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Hark to the war cry and a new world disorder

By Mike Carlton
September 28 2002


"I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place." - George W. Bush, at the University of Massachusetts, October 2000.

George Bush uttered that gleaming non sequitur during his presidential campaign in the first television debate with Al Gore, and I don't think it should be forgotten, most especially at a time like this. It ranks right up there with such other thoughtful Dubya-isms as "It's clearly a budget; it's got a lot of numbers in it", and "I think we agree, the past is over."

Criticising the President leaves you open to the tired old lie that you are anti-American, of course, so I hurry to point out that Bush is now copping heavy fire back home from people whose Stars 'n' Stripes patriotism can hardly be doubted.

Gore unloaded on him in a brilliant, stinging speech in San Francisco last Monday, accusing him of abandoning the hunt for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to launch a distracting new war against Saddam Hussein that could only damage the United States and world order.

"In just one year," he said, "the President has somehow squandered the international outpouring of sympathy, goodwill and solidarity that followed the attacks of September 11 and converted it into anger and apprehension aimed much more at the United States than at the terrorist network."

The doctrine of a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, without the aegis of the United Nations, would "destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law", he argued. "That concept would be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States."

Right on. But those avid to reduce Baghdad to charcoal are incensed at the thought that the UN might get in the way. Their tactic is to denounce the UN as feeble and irrelevant: a "creaking theme park", as Janet Albrechtsen spluttered in The Australian the other day. "A blue-sky fantasy world."

With their unique capacity for flunking the lessons of history, the sabre-rattlers of the raving right tediously remind us that the old League of Nations failed to stop Hitler and Mussolini.

Correct. But it did so entirely because the major powers - not least the United States - refused to accept its authority.

Bush is heading down that winding road again.

AT MY North Shore private school for the sons of Anglican gentlemen, it was a devoutly held article of our Protestant faith that the Catholics, the cheating Papist bastards, shaved their legs and then greased them with Vaseline to make them impossible to tackle at rugby.

Only decades later did I learn, from a friend who had been to Waverley College, that the Micks believed exactly the same about us Proddy Dogs. Much blood was spilt on both sides because of this doctrinal misunderstanding.

I thought I should point this out so you will know where I am coming from with these few remarks on the rampage by Waverley Year 12 students down Campbell Parade, Bondi, last Wednesday evening.

What I want to know is, why haven't Catholic religious leaders cracked down on these louts? Why has there been nothing but a deafening silence from Archbishop George Pell? It is high time that Catholic and Anglo-Celtic community figures took responsibility for this disgraceful hooliganism and pulled their young people into line with decent Australians. Nobody asked them to come to this country, and if they don't like it here they can go back home.

Sound vaguely familiar? That would have been the correct political line if, say, a bunch of Lebanese kids had ripped through Bondi. The usual newspaper hysterics and radio drama queens would have been denouncing muftis and mullahs, howling for the head of Sheik Hilaly, of the Lakemba mosque, and savaging poor old Keysar Trad, of the Lebanese Muslim Association, for his sins and the failings of multiculturalism.

Curiously, that doesn't seem to have happened in this case. There has been some muttering about "elite" private school students "who should know better", but that's about it. Double standards, I fear. I call on the Pope to speak out.

APART from a few die-hard conspiracy theorists, nobody now believes the libellous fantasy that the Defence Force - most particularly the navy - wilfully ignored the sinking of the refugee boat Siev-X with its loss of 353 souls off Java last year.

There has been yet another bureaucratic delay in releasing the report of the all-party Senate committee examining that tragedy, but I hear that the ADF will come out clean with both Government and Opposition. As so it should.

But it ain't over yet. This week Labor's Senate leader, John Faulkner, the most remorseless inquisitor in the parliament, raised the intriguing idea that Siev-X may have been sabotaged before it left port to ensure that it foundered on its miserable voyage.

On Wednesday he asked if a former Federal Police informant in Indonesia, one Kevin Enniss, had sabotaged people-smuggling vessels and if the Government knew of "sabotaging practices" and other "disruption activities". We have previously heard, and it has been confirmed, that Enniss was paid at least $25,000 by the AFP for largely unspecified services.

Naturally there were cries of horror at such frightfulness. "An outrageous slur," said the Justice Minister, Senator Ellison. "A grubby attempt to point-score."

Philip Ruddock and Downer of Baghdad climbed into Faulkner as well. "Anybody would know" that no Australian government would sabotage a boat, shrilled Alexander the Great.

Ahem. Anybody would know that no Australian government would lie about refugees tossing their children overboard, too.

Morning glory nothing for irksome majority to make light of

There was a sea mist when I went to Palm Beach just after sunrise last Tuesday, a lovely curtain of palest grey lowered over Pittwater and across the sandy spit that joins the rock of the Barrenjoey headland to the rest of Australia.

Mist is what the weather bureau called it, although it looked rather more substantial, like a bank of fog or low cloud reaching out to the horizon. A rainbow curved up through it, though dimly, and mighty Barrenjoey was hidden from even 100 metres back down the sand.

You don't often see this sort of thing in our latitude, and it was stunning. I took the surf ski and paddled into it, alone save for a pair of cormorants which scared the living bejesus out of me by suddenly surfacing dead ahead.

Daylight saving will take this beauty away from us morning people. Again. In another month the tyranny of the majority rules once more, the clocks go forward, and we lose a precious hour of peaceful dawn before the daily rat-race begins.

If I were running NSW, I would be turning the clocks back an hour in October. A lost cause, I know, but I am not going quietly.


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