The unreality of Greg Sheridan

My following article appeared in yesterday’s Crikey newsletter:

The Australian’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, has released a new book, The Partnership. It tells of the intimate relationship between George W Bush and John Howard.

Last Friday, former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett launched the book at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. Not unlike many festival sessions, the crowd was predominantly over 50 and female, but around 85 people filled the venue.

The founder of the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, Phil Scanlon, was present, along with foreign diplomats and Zionist lobbyists Ted Lapkin, Tzvi Fleischer and Colin Rubenstein.

Sheridan was running late and Kennett was unimpressed, starting his speech without him. “I’m not sure why I was invited to launch this book”, Kennett said, “as when I was Premier I didn’t really have much to do with foreign affairs.”

He spoke for 15 minutes about his distaste for Bush, admiration for Howard and praised the book as a valuable contribution to the public’s understanding of the US/Australia alliance.

Kennett argued that when the US decided to invade Iraq, Australia had little choice but to be involved due to the alliance, though Kennett expressed uncertainty about the rightness of the mission.

He said that the closeness between Howard and Bush was ably represented in Sheridan’s book, though wondered how objective the Murdoch writer had been, considering his very favourable interpretation of Bush and Howard. He could have asked what kind of journalist features a photograph of himself on the back cover grinning next to Condoleezza Rice.

Sheridan started by thanking various guests, including “my good friend Colin Rubenstein”. He said he had written the book because his three children were supportive of the alliance but little positive material existed ably to represent the relationship.

He railed against the works of John Pilger and Noam Chomsky – and falsely claimed that both men blamed the CIA for 9/11 – and said the Australian media was generally hostile to the alliance.

“The military alliance between Australia and the US is a force for good in the world”, Sheridan said. “The history of the 20th century showed that allies of the US did best.”

There is an air of unreality about Sheridan’s thesis. The Australian and US establishments have indeed never been closer, but they invaded a country, Iraq, that is now experiencing civil war. I wonder how Sheridan and his fellow travellers would spin this fact into a “force for good in the world”.