October 19th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Bush changes US strategic doctrine

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: ALP Conference: triumph of 'spin' over substance

CANBERRA OBSERVED: PM's loopy housing scheme evades rebuke

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Social 'reforms': Rann's devious politics

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Yes - it is about oil, and arms, and ... doublethink

SUGAR: Behind the sugar crisis

OBITUARY: Ted Serong: a great Australian

FINANCE: A $50 billion war chest for the ALP?

LETTERS: Superannuation and the ALP (letter)

LETTERS: Democrats (letter)

LETTERS: Life matters (letter)

WATER: Wimmera-Mallee major water conservation project underway

CHINA: China will remain the major challenge to America

COMMENT: Share collapse: we've seen it all before

BUSINESS: Just how 'ethical' can business be?

COMMENT: Dysfunctional Victoria

BOOKS: Wilful murder: the Sinking of the Lusitania, by Diana Preston

Books promotion page

Yes - it is about oil, and arms, and ... doublethink

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, October 19, 2002
Yes - it is about oil, and arms, and ... doublethink

Christopher Hitchens, who has been writing a column for the old radical US journal The Nation for the last 20 years, has just severed his connections with that magazine.

Hitchens is a prolific writer, author of numerous bestselling up-to-the-minute books; and with quite a few irons in the journalistic fire. He has been participating in The Nation because he liked the journal.

But he now writes, "When I began work for The Nation over two decades ago, Victor Navasky described the magazine as a debating ground between liberals and radicals, which was, I thought, well-judged."

However Hitchens no longer sees this as the reality. The magazine has taken a side and is becoming the voice and echo chamber of those who truly believe, for example, that Attorney-General John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden.

Hitchens thinks he can survive watching the "inspections" pantomime again - just - but cannot bear the sight of French and Russian diplomats posing and smirking with Naji Sabry, Iraq's Foreign Minister, and Deputy PM Tariq Aziz. Hitchens knows them and theirs rather well.

Two of Naji's brothers, Mohammed and Sakri, were imprisoned and tortured by Saddam Hussein; in Mohammed's case unto death. The son of Tariq Aziz was sentenced to 27 years of imprisonment last year; has since been released and re-arrested, and released again. So as to show, Hitchens says, who is boss.

A former friend of Hitchens, Mazen Zahawi, was Saddam's interpreter until shortly after the Gulf War, when, "he was foully murdered and denounced as a homosexual". Hitchens says this is routine stuff - all of Saddam's functionaries live under this shadow, as did the functionaries of Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

Hitchens thinks Saddam "likes to use as envoys the men he has morally destroyed; men who are sick with fear and humiliation, and whose families are hostages".

That is doubtless true, but the UN officials and the Europeans are smiling, and beaming, at them, obviously preferring them and their master to the British, the Americans and their staffs.

But what decided Hitchens to cut the painter with The Nation was that it had become obvious to him that the anti-war side would not be convinced even if all the allegations made against Saddam Hussein were proven, and even if the true views of the Iraqi people could be expressed.

"All evidence pointed overwhelmingly to the Taliban and al Qaida last Fall and now all the proof is in: but I am sent petitions by the same people (some of them not so naïve) who still organise protests against the simultaneous clean up and rescue of Afghanistan and continue to circulate falsifications about it."

In passing, we have some of these people in action here, concentrated, as always, in the public media. Having predicted that the Americans would fall into an Afghan pit, there would be US body bags aplenty (O, Rapture!) and masses of civilian casualties - dear, dear, the Great Satan!

However, it didn't happen - so most US haters cut their losses and moved to the next area where they could play the same tune. But, some of our more disturbed wishful thinkers won't give up.


Whenever a bomb goes off somewhere in Afghanistan, a note of hope is heard in the commentary. Could civil war break out? Could the Yanks suffer losses or lose face? Anything will do. The desired end would be a reversion to the twenty year civil war - about which our friends show pious films, or the return of the Taliban (sotto voce, exciting?) and the suppression of Afghan women and the return of political barbarism - about which they make suitable films. And, the refugee game could start up again. And this is the inner world of the psychotic left. Christopher Hitchens has just turned them away.

