Tuesday, October 09, 2007

First Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan or Iraq by the enemy

Explosive device may have come from Iran: Nelson

The improvised explosive device that killed an Australian soldier and injured another in Afghanistan yesterday may have come into the country from Iran, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson says.

But he admitted the Australian Defence Force had no proof about the source of the device, which was detonated in a roadside bombing in Oruzgan Province in Afghanistan.

The dead Australian soldier was a driver in a convoy. It was the first time an Australian has been killed in direct enemy attacks in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Dr Nelson said there were 700 Australian troops in Oruzgan Province and another 300 soldiers in other parts of the country.

By his own admission there is no proof or evidence of Iranian involvement. The bomb may have been made anywhere, in Pakistan or perhaps in Afghanistan itself. Why is Nelson pointing the finger at Iran?

Is he trying to prepare the public for war with Iran, a war which must not happen. Australia, instead of enabling or participating in such a war, must join with humanity in doing everything possible to dissuade the US from such a catastrophe.

Howard and his government have been lucky in the Middle East. 5 years of devastating warfare and this is the first enemy killing of one of our own. Of course the contribution has been token and clever Howard seems to have taken care that the soldiers are kept out of harm's way.

The safest place for them would be back in Australia. What on earth are we doing on the other side of the world in an imperialist/colonialist war which is as disastrous as it is illegal and immoral? Did we learn nothing from the Gallipoli fiasco all those years ago? All troops should be brought home immediately.

The death comes as coalition forces in Afghanistan suffer their highest casualties since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001.

191 coalition soldiers have died so far this year, already matching last year's total. In 2005, 130 military personnel died, compared to 58 in 2004.

More than likely the White powers will have to pull out of Afghanistan just as they will have to pull out of Iraq.

All quiet on the leadership front as our troops die in faraway lands

Simon Jenkins has a little fun at the expense of the vile doctrine of 'liberal interventionism' or 'humanitarian war':

Amid the past week’s political sound and fury, one subject slid unnoticed under the platform. Britain is at war. Its soldiers are fighting and dying in two distant lands. Foreign policy, once the stuff of national debate, is consigned to cliché and platitude.

With casualties mounting in Iraq and Afghanistan, politicians dare not mention it, let alone disagree. The prime minister declared to his party conference in Bournemouth that “the message should go out to anyone facing persecution anywhere from Burma to Zimbabwe . . . we will not rest”. Britain will defend the oppressed anywhere in the world. Unfortunately Britain is doing nothing in Burma or Zimbabwe, while the message from Iraq and Afghanistan is that Britain chooses bad wars at America’s behest in which it gets beaten.

All the airbrushing in the world will not remove the greatest legacy that Tony Blair left his successors, that of “liberal interventionism”. Never articulated except in a confused speech in Chicago in 1999, it asserted Britain’s right to meddle in any country to which it took offence, under the rubric of “humanitarian just war”.

Nothing that Brown and his foreign secretary, David Miliband, said at their party conference indicated a change of direction. Nor did they say anything to which David Cameron and his shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, could risk taking exception. Blair’s wars, unprovoked by any threat to Britain, passed uncontested at the conferences, though the polls say they are highly unpopular.

In Brown’s case, Iraq has heavily qualified his core support within the Labour party. He went to Washington on taking office and received firm instructions not to quit Basra. Last week, in choosing to stay at the airbase (while pretending to “withdraw” troops), he disagreed with his generals and obeyed the White House. Brown has to engineer a retreat from Iraq to the beat of an American drum.

In Afghanistan British policy has detached itself from reality. Brown wants to “defeat the Taliban” and eradicate the poppy crop. He cannot do either. Indeed his supposed ally in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, is negotiating with the Taliban and has a government stuffed with drug lords.

For his part Cameron has been trapped into avoiding the government’s most vulnerable flank, its subservience to Washington.

In spite of the disasters of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we can only expect that this will continue until imperialism, militarism and colonialism is completely rooted out of the UK. The UK and its armed forces may have to be dismantled for this to happen.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Climate Change & Appeasement

A new WWF report illustrates the growing sense of crisis and urgency surrounding global warming, and contrasts with the fundamentally inadequate and insincere approach of the Howard Government.

There is now irrefutable scientific evidence that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing an ongoing rise in global temperature and that this warming is having impacts on human society and the natural environment today. Of great concern is the fact that many impacts are emerging at the high end of past scientific projections. In other words, international scientific reports appear to have been underestimating the speed and seriousness with which impacts would be felt. As a result, scientists are increasingly concerned that we may be approaching a set of tipping points, thresholds where large-scale qualitative changes will occur and new processes will be triggered that further amplify global warming. The result of reaching these tipping points could be that climate change becomes unstoppable and irreversible.

A climate tipping point may occur with global warming of 2-3oC but if warming reaches 3-4oC then the thresholds for irreversible change will almost certainly be crossed.

A favourite idea of the warmongers and far right is that the war against Hitler is never over, every enemy is a 'new Hitler', and anyone who speaks against a new war is an 'appeaser'. Overlooking the fact that, as John Pilger has said, the US is the Third Reich of our time (a great power bent on military aggression that must not be appeased and must be stopped), Hitler is long dead and the great crisis of our time is not the threat of Nazi militarism but the threat of global warming.

