Dancing with the devil

Is the leading Murdoch pro-Howard broadsheet starting to turn against him?

“John Howard says he did not know AWB was paying bribes to secure sales of wheat to Iraq. He says his ministers did not know either. And the same goes for officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. If it is established “in a proper legal sense” that AWB did pay bribes, Mr Howard says he will be very angry because “we frankly believed all along AWB was an organisation of complete integrity”. So that’s all right then. AWB was off on a frolic of its own, and the Government was gulled. No, it’s not.

“The more AWB officers admit to Terence Cole’s inquiry into the food-for-oil scandal, the more reason there is to wonder if the Government is gullible, duplicitous or worse. And whether ministers knew about this grubby business is perhaps the most important question the Prime Minister and his colleagues have faced in their decade in office. Australians fought Saddam Hussein’s wretched regime twice in 15 years. Proof that the Government knew, or even suspected, AWB was paying off the dictator, but did nothing to stop the bribes, would be a betrayal of the men and women who risked their lives on active service. It is hard to conceive of circumstances in which any minister so implicated could survive.”

For more on this growing scandal, see here, here, here, here and here.

When Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is forced to slam his accusers as having an “intemperate and demeaning approach to political debate”, some of the mud is clearly starting to stick. And the pressure is starting to show. The key point, lost in some of the desperate attempts to defend the Dear Leader, is that ignorance is no defence. It is virtually inconceivable that leading Howard ministers, and possibly Howard himself, were unaware of the way in which AWB – and host of other companies around the world, for that matter – are “forced” to do business in any number of countries.

Involvement in a war to “liberate” Iraq from Saddam, while at the same time turning a blind eye to providing money for that regime, is hypocrisy at best and duplicity at worst.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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