22March,2003

Anthem for Doomed Youth
Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,--
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Tackiest comment yet
Channel Nine has just breathlessly announced that 'The first Australian bomb has now been dropped.' sigh
Pre-empting pre-emption
ABC News is reporting that a force of 1500 Turkish commandos has just crossed the border into northern Iraq to control the refugee flow and prevent formation of a Kurdish state. The US and the Kurds oppose this incursion.

I think the doctrine of pre-emption, that conservatives assure us would never be a problem, has just been invoked for the second time. I pray we do not have more exciting preemptive actions, like a preemptive nuclear war between India and Pakistan, to look forward to.
Speed the day
Opposition Leader Simon Crean is finding his voice:

Now, by this government's decision, the brave men and women of the Australian defence forces are committed to war.

Our thoughts and our care must turn to them first of all.

Our argument about this war is with the Government, not with our troops.

Our deepest hopes - our united hopes - must be for the quickest possible end to their mission and their safe return home - their duty done quickly, successfully and honourably.

Speed the day when we can welcome them back to the homes they love and the country they serve so well.

On these things we can unite, even in the face of the divisions created by this wrong and needless decision for a wrong and needless war.


Right now the reports of constant allied victories seem to be strengthening support for the war, although there are one or two disquieting voices in the blogosphere.

From The Age:

Australians approve US military action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein but are divided on Australia's role, according to a new poll.

The Roy Morgan poll showed slightly more Australians disapprove Australia taking part in American-led military action to depose Saddam with 48.5 per cent, compared to 46.5 per cent approval.

However, the majority of those polled approve the US using military force with 51 per cent, while 41 per cent disapprove and 7.5 per cent remain undecided.

Australian opinion on participating in the present war in Iraq was significantly lower than recorded three weeks into the 1991 Gulf War, when 70 per cent of those polled approved of Australia being involved.

21March,2003

Howard throws himself in the water II
I forgot to mention Howard's mercifully brief effort to link Iraq to the Bali bombing last October. That was so outrageous that even Howard's own foreign minister went on record denying any such link.
Sign the Citizen's Declaration
The outbreak of war is not the end of the fight for peace, only the beginning. Around the globe, people are joining together in the declaration below. We will be announcing it in a press conference on Friday, and we need your help to make it as big as possible.

Signing up will only take a minute of your time, but it'll send a message that the momentum built through our opposition to war in Iraq will only keep growing.

You can sign up at:

A CITIZENS' DECLARATION
As a US-led invasion of Iraq begins, we, the undersigned citizens of many countries, reaffirm our commitment to addressing international conflicts through the rule of law and the United Nations. By joining together across countries and continents, we have emerged as a new force for peace.

As we grieve for the victims of this war, we pledge to redouble our efforts to put an end to the Bush Administration's doctrine of pre-emptive attack and the reckless use of military power.
Shaping things to come
The war is happening. The bombs are falling and people are dying. What do we do now?

Paul Krugman talks about Things to come:

What scares me most, however, is the home front. Look at how this war happened. There is a case for getting tough with Iraq; bear in mind that an exasperated Clinton administration considered a bombing campaign in 1998. But it's not a case that the Bush administration ever made. Instead we got assertions about a nuclear program that turned out to be based on flawed or faked evidence; we got assertions about a link to Al Qaeda that people inside the intelligence services regard as nonsense. Yet those serial embarrassments went almost unreported by our domestic news media. So most Americans have no idea why the rest of the world doesn't trust the Bush administration's motives. And once the shooting starts, the already loud chorus that denounces any criticism as unpatriotic will become deafening.

So now the administration knows that it can make unsubstantiated claims, without paying a price when those claims prove false, and that saber rattling gains it votes and silences opposition. Maybe it will honorably refuse to act on this dangerous knowledge. But I can't help worrying that in domestic politics, as in foreign policy, this war will turn out to have been the shape of things to come.


What happens now is in the hands of the people. Australians know this government will stop at almost nothing in order to court domestic opinion by offending foreign governments. We had the (now inoperative) Howard doctrine about Oz as deputy sheriff. We had the threat of pre-emptive strikes against Southeast Asian nations even though most ASEAN members are co-operating fully in the anti-terrorist campaign. We have continuing emphasis on the military side of the War on terror even through we know from the Bali aftermath that old-fashioned police investigation is what actually works. We have defiance of the UN human rights system after a half-century of bipartisan support for that system.

Howard had Tampa and Bush had Iraq. Indeed Howard managed to spin Tampa so well that we feared refugees from the Taliban and al-Qaida more than we feared the Taliban and al-Qaida themselves. Australians have an advantage. 68% of us oppose this war and that number will not go away in the near future. Wars grow less, not more, popular as they go on.

