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

little Johnny « Previous | |Next »
June 6, 2004

I guess that when John Howard returns to Australia we will all hear the "John Howard is an international statesman" and the "ALP is anti-American" script circulated through the Canberra Press Gallery and the shock jocks. Along with 'only John Howard can protect the Australia/US alliance.'

As they say, "well, he would, wouldn't he?" What else can Howard do? Iraq beginning to hurt him, and he has nailed himself so securely to the Bush Administration's mast. He has to play the Bush card.

When we hear the above script we should remember the political realities of Howard's conception of Australia as the Deputy Sheriff of the US:

CartoonLeakVH3.jpg
Bill Leak

Being critical of the above Howard rhetoric is less about having a joke at Howard's expense than keeping our wits about us as democratic citizens. After all, the recent US interventions into the Australian domestic politics means that the ALP's disagreement with the Bush Administration is not about Iraq any more. It is now about the US-Australia alliance itself. Bush has put the alliance on the line over Iraq. The imperial presidency is not willing to accept that the US and Australian governments can differ over the specifics of Iraq. and yet still continue with a strong and mutually beneficial alliance. Its all or nothing now.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:54 PM | | Comments (7)
Comments

Comments

Couldn't agree more.

The anti-war side, may over the coming months have to face the fact, that the Coalition of the Willing, will largely be proved correct with a beacon of light approach to the Middle East. Latham has clearly differentiated himself and his party from Howard and Co. In so doing, he has also chosen to markedly differ with his US counterpart in John Kerry. Latham has clearly nailed his colours to a different mast. The question is, has he erred in his judgement on Iraq? If Howard has had briefings in the US, that transition to Iraqi control is progressig well and there is a good chance some troops may be able to be withdrawn over coming months, then clearly he will go to the polls as late as possible. Perhaps a post Xmas election even, just to let Latham know how silly his 'troops home by Xmas' really was. The elapsing of time in Iraq, may now be Latham's biggest enemy.

In actual fact, if Howard believes Iraq will be a resounding success, then why wouldn't he go to the polls after January elections in Iraq? He really doesn't have to call an election before April. In the meantime he may be quite comfortable keeping his opponents in Grand Final mode, until the weather conditions are to his team's liking.

i think you're mistaken, observa, that any withdrawal of australian troops before christmas will be to Howard's advantage. Latham played his cards right on this one. If troops come home before the election, the swinging voters will think Latham had it right all along.

Observa,
you are pretty optimistic:

"The anti-war side, may over the coming months have to face the fact, that the Coalition of the Willing, will largely be proved correct with a beacon of light approach to the Middle East.... that transition to Iraqi control is progressing well and there is a good chance some troops may be able to be withdrawn over coming months..."

Wire reports are carrying stories saying
guerilla violence took 28 lives in Iraq on this weekend, and left more than 88 wounded. Is not the US talking in terms of increased numbers?

Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army insurgents in East Baghdad attacked police stations on Sunday. They even took a station, commanded the police to depart, planted explosions and blew the station up.

Somehow I cannot see that Iraq will be a resounding success in the short term.

Gary,
When I talk of Iraq progressing well, I should qualify that within the more violent context of the Middle East, rather than our higher expectations of civil society(Redfern riots notwithstanding). The more volatile politics of Iraq is certainly exacerbated by the attraction of fundies from around the ME. They have a strong desire to railroad the transition process. Iraq is currently facing their best efforts at present and appears to be coping and progressing. We should expect some lessening of this disruption, as security reins are handed to Iraqis and troop withdrawals occur. The speed at which this occurs may have a strong bearing on the political fortunes of Bush and Howard.

Kez,
I wasn't thinking along the lines of the withdrawal of our minimal contingent. More the withdrawal of a large tranche of US/UK troops. This would be the main signal to a number of Anglo electorates that Iraq was progressing reasonably well.

Gary:

The fact is that most of the violence in Iraq is highly localized and limited to a handful of trouble spots.

And, as for Falluja, you might want to read this email letter from a U.S. Marine reserve officer to his Dad. Major Dave Bellon is a California lawyer in civilian life who is currently on active duty with the 1st Marine Regiment:

"Email from Dave - Jun 2, 04

Dad -

Some interesting developments out of Falluja and Iraq in general that I wanted to share with you. Since we have agreed to stay at arms reach with Falluja, we have been able to focus our efforts on the surrounding towns and villages. The result is that we have made great inroads in breaking up insurgent cells through ambushes and raids. Even more important, we have began to establish an early and still fragile rapport with the people of these areas. The areas are historical sanctuaries for terrorists so they are important.

One town in particular that we have been successful in is near Falluja. During the April fight in Falluja, the muj took the town over and used it as a base of operations of sorts. From all reports, they were brutal on the people and very quickly subjugated the town. During one of the ordered pauses in the Falluja fight, we chopped a rifle company off the line with a very aggressive battalion commander. Basically he was told that we thought the muj were running lose in the area and that he should head up there and "develop the situation." I have gotten to know this guy pretty well here. He is a very good commander and a tough guy. In fact, I remember telling him that if he went past a certain point, he would be decisively engaged. We had estimated that if he got into a decisive engagement, he could be outnumbered by as much as 5:1. You can imagine what he did. He took his Marines right to that point.

