Truth maybe war’s first casualty but every now and then the fog lifts and truth is allowed to come blinking into the sunlight. The left have been positively ladling out ‘latte and showering in Chardonnay since Australian Federal Minister of Defence Brendan John Nelson intimated on Thursday that the Iraq war was, at least in part, over oil, and proving what the anti-war brigade have been yelling for years.
Then the Prime Minister, of all people, later on the same day said much the same thing, but of course the government have been in damage control ever since and denied that they meant what is was they so definitely said. So what did they say, exactly? Let’s take a peek.
Nelson kicked off this uncharacteristic chaos on ABC radio on Thursday morning when, according to The Age newspaper, he said
‘The defence update we're releasing today sets out many priorities for Australia's defence and security, and resource security is one of them...the entire (Middle East) region is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world. Australians and all of us need to think well what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq?’
Seems fairly straightforward. Later on, Prime Minister ‘Honest’ John Howard said much the same thing to an Australian Strategic Policy Institute conference:
‘Many of the key strategic trends I have mentioned, including terrorism and extremism, challenging demographics, WMD aspirations, energy demand and great power competition, converge in the Middle East…our major ally and our most
important economic partners have crucial interests there.’
So with the pussycat merrily playing tag among the stool pigeons, Peter ‘Tip’* Costello, Federal Treasurer and all-round gutless wonder, was quickly on the case.
‘We're fighting for something much more important here than oil – this is about democracy and freedom in the Middle East.’
Ah, that’s better! Back on message! And by Thursday Honest John had evidently executed a swift 180 with pike by Thursday arvo and let fly with a little salvo on himself:
‘We are not there because of oil and we didn't go there because of oil, and we don't remain there because of oil…the reason we remain there is that we want to give the people of Iraq a possibility of embracing democracy.’
What became of ‘terrorism and extremism, challenging demographics, WMD aspirations, energy demand and great power competition’ we can only wonder, but that’s Johnny for you.
Tip continued to, as King George II would put it, ‘catapult the propaganda’ on the ABC’s Sunday morning political gossip show thusly:
‘What Brendan was talking about was a different point, the point that was made in the security update that the globe has an interest in energy security.'
Sounds like the point to Elroy. However, the message seems to be that Nelson didn’t say what he said, he said something else that was exactly the same thing as what he said only different and Nelson agrees – on the Friday he was at it too.
‘People should hose themselves down in Australia; I think elements of the media and those in some political parties who are always engaged in political opportunism (should) look very carefully at every word that I said yesterday. Iraq is not, nor has ever been about oil.’
That’s all very well, but of course Nelson cannot be trusted in any matter at all – he was contradicted by his Prime Minister and so then immediately contradicted himself. He has no shame, no principles and absolutely no common sense, but we should not be surprised; after all, this is the guy who, back in the days when he thought being a member of the Labor Party would better suit his ambitions, was once famously filmed at a student rally shouting, at the top of his, voice, ‘I HAVE NEVER VOTED LIBERAL IN MY LIFE!’
It seems Brendan has always lacked the power of his convictions; he only became a medical practitioner after he found he was too old to be a policeman and too randy to be a priest, and it was this choice of profession which led to him becoming Tasmanian State President of the Australian Medical Association by 1990 and falling under the powerful influence of conservative warrior and AMA Federal President Bruce Shepard.
He became Federal President of the AMA in 1993, and this proved to be a turning point for Nelson; his former medical partner and future Labor politician David Crean sighed ‘I think had he not been in the AMA, his political choice might have been different’, and the professor of public health at Sydney University, Simon Chapman reminisced: ‘In his AMA days he came across as a social wet, a guy who would speak up for oppressed groups and was extremely good at it … there was no sense that it was an act. I would find it astonishing if the private man didn't still subscribe to a lot of the values he championed those years ago.’
He claims that he was voting Liberal as far back as 1987, even though he was a paid-up member of Labor until 1991, but after his 1994 pre-selection bid for the safe Labor seat of Denison in Tasmania was rejected, Nelson did the honourable thing and got Shepard to intimidate the sitting member for Bradfield before a pre-selection battle for that blue-ribbon Liberal seat which saw Nelson only just fall over the line. He then transformed himself into a vanguard of the neo-liberals, a hard-core economic rationalist of no fixed opinion – ‘an example’ said Sydney University's vice-chancellor Professor Gavin Brown, ‘of ambition overriding principle’.
