February 28th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Don't torch the sugar industry!

CANBERRA OBSERVED: New tactics needed to handle Latham challenge

TRADE: Where does new free trade pact leave us?

NCC holds successful 2004 National Conference

DRUGS: Sweden turns off teenage drug tap

STRAWS IN THE WIND : Alabama's got the bomb / Swords into ploughshares / Closed minds

Free trade and sugar (letter)

Rethink US-Australia FTA (letter)

A Cuban's view of Fidel Castro (letter)

Political correctness in schools (letter)

Superannuation a tax on families (letter)

FAMILY: Marriage under attack

TAIWAN: Cliffhanger election will affect China relations

MEDIA: Confronting sloppy journalism

HISTORY: The continuing legacy of the 1960s

COMMENT: Getting history wrong - Ross Fitzgerald's 'The Pope's Battalions'

BOOKS: The Electronic Whorehouse, by Paul Sheehan

Books promotion page

Alabama's got the bomb / Swords into ploughshares / Closed minds

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, February 28, 2004
Alabama's got the bomb ... who's next?
(Tom Lehrer, 1960s)

The news concerning WMDs, and in particular nuclear weapons, that has been coming out of the Middle East and South Asia, especially the Indian sub-continent, is as alarming and as depressing as any that has arrived on our breakfast table for a very long time.

Pakistan announced that its chief nuclear scientist had been selling nuclear wherewithal to "her partners" Libya, Iran and North Korea, and touring many countries to advise on how best to make bombs, with tips on delivery systems. All as a part of what is clearly a global network, one to neutralise America and hence the West. North Korea is a very active partner in this worldwide traffic in WMD secrets and artifacts. But China is the director of all of this - as every Western government and the UN knew, but dared not say. Or else don't wish to.

When the question of putting the Pakistani nuclear generalissimo up for trial was mooted by President Musharaff, following upon the scientist's public confession on television, the Generals, serving and sidelined, immediately made it clear that this wouldn't happen. One General, Boag - I well remember him - said China would never stand for it. She had been a good friend to Pakistan and its nuclear program - so nothing more would happen. Nor has it.

Half of the senior nuclear scientists in Pakistan are under some form of detention, but again, nothing will happen. For they were all serving Government ends and might, if tried, say so. Finally, Musharaff announced Pakistan would never accept UN inspection, for what she did was her business. She was a sovereign state. Colin Powell has not accepted this insulting charade. He wants all illegal weapons transfers out of Pakistan to cease and expects full co-operation. Something is going to give.

But did Kofi Annan object? Or Hans Blix? No, they had swallowed the insult, the complete repudiation of their authority, and returned to the rivetting question of whether Bush and Blair had inflated the evidence for going to war against one of the earliest WMD makers, seekers, and - against the Kurds and Iranians - users in the business. If Iraq didn't have any of those weapons when challenged she would have been one of the few unlucky ones.

These revelations of virtually worldwide WMD proliferation by states, many of them supporters of, and host to, anti-Western terrorist organisations ... were preceded by Gadaffi's remarkable volte face.

He is now the firm friend of the West. All organised by Tony Blair, and as one Gadaffi's sons said, "If Tony Blair says pigs will fly, then so will we." Gadaffi threw open his WMD establishments to the British and Americans - and there were more than they had supposed. He revealed the nuclear programs of his closest allies, Iran and North Korea; named terrorist organisations and Islamic fundamentalist operatives; stopped the gravy flowing to that tireless collector of eminent persons, Robert Mugabe, and gave buddy Charles Taylor his exit from Liberia.

Why the turnabout? Berlusconi reported telephone conversations with the Colonel, where he said, "I will do whatever the Americans ask. I saw what happened in Iraq and I was afraid." And rightly so. Libya would be a pushover. And the Colonel could count on as much grassroots support as Saddam discovered, and Iran's Mullahs would find. Only their armies, police, and shonky friends in the West protect them. The significance of the information revealed here, and in Pakistan, cannot be overestimated: which is why the Western press aren't discussing it.

Swords into ploughshares: Sows' ears into silk purses

There is a kind of de ja vu about America's attempts to bring some kind of democracy and justice to the world.

In 1918, Woodrow Wilson hoped to bring in world peace, the end of military alliances, and self-determination for all. The English and French rebuffed him. They wanted a League of Nations which they controlled; and an end to all that rubbish about self-determination or respect for minorities. They gave up and walked away.

During World War II they started with projects for universal disarmaments, decolonisation and the democratisation of the world. Cold War made all of this impossible.

Global communism and advocates of anti-Western values generally, were pursuing dissident agendas. So any ideas of a world with universal values and aspirations were quixotic, to say the least. It had to be a world of power politics, survival politics, dirty politics. The main beneficiaries of the US were quite happy to let her bear the burden, dirty her hands and cop the blame. Any radical praise was for Russia, China and Pol Pot.

