15 March 2003

Howard's address to the National Press Club
Here it is. About all that can be said about it is that John Howard makes George Bush look like someone who is honest and open with his people. This version includes the damning question-and-answers session that followed. The venue was moved from the press club to Parliament House because Howard was aware there would be protests outside the club. Besides, if you invent a security problem that increases the drama and perhaps the media will not ask any difficult questions.

Read what Howard said at the departure of HMAS Kanimbla on 23 January or what he told Parliament on 4 February. We had a promise that if war there was needed there would be a full parliamentary debate. We might now be hours away from war and that debate has not taken place. Howard promised that yesterday's speech would contain new information justifying the Iraq deployment. No-one in Australia apart from the prime minister believes that, so this morning we learnt that the government (yet again) has new intelligence that justifies the war. If we had it yesterday why not speak it yesterday?

There is an urgent need to amend S68 of the constitution so that the war-making power is transferred from the prime minister to the parliament where it always belonged. It is notable that Britain and Australia, the two nations prepared to send military forces to the coalition of the willing, both allow their prime ministers to commit forces to battle without a parliamentary vote. It is doubtful Blair could get consent from the house of commons and it is certain that Howard could not get consent from the senate.

14 March 2003

Changes in American geopolitical strategy overnight have left the
international community reeling. In an early morning announcement to a
stunned press conference Secretary of Defence Rumsfeldt announced that
America will 'Lead the world in disarmament and by beating our
swords into plows, feed suffering humanity.' He also called for 'realistic
and sustained efforts to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction, most
of them regrettably owned by the USA.'

Prime Minister John Howard, although clearly shocked by this heaving US
de-escalation, announced that Australia would respond by disarming New
Zealand, by force if necessary.

'This isolated state controlled by a socialist party dominated by a brutal
woman in trousers is an affront to civilisation. We have persuasive evidence
that they have or will, at some indefinite future date, possibly form an
intent to acquire weapons of mass destruction. We must pre-empt that intent
immediately if not sooner.'

Pressed on the likelihood of New Zealand representing a direct threat to
Australia Mr Howard produced figures on the number of New Zealanders who have
moved to Australia.

'They have been infiltrating Australia for many years, slowly forming a
sizeable fifth column of potentially deadly force.'

An emotional Mr Howard said he hated war but the sword had been forced into
his hands. He produced photos of New Zealand freighters proceeding towards

'What is to stop them", he said, "from hiding a deadly weapon aboard one of
their ships and sailing into Sydney harbour? Australia lies defenceless
before the potential New Zealand menace.'

AAP Rooters, 14 March 03
More on self-defence
The Australian parliamentary library has updated Disarming' Iraq under International Law. To quote:

'In the current circumstances, there is no solid basis in international law for the US or any other State using military force to unilaterally implement or enforce Iraq's WMD obligations under the various UNSC resolutions, except perhaps if this was supported by a significant majority of UNSC members. Nor has the case yet been made out that force could be legally employed under so-called 'pre-emptive' self-defence. This said, the uncertainties over what the boundaries of international law actually are suggests work needs to be done by the international community on the subject.

However, obtaining international agreement to possibly expanding the legal boundaries regarding the use of force ? say by amending the UN Charter ? will likely be very difficult if States feel that this is merely an attempt to sideline the 'international peace and security' mandate of the UNSC. In the meantime, the statements by Ambassador Negroponte and Senator Hill quoted earlier in this paper illustrate the limitations of international law. Whilst most States may generally attempt to act consistently with international law, their respective governments perceptions of national interest is the most powerful driver of foreign policy, particularly in the short term.'

Despite his promises John Howard produced no new evidence of an imminent threat to Australia or any other nation in yesterday's speech.

Howard's bubble speech
Yesterday John Winston Howard, Australia's prime minister had his moment in the sun. Live coverage on CNN. The foreign press got his name right for once. The speech was tedious, turgid, meretricious drivel. Howard produced no evidence. Howard produced no reason for war beyond maintaining the US alliance. Howard did not even take the Australian people into his confidence enough to admit, after months of prevarication, that we have been locked into the war drive for months.

To quote the Sydney Morning Herald's All the propaganda that's fit to hear: 'Channel Nine's Laurie Oakes summed up the frustration with his question: "... you were going to present today evidence from our intelligence agencies of a link between Iraq and terrorists. What happened to the evidence? Why isn't it in your speech? And since you've made no attempt at all to demonstrate a link, are we to assume there is none?"

In reply, Howard said he had endeavoured "to establish clear evidence that terrorist groups wanted weapons of mass destruction, and I think I did that and I think I did that quite convincingly."

So this was the message: that terrorists would like to get weapons of mass destruction? Who would have thought.'

