Australian Defence Minister and high flyer, David Johnston posing at the controls.
Australians breathed a collective sigh of relief last week when it emerged that not only did our nation have a defence minister, our very own colossus of modesty Senator David Johnstone, but that he had been despatched to Iraq. ‘Tongue-tied Titan’ Senator David Johnston is of course not the same as Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston who is the joint chief of staff although, remarkable as it may seem, the senator may be no stranger to a joint.
The proud Australian nation enjoys a richly-deserved reputation for its eagerness to follow-the-leader to any war anywhere, anytime, as much as for its historic involvement in a series of US-led military misadventures, and the odd disaster such as Gallipoli or Crete. Yet, until recently, the Australian people had simply assumed that their Prime Minister had assumed the defence portfolio, as is his wont, without telling anyone, including the hapless, low-profile Johnstone who until now has been flying completely under our radar. This is no longer the case, indeed, it seems ‘Joint-operations’ Johnstone has recently been flying high as a kite.
‘Stone-wall’ Johnstone, who appears by all reports, including ISIS agents’ photographs, phone taps and listening devices to have greatly enjoyed Iraqi hospitality was, it seems not AWOL but simply MIA. The senator is reported to have spent some considerable time ‘inside the tent’ with key Iraqi officials and other unconvicted fraudsters, con-men and petty felons whose topless personal assistants promised him a bit of the action as they plied him with sweetmeats, soothing unguents, emollients, sweet talk and endless Narghile (waterpipes) of Baghdad Bhang.
photograph courtesy of Peshmerga candid portrait, passport and special event photography
Afghan Kush and other connoisseur’s choices were also on offer from the vast array of weed freely available throughout the city, a flourishing commercial centre, rapidly emerging as a major world cannabis supplier thanks to US aid and military investment in the region. Australian consumers can look forward to high quality imports before the end of the year as our troops keep their boots well and truly high off the ground in their high flying, morale boosting joint missions.
The hitherto camera-shy 58 year-old Senator ‘Pockets’ Johnstone, a barrister and solicitor in WA in civilian life, took the fight right up to ISIS by hunkering down well in a lavishly appointed mess tent well out of range of any real fighting while taking part in protracted and arduous smoke-filled negotiations lasting long into the Arabian nights with intervals only called for ingesting vast quantities of refreshing sweet things and finger food.
Johnstone, the defence chief whose personal mission is to put the joint into ‘joint forces’ is reported to have staggered from his tent some days later startling unwary security guards, by his state of undress and incoherent ranting. Gibbering nonsense about morale building, Australia’s mission and the sheer grace, athletic beauty and fighting spirit of the Aussie Digger and the desert camel, Johnstone was holding up his trousers with one hand whilst waving a befouled piece of paper in the other. The paper purported to be a type of agreement which has later become his script as Johnstone debriefed before the Prime Minister, Peta Credlin and the nation on national television.
‘Pockets’ Johnstone’s subsequent comments and his address to the nation have confirmed his commitment to evading the truth rather than merely ‘weeding out’ himself and his opponents. He has made a number of assertions, promises and undertakings that were it not for the weed he will help bring into the country, would have him committed instantly to a spell in psychiatric care. Amongst his claims is the statement that the Iraqi army not only exists but that it can fight. More precisely, ‘pockets’ Johnstone has repeatedly claimed that there are pockets of fighters which are highly trained and highly effective. Well done, Minister. No-one else has spotted anything like this. Nor will they, without a share of your herbal medicine. Just how pockets of fighters will be any good in a situation which needs a whole army as yet to be explained, although a few pockets of men may be nimble enough and sufficiently well-armed to make off with the drug stash before they are busted by ISIS. Pockets of men, further, is probably not the best morale-boosting form of words for a nation that is reported to have 275,000 active frontline personnel with another 500,000 in active reserve. Pockets of men can only draw attention to the vast numbers who have simply deserted or joined the other side or highlight the widespread corruption and the practice of pocketing funds sent for buying arms and other useful materiel.