Now, as the global system threatens to run out of control, Bush is trying a combination of Wilsonianism and Cold War Americanism. Needless to say he is striking the same kinds of resistance from the same sorts of people. It's just as well that he and Blair stirred the pot when they did. Given another couple of terms of Carter-Clintonism, and the rotting away of Old Europe ... then the West's situation might well have been irretrievable.

As it is, we may have caught the militant Muslims and friends before they were ready. And aren't our Vichyites furious! Well ... they can still trade with China - that perennial El Dorado.

Closed minds, closed societies

Reading and attending to the Western media, including Australia's, makes one realise how few people these characters know. In all the talk about American politics and journalism, you soon realise that they not only barely mention the Republicans - or their different functions - but also when writing of the Democrats it's always the radical or liberal Democrats who get quoted, interviewed, praised, supported. You realise they don't mix with anyone else - or consider the significance of other opinions. Hence the raddled "ho ho ho" for Camelot, McGovern, Carter, Hilary, Dean. Everything else is a blur. A distraction.

And the same gaping holes appear when they report European or English politics. You never get close to any political actors, parties, ideas, which don't come from a very small, pseudo-radical middle class.

Thus, the antediluvian British and European Left are automatic heroes and wells of wisdom - the others, fools, knaves, or ... part of the unwashed masses.

In Australia, Conservatives, Liberals, and genuine ordinary Australians, young and old alike, only appear as parodies or living tokens. So, what we get, locally, is journo's pub talk or chardonnay speak, and for foreign news agit prop from tourists sent overseas to lie for their editors. So, naturally, we crowd the internet. Where the writing is distinctly better.

France and Germany

One of those deep Bush silences has fallen upon local reportage of Old Europe, and as to Iberia, Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, Italy (except for Berlusconi and Pavarotti) ... just forget it. Our media and intelligentsia are nothing if not multicultural. Which presumably means, neither cosmopolitan nor politically literate. But France and Germany are different - for they lead the Coalition of the Unwilling, and been instrumental in filleting the UN, NATO and the EU. And with leaderships who are viscerally anti-American they are obviously countries worth knowing and knowing about.

They are also interesting political laboratories. France, a right of centre plutocracy, with a very rich, virtually unreformed old fashioned Empire to boot, and Germany, an ailing pseudo/crypto/quasi Social Democracy ... manque. Now what messages do they bring us?

France : Her President Chirac and favourite son, Juppe, are mired in such political/financial scandal as would have destroyed them, and their party machines, had France possessed minimum standards of political and financial accountability, an independent judiciary, an even vaguely public spirited media; politicians and parties of minimum probity. But they do not - so we have a replay of the doomed, venal old Third Republic, with its lookalike Heriots, Daladiers, Thorezs and the rest. France, which impersonated a Great Power until Hitler ended the imposture in six weeks and gave them Petain and Laval.

The institutional standards I have outlined above, are the necessary but not sufficient conditions for a living democratic State. France does not possess them - nor did she before the war. De Gaulle thought he might recreate them. An honourable failure. But a nation must also possess a patriotic citizenry, hence one opposed to social and political corruption.

I'll not even bother discussing the first, but too many Frenchmen accept such corruption as a fact of life, and are happy or at least not disinclined to benefit from it; an attitude alive and well ever since the departure of Napoleon, but now endemic in France. (As it is in many places.)

This attitude leads to systemic decadence and outside capture. But amazingly, a French Court has just found Juppe guilty and sentenced him. He refuses to resign and intends to appeal, where he might find more understanding judges. His and Chirac's Conservatives, ruling Paris for 15 years with Chirac the Mayor, had put their party workers on the municipal payroll. So, Chirac's Party never lacked money. Nor Chirac. Now the Chief Judge has reported her offices bugged and broken into. The police are looking into it.

One would expect this to be covered up, like all major political crimes in France, but ... nationwide local elections are to be held around the end of March, and Le Pen's Party was expected to do very well. How might they not go now? If they do make big gains, we'll read about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. Pull the other leg.

Deutschland Unter Alles: Germany, under Schroeder, has declined quite remarkably, until it is now virtually written off as one of the engines of growth, as a source of new ideas or new technology, even, of making significant contributions to the activities of the EU, NATO or the G7. Too many of Schroeder's voters refuse to accept changes in welfare, in taxation, in work practices - someone else should pay. And fight. Schroeder has just had to step down as party leader, while remaining Chancellor. His party is way behind in the polls.

Believing he could win on anti-Americanism and some last minute mud throwing, Schroeder just scraped back, but with an Opposition believing they were robbed, and quite disinclined to help him.

Thinking he could ride on Chirac's coat tails, he is now tied to a squalid, smirking disaster. In following Chirac's bluster and deviance, he has lost the East and Central European and traditional German markets. The US Administration and corporate sector are giving Germany the cold shoulder, while Schroeder has succeeded in alienating Berlusconi and the Spaniards. Only China is sympathetic ... for now.

All in all, a public relations disaster, and most Germans know it. Lining up for pickings in Africa and the Middle East, the new chum Germans are easily shouldered aside by their experienced old friends, the French. Who in turn are being harassed by the Anglo-Saxons. A new German conservative government will have to start from scratch.

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