Archive for the ‘Iraq War’ Category

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The steadfast climb up Mount Arrogant

March 23, 2007

I’ve watched Barack Obama with increasing interest over these last few months and one of the things that has really struck me about the man is his quick-witted ability to size things up in an instant and deliver a succinct sentence or two that cuts to the heart of whatever he’s talking about. John Howard felt the full brunt of Obama’s ability to do this about a month and a half ago when he proclaimed that terrorists in Iraq supported Obama and the Democrats in the US. Of course, Howard’s remarks were made in the context of his unwavering assertion that civilization will come to an end if the US and Australia pull out of Iraq. Upon hearing Howard’s remarks, Obama quipped back that if Howard was so “ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq, then perhaps he should send 20,000 more Australians to the war. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of empty rhetoric.” And there you have it. That’s all it is. If Howard is so committed to fighting terrorism, then why are Australian troops stationed in the relatively peaceful south of Iraq and not in the middle around Baghdad where the hotbed of Iraqi resistance, insurgency and terrorism is happening? If Howard is so committed to fighting terrorism, why do we have a total of only 550 troops in Iraq? I noticed Alexander Downer saying this week that the Governemnt will never surrender to the terrorists in Iraq. Surrender? Our forces aren’t even in Baghdad fighting them Alexander – surely you know that. Of course you do – your whole goal is to whip up hysteria and fear in the electorate.

Howard is caught between a rock and a hard place in regard to Iraq. On the one hand, he can’t desert his mate George W. Bush and admit that he was wrong to support this absolute disaster of a war in the first place. On the other hand, he can’t really back up his thunderous claims with more troops because he knows how deeply unpopular the war is in Australia. So what does he do? In the classic slimey Howard way, he attempts to play the electorate with fear and a steadfast projection of himself as the wise captain at the helm, always knowing what is up ahead and steering us poor ignorant voters to safety.

But is this washing with voters anymore? I’m not so sure. Polls, as we all know, usually aren’t very good signifiers of anything unless there’s a marked trend over a time of about six months or more. However, looking at the polls over the last six months it seems as though this trend is happening and support for Howard’s government as well as the popularity of the man himself is slipping. Interestingly enough, one of these polls suggested that 68% of voters believe that Howard is arrogant. In response, Howard said: “I don’t feel very arrogant, I don’t behave in an arrogant manner”. No! Of course not. Why would voters think that someone like Howard, who thinks the Vietnam War was justified and right, even with the benefit of hindsight, is arrogant? Why would anyone think that Howard who has said this week in regard to Iraq that “I accept that I may be, on this issue, swimming against the tide of public opinion” is arrogant? Then again, perhaps Howard is telling the truth in saying that he doesn’t feel very arrogant, because he knows that everything he’s saying on Iraq and terrorism is “empty rhetoric”. And thus we return to Obama’s nail on the head summary. It’s all a bunch of empty rhetoric – everything that Howard has said on Iraq and Afghanistan is.

The point was again highlighted this week on Radio National Breakfast by Professor William Maley, director of the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the ANU when Fran Kelly asked him about Afghanistan and the dire situation there:

“Alright, so how do we combat this? Is it simply more troops? I know that certainly that’s what the Australian Government and the US Administration have been calling for.”

To which Professor Maley responded:

“Yes, I think it’s actually very disappointing that the Prime Minister, in his speech last night to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute didn’t take the opportunity to announce a further deployment of cutting edge troops to Afghanistan. It actually highlighted for me that the speech was much more about the Australian election than about the well being of the people in Afghanistan.”

And there you have it again. Obama sized it up and said it straight away a month and half ago and Professor Maley has echoed his summary this week. Howard has scaled to the very top of Mount Arrogant over the last few years and is now bellowing out in every direction to make it look like he was right to do so. All the while, the truth is that he is precariously stuck on the summit. I wonder what form the rescue helicopter is going to take. It’s only a matter of time before the Government whips up another distraction lie. The question is whether it will work again this time. I’ve said it before and many others have been saying it for some time now: it’s going to be a very interesting year in Australian politics.

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Winning Hearts and Minds…

March 7, 2007

Through rape, torture, intimidation and murder. That’s the way to do it! Although it’s been well documented through disgusting examples like the Abu Ghuraib prisoner abuse episode, everytime I hear more about the way ordinary Iraqis have been treated under the US led occupation, I get more upset and outraged.

