Sad reality

“Politicians who believe the media is their friend are fools. When the time comes, the same journalists who give you obsequious airtime to promote your achievements will dance on your grave. And history will probably be kind to them because they’ll write it.”

Crikey’s Hugo Kelly reflects on the demise of NSW Liberal leader John Brogden.

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Be proud

David Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush. He coined the term, “Axis of Evil.” He co-wrote a book with Richard Perle called “An End to Evil“, “a how-to guide for winning the war on terror.” Their answer? “The United States is good, those who pose a threat, current or future, are evil and must be neutralized or destroyed.” Why anybody would listen to either of these morons is beyond me, especially after the Iraq debacle.

Frum was on ABC Lateline a few nights ago and it was a sight to behold. Along with strategic analyst Harlan Ullman – the ABC website called the debate, “Experts discuss Iraq’s political situation” – they analysed the current quagmire in Iraq, the political process and constitution and increasing influence of Iran. Ullman is a pragmatist – he coined the military term, “Shock and Awe” – and sees issues in purely strategic terms. He’s long called for a greater US troop commitment in Iraq.

Frum, on the other hand, was flailing. Some “highlights” of his expertise:

“I know Ahmed Chalabi not well but reasonably well. He is not a perfect man. But in a country full of very, very imperfect people, I think he is and always has been our best hope as somebody who shares democratic ideals, has political effectiveness, understands the system, is committed to a united and democratic Iraq.”

“I don’t think getting out of the mess should be America’s top priority. I think fixing the mess should be our top priority. I think what everyone would agree or almost everyone, at least in this country and in this city, would be regardless of what your opinion was about the beginning of the Iraq war, Iraq is a major prize in the Middle East. The possibilities of success are very great and the danger from failure is very great. This is as close as you can get to the heart of the strategic interests of the Western World. It is essential to succeed.”

“The United States using all of the arsenal of power at its disposal, not just military means but not excluding military means, needs to begin by saying this is a regional conflict and regional players who intervene in Iraq will face consequences, there should be diplomatic pressure on the Saudis and the Jordanians, very clear warnings to the Iranians and hot pursuit across the Syrian border and air strikes in Syria if the Syrians continue to let their land be used as a base.”

So, he advocates bombing Syria, holding Iraq as the Western “major prize” – the people of Iraq are not his concern – and bringing back fraudster Chalabi as the country’s saviour.

It’s a damning indictment that one of the “experts” on Iraq is so open about his country’s imperial ambitions (though perhaps we should be grateful that they no longer hide it.) The Iraq war is lost but people like Frum are clutching onto anything that may even vaguely resemble success.

Pro-war supporters, Frum is your man. Stand proud.

UPDATE: Leading American analysts claim that the Iraq constitution falls far short of American goals. George Monbiot, meanwhile, offers some possible solutions.

UPDATE 2: Thanks to a perceptive reader for pointing out this “new” reason for invading and occupying Iraq:

“Standing against a backdrop of the imposing USS Ronald Reagan at a naval air station near San Diego, the president gave a fresh reason for American troops to continue fighting: protection of the Iraq’s vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorists.

“Bush said the Iraqi oil industry, already suffering from sabotage and lost revenues, must not fall under the control of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida forces led in Iraq by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

“If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks,” Bush said. “They’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition.”

“A one-time oilman, Bush has rejected charges that the war in Iraq is a struggle to control the nation’s vast oil wealth. The president has avoided making links between the war and Iraq’s oil reserves, but the soaring cost of gasoline has focused attention on global petroleum sources.”

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What independence?

The Pentagon is organising a “Freedom March” in September. “This year the Department of Defence will initiate an America Supports Your Freedom Walk,” US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. The march would remind people of “the sacrifices of this generation and of each previous generation”. Let’s make a wild guess that the Bush administration will spuriously connect 9/11 and Iraq. Again.

