Monday, July 14, 2008

Bummer of Baghdad

The Awfulisers

Every night and every day
The awfulisers work away
Awfulising public places,
Favorite things & little graces
Awfulising lovely treasures
Common joys & simple pleasures.
Awfulising far & near
The parts of life we held so dear.
Democratic, clean & lawful
Awful, awful, awful, awful.

Michael Leunig

The unmitigated awfulness of the Howard years (1996-2007) should never be forgotten:-

"Then there is Iraq. Australia's involvement may have divided the nation, but [former foreign minister Alexander] Downer is unrepentant that it was and remains the right move. Downer's passion for foreign affairs is far from over. He is about to become the fix-it man in the Mediterranean. The official title is the Secretary-General of the UN Special Envoy for Cyprus. Not a bad gig for a man who had his fair share of disagreements with the UN." Janet Albrechtsen*, Warrior Statesman, The Australian, 1/7/08

"Several years ago, with controversy over the invasion of Iraq swirling, Alexander Downer saw a chance to score a point against one of the most credible critics of the government's policy. The then foreign minister was at Melbourne Airport walking towards the gate to catch his flight when he saw walking adead of him, Dick Woolcott. Woolcott was a career diplomat, former secretary of the department of foreign affairs and trade. Although he had retired by the time the Howard government took power, the new government had asked him to perform some delicate diplomatic missions... But the invasion of Iraq changed all that. Woolcott emerged as a critic. Now seizing the moment in Melbourne Airport, did the foreign minister confront Woolcott? Did he argue the merits of the policy? Did he try to change his mind? Or did he tell him what he thought of him? None of these. Yelling above the heads of the other travellers, Downer called out to the back of Woolcott's head, 'Loser!' he told me later. 'Then I ducked down quickly in case he turned around and saw me'. In recounting the story, Downer seemed to think it a very funny thing to do. This was the man who, for nearly a dozen years, represented Australia in the high councils of the world. As this anecdote reveals, Downer can be petty and puerile. He plays a mean-spirited, personal, scratchy game of partisan politics. He can be breathtakingly immature." Peter Hartcher, Vale, Alexander the not-so-great, Sydney Morning Herald, 4/7/08

"Australia must set an example in the West by its continued refusal to appease Israel's enemies, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told a Jewish audience in Melbourne last week... 'We are always being told the best thing for diplomacy is to... abstain... And I say, 'Let's vote against it because it is wrong. The more we and other countries stand up to this sort of behaviour, the more we stand a chance of success; the more we try to appease, the more [anti-Israel resolutions] we will encourage'." (Downer: appeasement fuels anti-Israel fire, The Australian Jewish News, 17/11/06)


PS: I'm always fascinated to know what our movers & shakers in politics & the media know, I mean really know, about their subject. In Downer's case, of course, that's international affairs. Listen, for example, to The Australian's Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan* on Downer's reading matter: "Downer is a pretty avid reader of classic literature, history and biography. The book he has most recently read is 'The Return of History & the End of Dreams' by American foreign policy neo-conservative Robert Kagan. He has just started a book on the Sandakan death march... He is a good friend of British historian Andrew Roberts." (Regrets at giant's passing, 5/7/08) Says it all.

And from where does this "giant" derive his views on the rightness of Israel and all her works? Wide reading? Thorough research? No, Judy's cousin, of course. Y'all know Judy, donya? No? Allow the AJN to explain: "Foreign Minister Alexander Downer waxed personal and nostalgic in his admirably pro-Jewish speech at the dedication of the Ohel Devorah synagogue in Melbourne this week. 'I'm not Jewish, as you probably know; I'm a Christian', he started out, recounting the many Jewish friends he had met while at university in England, especially his roomie, Judy, with whom - he made clear - he had a 'platonic relationship'. Downer recounted a visit from Judy's Israeli cousin who stayed with them during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, whose 'agony', he said, 'had an enormous impact on me'." (Downer's Judy, 17/11/06)

* Warrior Statesman, Giant: By their journalists ye shall know them.

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