April 5th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Iraq war: will it change everything?

EDITORIAL: Bushfires: urgent action needed

Queensland: Beattie follows Canberra on embryo experimentation

Water rights: an emerging political issue in the Murray Darling Basin

Straws in the Wind: Varieties of folly / With us or against us / Cue for a song / Hatred

NSW Election: Bob Carr's next four years

Trade deal: what will Washington do?

Euthanasia: Victorian Tribunal orders death by starvation

Has privatisation been successful?

Letters: The cost of the Victorian bushfires (letter)

How taxation hits families

School students, demonstrations and the New Civics

ASIA: North Korea's nuclear game

SARS: China the epicentre of world flu outbreaks

BOOKS: On Enlightenment, by David Stove

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Straws in the Wind: Varieties of folly / With us or against us / Cue for a song / Hatred

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, April 5, 2003
Varieties of folly

As the Anglo-Americans start to unpack their box of military tricks in their quest to remove what in essence is a terror regime of totalitarian gangsters and sadists, and, hopefully, give the long-suffering Iraqis a civil society ... one cannot help recalling the wistful dream of the pre-1914 British Foreign Office that the Ottoman Empire might remain in some form in the Middle East. All their fears of what might follow its inevitable disappearance are coming home to roost.

Outside powers, initially from Europe, but then Russia and, surprise, China, would struggle for primacy there. While local states, backed by various outsiders, would fight over land, resources and regional hegemony. The minorities in the various states - religious, ethnic - would be the meat in the sandwich; hostage to tyrannical governments or, as in the case of the Kurds, split up and forced to live in states - often new states - to which they felt no allegiance. These states, no matter what their other differences, would unite to suppress and divide their Kurds.

Finally, Britain's reluctant partition of old India has simply spawned another unstable state - Pakistan - which has joined the dogfight over who rules the Middle East.

Into that chaos of greed and ambition and bogus nationalisms, we now have militant Islam attempting to take advantage of all these divisions, in the hope of creating a militant Islamic Middle East; one possessed of great economic resources which could inspire and underpin militant, politicised Islam wherever Muslims live.

The only systematic counter-scenario to the Islamicists' unification of the Middle East, as just described, is the Anglo-American bid to re-establish the earlier Western hegemony. A truncated West it must be said; minus a group of second order, second-rate European malcontent nations, who helped to fan the systemic disorders which Washington and London are now struggling to control - and then overcome.

The Anglo-Americans face a daunting task in the long-term - a task having been made far more difficult by the corruption and flaccid opportunism of eight years of Clinton. But I'm going to assume in what follows, that the Anglo-Americans will win this chapter of an unfinished story. What then?

Commentators are already making this question the flavour of the month.

With us or against us

Firstly, the nations pronouncing themselves unwilling may need to renegotiate their relations with Washington, for they failed the most important test - loyalty, gratitude for past help, even generosity, and a willingness to offer a helping hand to a friend in need. Why should America move a finger to help the unwilling, in the future? As to those who struggle to bring America down - Chirac and Schroeder - they are likely to be on the outer as long as George W. Bush has anything to do with it.

The United Nations is going to have to be totally reformed in the light of its momentous failure. That is, if it wishes to survive. Not only does the Security Council need to be possessed of an entirely new sense of responsibility, but that whole labyrinth of virtually unaccountable committees must be returned to their originally modest, sensitive and cooperative character.

I cannot see the US or Blair's Britain being prepared, any longer, to pour money into the black hole at Lake Success. A victorious America could virtually turn its back on the UN - just short of walking away altogether, as it did in 1920.

And the same applies to Old Europe.

There is little to stop the US pulling her forces and bases out of Germany, Belgium, even Greece. And for the first time since 1947, Turkey may find herself on a future good behaviour bond with America. This is an Administration not disposed to muck around.

The sublime opportunism and the lightning switches of our international carers rivals that of our arms manufacturers. Disputes over who gets cut in to reorganise and run post-war Iraq, who gets a share in channelling aid to her, are already starting to shape up.

But the ones most likely to be bitter and twisted at the moment are our local branches of Snakeheads International who had hoped for a massive flood of refugees, some genuine but many not. We would be blamed for creating them (there are at present five million Iraqis outside Iraq who had earlier escaped from a loathsome situation) but a swift victory would obviate new large refugee flows - a reconstructed democratic Iraq would attract many of those millions of overseas Iraqis to return home, as they are returning in Afghanistan.

Cue for a song

One likely casualty of this war could be the Demonstration Cult, now well on the way to having lost all point and all sense. The sub-culture of demonstration junkies is now pretty well understood, and discounted accordingly. The junkies have gone to the well once too often, and it only remains for governments to wake up to the hollowness of this whole game.

In Italy, Berlusconi shrugged off a million marching against Italian support for the US because he recognised this crowd as the hard core of the Italian Left who turn out for everything.

Three million Italians marched against Berlusconi earlier against changes in work practice.

We are virtually in this same, sated situation here.

What is happening to these mobs here, but especially in Europe, is that they have become so party politicised that the issues of the war: Saddam, the fate of the Kurds, the future of the Iraqis under Saddam, are being dropped. It is more and more anti-Howard and his Government; anti-Tony Blair; in America - Bush and the Republicans; in Spain, the Government.


The original issues are ultimately irrelevant. It is the "Outs" trying to seize power from the "Ins" via the streets. And the more the Americans and Allies succeed, the more they are hated.

Meantime, any means to save Saddam and frustrate the democracies is going to be used. The job of the left media? To conceal these realities.

The decision by Saddam - quite predictable for him - to mix his troops, guns and tanks among the hapless civilian population (i.e., to use them as human shields) is essentially aimed at the Western media and those in the West who are supporting Saddam against America, and against those of us who still support Western values and institutions.

So we can expect any day a massive media blitz about innocent civilians, with demonstrators howling about Bush the war criminal, and John Howard having blood on his hands. But not Saddam.

I picked up on one of the first shock/horror anecdotes, doggedly repeated over two days. An Iraqi father, "discovered" somewhere, has young children who are so scared of bombing noise that he "drugs" them (his words).

Did the Serbs drug their children over twelve weeks of European bombing? Did the British during the Blitz, or German mothers over three years of carpet bombing, or Japanese through months of dreadful fire raids? No?

Has human nature changed, or has journalism?

But at any rate, be prepared.

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