We must conclude either that Howard is a fool, a view which nothing in his career supports, or that each of those gaffes was a carefully-crafted appeal to certain groups in the electorate. Howard's ordinary Australians show a surprising similarity to the views of those who supported Hanson once upon a time. Like Bush, Howard has learnt how to win elections by dog-whistle politics and whipping up an atmosphere of alarm and apprehension.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere it is being said that the peace movement has failed. It has not. AS Tim Dunlop writes:

From the start we have been fed lies, half-truths, dubious conclusions, tendentious links and an ever-shifting series of justifications for this war. We have been given bogus information about Saddam seeking uranium from Niger, trumped up charges about the intended use of a bunch of aluminium tubes, doctored intelligence transcripts, misinterpreted or even phoney satellite images, exaggerated reports about his nuclear capability (which now know to be non-existent), and worst of all, the persistent attempt to link this invasion of Iraq with the atrocities of September 11, 2001.


The movement against the war in Indochina achieved its object in years, not weeks. The anti-apartheid movement achieved its object in decades, not weeks. What we have to do is ensure that Bush, Howard and their ilk do not get to decide the shape of things to come.

Lastly, we should all support the troops. That does not mean endorsing this immoral military adventure. It means calling to account those who launched this war and risked the lives of those troops for imperial adventure and political advantage.
popular support, parliamentary votes
Today, the House of Representatives voted 80/63 to pass Howard's motion backing war.

The Senate voted 37/32 to condemn the war and demand the immediate recall of Australian forces. Labor, the Democrats, Greens and independents Meg Lees and Brian Harradine voted in the Senate to condemn the war. As the government is responsible only to the house the Senate vote is not binding. On 5 February the Senate voted 34/31 to censure Howard over his war policy, the first time in Australian history that a prime minister has ever been censured by the Senate.

The latest Newspoll shows 68% of Australians oppose a war without UN sanction.

20March,2003

Howard throws himself in the water
Where the prime minister's address merely repeats the dominoes of mass distraction stuff that Blair and Bush are putting out he's barely worth reading. The only element in his thinking that is different from theirs is the effort to maintain the US alliance at any cost.

Obviously Canada has fewer fears of the US abandoning them but seriously, is even the Bush administration about to withdraw from the Asia-pacific region? No doubt Howard is sincere in his views. The argument he fails to make is that the US would break the alliance if we did not join the war against Iraq.

Howard's address to the nation:

There's also another reason and that is our close security alliance with the United States. The Americans have helped us in the past and the United States is very important to Australia's long-term security.

It is critical that we maintain the involvement of the United States in our own region where at present there are real concerns about the dangerous behaviour of North Korea.

The relationship between our two countries will grow more rather than less important as the years go by.

A key element of our close friendship with the United States and indeed with the British is our full and intimate sharing of intelligence material.

In the difficult fight against the new menace of international terrorism there is nothing more crucial than timely and accurate intelligence. This is a priceless component of our relationship with our two very close allies.

There is nothing comparable to be found in any other relationship - nothing more relevant indeed to the challenges of the contemporary world.

I know that some people are saying that what we have done makes it more likely that terrorists will attack Australia.


Contrast this with the position of Canada. All the US alliance argument really does is ask another question and that is why should Australia always subordinate our national interests to US interests? Especially when (as in this case) it is by no means clear the Bush administration is advancing US interests at all.

Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chr�tien:
"I want to set out the position of the Government of Canada. We believe that Iraq must fully abide by the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. We have always made clear that Canada would require the approval of the Security Council if we were to participate in a military campaign.

Over the last few weeks the Security Council has been unable to agree on a new resolution authorizing military action.

Canada worked very hard to find a compromise to bridge the gap in the Security Council. Unfortunately we were not successful.

If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the Security Council, Canada will not participate.

We have ships in the area as part of our participation in the struggle against terrorism. Our ships will continue to perform their important mission against terrorism."


We could have stayed in the sanctions operation. We did not need to join this foolish and immoral war in the name of our great and powerful friend.
Melancholy duty II
A couple of days ago Atrios asked why Spain was at the Azores summit.
Opposition Leader Simon Crean answered in his speech to the house of representatives on Tuesday:

Three countries met to commit the coalition of the willing, and that committed Australia inextricably to the war the Prime Minister announced today. Let us just contemplate for a moment that meeting in the Azores. The circumstances were that three countries met: the United States, the UK and Spain. The meeting was chaired by Portugal, but those countries were the three sponsors of a resolution that has subsequently been withdrawn from the United Nations. One of those countries, Spain, was prepared to commit our troops to war but not commit its own. They are the circumstances, the tragic circumstances, in which we as a nation find ourselves and in which this government has placed us.


In other news the TV channels again have inaccurate news grabs crawling across the screen again and the morning news is all about the need to support our troops. I am still working out what I think about that phrase. My first impulse is to see it as propagandistic and nothing more.

