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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An ugly start to the New American Century

1 January 2007

2006 had gone on too long and brought too many horrors, so Joadja and I drove up to Myall Lakes National Park where we rented a little cabin at the wonderful Myall Shores resort at Bombah Point, one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in Australia.

It’s the best antidote I know of to the madness of Sydney. On our first morning I woke at sunrise to a chorus of bush birds: dusky moorhens, magpies, kookaburras, masked lapwings, lorikeets and blue-faced honeyeaters. I sat on the little verandah with a coffee, watching black swans and pelicans glide across on the glassy surface of The Broadwater.

Sydneysiders have been coming to this spot to wash away the tensions of city life since 1911 when Harry and Emily Legge built the old guest house that still sits in its tiny patch of rainforest atop a little volcanic stone rise poking up through the sandy swamp forests of paperbark and casuarina.

Of course there’s a nice bar and restaurant now, but for this possum’s money the greatest joys are canoeing and walking and just sitting around with a cold cider – mesmerised by the ever-changing moods of the lake and the changing light on the water.

The beauty around us was fragile and transient: the Myall Lakes are only 20,000 years old. They were formed when the Pacific Ocean moved 20 kilometres inland at the end of the last ice age, swallowing up a wide sandy plain, and pushing a wave of sand dunes in front of it. The Myall River got diverted southward for 25 kilometres behind the dunes and ended up entering Port Stephens at Hawks Nest. The river’s waters flooded into the low-lying land behind the dunes, creating a freshwater paradise for wildlife and the Aboriginal people.

It’ll only take a small rise in sea level caused by global warming to wash away the dune system and with it the lakes and the wonderful biodiversity they fostered.

“You know I always thought our generation would leave the planet in better shape than we found it, but I’m pretty pessimistic about that now”, I said, as we sat watching the setting sun light up the paperbarks across the lake.

“When I was just a young possum, starting out, in the late 60s, there was so much hope around. Progress in one form or another – socialist or capitalist – was going to steadily bring prosperity and equality to the impoverished masses in the Third World; lots of people thought the Stalinist states would gradually reform – ’tho personally I thought it would take a revolution to bring real peoples’democracy to those places; and, of course, capitalist imperialism was going to collapse. Of course we ‘d never heard of global warming or peak oil then. Look at things now: Africa is a basket case, even South Africa. For all its radical talk the ANC hasn’t brought much equality to the place.”

“You’re right, it hasn’t”, Joadja muttered.

“India is still a poverty-stricken, caste-ridden nightmare of Byzantine complexity. No matter how low down the food chain you sink, there’s still a caste below you to feed on. A few hundred thousand pseudo-middle class call centre workers and software engineers are a drop in the ocean of poverty. Social progress they do not make, whatever gibberish Thomas Friedman might write.”

“Yep.”

“Oh, and let’s not forget Pakistan … decades after independence it still hasn’t got a comprehensive national education system, so the vacuum is filled by Islamic madrassas that teach only the Koran. And we’d better draw a veil over Afghanistan. How many times can you blast a country to pieces before any hope of social progress is extinguished? Would have been far better to leave the Taliban running the place. Old age and the responsibilities of government might have moderated them …”

“Or at least have decently corrupted them.”

“Central and South America, the Caribbean: little progress, much environmental devastation, vast intractable areas of poverty.”

“Well, at least Cuba’s survived the US blockade. Decently poor, but it has its fantastic education and health systems which it’s exporting at low cost to the Third World.”

“China? Vietnam?”

“The Chinese Stalinists made a pact with the Devil when they let capitalism rip. The place may be awash with capital – or ‘investment’ as they call it – but social inequality has spiralled out of control. There’s a social explosion brewing for sure ... Maybe things are better in Vietnam, but, since the liberation in ’75, population increase is swallowing up potential social progress and stuffing the environment.”

“The Middle East …”

“Disaster. The whole dumb reactionary idea of an ethnocentric Jewish state founded on land pilfered from the Palestinian Arabs has brought nothing but relentless violence and disaster. And now the Iraq war has gone on for longer than World War II. Hundreds of thousands are dead. One way or another this conflict will drift on for years. And, thanks to the Yanks’ depleted uranium munitions, Iraq will be a radioactive nightmare for centuries.”

“Waddaya reckon the New Year holds?” Jo asked.

“I can’t see this Iraq Study Group’s report leading to any change”, I said. “What they’re recommending is really no different to current US policy: train a pro-US Iraqi army, and then gradually withdraw, but that’s a nonsense. Under the tutelage of Maliki’s government, that army will be overwhelmingly Shiite and pro-Iranian. Unless the Sunni and Baathist resistance prevails, all the invasion will have achieved – apart from generalised social misery in Iraq – is Iranian hegemony over the Gulf.”

“Not a great start to the project for a New American Century.”


“Shocking”.

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Apologies for late posting.