31 January 2007

Cheney in Oz

from the Man of Steel's website
I am pleased to announce that the Vice President of the United States of America, The Honorable Richard B. Cheney, will visit Australia from 22 to 27 February.

The Australia-US alliance is of enduring importance to both countries and makes a significant contribution to international security. Australia and the United States continue to work together toward our common goals. We are cooperating closely to fight terrorism, address global environmental challenges and enhance energy security, prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and promote an open international economic order. Vice President Cheney’s visit will be an important opportunity to reinforce the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Australia and to consult on major international issues such as regional security challenges, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war against terrorism.

Vice President Cheney is no stranger to Australia. He visited previously when he was US Secretary of Defense and several times in a private business capacity.

Perhaps the prime minister and the vice-president can discuss:

  • how the Iraq insurgency is in its last throes
  • how the multinational force is having enormous success in Iraq
  • when David Hicks will finally be charged with something and whether the penalty for the charges, if they ever happen, will include 5 years plus

It's just ridiculous for the prime minister to announce this as if Iraq were the cakewalk he was told it would be, although Cheney's desire to get away for a few days is understandable.

PS oddly enough, this press release from the Prime Minister of Australia is spelt as if it had been written by an American ('honorable', 'defense'). The words were spelt 'honourable' and 'defence' on 23 January. Maybe the world changed on 26 January.

If the commenters at the conservative Wall Street Journal's blog feel like this, what is the rest of the country saying?

30 January 2007

the other side of Chickenhawk Mountain

I've blogged before (the sad state of blogger's block that hit me a while ago makes it really easy to find) that I think Bush and Cheney will probably not serve out their terms. Shoving that argument firmly to one side a moment, let's say that's true. After all, in 1974 no-one really expected Agnew to bite the dust before Nixon. Especially, no-one expected Agnew to bite the dust over a separate scandal completely unrelated to Watergate.

Anyway, the situation is all neatly covered (or not) by the US constitution. You'd really wonder how those Democrats seeking the nomination for 2008 would feel if they woke up one morning to watch President Pelosi being sworn into office. We'd probably be able to hear the gnashing of teeth all the way cross the Pacific.

Germany v Downer

After the hors d'oeuvre he touches on the German army's mission in Afghanistan. But it isn't until the main course is served that Steinmeier asks: "Do you want to talk about it now?" After a rundown of the world's crises he knows it's time for him to turn to his own personal trouble spot: The case of Murat Kurnaz, who spent four and a half years in detention at Guantanamo Bay where he was mistreated.

Steinmeier is earnest and seems a bit irritated but is by no means defensive. He insists that he feels deeply troubled by Kurnaz's story. But then he adds that, as head of the German Chancellery, it was his job to look out for German security -- and, shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Kurnaz was considered a security risk.

What if Kurnaz, after returning from Guantanamo, had been involved in an attack, he asks? "You have to imagine what would have happened," he says, answering his own question, "if there had been an attack and it later turned out that we could have prevented it." Steinmeier is a calm person but at this point he talks himself into a rage. "I wouldn't decide any differently today," he says.

It's a strong sentence by someone who is intent on sticking to his position. Rather than make proclamations of repentance, Steinmeier wants to convince critics that his actions were necessary.

A committee of the German parliament is investigating their government's response to the War on Terror. The investigation has found that Steinmeier, now the foreign minister and then head of chancery (roughly a minister assisting in our terms) took a decision not to accept an offer of release for a Guantánamo detainee in 2002. Now that David Hicks' unlawful detention at Guantánamo has passed the five year mark, someone should ask our foreign minister and our government if they received a similar offer. It'd be strange, if not impossible, if the US was less generous to Australia than Germany.

Perhaps the government could refer the question to a competent US psychologist, since it seems they consult competent US jounalists on psychological questions.

The next question to the Australian government, if they tell us there was a US offer to Germany but not Australia, is: 'Why not?'.