19March,2003

Gone to the blogs
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism by Orcinus is excellent. The ultraright in Oz has a different history but Howard's taste for dog-whistle politics makes what's happening in the US mediasphere something we should watch with care.
automaticity and plausible denial
John Howard gritted his teeth and fronted up to the ABfrigginC (thanks to Dexter Pinion for that phrase) last night to get interviewed by Kerry O'Brien. The most interesting question was about Resolution 1441, O'Brien quoted US Ambassador Negroponte during the debate on 1441.

O'BRIEN:

Well I'll put it this way, a part of the basis for your decision to go in and the legality of that decision is based on the premise that resolution 1441 gives you legal authority to attack Iraq. Britain and American co-sponsored resolution 1441 and America said at the time that it voted for that resolution: 'This resolution contains no hidden triggers and no automatisity with respect to the use of force.' The British said exactly the same thing, both promised to come back to the UN for further discussion before any action. Where's the legitimacy of 1441, there has been no further endorsement.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Kerry you have misquoted me. We are relying on advice, the essential gist of which is that the failure of Iraq to fully disarm reactives the authority to use force contained in the earlier resolutions of 678 and 687.

O'BRIEN:

But it also, in the advice, it also, it quotes at length from 1441 as well.

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven't carried the document with me, of course it refers to 1441, but the way you put that question was with respect, misleading. It suggested that that was the whole basis of the argument.

O'BRIEN:

But it's a very substantial part of the advice.


It seems that the coalition of the killing is now pulling a trigger they assured the Security Council does not exist. How was it found? Did they keep the trigger as a concealed weapon? Or is all this legal argument being invented after the fact because the Security Council was about to refuse its authority to the war?

Josh Marshal has the same point at Talking Points Memo.

18March,2003

a melancholy duty
Well, it's done. The troops have their orders. Iraq's diplomats have been told to leave the country. Australia goes to war to enforce the will of the UN against the will of the UN. Howard's statement to the house of representatives is barely worth reading, it adds nothing new to his previous position. The legal advice to the Australian government strangely repeats the exact arguments used by the British attorney-general. It's deeply weird that the coalition of the killing is now relying on UNSC Resolution 687 and 678 still being in force when those resolutions have not been mentioned until now, hours before the bombs start hitting.

Menzies in 1939:
"Fellow Australians,
It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that in consequence of a persistence by Germany and her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. No harder task can fall to the lot of a democratic leader than to make such an announcement.

Great Britain and France with the cooperation of the British Dominions have struggled to avoid this tragedy. They have, as I firmly believe, been patient. They have kept the door of negotiation open. They have given no cause for aggression.

But in the result their efforts have failed and we are therefore, as a great family of nations, involved in a struggle which we must at all costs win and which we believe in our hearts we will win."


It would have been nice if something had changed in 63 years apart from the great and powerful friends who decide war and peace for us. Unlike 1939 this war is aggression, plain and simple. Its only intellectual justification is the nonsense about dominoes of mass destruction streaming from Blair, Bush and Howard. And all it took for Australia to make war on Iraq was a phone call from Washington. Howard should just have published the transcript of the Bush phone call.

17March,2003

Weaseling into war

I only have this by email at the moment and the cabinet is still sitting. I'll provide an URL as soon as I have one. The prime minister's website has an Iraq update page and the defence department has an Operation Bastille page.


PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I've called this news conference to bring you up to date on the latest developments concerning Iraq. As you know there was a meeting in the Azores involving the British Prime Minister, the American President, and the Prime Minister of Spain - the three co-sponsors of the resolution before the Security Council - and it was also attended by the Portuguese Prime Minister who was the host of the gathering. President Bush called me at a quarter-to-twelve this morning to give me a briefing on the discussion. He indicated that one final attempt would be made by the three co-sponsors of the resolution at the United Nations in New York on Monday morning New York time to secure the support of the Security Council for the resolution. He indicated that the prospects of that on the strength of the publicly stated positions, particularly of the French, did not appear likely but he was determined as was the British Prime Minister to give the situation one more shot.

It's very very important that it be understood that this is the final attempt being made by the American President and the British Prime Minister to bring about a diplomatic solution to the situation. It has to be said that as a result of the developments that have occurred, military participation by Australia in action against Iraq is now even more likely than it may have appeared a few days ago. I think it's important to say that. I did not receive a formal request from the President for participation in military action, but I would expect in the event of the final diplomatic moves being unsuccessful I would expect that that request would be received in the very near future.

