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 storm over the ocean

7 October 1999

It was five on Friday afternoon when I walked to the office window and saw the tall black storm barrelling in from the mountains. I had spent the afternoon brooding over Timor and unresolved cases and I made an instant decision to take the ferry to Manly and stay overnight in Joadja's cave.

I threw half a dozen apples, a banana, a six-pack of cider, the old grey army blanket, my battered copy of The Origin of Species and a length of rope into my backpack and walked down to the Quay.

I stood on the stern deck of the ferry as it pulled out of Circular Quay. Dark grey clouds boiled overhead, and there were bright flashes of lightning.

Big drops of rain splashed on my face as a tall drunken Maori swayed towards me and thrust out his hand. He was a good-natured drunk. We did the Brothers handshake and he told me he was from Rotorua.

"Look at thet Brother ... doz 'ol warriors fightin' in the sky. Mother Nature ... magic, magic. You gut a smoke?"

I regretted that I didn't, and asked him how long he'd been here, and if he was staying in Manly.

"Been here three weeks, Bro. Sleepin' under the wharf. Six of us there ... and you know what? Every night two of those little penguins come up on the sand, walk right past us ... jes' little fellas. Magic, magic."

He staggered off. The ferry had outrun the storm which still hovered over the city. The buildings were just a flat silhouette in a fog of grey rain but the red light on the Centrepoint Tower still blinked like an electronic jewel.

When we got to Manly I walked up to North Head in the fading light, and, making sure nobody was watching, I pushed through the scrub and found the rock bolt above the cave. I secured the rope and abseiled down, possum-style.

Joadja found the cave years ago when she was into rock climbing. It's more of a horizontal slot in the cliff face, really -- about three metres deep and a couple high. Enough room for a hermit or two.

I spread the blanket and opened a cider and sat down buddha-style facing the endlessly-rolling Pacific. The storm had drifted out to sea and the gloom was lit by occasional forks of lightning.

The ocean crashed against the base of the cliff, seventy metres below, the last daylight faded, and, as the cider went to my head in the dark, I realised how much I had been weighed down by the Timor horror. It wasn't the images of burned bodies on TV so much as my imagination of the countless scenes of final terror played out casually in banana plantations the back rooms of simple tin-rooved huts.

I can't remember falling asleep but I woke in time to see the sun creep up out of the ocean, throwing the swells into relief and touching the ocean spray with a warm luminous glow. The storm had passed and the sky was clear.

It was bright and muggy when I finally packed up and dragged myself back up the rope. New Holland honeyeaters were chattering as they flitted through the scatter of wildflowers on the low heath and a couple of joggers pounded by.

It was just past midday when I got down to the Corso and I realised it was Jazz Festival weekend. The New Wolverine Orchestra was playing to a happy crowd, the long weekend stretched out before me and Wiranto, Alitas, Mathahir, and their Australian quislings didn't seem to matter much.