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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Friday, April 01, 2005

PM's sordid vision

"PM's vision: Australia as honest broker" booms today's front page of The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH). At the official opening last night of Australia's newest establishment think-tank, the Lowy Institute - funded by the country's second richest man, Frank Lowy - John Howard explained his "vision" (the paper's use of this word suggests that the PM's comments are important and worth contemplating in a positive manner, despite editorially criticising his foreign policy decisions many times in the past.) The PM discussed his government's closeness with the US and Asia, and how these could be achieved simultaneously.

One could be forgiven for thinking that George W. Bush has stolen my country's leadership. Howard's speech was filled with references to freedom and democracy. All noble aims, though missing from the rhetoric was any discussion about Iraq's missing WMD, Guantanamo Bay detainees held indefinitely without trial and mounting evidence that the West's involvement in Iraq has in fact helped increase terrorist recruitment. But why let facts get in the way of a rousing speech, likely to be dutifully praised by a subservient media?

The SMH's coverage conveyed the message that history doesn't matter. Peter Hartcher's comment piece today in the same newspaper merely continued the syncophancy. I am not suggesting that one lives solely in the past, but to simply ignore this current government's numerous foreign policy failings is remiss. Not least of these is our draconian refugee policy, frequently cited with profound confusion and sadness by many people I met recently in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. This is becoming Australia's true legacy.

Hartcher continues: "Australia has become our Britain in Asia" was the way that Kurt Campbell, a senior analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and a senior Pentagon official in the Clinton administration, put it." This should not be seen as a compliment. In other words, when American comes knocking, our leaders will simply ask how high. We are now learning that Tony Blair knew that the Iraq invasion was illegal, WMD were unlikely to exist and he committed to the Americans, like John Howard, months before he informed the citizens of his country.

So let's move beyond welcoming every new "important" speech by our leaders as evidence of a revived, visionary and eloquent future. Or do the mainstream media prefer tongue-kissing these pronouncements, enjoying the warm glow of future governmental favours and sanctioned "leaks."

If journalists want to gain true insights into our foreign policy escapades, perhaps they could start by examining a recent poll conducted in Baghdad. A recent US-run poll showed that one per cent agreed that the goal of the invasion was to bring democracy to Iraq. Five per cent thought the goal was to help Iraqis. The majority thought the US wanted to control Iraq's resources and to use its new bases there to control the region. Baghdadis felt that the US did want "democracy", but not one that would allow Iraqis to run their lives "without US pressure and influence."


Anonymous Blue Acre Knowles said...

Scarily similar to Peter Cook's TVPM macmillan satire in Beyond the fringe. There's something in that outstanding monologue about 'an honest broker' too. Beyond the fringe should be listened to everyday in these times, it sounds absolutely contemporary.

Friday, April 01, 2005 1:46:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Peter Cook. Love the guy. Depressive, now dead, guy.
And Dudley Moore. The two together were gold. Derek and Clive. Men can't nor shouldn't be funnier.
Thanks for dropping by.

Friday, April 01, 2005 5:08:00 pm  
Blogger Guy said...

Howard really is a woeful speaker. Not only was the content full of the rhetoric we have come to expect from him, but I'm quite sure he would have delivered it poorly as well.

Any of the journalists present should probably be given a pat on the back for staying awake.

This column aside, Hartcher seems more progressive in his views than he directly projects in his columns. Have you had much experience with him?

Friday, April 01, 2005 10:51:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I know Hartcher. He's a nice guy and has provided assistance re contacts for my book.
He's probably more "progressive" than many other writers at the SMH, but that isn't really saying much.
He's a safe writer, never likely to say anything too out there. Then again, that probably matches much of the paper's readership.

Friday, April 01, 2005 10:54:00 pm  

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