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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Brushtail Graphics

Lights-out time at the loony bin

17 August 2000

Sunday dawned mean, wet and gray; the sort of day that can turn the most self-reliant possum stir-crazy in a few hours. It glued up the brain and frustrated my best attempts to make something constructive of the day. Nightfall was a blessing, for the city lights came on, scattering the wet pavements with jewel-like neon reflections.

I went down to the Brushtail Café seeking a little lightness and laughter. Joadja was fighting off the gloom with a CD from the National Junk Band, which may be the best antidote yet invented. I got a cider and sat down with the papers.

There were many mean and ugly things in the news. Dr Mathahir's tame judiciary had found his one-time heir apparent guilty of the 'crime' of sodomy on evidence so fabricated it wouldn't justify shooting a dog. The stolen generations got shafted by the Federal Court on a technicality, the Russian Orthodox church canonised Czar Nicholas and Paul Hogan seemed determined to do another movie, but it was the Nixon revelations that got me in. It seemed new evidence had surfaced that Richard Nixon had sabotaged the Paris peace talks in 1968.

The inner workings of what passes for democracy in the US of A resemble the treacherous politics of Imperial Rome. The Yanks still elect their emperor, but it is an increasingly meaningless ritual.
We have our fair share of mad people running things here, but when, like the Americans, you try to run the whole world, the body politic becomes infected with the byzantine machinations of palace intrigue. The loonies take over the asylum.

Their creeping coup got underway in the sixties and things really slipped badly in '68. The US war effort was making no headway in Vietnam and Lyndon Johnson was desperately trying to bring the North Vietnamese and Vietcong to the negotiating table in Paris. Richard Nixon was running as Republican candidate on a platform of ending the war. Publicly, he pledged not to interfere with the peace efforts, but privately he was doing whatever he could to sink them, in order to boost his chances of winning against Hubert Humphrey, the Democrat candidate.

Nixon's strategy was to put pressure on South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu to pull out of the peace talks. His go-between was Anna Chennault, a Chinese-American who was the vice-chairman of the Republican election finance committee. Of course, if Nixon had been some half-baked hippie, these intrigues against the elected government would have been called Treason.

FBI director J Edgar Hoover, the bizarre gay homophobe and closet cross-dresser, was (of course) tapping everybody's phones and knew exactly what was going on, but (of course) he only let the president in on part of it. Johnson offered Humphrey the chance to blow the whole sorry story of Nixon's intrigues, but Humphrey -- a notorious wimp -- wimped out. After Humphrey lost, Johnston decided (of course) that it wouldn't be in 'the national interest' to tell the truth.

Henry Kissinger was also a player in this seraglio intrigue. A rabidly ambitious academic, he felt that Nixon was "the most dangerous, of all the men running, to have as president", but this didn't stop him courting both sides in the presidential race, betraying the Democrats' campaign tactics to Nixon's people and eventually becoming Nixon's 'National Security Advisor'.

When he assumed office, Nixon began token troop withdrawals from Vietnam, but then institited a massive secret bombing campaign against Cambodia, pushing the tiny kingdom back to the stone age. The war dragged on, needlessly killing another 20,000 Americans, a couple of hundred more Australians and (of course) countless tens of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians. Nixon turned on his domestic critics with police-state tactics but was exposed and discredited in the Watergate scandal. He subsequently abdicated, and came within an inch of impeachment. In 1975 the North Vietnamese and Vietcong easily overwhelmed the terminally corrupt government of South Vietnam.

"The greatest honour history can bestow is the title of peacemaker" it says on Nixon's tombstone. If you wrote a transit lounge novel with this plot, the editors would reject it as weird and improbable.