Saturday, May 01, 2004

Sit, fetch, roll over 

Appeasement pays for the Italians: "Three Italian hostages in Iraq have been saved from harm by street protests in Rome, a militant group has told al-Jazeera TV. Earlier this week, a group calling itself the Green Brigade threatened to kill the men within five days unless Italians staged demonstrations. The Arabic TV channel quoted a statement saying that Thursday's protests had satisfied the demand."

So it seems the protesters have been kidding themselves about the meaning of their actions - "Whilst the kidnappers demanded Italians protest en masse against the government and against Italy's involvement in the US-led coalition in Iraq, the families of the hostages called for a humanitarian show of peace."

"I think that the kidnappers wanted another type of demonstration," BBC quoted one of the demonstrators, Michelle. "They wanted to see us rise up against the government and against the war... normally we would have done this but today we are only here for the families and peace."

Don't worry Michelle, thanks for your offer to rise up against the government. Maybe some other time. But the terrorists appreciate your efforts anyway.

How about trying something entirely new the next time you want to go out and rally - like protesting against terrorism? How about joining 250,000 Jordanians who burned portraits of Osama bin Laden and Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi? Or is that a bit too radical?


Religious tolerance update 

A conference of Muslim scholars meeting in Cairo has called on the world community to adopt sharia (Islamic law) as the basis of the international law.

"The International Law has recently tilted towards unequal treatment of people, as some agreements turned into valueless pieces of paper when they came against the interests of such a super power as the United States;" an attitude that is foreign to Islam, which respects treaties, according to Mohamed Dissouki, an International Law professor at Al-Azhar University.

Internationalising sharia might not happen any time soon, but it's not stopping the march of the Islamic jurisprudence on a national level. In Nigeria, "Governor Ahmed Sani of Zamfara State, has ordered the demolition of all churches in the state, as he launched the second phase of his Sharia project yesterday... [He said] that time was ripe for full implementation of the programme as enshrined in the Holy Quran [and] ... that his government would soon embark on demolition of all places of worship of unbelievers in the state, in line with Islamic injunction to fight them wherever they are found."

That's at the same time as an American municipality allows its Muslim residents to broadcast their daily prayers over loudspeakers. And in Spain, churches are being converted into mosques, and the Muslim community there has got its sights set on regaining the Mosque or Cordoba, which has been a Catholic cathedral since 1236.

Don't you sometimes wish that religious tolerance could be a two-way street?


Left versus Left 

"Are war correspondents betting on failure in Iraq?" asks Christopher Hitchens in his article "Covering the 'Quagmire'." The answer is: what do you think?

Meanwhile in the ever-predictable "Guardian", the ever-predictable Naomi Klein makes the call: "Mutiny is the only way out of Iraq's inferno." In one of the most disgusting pieces of commentary to emerge in recent times, Klein celebrates the failures of American "occupation" while being rather vague as to alternatives. The creator of "No Logo" would have been much happier had Iraq remained a dictatorship with "No Logo" but the ever-present portraits of the Leader.

Muses Klein: "On the political front, the idea that the US could bring genuine democracy to Iraq is now irredeemably discredited: too many relatives of Iraqi governing council members have landed plum jobs and rigged contracts, too many groups demanding direct elections have been suppressed, too many newspapers have been closed down and too many Arab journalists have been killed."

This is all pretty obscene stuff from a self-indulgent and spoiled drama queen of the left. Can any readers point me to any writings by Klein where she protested the lack of democracy in Saddam's Iraq, or where she agitates against the continuing lack of democracy and freedoms in most of the Arab world? Checking out Klein's website, I can't find any mentions of Iraq and the Middle East prior to September 11, with great majority of materials predictably coming from 2002 onwards, and - you guessed it - all anti-war, anti-American stuff.

The sensible left keeps battling it out with the stupid left. The life goes on.


A fox in charge of a hen-house, Pt II 

After letting the Middle Eastern insider, Lakhdar Brahimi, to take charge of the political transition in Iraq, the Americans are now putting one of Saddam's generals in charge of pacifying Fallujah - although this is more like putting a fox in charge of a fox-house.

Strategic genius or a sign of desperation? It's got me worried. One thing that the US cannot afford is the loss of nerve. There can be no peace with forces within Iraq which want the whole democratic project to fail - after all, what is a compromise between freedom and dictatorship?

Meanwhilee, "[t]he world was horrified yesterday and denounced the abuse of Iraqi detainees by US forces as the Arab world reacted angrily to photographs of mistreatment from inside an Iraqi prison." But not as angrily as to photographs of four American contractors beaten to death and set on fire?


Happy May Day 

For all the Catholics celebrating today the feast day of St Joseph, the patron saint of workers, happy feast day.

For all the workers around the world relaxing today on their holiday, enjoy.

For all the socialists, celebrating May Day "as a day of international solidarity between workers and the oppressed around the globe", get f***ed.


Friday, April 30, 2004

The man who would be the king-maker 

"USA Today" publishes a rather glowing profile of Lakhdar Brahimi: "Brahimi holds USA's Iraq exit strategy in his hands[;] U.N. envoy known for consensus-building."

Brahimi is also known for some other things aside of consensus-building, but the article conveniently fails to mention them or glosses over them.

"The 70-year-old former Algerian foreign minister, who also oversaw Afghanistan's political transition, appears to have become, by default, the Bush administration's best hope for an orderly political exit from Iraq," muses "USA Today". "It is an extraordinary amount of power for one person. It reflects the U.S. failure to come up with transition-of-power plans viewed as legitimate by most Iraqis."

"Though not well-known in the USA, Brahimi began building an international reputation in 1989 by helping to broker an end to Lebanon's 14-year civil war. After joining the United Nations in 1993, he oversaw a U.N. mission in Haiti and tried unsuccessfully to end the civil war in Afghanistan. He resumed the Afghanistan peacemaking effort at U.S. and U.N. behest after the attacks of Sept. 11."

Brahimi's resume that "USA Today" salivates over, looks far less impressive when you remember that Lebanon's civil war was actually brought to an end when Syria managed to crush all the armed opposition, that Haiti remains a basketcase, and that Brahimi's peacemaking efforts in Afghanistan were only successful on the back of an American military action. History is repeating itself in Iraq, but the irony seems to be lost on Brahimi, who's always only too happy to criticise the United States and its actions.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is as impressed by this "slim, distinguished-looking man with curly salt- and-pepper hair" as the "USA Today" journo.

Israelis, for one, didn't particularly appreciate having their policies described as "the great poison in the region." The "USA Today" article side-steps the issue by noting simply that Brahimi "denies any bias but expresses mainstream Arab views critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians." As is that's supposed to put the matter beyond any discussion.

