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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Monday, June 20, 2005

No more Wood

Recently released Australian hostage Douglas Wood, currently in Melbourne with his family, is considering a return to Iraq to pursue "business opportunities."

During a press conference upon his arrival at Melbourne airport, Wood said that he supported the American occupation of Iraq:

"I'd like to apologise to President Bush and Prime Minister Howard for things I said under duress. I actually believe that I am proof positive that the current policy of training the Iraqi army, of recruiting, training them worked because it was the Iraqis that got me out. I am proof positive that the current policies of the Americans and the Australian governments is the right one."

I am very glad that Wood has been released unharmed and is safely back with his family. But I can't help but think his belief in the Iraqi occupation is directly linked to his ability to make a buck. Wood may well be a free market profiteer, not unlike many who have flocked to Iraq to earn some quick money. It's time to stop lionising the man, other than wishing him well.

The proliferation of private, Western contractors is a major source of concern for many Iraqis. Take the example of Zapata, a company commissioned to supervise the destruction and storage of U.S military ammunition worldwide to the tune of US$200 million. These companies lack accountability, to say the least.

Before we start labelling people like Wood heroes, let's take a closer look at their role in the post-occupation phase and who is really benefiting. Daily Flute blog puts it best: "If profiteer Douglas Wood gets into trouble in Iraq again, what say he pays for the rescue efforts?" And a prediction. The money Wood will receive for appearing on Channel Ten television next week will not be going to the Iraqi people. I'd like to be proven wrong. Thus far, Wood has proven himself to be a lover of money rather than showing any affection for the people he was supposedly helping in Iraq.

UPDATE: Douglas will not be returning to Iraq. Perhaps he can make some money in another occupation zone. There must be some vital jobs in Afghanistan.


Anonymous Poopoo said...

On Wood, we still haven't been given a definitive view of what the hell he was doing in Iraq.
All sorts of stuff mentioned, but nothing definitive.
Like, he's an engineer?
Well, bully for him but that means virtually nothing in the scheme of things.
What sort of company was he running, what was the contract or contracts for?
Were those contracts genuine or simply a cover for something entirely different - something worth grabbing him for to stop, for instance.
We haven't been given that information (D notice?) and it appears we'll not be gven that information either by the presstitutes or by GovCo.

Anyhow, he appears a few sandwhiches short of a picnic in view of even a fleeting flirtation with a return to Iraq.
I guess he should complete the picture get a few shirts with big targets printed on them so as not to waste too much Iragui time on his return.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 1:10:00 am  
Anonymous Shaba-dabba-dabba-ding-dong... said...

Ant, what motivates you to do what you do? Pure altruism? There's no paycheck attached? (I mean, I'm sure Melbourne Uni doesn't cut six-figure advance cheques, but you must be making some money for your work).

Why is there something immediately, ipso facto, suspect, about making a buck?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 4:11:00 am  
Anonymous Phil said...

Below are my views on Douglas Wood Antony, I left this in comments in a post I wrote for Mark over at Larvatus Prodeo, it was in response to another commenter.

"This is not my venue to be truly provocative, Mark has kindly allowed me to post here which I do at his discretion, but in this case I will be, deliberately so. I’m interested in this idea of “borderline language”, which I would suggest is a chilling juxtaposition of words designed to kindly assist me with some self-censorship.

Why is it silly to regard Wood and his ‘kind’ as mercenary? Given the many fronted and asymetrical way in which the war on terrorism is being fought, the lines between combatants and non combatants and terrorist and soldier are no longer clear nor fully understood, many of these labels appear to be interchangeable.

Remember, Nelson Mandela was once a terrorist. Sophie Panapolous has the makings of one.

This war is the first truly corporatised and outsourced war and as such these contractors are willing actors assisting the fighting men on the ground. It is within this blurring of context and actuality that I see no problem with defining the so-called ‘contractors’ in Iraq as mercenary.

In fact many of these contractors are former military types who now take on many of the tasks formerly done by the real military in a war zone at a much higher price. So it is within these newly blurred definitions that I regard men like Wood to be mercenary in behaviour, and Wood himself to be a mercenary.

He is performing a technical task on behalf of an occupying force in an illegal war based on manufactured facts that were created to fit around a policy of invasion to suit god knows what kind of geopolitical vision. Were it not for this and the generous contracts that came with it, Wood would not be there. That is a mercenary despite the strict dictionary definition.

