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Saturday, July 24, 2004


This article first appeared in Margo Kingston’s Webdiary page of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 30 October 2001 but is as relevant today as it was when first written.

John Howard's speech of October 25, 2001, justifying Australia's participation in the so-called war against terrorism is one of the most banal and clich├ęd set of words ever spoken by an Australian "leader". They are based on fear, ignorance, arrogance and twisted truths that offer no meaningful long-term solutions to the problems that beset our world today.
He has married Australia's cause to that of America's without any consideration of the consequences and without any consultation with the Australian people. His obsessive knee-jerk reaction of jumping onto America's retaliatory bandwagon without a by-your-leave demonstrates what an excuse for a leader we have.
It would be naive in the extreme to believe that the death of Osama bin Laden, his senior associates, fanatical followers and/or the downfall of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, will put an end to the desperate acts of tragic terrorism characterised by the awesomeness of what the world witnessed on 11 September 2001. It won't.
Firstly, Howard has no idea of what bin Laden's motives are. To claim that bin Laden seeks "wholesale confrontation between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds" is nonsense, pure rhetoric exclusively designed to suck in and prey on the gullibility of the public.
Secondly, Howard has the temerity to suggest that bin Laden "cynically uses the tragedy of the Arab-Israeli conflict to define his crimes in pan-Islamic terms." Howard uses the word "cynically" to politically twist a situation he supports by supporting a nation that continues to supply arms and treasure to the oppressor in the tragedy. Now that's cynicism!
Howard also tells us "The sheer scale of the carnage inflicted has taken terrorism to a new level unprecedented in the history of mankind." The scale of the carnage was indeed huge. Has Howard forgotten the Holocaust when 6 million Jews lost their lives?
Howard tells us nothing about how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can be resolved. Make no mistake here, the final and complete resolution to this conflict is the only way the world can begin to live in any kind of peace and freedom from fear from these kind of terrorist attacks. Howard tells us "the United States has invested enormous capital in trying to resolve that conflict". It sure has. US economic and military aid to the Israeli's over the past several decades to ensure a resolution of the conflict in favour of Israel have run into the billions of dollars, and still no end to it. If it hadn't been for the meddling of US (and British) interests in the first place the situation in the region would possibly have been resolved ages ago.
Howard tells us "The immediate aim is to seek out and destroy Al Qaida and ensure that Afghanistan can never again serve as a base from which terrorists can operate." Afghanistan may well be the base today but, rest assured, unless the problems of the Middle East are resolved, the base will simply reappear somewhere else with a new and just as eager set of commanders.
Those who helped in the planning and carrying out of the 11 September operation should be sought out, (forget this `I will hunt them down and kill them' mentality), and brought to face justice at an Internationally convened trial, the mechanisms for which already exist at the Hague.
With passions running high at the end of the Second World War, the Allies were faced with the problem of what to do with the captured Nazis so obviously responsible for the Second World War. The initial reaction from most of the Allies, including the British, was to deal with them quite summarily via a field courts martial prior to execution. The Americans insisted that this was not the way to deal with war criminals and that, for the sake of justice, it must be demonstrated that there is justice in victory when war is won and not simple victor's vengeance.
The Nuremberg Trials of the major War Criminals, and the subsequent trials of other Nazi war criminals, were for the purposes of demonstrating that these types of crimes will be dealt with severely but, above all, fairly, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that in a world that seeks justice and not vengeance, justice should prevail.
Where are those principles now? Why has Howard not insisted that any assistance from Australia can only be provided where the pursuit of legal justice only, and exclusively, is being sought? Why has Howard embarked on this crazy wild goose chase with the US? Why has he not reminded the Americans of the virtues of justice that the Americans, and only the Americans to start with, expounded in late 1944 when it looked like the Allies were at last getting the better of the Nazis and the problems of facing up to the question of what to do with War Criminals were being asked?
How short our memories are. All the virtues Australia believed in, Australians fought and died for, over the last hundred years have now seemingly gone out of the window.
Hatred feeds only one thing, more hatred. Stop hating. Try understanding. Look beyond Howard's self-righteousness and self-interested politics. There is no future down the road that Howard is taking us, just greater despair and insecurity.
If this world is to pursue a road to peaceful and prosperous globalisation, and if Australia wants to be an active participant in that world, then it is going to need to open up its mind and arms to the world and show a great deal more compassion and understanding than it has shown so far. We must show we can lead by example and not just blindly follow.
Damian Lataan