Another group in the Middle East not over-awed by the UN potentate are those who have fought the long and hard fight for freedom, like the Kurds. Some of the commentary bears to be repeated at length:

"If Brahimi's association with the UN is not enough to discredit him, one need only to do a cursory examination of Brahimi's past to see why he should be irrelevant to the future of Iraq. From 1984 to 1991, he was Under-Secretary-General of the League of Arab States (Arab League), an organization preoccupied with defending Arab dictatorships and paying lip service to the Palestinian cause (while doing nothing material to help the Palestinians living in Arab countries, let alone those elsewhere). This is the same Arab League that declared the elimination of Saddam's genocidal regime to be 'a threat to world peace' in March 2003. This is the same Arab League that has consistently supported the rights of Arab dictators to oppress the peoples of the Middle East, Arab and non-Arab alike.

"It is most curious that Brahimi was a high official of the Arab League at the height of Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against Iraq's Kurds. While persecution of the indigenous Kurds of Iraq continued through 1988 and 1989, the Arab League remained silent on the mass murder committed by Saddam Hussein and his regime, meeting months and hundreds of deaths later in May 1990 in Baghdad to express support for the Iraqi dictator's renewal of a strong anti-West stance. The disregard for genocide of the Kurds and the non-Kurdish people of Iraq, as well as the explicitly pro-Saddam Arab League conference both took place when Brahimi was a high official of this club of dictators."

The "USA Today" profile also notes Brahimi's intense dislike of Ahmed Chalabi, the secular Shia political powerbroker in Iraq. Our unimpressed Kurd has this to say on the topic:

"Now Brahimi's 'dislike' of Dr. Chalabi is supposed to mean something in post-Saddam Iraq? Anyone familiar with the background of Brahimi, a man who embraced former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz on Iraqi TV in 1997, should not be surprised that Brahimi 'dislikes' Dr. Chalabi. Indeed, Dr. Chalabi should recognize this dislike as a badge of honor and a confirmation of his pro-democracy credentials. I can only assume that Dr. Chalabi would rather not be embraced by the same arms that once warmly received Tariq Aziz."

Once again, a fox has once again been put in charge of a hen-house. Don't say we haven't been warned.


Russia's penis envy 

The first Russian museum of erotica, set to open soon in St Petersburg, will proudly put on the exhibit the pickled 30-cm (1 ft for the non-metric readers) long penis of the Mad Monk who unwittingly helped to bring down the Romanov empire, Grigory Rasputin.

The head of the museum boasts that "[h]aving this exhibit, we can stop envying America, where Napoleon Bonaparte’s penis is now kept. … Napoleon’s penis is but a small 'pod' it cannot stand comparison to our organ of 30 centimeters."

Sadly, these days this is one of the very few claims that Russia has to the status of a superpower. Surely now the United States has to answer this challenge - has anyone preserved John Holmes's appendage?

Then again, the size of Napoleon's weapon is surely a matter for France, not America. Alas, going by their recent international performance, the French might have trouble convincing anyone that they have balls larger than green peas.


More corrections than "The New York Times" 

Those poor misunderstood terrorists. Their PR departments are off their feet, putting out written statements and taped messages denying vicious rumours and clarifying misconceptions sown around by the Zionist devils and their lackeys in international media.

Hot on the heels of the "we're not al Quaeda" and "I'm not the Hamas leader" denials, comes the tape, purportedly recorded by the very elusive bin Laden associate, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who denies that the foiled terrorist attack in Jordan was going to involve chemical weapons, and that fellow Muslims were the desired target of the attack.

Al-Zarqawi doesn't want you to labour under a misapprehension: "Yes, the plan was to totally destroy the building of the intelligence apparatus... (But) their claims of unimaginable casualties and that it was a chemical bomb that would have killed thousands of people is a pure lie...The chemical and poisonous bomb is a fabrication by the evil Jordanian mechanism... The Jordanian intelligence lied... to protect their masters and sponsors from the Jews and Christians."

But of course.

"God knows, that if we possessed such a bomb that we would not have hesitated for a second to avidly seek to strike Israeli cities such as Eilat, Tel Aviv and others."

Oh, that's alright then.

Coming up tomorrow: Osama bin Laden denies he has been chosen as the new head of Hamas. Osama also denies signing up a seven-figure contract with CBS to write a tell-all expose of the inner machinations, corruption and incompetence at the heart of the Bush Administration.

MEANWHILE: Syrian official fingers al Quaeda, and American congressmen finger Syria for the recent terrorist outrage in Damascus. Expect another taped clarification from the Slim Shadys at al Quaeda.


Secularism or multiculturalism? 

A muzzein, coming soon to a neighbourhood near you - how will other communities in the West deal with this issue?

"A US city has voted to allow mosques to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer, overruling protests that the chant is both a noise nuisance and offensive to non-Muslims... The measure approved at a contentious meeting Tuesday provides for amplified broadcasts of the call to prayer or church bells between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. for periods of up to five minutes."

A city in question is Hamtramck, a suburb of Detroit, and the conflict has pitted the largely Polish Catholic population against the newer Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Yemen and Bosnia.

Meanwhile, on the opposite pole of the debate, French parliamentarians are considering "a 'secularism charter' for... public institutions. These include town halls, where Muslim women must remove their veils for official ceremonies, and public swimming pools, where Muslim women have demanded segregated bathing."


We're losing the war on terror 

The sad news for the International Appeasement Brigade, with the release of the State Department's annual report on terrorism:

"Last year... we saw the lowest number of international terrorist attacks since 1969, and that's a 34-year low.

"There were 190 acts of international terrorism in 2003. That's a slight decrease from 198 attacks that occurred the previous year, and a drop of 45 percent from the 2001 level of 346 attacks.

"There were also fewer casualties caused by terrorists last year. A total of 307 persons were killed in last year's attack[s], far fewer than the 725 killed during 2002. A total of 1,593 persons were wounded in the attacks that occurred in 2003, down from 2,013 persons wounded the year before. "

Damn Bush's reckless adventure in Iraq, which is distracting America from focusing on the war on terror.


Democracy? Non, we're French 

Jacques Chirac doesn't think it's a good idea to let people decide important constitutional issues: "[Chirac] yesterday refused to commit to holding a referendum on the EU's controversial new constitution... saying an option was a joint vote of both the National Assembly and the Senate."

That puts Chirac at odds with one of his predecessors, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who told the media that "It is appropriate to have a referendum... You cannot build Europe against the people. It will not last. If you try to impose something on them, they will refuse one way or another. It is better to check what their will is."