Indeed, General Cosgrove, the chief of defence force, was saddled with giving the most embarrassing interview of his life when he had to use his reputation as a national hero to say that he would never lie to the Australian people and our troops are not yet engaged in combat in Iraq.

"I wouldn't lie to the media and I wouldn't lie to the people," General Cosgrove said.

"You asked the question and we thought about the answer and the answer was the truth."

Usually, we would expect such an announcement to come from the prime minister or the minister of defence. Sadly for them the Australian people trust Cosgrove but we do not trust Howard and his ministers. Why? Because they have spent months insisting that the decision to commit our defence force to battle has not been made.

In his long public career there has been no right-wing fashion or fad that he has not eagerly joined. if George W Bush suddenly started listening to the Beatles, Howard would buy bellbottoms. Thus Howard invented Hansonism before Hanson and tried to ride to power on anti-Asian feeling in 1987. He has always supported privatisation no matter what. He has always supported close ties to the US and Britain no matter what.

George Soros has more interesting things to say. In a piece today he argues that US supremacy is a bubble.

'I see parallels between the Bush administration's pursuit of American supremacy and a boom-bust process or bubble in the stock market. Bubbles do not arise out of thin air. They have a solid basis in reality, but misconception distorts reality. Here, the dominant position of the United States is the reality, the pursuit of American supremacy the misconception.

For a while, reality reinforces the misconception, but eventually the gap between reality and its false interpretation becomes unsustainable. During the self-reinforcing phase, the misconception may be tested, and when a test is successful the misconception is reinforced. This widens the gap, leading to an eventual reversal. The later it comes, the more devastating the consequences.

There seems to be an inexorable quality about this, but a boom-bust process can be aborted at any stage. Most stock market booms are aborted long before the extremes reached by the recent bull market. The sooner this happens, the better. That is how I view the Bush administration's pursuit of American supremacy.'

Howard, ever the fashion-conscious speculator, has signed up to this one and bought a first-class ticket on the Baghdad express. He has done it without the knowledge or consent of the Australian people or their parliament, but what's a little prevarication among citizens when you have a great and powerful friend to impress?

Soros writes: 'Iraq is the first instance when the Bush doctrine is being applied and it is provoking an allergic reaction. The Bush doctrine is built on two pillars: (1) The United States will do everything in its power to maintain its unquestioned military supremacy; and (2) the United States arrogates the right to preemptive action.

These pillars support two classes of sovereignty: American sovereignty, which takes precedence over international treaties and obligations, and the sovereignty of all other states. This is reminiscent of George Orwell's Animal Farm: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. To be sure, the Bush doctrine is not stated starkly; it is buried in Orwellian doublespeak. The doublespeak is needed because the doctrine contradicts American values.'

Sadly, Howard also needs doublespeak because the Bush doctrine violates Australian values also. Read Howard's speech. He would agree with everything in the last two paragraphs. And that is all he really needed to say. It could have been handled by press release instead of summoning the national press to the NeoRoman splendours Parliament House's great hall.

Howard supported the Vietnam War, as did his party. For a guy who so often tells us about his sense of history you'd think he might, just once, cast a thoughtful eye over one shoulder and ask himself what the outcome of the Vietnam adventure was. At least this time Howard probably thinks the Iraqis are to be bombed forward into the market age rather than backward into the stone age.

13 March 2003

On toasting the French
Apropos of the politicians who are expunging the word "French" from cafeteria menus, a gastronomic historian writes: "French toast was not invented in France. In fact, it was invented in Albany, NY. Tavern owner Joseph French is credited with inventing the famous breakfast in 1724. Supposedly, Mr. French didn't know the proper usage of the possessive apostrophe and, instead of 'French's toast' he put 'French toast' on his menu."

Joe Conaston

I think it's just bad history to claim that the US alone saved France in WWI and WWII. It's even worse history to forget that the The French Contribution to the American War of Independencehad a certain amount to do with the independence of the United States.

'French military aid was also a decisive factor in the American victory. French land and sea forces fought on the side of the American colonists against the British. At the same time, British and French (and to a lesser extent, Dutch and Spanish) forces fought for colonial wealth and empire around the world. From 1778 through 1783 -- two years after the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown -- French forces fought the British in the West Indies, Africa and India.

From the perspective of the American Revolution, however, the high point of French support is the landing of five battalions of French infantry and artillery in Rhode Island in 1780. In 1781, these French troops under the command of Count Rochambeau marched south to Virginia where they joined Continental forces under Washington and Lafayette. Cornwallis, encamped on the Yorktown peninsula, hoped to be rescued by the British navy. A French fleet under the command of Admiral DeGrasse intercepted and, after a fierce battle lasting several days, defeated the British fleet and forced it to withdraw. This left the French navy to land heavy siege cannon and other supplies and trapped Cornwallis on the Yorktown peninsula.'

