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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Keeping bad company

14 September 2000

There were bright skies and dry, nervous westerly winds last week. The light glinted cruelly through my darkest sunglasses, bouncing off the leaves thrashing in the trees and the stray papers blowing through the streets.

These are winds that possums hate. There is too much movement, too much stimulus. Our senses are finely-tuned and acute and we are notoriously prone to sensory overload.

An edgy kind of fatalism blew in with the wind -- a feeling that everything had been done that could be done and now all was in the lap of the gods.

Perhaps it was just the last days before the Olympic madness but the feeling seemed to sum up the mood of the times. It was a bad week for civilisation. A militia gang killed twenty people in West Timor under the benevolent gaze of the Indonesian army; Megawati Sukanoputri appointed the murderous militia leader Eurico Guterres to head up her party's youth wing and assault rifles flooded into the New Guinea highlands to fuel tribal marijuana wars. The Arctic ice cap all but vanished and the stockmarkets were sprinting in the air, like one of those cartoon figures that run off the edge of a cliff and keep going until they look down and realise where they are.

I holed up in the office and closed the blinds, but I couldn't escape -- the office bell rang a couple of hours later. It turned out to be Dave, the legal aid solicitor. I opened a couple of ciders and he told me he was pissed off about the John Laws sentence.

"It's bad enough that the bastard was thrashed with a feather but what worries me most is these jerks in the media attacking the law he broke ... which forbids anyone from soliciting information from a juror", he remarked.

"There's a whole bunch of pundits who keep asserting it's a bad law -- Paddy McGuinness, Mike Carlton, Richard Ackland, even Adele Horin -- but none of them have really tried to prove it's a bad law.

"But can you imagine what will happen if there isn't something to discourage the media from making a circus of every decision they don't like? First it'll be the ambulance chasers and law and order freaks from the Telegraph, 2UE, Channel 9, but after a while everybody else will be forced into the game."

"I can see it now", I said. "Potentially, a cheap detective like me could make a motza out of it. They'd keep us on a retainer to hunt out the names and addresses of jurors. Then they'd rush around to see them after the trial, stick their foot in the door and start asking them why they found the scumbag innocent.

"And every juror will know this before the trial. At the back of their mind will be the thought that they might have to answer to Alan Jones afterwards."

"And it isn't just the media -- it's nazis and convicted crims too", I said. "A few journalists should ask themselves if they aren't keeping pretty dubious company on this issue. Look at this: here's Jim Saleam writing to the Herald saying he thinks John Laws should be thanked for highlighting a bad law. Do you remember him?"

"Remind me."

"Sometime head of National Action, the ultra-right group. In 1987 he was convicted and jailed for insurance fraud. He lost an appeal in '89. In '91 he was jailed again for his part in a bungled shotgun attack on the home of a bloke called Eddie Funde, who was the African National Congress representative in Australia. Here he is writing that in 1996 he contacted nine of the twelve jurors from his trial.

"And listen to this, he says: 'Juries are not sacrosanct, despite what judges say. They are ordinary people with ordinary emotions. It is time they were accountable, too' ... boy, that chills my blood. Goodbye to decisions made without fear or favour.Who'd be a juror?"