Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Monday, 7 July 2008

With Friends Like These....

This report in Adelaide Now: http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,23977671-5006301,00.html?from=public_rss

It's apparent that the Americans made a request to Australian authorities to test sarin gas in North Queensland in 1962. They wanted to test the results on "jungle foliage" and "personnel traversing". This jungle was in an area near Lockhart River, and the "personnel" were to be diggers, not GIs.

Harold Holt had the backbone to say "no". His reaction to getting the request must have been interesting.

The testing was vetoed by then prime minister Harold Holt in 1966. Holt's former staffer Peter Bailey told Channel Nine the nerve gas plan had been considered by the Australian government and ministers were concerned that scuttling it could damage Canberra's relationship with the US. He said the ministers felt "if they weren't pretty good and pretty faithful to the Americans we would be dumped," he said.

With allies like these, it's a wonder we survived the last fifty years - although there are plenty of Vietnam Vets living the consequences of indiscriminate spraying of chemicals.

This historical thread of Australian service personnel being considered expendable by foreign regimes is woven through our national narrative. It can be seen as far back as the Boer war, and was at its height during the first world war.

Then there was Churchill's tendency to see Aussies as cannon fodder to protect British interests in Burma, rather than allowing them to return home to protect their homeland in the face of an invasion threat from the Japanese.

John Curtin and Harold Holt have something in common.

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