Friday, July 23, 2004


Questions, once again, are being asked as to why the Bali disaster was allowed to happen and why Australians were not warned about the likelihood of such a disaster. Bruce Power in his piece, ‘Seventeen Days’(1), back in October 2003 asked the question lengthily in a way that could not be more emphatic. He also demonstrated very convincingly that there is no way that the Australian government could not have known that something reasonably specific was soon to happen in Bali and in the tourist district. What he makes no attempt to do, however, is to give an explanation as to why the Australian government failed to warn Australians about the impending dangers of travelling there. We all want some answers. Brian Deegan, who is about to give Foreign Minister Alexander Downer a run for his money in the forthcoming election by contesting the seat of Mayo, desperately wants some answers. So too, I should imagine, do all of the relatives and friends of the victims.
The problem is we’re not likely to get the real answers. The truth is more than likely totally unpalatable for most Australians and far too hurtful for the relatives and friends of the victims. It may be the reason why Bruce Power is so reluctant to provide us with what he thinks are the real reasons for the government’s failures.
Throughout history politicians have manipulated situations and events that have caused death and anguish to the people that they serve in order to bring about a desirable set of circumstances that is favourable to the politicians’ cause. These manipulations are perpetrated covertly and, more often than not, without suspicion. At other times, for various reasons, suspicions have been raised but never proven. Very few are ever revealed wholly. Some historians have begun to call them ‘flagged incidents’. There are many examples of them and they come in various guises. Some are called ‘Black Flag’ incidents, some are known as ‘False Flag’ incidents while others are known as ‘Green Flag’ incidents.
‘Black Flag’ incidents are usually perpetrated completely covertly. The incident is rarely heard of and rarely enters the public domain. They may be operations such as political assassinations carried out by one government agency against a person or group of persons of another government or a person or group of persons within its own government or nation. They are carried out, as are most of these types of incidents, in order to gain an advantage over an enemy either within a nation or outside of it.
‘False Flag’ incidents are those that are carried out by one group of people against another but in such a way as to cast the blame on a third party; i.e., to make it seem as though another group or nation was responsible. A classic example of this type of operation was the one carried out by the Nazis at the beginning of the Second World War when a German radio station at Gleiwitz, close to the border with Poland, was attacked, seemingly, by Polish soldiers. In fact the entire incident was staged by the SS who had killed Jews from concentration camps and then dressed them in Polish army uniforms before firing small arms in to them to make it look as though they had been killed by the German defenders in a skirmish. It was Hitler’s causus belli for invading Poland. Another ‘False Flag’ incident of note resulted in the so-called Lavon Affair of 1954.(2) In this case Israeli Mossad agents planted a series of bombs in buildings in Egypt, including one at an American diplomatic facility, with the intention of making it look as though Arab extremists were responsible. Unfortunately, for the Mossad, one of the bombs went off prematurely which resulted in the immediate capture of one of the agents and subsequent revelation of the plot. In the resulting scandal in Israel, Pinhas Lavon, the Israeli Defence Minister, was forced to resign. In 1986, in yet another Israeli ‘False Flag” operation, Mossad agents had planted a transmitter in Tripoli, Libya, from which was transmitted messages designed to implicate the Libyans in the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in West Germany, a place frequented regularly by American servicemen. As a result President Reagan ordered retaliatory air strikes sending some 200 aircraft that dropped over 60 tonnes of bombs on completely innocent people in Libya.(3) The aims of these types of incidents are obvious.
Finally, ‘Green Flag’ incidents are those that are perpetrated by one group of people against another but with the foreknowledge of the victim’s government and security agencies. The idea here is to allow the plot to go ahead, and in the worst case scenario, encourage it to succeed, in order to gain a political advantage via an increase in public opinion or sympathy in order to enhance the pursuit of another political aspiration for which the government was previously experiencing difficulty in gaining public support for. The classic example of a ‘Green Flag’ incident is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The great American social critic and historian, the late Charles Beard, argued that President Roosevelt knew that the US would be attacked at Pearl Harbor but did nothing to prevent it knowing that this is just what he needed to join the war.(4) Beard further argues, very convincingly, that not only did Roosevelt know of the impending attack but politically manoeuvred the Japanese into a position whereby they had no alternative but to go to war with the US. The recent release of the McCollum Memos vindicates all that Beard asserted.(5)
In the weeks leading up to the Bali bombing the Australian people, indeed most of the people of the world, were showing no signs of changing their stance against what seemed to be an inevitable march toward a war with Iraq. On the weekend of 5-6 October 2002, the weekend prior to the Bali bombings, tens of thousands had demonstrated throughout Australia against war. Howard, mimicking Bush and Blair, tried desperately to link 11 September and the resultant ‘war against terror’ to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Opinion polls, both formal and informal, showed Australians were overwhelmingly against any attack against Iraq especially if it lacked UN endorsement. The attack on Bali, from Howard’s political point of view, was, to say the least, very opportunistic for him. A terrorist attack in his own region would, he clearly would have thought, been a blessing in a terrible disguise. He believed that public opinion against any war with Iraq would now rapidly turn around. He was wrong as we now know. Public opinion didn’t turn as he wanted and the great demonstrations across Australia on the weekend of 15-16 February 2003 rammed the fact home to him. It hasn’t, however, stopped Howard from milking the Bali tragedy for all its political worth. Howard will, of course, be ‘outraged’ by this suggestion. Some readers even may be offended at the idea. And that’s just the idea of Howard getting as much political mileage as he can from the tragedy, let alone ‘green flagging’ the tragedy to gain a political advantage. But it appears I am not alone in drawing these conclusions. Andrew Wilkie infers as much in his book "The Axis of Deceit".(6)
The Bali factor is essential for Howard’s maintenance of Australia’s role in the ‘war against terrorism’. Some may see some logic in this strategy. After all, there is supposedly a war against terror and the tragedy of Bali should be held up as a reminder as to why we are fighting this war. I may even be persuaded by this logic but for two reasons: 1) Howard has ulterior political motives for propagandising the tragedy in this way and, 2) something that cannot ever be forgiven; his government let the tragedy go ahead, without warning Australian travellers, knowing that if it did happen he would receive political benefit from it. For these reasons I do not believe for one instant that Howard is motivated out of sympathy for the Bali victims’ relatives and friends.
And that, of course, is your ‘Green Flag’ example. I said at the beginning it would be unpalatable and hurtful.
I didn’t lose anyone in Bali but I do know folk who did and do know just how unpalatable and hurtful all this may sound. But we need to be reminded occasionally that we do not live in a fairy floss nation of perfectly well intentioned politicians. Australian politicians, like politicians the world over, are, as we all know, hardnosed and downright dishonest. And we all know we haven’t had a more dishonest one in Australia than John Howard. He’s lied about everything in order to pursue this alliance Australia now has with the madmen in Washington. We have since been involved in the slaughter in Afghanistan and the unprovoked attack and continuing slaughter in Iraq. Thousands have died as a result of it.
Australians have died as a result of it.


