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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With Gough on our side

24 February 1999

"duchess ... 4. colloq. to treat in an obsequious fashion in order to improve one's social or political standing." (The Macquarie Dictionary).

When the phone rang late last Friday afternoon it was Bruce Baird's senior flack.

"Oh, hi Nick", he said, "I'm trying to get hold of Bruce Possum, but I couldn't find Magnum Corporate Security's number in the phone book. Has he changed the name of the business?"

"You're way too late I'm afraid. Bruce Possum pulled the plug on Magnum in '88, just before Laurie Connell's bank went down, and then he disappeared. It was all handed over to the Homicide Squad ten years ago", I replied.*

"Gee, that leaves me in a tight spot. You don't do bodyguard work do you? I desperately need somebody for the weekend."

"Sorry Mate", I sighed, "I just never do that stuff. What's got into Bruce anyway? Has he developed a death wish? Why is he saying these things about Kerry Packer and the others? Has he forgotten the rules?"

I felt bad about the situation. Bruce Baird isn't my favourite person, but nobody should live in fear just because they misunderstood things that were said to them by John Alexander, Ken Cowley and Kerry Packer.

"Why don't you call Patrick Stevedores, they know lots of the big boys in that line of work", I suggested.

He thanked me profusely and hung up. Bruce Baird had really got himself in an ugly situation this time. The former NSW Roads minister, Olympic minister under the Fahey Government, and now Federal MP for Cook is famously a born-again Christian and if God exists, Bruce may need all the help he can get from Him. God may have the final say, but Big Kerry's reach is more immediate and can do terminal damage to your political career.

Bruce stood up in Federal Parliament last week to announce he and Nicholas Whitlam had strolled down to see Alexander at Fairfax and Cowley at News Limited and Big Kerry to tell them there'd be a "high level of duchessing" of IOC members during the bidding process. They'd secured an agreement that the media would turn blind eye to this, he said, and his story seemed to me to have the ring of truth to it. Bruce is, after all, a muscular born-again Christian. Why would he lie?

On the other hand John, Ken and Kerry are honourable men. They all denied Bruce's story outright and pointed out that the Sydney media had not been entirely uncritical of Bruce's conduct even before Juan Antonio Samaranch said "Sydernee! Sydernee!". By Friday night Bruce was backing down. Nothing had been heard from Nick Whitlam, who had troubles of his own with the long-running NRMA privatisation saga and was probably lying low somewhere.

Friday was not a good day for the Whitlams. Bruce had also blown the whistle on the Olympic bid company's African operation. Gough Whitlam had toured the Darkest Continent with Ken Coates, handing out cheap blankets, brightly coloured glass beads and $2.7 million worth of what were termed "sports scholarships". It was a last-minute bid to claw the crucial African vote off the Chinese ... and, as usual, Bruce Baird had been told nothing until after it was all over.

It is all a seedy debacle, in the finest tradition of the "Olympic spirit", and we have not heard the last of it.

The sun was setting on a balmy Sydney evening when I went down to the cafe for dinner. Howard, the solicitor with the Police Integrity Commission (why didn't they call it the Police Integrity Group? -- some people have no imagination) was sitting at the table in the lane tucking into a fragrant bowl of pasta with basil pesto.

"Geez, Mate", I said, "Is your mob issuing pseudonyms now? What's this crap about this bloke you're alleging supplied cocaine to the cops being called 'Lenin Marx Lambert'?"

"Strange but true", he replied. "And if Bob Carr did cocaine, his dealer would be called Lincoln Washington Reagan".

I fetched a cider from the bar and sat down with him.

"You know", he said, "Maybe it would have been better in the long run if the AOC had've subcontracted the whole Olympic bid to the cops. Those boys are real straight shooters. They'd have worked long demented nights at top speed, they'd have had no trouble bringing across the American and African votes, and there would have been no problems with the sports medicine supplies."

"True but strange", I replied, "Have you ever considered that New South Wales has never really changed since the days when it was run by the Rum Corps?"

• • •

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

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.


*For the Bruce Possum story see Rumours of Bruce.