November 29, 2005
late afternoon when I finished emailing the Sydney Morning Herald
with the last of the new documents I’d discovered about the brutal
bashing of Peter Baldwin. The assault on the left-wing MP was a cause
célèbre in 1980, but looking back, it felt like a
quaint escapade from a kinder, gentler, world.
good news was that it was raining as I crossed the lane to the café.
I hadn’t seen Old Possum for weeks, but there he was, propped up
at the bar.
"I’ve been waiting for your take on the proposed sedition
laws", I said after I’d ordered a cider.
look at this business about George Bush telling Tony Blair he wanted
to bomb the al-Jazeera headquarters in Qatar", Old said, scratching
the fur behind his ear. "Clearly, Bush wasn’t talking about
bombing al-Jazeera from the air, after all, Qatar is an ally of the
US and you can’t openly bomb your allies. He was talking about
a false-flag operation – using a huge car bomb probably
– and blaming it on al-Qaeda. That’s the sort of nasty truth
the sedition laws are designed to suppress. Just writing about something
like that could get you seven years, because drawing attention to ugly
facts about our allies will have a tendency to 'aid the enemy’."
why now?" I asked. "People have been marching and speaking
out against the war since 2003. Many have vocally supported the Iraqi
resistance. That hasn’t bothered Howard until now, but suddenly
it’s so dangerous he has to make it illegal."
people think that Howard knows exactly where he’s going, but I
doubt it. Oh, he has a vision and long-term strategy of course, but
politicians feel their way into situations. All these new laws
– IR, terrorism, sedition – are driven by an intuitive dread.
Howard feels in his bones that turbulent and disastrous times are upon
us and he’s arming himself with draconian laws to keep his capitalist
friends rich and his party in power.
look at some of the horrible things that would be on the prime minister’s
mind. He’s a dog-loyal advocate of the American Alliance, and where’s
it got him? He finds himself chained to a lame-duck American president
who can’t bring himself to act decisively on Iraq, one way or ’tother.
is just drifting. His army is coming apart but he can’t get it
together to introduce conscription, so he can’t get enough boots
on the ground to actually suppress the resistance. But he isn’t
willing to get out either. That’s dumb. Popular support for the
war has collapsed. The soldiers are muttering that the president isn’t
serious about winning. And now the Democrats are close in. They’re
moving to knock off Bush’s advisors and confidants – people
like Rove and Libby.
will happen in the New Year? Nobody can predict exactly, but it’s
safe to say there will be some nasty surprises. Even at this late stage
Bush might go for conscription, but he’d need a pretty drastic
terrorist attack in the US – real or faked – to get it through.
And if Bush went that way, Howard would be forced to follow.
far, Howard’s done a pretty good job of keeping us out of the war.
We’ve got a small bunch of professional adventure tourists with
guns hunkered down in a nice safe part of Iraq and Howard keeps telling
Bush there’s no way he could send any more. If he sent a real contingent
– say five or ten thousand troops – he’d need conscription."
if he introduced conscription he’d really need the sedition
laws!" I remarked.
got it. Or Bush might be impeached and he might resign. That would leave
Dick Cheney in the White House, and he’s sick, tarnished by corruption
allegations, has no populist credentials and could also be impeached.
would probably appoint Condoleezza Rice as vice president. So if Cheney
went out backwards, she might end up as president. Think about that!
The first unelected president and she’s black and a woman."
Gods! Is she gay? They might have the trifecta!"
to speculate, but Howard wouldn’t laugh about it. American prestige
and influence would collapse. Plus, the US debt problem is getting worse.
The US is something like $8 trillion in debt and government debt alone
now exceeds all the debt of all the administrations since the American
Revolution." He took swig from his cider.
now there’s that other looming problem: peak oil", I said.
"Slowly, the mainstream media are picking up on the story they’ve
been avoiding for ten years. I’d be astounded if Howard hadn’t
been privately appraised of the awful implications. We’re talking
runaway price inflation, mass impoverishment, strikes, truckies’
blockades, social dislocation, business collapse."
The gathering problems are simply too great and they’ve come too
suddenly to be smoothed away by the market forces that created them
in the first place. The problems are converging and magnifying each
other. For example, what if Bush widens the war into Syria or Iran?
That’ll drive the price of petrol to astronomical levels.
only real solutions to the crisis are collectivist and redistributionist.
Unless society becomes more equalitarian it’ll fall apart. We need
to reorganise all our infrastructure and the whole economy. A huge level
of government intervention will be necessary."
you’re talking a revival of socialism here. That’s certainly
not Howard’s way. He stands for a wasteful, continually expanding
economy, destruction of the unions, greater inequality through privatisation,
harder work, fewer rights."
long neo-colonial wars to grab the last big reserves of oil. No wonder
Howard needs the sedition laws. A desperate man is a dangerous man."
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