Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bob Ellis has a spray about Iraq

spray:Aust.colloq An emotional piece of writing. Derived from the practice of delivering a particularly vehement speech where the speaker "sprays" the audience with saliva.

Bob Ellis is a stalwart of the Australian Labor party and therefore I suppose is part of the Australian political machine. He has stood for Oz parliament and written speeches for numerous Labor Party party heavyweights including the last Labor Party Prime Ministerial contender, Mark his bio reveals.

He has had a long and close involvement with politics, covering as a journalist twenty-four campaigns in Australia, the UK and the USA, and writing speeches or slogans for Kim Beazley, Bob Carr, Mike Rann, Jim Bacon, John Faulkner, Cheryl Kernot, Bob Brown and Mark Latham. In 1994 he stood as an Independent against Bronwyn Bishop, who was then thought likely to lead the Liberal Party, and gained with her political diminishment an enduring, if ambivalent, national reputation.

He's mainly freelancing now as well as relying on booksales. Two of his books "Goodbye Babylon" and "Goodbye Jerasulem" had to be pulped due to a various legal reasons.

His website is here . He should Blog!

The below essay is in regards to Iraq. If Latham had won the Prime Ministership in 2004, one wonders if he would have been as passionate in his views? From memory there wasn't much difference in opinion between both parties on Australia's and its support of US foreign policy. With the exception of Gough Whitlam who was booted out with some CIA help in 1975, both sides of politics have enjoyed a cosy relationship with our cross the Pacific brethren.

So that's sort of where Bob comes from. Here is his rather good essay on the situation in Iraq.

For Byron Shire Echo, Feb. 2005

George Bush in his Inauguration address used the word 'freedom' twenty-three times, in his State of the Union Address six times. He used the word 'justice' only four times all up. He used to be bigger on 'justice'. Osama bin Laden would be brought to 'justice'. His earliest war he called 'Operation Infinite Justice'. He said the word with a kind of pleading, penetrating smirk some followers mistook for sincerity. But lately the word has faded from his rhetoric. It's not too hard to work out why.

For if he now said, as he used to, 'We will bring these killers to justice' he might attract attention to the twenty thousand children the US and its allies killed in 2003 and 2004 (according to Johns Hopkins University), and the thirty thousand women they, we, killed. If killing of this order is okay when our side do it, how can we credibly claim to be 'the bringers of justice' anywhere? Fifty thousand women and children plus, we must assume, fifteen thousand civilian males, and ten thousand male conscripts, add up to more than all the Australian dead in all our wars. A slaughter of this size can have no role in bringing 'justice' to anyone. Nor can the lewd humiliations of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

And so the President's language has lately been 'rectified', as Confucius recommended. 'Weapons of mass destruction' have become 'weapons of mass murder'. The 'Axis of Evil' has given way to the 'Arc of Freedom'. 'Pockets of resistance' have become 'A full-blown insurgency' directed by 'evil foreign terrorist masterminds', and so on.

Changing spin like this is nothing new. In Stalin's day mass killing came to be known as 'liquidation'; in Hitler's as 'relocation'; in Richard the Lion Heart's day 'smiting the heathen devils'. In our day a war that has bereaved eight million siblings, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins is called 'bringing freedom from beyond the stars'.

Keep in mind that eight million figure. It is the same as the number of Iraqis who vote. And eight million voters may soon redefine 'justice' in ways that suit them, not Bush or Allawi or Texaco. They may want compensation for their smashed-up houses. They may want compensation for their abolished jobs. They may want back pay, and pensions, and their 'just entitlements'. They may want their oil back.

They may want as well to charge Americans with torture in the International Criminal Court. They may want to charge with murder soldiers who shot dead whole families at checkpoints, including women and children. They may want to charge the airborne fools who shot up a wedding and killed thirty-three members of the one extended family and Iraq's Elvis Presley on May l9, 2004.

And what will happen then? Will these 'mass murderers' be 'brought to justice'? Or will they plead like John Howard that killing twenty thousand children was 'minimising civilian casualties'? Or plead like George Bush that when 'freedom is on the march' it can trample eighty thousand innocent people underfoot, and cripple and mutilate two hundred thousand more, with impunity? And will they then be let off because they committed their serial killings mistakenly, but sincerely?

When fascism comes the words change first, mutating into something vaguer. Torture becomes 'abuse' or 'inappropriate punishment'. Randomly killing people on public streets becomes 'cultural insensitivity' or 'a regrettable pattern of over-reaction'. Assassination becomes 'targeted killing'. Bombing a suburban house with children in it becomes 'a pre-emptive strike on a suspected terror cell'; and so on.

And soon the real words fade out and vanish, as in the 'whiteout' of brain cells attacked by Alzheimer's Disease. And so it is that 'justice' has largely gone from the President's rhetoric as it did, long ago, from his policy when he broke all existing American records for executions per month by lethal injection of even half-witted teenagers, and women. 'Justice' was useful to him for a while. And so will 'freedom' be, for a while. After that, I guess, will come 'order'. And then we'd better really watch out.

© Bob Ellis


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