Saturday, October 04, 2014

Good luck with the war ... especially if you've got a futtock for a fearless leader ...

The pond was so irritated by the devious, dissembling, often outright lying Tony Abbott's attempt to deny the use of the word "war" in relation to the military action, which is to say war, currently underway in Iraq and Syria, that naturally it was curious as to how the practitioners of the ancient art of headline writing would treat Abbott's folly.

As you'd expect of the war mongers in Murdoch tabloids, hungering for War these many months, they didn't worry about the verbal gymnastics, and knew they'd scored months of reliable lead story material.

The Saturday Terror was clear cut, Australia is flying into WAR, but some of the other tabloids couldn't resist the "W" word either:

Yes there it was, in little break outs, war on savages and war against Islamic State, though they're not supposed to be calling it a state. But at least the thoughtful dearies also adopted Abbott slogans, like death cult and disrupt and degrade, perhaps as a sop to Abbott for their daring use of the "W" word.

Or it could be that the Murdoch war mongers aren't content with the level or kind of war they've already got? As usual, it was the reptiles at the Oz that set that pace:

Yes, already 'boots on the ground' was the cry, with "Terror war" front and centre. Strange, how could we win the war on terror if we refuse to go to war?

The digital edition - no link, it would only lead to a begging letter from the paupers of the press - was equally clear cut:

So it begins, and after the first couple of excursions with boots on the ground have been such a smashing success.

Perhaps even more interesting is the way the Fairfaxians fell into line with Abbott's request not to mention the "W" word:

All clear to bomb? Ready to strike? Sssh, no "W" here ... here no "W" ...

It's war, you cackling geese. 

The HUNsters also followed this line, but they dressed it up in proper tabloid style:

No doubt this is an arcane reference to Jonathan Swift's witty remark:

Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.

Though perhaps with Abbott it should say:

Lies about terminology and the use of the "W" word are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.

And out of all that, and the declaration of the "W" word, what did the pond walk away with?

Well without doubt the stupidest thing by an actor said in quite some time, and the long absent lord knows, actors are inclined to say profoundly stupid things at the best of times. Go on Rusty, take it away:

"We've often said a strong South Sydney club means not just more football players or sportspeople but more doctors, lawyers and artists will rise from our fan base of kids as they grow because they have been given the true example that hard work and belief does in fact have its rewards." (much more blather here, with forced video)

There will be more artists because professional gladiators are going to bash heads and set up dementia for future years this long weekend? And the Sydney Fairfaxians put this above news that Australia was heading off to war?

Stupid people say stupid things, and here they are this long weekend, reported with enthusiasm by stupid people ... and worse, in a time of war ...

Meanwhile,  for its sins, the pond has been researching the state of the war, and naturally the very last place it would head is to a Murdoch rag like the reptiles at the Oz sound the 'boots on the ground' drum as they yearn for yet another generation lost in the mire and fog of war ...

First port of call was a piece by Dexter Filkins for The New Yorker, about the story of the Kurds in the whole sorry saga, and luckily his lengthy piece,  The Fight of their Lives, is right at the moment outside the paywall.

Now to misquote Muhammad Ali, the pond has got nothing against no Kurd. They were stiffed by the British - they can join the pond's tribe on that alone - and they seem vaguely secular and just interested in a good materialistic existence, and where's the harm in a decent big screen TV?

But what a sorry tale it is, and how a few incisive remarks explain just why America has routinely fucked up its attempts to pick sides in the conflict:

Since 2003, when the U.S. destroyed the Iraqi state and began spending billions of dollars trying to build a new one, the Kurds have been their most steadfast ally. When American forces departed, in 2011, not a single U.S. soldier had lost his life in Kurdish territory. As the rest of Iraq imploded, only the Kurdish region realized the dream that President George W. Bush had set forth when he ordered the attack: it is pro-Western, largely democratic, largely secular, and economically prosperous. President Obama recently told the Times that the Kurdish government is “functional the way we would like to see.” 
Still, the Administration, bound to a policy it calls One Iraq, is quietly working to thwart the Kurds’ aspirations. American officials are warning companies that buying Kurdish oil may have dire legal consequences, and the warnings have been effective: the Kurdish regional government is nearly bankrupt. And yet, as the peshmerga work to force ISIS out of Kurdish territory, they have been supported by American jets and drones, and by American Special Forces on the ground. In August, President Obama ordered covert shipments of arms to the Kurds. By the end of the month, Kurdish forces had taken back much of the territory that they had lost to ISIS, and were preparing operations to reclaim the rest. 

