Saturday, February 24, 2007

Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 5

Cheney Makes His Case For War On Iran

20% Of World's Oil Supply "Is Vulnerable To Iranian Military Action"

By Darryl Mason

It must be years since US Vice President Dick Cheney sat down for an interview with someone who wasn't a kindly old friend or simply too terrified to actually ask him some tough, uncomfortable questions.

No big surprise then that Cheney's main interview while in Australia was with journalist Greg Sheridan, who just happened to have backed the War On Iraq, through late 2002 and all through 2003 and 2004, with a white-hot fervour that threatened to spontaneously combust his heard.

Just how much of a good friend to Cheney is Greg Sheridan?

They've known each other for at least 16 years, met half a dozen times or more, and once attended a conference together where "a young man undressed on the stage".

Or you can try this description of his old mate for calibration: " never find Cheney hiding in the shadows, he's always in the bright light of the day"

Or this :
There is something bracing about Cheney's unrepentant attitude generally
Or this :
(Cheney) certainly presents as the very model of sweet reason...
Good God man, have you no shame?

Sheridan's the chief foreign affairs writer for Rupert Murdoch's flagship 'The Australian' newspaper, so you might think the idea of the United States launching a War On Iran would fill him with unease, even a tinge of horror, considering the near ceaseless slaughter of civilians in Iraq over the past four years of war and the general state of calamity and fallout the war has produced across the Middle East.

Well, you'd be wrong :
US Vice-President Dick Cheney believes a military confrontation with Iran would be a lesser evil than an Iran with nuclear weapons.

Yeah, but they don't have nuclear weapons. In the same way that Iraq didn't have nuclear weapons, even though Cheney infamously insisted Iraq did. Again and again and again.

But then, it's not really the the threat of Iran's nuclear weapons that concerns Cheney the most.

Sheridan helpfully cuts through the miasma of standard Cheney 'War on Terror' rhetoric and NeoCon-plated recent history lessons on the Middle East with this lone, floating sentence, which is probably the most important thing Cheney has said in months, and all but confirms a War On Iran will begin with or without the support of the UN Security Council :

Cheney also points out that 20 per cent of the world's oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz and is vulnerable to Iranian military action.

You can pin that quote to the fridge, because you are going to be hearing that reasoning for why a War On Iran is necessary a hell of a lot in the coming weeks.

It also explains why the US currently has two massive battle cruiser fleets near the Strait of Hormuz.

Now that the US can control the flow of 20% of the world's oil supply, by confronting Iran over its non-compliance with UN Security Council backed demands to halt its nuclear enrichment programs, you can pretty well guess what kind of bargaining chip the US will now use to get the backing from China, Russia and the rest of the Security Council for more hardcore sanctions against Iran.

Cheney will soon claim that US action on Iran will help to guarantee the continuing flow of 20% of the world's oil supply to oil-hungry countries like Indonesia, India, China and the US itself.

But that's all for later, let's get back to Sheridan's fawning portrait of the man himself : person he is avuncular, softly spoken, often deploying a little wry irony.

One of Cheney's most appealing qualities is that he tells it exactly as he sees it. There is never a trace of ambiguity in what he says...

Particularly when what he says is 80% distortion and spin.

Cheney had a lot to say to Sheridan, or through Sheridan, and the journalist appears not to have challenged or confronted Cheney on anything, least of all the real-time horrors of the Iraq War. But then, they're both guilty of creating that reality.

And to be fair to Sheridan, time for the interview was limited, and questions from the journalist would have cut into valuable propaganda time for Cheney.

Far be it for me to get in the way, too. Here's some highlights of the interview, where Cheney clearly spells out the case for a coming soon War On Iran :

"We've seen Iran in recent years led by a man who is a radical by most definitions - Mr Ahmadinejad - who espouses an apocalyptic philosophy and has made threatening noises to Israel and the US and others.

"They (Iran) are the prime sponsor of Hezbollah, working through Syria in the conflict with Israel last summer in an effort to topple the Government of Lebanon.

"Working through Hamas they have added to the difficulties of getting some kind of peace process started with respect to the Palestinians and the Israelis. They clearly frighten most of their neighbours.

"We believe they have engaged in providing improvised explosive devices to insurgents in Iraq. We've taken action recently to crack down on identifiable Iranian agents operating inside Iraq. We've made it clear to them that their conduct has been inappropriate."

Cheney also plenty of praise for Australia, for John Howard and Australia's troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there's also fresh reasoning from Cheney of why they can't leave Iraq any time soon.

To do so would disappoint all those who believed in, and committed, to the War On Iraq.

People like Greg Sheridan, and others :

"People, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, who've signed on in this global conflict, with our backing and support - the thousands who've signed on to the Iraqi security forces, the millions who voted, people like Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and (Pervez) Musharraf in Pakistan - they didn't have to make the choices they've made. They decided to sign on with the US and its allies to fight the extremists. If the US were to decide it's too tough and to go home, it would have devastating consequences, for all of those people who bet the farm on this struggle."

And just in case the War On Iraq turns out to actually be the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the United States, Sheridan supplies a closing bit of praise for his old mate, that utterly ignores the humongous death tolls, destruction and third world living conditions that are now daily realities for more than a third of all Iraqis :

You may not agree with Cheney but he certainly lets you know what he thinks. If the US fails in Iraq, it certainly won't be because he lost his nerve.
No, if the US fails in Iraq it will because Cheney and his old mate, Donald Rumsfeld, denied repeatedly for more than TWO YEARS that the Iraqi insurgency was a reality and was ripping the country to pieces and both of them did nothing to try and stop it, even when veterans back from the war publicly begged them to face the reality.

Instead, Cheney said the "Saddam dead enders" were in "their last throes" and Rumsfeld shrieked about how well-informed people who tried to warn of how powerful the insurgency actually was were "Chicken Littles" crowing on about how "the sky was falling."

And all the while hundreds of American and British soldiers were being blown to pieces in roadside IED attacks and car bombings.

Obviously the most important thing of all in the scale of this monumental tragedy is that Cheney didn't lose his nerve.

Imagine if he had.

That might have constituted a livid horror beyond anything the Iraqis, or the thousands of Americans and Brits who lost family members over there, are now suffering through.

Well, for Cheney and his good mate Greg Sheridan at least.

Iran Vows To Defend Nuclear Program

Cheney Warns Of Iran Strike

Cheney : China's Military Build-Up "Not Consistent With Stated Goal Of Peaceful Rise"

US Keeping "All Options" Open Regarding Iran

John Howard Denies Snubbing Cheney, Twice, "Absurd Proposition"
Howard Announces Australian Troop Withdrawal Strategy Based On "Our National Interests"

Defence Minister : "There Will Be No Victory In Iraq"

Australia's prime minister said before the Iraq War began that he thought the conflict would last "months, not years". He is sharp enough to not make the same mistake again when it comes to the withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq.

While John Howard spent the two weeks before US Vice President Dick Cheney came to town lambasting any talk of a troop withdrawal as giving in to Al Qaeda and betraying "our good friends" in the United States, he has changed his tune dramatically in the past three days.

Howard has now decided he must leave himself the option of pulling out Australia's combat troops well before the United States does, and without their permission, and on extremely short notice.

This could be called the "Australia's interest" option, and the key to it may be an outbreak of violence in the troubled island nations to Australia's north, like East Timor.

"If we thought (withdrawing troops) was in our national interest to do so, yes," Howard said during a radio interview yesterday.

The marker for when Iraq is stable enough to warrant a total withdrawal of Australian forces has now been pegged by Howard as a "sustained reduction in the level of violence".

Talk about leaving your options open.

So only five car bombings a week instead of fifteen? Only 200 executed Iraqis found on the street every seven days instead of 600 or 700?

The prime minister, and a stream of government ministers and MPs have been buttering Australians up for a withdrawal from Iraq while the country still locked in explosive sectarian conflict.

