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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

it's not his role « Previous | |Next »
March 26, 2004

I heard Tom Schieffer, the American Ambassador to Australia, on the radio yesterday morning in between the shrills from a rattled and edgy Howard Government laying it on about the ALP snuggling up to Osama bin Laden. Canberra rhetoric is often so politically simple-minded. Some Canberra politicians actually think that those of us living west of the capital are like little children who will swallow any tall tale fed to us by their glamourous media machine.

Did you catch the one by Ross Cameron about Osama bin Laden in the caves of Pakistan celebrating the advent of Mark Latham? Did you get the moral of the story? That the evil one's comments about bringing the troops home was an invitation to terrorists to belt Australia up?

The plan by Mark Latham to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq by Xmas is a reasonable decision. Australia is an occupying power in Iraq. The troops need to come home when Iraq forms its own government. And Australia is not an imperial power.

Tom Schieffer made a clear intervention into domestic Australian politics as an American Ambassador. He was commenting at length on Latham's decision. Here is part of the transcript from Radio National's AM programme:

"MATT BROWN: Just to be clear though, are you saying that Mark Latham's decision is a signal that could invite political bombings that target Australians specifically?

TOM SCHIEFFER: I'd hope that it wouldn't. What I'm saying is that a precipitous withdrawal of troops by the international community now could have very serious consequences and we have to be very careful in that, because that's not what we want… we don't want terrorists to get the wrong message here.

We don't want them to think the bombing in Madrid has paid some sort of political dividend, whether it is Spain or elsewhere and that's just something that we have to be very careful about and I hope that Mr Latham will take that into consideration before he makes a final decision.

....MATT BROWN: When the Prime Minister said those words last year – "I'm not talking about a period of twelve months or two years" – if he'd stuck to that, that would mean Australian troops would be coming out a few weeks from now?

TOM SCHIEFFER: I'm afraid that I just don't know what you're talking about, so you'd have to ask the Prime Minister about that.

MATT BROWN: It didn't register with you then?

TOM SCHIEFFER: I'm not familiar with that statement."

Criticize one side. Block on the other. Schieffer has directly challenged the ALP and supported the Coalition.

Schieffer has done this before. He was told to butt out then. He should butt out now.

It is partisanship and a public interference into domestic Australian politics.

Update
The shrills continue:
PettyVH1.jpg
Bruce Petty

Petty captures the atmosphere of the House of Representatives on Thursday

And then there's the hysteria. Latham's troop's home by Xmas decision will brand Australia as a nation on the run thunders Paul Kelly It is hysteria because the Latham decision is based on a questioning of the Bush administration's claim that the US occupation in Iraq is central to its war against international terror.

A reasonable questioning I would have thought, given this sort of testimony to the US Congress by Richard Clarke that the imperial presidency president had diverted the focus on hunting terrorists to fighting an unnecessary war with Iraq.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:03 AM | | Comments (24)
Comments

Comments

So let me get this straight:

You are actually going to argue that America has no interest in the question whether Australia keeps its troops in Iraq, or not? Sorry, Gary, but, as they say in Tennessee, that dog just won't hunt.

A precipitious withdrawal of Aussie troops from Iraq would have a calamitous impact on the war on terror, the campaign to build a democratic Iraq, and thus on America's national security.

The US most definitely has a dog in this fight, and Schieffer is well within his proper role to make the Administration's views on this question.

Moreover, given the personal propensity of lefties such as yourself for perfervid opinionating about the inner workings of American politics, don't you think it's a bit hypocritical to bitch and moan about Schieffer expressing himself in a similar vein?

Interesting hearing Gerard Henderson who has been a very pro USA and Iraq war commentator criticising Schieffer. His comment was that criticising Latham so openly in the media was counterproductive, as it may provoke annoyance amongst people and divert from the main issue of what was wrong (in Henderson's and Schieffer's opinion) about Latham's proposal.