Its not enough that Hitler got jailed for mounting a coup, that he published a long book revealing his whole repugnant philosophy, that he made any number of screaming anti-semite and anti-democratic speeches, that once in power he simply murdered opponents and established a dictatorship, that he marched into the Rheinland.....

What does it take for people to wake up?

With there being no real dispute in the scientific community for many years, the Howard government has simply sat on its hands for a full decade and watched this crisis relentlessly develop. Of course there are links between the Government and the polluting industries, and the whole idea of putting the common good or the environment ahead of profits and markets is ideologically foreign.

The steps taken now are essentially 'public relations' in response to bad polling results. The Howard Government can generate no conviction in what it does. If it in anyway grasped the seriousness of the problem, chimeras like nuclear energy or clean coal would be abandoned; a carbon tax immediately introduced; firm targets set; renewable energy mandated; and many other action, including of course, abandoning the mulish stubbornness of its refusal to sign Kyoto.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Memory Hole: This Is War

This Is War: A useful reminder of what it's all about. "The orchestrated means of mass violence." Morally and spiritually destructive, as well as physically.

Another important leak: Saddam 'ready to walk away for $1bn'

Revealed: Saddam 'ready to walk away for $1bn': Better late than never, the leak of a transcript of an eve-of-war conversation between Bush and Spain's Aznar.

It helps to confirm what was obvious at the time: there were no weapons of mass destruction, and Bush knew that as well as anybody; diplomacy [from the point of view of the US] at the UN was a farce that was designed to provide a figleaf; the decision to go to war had already been taken for undisclosed reasons and would not be reversed even if Saddam went into exile or was killed or if there were found to be no WMDs.

In other words, it was a war of aggression based on lies, the 'Supreme Crime' of aggressive war.

However it is worth emphasizing what an immense diplomatic and geopolitical defeat the US and its allies Spain, the UK and Australia suffered at the UN over the Iraq war. It was Blair and Powell's idea to bully the UN into sanctioning the aggression (Cheney wanted to ignore the UN altogether), but they were completely outfoxed by France, Germany and Russia.

Instead of gaining international sanction for their war, the effect of the UN manoeuvres was to expose and discredit the US as a criminal aggressor before a global audience. The war was thus lost before it even started.

The UN could not stop the war anymore than the League of Nations could stop Hitler invading Poland but it performed sterling service in advising the public of what was happening.

It was February 2003 at Mr Bush's Crawford Texas ranch, less than a month before the invasion. Almost 150,000 US troops and their British allies were sitting in the Kuwaiti desert. The troops were well within range of any weapons of mass destruction, military analysts have pointed out.

US administration officials had already prepared public opinion for war by raising fears of Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme and his ability to create "mushroom clouds." But the transcript reveals the two leaders were more concerned about getting a fig leaf of international approval for the war, than any imminent threat from Saddam.

The transcript revolves around Washington's frustrations at failing to get UN Security Council approval for war – the now-famous second resolution.

At the time, both Tony Blair and President Bush were officially open to a diplomatic resolution of the Iraq crisis – including a negotiated exile of Saddam - but the Spanish Ambassador's notes reveal peace was never really an option.

IOZ bashes the Liberal Blogosphere

The Devil You Know: Hard-hitting diatribe against the blogosphere as represented by Digby and Kos and their alliance with the Democratic Party.

[Democratic House Speaker Pelosi] has done precisely nothing to end the occupation of Iraq. Indeed, since the Democrats took over Congress, The United States has escalated the Iraq conflict and has laid groundwork both in the Persian Gulf region and in the American Legislature for aggression against Iran. But what is the cost of another million dead Iraqis compared to control of two branches of the Federal Government?

US politics is a two horse race with both horses owned by the same owner [the corporations.] Democracy is crippled by first-past-the-post voting as much as by corporate donations. First-past-the-post is a very effective deterrent against the development of a third party, more to the left, which leaves politics trapped in the far right, and democracy disembowelled.

'Aspirational' Voters Hurting

SYDNEY households most vulnerable to higher petrol prices and housing interest rates are concentrated in a large arc running through the city's greater western region, a study has found.

Griffith University researchers have concluded that financial stress in these areas will make it harder for the Liberal Party to retain the marginal seats of Lindsay and Macquarie.

The study also found that the Liberal Party's hold on safer seats like Hughes and Macarthur in the south-west may be jeopardised by the high levels of exposure of households in these areas to higher costs.

Conventional wisdom states rising property prices are good; low interest rates are good; Howard's government has successfully kept interest rates low, thus helping them to stay in office.

All this is questionable. It may be overstating it to say John Howard Has No Control Over Interest Rates in Australia but it is very true that Howard made that promise [Keeping Interest Rates Low] "foreseeing that citizens would focus all their attention on INTEREST RATES, rather than on PRICES. In a credit bubble, it’s a lot easier to keep interest rates low (which is partly what creates the bubble) than it is to lower bubble-prices."

It is doubtful how much control the federal government really has over the basic interest rate regime. It was Alan Greenspan's Federal Reserve that reduced interest rates to an extremely low 1% following the dot.com crash. And such a low interest rate only fuelled the US housing bubble, which is bursting now with even more damaging consequences. Although not as severe as in the US, the bubble burst in Australia is also likely to be quite harmful.