I've called a meeting of the Federal Cabinet this evening for the purpose of having a general discussion concerning this issue and of course a final decision on military participation is one for the Federal Cabinet to make. I should emphasise that if a decision is taken to participate in military action to enforce disarmament on Iraq then that decision will be completely in accordance with the legal authority already contained in a series of Security Council resolutions. The Government has received formal legal advice to the effect that it would be wholly consistent with existing Security Council resolutions for military action to be taken to enforce those resolutions without resort to....without the need rather, for a new resolution. Could in inquire if people are having difficulty hearing me. I apologise for that. I'm not in charge of the Joint House....yes well I thought it had been turned off. I don't control the Parliament. I try and control the Government but I don't control the Parliament. It's a matter for the Speaker. I'll have a word to him about his errant waterfall.

JOURNALIST:

Who is the advice received from and will you release it?

PRIME MINISTER:

The appropriate....well, we will do what is normally done in relation to those matters which is not to release the text of legal advice. But that matter will obviously be considered. But we have received formal legal advice both from the Attorney General's Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, would Cabinet decide tonight on military involvement?

PRIME MINISTER:

No - Cabinet will not make a final decision tonight. Cabinet has been called together tonight so that we can have a discussion about the whole issue. I thought it was a good idea given that the Parliament is convening tomorrow, I thought it would be a very good idea if the Cabinet had a meeting tonight. Obviously the Cabinet will meet again if and when a formal request is received.

JOURNALIST:

So what has occurred that makes it more likely? You can say now it's more likely, I think the quote was, that Australia will participate in military action. What has occurred that you can now say, that where you couldn't say it two days ago?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think as you get closer and closer to the final denouement of the Security Council it looks less likely that what I hope might occur and that is that all of the members of the Security Council would with one voice say to Iraq, disarm or we're coming after you, and that might have brought about a change of heart in Baghdad, might. I didn't put too great a store on it. But it appears less likely now. I mean the French have made it clear that they will veto anything resembling the American, Spanish and British resolution and the dynamic of the Security Council is that if a permanent member signals in advance a veto, particularly on a sensitive issue and this is plainly a sensitive issue, the independent non-aligned smaller rotating members of the Security Council are hardly likely to put their hand up because they will say themselves and they will rationalise to themselves and perhaps understandingly so - why should we venture a decision on a controversial issue like this when we know even if we vote for it it's not going to have any effect because one of the permanent members have said that it's to be vetoed.

JOURNALIST:

Have you been given any further details Mr Howard on the timetable if this last effort is unsuccessful....

PRIME MINISTER:

Timetable for what Michelle?

JOURNALIST:

The timetable for Presidential decision, action, et cetera.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I would expect that the thing will come to a head in New York Monday morning New York time.

JOURNALIST:

But after that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it's fair to say things will move fairly rapidly but I don't want to say anything more than that.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] that sort of [inaudible] United States involvement that you wouldn't have another personal phone call for you from Mr Bush?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, given the imminence of this conflict, what action are you taking to help Australians get out of the Middle East, is the Government making any special arrangements to fly Australians....

PRIME MINISTER:

You'll have to ask Mr Downer about that. Mr Downer issued a general piece of advice to Australians and as to the details of that I know DFAT has things in hand but I don't have the details of those with me. Ask Mr Downer or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about that and I'm sure they'll be able to help you.

JOURNALIST:

And what about Australian diplomatic personnel, non-essential personnel....

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the same applies. Arrangements are being made. I mean I can assure you of that. There's always very great care to ensure that proper arrangements are made and I know if you go to Mr Downer's office he can give you some more details.

JOURNALIST:

You're saying that war is more likely, that Australian involvement is more likely. Can you see any circumstances where you would say no to a request from President Bush?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if I thought that you had the fifteen of them all saying the sort of thing that I was talking about I think that would offer some hope. But I don't think there's much hope of that.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] harder to say no then either, is that correct?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well look, as I've said all along on this you can say what you wish. I choose to express my position in my own words.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, did Mr Bush give you any indication as to why the US and the British have decided to put the vote to the Security Council with the full expectation of it being vetoed?

PRIME MINISTER:

What I've said is that the issue will be resolved in the Security Council, Monday morning New York time. It may not involve the resolution being put, I don't know and he didn't know when he spoke to me.

JOURNALIST:

But there's still a possibility it may not be put?

PRIME MINISTER:

That has been a possibility for some days. The Secretary of State indicated that a few days ago.

JOURNALIST:

The British government has indicated that their legal advice supporting why a further UN Security Council resolution is not needed has come from their Attorney General and they intend to disclose it. Why is the Australian Government refusing to say....and there are reports that they are disclosing it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't know what the British government is doing. We do what we do.

JOURNALIST:

Why won't Australia....

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we just do what we normally do in relation to these things.