Howard now insists it will be up to Iraqi Army and police forces to look after their own security and to end the sectarian conflicts.

"Some level of (violence) will go on, yes," he said. "You can't establish, as a test of whether you ultimately go or stay, a situation where there is no violence at all.

"Some level of violence goes on in a lot of democratic countries."

True enough. But Iraq is currently the murder, kidnapping, execution, car bombing capital of the world.

"We shouldn't set ourselves an impossibly pure standard of non-violence before we decide to go.

"At the present time the level of violence is totally unacceptable, and until the Iraqis are able to contain it to a reasonable level we should stay."

Naturally Howard refused to be drawn on what actually constitutes a "reasonable level" of violence.

So the prime minister has now left himself two options for his strategy on withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Firstly, he can withdraw the troops through the wide-open "in Australia's interest" option, or he can claim that Iraq is only suffering from a "reasonable level" of violence and withdraw.

Just to help out his master, Australia's defence minister, Brendan Nelson, meanwhile, has declared "There is no such thing as victory in Iraq."

This means, of course, that Howard will never have to declare victory in Iraq before pulling out Australia's troops.

That "there is no such thing as victory in Iraq" will come as something of a surprise to US President George W. Bush and US Vice President Dick Cheney who were stating late last year that "nothing less than total victory" in Iraq would be accepted by the crumbling Coalition of the Willing.

"...the Iraqis who've shown enormous courage to vote on three occasions to elect their own government, they should be the inspiration for what we do," Nelson said, "but there'll be no such thing as victory.

"The most important thing that we do is to make sure the Iraqis have control of their own destiny, and have the moral fortitude and courage to see the job through until they're in a position to do it."This also puts the death-knell on Howard's previous claims that Australia would only withdraw from Iraq when "the job is done". Now it is up to the Iraqis to "see the job through".

Nelson waffled endlessly about "handing victory to the terrorists" in Iraq as recently as February 12.

If he now says that the coalition will never be able to declare victory before pulling out, then doesn't it stand to reason that the insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq would regard themselves as victorious once large scale withdrawals of American, Australian and British troops begin?

Here's Nelson's hyper-charged warnings about what a non-victory in Iraq would mean for, primarily, his own children :
"If the United States is defeated in Iraq...along with the United Kingdom, Australia and other thinking countries throughout the world, my children will face challenges that they will never overcome."

Ten days after that interview, Brendan Nelson announced "There will be no victory in Iraq" on the back of Australia committing to sending another 70 soldiers into the war zone.

The question remains why John Howard and his team of propagandists have so dramatically changed their tune in the course of just one week.

Perhaps it has something to do with the rumours infecting Britain today that Tony Blair was partly motivated to withdraw almost 1/3 of British troops from Iraq due to expected military action on Iran by the US and/or Israel in the coming months.

A sudden and unexpected announcement by John Howard that he is pulling Australian troops out of Iraq (well before the security situation improves) to deal with events related to "Australia's interest" in island nations to the north of Australia may well be the next big surprise from the prime minister.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 4

Signs Of The Times, And Stupidity

The anti-Cheney protesters in Sydney have displayed an appalling lack of creativity in their sign-making. There were a few good ones, but not many worth mentioning. I did see two, however, that were kind of startling, for different reasons.

The first was the banner below from a small group protesting John Howard's drastic cuts to university funding across Australia over the past few years. Why were they at a protest rally centred around the Iraq War, Dick Cheney and David Hicks? Presumably they thought there would be a good turnout of teenagers, youth and students in general and presumed it might be a good place to do a little recruiting for their cause. But there were more journalists and photographers than their target audience.

Anyway, who'd want to talk to activists who think a banner like this is a good idea?

The image has been enhanced, but if you can't read it, it says "One More Cut - Howard's Throat!'

Clearly, nutbags who have no idea how to find a middle ground audience for their cause.

The second was this interesting sign about Australian Gitmo detainee David Hicks and Dick Cheney :

Again, the image has been enhanced. It reads : "Hicks And Cheney - A Fine Pair Of Dangerous Warmongers."

Certainly this was the most interesting sign at a protest focused around Dick Cheney and the Iraq War, and the five year long detention without charge or trial of David Hicks.

Clearly the sign-maker believe that Hicks and Cheney are both dangerous warmongers, but is this a counter-protest sign, or just dipping the toe in both ponds?

The Cheney & Hicks sign certainly got some very interesting, and troubled, looks from other protesters.

It exposes one of the great ironies of an anti-war protest taking the side of David Hicks. He was a man who wanted to go to war, and did so at least twice, in the Kosovo conflict and in Kashmir. He relished firearms and weaponry and wrote letters to his parents where he described the joy he got from discharging a rifle at his perceived enemy.

How can you be anti-war but support the freedom of a man who is expected to be eventually tried for war-related crimes, according to US prosecutors?

David Hicks has been tortured by the US, held in solitary confinement, deprived of his human rights and used as a political football by the Australian government, and no doubt has proved valuable as a deterrent to other young Australians who may have contemplated joining the jihad in Iraq.

But David Hicks, like Dick Cheney, was no pacifist.

The 'War on Terror' has produced endless ironies, including the fact that a war aimed at stopping terror has led instead to a massive increase in the use of terrorism as a tactic, and the horrors of more than 200,000 dead Iraqis has helped to radicalise millions of Muslims in the process, which is expected to lead to an even greater increase in acts of explosive terrorism for years, if not decades, to come.

The irony of a crowd of anti-war protesters chanting for the release, without trial, of a pro-war Australian is but the latest example of the hypocrisy and duality the 'War on Terror' has generated. On all sides.
Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 3

On The Inside Of A "Violent" Protest

Breaking Down The Numbers

Story And Photos By Darryl Mason

There was the usual chanting, singing, applauding, angry speech-making through dodgy crackling sound systems. There were the hand-drawn signs and glossy 'No War' placards bearing the names of political parties. There were the tables covered with Chomsky, Pilger and Che biographies and clipboards of anti-war, anti-bombs, anti-Bush petitions.

There were a spattering of ferals, a handful of professional agitators, a bushel of politically inspired uni students and a few dozen middle-aged to elderly people who wanted Cheney to "Go Home!" and to "Free David Hicks!"

The mostly peaceful protest next to Sydney's Town Hall earlier today, held four hours before US Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Australia, certainly didn't seem to have the makings of Big Trouble.

And there wasn't Big Trouble. Far from it.

Until the MC told the crowd police had refused permission for them to march through the city and declared it was "up to youse" whether or not they wanted to defy the police and "March On!"

The police, by this time, were standing in double-strength lines between the crowd and George Street, filled with early evening commuter traffic.

A few cheers of defiance went up, and the police edged closer.

Then it was on. Kind of. Less than fifty of the protesters decided it was time for some push-me/push-you action. The police never seemed overly concerned. It was basically some 'real-time' training for the riot squad, and a chance for the eight mounted police (all female for some reason) to practice their co-ordinated line up, pull back, line up again equestrian maneuvers.

"I like the protests because you get to see these beautiful horses," said some woman in her 80s, waving a little flag that told us the only thing right about Dick Cheney was his first name.

The police had the few dozen argy-bargy protesters squeezed up against the low sandstone wall of the Town Hall, and just about every goose who decided to shove a cop or shout in his face wound up in the back of the lined up police vans that filled one lane of the busy road.

The action wasn't going off enough for one TV cameraman, so he jostled the camera himself, turning it at sharp angles as he shot the pushing and shoving action. You'd have thought he was riding a rollercoaster while copping a beating from a rugby team. Hilarious. It always looks like those cameramen must have have been neck-deep in the action, risking their lives to get the wild footage that makes the blood run a little faster. Well not this time.

