You wouldn’t expect a surgeon to recommend Chinese medicine to his patients. His advice usually involves a scalpel and some nasty cutting. Similarly, it would be surprising for military men to advocate political solutions to global conflicts. It’s not their area of professional expertise. By default they lead with their strongest suit – organised violence - not geopolitics or diplomacy.
Like economists and market forecasting, the consistent failure of military options in the modern world is rarely a deterrent, or even disheartening, for men with guns. Victory is always only just another battalion or squadron away. However, after eight long and costly years, it is increasingly obvious to most Australians that there are no military solutions to Afghanistan’s complex social and political problems. The Taliban, even without aircraft, satellites or armour, are unlikely to be defeated by either Western troops or their local proxies.
The recent “Father Bob” controversy suggests that perhaps Bob Maguire should be put in charge of marketing strategy at Christian HQ (not sure if they have a headquarters, but it sounds good – a big Church with cars with flashing crucifixes parked out the front; lots of people walking around with Bibles looking serious; interrogating atheists; all wearing those cassock thingies and the Pope headgear).
The Australian Federal Police announcement that it will investigate charges of war crimes against perpetrators of the murder of five Australian based journalists in the East Timorese town of Balibo in 1975 has put a legal cat among the diplomatic pigeons. Already senior Indonesian politicians have objected, saying they will not cooperate with such an investigation, while the Australian government and department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is going into a now well practiced mode of damage control.
The Australian government, including PM Rudd and Foreign Minister Smith, have predictably – and correctly - said that the matter is a judicial one that does not involve political intervention. Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono is likely to say much the same, although a government spokesman has already reacted with some hostility.
It is hardly novel that a politician looking back at the glory days of office will want to ensure that their political legacy looks as positive as possible. And for whatever faults one might find with John Howard’s period as prime minister, he was a politically-successful prime minister.
One wonders, then, why Howard finds it necessary to create a palpable fiction over his commitment to East Timor's independence, which he claimed was both inevitable and that he would go along with it. Similarly, one wonders why a journalist of Paul Kelly's stature would participate in the peddling of the fiction that "the Howard government decided in early 1999 to work for East Timor's independence", given evidence to the opposite is both overwhelming and freely available.
The Australian Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, has recently released the report of the federal government’s Preventative Health Task Force. Amongst some of the recommendations, the most sensible one is that it should be easier for people to be healthy. However, much of the media reporting has focused on the report’s recommendation that taxing of unhealthy products would lead to shifts in behaviour.
Colonel Muammar Qaddafi has been the leader of Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya since September 1969. After 40 years in control of his nation, Qaddafi is actually the world’s longest serving non-monarchial head of state.
From being the leader of a successful military coup to being America’s bête noire of the 1980s and then the head of a much-vilified rogue state under twenty-seven years of UN sanctions, the mercurial Qaddafi has lately steered his nation to something of a rapprochement with the West, been elected to the chairmanship of the African Union and simultaneously had a very public falling out with some of his Arab leaders.
Of course, I'd heard a lot about her. It was quite difficult not to know about her. She was beautiful, she was exotic, she was fun, and open and tolerant. I mean it was hard not to miss her. I could see that she was quite sporty, pretty successful, and someone that I would definitely like to get to know.
And, she was young. But not young in a silly, immature kind of way. She was young in a good way – fresh, fun, a little bit risky.
But starting to mature. And the thing about her was that I had heard that she was quite complex… and I guess that was something that was really appealing about her. Fun, edgy, exciting.
But on the other hand there was a complexity about her… brooding, mysterious, creative, even spiritual. She was more than a single idea, she was the perfect package.
Steve Holland wrote in Crikey yesterday complaining about a supposed ‘media blackout’ in East Timor. As with another issue, he is wrong about this. There is no media ‘blackout’, but rather a refusal by the prime minister, Xanana Gusmao, to continue to feed into under-researched stories that have already been shown to be factually incorrect.
Refusing to comment on an incorrect premise does not, of course, equate to ‘censorship’, as Steve Holland claims.
As a matter of principle, all governments, including those of small and democratic neighbours, should be open and accountable. For those who have been following East Timor for some time, this has generally been shown to be the case.
News that Christian Churches in Australia are about to start an advertising blitz to persuade people to bring Jesus into their lives, once again shows how naïve and uninformed businesses, government, and people are generally when they believe that advertising has some magical power to persuade people to behave the way they want them to. It seems that thousands of churches across 15 Christian denominations in NSW are behind a project that aims to promote the message that the teachings of Jesus are still relevant. The campaign, based around the slogan, “Jesus. All About Life” begins in three weeks.
On Sunday (30 August), it will be 10 years since the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia. Following 24 years in which more than a quarter of the population was killed or died as result of the occupation, the vote of almost 80 per cent in favour of independence was not surprising.
What was extraordinary was that in what had become a war zone, 98.6 per cent of registered voters turned out to vote. Many had trekked long distances over rough tracks, coming down from the relative safety of the mountains to line up before dawn at polling stations across the territory.
Heavily armed Indonesian police and soldiers stood at, and inside, polling centres. The Indonesian army’s proxy militias strolled in and out intimidating voters. In the village of Balibo, Indonesian intelligence officers directed the Halilintar (Lightning) militia and paid cash to ‘voters’ trucked in from West Timor.