Now this idea of the government of Iraq being legitimate………..or is it also borderline language to suggest that it is not."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 7:27:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

The simple fact, more than aptly said by Phil above, is that Wood and his merry band of profiteers are making a buck on other people's misery. There is nothing inherently wrong with making money, that's not the point. What is suspect is the work involved. Was he helping Iraqis or simply the American occupation? Could Wood's work have been done by an Iraqi for less?
We now have Western multinationals making money and huge profits in Iraq and other conflict zones. Free marketeers reckon this is all fine, the country is ruined, and somebody's gotta come in and do the dirty work. But surely we should be concerned as to the actual work done, how, where, why, and where exactly the benefit is going? Surely even a cursory glance of Naomi Klein's wonderful work in the last years illuminates why this kin of work is ethically and morally bankrupt.
So, what exactly, was Wood doing in Iraq?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 9:29:00 am  
Anonymous shabadoo! said...

You sound like the right-wing commentator who does a cameo in Airplane/Flying High talking about the impending disaster:

"They bought their tickets. They knew what they were getting in to. I say, Let 'em crash!"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 6:54:00 pm  
Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

Why didn't Mamdouh Habib get a hero's welcome when he arrived in Australia? Why didn't John Howard mention what a courageous fellow he was to survive his ordeal, which he was quite regardless of whether or not he was guilty (and, in fact, no concrete evidence that he committed any crimes has ever been established. Just allegations.)?

Interesting how no one in the media has mentioned the fact that Wood's release proves that you CAN negotiate with terrorists. Hmmm, maybe these lads aren't just kidnap fetishists?

As usual, decontextualise everything and stick to the knee-jerk responses.

Speaking of which, whilst Musharraf (President of Pakistan) was being feted in Australia last week, Pakistan's foremost human rights activist was seriously assualted during a protest in that country. Alan Ramsey wrote about it recently (see bottom half of article):

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 9:21:00 pm  
Blogger Shay said...

Can't say I agree with your attacking Wood Antony, especially at this early stage. Sure he's taking the money from Channel 10, but are you sure you wouldn't in his situation? I'd certainly think long and hard about a quarter-million just to chat to Sandra Sully for an hour (especially if she continues in her recent vein of fashion).

For those of us on the left, it's a bummer that he didn't come out and condemn the war, it's a pity that he agrees with Bush and Howard, but just because he's not of our political persuasion doesn't mean we should move into attack mode. That's the kind of thing Bush and Howard love - belittling everything that doesn't back up their own position, and I'd rather not see political commentators I respect take the same gutter route.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 10:22:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I'm not attacking Wood because he's for the war. That's his right. My point is that he's expressed no kind of interest in the Iraqi people and if you're working there, probably exploiting and making a bloody killing, you've got to answer for a few things, frankly. There are too many stories of people going to places like Iraq, shonky profiteers, caring little for the people under the occupation. That should surely be questioned.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 11:22:00 am  
Anonymous joe2 said...

Today, on Local Radio ,Andrew Jaspan, editor of "The Age" spoke of Douglas Woods. He claimed 10 million dollars has been spent on saving him. Also, that he stands to make a million from contracts signed to media ,so far.

Jaspan is hardly a lefty and while one might claim, it is just a case of sour grapes, he like Antony , reflects a growing feeling that something, that started off as a good news story, is rapidly turning sour.

If the million goes to the people who really need it, that would be a good start.

Might I just mention ,an interview, by Terry Lane with John Perkins who wrote a book, "The confessions of an economic hitman",still available via audio through R.N. It gives an idea, of the history, of the corparatisation of war.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 11:46:00 am  
Blogger CB said...

Andrew Jaspan hardly a lefty? The Wood family have no interest in the people of Iraq? Mamdouh Habib courageous? Fuck me, it's like I'm reading something written by 14 year old mass debaters."Now this idea of the government of Iraq being legitimate".
Your hypocrisy is only matched by your unbridled fucking stupidity.

Thursday, June 23, 2005 7:38:00 pm  
Anonymous joe2 said...

Thanks for your view, concerning Douglas Wood,cb.

I can only presume you disagree with some opinions expressed. Glad you did not resort to individual abuse as a debating technique.

Friday, June 24, 2005 3:51:00 pm  
Blogger CB said...

Andrew Jaspan claims a figure to rescue Mr Wood and you believed it? Even the government has admitted it can't cost the exercise, and wouldn't if it could. What is so fucking sour about Douglas Wood being released from captivity? Because he endorsed the policies of Howard and Bush? I stand by my statement. If you were a dog, I'd kick you .

Friday, June 24, 2005 7:31:00 pm  
Anonymous joe2 said...

cd, buy Chanel 10 shares. The new fox station . Ruppy will own it soon. Just trying to help you down there at the National Front.


Sunday, June 26, 2005 7:42:00 pm  

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