And then there was the freelance photographer who didn't think there was enough action, in amongst the big squeeze, so he shoved one of the protesters trying to get out of the thick of it straight into the wall of cops (or so it appeared from my angle). The cops grabbed this guy, put him down and dragged him protesting loudly to the van. The photographer got the photos he needed.

At one point of the push and shove, if you added together the number of police and riot squad and photographers and network news camera people, you'd get a figure way above that of those actually engaging in this useful act of defiance.

I say 'useful' because it did prove very useful, indeed.

Useful for all those Jerry Bruckheimer-speed flash video edits for the news breaks, as well as producing some gritty images of raging ferals getting in cops faces for newspaper front pages.

Actually, the most aggressive yelling I witnessed came from this couple below :

From what I could gather, they weren't actually protesting and were only passing-by and didn't want to go back and cross George Street twice to get where they wanted to be, a few dozen metres away on the other side of the Town Hall from the Big Squeeze.

They gave that poor young cop a hell of a serve.

Basically, if the protester vs cops push-and-shove didn't happen, and it only lasted a few minutes at that, the only footage the evening news would have had to herald the arrival of Dick Cheney in Australia would have been the absolutely riveting shots of his plane creeping along the landing strip at Sydney airport, in the dark, and the Big Dick himself walking alone down a flight of stairs and stopping to say hello to four people on a wet tarmac.

In the end, 10 protesters were arrested, many confused tourists asked locals "Who is David Hicks?" elderly people got to admire the police horses, the riot squad got some live training minutes under their belt, the media got its mouth-frothing "violent riot" story, and John Howard got the opportunity to blame Cheney-related shutdowns of entire sections of Sydney on a few dozen protesters.

And the protesters did get to have their march in the end.

Once the push-and-shove died down, and those involved caught their breath, the police decided that there were so few people actually wanting to march that they wouldn't need to close the city streets anyway.

The protesters fit quite easily onto the 'footpath' (or sidewalk for our American readers), and then it was down to Martin Place and a bit more yelling, singing and chanting outside the American Consulate.

It's interesting to note that when something close to 500,000 Sydneysiders filled Hyde Park to the brim and flooded the city for blocks in all directions during an anti-war protest in early 2003, the evening news told us there were "tens of thousands."

Today, depending on which news you viewed, there were anything from 250 to 350 "violent" anti-Cheney demonstrators blocking traffic and causing chaos in the heart of downtown Sydney.

I asked one cop what the estimate of protester numbers was.

"Probably close to 500," he said.

"You're kidding," I said. "Are you also counting all the tourists and office workers who just happened to be passing by?"

"It's a crowd," the cop said.

"Do you count cops and riot squads as part of the 500 strong crowd as well?"

The cop laughed.

Television news crews, radio reporters, videographers, photographers and freelance media easily made up 70 to 90 of the people present. There were a good forty to fifty police, another few dozen riot squad officers, and a few dozen more 'crowd co-ordinators' from the local council.

Another 100-150 people there were just onlookers, tourists, officers workers, and people who happened to wander out of the Town Hall station and stopped to see what was going on. None of them were cheering, jeering or holding placards.

If you stripped the 350 (or 500) strong crowd of "Anti-Cheney" protesters down to those who actually turned up to protest, and weren't involved in the organisation of the protest itself, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a number bigger than 80.

And it still made news all the way around the world.

Amazing stuff.

"Violent Protest"?

I've seen more violence in the Seafood Buffet line at the Sydney Casino.

Another protest is set to be held Friday morning when Dick Cheney addresses the Australian-American Alliance at the Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks.


John Howard One Of The Few Left In The World Cheney Can Rely On To Do As He Demands, Or Begs

Howard Says Don't Blame Cheney For Long Traffic Delays Due To Greenlight Corridor Travel, Blame Protesters

Cheney Protesters Clash With Police

New York Times : "Police Have Attempted To Drive The Anti-War Protests Off The Streets. We Will Not Be Silenced"

Bias Free 'News' Headline : "Cheney Visit Brings Out The Hate In Peaceniks"

Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 1

Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 2

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How To "Cut And Run" Without "Abandoning Your Mates"

This post was originally published on 'The Road To Surfdom' blog

By Darryl Mason

As expected, the wild and unhinged rantings of John Howard, Alexander Downer, Brendan Nelson and Peter Costello regarding the Kevin Rudd plan for pulling Australian troops out of Iraq, is about to bite them back in the worst way.

Tony Blair is but a few hours away from announcing the withdrawal timetable of UK troops from Iraq, with around 1500 to be pulled out within weeks, another few thousand by Christmas and all but a few ‘trainers’ out by the end of 2008.

John Howard’s first comment on the news that Blair was withdrawing troops from Iraq - by his own rhetoric an act of "cutting and running" and "abandoning your mates" - was met with a fear-grinnning “I’ll talk to you guys later” when the media descended.

Yeah, once he sorts out how the hell he’s going to spin his way clear now he and his muck-pack have pre-tagged the British as a bunch of cowards and terrorists appeasers.

Not surpisingly, the British want to focus on training the Iraqi Army up to take care of their own security, and you can expect Tony Blair to announce that such training will take place in Jordan, or Aman, or another neighbour of Iraq.

Of course, this is very much like the plan for Australian troops proposed by Kevin Rudd, and another plan now being considered by the American Democrats.

Despite the bile-drenched spewings of the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, Rudd has made it abundantly clear that he intends to leave Australian troops in place to guard Australian diplomats and visiting corporate executives for as long as necessary, but to shift ‘trainers’ to a neighbouring country to continuing training Iraqi Army units.

Howard recently, and repeatedly, claimed this was as good as abandoning your mates when they need you most, and Downer, Nelson and Costello took the PM’s rhetorical football and ran for the try line, spouting gibberish all the way through the past week.

Downer in particular disgraced himself, and insulted millions of Australians, when he claimed in Parliament that voting for Labor would mean handing victory to the terrorists because an Australian troop withdrawal would follow, and troop withdrawal means “victory” for Al Qaeda and “terrorists” in Iraq, and around the world.

The man is a pathetic moron who continually embarrasses Australia internationally and insults our allies and members of the Australian, British and American military. And he does this repeatedly.

Go Here For The Full Story
Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 2

Cheney's Posse Won't Be Forced To Hand Over Their Firearms After Prime Minister Intervenes

US Vice President Dick Cheney is about to arrive in Sydney, and key firearm laws have been over-ridden to allow Cheney's Secret Service army to keep their guns.

The NSW State Government had to rush through new gun laws oh so quietly last Friday so that Cheney could bring his dozens of armed Secret Service agents to Sydney.

Cheney, apparently, threatened to give Sydney the flick if his posse couldn't come to town fully armed.

The super-fast-tracked new firearm laws allow Cheney's Secret Service agents to use their own weapons on Sydney streets to protect the vice president from the thousands of war veterans, doctors, lawyers, teachers, office workers, nurses, homeless people, uni students, children, dogs and confused tourists expected to make up protesting crowds on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

The Howard (federal) government actually had to force through an urgent demand to the NSW government to change the firearm laws at the last minute, when it was revealed Cheney was considering skipping Sydney altogether if his posse couldn't step out on the town armed to their back teeth.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the firearm law amendments were "rushed through specifically for Mr Cheney."

The same specially gazetted gun permits will also be in effect when dozens of world leaders, including President Bush, hit Sydney in September for the Asia-Pacific Economic Convention (APEC).

Previous to last Friday, security details travelling with foreign dignitaries, such as Cheney, were forced to hand over any and all firearms to Australian Customs the moment they stepped arrive in Sydney.

But Cheney's posse can now cruise Sydney with an assortment of firearms and weaponry.

The law would even allow Dick Cheney himself to carry a shotgun, just in case he feels the urge to blow a few seagulls out of the sky.

Not that Cheney is planning to go on a shooting spree, but you never know what mood may strike the vice president.

Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 1 : Sydney Goes Into "Lockdown" Mode

Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 3 : Inside The "Violent" Sydney Protest
Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 1

Sydney Goes Into Lockdown As Cheney Comes To Town

By Darryl Mason

US Vice President Dick Cheney is jetting towards Sydney as I write this, and the police and Roads & Traffic Authority are rushing to get this place ready for Dick's big visit.

The preparations mostly include locking down entire chunks of the city for most of Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, making sure all the necessary surveillance cameras are in working order and co-ordinating with Cheney's huge Secret Service detachment to plan escape routes from the venues where Cheney is holding meetings and giving speeches should anything go explosively wrong.

The authorities have said there is no credible threat against Cheney while he's in Sydney, but then they wouldn't be talking it up even if there was.

Regardless, Big Dick is going to be surrounded by an army of Secret Service agents, undercover detectives, uniformed state and federal police, counter terrorism officers, dog squads and hired on security guards.

How many? One source estimated Cheney may be bringing as many as 50 Secret Service agents to Sydney with him, with more than 300 local police and hundreds more security guards in place to keep protesters well away from the venues where Cheney will be holding court.

Two major protests rallies are planned, for Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

The monster security operation is expected to use up most of the resources of the NSW Police Counter Terrorism Command, the police dog squads, the anti-riot units and and the city-based general police.

How much does it cost to be gifted with a visit from such a widely admired and respected leader of the free world?

Unofficial estimates range from $3 million to $6 million. For four days of Cheney time.

The least the vice president could do is draw the winning tickets at a couple of charity raffles while he's here, but no.

He has more important business to attend to : busting the prime minister's chops over why he will only send a measly 70 more soldiers into Iraq, heaping praise on supplicant journo-
propagandists, listening with utter contempt to the opposition leader, Kevin Rudd's, demands that Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee face justice or be freed, and holding court with Australia's business elite.

Story continues below....


More Blogs By Darryl Mason

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Go Here For The Latest Stories From 'The Fourth World War' Blog

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Go Here For The The Latest Stories From 'Your New Reality'


Major Traffic Problems Expected In Heart Of Sydney For Three Days

You don't often get told to stay the hell out of your own city. But Cheney's coming to town, so the NSW and Federal Police, and the NSW Roads And Traffic Authority have decided to pre-warn Sydneysiders of the vast traffic chaos, gridlock and delays Cheney's visit is expected to cause :
People are warned to avoid the city if they can until Mr Cheney leaves Sydney on Sunday morning.

It's a good thing that protest rallies are being held.

This means that most of the traffic delays and chaos can be blamed on Sydneysiders exercising their democratic rights to express their disgust and horror at the child-heavy carnage the US vice president helped to unleash upon the people of Iraq.

Blaming the protesters for traffic delays means easy avoidance of the fact that the Dick Cheney visit requires entire streets to be shut down, traffic lights locked to green, and side streets searched, cleared and secured so his huge motorcade can whip through the centre of one of the world's busiest cities without experiencing undue delay.

The traffic problems will begin at 5.30pm tomorrow when protesters from the Stop the War Coalition will march from Town Hall and move along George Street.

The protesters will also demonstrate on Friday morning at the Shangri-la Hotel in The Rocks, where Mr Cheney is scheduled to speak to the Australian American Association.

At least three whole streets around Cheney's hotel in The Rocks will be totally closed for three days and nights while Cheney is in town.

The NSW police, burdened with handling most of the nightmarish logistics of closing down, locking down, huge sections of Sydney, regard Cheney as a "high risk dignitary."

Perhaps some of the huge street closures are for the safety of Sydneysiders.

With Cheney in his hotel room, surrounded by dozens of armed Secret Service agents, the vice president might be tempted to start unloading firearms from his hotel room windows at some of the local bird life.

Or lawyer life.

Dick Cheney Down Under - Part 2 - Cheney's Posse Allowed To Keep Hand Cannons


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Australian Troops Under Fire In Iraq

It is still unclear exactly why the Howard government deems it so necessary to keep details of what has happened to Australian diggers in Iraq away from the public.

While there is an argument to be made for some "classified" status to be put on certain security and operations related details, Howard and his defence minister, Brendan Nelson, could be viewed as hiding the true facts of the Iraq War, as far as Australians are concerned, from the public. Particularly the casualty figures, including an admitted 20 battle related injuries.

As the following story explains, Australian troops in Iraq have fought for their lives against insurgent attacks numerous times. They've been hit by sniper fire and grenade attacks and engaged in full-blown firefights :

In one fight, Diggers were defending their patrol against insurgent positions as a rocket-propelled grenade skidded towards an Australian group that had been under heavy fire.

"The (patrol) was targeted unsuccessfully by an RPG round from a roof top," an ADF message from Iraq to Headquarters Joint Operations Command in Canberra states.

"(It) was also targeted by an RPG round which passed behind the vehicle and bounced off into a vacant area."

More RPGs were fired, as were automatic pistols on a number of flanks as the Australians returned fire, neutralising one building where insurgents were holed up.

In heavy traffic on the deadly roads of Baghdad, Diggers have also been forced to fire on civilian vehicles suspected of being suicide bombers at least nine times.

The exchanges have caused about five deaths including an apparently drunken Iraqi driver, an Iraqi government bodyguard, a US security employee and a soft-drink seller.

Incidents included Australian troops chased and fired on insurgents running along a levee and hiding in a palm forest, after they aimed five mortar rounds towards a Coalition area and an Australian patrol fired on with RPG fire and returned fire, moving through the ambush.

A lone insurgent sniper fired on Australians with an AK-47 from a roof, so they returned fire, and an Australian patrol returning to base was fired on by two mortars and a light machinegun.

Close calls for Australian troops in Iraq came with the territory, Brig. Gus Gilmore said.

"There is no doubt Iraq is a dangerous place, that's why our force protection measures and our training are so important," Brig. Gilmore, back from six months in Iraq, said yesterday.

"Our soldiers are well trained and well equipped and very professional, and that's contributed to our relatively low rate of injuries," Brig. Gilmore said.

"It is important not to understate the risks they face daily."

Brig. Gilmore said major attacks on Australian troops, like the insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades, were to be expected.

"It's just one example of a number of occasions where our troops have found it necessary to repel an attack."

It is a mark of the professionalism of the Australian soldiers that none have been killed in such a hostile environment by insurgents, and civilian casualties, compared to the Americans, resulting from ADF operations are extremely low.
Howard Declared "A National Security Risk"

Kevin Rudd Claims The Iraq War "Is The Single Greatest Security Disaster That Australia Has Seen Since Vietnam"

Prime minister John Howard was clearly shocked when a reporter told him what opposition leader Kevin Rudd had said about him said about him yesterday morning :
"Mr Howard's strategy on Iraq is the greatest single failure of national security policy since Vietnam, and Mr Howard himself represents a national security risk for this country in the future."
"Really?" Howard asked, as a split second of raw terror flashed across his face, followed by a flicker of bulging eyes and a visible flinch.

He couldn't believe it. How dare Rudd say accuse him, the prime minister, one of the closest BushCo allies in the 'War on Terror', of being a threat to national security.

The little bastard.

National security was Howard's territory, not Rudd's. As an issue to divide and conquer his political enemies, national security had been good to Howard. In fact, it had been brilliant. He had used 'National Security' as a security blanket, weapon of mass destruction and blast shield for years.

Now Rudd had claimed 'National Security' as his own by accusing the prime minister of acting in ways that threatened the country's safety, and future.

Rudd didn't retract the controversial claim. He refined it, and repeated it later in the day, with slight variations and greater emphasis :
“Mr Howard is looming as an increasing risk for Australia's long-term national security...Mr Howard can't say that he has learnt any lessons from the Iraq debacle. I think that represents for the future a risk for national security.

