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

The wreck of the pleasure barge

11 February 1999

It happened quite suddenly last Tuesday afternoon. I began to feel like somebody had switched the aircon off; which was strange, because I didn't have aircon. I felt heavy and exhausted with an awful headache, pains in my hind legs and aching paws. Every joint in my tail throbbed.

I went downstairs to the café and sat outside in the lane with a cold mineral water, but it did no good.

"Go back up to the ceiling, flop into bed, and I'll call the vet. You probably picked up something nasty in Indonesia", Joadja said.

Dr Gupta arrived an hour later and climbed into the ceiling.

She asked a lot of questions, told me to roll over, stuck two fingers up my bum and fished around. Humiliating.

"Mr Possum, your prostate is nearly twice its proper size."

"That's normal for Trichosurous vulpecula", I grunted into the pillow. "Happens every year. It'll be twice as big again by April -- which is the peak of the main breeding season".

The trouble with most overseas-trained vets is that they know all about the Virginia opossum but bugger all about brushtails.

"Unless it's some new nastie, the only thing I can think of is Possum Creek Fever -- it's the marsupial equivalent of Ross River Virus. Bed rest; you must have bed rest and lots of fluids".

She took a blood sample, gave me a pack of Panadol and left, promising to phone me with the results.

So I spent the week in bed, crunching Panadol, glugging down apple juice, soaking up the media and drifting off into weird and dangerous dreams.

It was a week of brooding changes. The blue light of the TV flickered over the lovingly horded junk that cluttered the roof space -- the old stuff I could never bring myself to throw away.

Old politicians I'd forgotten about years ago died and came back to life as scratchy black and white images with funny voices. My God, was that Don Dunstan, who made the safari suit trendy, and poor old Neville Bonner, who penetrated to the Heart of The Beast -- the first Aboriginal elected to Federal Parliament?

Neville was a dignified figure of a man, and a fine clear speaker, but his tragedy was that he was elected to the Senate about twenty years too late. The era when you got elected from a Responsible Party to advance the interests and yes, the Respectability, of Your People, was long dead when Neville went to Canberra. The new generation of black activists were in no mood for paddling slowly up the right channels to Respectability and Equality. They were bomb-throwers, who didn't give a damn about respectable politics and wanted their rights immediately. Neville battled on until '83 when the Liberal Party gave him the shove because a black senator had become, well, a liability.

Before Don Dunstan became Premier, South Australia was a sleepy backwater, if you had heard of it at all it was because they tested atom bombs there and the police beat gay academics to death. Don tried to turn the place into a Scandinavian social-democratic paradise, a floating pleasure-barge ... but not much survives of that now.

Then I was on a big rubber lifeboat ... floating wreckage and burning patches of oil on the water ... The lifeboat was packed and there were many in the water hanging onto the gunwale ropes ...

Dying hands let go of the boat and sunk into the blue depths, letting the boat drift away on a light breeze ... the sun flickered through a weird black mist ... we could see the hedge funds, circling, circling, sensing the blood and urine and fear in the water ...

I saw Jim McClelland a long way from the boat ... Jordan's King Hussein let go and slipped away, then the Brazilian economy, and Gough Whitlam's reputation, and Richard Butler's fucking career ... Saddam Hussein just grinned ... old King Fahd, was dying too, he said ... there was no sense having him weigh down the raft ... might as well prise his fingers loose ...

Boris Yeltsin was lying at my feet in a sloshing pool of salt water and blood ... he was on a vodka epidural, drifting in and out of consciousness ... screeching that we were all traitors ... gibbering into his mobile phone, sacking everybody ...

He showed no sign of dying, at least not in the normal sense. All his organs will rot but he will hold onto power to the end, then he'll project his soul into the future, like Stalin and Ivan the Terrible. It is a Russian tradition.

• • •

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

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.