Johnston, Australia’s current Defence Minister says he is optimistic about how quickly a coalition of forces will be able to undermine the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Iraq. He does not detail how this might be done but the script so far is that air strikes will do the trick. This does not take into account such experiences to the contrary as VietNam, where a determined Viet Cong made steady advances despite massive air strikes. Nor does Johnston admit any concern with regard to collateral damage, a term which the United States gave to the world when its air strikes in Vietnam killed thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children. Above all, he fails to explain the ways in which pilots will be able to discern targeted enemy combatants who will be hidden or embedded amongst civilians in cities.
There are many other elements of the Defence Minister’s briefing that are wacky if not outrageous but perhaps none so much as his confident prediction of victory which he cautions may be months rather than years. Even the expert spinner fellow Sand Groper West Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is more cautious about the prospects of successfully defeating ISIS through military intervention. And most expert commentators warn that the engagement could last years and faces only a slender prospect of success – not that we have managed to draw up a battle plan or decide what success would look like.
Most baffling of all his pronouncements was Johnston’s confident assertion that our Australian troops would boost the morale of Iraqi soldiers who until now have yet to win a single battle and who have distinguished themselves only by their capacity for corruption and their readiness to run away from battles. Johnston’s major blind spot here is that he is wilfully evading the truth that the Iraqi armed forces, expensively trained at great expense by the US with some assistance from the West, have no commitment to fight to the death for a government which is alien, effectively a dysfunctional, unrepresentative, US puppet government. Even if, somehow, with the ingestion of certain ‘joint force’ substances, perhaps, Iraqis could be influenced to stay and fight, the elephant in the room is the corpse of the Iraq government which itself has failed, and in the process lost control over vasts parts of its territory to ISIS.
Putting his head in the sand is unlikely to help us or David Johnston’s career. Nor is it wise for him to collude in the delusion that a military adventure will boost his party’s electoral fortunes. He needs to get real and level with the nation before someone else does it for him: Iraq War III is about protecting multinational oil companies and their interests and about maintaining strategic bases in the area for the United States. We are in it because our Prime Minister rushed to offer his country’s support without considering the matter closely or deeply or responsibly sharing the decision with the people. And if, at the onset, our Defence Minister is so far off the ball, then heaven help us when basic truths about Iraq and its lack of real fighting capacity emerge, as they must, in the heat of combat. We will have rushed to join an unwinnable, protracted war for no good reasons but to curry favour with a United States which does not have the means to pay for its own involvement let alone look after its allies or manage the vast costs of rebuilding and reconstructing Iraq. Abbott and Johnston’s flag-waving is an appeal to patriotism and national sentiment but Australia’s true colours in this field are self-deception, self-interest and irrationality, the abandonment of rational, responsible decision-making is what causes us to join in the real battle in Iraq.
Berserkers (or berserks) were Norse warriors who are primarily reported in the Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word berserk.
Berserker (disambiguation) – Harii – Trance – Old Norse literature
The fury of the berserkers would start with chills and teeth chattering and give way to a purpling of the face, as they literally became ‘hot-headed’, and culminating in a great, uncontrollable rage accompanied by grunts and howls. They would bite into their shields and gnaw at their skin before launching into battle, indiscriminately injuring, maiming and killing anything in their path. Dating back as far as the ninth century, the berserker Norse Warriors were said to be able to do things that normal humans could not. According to ancient legend, the berserkers were indestructible, and no weapon could break them from their trance. They were described as being immune to fire and to the strike of a sword, continuing on their rampage despite injury. – http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/viking-berserkers-fierce-warriors-or-drug-fuelled-madmen-001472#sthash.OjUlp4Ue.dpuf
Sunday, October 05, 2014
In a rare moment of capital Canberra madness this week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Berserker Abbott once again unleashed a perfect desert storm of unbridled ridicule and derision when he publicly exposed his position by professing to his finding the burqa ‘ personally confronting’. Abbott may as well have tipped his kitchen slop bucket, or his bedside commode over his own head or defended kick-back king Arthur Sinodinis before an ICAC hearing such was the ensuing great stench, a stench which threatened to put the PM even further on the nose, even, as he himself contended yesterday threatening to create such a distraction that it would upset important business such as his spin on Australia’s illegal invasion of Iraq.