The Washington Post initially agreed to co-sponsor the event but pulled out after protests from within the paper and by anti-war groups. “As it appears that this event could become politicised, The Post has decided to honour the Washington area victims of 9/11 by making a contribution directly to the Pentagon Memorial Fund,” said Eric Grant, a Post spokesman, at the time of the paper’s pullout. “It is The Post’s practice to avoid activities that might lead readers to question the objectivity of The Post’s news coverage.” The Post’s true colours were revealed, however. Independence between the Bush administration and the media, already far-too-cosy, was shown to be worth less than displaying appropriate patriotism.

The Washington Times has now stepped in. “We offered to help with free advertising,” said Dick Amberg, general manager and vice president of the Times. “It seems like a very reasonable thing to do in terms of public service.”

No conflict of interest there at all.

Perhaps Kerry Packer’s Bulletin could buy rounds of armour-piercing ammunition for the Australian military. Or Rupert Murdoch’s Australian could fund the welcome home parade for troops returning from active duty in Iraq. How about the Sydney Morning Herald agreeing to publish free ads to recruit more cannon fodder for imperial wars?

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News briefs

- “‘Documents From the US Espionage Den’ is a legendary series of Iranian books containing classified US documents that were found in the American Embassy in Tehran when it was taken over by revolutionaries.” The essential Memory Hole reports.

- The Chicago Reader documents Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz’s desperate attempts to dump Norman Finkelstein from his academic institution. Upon the release of Finkelstein’s new book this month, Beyond Chutzpah, he’s released a statement that outlines the charges against Dershowitz, the so-called human rights defender’s slander against his Holocaust surviving mother and attempts to get his book banned. Now we know where his Australian sidekick gets all his brilliant ideas. Of course, Dershowitz failed miserably in his efforts. Finkelstein has been endorsed by Raul Hilberg, dean of the Holocaust historians.

- Today is World Blog Day, a time for bloggers to recommend blogs other readers may never have heard of. My suggestion are blogs from Bangladesh, a part of the world rarely examined in the West.

- The Scotsman reports: “A former Scottish police chief has given lawyers a signed statement claiming that key evidence in the Lockerbie bombing trial was fabricated. The retired officer – of assistant chief constable rank or higher – has testified that the CIA planted the tiny fragment of circuit board crucial in convicting a Libyan for the 1989 mass murder of 270 people.”

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And it continues

The saga over the publication of my forthcoming book on Israel/Palestine continues today. Federal Labor MP Michael Danby responds to Crikey. For background information on the controversy, read this, then this.

Danby misses the point entirely in his letter. He claims he has “made no attempt to censor Mr Antony Loewenstein, or anyone else.” Er, how else to read this line from his original letter? “MUP should drop this whole disgusting project.” Furthermore, it is revealing that he thinks he has the right to question the publishing decisions of my publisher MUP. His expertise now clearly extends way past the taxing duties of representing Melbourne Ports. It’s encouraging to see the esteemed MP likes to presume the contents of my book before it has been published.

Watch this space for more developments in the coming weeks/months.

29. Australia’s Israel debate — Danby hits back

Last Friday Crikey ran a story about a letter Federal Labor MP Michael Danby wrote to the Australian Jewish News calling on the Jewish community to boycott a book by journalist Antony Loewenstein. Today Danby responds:

Your story is headed “Danby’s silly attempt at censorship.” This is very misleading. I have made no attempt to censor Mr Antony Loewenstein, or anyone else. Mr Loewenstein is entitled to his opinions, and to publish them.

What I have done is to exercise my right to criticise his views, which I find abhorrent, and to urge people not to reward those views by buying his book. Readers are free to reject my advice.

I don’t need to read Mr Loewenstein’s book to know what he thinks. He has described himself as “a Jew who doesn’t believe in the concept of a Jewish state,” which he calls “a fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era.” He has described the Australian Jewish community as “vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic” and as “incapable of hearing the true reality of their beloved homeland and its barbaric actions.” (These quotes appear at Mr Loewenstein’s own website.)