Last night on Late Night Live, Phillip Adams spoke to Joshua Key, a US Soldier who served in Iraq and has now gone AWOL and applied for refugee status in Canada after refusing to return there after witnessing and taking part in some of the most horrific, disgusting and degrading acts that I’ve ever heard about. For the full MP3 interview, go here and be sure to download it as the ABC only keeps it up for about a week. Josh’s book The Deserter’s Tale: Why I walked away from the war in Iraq was released in Australia this week.

Last night in the interview, Josh told us that among other things, he had witnessed the following:

  • A little girl who had usually come to beg food off Josh and some other soldiers decapitated after being machine-gunned.
  • A father and his 10 year old son decapitated by US troops after their car came under machine gun fire. There were no weapons or explosives in the car whatsoever.
  • Four Iraqi bodies decapitated and US troops kicking one of the heads around like a soccer ball on the banks of the Euphrates River.
  • US soldiers using C4 explosives to break down residential doors.
  • US soldiers stealing people’s possessions after raiding their houses. Josh explained that one of the soldiers he was on duty with even took to stealing jewellery from some of the houses they raided and sent it back home to his wife in the US.
  • What he thinks may have been a rape. Josh said that whilst he was outside a building they had raided, he was told by another soldier to guard the front of the building. In the 20 or so minutes in which he did so, he said he heard grunts, a woman repeatedly screaming and other noises which overwhelmingly led him to the opinion that the Iraqi woman inside had been raped by a US soldier.

This is not to say that every US soldier in Iraq is taking part in these disgusting activities, but it’s no wonder that attacks against US troops are viewed favourably by a majority of the Iraqi population when disgusting abuses such as these occur. There is no justification for these acts, not that there was any justification for the war in the first place. In the 200 odd house raids that Josh took part in, he tells us that he didn’t find one terror suspect nor any weapons of any kind. Thus, ordinary Iraqi houses are being destroyed, looted and their occupants humiliated, raped, tortured and killed under this occupation every day.

All this is from the mouth of only one soldier which can only lead us to the horrifying conclusion that this is happening all over Iraq. This brutal occupation must end now.

UPDATE 9/3/07: Tony Jones speaking to Joshua Key on Lateline last night.

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Dick, the wanderer

February 23, 2007

Peter Hartcher’s column says it all. With approval ratings at 29%, a Congress and Senate controlled by the Democrats and his mate Rummy no longer in the corridors of power, what’s a vice-president to do? Visit Australia of course! To say “thanks” of course! That this chief war-monger is still traversing the globe in Air Force II spewing forth pro-war sentiment is a testament to the kind of unrealistic, selfish and downright arrogant thinking that neo-conservatives seem to be prone to.

Just before coming to Australia, Dick the brave gave a fervently pro-war speech to US troops on an aircraft carrier stationed in Yokosuka in Japan. With over three thousand US troops dead as a result of the Bush/Cheney administration’s decision to go to war with Iraq, Cheney again showed his utter comtempt for the lives of the soldiers he has sent off to fight this despicable war:

We will be flexible. We’ll do all we can to adapt to conditions on the ground. We’ll make every change necessary to do the job, and I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat.

Does Cheney, Bush or Howard or anyone else ever say what “the job” is? No, except of course for the new Vietnamisation “shift the responsibility to the Iraqis” policy. It was interesting to see Dick’s fellow lame-duck John Bolton on Lateline last night drive home the rhetoric on that one.

Cheney has no right to speak of “retreat” in a negative tone to anyone, as Hartcher points out:

With the US at war in Vietnam, the young Cheney, of drafting age, applied for four deferments to avoid service. “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service,” he would say later. This is why he has been branded in the US as one of the Administration’s so-called “chicken hawks”.

And yet Cheney has the hide, during his visit to Sydney, to schedule an event at Victoria Barracks where he will pose with Aussie war veterans, hoping, one presumes, for valour by association.

I wonder if the three thousand US soldiers who are now dead had other priorities. I wonder if their families had other priorities. Why is Cheney only visiting Australia now? It’s been six years since his last visit and it’s been four years since the beginning of the war in Iraq. To say “thanks”? Yeah right! He has nothing better to do.

Is Howard guilty by association with this man? Of course not. Australia is close to the US and always has been. However, Howard is guilty for blindly following the bad policies that Cheney and the neo-cons have espoused, for involving Australia in an unjust war based on lies and for putting Australian lives at risk in doing so. This is the point that Kevin Rudd is making and it’s an entirely valid one. Howard, like Cheney is defending the undefendable and turning blue in the face as he insists that he wasn’t wrong, still isn’t wrong and never will be wrong. It’s OK to be arrogant sometimes when you believe in something – but not when you’re sending young men and women off to war. Rudd, like the Democrats in the US, is pointing out the obvious and appealing for common-sense and a way foward. I’ll be remembering that come election day.