“Mr Howard is presiding over the single greatest security disaster that Australia has seen since Vietnam.”
It was a bold, savage and brilliant air strike on Howard, on the same morning that Newspoll revealed Rudd had overtaken the prime minister on virtually every key issue of our time, and had gained ground on Howard's all important 'National Security'.

"Really?" Howard asked the reporter, the disbelief in his eyes so evident he looked like someone shaken awake from a deep, comfortable sleep.

Howard replied to Rudd's accusation with the first thing that popped into his head, and it was miserably hopeless. A mere splutter from the man who had, until only recently, had the most razor-sharp mind-mouth combination in Australian politics.

"I think he's getting a bit full of himself," Howard said.

What kicked off the most brutal exchange of insults seen so far in the unofficial federal election campaign was the announcement that John Howard was about to send 70 extra 'trainers' from the Australian Defence Force to Iraq.

Howard is widely seen as being subservient to the Bush administration over Iraq, and Australian troop deployments, and with US vice president Dick Cheney due here tomorrow, the prime minister had to get in quick to announce the extra troops so it didn't appear that he was caving in to Cheney's demands for more support from Australia in the Iraq War.

Rudd doesn't want to send more troops, or 'trainers', into Iraq. He wants them deployed neighbouring countries, like Jordan, where the Australian troops can more effectively, and safely, get Iraqi soldiers trained up and ready to take over the responsibility of security in their country.

Howard is clearly rattled, not only be the effectiveness of Rudd's attacks, but the steadily increasing public support his plans for the Iraq War and Australia's future are finding with the public.

Rudd's opposition now leads Howard's coalition by a stunning 54 to 46 per cent, according to the latest poll numbers. While Rudd is on the rise, Howard and his government are falling back on last year's numbers, and fast.

When it comes to who the Australian public want to lead the nation, Rudd now leads Howard by a whopping 10 per cent - 47% to 37%.

Rudd's personal approval rating has hit 68 per cent, a 21 year record for an opposition leader.

Rudd and Howard's bloody exchange over the future of Australia's involvement in the Iraq War came after Rudd changed his schedule to follow Howard to Western Australia, where he now shadows the prime minister.

Rudd promised Howard, in an interview two weeks ago, that he was going to "mess with his mind."

The strategy is clearly working.

John Howard not only has to restore confidence in Australian voters that he deserves to become prime minister again, he has to counter Rudd's increasingly effective attacks and rhetoric, and also shake off the growing infection of utter desperation clearly seeping from the pores of senior government ministers like Alexander Downer and Phillip Ruddock.

The arrival of Dick Cheney in Australia is extremely unlikely to boost Howard's numbers. If anything, being seen grinning it up with Cheney is going to foul Howard's numbers even more, and if Cheney makes one wrong move on how he discusses Australia's role in the Iraq War, the public will punish John Howard.

The Australian newspaper ran a bizarre headline yesterday for an editorial discussing the new poll numbers, that showed increasing confidence and belief in the Opposition :

'Rudd Enters Danger Zone.'

Clearly the more accurate headline would have been : 'Howard Enters Loser Zone.'

"John Howard Is In Strife. Real Strife"

Rudd Goes For Howard's Throat As The War Of Words Gets Bloody

Rudd Refuses To Reverse Pledge To Pull All 520 Australian Combat Troops Out Of Iraq

Blogocracy : Howard Is At Odds With The Great Majority Of The Australian People Over Iraq And David Hicks

The David Hicks Hex & Mocking Phillip Ruddock

Originally posted on 'The Road To Surfdom'

By Darryl Mason

It’s not often you get to see a roomful of Australians laughing at the Attorney General, twice, in the space of an hour. And it wasn’t a pretty sight.

No doubt Phillip Ruddock was expecting a particularly uncomfortable afternoon when he went along to the taping of SBS’s Insight forum show debating the American detention of terrorism suspect, and Australian citizen, David Hicks.

You can only imagine Ruddock never expected it to go as bad as it did. How bad?

Absolutely terrible.

Ruddock was given numerous chances to make his case for why the Howard government had not done more, earlier, to pressure the Bush administration into getting the David Hicks military trial underway, or to get him released. But there was nothing new from Ruddock. His talking points were dashed by lawyerly waffle and blame-gaming.

Blame Hick’s defence, blame the other Gitmo inmates who appealed against the earlier, discredited, Supreme Court rejected military trial set-up, and yes, even blame the Americans as well.

Ruddock wasn’t out to save the credibility of the American military trial system now in place. He wasn’t out to save the credibility of the prime minister, or Alexander Downer, or President Bush. Ruddock was there, with his Amnesty International pin in place, to try and rescue the last fading threads of his own credibility. And he failed.

The loudest laugh from the audience, a laugh full of contempt and disbelief, came when Ruddock said the Australian government had never been happy with the time it had taken for Hicks to firstly be charged and then for the military trial rules to be finalised and accepted by the highest court in the United States.

They laughed because they know the Howard government only changed its tune on Hicks once it became clear that his five year long detention, without trial, was the sort of “fair go” issue that could hammer Howard hard at the 2007 federal election. They changed their tune when the polls showing almost 70% of Australians were not happy with Howard on the issue of David Hicks told them they had no choice.

But even worse for Ruddock, his waffly, defensive rhetoric seemed even more cold and empty than usual because David Hick’s dad and his shattered step-mother were sitting only a few seats away. The distress on her face alone made Ruddock’s words seem all but meaningless.
Ruddock looked close to tears himself, on a number of occasions, even though the case against what has happened to David Hicks was argued reasonably, and calmly, by Terry Hicks, former Guantanamo Bay detainees, audience members and Hick’s defence lawyer Major Mori.

It was hardly a gang assault of abuse and shouting aimed at Ruddock, but he still came close to cracking.

He was there to represent the government and his department but he also found himself, as usual, defending the actions of the Bush administration, something he was clearly not happy having to do. But there lies the rub. Ruddock had choice but to try and back up the stance of Bush Co. when it comes to detainees like Hicks. They’re our closest ally, after all. And this is supposed to a war against terrorists, suspected and/or confirmed.

Most in the audience didn’t look particularly angry, just sad, disappointed, worn out by the apparent pettiness of the evidence against Hicks that was raised by his military prosecutor.

Is that it? Is that all they’ve got on this guy?

As terrible as it is that a young Australian went to fight for an outfit as odious as the Taliban, the charges still not formally laid against Hicks, and the case made by the prosecutor (who couldn’t have asked for a more open forum to say whatever he wanted), still don’t add up to enough to make most Australians think Hicks deserves to be held like a rat in a steel box for half a decade.

Let alone be tortured and mind-fucked.

Go Here To Read The Full Story

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Treasurer Would Deport Australian Citizens For Not Being Patriotic, If Only He Could

The Australian federal government would love nothing more than to make the coming national election a debate about what it means to be Australian.

It's their favourite non-issue of the moment, and although government minister can usually bag a few minutes of media air time whenever they start spouting off about they categorise as non-Australian behaviour or beliefs, the majority of Australians are more interested in issues the government would rather not have at the forefront of the national agenda - climate change, dwindling water supplies, shocking levels of personal debt, ending the Iraq War, the five year long imprisonment, without charge, of Australian citizen David Hicks in a US isolation centre.

Because they've lost control over setting the subjects of national debate, political figures like the Australian treasurer, Peter Costello, are becoming increasingly sad, divisive and bitter.

Costello has other reasons to be so very sad and so very bitter. Prime minister John Howard had promised Costello, repeatedly, through the early 2000s, that he would hand over the leadership of the coalition government to Costello, but Howard kept changing his mind, deciding to stay on.

The longer Costello feels he has been cheated out of his dream of being gifted the prime ministership of Australia, without having to face an election, the more extreme his rhetoric has become. He can't slam the dishonesty and questionable loyalties of the prime minister, so he continually goes after easy targets : idiotic religious leaders, flag burners, anti-globalisation protestors.