Chirac also commented on the official admission of ten new members to the EU tomorrow: "He stated the move was a 'giant step' which would see Europe asserting itself as 'a first-class economic power' leading to growth and employment.

Memo to Mr Chirac: asserting oneself as a first-class economic power will not lead to growth and employment - good and sensible economic policies will; something that the EU is unfortunately lacking at the moment. I'm also happy that Cyprus and Poland (among others) are now member of the EU, but I'm not sure how that's necessarily going to turn Europe into a first-class economic superpower.

Unless the rest of the EU decides to adopt Easter Europe's business- and growth-friendly, low tax policies. But I won't be holding my breath.


Torture in Baghdad 

When a story about torture and maltreatment of prisoners in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad caught my attention this morning, I thought that the paper was revisiting some of Saddam's good old days of mayhem at the said prison.

But no, it was the story about American military personnel and their appalling practices. Mind you, most other news outlets didn't go overboard and referred to "abuse" rather than "torture" of Iraqi prisoners (for example, here, here and here).

So what happened? Some of the US military personnel at the prison have engaged in some pretty stupid stunts, which they also pretty stupidly photographed. Some of the activities included stacking naked prisoners in pyramids, putting hoods over their heads, writing slurs on their skin, and getting the prisoners to simulate sex acts for the cameras.

Let me make it clear: it's a stupid stupid stuff that degrades the prisoners and brings discredit to the US army.

Let me also make it clear: we're not talking here about mass executions, whippings, and torture regularly visited on the tens of thousands who had the misfortune to find themselves at Abu Ghraib during Saddam's reign. I'm venturing a guess that most of those people would swap that for having insulting signs written on their bodies any day.

Let us also note that six members of the 800th Military Police Brigade who run the prison are facing court martial, seven officers in charge face investigation, and the US general in charge of the prison system is suspended and under investigation.

This is the difference between then and now, and between the Americans and the Saddamites. But the left will still have wet dreams over the story.


Jihad as therapy 

Tired and stressed by your studies? Your work gets you down? You're alienated from the people around you?

Why not consider attending a three-week camp which will be just "the first step in the ladder" and will give you a "taste of jihad as part of [your] religion"?

It seems this has worked for Izhar Ul-Haque, the medical student from Sydney now charged by the Federal-NSW Police Joint Counter-Terrorism Task Force with training with the al Quaeda-associated Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"The court heard Mr Ul-Haque had been frustrated at failing his second year of medicine at the University of NSW, as well as unhappy experiences with patients during his training in Sydney hospitals. 'The Western patients in hospitals look at me as though I'm a frog,' he says in one letter, the court was told... He was [also] fed up with Westerners and their 'animal type of lifestyle'."

Ul-Haque returned from his holidays with batteries recharged (so to speak), "30 books in his luggage including handwritten notes about rocket launchers, landmines, tanks and multi-purpose machineguns," and an expectation "to die a martyr for a Pakistani terrorist group."

Gives a whole new meaning to adventure holidays.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

"Too few good sub-editors" - why Phillip Knightley keeps getting away with bull**** 

The poor man's John Pilger, Phillip Knightley, laments that the US Army has got "Too few good men" on the ground in Iraq:

"Iraq is bleeding the US military dry, and conscription may be the drastic means of staunching the wound, writes Phillip Knightley. [that's subbie's words, so we can't blame Knightley too much, but:]

"The United States Army is overstretched in Iraq. It is in desperate need of more specialist troops and the Pentagon is considering proposals to reintroduce the draft. This is a humiliating retreat from pre-Iraq boasts that the US could fight two wars simultaneously in any part of the world. The reality is somewhat different."

The reality is somewhat different, that's true, but very little else is. How much bull**** can one fit in such a short opening paragraph? Let me count the ways.

While it is difficult to argue with Knightley's main contention that the US Army is currently too small and therefore tends to get overstretched, it was Bill Clinton who had cut half a million personnel from the defence forces, including four active divisions and two Reserve divisions. Too few good men at the White House tends to cause too few good men in the armed forces.

As for Iraq "bleeding the American military dry", soldiers are re-enlisting at rates that surpass the Pantagon's targets: "As of March 31 -- halfway through the Army's fiscal year -- 28,406 soldiers had reenlisted, topping the six-month goal of 28,377... The Marines, which along with the Army have borne the brunt of combat in Iraq, said they already have fulfilled 90 percent of their retention goal for the fiscal year for getting Marines to re-up after their initial commitment. The Air Force and the Navy said they, too, are exceeding their goals."

And the news that "the Pentagon is considering proposals to reintroduce the draft" might be the news for the Pentagon too. The proposal to reintroduce the draft was a brainchild of a Republican Senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska. The Pentagon itself doesn't see any need for the draft, and is therefore not considering any such proposals.

Later on in the article, Knightley writes again that the Pentagon is "considering reintroducing the draft" but he qualifies that by adding that its objective would be "to compel [Arabic] speakers to serve in the armed forces." So Knightley's not talking about the draft per se but "special skills draft". Even that, however, is inaccurate: the Pentagon is not considering anything, it's the Selective Service System, an independent federal agency that organises any conscription. Its officials are saying that the possibility of such draft is "remote." The agency did begin "the process of creating the procedures and policies to conduct such a targeted draft" but only on the oft-chance that "military officials ask Congress to authorize it and the lawmakers agree to such a request." As the article goes to say, there little reason to expect that it might happen: "[Chuck Hagel's bill] has minimal support with only 13 House lawmakers signing on as co-sponsors. A corresponding bill in the Senate introduced by Sen. Fritz Hollings, the outgoing South Carolina Democrat, has no co-sponsors."

And how about that "humiliating retreat from pre-war boast that the US could fight two wars simultaneously in any part of the world"? It's not just a pre-war, but also a pre-Bush "boast": fighting two wars simultaneously was a Clinton-era strategic left-over that the Pentagon wanted to scrap already in 2001 - something that both Bush and Rumsfeld have actually agreed with. The "two-war" strategy has been replaced by a "one plus" plan, which sees the capability to fight one large conflict and pursue another smaller operation at the same time. So much for the "boast" and the "humiliating retreat."

I know that journos like Knightly have acquired a stature of sacred cows, but for goodness sakes, doesn't anyone at all actually read and check their stuff before it's published?


A new poll from Iraq 

A fascinating Gallup poll recently conducted in Iraq - with some interesting and schizophrenic results:

- It seems that the Kurds absolutely love us, but not so the Sunnis and the Shias. The results are so wildly different, they have to be seen to be believed (for example George Bush has got 95% favourable rating among the Kurds, but only 9% among the Baghdadis).

