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

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June 4, 2004

We now discover that Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) officers in Baghdad would have probably worked out what was happening in some of the US interrogations conducted with prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. Being good public servants they would have reported the intelligence back to Canberra.

Canberra then decided that nobody needed to know what was going on in Iraq. It is a very secretive political culture we have in this country. In this political culture we citizens don't need to know much, and we are told to keep our place as consumers who occassionally vote.

CartoonLeunig6.jpg
Leunig

Then we have this and this.

The imperial Presidency breaks with diplomatic convention and intervenes in domestic politics through an unprecedented attack on the ALP'S policy to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq. The proposed pull-out would be "disastrous", would embolden terrorists and reveal the West as weak. The imperial President implied that Mark Latham should not be elected prime minister. I guess Bush reckoned he was doing Howard a favour in his battle to retain power

Silly me, I though it was up to Australian citizens to decide who is to be our next government.

We know that the Americans have felt uncomfortable with the ALP, as they have said so directly through the US ambassador to Australia, Tom Schieffer. Tom Schieffer's line is that the alliance depends on supporting the Bush administration. You are with us or against us, is their line. Since the ALP is not with us they are against us. That is the way Bush and Schieffer reason.

Schieffer's interventions and those of his boss can be interpreted as a gross interference in our domestic politics and condemned as such.

June 9

And more US intervention. This time from Richard Armitage, the US Deputy Secretary of State, who says:


"Mr Latham said he looked to the day that a Labor government could work with the US to further strengthen intelligence, strategic and cultural relations. Apparently economic and political relations were not so important. Now, you either have a full-up relationship or you don't. I would argue that the US has spent a lot of time and energy trying to develop a free trade agreement with Australia, but these are things the people of Australia have to decide for themselves."


My my. That is not saying that the Free Trade Agreement with the US is dependent on Australia staying in Iraq is it? It sure looks like it to me.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:00 PM | | Comments (10)
Comments

Comments

Bush, of course, wasn't suggesting that it wasn't up to Australian citizens to decide who is to be the next PM.

All he did was point out that actions have consequences.

Its like, you are perfectly free to put a fork inside a power-point. But you have to expect an electric shock.

And if Latham is elected, and withdraws our forces early, you have to expect it will weaken the alliance, at least if Bush is re-elected (although a President Kerry might not be too pleased either.)

"you are perfectly free to put a fork inside a power-point. But you have to expect an electric shock."

Translated.

If you criticize the US and assert an independent foreign policy for Australia, then the hegmonic power will make you pay a big price.

Just like the US did to the NZer's when the citizens of that independent country said they wanted NZ to be nuclear free and part of a nuclear free zone. Hence no more nuclear-powered US warships could visit their sovereign territory. They had every right to say this.

The Americans didn't need to have their ships pass through NZ. Regional security was not threatened. yet they cut off the New Zealanders from the benefits of alliance. NZ was made an example of.

That US action signified that an ally can only be dependent, subservient and compliant. It cannot speak for itself in terms of its national interest.

Australia has nailed its flag to the Bush mast. That means being a deputy sheriff for the US in the Asia Pacific region. That means no criticism of the US.

I presume that is why the Australian government did not publicly criticise the Bush administration for its torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison.

NZ is still an ally of the USA. Just not a particularly close and trusted ally, that's all.

You can't criticise the Bush administratrion for "its" torture of prisoners. I suppose that you could for its punishment of the soldiers responsible, though - that seems more like a deliberate act of the administration to me.

As you say, "Their interventions can be interpreted as gross interference in our domestic politics". Yes, they could be - if you see the world in terms of Australian domestic politics. Every Australian with half a brain surely knows already that George Bush would prefer for Howard to win the next election in Australia. Nothing new here.

He'll probably get his way, too. I have watched every election in Australia closely for the last 40 years. Changes of Government never happen unless the economy is spinning out of control (1975, 1983, 1993/6) or the Government is in absolute crisis and falling apart under incompetent leadership (1972). The only anomaly here is, in fact, 1993 when the economy was still reeling from the "recession we had to have" - but voters defered Keating's punishment for three years because Hewson handled his GST policy so ineptly that Labor's scare campaign worked.

The pundits are right - "governments lose elections". These things do not apply in the present environment. Dream as much as you like or get all excited about opinion polls, Howard is going to win at the end of 2004 when voters are actually called to cast their ballot. Better get used to the idea of another 3 years of Liberal Party government now.

"Just like the US did to the NZer's when the citizens of that independent country said they wanted NZ to be nuclear free and part of a nuclear free zone. Hence no more nuclear-powered US warships could visit their sovereign territory. They had every right to say this.

The Americans didn't need to have their ships pass through NZ. Regional security was not threatened. yet they cut off the New Zealanders from the benefits of alliance. NZ was made an example of. "

Well, yes. If you want to be independent, well, then you are independant. It's like pregnancy. Either you are or you are not.

Given your views on America, surely you are in favour of ending the alliance anyway so it surely is a moot point anyway?

Scott
there you go putting words in my mouth yet again

Where did I say I wanted to end the American alliance?

TFK,
George Bush may well prefer Howard to win the next election. And Howard may well win the next federal election as you argue.

Neither are good reasons for the Americans to interfer in Australia's domestic politics.

Australia is still a sovereign nation state.

How is that seeing the world through Australia's domestic politics?

Okay. So do you want to keep the alliance, or not?

If you DO want to keep the alliance, then you have to accept that it comes at a price in compromising Australia's freedom of actions.

But if you DO want to keep the alliance, why do you want to keep it?

Scott,
there is no reason to drop the alliance with the US.

The alliance was put there in case any of the main powers (NZ, Australia, the US) was attacked by another sovereign nation state in the Pacific Rim.

The model was Japan. It was framed with China in mind.

The Cold War is over. The above threat does not exist at the moment. (Those national security experts who mention North Korea are singing loonie tunes).

However, the treaty and alliance still stands. There is no reason to dump it. However, what the alliance means today is up for questioning.

I have given a minimal interpretation--substantive threat from a foreign power to Australia's national interest.

No. Iraq was not an example of that. That was another loonie tune.

What the alliance does not mean is total integration of Australia with the US ie., Australia going inside the US defensive shield and becoming a part of the US defense system and integrating its economy with the US.

Why not? Because Australia is a sovereign power with its own national interest; this interest has been, and is different from those of an hegemonic power.

It seems to me that you interpret the alliance to be a one-way street.

That is, America bears all the obligations and the responsibilities, and that Australia has no responsibilities to the US.

It is a very hard nosed alliance. The US has an obligation to protect it's own interests- and if it perceives the alliance to be a one-way street, with all the obligations on their side and none on the Australian side, then they would be negligent not to review the alliance.

Latham's position is dangerously close to such a position. Bush merely pointed out that such a position has consequences.

Scott,
How do you get a one way street from what I have written?

I have said that both Australia and the US have national interests to protect; and that both have obligations to come to the defence of the other when faced with a substantive threat to their security as independent nation states.

What I reject is what Armitage is saying:he rejects an interepretation of the alliance based on furthering strengthen intelligence, strategic and cultural relations. For him it must include economic and political relations. So "you either have a full-up relationship or you don't."

That is revision of what the alliance originally meant.It is far closer to one based on intelligence, strategic and cultural relations.

I take it that you support the Armitage position and are in favour of the implication I draw from it: integration of Australia with the US.