The alliance dealt a welcome blow

All the current talk around the Australia/US alliance – thanks largely to the benign effects of one Mr. Rupert Murdoch and his part-funding of yet another propaganda “learning centre” about America – makes one wonder how local Bush sycophants would deal with this article by the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins:

For axis of evil, read axis of hope. The frantic scrabbling for an exit strategy from Iraq now consuming Washington and London has passed all bounds of irony. Help from Syria and Iran? Surely these were the monsters that George Bush and Tony Blair were going to crush, back in 2003? Surely the purpose of the Iraq adventure was to topple these terrorism-sponsoring, women-suppressing, militia-funding fundamentalists in favour of stability, prosperity and western democracy? Can the exit from Iraq really be through Tehran and Damascus? Was that in the plan?

I remember asking a western intelligence officer in Baghdad, six months after the American invasion, what he would advise the Iranians to do. “Wait,” he said with a smile. Iran has done just that. If I were Tehran I would still wait. I would sit back, fold my arms and watch my tormentors sweat. I would watch the panic in Washington and London as body bags pile up, generals mutter mutiny, alliances fall apart and electors cut and run.

Bush and Blair are men in a hurry, and such men lose wars. If there is a game plan in Tehran it will be to play Iraq long. Why stop the Great Satan when he is driving himself to hell in a handcart? If London and Washington really want help in this part of the world they must start from diplomatic ground zero. They will have to stop the holier-than-thou name-calling and the pretence that they hold any cards. They will have to realise that this war has lost them all leverage in the region. They can insult and sanction and threaten. But there is nothing left for them to “do” but leave. They are no longer the subject of that mighty verb, only its painful object.

With the seemingly never-ending amount of advice being offered to George Bush – including from our own Dear Leader and Foreign Minister, men about as likely to know what to do in Iraq as Genghis Khan – the reality on the ground is lost amidst the clueless punditry. Need it be stated again? The “Coalition” lost the war in Iraq years ago. The only option left now is to replicate – with less dignity if possible – the inglorious exist from Vietnam in 1975.

The desperate need of many in Australia to praise, amplify, defend and massage the US/Australia alliance suggests a deep-seated insecurity about its longevity (something that’s rather amusing to behold.) The Lowy Institute poll that found Australians deeply suspicious towards the United States was thoroughly unsurprising, considering the buffoon that currently resides in the White House. Many Australians, myself included, love much about American culture, but loathe its foreign policy (no matter whether it’s a Democrat or Republican in government.)

This attitude is expressed by a letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Give us a break, Rupert, and don’t insult our intelligence.

As an American who opposes the Bush policies on Iraq, I am not anti-American. As a Jew who opposes many of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, I am not anti-Semitic. And as an Australian who opposes most of the Howard Government’s policies and is outraged by the lack of support for David Hicks, I am not anti-Australian.

I trust my fellow citizens to separate criticism from prejudice.

Valerie Levy Woollahra

Such subtleties are lost on the vast majority of the commentariat, constantly falling over themselves to defend our “national interest”. An independent and robust foreign policy is unlikely to appear anytime soon. Former Labor leader Mark Latham had at least one thing right; the US alliance is in serious need of re-examination.

Anti-Americanism is as loaded a word as anti-Semitism. A tiny percentage of people may be either or both, but the vast majority of citizens may be either critical of the US or Israel without hating all the people within those countries. This is a fairly obvious equation, but not for people whose careers wouldn’t exist with the fawning button switched off.

Leading Indian writer Arundhati Roy exploded the fallacy of such terminology in a 2002 essay:

Recently, those who have criticised the actions of the US government (myself included) have been called “anti-American”. Anti-Americanism is in the process of being consecrated into an ideology. The term is usually used by the American establishment to discredit and, not falsely – but shall we say inaccurately – define its critics. Once someone is branded anti-American, the chances are that he or she will be judged before they’re heard and the argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.

What does the term mean? That you’re anti-jazz? Or that you’re opposed to free speech? That you don’t delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean you don’t admire the hundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons, or the thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans?

This sly conflation of America’s music, literature, the breathtaking physical beauty of the land, the ordinary pleasures of ordinary people with criticism of the US government’s foreign policy is a deliberate and extremely effective strategy. It’s like a retreating army taking cover in a heavily populated city, hoping that the prospect of hitting civilian targets will deter enemy fire.

There are many Americans who would be mortified to be associated with their government’s policies. The most scholarly, scathing, incisive, hilarious critiques of the hypocrisy and the contradictions in US government policy come from American citizens.

To call someone anti-American, indeed, to be anti-American, is not just racist, it’s a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those that the establishment has set out for you: If you don’t love us, you hate us. If you’re not good, you’re evil. If you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists.

Sound familiar? Nobody said the fawners were smart or imaginative. Indeed, the more they feel the need to vigorously defend the current state of the US/Australia alliance, the more they realise it is losing its community appeal. It is therefore imperative that just as the Indonesia/Australia alliance be scrutinised, our one-way relationship with Washington needs a re-think.

The majority of Australians do not want our country involved in imperial wars, torture, Guantanamo Bay and regional bullying. Murdoch and his merry men can spin as much as they want; most people have more decency than a rogue media mogul with shocking judgement.