As a representative of mainstream, moderate Jewish opinion, who supports both Israel’s right to exist and defend itself and the right of the Palestinian people to a viable state, I find such opinions disgusting, and I did no more in my letter to the Jewish News than express that disgust. The response from the Jewish community to my comments has been overwhelmingly positive.

Finally, I am curious to know why Melbourne University Press thinks it is appropriate to be publishing two anti-Israel books at a time when Israel is making such a painful withdrawal from Gaza, when we have a new and more moderate Palestinian leadership and when the prospects for peace are improving. I can only conclude that someone at MUP has an axe to grind on this subject.

UPDATE: Phil Gomes offers insights into the latest Danby letter:

“How does Danby know how many books about Israel MUP has in development? Why is it inappropriate for a publisher to have them in the pipeline? And what do Israel’s moves in Gaza have to do with when a book is or is not published?

“Danby still has not really given us any answers or insights on any of this or the supposedly offensive questions Loewenstein originally posed to him, and continues to attack the publishers with a veiled reference of “an axe to grind” at MUP, which, in this fight, is a seriously coded term that might be interpreted as an accusation of anti-Semitism.”

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Friends and enemies

Filip Dewinter is chairman of the far-right Vlaams Belang (The Flemish Interest) party in Antwerp, Belgium. He has articulated policies such as segregation at public swimming pools “to decrease the number of young Arabs who try to take over the pools. I say there is a problem and that most of the people at these pools are young Arabs who make problems.”

Dewinter has transformed his party into a political force and reflects the increasing dislocation between the Muslim and non-Muslim population across Europe. Other parties in the country shun the group, citing racist material. Dewinter hopes the Jewish community will embrace and introduce him to the business world and legitimise his position. Is this a friend the Jewish people really want?

You be the judge:

“I’m interested in visiting Israel,” Dewinter tells Haaretz. “First of all, from a geopolitical point of view. We in Western Europe should realize that our allies are not in the Arab or Muslim world, but rather in Israel. This is not just because we have a common civilization and values, but also to balance out the Islamic forces in the Middle East that are getting stronger. The State of Israel is a sort of outpost for our Western society, an outpost of democracy, of freedom of speech, of protecting common values within a hostile environment. You are surrounded by Islamic states, some of them fundamentalist, which are interested in only one thing: to throw the Jews into the sea.

“I also think that Islam is now the No. 1 enemy not only of Europe, but of the entire free world. After communism, the greatest threat to the West is radical fundamentalist Islam. There are already 25-30 million Muslims on Europe’s soil and this becomes a threat. It’s a real Trojan horse. Thus, I think that an alliance is needed between Western Europe and the State of Israel. I think we in Western Europe are too critical of Israel and we should support Israel in its struggle to survive. I think we should support Israel more than we do because its struggle is also very important for us.”

He dismisses the far right’s association with neo-Nazis and anti-Semitism. “No, we want good relations with the Jews’”, he says. “We should distance ourselves from all of those individuals and groups with anti-Semitic tendencies and from Holocaust deniers. I have no connection with these things.”

Dewinter associates with anti-Semites, however, and the roots of the Flemish nationalist movement lie in collaboration with the Nazis.

The flag of Israel sits in his office. “You should know, the real enemies of Israel today are not on the right, but rather on the left: the socialists and the Greens,” he says. This sounds as ludicrous as Liberal Senator George Brandis who compared the Greens to the Nazis in late 2003.

Dewinter is opposed to Muslim women wearing headscarves in public – not worlds away from recent comments by local politicians – and finds multiculturalism offensive. “Multiculturalism is destroying the immune system of Europe,” he argues. “Multiculturalism and political correctness lead to extreme tolerance for everyone and everything. It destroys our ability to mount a counterattack.”

Such comments may seem like worlds away from Australia. Yet John Stone, former treasury secretary and National Party senator, was given open slather in Murdoch’s Australian in late July to call for an immediate halt to the “Muslim immigrant inflow”, the abolition of multicultural broadcaster SBS and “official multiculturalism policies [to] be abandoned outright.”

