Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gerard Henderson, and matters of history as the nattering poodles come out to yelp and play ...

(Above: a choice image from Crikey! which unlike the evil ABC - hiss boo - refuses to run any wacky zany material with comedic potential. But strangely you can find more First Dog here).

The story so far this short week ...

Tony Abbott, right eyed sharp shooter, unloads a machiavellian bastardry volley from Afghanistan, and the honourable member for whatever it takes, the noisy mosquito, the very first disorderly MP to be kicked out of the new parliament, the yapping poodle who fancies himself as Tony Abbott's attack dog, ups the ante by calling out Ms Gillard as a purveyor of back alley bitchiness, a back alley street fighter not fit to be prime monster. (Bastardy to bitchiness: Coalition ratchets up heat).

How this qualifies Christopher Pyne to be a level headed reasonable member of government will no doubt be explained in the fullness of time.

Yep, bipartisan is just another word for full-on abuse, and polity another way for poodles to imagine they're head-kickers. And lo and behold, Abbott - the deployer of low bastardry - mourns the way the fuss has distracted from the polity ...

Suddenly the satirical stylings of Marieke Hardy in The Christopher Pyne Experiments - untimely yanked from The ABC's The Drum - which can be found here, and no doubt in another dozen places on the intertubes and lurking in google webcache everywhere - nothing is ever lost on the full to overflowing intertubes - seems like an understated exercise in mild comedy.

Meanwhile, Eric Beecher, publisher of Crikey!, home to Clive Hamilton, and First Dog of the Moon, accuses the ABC of publishing wacky, zany, leftie opinions, as if there's some kind of thought crime involved. Not seeming to have noticed that in recent years the ABC has become full as a goog, brimming with the goo of commentariat thoughts, as they infest it like cockroaches, abusing the ABC while preening and posing on the radio and the idiot box ... Yes, Counterpoint, that includes you ...

Well the first reviews have come in, and they seem disgruntled. Michelle Grattan:

With Australian troops fighting and dying there, this scrapping seems incredibly petty.

Actually Michelle, could we just re-phrase that? With many people dying in Afghanistan, and some trying to find refuge in Australia and being given the short end of the stick, this scrapping is beyond incredibly petty ...

Even Peter van Onselen in the lizard Oz manages to give the flurry a strong critique in Nothing edifying in this bullying blast from the past, though strangely he manages to avoid noting the escalating antics of the buzzing mosquito, the yapping poodle from Sturt, as he smotes mightily both sides ...

Time then to turn our prattling Polonius, our very own Gerard Henderson, as he offers up Party leaders closer on Afghanistan than you may think, as he casts oil on the water, and hurls the demons of disagreement and abuse into the Gadarene swine (who promptly run violently down a steep place into the sea, and perish in the waters, which makes it a good thing PETA doesn't look too closely at the strange doings of the long absent god).

The good news in Party leaders closer on Afghanistan war than you may think is that the Labor party is just as bellicose, just as strong on war mongering and provocative military posturing as the Liberal party. Perhaps even more so ...

What a relief. Now we can rely on the Labor party to indulge in post colonial adventurism and pointless conflicts in the style set by the Liberal party's mindless support of bizarre United States' policy options.

Is it time to take out Iran, and open a third front? No worries, chaps, we'll be there. How about North Korea? Ready to get the Asian theatre of war going in a fourth front, reminiscent of Hitler's moves on Russia, and never mind Napoleon's faiure? Pip pip, jolly good, onwards soldiers, marching off to war ...

Yep, the solemn Henderson is most excited by news of the Labor party's solid burst of militarism:

So far, Gillard and her advisers have said that they have no intention of increasing Australia's military commitment in Afghanistan. But last week the Prime Minister indicated that she would consider an increase in numbers or weapons if this were requested by Angus Houston, the Chief of the Defence Force. This is unusual behaviour for an ALP leader, since Labor is not inclined to endorse overseas military commitments involving the Australian army.

Yep, no need to worry about the upcoming parliamentary debate on the war in Afghanistan. It'll be solid, a shoo in, an exemplary offering of bipartisan support, never mind that we no longer trust the generals to conduct the war, that the soldiers should be encouraged to dob in their generals for providing poor equipment, and that Australians at large have long disliked the adventurism (65% of Australians against sending more troops to Afghanistan ... in March 2009 ... and has anything changed since then? Majority oppose more troops for Afghanistan).

Not to worry, she'll be apples, she'll be sweet:

There are a few MPs in both Labor and the Coalition who are not in agreement with Australia's role in Afghanistan. But not many.

In the short term, the debate is likely to demonstrate that, despite personal animosities, Gillard and Abbott essentially agree on foreign policy.

Oh happy days, though you might not have quite the same joy if you read Henderson's piece in its entirety, for in the usual prattling Polonius way, it's a tedious history lesson designed to establish that the Labor party was once less inclined to war-mongering.

You can see how this works. If you spend your time establishing that Labor was inclined to war mongering, Henderson wins, since war mongering by definition is good.

If you agree that Labor was less inclined to be a war monger, why then you're nothing but a quisling pacifist greenie of the worst sort. Stand by, the white feather will be travelling to you by express post.

Try this experiment by asking your partner when he stopped beating his first wife ...

There is of course, thanks to Tony Blair, a third way, and it can be applied to all of Henderson's historical stylings, as he cherry picks the thoughts and actions of politicians to create his thesis. Invariably when ideology drives historical interpretation, bits of history have to be thrown out the window ...