JOURNALIST:

[inaudible] test for the United Nations, what does that mean for the UN if (inaudible) and if there's war, I mean do you fear a long term fracturing of the UN as a result of this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I hope not but the problem I have with the way the Security Council's behaving on this issue is it's not living up to the commitments contained in the last resolution it passed. I mean resolution 1441 required the active, unconditional and immediate co-operation of Iraq. Plainly after four months Iraq has not been active, it's not been unconditional and its certainly not been immediate. And what is disappointing to me and what must put doubts in the minds of even in the most avid supporters of the Security Council and the United Nations system is that if the Security Council can't summon the collective courage on an issue like this how are they going to do so on other difficult issues? Now that won't mean that Australia will walk away from the United Nations, we're not going to do that and I'm pleased to note that in their meetings in the Azores both President Bush and Mr Blair said that the United Nations would play an important role in any post-conflict arrangement in Iraq, and that's very encouraging. And could I also take the opportunity of saying how much I welcome what President Bush and Mr Blair have said about initiatives to resolve the long running Palestinian/Israeli situation. You may remember that I had quite a deal to say about this in my statement to the Parliament on the 4th of February. I hold very strongly to the view that the world has got to keep trying even harder to make progress on that front. And it needs action on both sides, it's good that the Palestinians are appointing a Prime Minister, I hope he has real authority and I also hope that Ariel Sharon understands that even the staunchest friends of Israel around the world, and Australia is plainly one of them, see this as an issue where there has to be some gestures from both sides. One of the gestures from the Palestinian side of course is the cessation the suicide bombings. Karen, can we have Karen.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, what plans, if any, do you have to address the Australian people in the event of a final commitment to conflict?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if the decision is taken for our forces to be involved I will seek the appropriate time on the ABC, and I assume that the other networks will carry it, for an address to further explain the reasons for the Government's decision. This is not an easy issue but the Government is strongly of the view that the policy we've followed to date is right and we are very determined to see that this issue is dealt with once and for all. We are satisfied that any action that might be taken involving a military commitment would be in accordance with the authority contained in the existing Security Council resolutions. And I might on that issue, as well as mentioning the advice that we have received and of course drawing attention to the very strong view of Mr Michael Costello, the former head go the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Beazley's former Chief of Staff, I might also remind you that in 1998 we committed forces to the Gulf, 150 SAS were sent early in 1998 after a request from President Clinton to me by the decision of the Cabinet and that was supported at the time, unreservedly, by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley, the Leader of the Opposition at that time. And there was not argument then that we needed an additional Security Council resolution. The issue was not even debated, it was assumed that existing legal authority was there and the reason why we have sought the 18th resolution is not legal, rather it's been the belief that if you assembled the combined view of the Security Council you'd be more likely to bring about a shift in attitude by Iraq.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, is one of the concerns on that question of legal authority that if there were to be a failed Security Council resolution now it would undermine the pre-existing legal authority contained in resolutions going back 'til1990?

PRIME MINISTER:

That's not something that's been actively in my mind.

JOURNALIST:

But is that...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well from my recollection, having seen the opinion, that that is not actively canvassed.

JOURNALIST:

... final attempt to the Security Council take? What did Mr Bush tell you this final attempt...

PRIME MINISTER:

Well they're going to ring a lot of people and they're going to, through their permanent representatives at the Security Council try and nail down whether it is possible to get agreement, difficult though it may seem at this stage to get a resolution broadly equivalent to what they have tried to put up before.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard isn't it fair to say that what you're signalling now is that in fact from your part as Prime Minister of Australia the decision to commit, to involve Australian troops in battle against Iraq has been made, what just hasn't been made is the timetable of that and therefore the formal go?


PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think it's fair to say in relation to not only Australia but also the United States and the United Kingdom that there is still a diplomatic push underway and until that diplomat push is completely and utterly exhausted of course they haven't in a formal final sense committed either, even though they major forces there and it follows from that the final formal decision's not been made by Australia. I'm not disguising for a moment that the ways things have developed over recent days that the likelihood is much greater than it was a week ago, I mean there's always been a strong likelihood and what I've said all along is that I, and the Government would withhold the final decision so that if some unanticipated development occurred we would be in a position to say well because of that we're not going to make a final commitment. It's not been that I've disguised in any way that we have put ourselves in a position to take that final decision and obviously we've been far more likely to take that final decision than a country that hasn't pre-positioned any forces.

JOURNALIST:

If Cabinet makes a final decision while Parliament is sitting this week, how quickly would you take the decision to Parliament?

PRIME MINISTER:

As soon as practicable Jim, I have no desire at all to deny Parliament the full opportunity of debating this, we will handle the issue in accordance with the constitutional processes of the Government and that decision is taken by the Cabinet and once the Cabinet's taken the decision it's given effect to immediately in an executive sense and I would seek as soon as practicable, and I mean that, to take the matter to the Parliament and allow the Parliament the opportunity of a full debate.