What the PM really wanted to share with the nation was that the very good news, the very good news, his very, very good news, that when the Iraqi-US puppet government came back to work from its holiday (if it ever came back) and if it by then still had anything left of Iraq to administer, and further, should it ever have a defence minister, to even at this late stage, have a foolhardy person sign his own death warrant or strap himself into the virtual suicide bomber’s belt of the portfolio of Iraqi defence minister, why, at that point in time, the minister would sign the utterly worthless piece of paper which gives Australia permission to invade the country, kill other Iraqis and generally look after the interests of multinational oil producers and the strategic requirements and expectations of the United States. Up until now, the complete absence of any candidate was merely a testament to the ways Iraqis have so fully embraced the democratic process. This includes pocketing billions of dollars transferred from would-be supporters donated to build up their defence stocks of helicopters and armaments. Above all it includes engaging in the ruthlessly systematic, joyous wholescale persecution of infidels adhering to minority religions such as Sunnis which at last reckoning made up a fair swag of their nation’s population.
The push of thinly veiled scallywags, disguised as journalists, in the Canberra press gallery countered that Abbott should pull his head in, arguing reasonably that most Australians found the sight of a PM out in public in red underpants or speedos truly confronting. Some ventured that Bronwyn’s bouffant beehive hairdo was not only a cruelly confronting and tasteless parody of iconic children’s role-model, Marg Simpson, but that because of its inherent capacity for concealment was a security risk. Others, including the worthy but truly sidelined voice of mature reason, common sense and justice Christine Milne faced off against Abbott, making appeals to tolerance and acceptance even despite, or perhaps because of, their true feelings that a woman in a burqa is a symbol of oppression unless she is an Afghan cameleer in disguise fleeing exploitation in historic outback Australia.
On-the-record-Burqa opponent, Peta Credlin unveiled the complexion of her thinking eagerly compromising her boss with either an ill-considered piece of tactical advice or a shrewd dog whistle to those Coalition rednecks who wanted to put their heads up above the parapet to oppose the burqa to do so for security reasons. All this did, predictably, perhaps was set the hares after the Afghan hounds.
As if his unguarded comment was not enough of an ‘own goal’, Abbott was then ambushed by the right wing of his party which boasts such stalwarts as Cory Bernardi, Bill Heffernan, Bronwyn Bishop and sundry other rednecks, racists, chauvinists, boors, philistines, undiagnosed dementia patients and rabid haters of the ABC, tolerance, science and reason. The events proved especially embarrassing to Abbott who showed once again that he was out of touch both with contemporary mores and out of touch with the rabid beast that is his own party. Many took his gaffe and subsequent fall out as yet more evidence that he could not control his own rump, although one backbencher did pull his head in when Peta Credlin threatened to smite his neck in a thinly veiled allusion to the Koran and its sanction of decapitation as the just desert of all infidels, a fact which up until now the PMC and its spin unit have been keen to publicly deny.
Whilst some expert Tony-watchers claim that his moves were just the latest in a series of craftily veiled dog whistles, many others conclude that he spoke the truth. As Annabel Crabb has so capably put it, the truth parrot on his shoulder spoke out, as it has to his cost so many times in the past, to put the kybosh on Abbott’s thin and flaking veneer of moderation and his confected illusion of control.
In the latest of a series of disturbing and disappointing career moves including winning Labor Party leadership, second musketeer Bill, ’war for one and war for all’, Shorten has further diminished Labor’s electoral standing and dashed the hopes of decent working men and women throughout Australia. Yet, surely, it is at times such as these ordinary Australians need a voice and deserve a representative who will stand up for them. Instead Australians have been betrayed by lickspittle Bill eagerly stepping up for his own turn on the war drum, acting as Tony’s roadshow toady. It’s an alarming and dangerous turn of events: another out of step drummer is frankly not in the national interest. An effective Labor Leader of the Opposition is.
