No blood, No oil, only democracy building!

July 7th, 2007

It seems like a lifetime ago, when I and 349,999 other anti war protesters filled the streets of Sydney to beg this government not to join the Coalition of the willing in Operation Iraqi Freedom, better known as the illegal war in Iraq.

Many reasons and many positions were displayed on placards and on t-shirts, with No Blood for Oil being the most popular. We knew then and we know now, that this government’s motivation for the freedom of the Iraqi people, was significantly less than the motivation for to secure, continuous, supply of our oil.

The difference now is that the Minister of Defence- Dr Brendan Nelson, recently made the same point, if from a somewhat different perspective. He attempted to use the security of access to oil to sell the illegal war in Iraq.

“Energy security is extremely important to all nations throughout the world, and of course, in protecting and securing Australia’s interests. The Middle East itself, not only Iraq, but the entire region is an important supplier of energy oil, in particular, to the rest of the world.”- Dr Brendan Nelson.

Our PM- John HoWARd, will be having none of that, instantly coming out defending the indefensible by saying:

“We are not there [in Iraq] because of oil and we didn’t go there because of oil. We don’t remain there because of oil. Oil is not the reason. Oil comes from the Middle East – we all know that – but the reason we remain there is we want to give the people of Iraq the possibility of embracing democracy.” – HoWARd.

So the question has to be, how’s this democracy embracing in Iraq going? Because the question cannot be how’s our oil?

Update: Nelson has been pulled into the official line, with the following being his position a mere 24 hours later.

“Iraq has never been about oil”


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Flat-out Daddy and Flat-chat Mummy

March 25th, 2007

In the US, the Maine National Guard is using a unique method to help families connect to their loved ones deployed in Iraq. They’re life-sized cardboard cutouts. If your father (or mother) is deployed in Iraq, you can get a Flat Daddy to help keep the absent parent involved in family life.

“Many military units can provide families with a life-size cardboard cutout of their overseas warrior. The family can then take that figure to parties, put it in the passenger seat of their car, take it to bed or do whatever it is that families want to with a replica of their loved one. Named after Flat Stanley, a children’s book character who was squashed flat, the cutouts have been a surprise hit since they were introduced. In Maine alone, the state’s National Guard has given out more than 200 Flat Soldiers since January. Experts believe the cutouts are a useful psychological device, especially for children, that helps cope with the stress of long absences. It allows the family to genuinely feel the missing person is still involved in day-to-day life.”- Source.

In NSW, we have just had a state election where the winning Labor party Premier Morris Iemma, amongst other things, stated that the Coalition government’s WorkChoices campaign was a factor in their loss.

I want the federal Labor party to start giving out Flat Daddies and Flat Mummies to any children that tell a caregiver, teacher, Nanna, Pop, or friends that they miss their working parent, be they in or out of the military, and they don’t get to see enough of them. I want this done to highlight just how little work/life balance WorkChoices legislation affords the working parents of Australian children.

It would also remind Australians, in an election year, that we are still in an illegal war in Iraq!


Former military = loose cannons

November 27th, 2006

In politics, truth is often a pesky intruder. Combine this truth with the need for justice and what may be best described as the ‘right thing to do’ and the truth becomes potent.

The Coalition of the willing and two of its high profile supporters are facing the truth and it will not be pleasant. As the result of two former members of the military speaking out, we see former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and our own PM John HoWARd steadily loosing credibility, and one (I would push for both) may even be charged with war crimes.
Former US Army Brigadier General- Janis Karpinski is ready to testify against former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, if a suit filed by civil rights groups in Germany over Abu Ghraib, and to a lesser degree Guantanamo Bay, led to a full investigation.

The former Brigadier General alleges that Rumsfeld was responsible for authorising specific techniques of torture. These included making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation, playing music at full volume and having to sit in uncomfortable positions. Given Janice’s testimony, Rumsfeld may face charges of breaking the Geneva Convention.The Geneva Convention says prisoners of war should suffer

“no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion” to secure information. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.”

