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

a political celebration « Previous | |Next »
May 21, 2004

1200 of the faithful came to celebrate John Howard's 30 years in political life. Does Howard dream of emulating Robert Menzies, his political hero?

While others simply puked those at the party did a lot of genial backslapping about Howard who was sold to us as a good, strong man who got results for Australia. The more thoughtful of the backslappers are waiting for the budget bounce: for the Coalition's primary vote to recover within a few weeks of the giveaway budget. One presumes that they reckon political attitudes will shift when the first of the $4 billion family payments start to arrive in voters' bank accounts.

The anniversary dinner was a fundraiser for the Liberal Party's NSW branch, a bonding of the Liberal family and a simulated spectacle with talkback jock Alan Jones acting as MC.

Bill Leak

It was more than a celebration. It was also a campaign launch on the theme of Protecting, Securing, Building Australia's Future (from the Other.)

The media continued to speculate about leadership tensions and ignored the Liberal fables of unity and history. They reminded us of Enoch Powell's quip that "All political careers end in failure."

It started out well for them. It was a new conservative dawn in 1996 when Howard swept Paul Keating's tired ALP aside in a landslide. Since then we citizens have been offered private affluence and public squalor. Many silently accepted the deal---wealth creation, free markets and a close alliance with the US --- so that we can be relaxed and comfortable.

But things on the national security front have turned after the initial successes of Tampa and the Iraq war. In terms of foreign policy John Howard, like Tony Blair, is being portrayed as an American stooge. The bottom line is 'with the Americans either right or wrong' as Iraq sinks into unmitigated disaster. Blair walks into a political wasteland. Howard is still travelling okay.

However, Howard is becoming to be seen as a politician who uses spin, disinformation, constructive ambiguity, and news management to cover his deceptions. The late reasons given for going to war with Iraq basically said that Howard and Bush works for democracy, freedom and peace. But recent events there show they work for war. The conflict with Muqtada al-Sadr is making the US-led Coalition look like an oppressive occupier in Iraq. Howard appears to be in denial about the political consequences spreading around the world from a war gone horribly wrong.

Remind me. Which group is the US fighting to liberate? Surely not the Sunnis after Fallujah. Not the Shiites given US encroachments on Shiite holy sites. Not the Marsh Arabs. Of course the US military continues to maintain that the resistance is almost entirely manned and organized by outside fighters. Nobody outside the US military believe this. The evidence indicates homegrown anti-occupation revolts. So which group is the US fighting for to bring them democracy? The neo-con dream of democracy in the Middle East looks more like turning into a brutal occupation.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:46 PM | | Comments (3)


Tucked away in 'The Age' there is a small article by Brendan Nicholson which reports Hugh White, director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, stating that the Australian Government's approach to Iraq is lagging behind the view in Washington on the seriousness of the situation there. He said that said this week's keynote speech by Prime Minister John Howard was an argument for Australia remaining in Iraq - but failed to say what we should be doing. Which is quite ironic considering that now the some in the US administration are considering an "internationalisation" of the problem, including the inclusion of - GASP! - the UN. And that seems to be the ALP position as well. Is there a chance that Howard will have to change its position quickly?

There is also a great cartoon by Leunig in 'The Age' today, answering those who are automatically labelled anti-american if they dare to disagree with Bush.

Alexander Downer has done his bit for the nation by declaring John Howard "a very fit man". If he is such, my grandad was a veritable world champion triathlete at age 80. Hilarious hagiography!

Howard, like Blair, has refused to concede the slightest doubt that his view to remove Hussein was just. He is also firmly of the view that it is right to keep the troops in Iraq until the job is done.

This means that withdrawing from the coaltion when the US is in trouble is not on politically. It would be an admission of failure, and it would leave Bush isolated.

Howard is safe here because middle Australia sees Australia's alliance with US as an insurance policy against the potential threats in the Asia Pacific region. Australia's sense of insecurity reamisn even though the Cold War has gone.

The UK is different. The UK is not insecure. The US alliance is less important, given the UK's ties with Europe. Hence there is no need for an unquestioning obedience to the US all-out-attack on Islamic terrorism.