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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The poppies of wrath

1 July 2003

Trust Paul Sheehan, I thought, as I scanned through his nutty defence of Mike Jeffery’s view that Australia fought a just war in Vietnam.

Crazy-Mad Paul is John Howard’s most dogged spin doctor. Nowadays he is too busy covering the PM's arse to spend time filling the Sydney Morning Herald with unsolicited testimonials for private schools or chocolate biscuits or mineral water with magical properties.

Now Paul has a serious problem: defending the Governor-General designate’s loopy view that the Vietnam War was a noble and necessary thing. Our forthcoming head of state thinks it was justifiable as a ruthless campaign of attrition against godless communist peasants.

Where does this historical revisionist crusade end? Presumably Jeffrey thinks it was right for the Yanks to fund and equip the French Army from 1945 until 1954 while it made a bloody attempt to reconquer France’s Indochina empire.

He presumably also thinks it was a jolly jape for the Yanks to thwart the plebiscite which would have reunified Vietnam in 1956 and approves of President Johnson’s use of the phony ‘Gulf of Tonkin Incident’ as a reason for escalating US intervention. Presumably he approves of the massive bombing and defoliation campaigns that laid waste to Vietnam and Cambodia.

I was musing on these things when the doorbell rang.

It turned out to be a courier with a fat parcel. I took it upstairs and carefully opened the plastic courier wallet.

Inside there were three battered old manilla document files labelled in what I took to be Pashtun and Arabic. The top one contained some grainy photos of Bruce Possum and an old cassette tape with no label.

A shiver of excitement ran down my tail. These were the Taliban files on my long-lost business partner.

I had been promised them in Kabul by the Brixton Mullah, a Taliban interrogation specialist, the day before the men in turbans pulled out of the city and took to the hills.

I popped the tape in my Cassette recorder. It was old and distorted but it appeared to be a bootleg recording of a Cat Stevens concert, sometime in the sixties of last century.

There was also a laser-printed letter in English with no sender’s address.

Dear Mr Possum,

I trust you got out of Kabul without personal injury and that this communication finds you in good health and prosperity (if Allah wills it).

I hope you enjoyed my CDs of Cat Stevens as much as I did, before, Praise be Allah, I gave up such worldly pleasures and took up the work of spreading Allah’s blessings. I particularly enjoyed ‘Morning has Broken’ and here together with the file on your colleague, Mr Bruce Possum, you will find one more tape I found.

I have sent you the whole of my Bruce Possum file in the hope that, although we are temporarily out of power, you will use it to bring him to justice for his heroin trading, which he has taken up again with great profit since the American puppet government of Hamid Karzai’s took over in Kabul.

Some months ago I visited the village of Singesar which is in the desert half an hour from Kandahar. It is where Mullah Omar (may Allah bless and protect him) lived. His house there is just two rooms of mud brick but it is empty now, and all around there are great fields of poppy.

Of course in my present circumstances I cannot pursue Bruce Possum. Good luck.


It squared with my intelligence, which is that the land under poppies in Afghanistan increased from less than 2000 hectares in the last year the Taliban held power to over 30,000 hectares last year. The indications are that next year it will rise again.

The opium poppy flourishes in the soil of war, poverty, and free market economic disorganisation. It became the scourge that it is thanks to the Vietnam War and the West’s long proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Say what you like about the mad mullahs, they kept their part of their bargain with the US and ruthlessly stamped out opium production. Under the rule of the feudal warlords it is flourishing again. Little wonder. In a country ruined by decades of war, opium is the only high value cash crop Afghan farmers can grow.

They are harvesting the poppies right now, and soon the opium resin from which heroin is made will begin flowing by a thousand routes across the country’s borders and into the West. Ninety percent of it will end up in Europe, pushing down the price. The rival south-east Asian producers will redouble their efforts to get heroin into Australia and we will see the scourge return to the streets.

It will create work for private dicks, of course, but it is not the sort I like. Pathetic distraught parents will make their way to my door, looking for runaway kiddies who are prostituting themselves on street corners for their next hit.

• Download the Bruce Possum story, Rumours of Bruce.