time at the loony bin
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.