Let's just take one ...

In September 1939, Robert Menzies committed Australia to support Britain in its declaration of war on Germany. Labor, under the leadership of John Curtin, did not oppose the war effort, as such, but it was against the deployment of the ADF to Europe and North Africa.

Note the phrasing. Curtin did not oppose the war effort as such. But was against the deployment of the ADF to Europe and North Afria.

Now read a real historian's assessment of the situation confronting Menzies, available here in full with footnotes:

In the weeks and months which followed the outbreak of war in September 1939 Menzies had to decide on the nature and extent of Australia's commitment to a distant war but one in which Japan, unlike the situation in 1914, was no longer an ally. In these circumstances, Menzies was reported by his biographer as asserting to colleagues that the decision to send an expeditionary force to Europe and the Middle East had been 'forced upon him' to some extent by the British who had 'a quite perceptible disposition to treat Australia as a colony'.

You see, both Curtin and Menzies were acutely aware of the threat from Japan, and despite all the talk of pig iron Bob, and his desperate attempt to engage with the Japanese by sending an Australian Ambassador to Tokyo in 1940, and his loss of momentum on the home front because of time spent in Britain in the first half of 1941, Menzies was most concerned about Singapore:

Not only did he fail to have Churchill acknowledge the possibility of Singapore falling to a land-based attack but the war situation in any case simply did not allow Britain to divert significant military resources to the defence of Singapore. During his time in the UK Menzies also encountered the total rejection of his attempts to improve wartime relations with the Republic of Ireland. Most damaging of all, both before and after his return to Australia, he had great difficulty in getting across to the electorate the part he had actually played (or not played) in the decision-making on the disastrous Greek and Crete campaigns.

Oh okay, here's another Henderson spin:

Labor, with Curtin as prime minister, did support Australia's involvement in the Pacific War after December 1941 but, due to internal opposition, was not able to introduce universal military conscription.

Note the careful phrasing. Not able to introduce universal military conscription. Put it another way:

In sharp contrast to Menzies, Curtin found himself, within a few weeks of taking office, confronted with such a dire threat to the homeland that political and community opposition to substantially increased governmental controls virtually disappeared. This situation lasted from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour at least until the end of 1942 when Curtin undertook his successful tactical battle within the Labor Party to achieve the adoption of limited measure of military conscription for the defence of the nation.

All his spinning leads Henderson to a grand conclusion:

In some nine decades, Labor has only supported the deployment of ground forces far away from Australian shores on three occasions: the Korean, Confrontation and Afghanistan commitments. Only the latter involved an incumbent Labor government.

Uh huh. You'd swear from all this tosh that the Labor party was inward looking and isolationist, when in reality in the second world war, defence of the homeland was the major priority, and after the fall of Singapore and the bombing of Darwin, became the most pressing issue:

Under Curtin's leadership, differences with Britain concerning war strategy rapidly came to a head in the famous cable war between Curtin and Churchill in February 1942. In the previous month Curtin's Cabinet had pressured Churchill into sending a division to Singapore rather than Burma, an action which cost the British a large number of troops and for which in the words of historian David Day 'Churchill never forgave Australia'. While the Curtin Government was not responsible for the decision to bring back two divisions of Australian troops from the Middle East the subsequent dispute over whether these soldiers should be diverted to Burma culminated with Curtin's insistence that Churchill countermand the order he had given to that effect. Menzies, for his part at this time, agreed with Curtin that Australia should concentrate all its available forces in the north of Australia rather than in the islands to the north but at the same time he still urged for reinforcements from Britain to be sent to defend Burma.

And as a result, irony of ironies, it was the Labor party that definitively decided that the United Stats would be our mates for life:

Curtin's New Year message for 1942 in which he looked to the United State for assistance has had its critics then and since but essentially Australians and most historians accepted at the time and since that the close relationship with the USA in general, and with General Macarthur in particular, was essential to Australia's capacity to avoid foreign invasion. Whatever the reality of Japan's intentions and capacity at the time - as John Edwards has said 'the Battle for Australia...never took place' - the fact remains that the threat to the homeland seemed so obvious and apparent, certainly until well into 1943, that Curtin's leadership was accepted without question amongst the population at large.

Which leads me to think that there's real history out there to be read, and then there's the tendentious, misleading, time warping mis-readings of history promulgated by Gerard Henderson in the Herald. And that spinning a web that attempts to include Afghanistan in some long winded historical narrative should be put aside, while Australia and Australians contemplate what we're actually doing - and actually achieving - in that war ravaged country.

Lordy, by the end of it all, we've become as solemn as Henderson.

Bring on the squawking poodle and the back alley bitchiness and the bastardry as people fight and die in Afghanistan so that Henderson can scribble soothing words about how it's all going terribly well, and if any unfortunate wretches should want to flee the conflict, why there's sure to be a nice home for them amongst the remnant bird shit on that guano infested island of Nauru ...

(Below: and now, since thanks to Henderson, Tuesday always ends up solemn, time for another key matter of history. Was it the eyebrows that gave Robert Menzies the nick name 'Ming the Merciless', after Flash Gordon's arch nemesis?)


  1. Just one nitpick on an informative article, especially on WW2. Pyne is the MP for Sturt, not Boothby, as First Dog points out in the second frame.

  2. Thanks and changed. The old Unley wires keep buzzing around in the noggin, the tribal wars of long ago ... I suppose I could have been even more off the mark by mentioning Steele Hall famed federal member for the Division of Boothby



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