Moreover, given the personal propensity of lefties such as yourself for perfervid opinionating about the inner workings of American politics, don't you think it's a bit hypocritical to bitch and moan about Schieffer expressing himself in a similar vein?
Congratulations on the new job, Gary. I didn't even know you had joined the APS. And now you're the Australian ambassador to the USA. A big tip, don't invite Tim Dunlop to any of your official BBQs. He's a lefty and will embarrass your guests.

"Moreover, given the personal propensity of lefties such as yourself for perfervid opinionating about the inner workings of American politics, don't you think it's a bit hypocritical to bitch and moan about Schieffer expressing himself in a similar vein?"

The word diplomacy comes to mind when one thinks of an ambassador. He has interfered in Australian domestic politics. If he wishes to express the US mis-Administration's point of view then that should be done with the Australian government not the media.

Why would he add fuel to the pyre of growing anti-American sentiment worldwide. (Unless, of course, it was done deliberately.)

I have the feeling Schieffer often has the taste of shoe leather in his mouth.

I see you subscribe to the notion that the invasion of Iraq was 'war on terrorism'. It's good to see the truth emerging from the likes of Richard Clarke.

Ron:

Which truth would that be? The truth uttered by Rich Clarke some months ago when he praised the policies of the Bush Administration? Or, the new tune he's been humming in order to heighten sales of his book?

Clarke's penchant for self-contradiction has been so accute that it makes John Kerry look like the soul of consistency.

After all, Kerry only said that he voted once in favor of funding Operation Iraqi Freedom, and then he voted against the appropriation bill itself. That little bit of legislative legedermaine makes Kerry look like the Rock of Gilbraltar, by comparison with Clarke's peregrinations all over the map.

In memos written by Clarke in late 2003, Bush was a hero, but now ol' Rich says that he's a zero. What's has changed? Well, Clarke now stands to make a chunk of change from his book, that's what.

It is the form of the representation that is crucial.

Schieffer can make his representations about the Bush Administration's concerns to the ALP leadership privately.

Nothing wrong with that.

Schieffer is not doing that. He is engaging in a public debate in a foreign country about matters of concern to Australian citizens. These decisions about Australian troops are for Australians to discuss and decidein a publci debate.

Schieffer is siding with one political party over anaother in an election year.

VoS,

Perhaps Clarke's only purpose is to publicise his book but it is still another brick in the growing wall of TRUTH now emerging about the invasion of Iraq.

I believe Bush, Blair and Howard will pay the price for their lies as has happened with recently departed Spanish govt. Their reckoning may not come at the next elections but like Richard Nixon, their names will be manure on the path of history.

Ah, but there's one additional "brick of truth" that is also undeniable. If you and yours had your druthers and there were no war, then Saddam's tyranny would still be fully operational.

The only way the Ba'athist thug was ever going to leave the seat of power was at the business end of an American bayonet. Internal opposition to Saddam was sporadic, weak and thoroughly terrorized into impotence.

That can not reasonably be denied.

Opposition to the war equals opposition to the only practical means of ending Saddam's regime.

Gary, oh my God!!!!

The American ambassador appointed by a US President is actually "siding with one political party" against the another party that is led by a man who last year hurled ad hominem invective against that President. I'm shocked... SHOCKED!!

Mark Latham needs to learn that what goes around comes around. You reap what you sow.

Inappropriate, divisive and meddling in domestic political affairs which don't concern the US administration, let alone their representative in this country. Even Gerard Henderson says so.

So the duration of the Australian troop commitment to the Iraqi enterprise doesn't concern the US, Niall?

That's a rather blinkered viewpoint, isn't it. How can you argue that with a straight face?

Vos,
your principle seems to be that it is okay for a foreign ambassador to publicly intervene into a public debate of matters of importance to Australian citizens.

So it is okay for the Indonesian ambassador to go the radio and publicly criticize the Howard government over its actions in East Timor.

Or for the Chinese Ambassador to publicly criticise the Australian in the daly press for its support for Tawain.

Yeah, Gary:

I don't give a rodent's posterior if the Indonesian ambassador criticizes our intervention in E Timor. Nor would I be particularly worried if the representative of the non-democratic Chinese communist government expressed his displeasure over Aussie support for Taiwan.