- more people think that Iraq is much or somewhat better off after the invasion (44% versus 39% for much or somewhat worse off) but 46% think that the invasion has done more harm than good (versus 33% for more good). Yet, in another example of "you're sick, I'm not" perception phenomenon so well known to Western pollsters, 51% say that they and their families are much or somewhat better off now, as opposed to 40% much or somewhat worse off.

- 89% think that Saddam Hussein would not have been removed from power by Iraqis if the Coalition forces had not taken direct military action (versus 4% who think he would have been), and Saddam enjoys an 80% unfavourable (versus 10% favourable) rating, but 52% think that the invasion cannot (at all or somewhat) be justified on moral grounds. Seems like another example of Arab fatalism.

- The activities of the Coalition administration and military forces are largely not viewed favourably. The civilian authorities are generally seen as not trying hard enough to fix problems, while the military is seen as heavy-handed and disrespectful in their approach. But these opinions seem to be based on things heard from others (54%) as opposed to seen (39% - but how? with own eyes, or on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyah, which reach a third of Iraqi households?) or personally experienced (7%). Furthermore, only 6% say that they or someone in their household has had any personal contact with US military forces.

- 57% (versus 36%) think that the Coalition should leave immediately, but 53% (versus 28%) would feel less safe if that actually happened. See what I mean about schizophrenic attitudes?

- Still, in the end, bearing in mind all the hardships suffered post-liberation, 61% (versus 28%) think it has been worth it.

There's lot more fascinating stuff in the poll, so have a look at it in detail.

What's to say about all this? The Iraqis enjoy being free but seem to be ashamed and resentful that somebody else had to do it all for them. Despite hardships they see themselves as better off (materially and otherwise) but there doesn't seem to be much sense of self-responsibility for rebuilding their own country - it's one thing to whine about the state of things, but another to actually do something about it (yet another pervasive legacy of life under a dictatorship). The poll didn't unfortunately ask the Iraqis about their vision for Iraq's future, and more importantly, how they see themselves contributing to that future. It will be interesting to see the responses when the Iraqis actually start having more responsibility for their own affairs, and less scope for blaming everyone else for all and any problems they face.

Final thoughts? It's been worth it, even if for the Kurds alone. How about the Muslim leaders talk less about the need for the Palestinian state, and more about the homeland for the Kurds?


The victory in the war on terror achieved 

A fantastic news from the UN: "UN bans WMD sales to terrorists."

"The United Nations Security Council has unanimously passed a resolution aimed at keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. It means all UN member states will have to pass laws to stop terrorists and black market traders from buying, selling or developing such weapons."

That will fix the problem. Why haven't those ignorant cowboy Yankees thought about it instead of marching into peace-loving sovereign nations?

But wait, there is more good news:

"A Security Council committee will be set up for two years to report on the implementation. However, the resolution does not outline any sanctions against states that do not comply."

The non-complying states will be given on a rotation basis the chair of the UN Conference on Disarmament.

At the UN it's still September 10.


Judicial activism gets checked 

Putting aside the rights or wrongs of keeping the illegal immigrant children in detention centres, we should welcome today's High Court decision to overrule the Family Court's foray into this new area.

"[The High Court] found the Family Court did not have the jurisdiction to free the children and held the Family Court did not have any jurisdiction to make orders concerning the general welfare of children held in immigration detention."

That, I guess, leaves the Family Court to concentrate their energies on, God forbid, the Australian family law.


"Food for spOILs" - the Australian connection 

An interesting report in today's "Sydney Morning Herald":

"The Australian Wheat Board's long and lucrative relationship with Saddam Hussein's regime will be examined as part of the United Nations inquiry into Iraq's discredited oil-for-food program. The UN will investigate whether any of the money paid to the board was 'kicked back' to the ousted Baathist government by third parties in on the deals.

"A wheat board spokesman, Peter McBride, said the board was confident its contracts had been 'done under the guidelines of the UN oil-for-food program and had the approval of the UN'."

Ah, but that's precisely the problem - the whole scam was done "under the guidelines" and "had the approval of the UN" if only tacit, of the people who were supposed to have been supervising it.

For some background on Australia's wheat trade with Iraq, check out this article from almost two years ago.


Jihad comes to Thailand 

God help the Americans if they'd tried that in Iraq.

"Soldiers stormed a mosque in southern Thailand late yesterday, killing at least 32 Islamic militants and ending a day of violent clashes across the region that left as many as 150 people dead. After a seven-hour siege at that Kruesie mosque on the outskirts of the Pattani township, troops backed by helicopters attacked and entered the building."

Now awaiting the world outrage at the Thai Buddhist violent desecration of an Islamic house of worship.

The other interesting observation about the recent clashes in southern Thailand: "Regional police chief Lieutenant-General Proong Bunphandung said most of those killed were teenagers. 'Most of the dead insurgents are youths of ages ranging from 15 to 20, but two of the leaders are aged about 50 and 60,' he said. 'Many of them had little more than a machete in their hands. It was like a death wish. This is scary,' an [unnamed] intelligence officer told 'The Nation' [Thai] newspaper."

"Their intention was to rob guns from defence volunteers and district offices, but our troops were well prepared for that," said the Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

The article continues: "Regional security analysts say there is no evidence of developed links between the militants and Jemaah Islamiah, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, but they believe the Thai groups have been emboldened by the rise in international terrorism in recent years."

That's probably true - otherwise the militants would be better organised and equipped; like running at the military post strapped with explosives instead with machetes.

That's for now. But watch this space.


Libertarians to Latham's rescue 

Cato Institute's Doug Bandow gives the opposition Leader, Mark "the Werriwa Appeaser" Latham, a helping hand in today's "Australian."

I don't like to pick on libertarians too much, because on one level I'm quite fond of them. But what the hell, Bandow's really asking for it.

"The US really doesn't need a 'deputy sheriff', as Howard reportedly once put it."

I'm glad that Bandow used the qualifier "reportedly" because John Howard never actually said it. The media did.

"Frankly, what the US needs most are good friends willing to tell it unpleasant truths."

Really? I thought that the US already had a lot of good friends and long-standing allies such as Germany, France or Canada telling them unpleasant truths. Why would they need one more like Australia?

"Expecting to be 'an equal partner', as Latham does, might be unrealistic - Washington has yet to learn to treat any nation as an equal."

That's because on all counts that matter internationally - economy, military strength and reach, cultural influence - America doesn't have an equal as yet. Plus, it's the UN's job to treat all nations as equal, be it the US and Sierra Leone, or North Korea and Sweden.

