When obstinacy becomes reality deficit, who is “weak and gutless”?

17 Oct

That’s what struck me as I saw the rhetoric being played out in the Australian Parliament on the news just now.

The Foreign Minister has strongly condemned the federal Opposition over its promise to remove Australian troops from Iraq.

The Labor leader, Kim Beazley, says if he wins the election, he would immediately talk to the United States about how quickly Australian forces could be replaced in Iraq.

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, told Parliament it is a weak and gutless policy.

“The leader of the Opposition’s proposition is that this great country would pullout its forces and ask others to do the job for us,” he said.

“[He] would go to our allies, the Americans, and the morally bankrupt way the leader of the Opposition proposes, and say to the Americans ‘find someone else to do this job we are too weak to continue with it’.”

The Opposition has hit back at Mr Downer.

Labor’s foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd calls the Iraq war the single greatest foreign policy disaster since the Vietnam War.

He has questioned how Mr Downer can claim to be proud of the Government’s role in Iraq.

“Mr Downer therefore, I presume, is proud of the fact that 50,000 Iraqi civilians lie dead since the invasion of March 2003, Mr Downer is proud of the fact that 100 Iraqi civilians are killed each day in Iraq, he’s proud of the fact that this has involved the expenditure of $1.9 billion of Australian taxpayers funding without any exit strategy in sight,” Mr Rudd said.

But what if it was all, all wrong, Mister Downer? Where is the virtue in hiding from that, if that is the truth? How much truth was told to us, and perhaps even more scary, to you, back then between 2002 and 2003 when you and Howard followed Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush into this mess? Tonight’s PBS documentary on SBS could prove very interesting indeed. But we knew then, didn’t we? Have a look at the links I had on my Geocities site, put up between 2002 and 2003 and last revised in 2004, but mostly still working.

Do read the rest of this, to me, very important post. It is not just a rant, but rather a plea for more honesty than we have been given so far.

Go to Geocities for even more links from a few years back, but here is a sample of the list:

Downer’s emotional ranting today is understandable at a human level, but increasingly he and those of like mind look like people out on a limb just reaching for the saw. The crash won’t be pretty.

This month’s Diplomat Magazine, an excellent Australian foreign policy forum, is not available online, unfortunately, but only costs $7.95 at the newsagent. (The site is, however, a great gateway to much else of value.) In the paper edition you must read:

  • “Reverse takeover” by Jonathon Pearlman. “After a pounding from Israel, Hezbollah looks as strong as ever, and ready for a domestic fight.”
  • “Coming on strong” by Norman Hermant. “Regardless of what happens in November’s US mid-term Congrssional elections, the Washington terorrism behemoth is rolling on – to Iran.”
  • “Brown’s war” by David Mapham: “Gordon Brown’s war on terrorism will target Africa, global poverty and embrace multilateralism as a part of the solution.”

We have been badly and unwisely led. That of course is merely my opinion, but the most terrifying thing about it is that it may well also be a fact. Now go to The Dark Side on PBS. It is playing on SBS as I write, and it is absolutely convincing.

Interviewer: Were you worried about resources being transferred because of the [buildup] of Iraq? Did that happen? How did that happen?

Michael Scheur (“…chief of the CIA’s Bin Laden Desk from 1995 to 1999 and headed an internal CIA investigation into alleged intelligence linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda – a connection his team found to be unproven”): Yeah. Well, certainly by the spring of 2002, the number of people coming into the bin Laden unit had slowed, because they were being diverted to work on Iraq. Also, some of the Arab linguists we had working on bin Laden were diverted to Iraq, and this is just six months, seven months after 9/11.

But in a bigger sense, this is another example of thinking state threats are more serious than transnational threats, because from the formation of the unit that went against Osama bin Laden, it was always short-staffed, even up until Goss’ confirmation hearings, when the Senate asked him why enough people weren’t being given to the bin Laden unit. So that’s nine years into the process of chasing bin Laden, and the unit was still undermanned.

… It was a foregoing conclusion that war was coming with Iraq and that resources were going to have to be spent away from Al Qaeda towards supporting the effort in Iraq.

And the effect of that in terms of the Al Qaeda war?

It certainly made it more difficult, at least. One of the things about terrorism is that because it’s not concentrated in one nation-state, support from headquarters to the people in the field is very much more important than traditionally has been the case, because what happens in terrorism in a country — say, Yemen — may have antecedents in 15 or 16 countries around the world, and the people who are operating in Yemen are not going to be able to know those things. It’s the responsibility of the headquarters unit to be able to integrate all the information pertinent to that one little event in Yemen.

When you drain experienced people away from working on terrorism and move them over to work on Iraq, you put people in place who are brand-new, inexperienced and unable to provide the kind of support that’s necessary to the field, to the operators in the field. So Iraq was not only a physical drain in terms of money and people, but an expertise drain that we could ill afford at that time.

So in effect, we’re not fighting the war on terror.

