August 23rd 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Saving the Internet from itself

EDITORIAL: Australia-US trade deal and the debt crisis

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Marriage law changes: the fight is worth it

AGRICULTURE: Water rights and trading petition launched

ECONOMY: The housing boom: history repeats

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Dictators and dark continents / Get Blair

HISTORY: How political myths are made

Senate calls for EU-style 'Pacific Community'

FAMILY: Governments put gay marriage on the agenda

COMMENT: Feminist arithmetic

NEW ZEALAND: The story behind the destruction of ANZUS

PHILIPPINES: Filipino coup attempt destabilises Arroyo

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Dictators and dark continents / Get Blair

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, August 23, 2003
Dictators and dark continents

Reuters had a news item reprinted in the Herald Sun (August 1), concerning the approaching death of Uganda's former dictator Idi Amin. He had enjoyed a pleasant exile - spanning 25 years - in Saudi Arabia. Reuters then proceeded to give a list of post-independence African dictator/sadists, although there were some others whom we have good reason to remember, who weren't featured.

Amin, in his day, was courted by most of the big countries interested in Africa, and his virtuoso performance was not lost upon subsequent African leaders, especially aspiring dictators. On one day at least, Kampala's Entebbe Airport handled British, US, Israeli, Russian and Arab cargo planes in different areas of the aerodrome; all unloading their wares.

The British were giving Amin a sophisticated monitoring system whereby he could listen to newspaper offices, foreign embassies, etc, as well as his own people. The Israelis - more arms! - and all the others, whatever he desired.

Amin used to keep the severed heads of rivals in his refrigerator and, according to Reuters, "once placed some of them on his dining table to remind guests he was not to be crossed". This was widespread knowledge years ago. This writer knew it - and the governments and their media dealing with Amin knew it. And the UN and the complex of aid multinationals knew it. He wanted them to know.

Amin overthrew Milton Obote, his rebels being trained by the Israelis and the CIA. Their education included interrogation techniques, and Amin raged up and down Uganda killing and torturing his enemies whom he defined. He may have killed 200,000.

His close ties with Israel broke when, finding his domestic power base going, he joined with a Muslim group representing, perhaps, about 15 per cent of Ugandans and declared himself a Muslim. He then backed - and was backed by - Gaddafi and the Saudis. Uganda lined up with them in the United Nations. After this - big blunder - an airliner filled with Israelis was hijacked and taken to Entebbe. The daring Israeli rescue operation signalled the beginning of the end for Amin.

He retired to Saudi Arabia just as Mobutu, the plunderer and despoiler of Congo, had retired to Europe. And Mengistu, who conducted the Red Terror in Ethiopia, is on a ranch in Zimbabwe donated by his friend Robert Mugabe. I don't know if he has met any of Mugabe's Australian friends.

The aforementioned Obote, whom Amin had overthrown and who was accused by opponents of being even more brutal than Idi, is a guest of Zambia. Sierra Leone has just finished a ten year civil war over who shall sell the stolen diamonds to the great gem merchants of Antwerp and Israel. That conflict left 200,000 dead and as many mutilated. Its chief killer and mutilator was to be tried for war crimes after his power went - but he died.

And so it goes on - Angola, Liberia, Rwanda, etc. And the UN did nothing for as long as possible and often said less. But one of the names missing from the Reuters dispatch is self-styled "Emperor" Bokassa of the Central African Republic. Reporters looking for a drink in his fridge found human meat. But he gave French President d'Estaing and his wife, not meat, but $7 million in diamonds as a mark of their friendship.

Eventually the French state made them hand over the sparklers ... to it.

Giscard d'Estaing - reborn - has just presented his plan for a new European Union constitution possibly aimed at entrenching Franco-German control, before the ten new member states can have a say. Still greatly respected in Brussels is the former French leader, and strangely, he may be one of the more respectable actors on stage.

One of America's more perceptive geo-political thinkers, Robert Kaplan, thinks that those parts of Africa with resources will continue to be fought over, with Western crooks (including politicians), forming coalitions with their local political favourites, as they did in Chicago, and continue to conduct glorified gang warfare. The UN will be the umpire.

The rest of Africa can, and will, "go hang".

Eventually, he thinks, South Africa will take the same path as Zimbabwe. So, again, the Dark Continent.

But while we are waiting, Mandela and Tutu will be produced at rapturous political love-ins for London's left-wing yuppies, along with some homespun cliches provided by the Clintons.

America wants out - she can get what she needs elsewhere, so she is happy to let the Europeans prolong their 19th century colonial fantasies. Aid organisations help to legitimise the continuing presence of the West. The only people likely to change things for the better are the churches and their missionaries, and carefully supervised US medical aid. The missionaries don't want armed escorts and Western armies. Neither the Christians nor the Muslims want nor need soldiers to gain converts; so long as, it might appear, the proselytisers aren't gay. Of course the proselytisers could be laying the ground for great religious wars of the future.

Yet again, that damned still to be defined law of unintended consequences.

