23 September 2004

If Australia was Iraq, what would it be like?

President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country.

What would Australia look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of Australia and Iraq are roughly the same, so a lot of statistics are directly comparable.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week. What if 300 Australians had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths in the Bali bombing, and if Australia were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in Canberra, in Melbourne, Adelaide, Mt Isa, and Brisbane?

What if the grounds of Parliament House and the government buildings near the Parliamentary Triangle were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the Prime Minister's Department at Red Hill, the Treasury, or the Defence Department dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Belconnen or Tuggeranong?

What if all the reporters for all the major television and print media were trapped in five-star hotels in Sydney and Canberra, unable to move more than a few blocks safely, and dependent on stringers to know what was happening in Adelaide and Brisbane? What if the only time they ventured out of New South Wales was if they could be embedded in Australian Defence Force units?

There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totalling 25,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Brisbane, Hobart, Adelaide and Darwin, such that State police and Commonwealth troops could not go into those cities?

What if, during the past year, the Governor-General, General Jeffery, the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and the Attorney General, Philip Ruddock. had all been assassinated?

What if all the cities in Australia were wracked by a crime wave, with hundreds of murders, kidnappings, burglaries, and carjackings in every major city every year?

What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Broken Hill, Alice Springs, Dubbo, Armidale, Redfern in Sydney, Melbourne, Belconnen in Canberra, and other urban areas, attempting to target 'safe houses' of 'criminal gangs', but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

What if there were virtually no commercial air traffic in the country? What if many roads were highly dangerous, especially Highway 1 from Sydney to Canberra, and on down to Melbourne? If you got on Highway 1 anywhere along that over 800-kilometre stretch, you would risk being carjacked, kidnapped, or having your car sprayed with machine gun fire.

What if no one had electricity for much more than 10 hours a day, and often less? What if it went off at unpredictable times, causing factories to grind to a halt and air conditioning to fail in the middle of the summer in Darwin and Townsville? What if the Moomba pipeline were bombed and disabled at least monthly? What if unemployment hovered around 40%?

What if state elections were cancelled and cliques close to the new 'prime minister' quietly installed as 'premiers?' What if several of these premiers (especially of Queensland and Western Australia) were assassinated soon after taking office or resigned when their children were taken hostage by guerrillas?

What if government was insisting the federal election will go ahead on 9 October, but most people believed the security crisis would stop that happening?

What if the President of Indonesia maintained that the Australian people are, under these conditions, refuting pessimism and that freedom and democracy are just around the corner?

With the kind permission of Juan Cole, whose If America were Iraq, What would it be Like? seems to be becoming justly famous.

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