Two more notes: Bill Clinton's use of the hospitality provided by Blair at the UK Labour Conference to try to undermine Tony and his own country's government, was vintage Clinton. "War is only the last resort!" Yes - but it is a resort taken by Clinton at various times. And we know "that the blood of innocents is shed". Was he thinking of his 12 weeks bombing of Belgrade? But, tumultuous applause from Labour's Left.

I went to my first British Labour Conference in 1956, and saw (I swear) the same people whom I saw the other night. The clock had stopped for them. These people never spoke out against the wars, the aggressions, the blood spilt by the successive dictators they have supported - really - from 1917. They are selective pacifists - role players, but bent on mischief.

When Clinton allowed state-of-the-art military technology to be sold to China (who passed it on to Pakistan, who used it in their nuclear program) - did he specify that it not be used if it kills civilians?

He had eight years to control Saddam and not only failed, he didn't even try. Is he piqued that George W. may succeed and show the guts he never had? Was the Twin Towers attack aimed at military personnel? Have the Muslims - terrorists or military - ever recognised the distinction between soldiers and non-combatants, adults and children?

And did the Soviets, the Chinese, Pol Pot so distinguish? Has the West-hating Left ever rebuked them? Not on your sweet Nellie.

The impasse at the UN Security Council is about oil and regime change. But in addition it is about the danger of Saddam to literally everyone around him and to his own people.

That danger doesn't worry France, Russia and China. They reckon he can be domesticated and co-opted as an ally against their real opponents - the Anglos. As the Europeans said before 1940, they could work with Mussolini, then Hitler. The French were still at it until D-Day.


For the first nine months of the Bush Administration the policy was to scale down oil sanctions against Iraq - certainly not to invade. At one point, Washington proposed cutting down on the No Fly Zones activities, but Britain demurred.

September 11 changed everything. Worrying about the use of chemical and biological weapons - even nuclear weapons - and Clinton's Defence Secretary Cohen had waxed long and fruitlessly about this (and the menace of world terrorism) ... Bush's people decided that Iraq was a very dangerous country under its present regime. As they judged Iran and North Korea to be. There is little they can do about the last two without global support, which is not forthcoming.

In any case, neither of these states is in the business of openly defying the UN: although Iran obviously supports and accommodates terrorists, e.g., Hezbollah.

But France and Russia see selling to Saddam as an economic lifesaver. Russia excitedly announced a new deal with Iraq of US$15 billion: oil to Russia to re-sell on the world market in return for Russian items, including new arms.

In other words, France and Russia and China want to restore Iraq to its pre-Kuwait invasion status when everyone was competing to arm him up, and, where feasible, with chemical and biological wherewithal. An appetising prospect for us all.

If Saddam and his regime were overthrown, all these lucrative deals and "special relationships" of the Europeans and China would go. If the US demand that Iraq disarm, totally, and remain closely inspected, there would be no more arms deals for anyone.

The anti-Americans don't want that particular end to Iraq's potency. Nor could Saddam easily harbour and train international terrorists under a permanent occupation of inspectors. Yes, it is about oil and future arms sales ... and propping up the collapsing prestige of the UN as global arbiter on peace and war.

In return for this support, the UN is happy to be the mouthpiece of the arms for oil members of the Security Council.

Finally, in 1981, the Iraqis with French help, were building a nuclear plant with a capacity to produce weapons-grade uranium. Israel decided she was at risk, so destroyed it. (Shock, horror, everywhere. I remember disapproving. I was wrong.)

Israel didn't ask UN permission. It would have refused - veto time. They didn't try to reason with Baghdad.

If Israel had delayed her action - and negotiated - think of the peace marchers here and everywhere, led by the usual supernumerary parsons, under the usual rubric: "I am your leader, I will follow you anywhere. But where are the cameras?"

No, Israel did us all a great favour in 1981. Although some poor European arms selling nations missed out on flogging off delivery systems. It may be that the US and Britain will have to do as Israel did. Bush is in no hurry. His half-term election is pending. After which the pace may quicken. That's all folks.

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