Nor did Reuters give a realistic list of the dictators, sadists and tyrants in Latin America - which starts, for our purposes, with the arrival of the Spaniards. Such people have continued in employment ever since. The UN is irrelevant there, as are the aid and civil liberties multinationals.

These provide copy for Western media activists, scripts for art films and publicity for rebel leaders, who become the next dictator or drug lord. I doubt if any of our compromised Western scribblers affect political, economic or socio-cultural realities in Latin America. The inhabitants will have to do the job. But, as in Africa, this may be impossible. After all, there is such a thing as Tragedy in human affairs.

Get Blair

The long drawn out campaign to unseat Tony Blair started from the day after his election, and followed upon an earlier struggle to keep him from the Labour leadership and, incidentally, thereby prevent Labour from regaining power after 18 years in the electoral wilderness.

These campaign were, and are, conducted by Labour's left. The degree to which the Labour left has, over many years, triumphed, can be gleaned by noting that Blair's Government has been in office longer (six years) than any Labour Government in history.

Nothing succeeds like failure - so over that time, the left has done its party proud. But unable on this occasion to roll Blair and his supporters, our living left fossils have had to make alliances with people whom, in other places, they describe as enemies of the workers.

In a fairly disingenuous piece in the London Review of Books (July 10), novelist John Lancaster tells how, while once a fervent supporter of Blair, he has now joined his detractors. If you like, a Hampstead Mark Antony. As he says, "Once Labour won the 1997 election ... within about 10 minutes, Blair was being spoken of on the left as a blatant sell-out, a Public School-educated, Tory infiltrator. The complaints were always the same: Blair's position on X was a tragic, unforgiveable betrayal of the electorate." And the X in that sentence varied - but Lancaster runs through virtually all the proposals and changes emanating from Blair and his Government during that time, which were attacked by the left. Yet Blair rolled on, despite the periodic beat-ups in the media: "Labor in Crisis", "Blair on Ropes".

The Tories have been no match and the mainstream voter has never been enchanted by Blair's opponents in the Labour Party. So, the British PM has been looking impregnable. The problem for his enemies was to find an issue on which he could be tripped up and deposed - but swiftly. Iraq and before that Afghanistan were areas where Blair could be ambushed, they reasoned. The inability to produce Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) is, basically, the hopeful ground for discrediting Blair, as it is for the American opponents of Bush. This line is also faithfully parroted by Australian opponents of John Howard and the supporters of the war against Saddam. But most Australians have shown a far greater interest in things happening now - and there are enough of them and of a very worrying nature.

But as to the coalition against the Blair Government of which the Tories are, up to this date, a very reluctant part: in The Spectator, for example, there are now articles such as "How to Sack Blair", which was a long interview with the new leader of the once-powerful transport and general workers union, about how he and other union leaders will, "Take back the Labour Party". They would certainly have to sack the Blairites first. We could then return to the pre-Thatcher Britain where the born again Big Unions call the shots. Anyone living in Britain, or spending time there, will remember that stagnant, "I'm all right Jack" atmosphere of sloth, falling productivity, shoddy workmanship, and general confusion, similar to Germany now.

People poured out of Britain in those days.

But the alliance of most of the papers and the BBC is the most intriguing development and some of the reasons might be found in a typical article, again in The Spectator, and headlined "The sinister reason why the Murdoch press is attacking the BBC". This by Stephen Glover who covers the British media. Although, in passing, the BBC is now in very hot water, and being attacked by many more people besides Rupert. But Glover's "sinister reason" is that the Communications Bill has just passed through the Lords to receive Royal Assent in the (British) autumn. Under it, Rupert Murdoch has not been disbarred from acquiring Channel Five which, Glover asserts, it is assumed he wants.

Glover frantically canvasses ways the will of Parliament can be frustrated at the last minute, although the Secretary of State has the final say, "I cannot imagine Mr Murdoch is too worried about that."

As it stands, this is hardly the sinister reason why Murdoch should attack the BBC - but it could easily be the reason why the ailing British press, with constant talk of the (left-wing) Mirror and the (right-wing) Telegraph changing hands should hate Murdoch. And hate a government that might give Rupert even greater influence. And if a Murdoch-run Channel Five appeared in competition with the BBC - real competition - it could be the moment of truth for the left-yuppie monopoly which the BBC has become.

Note - the war and Saddam appear nowhere here.

Finally to our region. Our politicians and communicators are going to have to grow up quickly if we are still going to be living in security within a very few years.

Indonesia is, in fact, very unstable with corrupt and predatory elements operating in all walks of life. We cannot count on friends always being in power there.

Our island chain is going to involve us for years to come - and not always peacefully.

The Philippines is a political and security disaster. Militant Islam and its weapon - global terrorism - is not going away: only changing tactics from time-to-time. And the strategies of China via her proxy, North Korea, should be alerting everyone.

So a complete change from the small town vote-chasing policies of New Labor is mandatory, if the ALP is going to be any use to Australia in the present climate.

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