"Giving freedom to the Iraqi people was a positive result, but by that standard of intervention another two or three score nations await liberation."

Which is something that Cato Institute unfortunately won't be helping us with.

There's plenty more, so check out the whole of the opinion piece.

Bandow is right on one level - as far as the rhetoric around the world goes, Latham is not particularly anti-American; he doesn't see the US-the nation as the - or even a - source of all evil in the universe. But he's certainly anti-Bush and anti-Bush Administration policies. He would be far happier if Al Gore was the President right now, or at least if John Kerry will be after the next election. Then we can all go back to multilateral internationalism and resume the advance down the Third Way towards a warm and fuzzy post-modern future.

The problem with Latham is not that he's anti-American but that he's anti-reality. Deep down he is still a September 10 sort of a politician in a world that has since moved on. Bush knows that, Blair knows that, and Howard knows that - Latham might learn it one day too, but I wouldn't be as optimistic as to suggest a Christmas deadline for that to occur.


In space no one can hear you scream 

Now we know why.

"Dr Rachel Armstrong, speaking yesterday at a British Interplanetary Society symposium on the Human Future and Space, said the US space agency Nasa was considering how to deal with the natural urges of astronauts travelling on long journeys such as a three-year trip to Mars, where the six-strong crew would be likely to include two women.

" 'Nasa is talking about the chemical sterilisation of astronauts on longer journeys,' Dr Armstrong said."

So many bad jokes come to mind, so little time...


Gaddafi shares his words of wisdom with France and Belgium 

Gaddafi does the Edith Piaf impersonation in an interview with Radio France Internationale:

"We were in a phase of fighting for emancipation, liberation.... We were accused of being terrorists, but that is the price we had to pay. If that is terrorism, then we are proud to be terrorists because we helped the liberation of the (African) continent... I absolutely do not regret the past."

Gaddafi had financed a fair share of "liberation movements" in his days, but most of them seem to have been located outside Africa. I'm not sure what the IRA, the PLO, or the Japanese Red Army had to do with liberation of Africa, particularly seeing that most of African countries gained their independence before Gaddafi got into power and started exporting "revolution".

The report also notes: "In a speech to Belgium's parliament, also on Wednesday, [Gaddafi] described terrorism as 'the result of the imbalance in the world at the moment' and suggested that so-called terrorists had no other course of action."

Wow, the Belgians must be very proud to have such eminent world leader addressing their Parliament. Correct me if I'm wrong but George Bush never had this same honour, and even if he were to be invited, I'm sure many Belgian parliamentarians would strenuously protest giving an official platform to such an international outcast. Way to go, Old Europe.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Laugh a minute with “Pravda” 

Just like the good old days, except now it’s all on the net – do yourself a favour and check out the journalistic highs and lows of the Soviet Union’s once premier news outlet, now reduced to an almost incoherent raving (I know that as somebody for whom English is not the first language I shouldn’t laugh at bad translations, but who can resist reading about Russia’s “small and average businesses”?).

Some of the current highlights include:

- the story about the chemical explosion in North Korea is illustrated by the same photograph as the story about a 26-year old employee of Arkhangelsk natural gas utilities company who had admitted to setting off an explosion that destroyed an apartment block.

- the story about a prosecution in Qatar of two Russians accused of assassinating former Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, delightfully titled “Assassination of Yandarbiev is not in the style of Russian special services” – something that all the Cold War veterans will I’m sure find deeply amusing.

- the story about the travails of the world’s most famous painting, informing “Pravda”’s readers that “Leonardo's ‘Mona Lisa’ is dying.” Actually, to the best of our knowledge, she has been dead for almost five centuries, but thanks for asking.

- the story that breathlessly informs people about “black holes” that “devour people” and recounts the very old pseudo-mystery chestnut about soldiers of the 5th Norfolk regiment who had supposedly all mysteriously vanished without a trace at Gallipoli. This story has been debunked so often it’s not funny, but it’s obviously still news for the Russians.

And there’s so much more courtesy of “Pravda”. The Russians – once they used to kill you, now they just kill you with laughter.


Will the real al Quaeda please stand up? 

The Slim Shadys of Islamist terror are at it again, throwing threats around and sowing confusion, reports BBC: "A message claiming to be from al-Qaeda says it is not to blame for a suicide car bomb attack in Riyadh last week."

However, al Quaeda still knows why non-al Quaeda had staged the attack: "The tape says the Saudi royal family and its alliances with Christians and Jews was the reason for the attack. Americans, Jews and 'Crusaders', as western troops are called, will continue to be targeted by al-Qaeda, the tape says."

But neither Americans, Jews and "Crusaders" were actually targeted by the bomb - it was their fellow Saudis working at the security forces' HQ.

And the al Quaeda tape itself wasn't even recorded by al Quaeda but by some shadowy outfit calling itself the al-Haramain Brigades, who said on the tape that "they were just filling in for al-Qaeda, while it was preoccupied with its Jihad against crusaders."

Hello, you've reached al Quaeda. We're not home at the moment as we're currently getting our asses kicked in Iraq and Afghanistan. Please leave a message and some volunteer intern that's been hanging around our office will get back to you. Maybe.

MEANWHILE: in other terrorist news, Hamas denied it has named Mahmoud Al-Zahar as its new leader to replace the recently assassinated Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

"The Israeli media has fabricated these false reports," Hamas said in a communique. "The movement is committed to not disclosing the name of its new leader."

I can just see the top Hamas leadership standing in a circle and tossing a hand grenade around; "You're the leader", "Am not", "Yes you are", "No, it's you", "Am not, am not, am not!"


The Libyan circus hits Brussels 

Gaddafi learns well the lesson from the Europeans:

"Libya is determined and committed to play a leading role in achieving world peace," he has told the EU’s president Romano Prodi during his visit to Brussels.


"We do hope that we shall not be forced to go back to those days when we bomb our cars or put explosive belts around our beds and around our women so that we will not be searched and harassed in our bedrooms and in our homes, as is taking place now in Iraq and Palestine," he added.

No, we wouldn't want to force Libya back into terrorism. After the Madrid bombing fiasco expect Europe to roll over again.

But Gaddafi didn't just come to warn, but also to impress:

"Col Gaddafi, wearing a fez and a grey-green robe, clearly revelled in all the attention as he waved and smiled at more than 200 dancing supporters when he arrived at the commission building. After talks and lunch with Mr Prodi and a meeting with Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian prime minister, he was to spend the night in a black Bedouin tent, complete with satellite dish, pitched in the grounds of a Belgian government residence."