(1) Bruce Power, ‘Seventeen days’ in Margo Kingston’s column, ‘One year on, still no accountability for Howard and Downer on Bali’. Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 2003.

(2) For a full account of this affair see: Teveth, Shabtai, “Ben-Gurion's Spy: The Story of the Political Scandal that Shaped Modern Israel”. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.)

(3) For a full account of this incident see: Ostrovsky, Victor, “The Other Side of Deception”. (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994.)

(4) Beard, Charles, “President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941: A Study in Appearances and Reality”. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948.) Chapter XVII, ‘Manoeuvring the Japanese into Firing the First Shot’.

(5) The McCollum Memo, 7 October 1940. Available online in PDF form of the scanned original document at

(6) Wilkie, Andrew, “Axis of Deceit: The Story of the Intelligence Officer Who Risked All to Tell the Truth about WMD and Iraq”. (Melbourne, Vic: Black Inc. Agenda, 2004.) p. 66 and p. 132.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


Howard has told the Australian people that he will never apologise or back down from his reasons for sending Australia into war against Iraq. But for a person like Howard, who has no interest in what people today think of him and who can brush aside criticism with just a few arrogant words, particularly in matters relating to Iraq, there is one weak spot that will eventually cause him to regret his role in the fiasco of Iraq. That weak spot is his high regard for Australian history. His rhetoric is littered with references to history, especially when he talks of Australian and Western values and the Australian/US alliance. And, of course, he really loves to wind up the Aussie iconic historical images clock when Anzac Day pays yearly homage to our fallen and surviving heroes. Howard hopes in the future he will feature prominently as the war leader of those who served in his war as they march in future parades of remembrance. How could we forget, especially after such a daring flight into the “battle” itself on Anzac Day 2004?
Howard is deluding himself if he believes that historians will laud him as a great Australian statesman and war leader. When the history of the monumental events of the first few years of this century is written, its conclusions about Prime Minister John Howard’s role will only be denigrating and, considering his love of Australian history, the consequent humiliation is the one penalty he will find unendurable.
History will not be kind to Howard. He will be known as the lying Prime Minister. Sure, there are many who support him despite his lies, and even because of them, but that’s only while he is still Prime Minister. Once his time is finished as PM and, presumably, politics, it will be time for the historians to step in and make their judgements. All the facades of political correctness and respect historians usually show for an incumbent PM will be removed and he will be exposed for what he really is, particularly as those around him begin to tell their stories in a rush to disassociate themselves from Howard’s role in a history that is daily depleting him, and them, of any integrity that they have left.
When the Howard government is defeated at the next election, there should be an all-encompassing, no holds barred royal commission into the government’s role in Australian and world affairs since 2001. If any wrong-doing is discovered then criminal proceedings should be initiated. Of course, Howard is far too arrogant to actually concede any wrong-doing and no proceedings against him will cause him any misgivings over his responsibility for the role Australia has played in the completely illegal Iraq war. But how history judges him? That will very much concern him. It is the ultimate punishment for one who has used Australia’s historical past to try and create a niche in Australian history for himself.