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Albert Langer: Latham v reality: the looming crisis

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Labor's blatant and cowardly appeasement strategy is exposed as never before, writes Albert Langer.

June 14, 2004

After George Bush criticised Mark Latham's policy of bringing Australia's troops home from Iraq by Christmas, Hugh White wrote: "It's not about Iraq any more. It's about the US-Australia alliance itself." ("Latham v Bush: the looming crisis", this page last Thursday.)

White, the head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, then complained that "Bush has left Latham with nowhere to go" and demanded that "the Bush Administration should act now to contain the damage".

No, it's not just about Iraq any more. It's about the future of the whole Middle East and the credibility of the UN, not to mention the credibility of Australia. It's not just about ending the Baathist tyranny. That was "mission accomplished" a year ago. It's about the most broadly representative government in the entire Middle East preparing to hold the region's first fully democratic elections this January, with every significant party pledged to a "federal, democratic, pluralist and unified" Iraq.

It's about each of the militias that conservatives predicted would fight a civil war with each other joining the new Iraqi army to fight their common enemy - an enemy that is also Australia's enemy. This includes the militias of both the major Kurdish parties, both the major Shiite Islamist parties, the Iraqi Communist Party and even the Sunni Islamist "Muslim Brotherhood". They will fight the enemy, whether or not anyone else does, because they don't have the luxury of pretending that fascism and terrorism is somebody else's problem.

I, for one, don't give a damn about the "US-Australia alliance". But there's a much more important alliance at stake here - the military alliance formed in the war against fascism, an alliance called the UN.

It's about a unanimous resolution of the Security Council that: "Requests member states and international and regional organisations to contribute assistance to the multinational force, including military forces, as agreed with the Government of Iraq, to help meet the needs of the Iraqi people for security and stability, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, and to support the efforts of UNAMI (the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq)."

Yes, Latham has nowhere to go with his present policy. His attempt to outflank the Greens by waffle about the UN has just imploded. He cannot fight an election - let alone win it - on a policy of responding to a UN request by stabbing Iraqi democrats in the back.

However, Latham still has plenty of wiggle room. That policy was merely a short-term miscalculation - it was never based on principle. Labor can now try to slither from its blatant and cowardly appeasement strategy. Even now, Kevin Rudd is organising an "exit strategy". By simply proposing to contribute troops to the separate brigade guarding UNAMI, Labor can offer to support the UN rather than the US-led coalition.

But why should the Bush Administration help Latham "contain the damage"? Why shouldn't Richard Armitage, or better still, Colin Powell, politely say that guarding the UN Assistance Mission is far too critical a mission to be entrusted to countries that cannot be relied on to stand by their existing commitments?

Then Latham would have nowhere to go but to pretend that a new commitment to the same multinational force to which Australia is already committed has now been transformed into a commitment to the UN. Or, of course, he could choose to just rabbit on about "stability" in the Middle East and the "disastrous" impact of upsetting things by holding free elections in Iraq.

Australians choosing to cast valid votes in the next election will have those votes counted, whether they like it or not, for one of two "leaders". Either for a PM who pretended the war in Iraq was about non-existent weapons of mass destruction and openly said he could not "justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime . . . much and all as I despise the regime" - or for an Opposition Leader who prefers appeasement to democratic revolution in the Middle East.

I won't be voting for either of them. But whoever wins, both in Australia and the US, Iraq will win liberation, the global democratic revolution will sweep on throughout the whole region and also Africa, and the "US-Australia alliance" will still go the way of the Warsaw pact.


Albert Langer has supported "regime change" or "revolution" since Vietnam in the 1960s, and was imprisoned for encouraging votes against both major parties in Australia in the 1990s. He writes for ___________________________

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Created by keza
Last modified 2005-01-05 06:45 AM

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