A huge level of government intervention will be necessary.”

“So you’re talking a revival of socialism here. That’s certainly not Howard’s way. He stands for a wasteful, continually expanding economy, destruction of the unions, greater inequality through privatisation, harder work, fewer rights.”

“And long neo-colonial wars to grab the last big reserves of oil. No wonder Howard needs the sedition laws. A desperate man is a dangerous man.”