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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Brushtail Graphics

Rinse the celery juice off my toga

10 August 2000

I was moping around the office when the phone rang. It was Patrick from the NSW Right.

It is not often that I get a call from anybody in Sussex Street. When I do, I ask myself very deliberately whether I'll feel worse about myself if I take the job ... and then I treble my corporate fee.

"We know we've got our differences Nick, but you're a marsupial of the Left and we know you'll treat it with the utmost professional discretion. It's Bob Carr. He's acting very strangely. He keeps disappearing, and he won't tell us where he goes. His driver isn't saying anything ... it's becoming a security problem".

I took the job and he swore me to secrecy. I hired Abdul the Cabbie and swore him to secrecy.

We spent a couple of hours circling State Parliament until we picked up the Premier's car as it pulled out of the carpark on Hospital Road. We hadn't tailed them far when they pulled up suddenly and Bob got out. He was wearing sunglasses and a wig and he carried an overnight bag.

I slipped out of the cab and followed him down Sydney Street with mounting disbelief. A couple of minutes later, he turned into Werrong Lane and went into the Brushtail Café. You could have knocked me down with Fatty O'Barrell's intellect.

I waited a couple of minutes at the corner before following him. The café was nearly empty but Bob was nowhere in sight. Joadja was behind the bar, polishing glasses.

"Jo, what the hell is going on here? I just saw Bob Carr walk in. Where is he?"

She leaned forward and spoke in a whisper: "He comes from time to time and hires the private room upstairs. Not to be disturbed."

"Look, I've been hired by Sussex Street. It's a security matter. What's he doing up there? Is it a woman? a gay lover? drugs?"

"Well, I suppose he never exactly swore me to secrecy ... Occasionally he calls down and asks me to take up a celery and ginger juice ..."

"Yuck. And ..."

"Well, it's weird. He's just sitting there at the table wearing a toga and writing on a vellum scroll, and I have to address him as 'Emperor'. And he does this for a couple of hours and then he slips out again. It's good money, and he pays in advance".

Some investigations are easier than others. I rang Patrick and told him the outcome.

"Oh, it's just his Marcus Aurelius obsession. The Imperial Rome thing. It's probably been triggered off by the Olympics", he said. He seemed relieved, and asked for the bill.

"Ah, don't worry about money. Let's not put anything on paper. Just get one of your people to drop around a case of the season's best apples every week for the next six months ... and I need a 56K modem", I replied.

"Yeah, Bob's constantly reinventing himself", Old Possum said later, after I had sworn him to secrecy. "First there was Milo Dunphy Bob, then there was James Ellroy Bob and Abraham Lincoln Bob and now there's Marcus Aurelius Bob.

"These intellectual infatuations are a weird reflection in Bob's mind of how he sees himself at the time. Marcus Aurelius Bob is the stoic ruler, assailed on all sides by ingratitude, insolence and disloyalty, doing his duty to the masses with grace and forebearance. It's not a democratic leader's philosophy; it's the self righteousness, self pitying self image of the hereditory administrator. My children, I am doing the best I can for you, 'tho you are ignorant, unruly, ungrateful and will forget me when I am gone."

"Holy Mother of Darwin", I said. "Don't tell me what he was thinking about himself when he was James Ellroy Bob."

• • •

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

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.