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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A premonition of radical evil

7 December 2000

After the days of rain blue skies returned. I woke late on Sunday morning and took the papers and brunch down to Joadja's garden to warm my fur in the sunshine. A spotted pardalote flitted about in the woollybutt and little skinks scurried among the leaf litter.

The garden is a fine place to contemplate the state of the world and the morning is the right time to read the newspapers. It's best to do it while you feel fresh and upbeat, or in my case bright and bushy-tailed. If you leave the papers until the evening they become ugly and difficult to handle.

I flicked the pages over at random. The Sun-Herald featured a ghastly puff-piece by former Trotskyist Alex Mitchell about a proposal to "clean up" Cooks River by building a $500 million mini city on its banks opposite the airport's International Terminal. Yeah, right. The whole thing seems to be a bright idea of "property wizard" Robert Whyte and Mitchell's story read like one of his media releases lightly edited. If it goes ahead, "Proposal A" will be another nail in the coffin of the Cooks River, which is threatened by riverbank development at North Arncliffe and a plan by the RTA and its front group, Bicycle NSW, to infill a long stretch of the river's main tributory, Wolli Creek, for a creekside cycleway.

According to a tiny bit in the Sydney Morning Herald, Bob Carr was flying to the US to try to drum up business for NSW. While he's there he'll probably visit Bill Clinton or James Ellroy or even Gore Vidal if he wants to look really radical. No doubt he'll drop all these names to Craig McGregor when he gets back and Craig will dutifully report them in about 2000 words of pure gibberish depicting the premier as a thoughtful scholar and a modest long-suffering statesman.

But it was a story out of the Poland-Ukraine border that got my interest. A Lace Curtain is descending across Europe -- a 1200 kilometre wall of razor-wire topped fences and watchtowers designed to keep hordes of dirt-poor Russian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian untermensch from swarming into the Common Market.

The Poles, they say, are deeply embarassed by the Lace Curtain and are downplaying rumours that the German Army will help patrol it, but the curtain is the price of Polish entry to the Common Market.

"There are only so many moves the nations can make on the chessboard of Europe", Old Possum said later, when I bought him a drink over at the Brushtail Café.

"A new generation of Poles are learning all over again what the nation state means for Europe. In the wide-open spaces of Eastern Europe there are no secure natural borders, such as England has enjoyed for centuries. There are just rivers. The various ethnic groups have pushed their borders back and forth across these puny barriers with waves of peaceful infiltration and violent ethnic cleansing since time immemorial. The nation state just made the matter worse.

"While the nation state lasts, Poland will always be a buffer state for either the Russians or the Germans. It is a role set in geography far more certainly than any gene determines how humans behave (or for that matter possums).

"When they were throwing off the yoke of Russian Stalinism, the Poles kidded themselves that they were in the forefront of a fight against Communism. Actually, they were struggling against Great-Russian nationalism, and now that the Soviet army has left, the big dogs of NATO are flowing into the vacuum. Poland is fated to be a farm, a market, and reservoir of cheap labour for the Germans and the French ... and the bandit capitalists of the new Russia will eye it covetously and bide their time."

He stopped, and scratched the fur behind his ear and sipped his cider with the weary resigned air of a battered old marsupial who has seen history repeat itself too often to be indignant at what might happen next.