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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Art school with the Taliban

28 February 2012

Joadja and Jesse the Dingo and I sat on the verandah of the old cottage at Possum Point and looked out through the rain and the tall old spotted gums to the wet beach. The sun rose as a weak white glow through the mist. They say there hasn’t been a summer like this in sixty years. Coming on top of the last, lacklustre, summer it will probably kill off quite a few struggling businesses along the coast.

It got pretty hairy on the freeway to Wollongong the day we drove down. There was thick fog and constant rain and the electronic warning signs told us to slow down and put our hazard lights on so I went down to 40 km/h but mad people kept hurtling past us at 100 without even their headlights on and Joadja said there could be a multi-car pileup at any moment and Jesse did only reasonable thing a dog can do under the circumstances and fell asleep.

So far it had been a holiday of sad songs at midnight and long walks in the rain.

I took another slurp of lukewarm coffee, scanned through the damp two-day old papers and got an eerie sense of a world fecklessly adrift. When you got down to it, between Gillard and Rudd there wasn’t much to choose, except maybe that Rudd could win against Abbott.

In the hapless Afghanistan, George Gittoes, Australia’s extremely famous war artist and guerrilla film-maker was improbably roaming the Taliban-controlled backblocks. There was George gazing out of the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald wearing a silly hat, with a midget in one hand and a monkey in the other. It seems he’d popped up at Tora Bora – where Osama bin–Laden himself used to hang out – with some sort of circus troupe. George was dispensing fun and love all round and there were hugs for the local Talibs.

To hear George tell it, everybody loves him. He hugs the Yanks and the Taliban, both.
He’s apparently recreated The Yellow House in Jalalabad – the original Yellow House was an early 70’s Sydney hippy crash pad and art space – and he reckons he’s teaching the Talibs to paint. Awesome. Deep down, the Talibs are aspiring hippy artists. Only George could have seen that.

The Herald piece was accompanied by two video clips of George on location – presumably around Jalalabad – where he’s also trying to establish a local Pashtun film industry. There’s the amazing spectacle of George leading his film crew and four young actresses into a highly provocative public shoot at a wedding dress shop, getting surrounded by hundreds of jeering, spitting men and boys, deciding to retreat, and then losing one of his girls in the crowd.  So he sends one of his crew back into the crowd to find the girl, and then, worrying that the Taliban might rustle up a suicide bomber, tries to flee in the crew minibus except a taxi driver refuses to move his car and boxes them in and the crowd presses closer in on the vehicle and then, mercifully, the clip ends.

In the next clip George has the girls out in the countryside and he hires three armed Taliban fighters the crew stumble on to play themselves in a scene with the girls and suddenly they all get buzzed by an armed Predator drone.

I dunno. It’s hard to decide whether the man is an innovative  one-man cultural aid program or a tragedy waiting to happen. It all sounds way too weird to be true, but maybe George’s crazy-mad vision is the way of the future. Maybe everybody carrying a gun in that benighted country will just write him off as a harmless Australian loony. Maybe George’s luck will hold. But personally I wouldn’t recommend standing too close him in case some Taliban commander decides to take no chances on him not being an American spy or a fundamentalist mullah concludes he’s a Western cultural terrorist … or he gets taken out by a CIA drone.