For those who must serve in uniform, short-shrift Shorten has helped to cruel their futures, cancelling some of them and aborting yet others. Rather than protect his followers, he has helped make things dangerous at home and deadly abroad. Shorten has aided and abetted PM Tony Abbott’s fetish for militarism by backing him in sending us to an undeclared war, a war which Abbott’s spin doctors insult the nation’s intelligence in calling a mission. Accidentally, the word ‘mission’ may be heading in the right direction if only because our over-eager acquiescence in the US military adventure is not unlike assuming the missionary position.
Whatever form of words you choose, however, this latest military adventure is a dangerous war game. We have no strategy, no end game and there is no prospect of anything but a long, protracted engagement in an alien environment against forces which are difficult to identify. Many will suffer. Death, serious injury or a lifetime of traumatic psychological disorder await the unwary, to say nothing of the suffering such military service will bring to the combatants’ families and the nation. Mission improbable will morph into a mission impossible which will rapidly outwear our current hysteria, our quickly whipped up appetite for vengeance against the evil anti-western death cult desert dwelling barbarians, a hate-inspiring phantasm, the constructed enemy of the moment, created by tabloid media assisted by the PM’s strategic communications media. the outcome of such an engagement is impossible to predict. The only certainty is that it will be protracted, expensive and ordinary people will suffer. Those who survive ISIS can look forward to a civilian life of alcoholism, ostracism, family breakdown, a rat shit pension and PTSD. Ordinary men and women are the ones who get sent to their deaths in war, Bill, not the scions of the elite. Surely you would have learned that at University.
Why is Labor’s leader tamely agreeing with Abbott on the need to go to war? Abbott’s not making sense. Never has. No compelling case for war has been articulated by our gung ho,trigger happy leader. And we know that the little Aussie scrapper has a history of anger management issues, an unhealthy interest in fights and physicality matched only by his unbecoming attraction to grandstanding, his predilection for posturing and his ruthless expediency, his capacity to do anything else that he thinks will win votes. Why indulge him? It’s irresponsible. It’s like shouting another drink to an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon. Perhaps Wimpy Bill has caught something. Perhaps he’s been careless with his prophylactics again. Is obsequious fawning an infectious disease? There’s been a fair bit of it about lately. Clearly the man’s not acting right. What compels him to join Labor to this latest conga line of suck-holes? What makes him think it is OK to go along with Tony’s going along with the USA and commit Australian troops to Iraq and Syria? We all know Abbott may be lacking in many things but the last thing the PM needs is help boosting his war lust or wimpy Bill cheering him on. Shorten has morphed into an embarrassing fan who claps the beat, whistles and throws his underwear on stage – or the moral equivalent of his underwear . Indecent is his haste: the curtain is barely up on the First Act.
Why is he doing it? If he knows he is not telling and his silence fuels unhealthy speculation that he is in it for self-interest, in the hope that the gravitas conferred by joining cause with the war effort will boost his credibility as a leader. Wet lettuce Willie Shorten has passed up on the need to offer any explanation or clearly articulated alternative position, preferring instead to whimper that Labor is bipartisan when Australia’s security is at stake. Bipartisan may be OK in key areas of public policy but here it is an unconvincing cop out. Our national security is not at stake, Mr Shorten, despite the government’s hysterical war propaganda, but it soon will be if you continue to support ‘Wall-Banger’ Abbott in committing troops to a cause rather than a conflicted military zone, a cause that will that will serve to put us fairly and squarely on the ISIS terror target map. As for your own or your party’s future, if you lie down with a dog of war, you wake up with fleas.