JOURNALIST:

... a lot of the community support has been based on the idea of whether or not there would be UN backing. Now that UN backing is looking extremely slim what do you say to the Australian people who are probably the majority opposed to this at the moment?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't think you really know ultimately what public opinion is on this until the final shape of the final decision is known, and there's some working out of that. What I generally say in response to that is that there's plenty of legal authority on the basis of existing United Nations' resolutions and any decision we take will be based on the legal authority that's contained there amongst other things and...

JOURNALIST:

What about the moral authority Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

... well I'll come to the moral issue in a moment, I'm glad you asked me that. And I would say to those people that I understand their anguish on this issue, it's not an easy one and we are living in a different world environment now where the clarity presented by a required response to one army rolling across the border of another is different from the sort of responses required from the world in which we now live. And I ask them to take that into account and I will continue over the days ahead, whatever precisely transpires I will continue to argue and put the explanations of the Government to the Australian people. But in the end Catherine we can't be poll driven on this.

JOURNALIST:

But if it's 60 or 70 per cent of the population, that's a large number of people who are possibility going to voice their concern to you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Catherine can I say with the very greatest of respect I don't know what the percentage is, but even if we accept that it is what you say, and I don't, but even if we do, in the past I have been condemned for taking, in this very courtyard, for taking decisions which 60-70 per cent of the Australian people have supported if in fact I've taken a decision that a majority of the Australian people may be opposed to in different forms, I would say to you and I'd say very respectfully to them that the decision that the government has taken has been based on its best assessment of what is in the interests of the Australian people and unless you believe in committing all of your decisions to the regular testing of opinion pollsters there is really no other way in which you can take decisions. I mean you cannot have it both ways. You cannot accuse a Prime Minister and the government of being populist in its decisions on some issues, condemn it for that, and then in the very next breath turn around and say to it well it's wrong because it doesn't calibrate its decisions on another issue according to what the opinion polls say.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think views will change as things go?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have always said Michelle that I don't believe that public opinion will finally settle until the issue is fully worked out and isn't that how it should be?

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

There was somebody else's ....Karen?

JOURNALIST:

The moral authority question. There are people who are saying to set the legal authority to one side, what (inaudible).

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don't argue that it should just rest on legal considerations. I think there is a very strong moral case for taking action involving military force if necessary to disarm Iraq. The threat that the possession of chemical and biological weapons that Iraq poses; the possibility that they will spread to other countries; the possibility in turn that they'll get into the hands of terrorists - I think that's a very compelling moral case and there's also a very compelling moral case though which says that on human rights grounds the suffering of the Iraqi people would be less if Saddam Hussein were removed, then if he continues in power. Now I think both on legal and moral grounds there is a very powerful case for the effective disarmament of Iraq.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) given what you've said about the moral case in respect of the spread of weapon (inaudible), have you given any thought yet or had in discussions with President Bush about North Korea, perhaps Iran and other states with these sorts of weapons who might bear the adjective "rogue"?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well as far as North Korea, I've had some discussion with President Bush about North Korea. We had some discussion about it in Washington a few weeks ago. Clearly we have to try a diplomatic approach for a little while longer in relation to North Korea. I mean people say you're not trying that in relation to Iraq, well we've been trying it for twelve years. It's only a matter of twelve or sixteen weeks since North Korea admitted that it had been in breach of the undertakings it had given the world community and I remain very concerned that if the Security Council has lacked collective will and collective force on Iraq, I worry about whether it will have the necessary collective will and force on North Korea. But clearly we have to turn our attention to the issue of North Korea but the circumstances, certainly time scale wise, are different. We've been trying for 12 years on Iraq. It's a much shorter period of time with North Korea.

JOURNALIST:

The SAS, the Special Air Service Association has called on you personally to intervene in the investigation of an SAS officer involved in the allegations in East Timor involving militia casualties. Are you aware of that request and do you intend to take any action on it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I'm frankly not. I've been in a plane for the last hour or so. I'm not aware of that request. My view is that these matters should be handled through the military disciplinary procedures that are laid down by the Australian Defence Force. The other general observation I would make at this time is that of course the codes of behaviour and the military discipline of our defence force has to be maintained, but equally, especially at this particular time I know there will be an overwhelming sense of empathy whatever people's political views are an overwhelming sense of empathy with the individual men and women of the Australian Defence Force and I wouldn't want anything to be done or said that would diminish that sense of empathy and support and commitment from the Australian community.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, have you spoken to any other world leaders in relation to Iraq since you made your speech last week?

PRIME MINISTER:

No.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, you mentioned North Korea should be given a little while longer down the diplomatic path. Have you any idea on how long that should be and what happens if those diplomatic efforts fail?

PRIME MINISTER:

I can't put a time on it. I don't think there's any point in trying at the moment.

