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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Rose of the West

27 January 2000

Private investigation is a funny old game. Weeks can pass when nothing much comes up and then the drought breaks, the phone rings relentlessly, and people with troubled voices leave long desperate messages on the answering machine.

And last week, all the calls were from Perth. I was packing to go when Stan from the ACTU rang me.

"Things are getting nasty on the picket line up at Port Hedland. The cops are using batons. It's like the bloody wharves dispute all over again. Rio Tinto are selling at $16 a tonne and BHP are selling for $20 so they want to rip the extra four bucks out of the workers' hides. Those grubs from BHP are planning a pretty big move. I don't want to talk about the details on the phone, but can you get over here pronto?"

"You won't believe this, but I'm booked on this evening's plane. I got a call yesterday from the Agriculture Department there. They've apprehended a cane toad in Attadale. There's a wild theory some bastard might have released it deliberately. And I put the phone down and it rings again and an insurance company wants me to look into the break-in at Rose Porteous's place."

Stan laughed like he hadn't had a decent laugh in weeks. "So you'll be mixing a little pleasure with business then. Do us all a favour willya? If you manage to get hold of the nude photos, we could print thousands of them and airdrop them on the scabs. Terrify the bastards into submission."

"Don't be sexist", I said "An innocent citizen has been assaulted and humiliated and their humble abode burgled. The whole incident was a most serious and disturbing one, and it should not be made light of ... or compared to the exploits of Robin Hood. Anyway, how do you know the nude photos exist?"

"You mean there mightn't have been any film in the camera?"

"That's one possibility. Let's hope it's true. You wouldn't want stuff like that falling into the wrong hands. But don't fret, I'll get you a photo of the cane toad. You can print a caption under it: 'This man is just 27 and already showing the early symptoms of a rare incurable degenerative disease brought on by scabbing".

Stan laughed and hung up. I went down to the cafe, said goodbye to Joadja, and caught a cab to Mascot.

I have always enjoyed the evening flight to Perth, chasing the sunset across the continent. It finally gave us the slip somewhere over the Nullabor, three hours after we left Sydney.

As we flew west the sky gradually darkened behind us, and pinky-orange tones glowed in front. While the sun was low on the horizon it sliced horizontally through huge cloudheads piled up like shifting spectral mountains. They were bright on top, all creams and greys washed with a luminous pink. Beneath, they deepened to velvety blue.

For a while I could make out the landforms ten kilometres below. They were thrown into relief by the last glancing rays of the sun, but suddenly and almost imperceptibly they vanished in a blue haze and cut us adrift in a fantasy skyscape. It was all impossibly glamorous.