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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Lying low with Renee’s boys

1 April 2004

It’s not often a really fun job comes a PI’s way, so when I was approached to tail one of Renee Rivkin’s “business associates” on what purported to be a high-country trout fishing holiday I jumped at it.

A drive-by of his Eastern Suburbs home confirmed that the subject would be driving a red Jeep Cherokee and towing a classy camper-trailer. I figured he’d probably start at Tumut and make his way into Kosciuszko National Park by the Snowy Mountains Highway and when I confirmed he’d left Sydney, Joadja and I set off in a little rented campervan. As we drove down the Hume Highway I got Jo to make a few deft phone calls to motels, posing as the subject’s absent-minded secretary, anxious to confirm that she’d arranged his booking. Bingo! An understanding lady at the The Elms Motor Inn in Tumut said he was booked in there.

We got a room up the road at the Oriental Hotel, from which we could watch the driveway of the The Elms, and easily picked up his tail in the morning.

In fact the whole job was a snip. It wasn’t necessary to keep the subject in sight, we just moseyed on down the road, checking out each camping area, until we found him at Geehi, trying his luck in Swampy Plains River. We moved into a spot nearby and did a lot of birdwatching --which is a perfect cover for surveillance. It wasn’t even necessary to avoid being seen by the subject. Kosci doesn’t get that many campers in March so travellers think nothing of bumping into the same folk at different camping spots.

The weather was beautiful and nothing interesting happened until Thredbo, where the subject made a few phone calls from a pay phone. That evening we tailed him to the Thredbo Diggings Camping Area and set up about fifty metres away, partly obscured by a little stand of snow gums.

Later that evening, a balding man driving a rented car visited our subject. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. I videoed the whole thing from inside the van and, it being a beautiful evening, they even obliged by sitting outside, around the campfire. Jo strolled past them on her way to the toilets and reported that the balding man had a Swiss accent. I had what the client needed, but we stayed the night and left after the subject departed next morning.

Without so much as a newspaper or a phone call, we had been out of contact with what passes for human civilization for almost two weeks, so when we reached Sydney late that afternoon and I opened the pile of newspapers on my desk, the world seemed the same, but oddly different.

Things had slipped a notch or two for Rivkin. The Caroline Byrne murder investigation was casting an eerie new light on the Offset Alpine case, and most of the celebrity stockbroker’s friends in politics, business and the media had left town.

There was Renee, on all the front pages, surrounded by a bevy of his acolytes: tattooed body-builders, muscular fixers, spivs and male bimbos.

Like me, the cops were looking for one of them, Gary Redding, who fled to Britain from New Zealand last year, shortly after agreeing to be interviewed by Sydney detectives about the murder of Byrne, the fiancé of Rivkin’s driver and PA, Gordon Wood, who had also disappeared from the French alpine village where he had been holed up since he fled Australia.

I figured Redding and Wood were probably lying low somewhere with US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, who hadn’t been spotted since I left Sydney.

It wasn’t hard to see why. The wheels of US colonial ambition had sunk further into the quicksands of Iraq and the US Army was hunkered-down in its bases, trying to minimise its death-rate in the lead-up to the Presidential elections. The GIs weren’t venturing into Falluja or Mosul much and the Iraqi resistance was still mounting brazen attacks in downtown Baghdad.

Bob Carr and his backroom fixers had got their come-uppance in the Sydney City Council poll. Bob will probably go on TV and say he’s heard what we’re all saying, but he hasn’t, or rather he can’t. The NSW ALP has been mainlining the developers’ dollar for so many years it’s completely hooked, and only about ten years of cold turkey would cure it.