Yes, the Americans are that dumb. They want the Kurds to fight for Iraq, and indeed the Kurds represent the best set of boots on the ground, despite recent defeats, and despite their clear reluctance to do more than defend their own turf, yet the United States has conspired with the Iraqi government to virtually bankrupt them, and even to prevent countries like Turkey helping them out with oil revenue, even though ISIS has been smuggling oil into Turkey and other neighbouring countries:

From the beginning, Kurdish leaders have said that the constitution gives them the right to unilaterally explore and drill for oil. That interpretation, which they have been acting on for a decade, has become a fait accompli: the Kurds now have much of the wherewithal to run an independent oil industry. 
Still, Kurdish leaders did not foresee just how hard self-sufficiency would be. With no money coming from Baghdad, and little coming from the sale of oil, the government has been largely unable to pay its fifty thousand civil servants for most of this year. The local economy, which imports nearly all its consumer products, has come to a halt. At times, the lines outside gas stations have stretched for miles. The economic slowdown has reminded every Kurdish official—and every citizen—how vulnerable their landlocked state is. “We believe in our right of self-determination,” Fuad Hussein, Barzani’s chief of staff, said. “But, at the same time, politics is about reality. It’s not only about what you desire—it’s about what you can get.” 
Ashti Hawrami, the minister of natural resources for the Kurdish region, told me that he hoped to increase Kurdistan’s output of oil to a half million barrels a day by the end of the year, and to a million barrels a day by the end of 2015. That, he said, would help the Kurds ride out the difficulties imposed by the central government. But his optimism has not blunted his distrust of his counterparts in Baghdad. “Why are they fighting with me?” he said. “Cutting my budget, and keeping the oil in the ground, and damaging the oil fields? Just to punish me.” 
The government in Baghdad has threatened to sue anyone who buys Kurdish oil, and it has taken at least one case to the International Court of Arbitration, in Paris. More important, officials in Turkey, through which the vital pipeline flows, have indicated that they will require the Kurdish government to distribute oil revenues—which are held in a Turkish state bank—according to the provisions of the Iraqi constitution. That means that the Kurds can expect to receive only seventeen per cent of the money from the sale of their own oil. 
The Obama Administration says that it is neutral in its policy toward Kurdish oil. But analysts say that the U.S. government warnings about buying Kurdish oil have chilled the market. “When the United States says don’t buy Kurdish oil, no one’s going to buy it,” Nat Kern, the editor of a newsletter on the international oil industry, told me. The Kurds say that they have dispatched sixteen tankers filled with oil from the Turkish port of Ceyhan. According to industry experts, they have delivered only two directly to buyers—one in Croatia, and one in Israel, which is a longtime supporter of the Kurds. The others have taken a circuitous route. Some have handed off their cargo to other ships in mid-passage; the rest are still at sea, sailing with their beacons turned off, so that they are difficult to track.

Filkins has a lot more to say in his analysis, but the bottom line is that American - and Australian - policy is so incoherent and confused that we still call the PKK and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces terrorists, determined as they are to split from Iraq and form a Kurdish state, while hoping against hope that the very same forces will help defeat the barking mad fundies aiming at a new Caliphate ...

Now this isn't news - Ruth Pollard wrote for the Fairfaxians Is Australia arming 'terrorist' PKK fighters in the middle of last month (with forced video at end of link) - but it is particularly cogent when contemplating the incoherent strategy outlined by Tony Abbott.

Essentially it sounds as if he doesn't have a clue what he's aiming for, and all he can do is talk in terms of negatives (though what would you expect of a man who's carved a career out of nattering nabob negativity?).

Here's the reptiles citing Abbott (no link, it only leads to a begging letter):

The Prime Minister acknowledged that the risk of civilian casualties could never be eliminated in a mission he said was likely to last months, rather than weeks.
He defined success as when Islamic State was “in retreat, not in advance”. 
“We will know that we are succeeding when the Iraqi government is restoring a modicum of control over its own cities and towns,” he said. 
 Mr Abbott said the aim was not to build liberal pluralism in Iraq. 
“We’re not trying to create a shining city on a hill,” he said. “We are simply acting as part of the US-led coalition in support of the legitimate elected government of Iraq.” 
Mr Abbott conceded it was very difficult to eliminate an ideology.

