Thursday, October 23, 2003

Mr Bush, here is why we opposed the Iraq war: "Forty-one ALP federal parliamentarians have written an open letter to George Bush". An eminently reasonable statement and a matter of shame for those MPs who did not sign. "A spokesman for Mr Crean said the Opposition Leader did not have a problem with the letter, but had decided not to sign. "It is entirely in line with Labor policy and Tanya has every right to distribute it," the spokesman said. "It is not necessarily Simon's opinion, but he is not going to order others not to sign it." This is as weak a response as can be. What is Crean saying then, that he approves of "preventative war" and that the war on Iraq to rid Saddam of his WMDs and links to terrorism was justified? Not only should Crean have signed it, he should have encouraged members of his party and of other parties, all parliamentarians, to sign the letter, and have personally presented it to Mr Bush.

The statement in the letter "We retain our commitment to the ANZUS alliance", however, reveals the contradiction at the heart of the ALP that is crippling its effectiveness in critiquing the war or challenging the government. The whole world could see that this war was a crime and an act of aggression. In such circumstances the alliance should be suspended and the bases closed, temporarily at least. Australia has still to get over its fundamental fear of being racially overwhelmed and of colonial dependency. It is this fear that is the target of ridicule in our region, such as the remark by the Singapore official that Australia could be part of Asia when it is 51% Asian, a remark which touches directly on the fear but which evoked laughter among Asian leaders.

Howard by targetting boat people as he has done in the most public and international way that he could, has exploited and reinforced the underlying fears of white Australia, but he has done so at grave cost to Australia's long term reputation. There is a kind of blindness often afflicting white people, that they are not aware of the massive record of racism and inhumanity over the last 500 years. Non-white people however are quite sensitive to it, and it is never in Australia's national or security interests to highlight this, except on the traditional racist calculation that non-whites don't matter, the only thing that matters is our friendship with the great white powers, whether the UK or especially now the US. That this is an historical and geographic mistake must be apparent to nearly every Australian public figure except John Howard and Pauline Hanson.

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