Committing our troops to serve in the Middle East will create more enemies than Rat f**k Rudd having a bad hair day. For despite Abbott’s spin, and the rhetoric of the coalition of the concerned, it is not a mission or a cause. It is not our freedoms that ISIS hates, Bill, it is US air strikes. ISIS does have a problem with being bombed and shot at or having a missile shower skewer their fundamentalism. It’s not an unreasonable reaction. Public decapitation in the name of Islam, however, is a means to an end for ISIS, a guaranteed way to get our attention which must be seen in historical context. Whilst Mr Abbott seizes on this with his pure evil death cult slogan and confects a cause from moral outrage it is vital to not confuse the causes with one barbaric symptom. Let us not ignore the long history and theological underpinnings of decapitation in the name of Islam and pretend that the task is an aberrant atrocity and let us not assume that our confected moral outrage is a just cause for war. Challenge the government’s scare tactics by asking for empirical evidence of threats to our security and for evidence of our attempts to deal with it before new laws make this even harder.
Enough of that dangerous ‘bipartisan’ drivel, Bill. Challenge Abbott to drop the demonising rhetoric of rampant evil and instead stick to the facts. Or do your own analysis and apply your own thinking. Now, Mr Shorten, it seems as if you are not really listening or understanding, so let us put it as simply as we can. An Opposition is meant to keep the government in check not lie down and let it walk all over you. You are leader of the opposition, not Tony’s double or cheer squad. People look to you to for leadership and they expect you to be independent from the vested interests of the machinery of war. Ordinary people expect you to stand for something and they need you to represent them. They look to you to ask the hard questions and they have a right to expect you to act in their best interests; the interests of ordinary Australians. They do not expect you to throw your hat in the ring with Abbot’s: into the dirty whirlpool of the war monger who deals in death; who denies our common humanity; whose evil business may destroy us all.
Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we are used to and more inconvenience than we would like. Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.
There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protection for others. After all, the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to walk the streets unharmed and to sleep safe in our beds at night.
Tony Abbott in Parliament 23 September 2014
When it comes to entertainment, terror takes the cake. Say what you like about romance, game show or reality TV. None of these can poke a stick at terror. Not even Budget Crisis, the long-running LNP soap opera featuring popular villains Debt and Deficit. Not even sport. (Sport, like politics contains powerful theatre but essentially is applied psychopathy.) In sport and in politics you dedicate yourself to putting shit up your opponent. And occasionally on your opponent. Terror, on the other hand, scares the shit out you. And it’s good for you. It combines the therapeutic power of catharsis while it reinforces conventional morality. No wonder Abbott and the Death Cult Zombies, the latest smash hit theatre sensation is taking the country by storm.
Death Cult Zombies is a shrewd investment attracting powerful backers such as Rupert Murdoch. And billionaire entrepreneurs who have long lunches with the treasurer. It’s a sure thing. With terror you can’t go wrong. It’s tried and true. A box office you can bank on. Little wonder then, our LNP coalition has just treated us to a feast. It comes naturally. Political conservatives have a natural talent for popular entertainment. And creative fiction. It shows in their day to day dealings such as dropping unpopular bits of their budget while claiming today that they remain completely committed to their budget. It shows in their central political tenet that looking after rich mates is some form of public service. And it finds expression in rich theatrical occasions.
Who can forget such baroque epics as Malcolm where’s your trousers? Hockey’s biography: the compelling achievements of a man who so far hasn’t amounted to anything, much. So far. And who will go on to do even less.
What can compare with the finesse and fictive inspiration of Abbott’s intent to repay his mate Andrew Bolt for his support in winning the election by promising to gut racial discrimination law? And then claiming this would improve freedom of speech for the nation. And then doing a backflip because of some mythic concern for the Muslim community. It’s a wonder they don’t incorporate the party and publish it as a work of fiction. It’d be a best seller. Shit all over the opposition. But then, Labor hasn’t walked out on the show. They are clinging to the second best seats in the house.
Death Cult Zombies is an all-singing, all dancing, (mostly) all Australian, anti-Terror Terror show. It’s a show to die for. Of course, it’s a Dutch treat. You get the bill in your tax assessments. With interest. Unless you are a big corporate sponsor like Murdoch. Then you’ll pay one cent in the dollar. Yet it’s compelling viewing. Endlessly diverting first Act. Then an enormous dramatic pause. So dramatic in fact that the suspense is killing us. Some of us are even beginning to notice impresario Anton’s vestments. The (former, would-be) holy roman emperor’s new clothes. And wonder if he’s wearing any.