Costello has become the chief bulldog in the fictional, reactionary debate about what it means to be an Australian, and who should, and not be, be allowed to keep their Australian citizenship if they were determined to be, by an undeclared body, acting against the interests of the nation.

I say fictional and reactionary because this debate is one all but created by the government to tamp down the political dreams of Australian Muslims, and to drive wedges into Australia's mostly harmonious and accepting multicultural society.

Now Costello's mind is whirling with plans to deport Australian citizens, even those born here, who he thinks don't past the patriotic muster call.

When he talks about the loyalty of those Asutralians who hold dual citizenships, he doesn't even bother trying to make it sound like he's talking about the hundreds of thousands of Australians who still hold onto their US, Israeli and British passports. For Costello, it's all about those who remain citizens of countries like Egypt and Lebanon.

He is, however, far too cowardly to just come out and say his chief target is Australian Muslims.
"If somebody is an Australian citizen and also, let's say, an Egyptian citizen and that person doesn't support what this country stands for... I think we'd be within our rights to say to that person, well, Australia's not for you..."
But Costello doesn't want to just "say to that person", he wants them gone, and it bothers him greatly that he can't just write up a list of all those he thinks should be deported for being "divisive" and and un-Australian and hand it over to the Immigration Department for fast action.

Costello isn't just talking about dual-citizenship Australians, either. Even those born here, he believes, should be thrown out of the country for not being patriotic enough. He wants to kick them out, but is clearly saddened by the fact that he can't. Well, not yet anyway.
"You get into a difficult situation if they're not dual citizens, because at that point, if you take away Australian citizenship they're not a citizen of anywhere, they've got nowhere to go."
Don't let that stop you, Peter. I'm sure Indonesia would donate one of its unoccupied islands for all those Australians you think should be deported, but can't be because they're not dual citizens and don't have another homeland to be sent back to.

Costello likes to harp on about Australians who still hold citizenship in countries like Egypt and Lebanon. But he never mentions the fact that the vast majority of Australia's dual citizens hold secondary citizenship in the US, the UK or Israel.

He doesn't like flag burners, either. In fact, they make him "sick to my stomach." But again, he doesn't want to make the act of burning the Australian flag illegal because he's afraid that those convicted would become "martyrs".

Costello clearly doesn't view the flag-burning non-issue through the prism of freedom of speech, or one of the rights inherent in a free society, no matter how distasteful the burning of the national flag may be.

To him, it's all about loyalty to Australia. Which is in itself a hypocritical argument to make, as long as Australia remains part of the British Commonwealth, and has the Union Jack eating up one quarter of our flag.

How you can be 100% loyal and patriotic to a country that still has a foreign queen as the official head of state?

You'll know Costello is being serious about his calls for dual citizens to show their loyalty to this nation when he starts calling for those Australians who still hold British, American and Israeli passports, along with those holding Lebanese and Egyptian passports, to give them up and drop their dual citizenship.

Until he makes this call, Costello is being a divisive and hysterical hypocrite.

But then, that is the kind of behaviour that gets him the most media attention.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Youth Drops Pot Habit In Australia

3 Out Of 4 Australians View Smoking Cannabis As "Dangerous"

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Australia was amongst the highest ranked nations in the world for cannabis use amongst its teenagers. Remarkably, in one period during the late 1990s, Australian youth smoked cannabis more regularly than similar age groups in Amsterdam, where cannabis was legally allowed to be grown and consumed in coffee shops

During that period, there was a brazen and open dope culture in Australian cities like Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney, with an entire community in the far north of New South Wales that regarded cannabis farming and sales as its primary industry.

T-shirts bearing pot icons like Cheech & Chong and Bob Marley were extremely popular in the suburbs and inner cities, as were images of the Pope John Paul II smoking a huge scud (clearly altered imagery) and in Sydney's outer west, at least, it was considered by some that the epitome of true wit was to wear a t-shirt showing Hitler giving the fascist salute with the tag line "My Plants Are This High!"

Back then, the marijuana leaf was an icon, to be found hand-drawn on school bags, tattooed onto upper arms, emblazoned across caps, jeans, t-shirts and jackets. Whole suburbs were blighted with marijuana leaf graffiti and bongs, stash boxes and joint rollers jostled for space in tobacco store display cases in shopping malls.

But a new report claims that a widely stoned Australian youth populace is a fading reality in the mid-2000s. In short, smoking a joint just ain't considered "cool" any more.

According to this study by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre one third of youth regard cannabis use as "socially unfashionable", in much the same way that cigarette smoking no longer holds the social cache it clearly once did.

"Clearly, it's not as acceptable as it once was to be stoned," said Paul Dillon, a spokesman for the centre at the University of NSW.

But the study survey also revealed that half of all Australians under 30 knew friends who smoked cannabis. The disparity between the public image of cannabis use and the numbers still using it are obviously great.

What the study seems to reveal, primarily, is that a few years worth of media stories and federal government fear campaigns about the mental health related problems associated with regular, or heavy, cannabis use has transformed the way Australians now view the drug previously, and widely, regarded as "mostly harmless".

Of the 1500 adult Australians surveyed, three in four felt smoking dope was dangerous or very dangerous, and half thought it could trigger schizophrenia or anxiety disorders.

About 40 per cent believed marijuana was always addictive, and one in five believed it was always a gateway to harder drugs. Sixty-eight per cent thought cannabis use could lead to other crimes.

"In the 1970s the people who got stoned were cool but now younger people just see a gang of guys who sit around smoking a bong, eating a pizza and watching television," Mr Dillon said.

"There's a general perception they're just 'stoners' and that's a real change."

Dillon also credits school education programs for the raised awareness amongst youth of cannabis' more troubling side effects, while federal government spokesmen prefer to credit their murky, troubled-youth advertising blitzes for the vast cultural shift.

From :
"We're not focusing on the long-term health effects or even necessarily the psychological effects, we're looking more at the social impacts, the way that it will affect your relationship, how will it affect your financial situation - these are the things young people really relate to," (Mr Dillon) said.

"I think we've done a pretty good job of educating, particularly young people, that getting stoned is not a particularly fun thing to do," he said.

While the public at large believes cannabis to be far more dangerous, and less socially acceptable, than they once did, there is little support for those busted with cannabis to face courts. 60% of those surveyed said people busted for cannabis use or possession "should be referred to treatment programs" instead.

The report's only bad news, said Mr Dillon, was that many beliefs people had about cannabis - like the fact it leads to harder drug use - were actually incorrect.

"Cannabis seems to polarise people which gives off a black and white impression of the drug," he said.

"It's spoken of as either God's sweet nectar or the devil's own weed but in reality it's something in between.

It should also be noted that the cannabis in wide use around Australia at the moment is extraordinarily strong compared to that of the early 1990s. And compared to the strains of the 1970s, it may as well be another drug altogether.

The increased strength of today's cannabis is due to high-volume, maximum-yield production methods associated with the mostly hydroponic crops, and the cross-breeding of extremely powerful European strains of the plant.

The strength of this generation of hydroponic cannabis has all but forced the much weaker, more naturally grown New Guinea and Indonesian strains out of the marketplace.

For a teenager smoking his or her first joint, and expecting a mellow, relaxed effect, with lots of giggling, hooking into a joint packed with THC-drenched hydroponic pot is like the difference between drinking a beer and a tall glass of vodka.

The overpowering, sometimes frightening effects of very strong hydroponic cannabis in itself must add to the current negativity surrounding the drug.

For, it seems, as cannabis in Australia has grown stronger and stronger, since the 1970s, its acceptance as a social drug of no great impact or consequence has, correspondingly, changed as well.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Think Your Performance Car Can Outrun The Cops?

Think Again

This is definitely one of the more interesting 'alternative' policing methods tried in the suburbs of Sydney in recent years.