(In particular, check out the photo of Javier Solano being “received” in Gaddafi’s tent.)

Where else but Brussels could a circus like that unfold? Imagine Colin Powell coming to visit Prodi and setting up a with a US Army armoured brigade in a courtyard of Prodi's residence, before “receiving” the local dignitaries in his own tent.

Eurabia, here we come.


The appeasement update 

Not satisfied with abandoning the fight, and pulling their own troops out of Iraq, Spain now wants to work out a plan to pull out the American troops too.

"The idea is to see if Spain, France and Germany can help the United States find an exit from Iraq...and devise a formula for an international presence there that would not be perceived as an occupation by most of the population," Reuters quotes an unnamed source.

"Asked whether Spain would be prepared to send troops back to Iraq under such a formula, the source said it was too soon to say."

Indeed. The Spanish government will have to wait for the further instructions from al Quaeda on that one.

"Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos has mentioned the possibility of sending Arab forces into Iraq, and of a future international presence that would not include soldiers from countries which have been a part of the U.S.-led coalition."

If the plan is as delusional as that, at least we can rest easy, knowing that its chances of being implemented are zero.

But the World Socialist organisation, as always, knows more than the rest of us: "Spain attempts to appease the US on Iraq."

As the old Polish saying goes, they can hear the bell tolling, but they don't know in which church.


Ah, the Hollywood... 

"The Day After Tomorrow", the new disaster movie blockbuster, set to open around the world late next month, is providing another twist on the usual environmental scare-mongering that Hollywood likes to engage in - the greenhouse gas emission will actually set off an instant ice age.

The brains behind the movies can't seem to make up their mind whether everyone on our planet will be boiled or frozen to death, but one thing is certain: whatever happens, those darned, gas-spewing capitalists will be to blame. Oh, and the Bush Administration which refuses to do anything to save our planet.

"The new movie's script contains a host of politically uncomfortable situations: the president's motorcade is flash frozen; the vice-president, who scoffs at warnings even as chaos erupts, resembles Dick Cheney; and the humbled US has to plead with Mexico to allow masses of American refugees fleeing the ice to cross the border."

In all, an enviro-wacko's wet dream.

Hence: "If environmentalists distance themselves from the movie, they will be squandering a gift, said Dr Daniel B. Botkin, professor of ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.'I think it is a good educational opportunity, and that we should treat a disaster movie as entertainment and not get upset that it is a distortion . . . But $125 million on global warming must be a record for publicising the issue'."

I'm sure the 20th Century Fox shareholders will be just delighted to hear that the company is now in the business of making public service announcements with their money.


The terror gang that couldn't bomb straight 

Newswires report of explosions and gunfire in the Syrian capital Damascus. An unnamed diplomat is quoted as saying that one blast "set a United Nations building ablaze, but a Reuters witness at the scene said that while the building had long been used by the U.N., it was now a civilian residence."

It seems that the building in question had a water depot with the United Nations emblem on its roof, which attracted the bombers.

But I thought that the United Nations, representing the inclusive and non-judgmental international community, is widely respected throughout the Arab world?


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The new Iraqi flag - another Zionist conspiracy? 

It seems that the new Iraqi flag unveiled by the Iraqi Governing Council is not meeting with widespread public support:

"It was supposed to be the perfect symbol for a new and unified Iraq: an Islamic crescent on a field of pure white, with two blue stripes representing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and a third yellow stripe to symbolize the country's Kurdish minority."

The problem? "[P]eople objected to the pale blue color of the crescent and stripes, saying it was identical to the dominant color in the flag of Israel, a Jewish state."

Or as "The Washington Post" would put it if it was run by Al-Jazeera: a Star of David cleverly morphing itself into an Islamic crescent on a field of pure white, with two blue stripes from the Israeli flag squeezing to death a third yellow stripe to symbolise the Iraqi population oppressed by the Zionists.

Just joking; the actual Al-Jazeera report is quite bias free for a change.

The Kurds themselves are rather circumspect about being represented by a yellow stripe: "It is not clear why yellow represents the Kurds. Currently yellow represents the KDP, lead by Barzani." Massoud Barzani, that is, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, who today hasn't had nice things to say about the Americans. Nothing to do with the flag either.

Back to the drawing boards. Maybe the flag should consist of three differently coloured stripes tied in a knot, to represent the deep love and affection between the three main religious and ethnic groups in Iraq.


Phillip Adams - political strategist and eminent historian 

Phillip Adams - wait for it! - doesn't like John Howard's visit to see the Australia troops in Iraq:

"There he was at a dawn service at the airport. And again, trying on night goggles in a sexed-up photo-op. All serving to remind us that the prime purpose of Operation Iraqi Freedom has been to prevent regime change in Washington and Canberra."

Really? That tricky John Howard got Australia involved in what in the beginning was an unpopular war in order to get popular support for re-election. Figure that one out.

Adams's grasp of history is fortunately as strong as his handle on political tactics:

"In both cases [Gallipoli and Iraq], young Australians were involved in wars that were none of our business. In both cases, we invaded Middle Eastern nations that posed no conceivable threat to us. In both cases, the nations, while notionally Islamic, had secular governments. And in both cases, the decisions to invade were based on faulty intelligence and serious strategic miscalculations. And the Prime Minister seems to be forgetting that, in the case of Gallipoli, Australia decided the sensible thing to do was cut and run."

What can one say to an isolationist argument like that? Not sure, because I don't know what for Adams satisfies the test of "our business". Somebody attacking Balmain? Somebody attacking "our ABC"?

We invaded Turkey not on some random basis (much less because we needed to invade any Muslim country "that posed no conceivable threat to us" and Turkey just lucked out), but because Turkey was a belligerent allied to Germany and Austro-Hungary, which happened to have been the countries that our side was fighting in World War One.

So what if both Turkey and Iraq had "secular" governments? (although Adams might care to note that Kemal Attaturk was yet a few years away from his drive to secularise Turkey, as in 1915 he was actually busy fighting Australians at Gallipoli.) Oh, I know, in the Adams universe it's only "religious" governments (particularly if that religion is Christianity) that are dangerous. Saddam might have been deep down "secular" but it's hardly a consolation to all those hundreds of thousands laying in his mass graves.

And then there is the "lesson from the past" that John Howard should heed: do the "sensible thing" and "cut and run" from Iraq, just like your predecessor did in the case of Gallipoli. Adams seems to forget that the places we "cut and run" to in 1915 were not back to Australia, but Palestine and the Western Front, where Australian soldiers fought with great valour for the rest of the war. This would be an equivalent of, oh, let's think, withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan to keep on fighting in Iraq.