Well,
that's a principle we disagree on.
I would criticize all the examples of public intervention---American, Indonesian and Chinese.

The job of an ambassador is to represent his country and to advance his interest.

Gary's view, applied logically, means that it is quite inappropriate for Australia to make any comment at all, for example, about human rights abuses in nations like Burma.

There is a difference between an ambassador commenting than say the foreign affairs minister.

An ambassador should present his GOVT's view to the govt of his/her host country in a diplomatic way and not directly to the media.

We won't hear a single word from Australia's ambassador to Singapore re the Australian citizen sentenced to death there for drug offences. But should the federal govt want him to convey a message to the Singaporean govt it will be done via diplomatic channels not via The Straits Times.

Ron is dead right Scott about the principle involved in this debate.

My position is that it is wrong for the Australian Ambassador to Burma to publicly intervene in the domestic debate within Burma by going on the radio and making extended comments.

It is wrong to do this and support the Burmese Government and criticize the opposition leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi for her destablizing the country with her incessant calls for democracy. It is not the Ambassador's job to do this as if or she were a Burmese citizen.

On the other hand, it is perfectly okay for the Foreign Minister of Australia to denounce the Burmese Government for their crimes against humanity.

That is the principle spelt out.

Consequently, you are misinterpreting my position badly when you say that it is "quite inappropriate for Australia to make any comment at all, for example, about human rights abuses in nations like Burma."

That is not my position at all.

Gary,
Generally I agree with your traditional view about ambassadorial protocol, but I'm starting to believe this may have outlived its usefulness. With the type of attack dog media approach these days, ambassadorial protocol may have had its day.

What would the media headlines roar, if Schieffer had called round quietly for a chat with Latham, particularly in the light of Latham's climbdown now on all troops home by Xmas. I'd venture to suggest, he'd be facing the same inference as the Keelty saga. It may be more appropriate these days for ambassadors of all countries to openly put their govts views about in all countries. If this becomes the norm, then we will come to see it as open discourse, to be discussed and critically evaluated, rather than sneaking about behind the scenes.

Observa,
you may well be right that ambassadorial protocol may have had its day. If so lets take the old diplomatic immunity away.

However, I cannot shake off the feeling that the Chinese Ambassador would be allowed to do what the American ambassador has done.

I suspect the politics at work here is that its okay for the US but not for nation states.

So if I am to understand you correctly, you are complaining that it was not Colin Powell, who as Sec. of State, should have made these remarks?

Gary,
Although ambassadorial protocol may have had its day, we are probably in a transition phase. This means we have a situation where countries that have special relationships, probably do accept more of the latter approach, but lean toward the traditional approach with more abrasive relationships. We probably accept more intervention by Western(Anglo?) diplomats in much the same way as Muslim countries would with similar faith based theocracies. I don't know that I would go so far as abandoning diplomatic immunity though. Too easy to jail a diplomat for not doing in Rome as they say. The ultimate sanction is to expel a diplomat, if you can't live with their words or actions.

'The US most definitely has a dog in this fight, and Schieffer is well within his proper role to make the Administration's views on this question'

And we are well within ours to say 'shut it.'

He can say what he likes, so long as we can too.

(Ron, you're right about the shoe leather - Mel wouldn't be the Lone Ranger there. He's just another donor.)

'Clarke's penchant for self-contradiction has been so accute that it makes John Kerry look like the soul of consistency'

Have you ever had an original thought? Are you some sort of bot? You really should look at getting a filter for the talking points, so that your apologism could at least plausibly come from within your own cranium.

Glenn asks

"Have you ever had an original thought? Are you some sort of bot? You really should look at getting a filter for the talking points, so that your apologism could at least plausibly come from within your own cranium."

Given the faithful orthodoxy with which he regurgitates the anti-American leftist cant, I would pose the same question to him.

they should just fucking be brought home because there is no reason for us to be there because there was no weapons of mass desruction