The campaign to unfrock French toast, as silly as it is ignorant, is petulance disguised as diplomacy.
The Company of lovers
Judith Wright

We meet and part now all over the world;
we, the lost company,
take hands in the night, forget
the night in our brief happiness, silently.
We, who sought many things, throw all away
for this one thing, one only,
remembering that in the narrow grave
we shall be lonely.

Death marshals up his armies round us now.
Their footsteps crowd too near.
Lock your warm hand above the chilling heart
and for a time I live without my fear.
Grope in the night to find me and embrace,
for the dark preludes of the drums begin,
and round us, round the company of lovers,
death draws his cordons in.

What more can anyone say? John Howard has made his war speech. The Blair government has put its resolution to the Security Council. Death marshals up his armies round us now.

12 March 2003

Life Coaching tips for PM Howard
The Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, has had a great deal of media exposure of
late. He seems, all in all, to be having a good war thus far at least. His
performance could be enhanced if he were to consider some of the life
coaching pointers offered below:

1. DO. Work on your timing. Try to avoid making your major pronouncements
about the Iraq crisis automatically follow those of the White House. It
gives the distinct impression that you are waiting to be told what to think.

2. DON'T. Look like a kid getting a prize on High School speech night when
you are in the presence of an SAS (Senior American Statesperson). It is
unbecoming behaviour for the leader of an independent nation on display
before the eyes of the world. Similarly, you should moderate your dominating
body language and transparently false bonhomie with lesser mortals - leaders
of Asian, African and Pacific states. Colonial gestures seem to be on the
rise again but be aware of this discrepancy in your behaviour. In these days
of flux one never knows who our next overlord will be.

3. DON'T. Trust Texans. They tend to think with their testicles and appear
to be challenged by the neocortex. Remember what happened the last time we
joined the posse for a spot of rootin', tootin'& shootin' with a Texan

4. DO. Please do something about the pout.

5. DO. Consider the feelings of your successor. You have promised to stay in
office to see your people through the Iraq crisis. Commendable. Middle East
adventures, however, have a tendency to be prolonged. Remember the Israeli
intervention in the Lebanon? It was supposed to last a year but dragged on
for 22. Such news may unduly depress your successor. A well timed exit
enhances a political career more than an embarrassing kicking and screaming
while clutching the door frame adieu. Although it appears to run counter to
your character, try to go gracefully.

6. DON'T. Sulk, pout and remind the 2% of your country's population who
marched against a war that hasn't yet started that they can have their say
at the next Federal election. They may take you seriously.

7. DON'T. Try to look so energised and happy at the prospect of helping to
king hit a basically defenceless nation. So much media exposure as a world
leader does tend to cause a rush of blood to the head. This type of
enthusiasm, however, may cause people to wonder whether, deep down, you
really are a rather nasty piece of work.

Enoggera Life Coaching
9 March 2003
It's worth reading Blonds in revolt by Greg Palast. More than one crisis is blighting the international system and the Bush administration's oily fingers seem to be everywhere you look.

Comparing the economies of Argentina and Venezuela is instructive. There is no policy advocated by the Washington consensus that Argentina has not followed. Why then is the Argentine economy a shambles and their standard of living an outrage? At what point will the economic rationalists stop behaving like public relations hacks and start speaking about the need to scrap the Washington consensus and start again?

11 March 2003

September 1st, 1939
WH Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Salon is running an excellent piece based on September 1st, 1939. The piece is almost as good as the poem.
I'm disturbed by the turn to war. John Howard may sincerely think the US alliance is the only benchmark for Australia's foreign policy but he really should be asking himself if destroying the UN is a good price for maintaining the US alliance.

What disturbs me most is the absurd claim by the Bush administration and the Howard government that they can enforce resolutions of the Security Council against the wishes of the Security Council. This is just spin of the first water. The US and Australia have both ratified the Charter of the United Nations. They should read:

Article 48
1. The action required to carry out the decisions of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security shall be taken by all the Members of the United Nations or by some of them, as the Security Council may determine.

2. Such decisions shall be carried out by the Members of the United Nations directly and through their action in the appropriate international agencies of which they are members.

How is the coalition of the billing carrying out measures to enforce Resolution 1441 as the Security Council may determine if the Security Council determines otherwise?

Article 51
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Where is Iraq's armed attack to trigger the right of self-defence under Article 51?

If neither government can show us an armed attack by Iraq they should stop claiming to be acting under international law and admit that this is just an exercise in might makes right. It might be hopelessly quixotic to expect those people to observe international law but that is what both governments already claim they are doing.

For that matter John Howard might even get get daring and call Parliament together to debate whether Australia should join this foolish and aggressive war.

10 March 2003

I read a lot. Occasionally I even write something. Instead of driving my friends crazy by bombarding them with forwarded emails it seemed a much better idea just to post a few links and comments here.