What, no mention of the Kurds? Well here's the AFR's report of that very same set of interviews:

Under repeated questioning during a series of television and radio interviews on Monday morning, Mr Abbott said the Australian government would use the Iraqi government’s ability to look after its own people as the test of victory. 
“If the Iraqi government, the Kurdish regional government are able to maintain reasonable control over their substantial towns and reasonable protection for their own people, that will be a success,” Mr Abbott said. 
 “We’re not trying to create a liberal pluralist democracy, we’re not trying to create a shining city on the hill.” 
Mr Abbott said he was confident that given the right support, the Iraqi army could rebuild its capacity to fight back against Islamic State. 
“This is a new Iraqi government which has pledged to be much more inclusive and unifying that the one they replaced. There is a new confidence that this Iraqi government will have the backing to do the job it needs to do.”

Uh huh. We're not trying to do this, and we're not trying to do that, but at least this time the Kurds cop a mention, along with blather about new confidence in the new Iraqi government.

Uh huh. This very morning the experts are out and about wondering why it's taken so long for the Iraqi government to get its act together and invite the Australian government to go to war ...

And what war is that? Did someone mention the Kurds?

Cue Filkins:

Peter Galbraith, the longtime diplomat and advocate of the Kurds, also served in East Timor and Croatia, regions that surmounted enormous difficulties to become separate states. He believes that once a people decide on independence almost nothing will dissuade them. “The desire to become independent is part of the consciousness of every Kurd,” Galbraith said. “They really feel like they are fighting and dying for something.” 
In late July, as the Muslim month of fasting gave way to the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, Barzani travelled to the front lines to exhort his troops. In a series of stops, he told them that the peshmerga were making history, building the future for a Kurdish nation. All the money in the world was nothing compared with one drop of a peshmerga fighter’s blood, he said. But the men who sacrificed themselves would be fighting for their people’s freedom. One scorching afternoon, he addressed soldiers at a base on the eastern bank of the Tigris, where fortifications manned by ISIS militants loomed across the river. At a lectern draped with a Kurdish flag, Barzani apologized for the heat and urged the fighters to hold on a little longer. “Be patient,” he said. “Our day is near.”

Good luck with the war ...

What's that you say?

They couldn't even organise a decent war on the burqa, without retreating in some confusion?

And how's that war on the home front going?

Well as Phillip Coorey notes in the AFR this morning, in 'Burqa' ban and backflip have cost Abbott goodwill (currently outside the paywall) security at Parliament House has recently turned to farce:

Throughout this whole episode, the only MP who voiced concern was the ever-vigilant NSW Liberal senator Bill Heffernan, who brought an imitation pipe-bomb into the building to expose the folly. There was, however, a deafening silence throughout this entire period from Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and Jacqui Lambie, all of whom have reignited a crusade against the “burqa”, by which is presumably meant the niqab, in the wake of the Islamic State terror threat both at home and abroad. That they never raised a peep when thousands of unscreened people poured in to the building daily only furthers the suspicion that security is not their concern as they seek to conflate the “burqa” with terrorism as part of what Malcolm Turnbull called “a coded attack, coded attack on Muslims”. Put aside the fact that no one can remember someone wearing a “burqa” inside Parliament. 

Uh huh. So how did the fearless leader, our brave general in the war on two fronts respond?

But their concerns and the hysteria they generated hijacked the debate this week to the extent that in the space of 24 hours,Tony Abbott lost control of the message framing the latest war against terrorism. 
Bernardi has been jumping ugly on Islam for years, but Abbott’s refusal on Wednesday to show backbone and unambiguously stare down the maverick Senator and others in his ranks was failure of leadership. 
Rather than shut down the issue as the needless and stupid distraction it had become, Abbott, as one of his senior colleagues noted, tried “to play both sides’’ of the issue. 
He expressed a personal distaste for the burqa while at the same time said it was not up to the government to dictate what people did and did not wear. 
He would have been better off copying his Attorney-General George Brandis, or Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, both of whom saw no need to blow the dog whistle. 