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Blair acknowledges failure, Bush calls it sign of success – awaiting Howard’s spin

February 21, 2007

The disintegration of the COW. Tony Blair has contacted George W. Bush to tell him that he will be pulling British troops out of Iraq. No doubt Blair will of course talk of what a great success the occupation has been – but his actions will speak louder than his words. As late as October last year, Blair was insisting that we must not withdraw as there was still much to do. Wow, he did it all in four months it would seem! At a time when the Howard Government here in Australia is saying that any withdrawl by any coalition forces will be akin to a defeat in Iraq, the COW seems to be disgruntled, disorganised and completely out of puff. I bet Alexander Downer is fuming that he wasn’t told before his Lateline interview last night. Referring to the British so many times – tsk tsk tsk Alexander: do you get told anything by anyone? Howard was asked this morning by a journalist “Has Tony Blair undermined your argument against a withdrawl timetable?” to which Howard responded “I’ll talk to you fallas later”. Indeed, how do you bullshit your way around this one Howard?

UPDATE: British reaction over at The Tomb.

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John Howard cuts and runs… and shouts… and goes red

February 14, 2007

As I watched John Howard from the gallery again yesterday foaming at the mouth trying to shift the focus of what he actually said on to a completely different point (a classic Howard tactic if there ever was one), Kevin Rudd remained calm and focused. After about an hour of question time, Rudd stood up and directly challenged Howard to a nationally televised debate at a time and place of Howard’s choosing regarding Australian policy on Iraq. Howard simply cut and ran – he would not debate Rudd in front of the Australian people on a matter that Howard himself has said is one of the utmost importance regarding Australia’s national security.

So, one has to wonder (or does one really?) – is Howard simply out for his own personal political gain here and sticking by his mate George Bush or does he have Australia’s national security interests at heart? Over the last few days, Howard has constantly reiterated that he has the courage of his convictions and is “staying the course” in Iraq (gee, he’s about six months behind with the echo on that one). Brendan Nelson backed up the PM’s claims on Lateline the other night equating a withdrawl from Iraq with the downfall of civilization as we know it. Now, if these two men (and indeed the Howard Government as a whole) are so concerned for Australia’s future and believe that this future hinges heavily on Iraq, then why have we got such a small committment of troops there? I would have thought that Howard and Nelson would be in there themselves so dire are their warnings about the future of Australia if we withdraw. Obama hit the nail on the head when he said that unless Howard increases his committment, then it’s just a bunch of empty rhetoric. And, well, that’s exactly what it is – we all know it and Howard himself knows it.

Bush, Howard and Blair GOT IT WRONG when they invaded Iraq. Needless to say, the situation in Iraq is absolutely out of control. A newsflash for Howard is that the Iraqis are going to keep doing what they’re doing regardless of whether America is there or not. At the moment, most Iraqis see the US as an occupying force propping up an ineffective government. The fact that the number of attacks against the general populace and US troops has been increasing at an alarming rate in the last three months highlights the fact that the several “wars” that are going on in Iraq have been lost already. Perhaps Howard should ask for some TV time on Fox in America (he’d get it no doubt) and explain to the American people why he thinks they should sacrifice thousands more of their young women and men to die for a cause that has changed so many times since the start of the war that we honestly wonder what he, Bush and the other neo-cons will come up with next. I’m sure many Americans are dying to hear Howard, the “man of steel”, the omniscient, the wise old statesman tell them why they should support a war that has cost them so much in lives, money and morale, was started because of lies Bush, he and Blair told the world and has not achieved any objectives other than the overthrow of a government that wasn’t friendly with Al-Qaeda in the first place.

Or perhaps most Americans, after Howard insulted them by saying that the great Democratic Party of the US (a party that was voted into a majority in both Congress and the Senate only last November by the people of the United States) is the party of choice for terrorists see Howard’s words for what they are: BULLSHIT with a capital B. As Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee stated after he heard Howard’s remarks: “Firstly, the Prime Minister has been a great friend of George Bush’s. He has been with him lock-step from day one on this war in Iraq. He and George Bush, they can go off and talk to each other. We don’t care what he says.”

As for Australians, well we should care. Not only has he embarrassed the hell out of us internationally, insulted one of the great US political parties (the party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton) and treated the American people with contempt, but has acted contrary to the interests of Australia. On top of all this, he doesn’t even have the guts to debate Kevin Rudd after making such a big deal out of all this over the last few days. Howard is the one who is cutting and running – what a disgrace, what a coward.