Wolfgang Kaleck in a translation says:

“Janice Karpinski is practically our star witness because she’s the highest military officer ready to provide her insights to us and to the prosecuting office which will be ready to hear from her. Janice Karpinski was ready to provide testimony in the US and the court martial process against her soldiers but nobody wanted to question her.”

Former SAS Major Peter Tinley has spoken out against the Australian government and its role in the war in Iraq. He maintains that,

“The notion that pre-emption is a legitimate strategy in the face of such unconvincing intelligence [the existence of WMD’s] is a betrayal of the Australian way.”

The former SAS Major has said he was now speaking out having expected people ‘far more capable and more senior than me’ to have expressed serious reservations about Australia’s involvement in Iraq.

It seems that Professor Robert O’Neill is one such ‘capable and senior person.’ He says:

“The United States Army is not good at counter-insurgency. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s not capable of learning on the job, it’s learnt a lot in the past three years, and I’ve taught some of the people who have made big advances there. They were my graduate students at Oxford early in the 90s. But, the culture of the United States Army as a whole is not about moving very delicately, understanding the cultures of the country that you’re in. It’s about firepower and controlling the situation. Destruction is a very big part of it. It was in Vietnam. And for a counter-insurgency operation, that’s terribly counter-productive.”

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Willing coalition of killing

October 15th, 2006

A new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, which has been examined and validated by four separate independent experts and published in The Lancet reveals that around 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion of their country in 2003. This figure represents 2.5% of Iraq’s entire population.

As a country that joined the ‘coalition of the willing’ (a term that has been truncated to ‘the coalition’) we have to acknowledge these deaths. Our government, and the people that voted for HoWARd, have to take some responsibility for their complicity in this catastrophe.

Unsurprisingly, this most recent Iraqi death toll has raised skepticism with HoWARd as he feels the figures are too high. HoWARd seems to accept the more palatable ~50,000 Iraq body count figure.

“It’s (655,000 Iraqi deaths since 2003) not plausible. It’s not based on anything other than a house-to-house survey. I think that’s absolutely precarious. It is an unbelievably large number and it’s out of whack with most of the other assessments that have been made.” -John HoWARd

HoWARd ran the same line in relation to the first study, when the figures were 100,000 in October 2004.

It seems that our PM and US President Bush are comfortable with 50,000 Iraqi deaths number. That figure, if correct still takes some explaining. We as Australians are so meek as to let HoWARd slip out of the spotlight of responsibility as he disputes the Iraqi-death figures. What if we ask him to justify the number he is comfortable with. I wonder what that number would be.

For all the commentators that think an exit strategy would be ‘cutting and running’ I would like to say ‘when in a hole stop digging.’

The data, anecdotes and commentary from the Lancet report are horrific enough, but the part that really left me beyond emotion was this statement:

“Entire households could have been killed, leading to survivor bias.”

Richard Horton the editor of the Lancet sums up all that can be salvaged from HoWARd the stupid, and his bellicose allies as they stay until the job is done.

“Health is now the most important foreign policy issue of our time. Health and wellbeing – their underpinning values, their diverse array of interventions and their goals of healing – offer several original dimensions for a renewed foreign policy that might at least be one positive legacy of our misadventure in Iraq.”


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The pursuit of justice

August 27th, 2006

On Friday night along with about 1099 others I made my way to the City Recital hall to a GetUp! gig to hear MAJ Michael Mori speak.


It was fascinating (and refreshing) to hear someone in a US military uniform openly criticise his government and its structures. The Major’s flow chart left us in doubt that David cannot be released from the psychological horror that is Guantanamo bay. The Major was asked how he can keep his energy to defend David from sapping, year after year, against the structurally unfair and overwhelming odds, and he answered simply,

“Justice. Whether I am the prosecuting counsel or the defense counsel, my role is the same – Getting to the truth and being a part of a just outcome”

The most disturbing bit of data that came out of the night was the Major’s answer to the question,

“Given that Tony Blair did not tolerate Britons being kept in Guantanamo bay, do you think that president Bush and Co., if asked by HoWARd, would have released David Hicks?”

“Without a doubt”

The Major is a classic example of American culture for good – loud, brash, and without the slightest hint of timidity. It was no wonder that at the end Australians gave this man a standing ovation.