Uh huh. A flip flopping fool:

On the same day this week when Bronwyn Bishop and Parry issued their inflammatory edict, Bernardi and colleague Dean Smith poured fuel on the fire by rekindling the 18c issue, using a private members bill. 
The police, MPs, ministers and terrorism experts will all tell you the entire exercise about the “burqa” has been counter-productive. All it has done is increase the terror threat. Amid growing reports of Muslims – especially women – being abused on public transport and elsewhere, authorities fear the hysteria whipped up by the “burqa” banners will hamper intelligence gathering within Islamic communities and push already volatile young men into the arms of radicals. 
“Our concern is young men, very juvenile in their outlook, [and] often very insecure,” Professor Greg Barton, director of the global terrorism research centre at Monash University, told The Australian Financial Review. 
“If they have an experience where their mother, their sister or family member was treated badly, that only contributed to their anger and sense of alienation,” he said. 
And the “first line of defence” against domestic terrorism was intelligence, and Bernardi and his ilk were risking that as well. “There’s no way we’ll get human intelligence right without community support.’’ 
Liberal senator and parliamentary secretary for social services Concetta Fierravanti-Wells spends a lot of time in Western Sydney cultivating relations with the Islamic community. She was there again on Friday and said Barton was spot on in terms of the threat the “burqa” banners posed to intelligence gathering and radicalisation. “The Muslim community is vitally important in terms of intelligence, she said. “Intelligence is the lifeblood in the framework of our new terror legislation. This is about terrorism, this is not about what people wear.’’

Good luck with the wars, domestic and foreign, the wars on terror and the war on the Kurdish terrorists, especially when you've got a futtocking flip flopper as your fearless leader.

Gentlemen, this is the war room, you can't fight in here.

Take it away First Dog, and more First Dog here.


  1. Good John Graham toon on Abbott and the Burqa (or is that a Niqab?)

  2. The US loons are working overtime. Ebola is either an Obama conspiracy to kill millions of Americans - because of his African connection; or it's a sign of God's wrath because of the takeover of US society by gays. And of course they bring ISIS into the conspiracy too.

  3. I like 'Futtock'! You do know it's a wooden's ship's timber rib. But also more appropriately there is a General Futtock in the 1970's British comedy Futtocks End. He mad as a hatter.

    One of those quirky completely non-PC Brit comedies which have become cult classics, like Dinner for One or the Benny Hill Show.

    1. The pond fell in love with futtock a long time ago. It has a long and honourable place in British comedy, despite or perhaps because it's real meaning included grunt futtocks ...
      Good old Kenneth Williams doing his bit to spread gaiety and gayness in Tamworth through the radio ...

  4. DO NOT mention the shhhhhhhhhh W A R RRR Dot.

    You have been told not to.

    THEY might take you away and then what will we do?

  5. Red River is on Gem. Howard Hawks western masterpiece. John Ford saw it and said "Hell I didn't know the big fella could act!" (speaking of Wayne).

    1. Colourised! Or as Ted Turner would say colorized. What a vandal and a criminal!

  6. Hollywood has experimented with authentic period language over time, but not very often. One exception is True Grit.

    "I had the body removed to our plot and I have visited it over the years. No doubt people talk about that. They say, "Well, she hardly knew the man. Isn't she a cranky old maid?" It is true, I have not married. I never had time to fool with it. I heard nothing more of the Texas officer LaBoeuf. If he is yet alive, I would be pleased to hear from him. I judge he would be in his 70s now, and nearer 80 than 70. I expect some of the starch has gone out of that cowlick. Time just gets away from us. "

    I think this owes a lot to Russell Hoban's Riddely Walker. One of the great underestimated books of recent years. Also imitated in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Here's a taste...

    "“The worl is ful of things waiting to happen. Thats the meat and boan of it right there. You myt think you can jus go here and there doing nothing. Happening nothing. You cant tho you bleeding cant. You put your self on any road and some thing wil show its self to you. Wanting to happen. Waiting to happen. You myt say, 'I dont want to know.' But 1ce its showt its self to you you wil know wont you. You cant not know no mor. There it is and working in you. You myt try to put a farness be twean you and it only you cant becaws youre carrying it inside you. The waiting to happen aint out there where it ben no more its inside you.”

  7. So the reptiles know where the war, which isn't happening, will be won?

    I am chuffed that Australia's biggest money-losing broadsheet is here to comfort us in times of REAL crisis!


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