How far are Stone’s views from Dewinter? Not that far, I suspect. Our current political environment allows hard-won achievements to be questioned. Open and free debate is essential in a true democracy but criticism of Stone was muted. What kind of Australia was he imagining? If it’s anything like the “good old days”, presumably he’ll want men to only wear suits in public, abortion to be illegal and the reinstatement of the death penalty.

Australia has entered a dangerous phase in its history.

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This sounds very familiar

A group who believes in establishing a government based on religious principles. Individuals who want to “call back the country to a righteous standard.” Sounds like the kind of thing our leaders are trying to avoid. An Islamic state, you say?

Er, no. Try a Christian state in America (and yes, the country is already very far from a secular nation).

The Los Angeles Times reports:

“Christian Exodus activists plan to take control of sheriff’s offices, city councils and school boards. Eventually, they say, they will control South Carolina. They will pass godly legislation, defying Supreme Court rulings on the separation of church and state.”

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Salman

One of the greatest novelists of our time, Salman Rushdie, is about to release his new work, Shalimar the Clown. He talks to the Guardian about terrorism, Kylie, Tony Blair and love.
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Time to resign

The NSW Liberal Opposition Leader, John Brogden, has been caught sprouting a racist obscenity. Again. During an “alcohol fuelled night” – according to the Sydney Morning Herald that placed the story across its front page – Brogden pinched a journalist’s behind and called former NSW Premier Bob Carr’s wife, Helena, a “mail-order bride”. On July 29, soon after Carr’s resignation, Brogden says he was “very happy with the change and events in NSW.”

Brogden should resign immediately.

This is not the first time Brodgen has displayed racist tendencies. In 2004, during the Orange Grove controversy, he said this in relation to Frank Lowy: “Bob Carr is a Judas to the people of Western Sydney. He has taken his 30 pieces of silver from Westfield and they get a good deal.”

The Australian Jewish News rightly condemned the comments as alluding to anti-Jewish stereotypes.

It is amazing, however, that Brogden comes under heavy fire – deservedly, to be sure – and yet any number of Federal Liberal MPs rave on about “Australian values” and banning Muslims headscarves and it’s considered an acceptable part of civilised debate.

UPDATE: Good riddance, John.

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Provoking Islamic revolutions

The following letter appears in today’s UK Independent:

“Sir: Let me see if I’ve got this right. I admit straight out that my grasp of the history of both Iran and Iraq is shaky, but I am relying on what I have learned this week.

“In 1953 in Iran the Brits and Yanks conspired to oust through a coup, in favour of the Shah, the secular and democratic government of Dr Moussadeq because he was going to nationalise what is now BP. (He took the odd view that it was their oil, not ours). Since the Shah imprisoned or killed off all his other opponents, by 1979 the only forces capable of organising the Iranian revolution were Ayatollah Khomeini and his mates. Result: Islamic state.

“In 2003 in Iraq, the Brits and Yanks conspired to invade in order to remove the secular though vile and tyrannical government of Saddam Hussein. The justification was that he was either dangerous or horrible; the latter was certainly true, the former has proved untrue. The objective was, in the words of George W Bush, to make Iraq “a beacon of democracy”. But it transpires that Iraqi women and probably men will be losing freedoms, not gaining them. The draft constitution hammered out, with a great deal of help from US draughtsmen, not only establishes Islam as the religion of the state but Sharia law as “a fundamental source for legislation”. Result: pre-Islamic state.

“Apart from all the usual reactions one could have – anger, despair, hysterical laughter, I told you so – I think my main conclusion is to support even more fervently the need for alternative fuels to oil. Not only for the sake of the planet, but for the sake of our moral honour.”

BARONESS SARAH LUDFORD MEP
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT EUROPEAN JUSTICE SPOKESWOMAN, LONDON N1

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