The car company Lotus has donated the above vehicle to Bankstown police on a "long term loan" basis.

It's good for all involved. Lotus gets some top-notch publicity, the cops not only get to cruise around in what must be the best looking police car on the planet, but they also have an excellent way of getting the local car enthusiasts to come over for a chat.

To top it off, the Lotus Exige is leaner and greener than the meaty V8s most police in NSW are currently using.

Gizmag has an excellent, very detailed story, well worth checking out on the Lotus Exige, and the Bankstown police's plans for the vehicle. Here's some highlights :
The lightweight, high performance Lotus Exige sports car will be used by Bankstown Local Area Command for a number of community policing roles over the next six months, including most importantly, helping to build better relations between police and local performance car enthusiasts and youth.

The Lotus also boasts significantly better fuel economy than conventional V8 and turbocharged six cylinder Highway Patrol cars and will bring a new green hue to the command’s vehicle fleet.

Being almost half the weight and with an engine that is less than a third the size of traditional Highway Patrol sedans the Exige is significantly kinder on the environment consuming on average around five litres less fuel per 100km while still being able to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h up to 30 percent faster than the big V8s.

“The Lotus Exige will help break down barriers between our officers and youth in the area, it gives them a discussion point and a way of breaking the ice,” said Superintendent Dave Darcy.

“We have a large proportion of car enthusiasts in the area and it is a challenge to influence them to drive safely. Whilst its easy to give this group tickets to slow them down we would prefer to influence young drivers to take care on the roads."

I think the Bankstown cops better make it clear to the local rev heads that the Lotus isn't on the roads for high speed pursuit.

For some, the temptation to try and outrun this super cop car could prove too much to resist.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New US Military Spying Base Means Australia Is Now Pre-Committed To All Future American Wars

The Pine Gap listening station near Alice Springs

The West Australian district of Geraldton got marked up on China and Russia nuclear target lists yesterday, if they weren't there already.

The small town, 420 km north of Perth, is expected to become host to one of the most sensitive US military installations in Australia, if not the world.

Pity no-one told the mayor about it first.

For some three years, the Australian government and the Pentagon have been working on plans for the high-tech communications base, designed to act as a key link between geostationary Pentagon satellites.

Reports on this evening's news claimed the base would be 'unmanned'.

Who's going to guard it? Robots?

Well, probably.

The base will play a key role in all future American wars in the Middle East and Asia, claimed one radio report.

Future American wars in Asia and the Middle East? How many are planned exactly?

Five? Ten?

Or just one real big quick one?

It's interesting to note that virtually no-one outside of the government or Defence Department, including the council of Geraldton, appears to have had any idea this facility was in the works.

Considering this will join the Pine Gap listening station, at Alice Springs, and the US submarine communications base in the North West Cape, as key targets for some international nuking should any of these proposed "future wars" become a reality, you might have supposed that Australians would have been told about all this long before the plans were finalised.

Or not.

The building of this base, and the possibility of more US military bases to come, commits Australia to joining the United States in any future wars they may feel they need to wage.

Such a commitment is locked in solid (any opposition or debates will be democracy by wasted breath), as we could hardly expect to adopt a neutral status when we are an essential hub for United States military, spying, and surveillance capabilities across most of Asia, including China and Indonesia.

The announcement of the new base certainly solved some of the mystery of why General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, was in Canberra and Sydney earlier in the week, and perhaps explains a bit more about exactly why US Vice President Dick Cheney is arriving in Australia in a few days time.

The official line is Cheney is hear to thank Australia, and Australian troops, for helping to fight the War On iraq.

Unofficially, he is also here to discuss how Australia might make use of the dozens of second-hand Abrams tanks we recently purchased from the United States.

The tanks were not designed for jungle warfare, or even for tooling along the muddy tracks of East Timor. These are desert tanks, perfectly suited for a desert somewhere like, say, the desert region along the border with Iran.

From The Melbourne Age :
(the base) will provide a crucial link for a new network of military satellites that will help the US's ability to fight wars in the Middle East and Asia.

The base...will control two of five geostationary satellites - those with the highest priority parked over the Indian Ocean to monitor the unstable Middle East. Building may start within months.

A visiting fellow at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Philip Dorling, said that once the base was operating it would be almost impossible for Australia to be fully neutral or stand back from any war in which the US was involved.

The network will provide frontline military units instantly with high quality intelligence information, graphics and maps. All this information will be carried in unbreakable codes.

Story continues below....


More Blogs By Darryl Mason

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Defence Minister Brendan Nelson also took the opportunity to disclose that "talks were continuing" on proposals from the US Defence Department to build ground stations for an entity named the 'Mobile User Objective System'.

More ground stations might be built at other locations in Australia, he said.

When Brendan Nelson says "might" in connection with US military plans in Australia, we know to translate this as "definitely will happen".

Said General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, of his visit to Australia :

"The thing you always get out of these meetings is a greater understanding of our joint endeavors...

"We talked extensively about Iraq, Afghanistan and some of the other areas around the world where we are being challenged by forces that stand for something completely opposite to what we believe in.

"We believe in a free and democratic world, a world where people can pursue their own interests in a free and open way.

"I think we share the same value set, and we stand against the people who want to change that."

Pace is being purposely vague, but I think he's talking about New Zealand.

Promises To Allow Australia Access To Intelligence From New Base

Australians Are Overdue For A Debate On The Nature Of The "Security" We Get From The American Alliance
Howard Goes For 'The Fear' Over Future Of Iraq War

Bookies Brand Rudd Next Australian PM

The following are excerpts from a post I wrote for Road To Surfdom :

Australia's prime minister, John Howard has got that 5 a.m. gambler’s stale sweat tang seeping out of his pores, and those who once praised him as the greatest PM since Menzies are now stepping around his quivering shadow. This gambler’s luck has run out, the bar’s cut him off, and he still needs to turn his last $2 coin into a taxi fare home. The bouncers are ready to toss this loser out into the bright dawn.

But even the bookies won’t now extend Howard the courtesy of easy confidence. They’ve turned on him, and fast :

Since Mr Rudd took over from Kim Beazley in December, Centrebet’s odds for a Labor election win have shortened from $2.75 to $1.80, while the Coalition’s have blown out from $1.40 to $1.90.

International All Sports, another online betting agency, also has Labor as favourites - $1.85 compared with the Coalition’s $1.95.

However Sportingbet still has the Coalition in front - $1.85 compared with Labor’s $1.95.

Watch those Sportingbet numbers change quick smart on the back of the next Newspoll.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Watching Howard sink into his own muck is like watching your sherry-soaked granddad making a fool of himself at a family gathering.

It’s fun for a while, and as long as granddad keeps his pants on, and doesn’t go near the BBQ, you know he can only cause so much damage.

Soon enough, he’ll be out on his feet, snoring away in front of the cricket. He’s old, you might only get a few more chances to watch the crazy old bastard in full flight.

Why wrestle him to the ground now and spoil everyone’s fun? Let him go off for a while, at least until the snags are cooked.

Howard has ranted for three solid days about the supposed apocalyptic fallout from a troop withdrawal, which is now very likely to come from US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, and President Bush himself, beginning in late 2007.

He has shouted himself hollow in a pathetically desperate effort to resuscitate the decomposing corpse that is the NeoCon wet-dream horror-fantasy of thousands of jihadi-crazed Iraqi insurgents sweeping out of the Middle East like a plague of turbaned locusts on the back of an American defeat in Iraq.

Howard has, of course, added the local angle, threatening every Australian with bomb-packed terrorists lusting to splatter us all across the sails of the Opera House.

So much for the Iraq War not bringing terrorists to our shores.