JOURNALIST:

Can we try to put a time on when Australian troops might be in war, are they likely to be at war by the end of this week?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not going to try and do that Fran, it's not that I have some secret knowledge that I won't share with you. I just don't know. It's obviously, the final decision time is obviously getting that much closer but I don't want to commit myself to days or hours or minutes. That's unrealistic. Two more questions.

JOURNALIST:

If the UN Security Council doesn't back this is there a danger that it's going to create a humanitarian morass in the sense that it's going to be difficult to get countries to put in for support and funding for rebuilding at the end of this? Like is it something that America and Australia and Britain are going to be left holding the humanitarian burden?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there's been an enormous humanitarian burden carried by a small number of countries, including I should say in fairness some countries other than America, Britain and Australia. But the truth is that, and this is a remark plainly directed at some of the people who've been obstructive on this issue. The fact is that in terms of peace keeping and other operations and intervening to prevent human rights disasters a lot of the heavy lifting has been done by a very limited number of countries and one of those countries is obviously the United States and another country, given our size, is Australia. And that's one of the reasons why there's a depth of feeling in a number of countries about the behaviour of, particularly the French, on this issue. I mean they've been perfectly happy to let the Americans to do the heavy lifting and the British and to station their troops there and to say thank you very much for the dividends. That military prescence has produced but now we're going to prevent the passage of the very unanimous resolution that might bring about the thing we all want. I mean what we've all wanted is two things : we've wanted the total disarmament of Iraq and we've wanted it done peacefully and I have believed all along and I still believe this very strongly that if every member of the Security Council got behind a resolution saying in effect to Iraq disarm or we're all coming after you, and the Arab states joined in as well, you'd be more likely through that process to get a buckling of the knees in Baghdad than any other process. But you won't get it through what has occurred and I think that underlines the sense of unease, let me put it that way politely, diplomatically, the unease people feel about the behaviour of the French in particular.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, do you plan to speak to Mr Crean ahead of any formal Cabinet decision or will you be briefing the Opposition Leader after the Government's....?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I'd be doing what is appropriate in the current circumstances. In other words if it's appropriate to speak to him personally at any time I will, let me put it that way.

JOURNALIST:

Do you believe it is appropriate to talk....?

PRIME MINISTER:

No what I'm saying is if it is. I'm not going to commit myself to doing it but I'm not saying I refuse to speak to him. But he's got a position on this. I understand that and he's made it, well I think he's now made it finally clear. I don't think he's sorted out his legal position but certainly Mr Rudd's got a very strong view and Mr Michael Costello's got an equally strong view. The problem for Mr Crean is those two views are in violent collision. I think Mr Costello is right.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, do you now believe that there is absolutely no point in giving Saddam Hussein any more time, that it's the next 24 hours and that's it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the thing should be brought to a head and it will be. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

... Steve Waugh?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think the Australian community, not just the cricket community, will be pleased at the decision. Very pleased. It's been a very, very dogged fight back, he was struggling a bit at one stage, but he's come back very well and I feel very privileged that I was one of 42,000 people at the Sydney Cricket Ground who saw that great century in the last test match. I wish him well, he's been a great Australian cricketer, he is a great Australian cricketer and I wish him well in the West Indies and I could well understand why he would want to go on one more tour, whether it's the last one is entirely a matter for him and the selectors. I never give public or private advice to the selectors, it is highly dangerous, I've got enough problems of my own.

JOURNALIST:

Is there a metaphor for other stayers?

PRIME MINISTER:

(inaudible).

JOURNALIST:

Would one more tour appeal to you...

PRIME MINISTER:

You never rest do you Geoffrey?


And now children, all together now, the Australian government has not made a final decision on war.
Beach Burial
Kenneth Slessor

Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.

Between the sob and clubbing of gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;

And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin -

"Unknown seaman" - the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men's lips,

Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.

El Alamein 1942


Somehow I doubt they read this at the Azores summit.
Summit Communique
The joint statement issued by the leaders of United States, Britain, Portugal and Spain and the at the conclusion of a summit on Iraq:


"Iraq's talented people, rich culture and tremendous potential have been hijacked by Saddam Hussein. His brutal regime has reduced a country with a long and proud history to an international pariah that oppresses its citizens, started two wars of aggression against its neighbours, and still poses a grave threat to the security of its region and the world.


"Saddam's defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding the disarmament of his nuclear, chemical, biological and long-range missile capacity has led to sanctions on Iraq and has undermined the authority of the UN For 12 years, the international community has tried to persuade him to disarm and thereby avoid military conflict, most recently through the unanimous adoption of UNSCR 1441. The responsibility is his. If Saddam refuses even now to co-operate fully with the United Nations, he brings on himself the serious consequences foreseen in UNSCR 1441 and previous resolutions.