As Adams's hero Karl Marx used to say, history repeats itself, first time as a tragedy and second time as a farce. Adams decided long time ago to skip the boring first stage.


They're not all leftie wackos in Hollywood 

Watching "Frasier" your would be forgiven for thinking that the title character, the radio talk show psychologist Dr Frasier Crane, is a typical example of the trendy, upper middle-class, cappuccino drinking, chardonnay sipping, Democrat-voting fraternity.

Which he well might be, but Kelsey Grammer who plays Frasier certainly isn't. "I didn't mind waving the flag a little bit " he says.

"He does mind the poisonous political atmosphere, the class-hatred themes in the rhetoric of Ted Kennedy and other Democrats. 'That stuff is so repugnant to me'."

Last year, of course, Grammer "said he refused to watch this year's Academy Awards because of the anti-war 'crap' that fellow celebrities spewed." He was mostly referring to Michael Moore.

Looks like a pretty solid citizen to me.

Grammer has already in the past expressed interest in running for the US Senate in California.

That's one campaign I would love to work on.


If Latham's not willing, why should Blair be? 

No great and powerful friends for our esteemed opposition leader, eh?

"The federal Opposition Leader, Mark Latham, has been embarrassed by an email sent to Australia's major companies claiming that the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was likely to attend a Labor Party seminar in Australia when he has no plans to do so.

"The email was sent by the Labor-linked consultancy Hawker Britton to companies requesting amounts of money ranging from $5000 to $20,000 to attend the seminar.

"Mr Latham was aware of the plan to invite Mr Blair and other senior British Labour figures to a Labor Party seminar in July but had not spoken to the British Prime Minister about it."

Isn't it ironic that Tony Blair, this once great new hope of social democracy (the Third Way and all), now seems so much closer to politicians like John Howard and George Bush? Conflicts that define an era - like the war on Islamo-fascist terror is turning up to be - do make for strange bedfellows. Many on the left, like Blair himself, realise that what's at stake here goes far beyond the petty everyday concerns of partisan politics. Others, like Latham, just don't get it.

Then again, maybe Tony Blair should come down to Australia to host a seminar for Labor Party on how to get some spine transplants.


Monday, April 26, 2004

The ever positive French 

Agence France-Presse is never one to shy from using evocative adjectives: "US President George W. Bush and his Democratic rival, John Kerry, will shift the focus of their electoral contest to the battered US economy, testing new ideas on ways to add muscle to a fledgling recovery."

Ah, the poor battered US economy.

Maybe just two indicators. Real GDP at 4.1% in the December 2003 quarter; unemployment rate in March 2004 at 5.7%.

How about the home base of Agence France-Presse?

GDP in the December 2003 quarter at 0.5%; unemployment rate in February 2004 at 9.6%.

If the US economy is battered, is the French economy buggered? Merde!


Vietnam: independent candidates without independent thoughts 

"Elections for People's Councils, the equivalent of town councils and state legislatures, will be held throughout Vietnam today, and they will be no rubber-stamp charades. A law passed in November mandates that in every voting district, there must be at least two more candidates than there are seats."

Sounds good? Well, maybe. Maybe not. While less than 60% of the candidates are said to be members of the Communist Party, most of them are nominated by state-affiliated organisation (are there any other types in Vietnam?) and have to go through a rather strenuous vetting process:

"Candidates are evaluated by a patriotic organization called the Fatherland Front. By law, they must be 'loyal to the socialist Vietnamese fatherland' and possess 'good moral qualities.' In three review meetings before the elections, testimony is gathered from candidates' co-workers and neighbors. This process can weed out corruption but also ideological deviance."

Sounds like a great way to encourage non-conformity and breath democratic spirit into the Vietnamese polity, doesn't it? Not that it matters anyway, because "[i]t is not clear how much power the People's Councils exercise. Power at the regional and local levels rests mainly with the executive branch, known as the People's Committees." And ultimately, of course, the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Why do they even bother pretending?


Psychoanalysing Anzacs 

It's rather sad watching a historian turn pop-psychologist, and the results are usually pathetic. According to David Day, Australians have always felt the need to prove ourselves martially on foreign fields, because when "the continent had been forcibly wrested from the Aborigines" it had occurred without "any great battles", only "skirmishes" and "massacres."

So, you see, them macho Anzacs had to go over to Turkey to bash some wogs, because Abos have proved to be a push-over, giddit?

How f***ing patronising can our intelligencia get?

David Day is of course too sophisticated and too intelligent to understand such lowly emotions as patriotism, or (since he thinks that it's our collective national insecurity that makes Australia suck up to great and powerful friends) the feeling of community of ideas between nations sharing the same cultural and political heritage. It's a "supine attitude" to "march off dutifully whenever we hear the drumbeat of a distant war" - it's after all inconceivable that Australia, as a liberal Western democracy, could possibly have the same or similar interests as Great Britain or the United States.

Day finishes his sermon thus: "So long as we refuse to articulate our fears, we will continue to shoot at shadows. It is time that the Government spelt out the fearful consequences that it implies would ensue from taking a more pro-Australian stand in international affairs. What exactly is the great danger that we have to fear? What country has the capability and motivation to do us serious harm? It is time to confront our fears rather than leave them lurking in the depths of our collective psyche. We may well find that we have nothing to fear but fear itself."

Right on. Repeat after me, David: Australia never was and never will be a utopian workers' paradise blissfully drifting through a peaceful and joyful world where nations hold hands and cheerrfully skip along the road. You see, reality is not that bad, you just have to learn to deal with your fear, David.


Sunday, April 25, 2004

From Baghdad with love - George Galloway speaks out 

The anti-war agitator and an ex-Labour Party MP, George Galloway, bares his soul in an interview with the "Guardian". Laugh or cry, here are some of the highlights:

"I'm taking the message to the toffs. Our biggest base at the anti-war movement, believe it or not, was at Camden School for Girls. There was a huge all-out strike there. The girls walked out as one, after lunch, and joined the marchers. I'm doing Eton next."

Elite schools and universities full of spoiled rich brats as hotbeds of infantile leftyism, anti-Americanism and totalitarian groupie-ism? Shock horror, who would have thought! Just imagine what damage the Soviets might have caused if they had thought about exploiting such sentiments at, say, Cambridge.

"Over time I came to love Iraq like a man loves a woman."

Ah, he did it all for love. Galloway has won one libel case against the "Christian Science Monitor", which had accused him of taking 10 million pounds in bribes from Saddam. The documents that the "Christian Science Monitor" were relying on were proven to be forgeries. The libel case against the "Daily Telegraph" hasn't reached a conclusion yet. The "Telegraph" is relying on a different set of documents.