Where’s the second act?
Why so quiet? A cone of silence has descended. The curtain remains down. The Greatest Australian terror raid played to packed houses mid- September. Two weeks have passed and there is not even an apology for extending interval. Why? What do the authorities have to share? Have to hide? Is it tough love? Or tough titty: we are never going to tell you and soon we will change the law so we never have to? 800 police and AFP must have more to show for their efforts than a pimply 22 year old with paranoid delusions about killing a random pedestrian. When do we get to see it?
We love big shows in Australia. Especially those which are big overseas. We love to talk them up before we go and afterwards. Up and up. This gratifies us for many reasons, not the least of which is the virtuous feeling we derive from talking up our experiences generally, our quality lifestyle, our good taste, our superior networking and of course our nose for good value. “Great show and we were so lucky to get the best seats in the house so cheaply …”All sold out by my mate who knows the producer got me tickets.”
Exclusivity, amazing fortune, breathtaking bargaining skills or special contacts and great connections are all part of the weave of the legendary experience retold. Especially at ICAC. Rich indeed is the warp and weft of your typical après show discussion. Yet most of this is missing from our latest national diversion. Curiously absent.
It was a big operation. Massive. Even bigger was the hype. Australia’s biggest counter terrorism operation ever was the way it was presented. And re-presented. And commented upon. Repeatedly. Never has any show been so in love with its own production values. Not that we have that much to compare it with. A couple of smaller shows with a limited cast of evil bearded rotters and plotters. Still, others are bound to follow. You may depend on it. Now we’ve set a benchmark, we will have to better it. We won’t be able to help ourselves.
Australians deserve to know the score. It can’t just be nothing. Or next to nothing. After all we’ve just been slugged a cool $600 million for the beefed up security. And the costs don’t end just with the show. Factor in the cost of anxiety, fear, panic, paranoia, xenophobia and alarm washing through our consciousness as we battle to remain focused on those daily tasks which ordinarily make us if not paragons of productivity, a people chasing world’s best for time spent at work.
A great deal of fuss was made of the busting of terrorists on the day Abbott signed us up to fight in Iraq or Syria or wherever the United States said. But not go to war. Not yet. Humanitarian arms supplies and assisting air strikes. And a great deal of money was spent. And made, no doubt. Commercial news was full of the threat of a random beheading. Could happen to anyone. Just around the corner.
Abbott insists that we are all in real and present danger. Not because we are going to war. But because ‘truly evil’ jihadist terrorists in Syria and Iraq have stretched out their terror tentacles to Australia. ISIS operatives are hiding in bedrooms all over the country. We need to go to war over there to stop them over here. If we could swat the ISIS blowfly in the Middle East we could be free from domestic maggots. We would be safe in our beds at home.
But we haven’t really found any. Even though police kicked down doors and upturned beds all over the country. It’s not much of a plot, really is it? Stated baldly it’s not all that convincing is it? Or logical. True, there are successful shows that have creaky plots based on implausible stories but impresario Abbott needs to pull a rabbit out of a hat or his audience will walk out during intermission. Are walking out, as we speak.
Every impresario has something up his sleeve. Abbott is no exception. In this case it’s introducing new anti-terror laws. Laws that curtail our freedom. Especially the freedom to enquire about the missing second act of his Death Cult Zombie Show. The freedom to ask to see the proof of this dire new threat. Ask why we need new laws. A question we all need to ask. A question we need to be able to ask freely. Or remain forever silent.
Or before too long we will get laws we don’t need and didn’t ask for. Laws that don’t make us any safer. But which give much greater power to the government and its agencies. Surely we don’t want that. No citizen wants that. Or is it that after the Death Cult Zombie show, Act One, we are so frightened we’ll be happy to give up our right to stand up for our rights. Or even ask what’s going on.