Brendan Nelson used to be two thumbs aloft for abortion rights, land rights, injecting rooms and foreign aid, and two thumbs down for mandatory detention, but all of a sudden he was mad keen on state schools having mandatory flag-flying and Intelligent Design while handing their funding to the elite private ones, so what happened? ‘He's done a Faustian deal with the driest dries in the Liberal Party’ said one ex-ally. ‘You do all this stuff … and we'll give you power.’
So is Nelson merely a conviction-free turncoat or a lying scumbag quite happy to swap principles for privilege? ‘The Nelson of today is totally manufactured’ offered fellow Liberal Greg Barns ‘I think if he's honest with himself, you would see a sort of centrist with a social liberal side’, and Dick Shearman of the Independent Education Union declared that Nelson had been ‘compromised by the general attitudes of the Government and doesn't want to be seen as soft’
Confused? So is Brendan. His attempts to remodel himself as a hard-man of the Right has seen REAL hard men of the Right label him a ‘political hermaphrodite’, but what of the great man himself? ‘I would feel equally comfortable as a moderate Liberal” he stated unequivocally in 1994, ‘as I would in the Labor Right…I still have the same views, but I promote them where it's appropriate.’ Where that is exactly is unclear, but Elroy is waiting patiently for the day that they are promoted. Appropriately, of course.
But whatever his lack of principles and core beliefs, Brendan Nelson is known to be a stickler for whatever detail any given portfolio he is pointed at contains. He is nothing if not thorough so these admissions of his do not reflect a lack of understanding; rather they reflect the lack of a political compass, and his subsequent 180 reflects the fact that he will twist in whatever way the winds of his ambition may blow him.
His efforts to completely rewrite history within a twenty-four hour period merely reflects just how arrogant Nelson has become but, as Elroy is so very fair, let’s do as the good doctor suggests and look very carefully at every word that he said yesterday.
‘The defence update we're releasing today sets out many priorities for Australia's defence and security’
OK, that’s pretty clear then. Australia’s defence and security priorities are being set out in the release of a defence update. Everyone on board with that? No arguments?
‘…and resource security is one of them’
What did he say? Resource security is one of them? One of what? Well, if we look very carefully at every word, as Doc Nelson suggested we do, we can only surmise that resource security is a priority for Australia or, to put it anther way, a priority for Australia is to secure, and to have security in, the supply of resources.
OK, so far so good. Ensuring resource security is a priority. But what resources? Jelly beans? Cough medicine? ’45 Chateau Latffite? Maybe the Brendan will be so kind as to…
‘The entire (Middle East) region is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world.’
Ah! Thank you doctor! Let’s look, indeed, very carefully. ‘The entire (Middle East) region…’ That’s a region not in what was known as the ‘Far East’, China etc, or East, Hungary, Romania etc, but somewhere in between the two, in the middle if you will. Iraq is a country in the Middle East, and that’s where we’re having the war, kids – Iraq. No problem there.
‘...Is an important supplier…’
That is to say, energy is supplied by them, the countries in the Middle East region, of which Iraq is one. All clear?
Energy? What sort of energy? Wheaties? Nine-volt batteries? Solar panels?
‘oil in particular’,
‘...to the rest of the world.’
Which would be us. As we are not in the Middle East we must be in the rest of the world, that is, somewhere not, like Iraq, in the Middle East. But let’s just go back one.
‘...oil in particular...’,
What? So the energy that Iraq supplies to the rest of the world is…
Oil among other things? No, oil ‘…in particular.’ Gee, I see what Nelson means now – that is pretty ambiguous.
‘Australians and all of us…’
...who are not in the Middle East…
‘…need to think well what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq?’
OK, what would happen? Is this Nelson’s get-out-of-jail-free card? To Elroy, premature withdrawal would mean less death and maybe even better access to the oil but this is not what Nelson is implying; if it were, then he would not be advocating continuing the occupation of Iraq.
Given the context in which Nelson has couched his implication it is impossible to ignore the conclusion that he is inviting us to reach, that is that leaving Iraq will reduce our access to Middle East oil.
