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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Losing touch with reality

12 July 2000

I was sitting in the cafe, watching John Howard in London on the TV news when it struck me. If it hadn't been Honest John, coke would be the first thing I'd have suspected. There were all the signs: he was unnaturally bright and upbeat ... he had delusions of grandeur and prowess ... and there was something abnormal in his craving for affection from people who didn't even know who he was. He was slobbering all over complete strangers like a pig-dog on speed.

I went back to the office and rang an old mate who runs a cheap detective agency in London.

"I've been watching our man Howard on TV and he looked like he's doing drugs. What's the story? I mean, his spin doctors in Canberra are doing the Nancy Reagan 'Just Say No' thing. The whole harm minimisation strategy is out the window. The Salvation Army mullahs are running drugs policy over here and Howard's over there acting like Hunter Thompson."

"Funny you should call", Alistair said, "I've been having exactly the same suspicions. There's been talk about Tony Blair for years -- maybe he's been slipping something to your Prime Minister."

It made some sense. The only way you could really explain Tony 'Rupert' Blair -- the silly grin, the speedy jiz and the bright eyes -- was that he was doing something powerful. Hell, the man was so addled he didn't know the difference between America and Australia. Then the penny dropped.

"Wait on the other hand, maybe they're doing steroids. Steroids will do that to you. According to the papers we're one of the world's largest exporters of steroids and it's all certified and quality-assured by the Federal Government's National Registration Authority."

"You're not suggesting that your prime minister's really here on some sort of export drive demonstrating the merchandise?"

"Well it makes more sense than any other explanation I've heard. The Centenary of Federation crap is probably just a cover. And it also makes sense of this: After Howard flew out, the Justice Minister, Big Amanda Vanstone, ordered a crackdown on the steroid exports. Amanda must be making her move for the leadership, or maybe she's a stalking horse for Costello."

I had a ghastly vision of Howard in the grip of 'roid rage, at 40,000 feet over India, rampaging down the aisle of a 747; having to be subdued by a dozen hosties and a half-pissed rugby team.

Alistair promised to keep me updated. I hung up and went back down to the café for a cider.

The fight for a sane drugs policy is an entirely unequal one, I reflected. On the one hand you've got this motley collection of awfully sincere do-gooders who recognise that the problem's a medical and social one and on the other you've got the full house of moralists, God-botherers, punishment freaks and political opportunists.

If I was a drug baron I know who I'd back -- I'd back the 'Just Say No' crowd every time. Keep it illegal and keep the price up. Hell, in the globalised world there'll always be a pool of willing low-rent pistoleros and fuckwits to peddle the shit and take the rap. The street dealers go to gaol and the junkies clog up the morgues, the courts and the hospitals. It's a perfect example of the old capitalist principle: privatise the profits and socialise the losses.

If I were a drug baron I'd bet on 'Major' Brian Watters of the Salvation Army. Ah yes, the Sallies: the fundamentalist lower middle class mullahs in comic opera uniforms. Sing us a hymn and we'll give you a bowl of soup. Brian's so paranoid he wants to waste the public's money on random drug tests for public servants.

Can you imagine? A whole bureaucracy collecting piss in little bottles only to find that nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of a ten thousand found traces of nicotine, caffeine, tannin, No-Doze, codeine, Chateau de Cardboard or export quality veterinary steroids.

• • •

INCLUDED in Whispers from the mean streets -- Best of 2000

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.