Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive
Saturday, 10 November 2007
This Saturday’s review is “Disarming Iraq” by Hans Blix. It’s an interesting, if not riveting book by the executive director of UNMOVIC (United Nations’ Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) in the heady days prior to the invasion of Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing in 2003.
It’s a significant read for Australians for two reasons. One is that we are, under the Liberal-National coalition, part of the invasion force. In addition, it’s timely because Blix was in Australia on 7 Nov 2007 to receive the 2007 Sydney Peace Prize.
Blix comes across as very laid-back character with a dry but penetrating wit. He is also a little old-fashioned, as amongst other things, he makes his own bed every morning. Somehow I can’t see George Bush (or Saddam Hussein – when he was alive) doing that.
The text is a little sparse and scholarly – I’m not sure if it translated from the Swedish, but the subject matter is intriguing. He sheds light on the background to the invasion, and the great pressure exerted on his organisation by the most powerful forces on earth.
Some extracts are illuminating –
In a now famous interview, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz said that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were chosen as the rationale for the war for "bureaucratic" reasons, implying that while there were many other reasons, this was the only rationale that could rally broad support in U.S. public opinion and that stood a chance at having appeal outside the U.S. and inside the United Nations. (p 266)
The impression one may get from all this, apart from that of a general skepticism towards inspection not controlled by the U.S. itself, is that influential members of the administration were so rock-solid convinced of the existence of WMDs that inspectors, who had access to all sites in Iraq and who did not report findings of WMDs, appeared to them to be either pursuing their own politics, dishonest or doing less than they claimed to do. These members evidently preferred to believe the tales of Iraqi defectors or shaky intelligence produced by their own means. They do not seem to have been ready—as the inspectors were—to apply critical thinking to their own "evidence" or even for a moment entertain the hypoth¬esis that there were no weapons. (p285)
Generally, anyone with an interest in recent history in the Middle East should read it, not only because it outlines the build-up to the war, but also because it provides a deep insight into the relationships between the figures of power and influence in both the US and the UN.
It’s published by Bloomsbury and I paid $20 Aus.
Thursday, 8 November 2007
I found this in Crikey.com's "First Dog on the Moon", and think it's both funny and accurate. It distills current coalition spin to its bare essentials -
"We don’t lie about interest rates, but even if we did, it’s not our fault as we are such good economic managers whereas if it had been Labor governing it would be their fault because of the Unions. But it wasn’t so it isn’t."
At Telstra’s meeting of shareholders yesterday, the board ignored a shareholders vote against a report recommending record bonuses for the management team. CEO Sol Trujillo stands to earn $22 million dollars for his labour in the next financial year.
Chairman Donald McGauchie also refused to reveal the financial and non-financial performance triggers for these bonuses, on the basis of “commercial in-confidence”.
Put simply, the Telstra board has determined that a number of actions are OK –
1. To pay the chief executive $22 million per annum.
2. To refuse to disclose the reasons for this.
3. To ignore the lack of confidence revealed by the vote.
This is the most breathtaking display of corporate arrogance I’ve seen for a long time. It looks as if the dodgy trans-Pacific corporate culture that can live with these processes has spread like a virus to Oz.
It will be interesting to see if there are any future repercussions to the makeup of the board the next time shareholders have a say.
I wouldn't hold out too much hope. The big end of town lives in a moral and ethical dimension all of its own.
Sunday, 4 November 2007
Dear Fellow blogger,
In order to inject some predictability into this blog, I've decided to introduce a regular featured column every Sunday. Today's is from Fr Kevin Ryan who writes weekly in the Catholic Leader.
It's entitled "Shocking attitudes not a fair go for all Aussies"
"A few weeks ago, the Minister for Immigration justified a cut back in refugee and migrant numbers from Africa on doubtful grounds. He spoke of them forming gangs in this country. To go further with the fear Pauline Hanson spoke of diseases such as AIDS.
That is enough to send a shudder through most Aussies.
Attitudes like this did work 10 years ago, but not anymore. As a country we have matured to the point where not many fall for such comments. After all, our young people have studied with many non-Anglo Saxons. They socialise with them and marry them. Many of the old barriers are gone.
This country's program for migration has worked well. It's intake of refugees, while it has its weaknesses has settled many families in peace and a reasonable standard of living. We can never overlook the fact that much of our talked-of prosperity is due to the hard work and sacrifices of migrant people over the last 50 or 60 years. Caught as we are in the money cycle, we have overlooked all that foreign workers have brought.
The Australian (10/09/07) tells a story we could think about. It tells the story of a well off New York family that went on a cruise to celebrate a birthday. The writer marveled at the fact their party of 10 remained civil to each other even though they had to make such "big" decisions as to whether they'd eat at the buffet or enjoy a sit-down service.
One night a young boy said "You know. The people on this ship are so nice". It was then he realised the nice people were the workers, housekeepers, cooks, general staff, all of whom were born in foreign countries. The people having fun and making a mess were New Yorkers and those being nice were non-Americans.
This raised the question as to whether foreign workers were bringing in more than labour.
"If we are importing friendliness, does that mean we have a shortage"?
Are we running out of "nice" in the same way we are running out of oil? The cruise workers were working up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week. What was said of those workers can be said of many of our guest workers. They bring hard work, sustainable living, and friendliness to us. They are doing work the native born Australians won't do.
Many of our industries that need intensive, reliable workers survive only because of those allowed here for only a short time. We can think we are doing them a good turn by giving them 457 work visas. Seldom do we think of how risky that is for the visitor. It means that unscrupulous operators can take advantage of them. Many are charged unreasonable sums for sponsorship, lodging and transport. They have little or no health cover and are employed at the whim of the boss and the variations of the weather.
A few weeks ago, a group through no fault of theirs, found themselves out of work in Toowoomba. They faced deportation within a month if work couldn't be found. They would go home with a debt they had no hope of repaying.
We've heard the stories of unsuspecting women being forced into prostitution. Before we criticise the foreign workers who will work we should look at the Australians who prefer welfare to work and there are plenty of them.
Where I live I see the foreign workers ready to go to work at 5.30am, hail, rain or shine. Five hours later I see another group, born in this country, pushing a child in a stroller as they approach the day after the night before.
Farming depends on rain. On a vegetable farm, rain means mud. Recently some workers walked off the job because they had mud on their boots, but the Chinese stayed on. We have many labour intensive industries that depend heavily on workers with the 457 visas.
It's time we asked if they are getting a fair go or are we involved in a dressed up form of slavery."
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