"In these circumstances, we would undertake a solemn obligation to help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours. The Iraqi people deserve to be lifted from insecurity and tyranny, and freed to determine for themselves the future of their country. We envisage a unified Iraq with its territorial integrity respected. All the Iraqi people - its rich mix of Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs, Kurds, Turkomen, Assyrians, Chaldeans and all others - should enjoy freedom, prosperity and equality in a united country. We will support the Iraqi people's aspirations for a representative government that upholds human rights and the rule of law as cornerstones of democracy.


"We will work to prevent and repair damage by Saddam Hussein's regime to the natural resources of Iraq and pledge to protect them as a national asset of and for the Iraqi people.

"All Iraqis should share the wealth generated by their national economy. We will seek a swift end to international sanctions, and support an international reconstruction program to help Iraq achieve real prosperity and reintegrate into the global community.


"We will fight terrorism in all its forms. Iraq must never again be a haven for terrorists of any kind.


"In achieving this vision, we plan to work in close partnership with international institutions, including the United Nations, our Allies and partners and bilateral donors. If conflict occurs, we plan to seek the adoption, on an urgent basis, of new United Nations Security Council resolutions that would affirm Iraq's territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq. We will also propose that the Secretary General be given authority, on an interim basis, to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people continue to be met through the Oil for Food programme.


"Any military presence, should it be necessary, will be temporary and intended to promote security and elimination of weapons of mass destruction, the delivery of humanitarian aid and the conditions for the reconstruction of Iraq. Our commitment to support the people of Iraq will be for the long term.


"We call upon the international community to join with us in helping to realise a better future for the Iraqi people."


Howard continues to claim he hasn't made any decision yet. If anyone believes that there's a great big bridge over Sydney harbour I'd like to sell them.
Uniting for peace
One of my pet hates (call me pedantic, everyone else does) is the way primary documents are pretty much invisible in the regular media.

In The forgotten power of the General Assembly Robert Fisk calls for a Uniting for Peace resolution in the General Assembly. The idea was put forward by the Centre for Constitutional Rights on 27 January. Fisk published his article on 14 march. The good people at Metafilter have been talking about it since 15 March and West by Northwest have a petition opponents of the war should send.

The relevant section of Resolution 377 is:

Resolves that if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security. If not in session at the time, the General Assembly may meet in emergency special session within twenty-four hours of the request therefor. Such emergency special session shall be called if requested by the Security Council on the vote of any seven members, or by a majority of the Members of the United Nations;


16March,2003

Gone to the blogs
My thanks to Hesiod for giving me a plug on Counterspin Central: The unofficial "FIRST AMENDMENT ZONE". I've been reading him for a while and I'll get round to putting up a blogroll in a couple of days.
America as a walled kingdom?
Brian Eno writes in Time about the US' sad future as a gated community.

'Too often, the U.S. presents the "American way" as the only way, insisting on its kind of free-market Darwinism as the only acceptable "model of human progress." But isn't civilisation what happens when people stop behaving as if they're trapped in a ruthless Darwinian struggle and start thinking about communities and shared futures? America as a gated community won't work, because not even the world's sole superpower can build walls high enough to shield itself from the intertwined realities of the 21st century. There's a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the world, don't shut it out; stop making enemies and start making friends. Perhaps it's asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but wasn't that the original idea?'

I like the US. People like FDR, Lincoln, Martin Luther King stand high in my list of heroes. I get angry with some of my friends who describe themselves as progressive and insist that's a license to hold the US responsible for every evil in the world. I get especially grumpy with those who adhere to the benign view of the British empire that says nations like Australia and Canada gained political independence without a military struggle and forget that the only time the British tried to retain a colony of settlement by force, the US, with the help of their French allies, inflicted a resounding defeat. Empires learn from their defeats, not their victories.

Sadly, what repels me about the Iraq war is that it is a classic imperial exercise that violates every value the better angels of the American project have ever held. I am shocked that 55% of Americans hold Saddam guilty of 11 September on no evidence other than the embittered and deceitful rant emerging from the Busheviks. I think of the friends I have there and I know they do not support this aggressive war. I also know they will not read the Eno essay which is posted only in the European edition of Time.

There have been walled kingdoms before. The Ming dynasty put enormous effort and resources into constructing the Great Wall - the Star Wars of the fifteenth century. Anyone who wants to understand that decision should read The Great Wall of China by Arthur Waldron. When the Ming fell there was no battle at the Great Wall. The general-in-charge of the fortress at Xanhaiguan accepted a Qing bribe to open his gates. My fear is that the Bush administration's belief in pre-emptive wars will make more enemies than it suppresses and make the US as vulnerable to attack as the Ming were to simple bribery. In the end it is people, not walls, tanks and JDAMs that make the best defence. Fortress World will not work.

Values, not nostrums that they hate our freedoms are the best defence. Those values are the values of heroes like Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.