Sure enough, the fight was on. It was a 360 degree engagement that lasted 8 hours. An 8 hour firefight is an eternity. To put it in perspective, this guy was in both OIF 1 battle for Baghdad as well as the Falluja fight. He states that the firefight up near this town was the toughest he has been in. We fired quite a bit of artillery and brought in a number of sorties of close air for them. By the time it was over, the estimates (now confirmed) are that they killed over a 100 muj. We could not understand why they kept coming but they did (more on that later). Throughout it all, very accurate mortar fire up to 120mm was falling inside the Marine position. Automatic weapons and RPGs were crisscrossing through the perimeter. The Marines just
laid their in the micro terrain and squeezed of well aimed shots.

The Battalion Commander stayed that day until his guys broke the muj and he "owned the field" (his words). He then withdrew back to his original position. In the same town, we now have Marines living 24/7. They are conducting joint patrols with the Iraqi Police and the ICDC (Iraqi Civil Defense Corps). When they first arrived, the people were very standoffish and even hostile. Now we are getting more and more walk up intelligence (where the locals literally risk their lives in order to walk into our lines and tell us where the muj are). The reason for the turnaround is simple. We have pushed through the bow wave of intimidation and terror that dominated the town when the muj were there. The Marines did it through aggressive raiding and downright obstinate refusal to budge regardless of the costs. The people were watching the entire time and have made up their own minds where their best future lies. It has gotten to the point where the mujahadeen are now firing mortars indiscriminately into the town as it is the only effective means of maintaining any kind of influence over the people. Yesterday, they grievously wounded to citizens doing just that.

That is not to say that the town is a bed of roses for the Marines as we still have plenty of contact in the area and it is very dangerous but we are grinding them down and are about to put a good pounding on the enemy in the next few days. The people are talking and we are about to pay some more visits in the middle of the night. I could give you a couple more examples but it is a good illustration of what kind of work the Marines are doing every day.

As far as Falluja goes, we have not been allowed to get back in there with any real numbers yet. Initially, it was confounding. However, a very interesting dynamic has developed. Since we have stayed out of Falluja and focused elsewhere, the mujahadeen have had their run of the town. As they have had no one to fight, they have turned their criminal instincts on the citizens. The clerics who once were whipping these idiots into a suicidal frenzy are now having to issue Fatwas (holy decrees) admonishing the muj for extortion, rape, murder and kidnapping. It is unfortunate for the "innocent people" of Falluja but the mujahadeen have betrayed themselves as the thugs that they are by brutalizing the civilians. There are, in fact, reports of rape, etc from inside the town.

While the muj are thugging away inside the town, we are about 1/2 mile away paying claims, entering into dialogue and contracting jobs. The citizens come outside the city for work and money and are treated like human beings. They go back inside and enter a lawless hell. In short, the muj have done more to show the people what hypocrites they are in a few short weeks than we could have hoped for in a year. The result is more and more targetable intelligence. If we are given the green light, we can really go to town on these guys (no pun intended). However, as much as we would like to do just that, the optimal solution is to empower the Iraqis to take care of it themselves. That is precisely what we are doing.

Equally astounding is evidence that these "holy warriors" are taking drugs to get high before attacks. It true, as we pushed into the town in April many Marines came across drug paraphernalia (mostly heroin). Recently, we have gotten evidence of them using another drug BZ that makes them high and very aggressive. Cowards and hypocrites. They don't have the nerve to fight without calming their fear with drugs. Between highs, they are robbing people and raping young girls. Some jihad.

Unfortunately, Al Qaeda is here and they are some of the most brutal beings that you can imagine. I say "beings" because they do not qualify as human beings. They prey upon the "holy warriors" above and are in league with them teaching them tactics and employing them to execute attacks. Money to pay for the attacks comes from neighboring states. Al Qaeda, the same people that espouse creating a Islamic State that is global and living under the "purist form of God's laws", are working with drug addicts and rapists. Someone will have to explain that on to me some day.

For now we are gearing up for the inevitable offensive that the former regime guys, local criminals and Al Qaeda will wage this summer. It will be brutal as they are on a systematic campaign to murder anyone who is even half-way moderate. If any leader gains traction that is not 100% anti-coalition and pro-anarchy, is at immediate risk. Yesterday's positive world media coverage of the naming of the interim government will probably accelerate the mayhem somewhat. It is a fight that is inevitable. So long as we can keep the Iraqi people's nerve up and keep as many leaders alive as possible, we will crush the enemy when he surfaces. We are hopeful to take a little wind out of their sails with some pre-emptive work over the next few days.

I will let you know how it goes.

Love,

Dave"

The new Iraqi government has announced that 9 Iraqi militias have will soon disarm, a move that will take scores of thousands of fighters off the streets of Iraq. Commerce throughout Iraq is booming, with people buying all sorts of durable household goods and such things as satellite disks.

One can often get a better handle on the pulse of a society by looking at patterns of commerce and economics, rather than listening to the pontifications of the agenda-driven media. If the average Iraqi was as downcast about the situation in that country as you, then he wouldn't be blowing thousands of $s on household appliances, now would he?