UPDATE: Since Howard said yesterday that the proper place for any debate regarding Iraq is in Parliament, Rudd challenged him to an hour long debate in the House of Reps this morning. The Howard Government in response shut the debate down and moved that Rudd no longer be heard, once again proving they are a bunch of idiotic cowards who aren’t willing to act in Australia’s interests on this matter.

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Howard picks a fight with Obama

February 12, 2007

Silly Howard. Firstly, not only is what Howard said ridiculous, but it is completely inappropriate for someone in his position to try to interfere with the elections of another country. Saying that if the Democrats win office in the US that the terrorists will win is completely stupid of Howard – and he must have known so when saying it. So what do we have? Yet another fear mongering comment from Howard – except this time he’s slipped up. Whereas his fear mongering is usually careful and targeted, he has picked a fight with the wrong person and the wrong party at the wrong time – and has mis-read the deep feeling of resentment in the US over the Iraq war. I guess that’s the mindset you fall into though when you’ve been hanging off George W. for too long.

I noticed Howard saying of Obama: “He’s a long way from being President of the United States”… Yes, well so are you John and you have no right whatsoever to go strutting around with an arrogant air of self importance regarding a matter of US politics – particularly when you are one of the leaders that committed us to this mess in Iraq in the first place. Howard should be thanking candidates of the Democratic Party for trying to fix and end the mess in Iraq. I suppose Howard being the wise old statesman that he is has a wonderful, all encompassing solution for Iraq other than “more money, more troops and more time”. At least Obama has put his cards on the table. In taking Obama on, John Howard has shown how feeble, small-minded and arrogant he really is and Obama’s response shows him up as such.

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Surely not

February 5, 2007

Many writers and commentators are now seriously speculating about a coming war with Iran which could possibly be started by mid this year. Two carrier strike groups are now stationed on the Gulf, anti missile batteries are in place and British mine-sweepers are also on hand. Bush and the neo-cons have been steadily increasing their verbal attacks on Iran. The architects of the war in Iraq have accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism around various locations of the Middle-East and are playing up the fact that Iran is developing nuclear technology – something they say will inevitably lead to the Iranians developing nuclear weapons.

I personally can’t believe that the US will invade Iran with ground forces. Afterall, the debacle of Iraq has surely been vicious enough to ward off even some of the most determined neo-cons. On the other hand though, given that Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons and by the CIA’s own assessment does not have the capacity to even develop any before roughly 2017, “tactical” airstrikes on their own seem rather pointless – so perhaps a ground invasion is on the cards – for reasons that, like the invasion of Iraq will perhaps take many decades to emerge. Sam Gardiner, a retired Colonel of the US Air Force offers this telling insight into the escalation of the US military around Iran in recent months and what to look for in any build up for a possible invasion or airstrike. Perhaps the old Gulf of Tonkin tactic will be initiated so that Bush and the neo-cons can forever say “but they started it”. Who knows?

Again, with all the reading I have been doing on this and of all the dire warnings I’ve come across and the seemingly belligerent actions by Bush and his cronies, I still can’t believe that a full scale invasion of Iran is in our immediate future. However, many of us couldn’t believe the circumstances that led our nations into the Iraq war and yet, well, do I even need to say it? Surely the American public don’t want another war. Surely the American military doesn’t want another war. If America does indeed invade Iran, then Bush will only be rapidly bringing about further economic, social and political ruin for the US as well as that of the Iranian regime. The American military is not coping in Iraq. If it were to invade Iran, it would face firstly an organised military which in open battle it would undoubtedly defeat, like it did with the Iraqi Army – but consider what else it would face: a largely educated populous three times the size of Iraq, a mountainous, rocky country with plenty of places for militias and guerillas to operate from and the possibility of having to defend itself and three US-backed puppet regimes on numerous fronts that will stretch from Iraq, through Iran and to Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. Not to mention the sour taste of many more thousands of US troops being killed for… well… nothing.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen. But I, like many others, am worried. As Colonel Gardiner says in his assessment:

The White House could be telling the truth. Maybe there are no plans to take Iran to the next level. The fuel for a fire is in place, however. All we need is a spark. The danger is that we have created conditions that could lead to a Greater Middle East War.

And if that happens, then we’re all in for an even more uncertain future consisting of war, economic ruin and political mayhem. Whatever works for you – pin your hopes or say your prayers. How did we get to this point?