The War at Home 

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March 21 2003

The fourth day....

Anger, disgust and depression are the key emotions in my house.  My son and his friends got together Thursday night and played cards in a depressed, purposeful, collective shutting out of what was happening. He is white hot angry at the US invasion of Iraq, unable to see any good or justification.  Bush is earning the US undying hatred and contempt from many people my son's age I suspect, and that's just in Australia.  What he must be doing in Arab nations!

I recognise in myself the depression that comes from anger where there seems nothing I can do. Along with the anger there is a great sadness and shame for me.  Bush was always going to do this. Trying to convince the UN to back him was just marketing.  The weapons inspectors were just a legitimising ploy.  I'm cynical enough about US foreign policy and the hard line Republicans to expect nothing more.  What our own government has done is where my pain lies.

Where the rest of the western world has questioned and challenged Blair and Bush, Howard has gone ahead with all the embarrassing speed of an obsequious and willing vassal state. And, despite huge popular protest, Australia has joined the ranks of the aggressors, outside of the legal jurisdiction of the UN.  We have ceased to be decent.  No longer for us the high moral ground of peace-keeping.

Inhumane despots with dangerous weapons are a commonplace.  Why was Saddam so important to stop? Iraq pales into insignificance compared to North Korea as far as Australia is concerned.  Was it really so important, or is something else going on?  How come only the US, Britain and Australia could see this? Maybe it is European politics keeping people out of the coalition of aggressors.  Maybe France and Germany are simply seeking to maintain their independence and bring US designs on ruling the world to heel.  If so, Howard has forsaken whatever shreds of independence we had. And how well we have been rewarded!  US free trade negotiators have arrived in the country, 40 strong almost to the day that the war began.  It is so blatant it is embarrassing.  (Not that free trade with the US is necessarily a good thing, anyway!)

Again, despite all the French attitude that Chirac has demonstrated, perhaps Europe has more of a sense of being part of a union and part of a world community.
(Paul Kelly in The Australian 8-3-2003)  The US is firmly in the grip of a philosophy independent nation states in competition with each other.  Even that would be acceptable if they could accept that they do not always have the answer!  John Howard is firmly hitching us to their destiny.

Meanwhile, as we trumpeted the evils of Saddam we hold 150 Iraqis in prisons for the simple fact that they fled the place. Several thousands more "live" their lives in limbo on Temporary Protection Visas, Australia's morally impoverished alternative to compassion and justice.  Live for three years not knowing if you have a future, and then if we decide home is safe, we will send you back.  Even now, as we are invading one despot ruled Arab nation we are sending back refugees to another human rights abuser.  What reception will those Iranian refugees get as they arrive back "home."  At the stroke of a pen Ruddock and Howard could stop this, but they have not.  We live in evil and merciless times.

Even more worrying, perhaps, is the political scene in Australia. We have recently seen the largest anti war demonstrations for decades.  Even to day, thousands have marched n Australian cities. The nation is split and polarised; often people can barely be civil with colleagues. And yet in the ruling party, there is not one peep of dissidence about Howard's path.  What is going on, and what does it mean for democracy that there is no public discussion or dissent within the ruling party?  Is this the kind of government we want ruling the country?  Even the virtually rudderless Labor party has belatedly begun to speak out.  A plethora of ex-Defence personnel have spoken against Howard's policy.  Serving security personnel have resigned in protest saying there is little or no reason to attack Iraq.  And from the Liberals... silence.  It seems that not only Saddam has iron control.

The news highlights the death of a few Britons and US servicemen in helicopter crash.  The Prime Minister gives his public condolences to the widow of a cameraman killed in a bomb attack... and yes, it's a tragedy.  But a crazy American serviceman who rolled  grenades into his mates' tents is getting more column inches than the dead civilians of Iraq.  Iraqi lives are just not worth as much.

And so we will go on to the fifth day... not a happy house.



The links to the full stories of these press excerpts from the Sydney Morning Herald and the News Website are live at 23-3-2003

Sure, we'll save Iraqis - if they remain in Iraq By Adele Horin March 22 2003 SMH
"... the Howard Government has 152 Iraqis locked up in detention centres [and].... subjects a further 4000 Iraqis, found to be genuine refugees, to the miserable and uncertain life of "temporary protection". 
The Government professes to be so appalled by Saddam's Hussein's vicious regime it has sent troops to fight with the US and British forces. [but] .... At the same time...  perpetrates psychological torture back home on Iraqis who were desperate and bold enough to escape Saddam's regime. We have locked some of them up for longer than Saddam did.
If the Prime Minister is genuinely motivated by horror of Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction rather than by subservience to the US President, he should treat humanely the Iraqis who sought refuge here. Instead, Australia subjects them to unnecessary cruelties."

Ink dry on war script a year ago By Alan Ramsey  March 22 2003 SMH
" next time you hear John Howard insulting your intelligence with all that fear-mongering rubbish he goes on with,...  in seeking to justify his decision to include Australia in the so-called "coalition of the willing" ...think of Lemann's article, written out of Washington exactly a year ago, of how the Bush Administration always intended invading Iraq, whatever the UN said or did, and the campaign of deception and deceit it would and did employ.... Which means, what exactly?  ... it means our Prime Minister, involved from the very outset, is either a naive, impressionable hick from Down Under ... or he is a very calculating liar who has convinced himself he's acting in our best national interest. You make your own choice. He has to be one or the other."

Former leader attacks PM By Andrew Hunter March 12, 2003 News
" John Howard faces an internal revolt over his support for the US stance against Iraq, former Liberal leader Dr John Hewson said last night. [Hewson, of course, has no love for Howard, who deposed him from the leadership. Jan]
Dr Hewson's comments came in the wake of the resignation of intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie, who quit in protest over the Howard Government's position on Iraq. 
Dr Hewson - who led the Liberal party from 1990 to 1994 - told SBS that Mr Howard's opponents within the party were too frightened to speak out but soon would..... "They are more or less intimidated by John Howard and the way he runs the place and they don't want to speak out. But I don't think we're too far away from people speaking out." 
Dr Hewson echoed comments by Mr Wilkie - who resigned from his position at the Office of National Assessment yesterday - that Australia risked involvement in a massive Middle East conflict of little relevance to its national interest."

Annan legal check on US warning   March 11, 2003
"UN Secretary General Kofi Annan took legal advice before warning today that US military action against Iraq without a Security Council mandate would flout international law, a UN official said.
If the United States acted unilaterally against Iraq "the legitimacy of such military action will be seriously impaired," Annan told reporters in The Hague. "

The West's Blurred Vision March 8, 2003 Paul Kelly 
"The US-EU split reflects a conflict over the best way to organise the international system. This is the coming global debate.  It is a debate with great consequences for Australia; a conflict between the EU philosophy of imposed transnational rules based on Europe's values and the US belief in an order of liberal-democratic nation-states each realising an individual destiny."

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