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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Obeisance has to be made

21 September 2000

"It's no wonder the dollar is sliding. Did you see that bloody opening ceremony?"

James, the currency dealer from the bank, and a couple of his mates were getting pissed and moody at the table in the corner. It was more a statement than a question, and it seemed to be directed at me.

"All that fucking politically-correct stuff about abos and women and the environment. What a bunch of losers. Jesus, they'll be laughing at us all over the world", James said loudly.

I pretended to be engrossed in the swimming heats, but just then Channel 7 switched over to another long run of advertisements. It's hard to be fascinated by the Qantas ad when you've seen it 85 times and you never liked Peter Allen much anyway, so I took my cider to the table in the lane.

It was a beautiful evening outside and the streets were quiet and deserted. Nobody much had come from overseas and everybody who could get out of Sydney had fled.

Joadja came out with a coffee. "Remember the heady days seven years ago when we were told we'd all make our fortunes renting our flats to Nigerian journalists for thousands of dollars a week?" she asked. "Well now there are hotel rooms empty all over town and the only tourist who's come into the café so far was a backpacker asking directions."

Just then the mobile rang. It was Tommy the ecologist in Jakarta.

"Saw your Olympic opening ceremony on TV. So beautiful, so inclusive. We were, I think you say, entranced, by the business of the colourful fishes and the poisonous jellyfish, but we did not understand the tapdancers in checked shirts ..."

"That was a celebration of our vanishing industries ..."

"And the business of the little square things they pushed around on the ground ..."

"They were lawnmowers, an Australian icon. In the great suburbs of Sydney mowing the grass is the most regular exercise people get. How are things up there?"

"Oh, you know, the army are running the country. They do whatever they like. They pay no attention to President Wahid and Megawati Sukarnoputri encourages them. Your Mr Richard Woolcott, the former ambassador, was here the other day and the foreign affairs minister presented him with the Star of the First Great Prince, a most prestigeous award. You know he was always a supporter of our invasion of East Timor. It is a reward for his work to make good relations with the Suharto regime."

"Yeah and a few days later your defence minister says Australia was to blame for the killings in West Timor. Here the government has released a lot of confidential papers about how Whitlam and Fraser supported the Timor invasion in 1975. They didn't tell us anything we didn't already know or suspect, but the cynicism of their betrayal of the East Timorese was breathtaking. There's a brutal bit where Woolcott quotes Whitlam as having said he was in favour of the Indonesian takeover but '... obeisance has to be made to self-determination' and after that, of course we backed Suharto's boys and the slaughter started. What's this Jakarta bombing business?"

Tommy laughed nervously, "Oh, it is just the army reminding Wahid. They do a mysterious bombing and they remind the government that they need soldiers to stop bombings. They killed that bastard, the militia leader Mendoca Moruk, and cut his balls off to get his men outraged to kill the UN people in Atambua. They have killed here, as you say, two birds with one rock. Moruk had that day been summonsed to appear in court over the East Timor killings. Now he will never talk and the army reminds the government they need men with guns to stop massacres. It is a huge joke and Wahid will never pin the stock exchange bombing on Tommy Suharto."

"Yeah, if it ever comes to court, he could always try calling Richard Woolcott as a character witness." I said.
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Nick's Indonesia and Timor adventures ...

Operation Gareth December 98 to January 99
Nick is blackmailed into taking part in a top secret mission to kidnap an Indonesian general. Bad weirdness and treachery in Australian foreign affairs.

An assignation in the Marlborough 11 May 1999
In which Nick signs up for a hazardous mission to help the East Timor independence fighters. 

Night flight to Timor 18 May 1999
Nick finds himself kicking Kalashnikovs and Paddy McGuinness dolls out of a Cessna Cargomaster over East Timor.