On his new political party: "Respect. It's a young word. It's a black word. It's the first postmodern name for an electoral political movement."

Oh George, you're so hip and happening, man. But will Ali G sue for breach of copyright? By the way, what is it about older uncool leftie politicians trying to desperately present themselves to younger voters as being like them?

"Well, occupation is ugly, resistance can hardly be pretty. I never called on people to fight. But I never had any doubt that they would either."

Strangely, Galloway's former party colleagues made the same mistake as everyone else, when they so obviously misinterpreted his words as a call to Arabs to come into Iraq and fight the British troops and expelled him from the Labour Party.

"Galloway won't describe the blowing up of the bus full of schoolchildren on Wednesday as terrorism, preferring to see it as a grisly aspect of a revolutionary insurgency. 'Resistance movements in Europe against German occupation frequently carried out acts that went badly wrong'."

We didn't have to wait too long for the Bush/Blair = Nazis comparison, did we? Always a mark of a deep political thinker with a clear moral perspective.

"[W]e still kid ourselves that acts ordered by men in suits is war. And that the same acts ordered by men in sandals is terrorism. There is no distinction."

Contrary to Galloway's highly intellectualised theory of fashion equivalence, it's not about the (lack of) difference between suits and sandals, but a very real distinction between men who target combatants and accidentally kill or injure civilians, and men who target civilians because they want to target civilians or because they just don't give a shit.

"That is a racist idea - that once the white man withdraws the natives will start killing each other. It would probably not be Queensberry rules all the way to parliamentary democracy, but we are the problem not the solution."

Really, George, a racist idea? What about post-colonial Africa? The Indian subcontinent? The Middle East? Indochina? George, are you still there?...

"If we had not overthrown the moderate Mossadeq in Iran, because he wanted to nationalise oil, there would have been no Shah. No Shah, no Khomeini; no Khomeini, no Iran/Iraq war; no Iran/Iraq war, no invasion of Kuwait."

You see, kiddies, if you go far enough in time, you will always be able to blame the West for any bad current situation. But how about, if your idol Marx didn't produce tons of toxic shit, there would be nothing to inspire the "moderate" Mossadeq to nationalise oil? And by the way, it's Saddam Hussein and not Khomeini who started the Iran/Iraq war.

"On his two official meetings with Saddam, Galloway claims he was the voice of opposition the dictator never had. On the last occasion they met in 2002, Saddam offered round a box of Quality Street, while George 'argued for a programme of releasing prisoners, of amnesty on political opponents...' [Galloway:] 'He did empty the jails before the war'."

Of criminals, George. But thanks for the amnesty anyway. And Saddam did have opposition, it's just that they were all laying in mass graves instead of being invited over for a cigar.

On behalf of the people of Iraq, whose liberation you were so strenuously trying to prevent, I hope you've enjoyed that cigar, George.


Political correctness 1; common sense 0 

After France implements its ban on headscarves, maybe all the concerned Muslim women can come across the Channel and ask for asylum:

"Thousands of Muslim women will be exempted from having to show their faces on identity cards as the Government moves to allay fears among British Muslims that the new cards will be used to target them in the 'war on terror'.

"As David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, faced attack for not allowing enough debate over the introduction of the first ID cards in Britain since the Second World War, officials made it clear that if Muslim women do not want to reveal their faces in public, that would be respected."

As a result of this sort of idiocy, let's hope we won't see the increased use of women by terrorist groups. After Reem Raiyshi was sent by Hamas in January this year to blow herself up in atonement for committing adultery, we know that Islamo-fascists have finally taken that giant step forward (or backward) for gender equality.


Brown-nosing himself to Latham 

As Australian Prime Minister John Howard makes a surprise visit to Australian troops in Iraq to celebrate Anzac Day (for non-Aussie and New Zealand readers, it's a day of celebration and remembrance of Australia's past military involvements), the Greens Senator Bob Brown claims that the PM should have taken the leader of the opposition, Mark "Werriwa Appeaser" with him.

Why? So Mark can tell our soldiers face to face that he would rather have them back in Australia right now? Latham obviously doesn't appreciate the work that Australian military personnel are doing in Iraq, otherwise he would commit himself to keeping them there until the mission is accomplished. What would Latham then add to the celebrations in Baghdad?

"Anzac Day is way above politics and it needs to be kept very non partisan," Brown told the media.

And I guess taking with you to Baghdad the man who so violently disagrees with the current government policy on Iraq would have made it so very non partisan.

Brown continues: "Choosing Anzac Day now when we are a month or two out from an election, I think it would have been very wise, proper and dignified for him to have asked Mark Latham to go with him."

I don't know whether it might have been very wise, proper and dignified for the PM to have asked Latham along. But it certainly would not have been very wise, proper and dignified for Latham to go there.


Spain reunites with Morocco 

Speaking of Zapatero - Maria Teresa Fernandez De La Vega, First deputy president of the Spanish Government, said that the Spanish PM's visit to Morocco yesterday must be considered as a "reunion between two nations."

Fernandez De La Vega's choice of words might bring tears to Osama bin Laden's eyes, as the man himself had in the past proclaimed "Let the whole world know that we shall never accept that the tragedy of Al-Andalus would be repeated." For the benefit of readers who don't bear long historical grudges, he was referring to the fall of the Muslim state in Spain to Christians in 1492. Bin Laden's medium term aim of course is the resurrection of the Caliphate, and that involves restoration to Islamic control all the lands once held by Muslims - like Spain, Israel, East Timor, the Balkans.

Perhaps Fernandez De La Vega might want to choose her words more carefully in the future. Unless she actually enjoys giving Islamo-fascists hard-ons.


The traveling Mark show 

In a move that will come as a surprise to many, the Labor leader of the Opposition, Mark "Werriwa Appeaser" Latham wants to meet Bill Clinton on his June trip to the US.

Stuck for inspiration for his next speech? Or maybe just wants to seek the former President's advice on how to prevaricate for eight years about the terrorist threat, until it's too late.

Perhaps Latham should also try to meet with the Spanish PM Zapatero, who's increasingly providing inspiration for our leader of the opposition:

"The Labor leader yesterday hardened his stance on Australian forces in Iraq, saying he would reject any request from the United Nations for Australia to join a peacekeeping force."

But I was under the impression that the US was bad, and UN was good. Apparently not.

Said Latham: "Our military capacities are over-extended around the globe, something the Government has acknowledged...We've got to make choices about where to best deploy."

Like to best deploy the troops where exactly, Mark? Townsville Barracks?


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