Haven’t begun to fight the war on terror. First of all, we can’t discuss it amongst ourselves in this country because it’s not politically correct to do so. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush decided that we’re being attacked because they hate freedoms and liberties and elections and gender equality. As long as we’re pursuing it from that side, we don’t understand the enemy’s motivation.

We also like to say that they are people who are gangsters and criminals and on the lunatic fringe of the Muslim world, which makes a halfhearted effort to arrest them one man at a time justifiable. Both of those things are wrong.

We’re being attacked because of what we do in the world, and we’re being attacked by a great and rising percentage of the Islamic world. If we don’t come to grips with that, we lose. We haven’t yet. I think the efforts we’re making now on the war against terrorism 10 years from now are going to look infinitesimal because of the spread of Islamic anti-Americanism. When we look back 10 years from now, we will find that the fuel that fed that fire is a four-letter word called Iraq.

Mister Howard, Mister Downer: please explain. Convincingly. In detail. Point by point. Honestly.

Update December 2006

Download the Iraq Study Group Report.

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5 responses to “When obstinacy becomes reality deficit, who is “weak and gutless”?

  1. The Poet by email

    October 18, 2006 at 9:15 am

    The Poet submits: Iraq: Leave Or Be Forced Out by Gareth Porter. And on Downer last night: “I saw some of Downer’s performance on Iraq yesterday and thought it pathetic. ‘Stay the course’, ‘run up the white flag’ etc etc etc.”

  2. The Poet

    October 18, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Sectarianism has been unleashed in Iraq and will inevitably play out its course. I personally cannot see an alternative to a 3-part breakup, with the Sunnis the losers. Will Turkey tolerate an independent Kurdistan? Who knows? What will Israel do if Turkey sends troops into Northern Iraq? And on it goes…

    The main game in international terrorism remains in Pakistan. I suspect that Musharraf’s time is limited and that he knows this. He might have been tapped on the shoulder already and given a use-by date. The army may wish to shore up its options prior to the foreshadowed elections in 2007 or thereabouts.

    My atheism in a sense gives me nowhere to turn but those among you who are of faith should pray earnestly that GWB does not plan to hit Iran as an October Surprise. Pakistanis would go nuts and could even make it difficult for the military to fix the elections. We know that North Korea and Iran have a way to go with nuclear weaponry and so afford breathing space. Pakistan has the wherewithal now and the infamous Dr Khan on hand to offer advice on suitcase technology. Khan likes al-Qaeda. He is a national hero in Pakistan.

    Then give thought to the people-smuggling overland routes into the south of the USA. Suitcase nukes, big bucks into the pockets of locals who know the routes, jump on a Greyhound bus or hire a pickup… Big bangs in say LA, Chicago, NYC, nicely synchronised. The Greyhound terminals would do. I use Greyhound from Boston to NYC. There were no checks on suitcases last time I travelled by Greyhound in January 06.

    As Colin Powell said: ‘If you break it, you own it’. We have helped break Iraq and in that sense, we own it. Howard has managed to keep our troops out of harm’s way, judging by the statistics, clever man that he is.

    He must be hoping for a turnaround, even a trickle of good news from Iraq. In the interim he blusters vacuous slogans such as ‘stay the course’, without ever explaining what that means.

    The exodus of the Iraqi middle class is a largely unreported issue. The political influence of militias is another. (When did Little Johnnie or Lord Downer last talk about the Mahdi army?)

    I said three years ago that we could see mutiny among US units. I still hold that view. Who would want death or a trip to Walter Reed Hospital for a cause both dishonest and hopeless?

    The Poet

  3. ninglun

    October 18, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks for that very strong statement, Poet.

  4. ninglun

    October 19, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    I was just looking through my Blogspot pages for June 2005 and found Bush says ‘don’t worry’ about Iraq timetable.

    GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, US CENTRAL COMMAND: In terms of comparison from six months ago, in terms of foreign fighters, I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago. In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I would say it is about the same as it was.

    CARL LEVIN, DEMOCRAT SENATOR: The Vice President has said it is “in its last throes”. That is the statement of the Vice-President. Doesn’t sound to me from your testimony or any other testimony here this morning that it is in its last throes.

    GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID: I’m sure you will forgive me from criticising the Vice-President.

    NORMAN HERMANT: There’s little mistaking the urgency in Washington. The administration has relentlessly told Americans things are going well in Iraq. Polls show more and more of them don’t believe it.

    LINDSEY GRAHAM, REPUBLICAN SENATOR: And I am here to tell you, sir, in the most patriotic state I can imagine, people are beginning to question and I don’t think it is a blip on the radar screen. I think we have a chronic problem on our hands.

    Depressing, isn’t it?

  5. The Poet by email

    October 20, 2006 at 8:10 am

    Read Foreign Policy Blindness by Immanuel Wallerstein and Civil war reveals bankrupt Iraq policy by Paul McGeough.

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