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Friday, September 09, 2005

The ABC still has guts. Sometimes

The following exchange, between Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and ABC Triple J, occurred on February 20, 2003. Australia was about to launch an attack on Iraq:

COMPERE: Are we turning our backs and covering our eyes about weapons of mass destruction in another nation in the Middle East, Israel?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well Israel isn't a rogue state, is it? Israel is a liberal democracy. It's never used weapons of this kind or transferred…

COMPERE: But they…

ALEXANDER DOWNER: …of this kind to any other country or used against his own people or used it against - those weapons against its neighbours. I mean to compare Israel with the brutality of Saddam Hussein: That's part of the problem with the debate. You've got to be kidding.

COMPERE: But hang on a second.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: You've got to be kidding.

COMPERE: You said the greatest danger to the modern world is weapons of mass destruction.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: It's the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

COMPERE: Exactly, the proliferation of those continue to go on in Israel. Surely…

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No, no, they're not going on in Israel. Israel aren't passing nuclear technology to other countries. I've no evidence of that.

COMPERE: But they're building up their weapons.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: They're not passing chemical, biological and…I mean there are two things about Israel. I think actually, if I may say…

COMPERE: But they have a huge weapons program, don't they?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: …if I may say so, I think it's absolutely preposterous to compare a liberal democratic regime like Israel's which operates under the rule of law with a brutal dictatorship like Saddam Hussein's, number one. And number two, I mean will people never learn? Saddam Hussein has used these weapons against his own people. Does that not matter to some people?

COMPERE: So you believe it's okay for Israel to have weapons of mass destruction because you don't believe they're going to use them?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well first of all, I don't think it's okay. I think it would be preferable if they didn’t have them. But there aren't any United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that Israel disarms. There are Security Council resolutions demanding that Iraq does. But I suppose people could say, it doesn't really matter about the Security Council. It's just a debating society. I feel more strongly about it than that. I hope that these Chapter 7 resolutions will be adhered to by Iraq. But let's wait and see.

Israel "operates under the rule of law"? Israel is a "liberal democracy"? Earlier in the interview, Triple J asked Downer whether, like Chile and Iran in decades past, the US would install a US-friendly regime in Iraq. "The United States doesn't have the thought here of putting in place any particular type of administration", Downer replied. Clearly, he believed his own propaganda.


Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Not a bad effort, and typical evasion and rudeness from Downer.

Only addition I'd make would be to also ask some questions about Musharref.

Friday, September 09, 2005 12:11:00 pm  
Blogger Glenn Condell said...

Whoever that compere was had better watch his back. Lucky for Lynton Crosby he's in the Old Dart; this would have had him blowing gaskets fulminating about ABC 'bias'. Michael Warbucks too.

What a blast of fresh air it would have been to hear it. Like a cocktail during prohibition, like reading Solzhenitsyn in Russia before glasnost.

It would be nice to think there's cracks appearing in the wall of Western complicity re Israel, certainly in Oz with this hot on the heels of your Danby brouhaha. But I've thought that before.

Friday, September 09, 2005 3:40:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Cracks are appearing here and there, and we should support those who dare speak it.

Friday, September 09, 2005 3:44:00 pm  
Blogger Gerry said...

Your header: The ABC still has guts...

That's touching on something that's been bothering me ever since just after the last elections. It seems to me the ABC (e.g Four Corners) is no longer confronting serious political issues in Australia.

Is there any hope?

Friday, September 09, 2005 8:37:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

The ABC is so pressured by govt and the Murdoch press, that self-censorship is order of the day. SBS Dateline still remains very strong, though. ABC Radio still remains gutsy, here and there.
Check out Quentin Dempster's chapter in the new book Do Not Disturb for an insider's view.
It's not pretty, to be sure.

Friday, September 09, 2005 9:32:00 pm  

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