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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Making a wilderness and calling it Order
16 September 1999

It was nine on Saturday morning when Liam, from the East Timor solidarity group rang me. I had agreed to do some 'security consultancy' for them at the big Timor rally and march.

"We've read Paddy McGuinness's column in this morning's Herald and some people here are worried he might launch a crazy single-handed assault on the rally", he said. I could hear the Solidarity Choir rehearsing in the background.

"Yeah, I read it myself, but I don't think there's too much danger of that. Paddy has smaller fish to fry today. He'll probably be doing the rounds of his workers on the Balmain polling booths -- shaking hands, bringing them their lunch hampers, that sort of thing. The worst that might happen is that he'll stand at the edge of the rally with a placard."


"Something like that. All the same, you might keep the nuns in a group on the inside of the march and make sure the ABC journalists stick together."

"Or anybody who looks like they're from the Left, or the 'chattering classes'".

"Or the 'political elites'"

"Yeah, right, or those warmongering hysterics from among the 'civilised, educated and enlightened' And John Howard will save us from our hysterical selves".

I laughed and hung up, but it was no laughing matter. Tens of thousands of East Timorese were being shipped out to holding camps in West Timor and Bali and parts unknown, where the Alitas-Wiranto government were holding them as hostages and the psychological-warfare types from TNI were culling their ranks of anybody who looked like they might be trouble. Dili had been comprehensively looted and burned by Indonesian soldiers and police and bodies were being dumped at sea by Indonesian ships. The lucky had made it into the hills, where they faced starvation and murder, unless Australia start parachuting arms and supplies to them.

The march started as five or seven thousand but it swelled to twenty thousand as it passed through the city, sucking shoppers from the pavements and workers from building sites. Drivers waved and beeped their horns in salute.

You have to marvel at the political sophistication of the Javanese elites. Their cynicism and political subtlety is way beyond anything our politicians can muster, and they're streets ahead of the UN. First their army, thinly disguised as 'militias', terrorises Dili, killing anybody they can get their hands on and Howard protests that they must 'restore order'. So Wiranto sends more troops and they kill and loot and burn some more and Howard gives them a stern deadline to 'restore order'. So Alitas declares martial law and sends more troops and they empty Dili (and everywhere else) of any Timorese that are left and complete the looting and burning and John Howard urges them to 'restore' order' some more.

Finally, they've created a wilderness and called it Order, and there's nothing left to save, at least in Dili and we haven't even sent their officers -- who are still training here -- home, or withdrawn our recognition of their sovereignty over East Timor, even though eighty per cent of the population voted for independence.

Late on Sunday night, Indonesia's lame duck President, Habibe, announced that international peacekeepers would be admitted to East Timor. No doubt he insisted that a few days were needed to restore order for their arrival. The Indonesians were still playing successfully for time and their Australian-trained Kopassus troops were attacking refugees and Fantilil camps in the mountains.

Ethnic cleansing was still in full swing and Howard and Carter were still terrified to act decisively in case the Indonesian stock market collapsed.

• • •

INCLUDED in Whispers from the mean streets -- Best of 1999

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.