Or will it? Tip, as is befitting his status as the world’s third best treasurer, was as equally unequivocal as he brought to bear the full and onerous weight of his office to bear on whether a suggested withdrawal of US-led troops from Iraq would affect oil prices. ‘It might' he intoned, 'it might not. Well! Glad he was able to clear that up for us.
So, to recap. The Middle East, of which Iraq is a part, supplies energy resources, oil in particular, to the rest of the world, which is us, and as it is a priority for Australia, that’s us, to secure a share of that particular resource, the oil, so we must continue with our current foreign policy, war, with the implication that discontinuing the war, premature withdrawal, would reduce the security on that resource that we have achieved.
Witness that Tip quip again:
‘What Brendan was talking about was a different point, the point that was made in the security update that the globe has an interest in energy security.’
There it is! Has as opposed to had, which means that Honest, Tip & Co. are basically saying ‘Yeah, we didn’t think of that before but now you come to mention it…’
Elroy doesn’t know which is more scary; that our elected leaders are such egregious liars that they can send us to war without ever actually telling us the real reason why, or that they are so monumentally witless that they did not consider the impact on our ‘resource security’ of that war.
Everything the Liberal Party elite has said since Thursday has basically intimated that while the invasion of Iraq was not about oil it could be, any day now. Here’s Tip again:
‘It is possible to see down the track that you could have wars over energy if growing industrial powers felt that their interests were being contained, but that is not Iraq.’
So war MIGHT happen over oil, but it hasn’t yet. Really. Honest. Would we lie to you?
But is their new premise even accurate? WOULD our withdrawal from Iraq reduce our resource security? Are they saying that the USA™, our Great And Powerful Friend® who is busy just stealing the oil anyway, and who has every intention of continuing to do so for at least the next thirty years or so, are going to cut off our pipeline if we take and bat and ball and go home? Or are they suggesting that the great experiment is a washout and that IRAN, having annexed Iraq, will deny us the black stuff?
Both scenarios are fairly far-fetched. Exxon et al don’t care who buys their products and Iran/Iraq, if and when the US hightails it out of Dodge, will be selling to all comers to finance reconstruction and because they can. Anyhoo, if all else fails there’s always the Saudis! Or Kuwait! Or Hugo Chavez! Or them democracy-forsaking Ruskies! Or learn to live with less.
But there was something even scarier in Nelson’s message – that it was important to support the ‘prestige’ of the US and US, a comment which is nothing less than an admission of defeat; he is saying that this thing cannot be won –if he thought it could be he would not be talking in these terms – yet he and the rest of the COW™ continue their madness.
So there’s another cat out of the bag – thousands of people are dying, innocent civilians and coalition troops, for pride, a society is being blown apart and world peace is being destabilised for generations to come for the sake of prestige, religious fundamentalists are being recruited and encouraged, on all three sides of the great Abrahamic divide, to kill each other and those of us who reckon all three can keep it to themselves, to maintain for the coalition’s honour.
The world is being slaughtered on the altar of profit and superstition to preserve George Bush’s dignity, and so the only solution is for Bush, Cheney, Howard and Blai – too late, he jumped, what a clever fellow – to be removed immediately. Continuing to protect the US and UK’s ‘prestige’ will not, by its very nature, ever end and ever succeed; it can only doom us all to an everlasting war fought purely out of hubris, and nations that wage war in order to keep up appearances will never win – the very best they can expect is to not lose. On the other hand, as the USA™ gets to define ‘losing’ then what would ordinarily look like a loss could turn out, in these Orwellian times, to be a win. Who knows?
But it certainly doesn’t look like Tip or Johnny are in any hurry to ship out of Iraq; the Australian Federal Government have ordered up more military toys in the past ten years than ever before, and although most of them will be next to useless they do make us look pretty damn tough and our fearless leaders are sure talking the talk.
However, it has been mooted on other darker and dingier corners of the internets that given the recent movements in the USA™, with more and more Republicans jumping ship every day, that Bush might well be about to leave Howard in the lurch by announcing a troop withdrawal in an attempt to bolster his party’s chances in the 2008 election, and in the process dooming Howard in 2007. As Nixon crucified McMahon in 1974 by visiting China a month after McMahon roasted Whitlam for doing exactly that, so Bush may well catch Howard somewhat on the hop.