Go Here To Read The Full Story

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

For The PM, US Fallout From Linking Democrats To Al Qaeda Grows Only More Intense

Outraged Decorated Marine Veteran Tells Howard To Commit More Troops To Iraq War

John Howard Refuses, But Publicly Commits American Troops To Iraq For Another Year, Or More

By Darryl Mason

To rehash a worn-out, thoroughly disproved argument about the Iraq War must have seemed like no big deal to Prime Minister John Howard when he sat down early Sunday morning for an interview on a national current affairs show.

What he said wasn't all that different from the mantra that he's been chanting for the past three years : that any major withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, before "democracy has taken hold", would be viewed as a major victory by Al Qaeda and a veritable international cast of assorted terrorists.

But this time, John Howard wasn't using the Rumsfeld-trademarked argument against an Australian political opponent, or to whip up unease amongst the Australian public.

Howard's dementia-level international gaffe came when he tried to claim that presidential hopeful Barak Obama, or any other Democrat who wanted to withdraw some combat troops from Iraq in the first quarter of 2008, would hand a victory over America to Al Qaeda.

This time, the American reaction was so intense, and so intensely embarrassing, that Howard couldn't even rely on his "good friend" President George W. Bush to come to his rescue.

It was pointed out to American journalists that Bush had not spoken to Howard in more than six weeks, and Bush made no comment in support of his friend and ally, nor did he issue a statement.

Howard was on his own.

The barrage of criticism and the daily "laceratings" (Howard's description) in federal Parliament became a noxious breather from the intense wave of American anger.

The level of coverage in the US was given a huge boost by the fact that Howard had made these comments on a Sunday morning.

By the time the biggest American news night of the week, and the roll call of current affairs talk and magazine shows, got rolling last Sunday evening, Republicans and Democrats alike were falling over themselves to blast Howard for "interferon" in American politics.

On many American network and cable news shows, the 'Howard Vs Obama' story was number two and even number one, straight out of the gate.

Howard has clearly been left stunned, even mortified, by the American reaction.

There were claims made against Howard in the US that he was being insensitive to the horrific losses of life, and treasure, suffered by the United States in the War On Iraq. The War On Iraq has cost America more than 3100 lives, leaving more than 25,000 wounded and a monumental spend already reaching $AUS400 million.

Then, perhaps even worst of all, came the lead or second-to-lead American Monday night news revelation that Australia had a mere 1400 troops in Iraq. And that as a Coalition of the Willing ally we had suffered no combat deaths, and spent most of our time in the desert training the Iraqi Army, blasting away on firing ranges or shepherding diplomats in and out of the Green Zone.

As an American news-addict friend told me when I called to get his take on the US coverage : "If you ain't dodging bullets, you ain't in the war."

Howard is failing to win the war of opinion over Iraq, or even to seize the high ground.

You could clearly see the look of deep concern on the faces of Howard's ministers as he tried to rebuff the calm, quiet demands in Parliament from Opposition Leader Keving Rudd for the prime minister to apologise to Obama and US Democrats, on Monday and Tuesday.

Howard yelled and waved his hands around and occasionally shrieked, as he tried to light fires with old irrelevant quotes from Labor leaders and ministers. But the noise from his side of Parliament was far more subdued than usual. They were not rallying behind their leader this time. At least, not like they usually did.

Howard tried to reframe the controversy, yet again, last night by claiming :

"My deep concern is that if America is defeated in Iraq a humiliated, enfeebled America might withdraw its interests in our part of the world..."

Trying to now make it all about Australia is an argument unlikely to turn down the heat. And it completely ignores the tremendous losses the US has suffered, and says nothing about the 100 or more Iraqis now being blown to pieces every day the war goes on.
" job is to try and call what I think are the consequences of certain actions against Australia's national interest..."

"...if America is defeated in Iraq, it will be a colossal blow to Western prestige and it will give an enormous boost to terrorism and to terrorists not only in the Middle East but in our part of the world and that will not be in Australia's national interest..."
His words have become cold, calculating and genuinely disturbing. And they show clearly just how far removed Howard is from what is happening in Iraq, or perhaps more importantly, what is now happening in the United States, where more than 60% of Americans want their troops to pull out now, civil war or not.

Howard has claimed that any withdrawal at all of US troops from Iraq in the next twelve months hands victory to Al Qaeda and terrorists across the world. This time he did not specify Democrats, or Barak Obama.

His words, without direction, were aimed at the Bush White House as well. Not as a warning, but as a tip of the hat.
"...if we are out in a year's time it will be in circumstances of defeat. When I say we, I mean all the coalition forces and obviously if the Americans go, then other forces will go as well.

"Now that would be circumstances of defeat and I know that the consequences of that for the West, its prestige, American prestige and influence in the Middle East, to spur that would give the terrorism in the Middle East, the implications it would have for the stability of other countries in the Middle East and also in our part of the world, the spur to terrorism..."
You don't need any clearer indication than that, that Howard has already been told by the Bush administration that there will be no withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in the next twelve months.

It is simply not going to happen. Full stop.

In Australia, it's now three days on from Howard's already infamous quote :
"I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats."
And it doesn't look like the pressure and attacks on Howard, from within Australian and American politics, is slowing down. Incredibly, the level of fury and outrage seems only to be rising, increasing, multiplying.

The Australian defence minister, Brendan Nelson, tried to come to Howard's defence by committing Australian troops to Iraq for another year, or more :
"Only when we get through the next six, 12 months or whatever period of time it takes will we be in a position to make any reasonable and responsible judgement about whether the United States, Britain or anyone else is in a position to withdraw..."
Clearly Howard's crew believes they are on the right track. That they have seized control of the national debate and can use it to show up Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd as being "weak" on national security. They are all likely to be proven very, very wrong. As with the situation in the US, Howard has lost clarity on the views and opinions of Australians when it comes to how long our troops should stay in Iraq.

Rudd challenged the prime minister to a televised debate over the future of Australia's involvement in the Iraq War.

But Howard refused.

Not a good look for someone now trying to claim that Rudd is "gutless", because he won't spell out what he thinks will happen in Iraq following a coalition troop withdrawal.

It's a rare day in political hell
when a coalition leader manages to get both the Democrats and Republicans offside. I can't think of another incident from a leader, say Tony Blair, that even comes close to generating the level of fallout that Howard's absurd claims have now created.

And now comes the hardest question of all for Howard to answer : If he believes in the War On Iraq so much, so vehemently, that he would accuse American politicians of trying to hand victory to Al Qaeda, why doesn't he commit more Australian troops to the fight?

Saying we don't have enough forces, that our Army is too small, that combat-trained troops are already on other deployments, won't cut it in the United States.

It's barely a good enough excuse back home. The Americans are going to eat Howard alive if he thinks that's some kind of excuse for short-changing the war effort.

Decorated Marine veteran, and American senator, John Murtha, has demanded Howard keep his nose out of American politics and domestic affairs, or commit more troops to Iraq. Now :

John Murtha, a decorated Marine veteran who is close to military commanders, and who galvanised leading Democrats into demanding a phased withdrawal from Iraq, said he appreciated that Australia had been a good ally, but that it was US soldiers whose lives were being sacrificed in Iraq and US taxpayers who were paying for the war.

"John Howard is trying to interfere in an election and that's uncalled for," he told CNN. "I agree with Barack Obama that if Mr Howard believes it is so vital for coalition forces to stay in Iraq, he should find a way to send more Australian forces."

"The Iraqis will deal with al-Qaeda as soon as we are gone," he said. "They don't want them in the country and al-Qaeda will be gone once we have withdrawn."

Note : The US Ambassador to Australia just said during a National Press Club address that Murtha is the only person he knew of who was making this argument. The ambassador needs to read more Arab media, where arguments exactly like the one Murtha made have been debated for more than a year now.

Howard Advises Al Qaeda On Winning A Victory In Iraq Against America

Howard's Fears Of An American Defeat In Iraq Are All About The Damage To Australia's "Interests"

The Tide Of Events In Iraq And The US Are Running Against Howard, And The Australian Public Knows It