Johnny, unfortunately, has not yet cottoned on to this scenario and so is still singing from the current sheet music thus:
‘The region will see further turbulence and Iran's nuclear and wider regional ambitions remain a point of particular concern. In these circumstances, it is all the more critical that the coalition succeed in establishing a stable, democratic Iraq.’
‘…WILL see further turbulence…’ tells us quite plainly that Johnny has no intention of going anywhere and is actually rather relishing the prospect of dealing with that naughty Iran, a state which indeed has ‘wider regional ambitions’ due to the COW™’s shenanigans.
Furthermore, Howard says he wishes to establish a ‘stable, democratic Iraq’ but that will take, literally, half a century or more. Stable AND democratic is a tough ask; Palestine is a democracy but not exactly stable while Singapore is stable but not really democratic, and the fact that both of those nation states have been working on their stability and democracy since the end of the British Empire and WW2 demonstrates just how hard stability and democracy are to achieve.
Tip tipped in to this one too:
‘The Middle East will never resolve the endemic problems that it has ... until you can see a system of government which takes into account the views of people which is responsible to the ballot box rather than the bullet.’
Never mind that that the ‘endemic problems’ that the Middle East has ‘will never resolve’ are due squarely to the constant meddling by the way-out West over the centuries. The west are periodically prone to poking the beehive of Islam with a sharp stick and complaining when they get stung while ignoring the fact that, left alone, the occupants of said hive are relatively harmless and really quite productive.
And as for the ‘system of government which takes into account the views of people which is responsible to the ballot box rather than the bullet’, the aforementioned Palestine has had all sorts of troubles making the transition from one to the other, and no thanks to the west either. Palestine was encouraged to hold elections, where the west hoped that nationalist lefties Fatah would be toppled by a more moderate force; alas for the west, the people of Palestine elected feared ‘terrorist’ organization Hamas, whereupon the west started supporting their former foe Fatah.
The message this sends to budding Middle East democracies is not good – basically, it says that we will respect your elections s long as we like who you elect, which of course is highly undemocratic. No wonder they don’t trust us!
Tip once said, without a trace of irony, that an Islamic theocracy in Iraq would be a terrible outcome and it would be far better to install some sort of ‘secular strongman’ to hold the place together. In that case, maybe it may have been wiser to pry lose their former friendly strongman and organise another one a little more benign. It would have been cheaper and tidier for all concerned.
So either the USA™ administration really did believe in its impossible dream of Geneva on the Tigris, or knew that it would all end in tears but went in anyway, never intending to leave, as it is entirely possible that the White House/Pentagon knew perfectly well that once Saddam had been successfully contained (in a coffin), the Sunni and Shia would set to with whatever implements of destruction came to hand, thus creating a convenient smokescreen behind which the COW™ can swipe all the oil it needs.
Now, however, despite whatever encouraging noises Howard and Tip might make, the jig may well be up for the COW™.
The costs of the Iraq War are spiralling out of all control, with no end in sight, while Army numbers are down and the American public are becoming increasingly over it, and it has been pointed out by heads far wiser than Elroy’s that the time is coming when the USA™ will need to make a fundamental choice between being a democracy or an empire.
It took WW2 for the British to realize that that they could not do both, and so chose the former, but what will the USA™ do? Holding together its extensive network of 725 bases across the world, along with waging war in Afghanistan and Iraq, will stretch American resources to breaking point, so either the administration gets a little more authoritarian and REALLY starts telling everyone what to do or pulls back and accepts that it is not as exceptional as it wants to believe and that its manifest destiny is not to rule the whole world after all.
But the chances of this are so remote as to not really be worth serious consideration. The USA™ will not relinquish its mantle of omnipotent world policeman and give up its empire without a titanic struggle, and so the rest of the world is doomed to make whatever we can of the USA™’s failure in Iraq. The ramifications of the debacle are starting to flow through as we speak; now that the world knows that the emperor has no clothes, the rest of the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Russia and Europe are just now beginning to comprehend just what the USA’s defeat in Iraq means to the old New World Order™ order and what their place might be in the post-New World Order™ order.
So yes, the war is about oil but it is abut so much more – it is actually about the future of the world. Nothing too much to worry about then.
*Peter Costello earned the epithet 'Tip' from former Prime Minister Paul Keating a couple a weeks ago when he said Pete was 'All tip and no iceberg.'Ah, Paul, you had yer faults, but we do miss you. Sic 'em agin soon.
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