A spokesman for Mr Abbott blamed security for keeping the media off the trip. “Due to security measures, there was very limited capacity to facilitate any movements of Australian media in Baghdad and the international zone during the Prime Minister’s visit yesterday,” he said.
“The PM’s office did attempt to obtain the necessary approvals for media but it wasn’t possible for this visit to Baghdad.
“Any suggestion the Prime Minister’s office ‘excluded media’ is patently untrue.”
Australian politics took an intriguingly mysterious turn recently when Tony Abbott slipped out of Australia on his own top secret mission to Iraq without telling anybody. It was all very hush-hush, so cloak and dagger that he could brief no-one, not even Tony’s Turd Polishers, his own media unit. Peta Credlin remained under the radar. Australians had to learn from Iraq what their PM was up to.
Masterfully, the PM also excluded the Australian media crew on standby in Dubai, permitting no independent footage to be garnered and ensuring no Australian journalists popped up with awkward questions. This also, however, guaranteed him a hostile domestic reception on his return and damaging questions about censorship and the breaking of promises he had previously made to the reporters stationed in Dubai.
Abbott’s mission was a minefield of awkward questions he typically thought best to side-step.
Questions thronged thickly around Abbott’s mutual morale-boosting joint appearance with Iraqi counterpart, US puppet Haider al-Abadi, another impotent ‘Prime Minister’ who recently announced the discovery of 50,000 ‘ghost soldiers’ on the Iraqi payroll. Although no one knows how many Iraqi soldiers are being paid but not turning up to duty, this was a reality shock for Albadi, matched only by his discovery after his dodgy election that no Iraqi has the slightest interest in taking him seriously and that his power is proscribed by Shiite militias and their political counterparts embedded in his corrupt and failing government. He was there to pocket US dollars and follow instructions.
Other pressing questions avoided for the meantime included: what on earth is Australia doing propping up an American stooge, a prime minister in name only who is presiding over a hopelessly corrupt regime which condones death squads and other acts of terror against Sunni civilians? What purpose is served in propping up an illegitimate puppet who has little real authority over an Iraq which exists now in name only?
Why are we now talking of increasing our troop deployment? The PM announced that he doesn’t rule out committing more troops to Iraq yet he said he had no intention of committing ground troops two months ago? Why has Abbott come out and criticised the US for the hash it made of rebuilding Iraq?
Questions out of the way, Wing (nut) Commander Abbott made his dash. His political career in freefall, Abbott, kitted out in a bomber jacket, activated Plan B for Baghdad, scrambling himself, his eternally brunette Ken Doll, Defence Minister, Kevin Andrews, who was to pretend for the first time in his life to have any remote interest in the military, and a News Corp camera crew and the odd photographer. The chief of defence, Air Chief Marshall, Mark Binskin was also on board to add credibility to official Australian propaganda photographs. It was also thought it might be handy to have someone who could shoot back should the mission come under fire at any point.
Pausing only as long as it took to tuck $5 million dollars into one flying boot and to flash a two-fingered victory sign at a flabbergasted but grounded Bishop from the cockpit, Abbott stole away at the crack of dawn.
Abruptly, unkindly left behind to keep the home fires burning and to front the nation’s TV cameras entirely un-briefed, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop flapped about like a stranded guppy. The Princess Mesothelioma was forced to fall back on her native wit and intuition, an excruciating situation for both herself and the nation. She was asked what PM thought he was up to.
Vamping whilst running one hand through her own exquisitely gamin styled coiffure, Bishop raised an eyebrow whilst she inspected the immaculate nails of her other hand. She supposed, she said airily, the PM knew what he was doing but it was not for her to second-guess Mr Abbott on yet another vital mission (abortive PR stunt) but if she’d known they were going to be keeping up appearances, she’d have let them borrow her spare hair-dryer and a bit of eye-liner and some lippy. (Julie and Kev often swapped beauty routine tips, like keeping on top of your grey roots and how it was vital not to let oneself go.)
After she had downed the odd glass of bubbly, Foreign Minister Bishop seized her opportunity and issued statements contradicting the PM’s lie that he was invited by the Iraqi government. Abbott said we would fight in Iraq to stop ISIL coming to Australia. Bishop said she didn’t know what he was talking about; ‘no request has been received,’ she said implying that he didn’t know either.
Abbott knew exactly what he was doing. Like a rat deserting a sinking ship of state, he fled Australia, prudently choosing not to help out local fire fighters in Victoria or South Australia lest his presence provoke spontaneous outbreaks of bomb-throwing, shirt-fronting, booing or other hostile popular reactions such as might compromise his personal safety. He would visit when all danger was safely past. Besides, he reasoned to no-one in particular, the National Interest didn’t look after itself and was known to take unkindly to neglect. And fires are dangerous.
Whilst being burnt alive is not always a negative career move, Abbott’s handlers discouraged the martyrdom option, richly attractive as it may now appear to the condemned PM and advised him to shun public places, for as long as possible, at least on the domestic front. The PM’s popularity is now lower than a snake’s prolapsed belly, so low, indeed, that these days that his diary is full of people, dates and places to avoid, such as the recently announced Queensland state election, the entire studio complex at 2GB and everyone at the ABC except for Lee Sales and any others Mark Simkin says is OK.
Abbott’s clandestine, ‘Black Ops’, top secret sortie was a fully-fledged ripping yarn fit for the pages of a Biggles’ story, The White Fokker, perhaps. His staff, such as remained after his latest PMO ‘reforms’, sworn to secrecy, remained tight-lipped and would only allude to ‘pressing security reasons’ for keeping the trip top secret. Just as it was a matter of national security preventing any explanation why the media were excluded. The National Interest was not invoked but it stood close by expecting a salute.
Secrecy, of course feeds speculation and rumour. Imagine the vital productivity lost to the nation were it to be known in advance that the PM had left to visit another dangerous world trouble-spot. Millions would take the week off work to celebrate. Eric Abetz, George Brandis and the IPA would instantly draft legislation prohibiting time off except on statutory holidays and Clive Palmer would be talked around to supporting it because it would further cheapen the cost of his own large labour force. Joe Hockey could weigh in with a sensitive ‘poor people don’t take holidays because they don’t own cars.’ Hunt could claim that the windfall of the repeal of the carbon tax ensured that all families could afford expensive luxury cruises. And so it would continue.
Imagine, Warren Entsch would wag his finger, the explosion in violence from home-grown and imported mental defectives and other ‘Jihadist terrorists’, who might exploit the Great Helmsman Abbott’s absence from Australia and run amok, following the spin-doctors’ thoughtfully provided script.
Others may argue that the PM was on hand in Sydney at our last ‘brush with terror’, for all the good it did. All that could be said was the lame argument that Abbott had strapped his buckler on to deal with the main threat at its source and that mouthing platitudes about ISIS being evil in Iraq would eliminate entirely any further domestic terror brushes.
The truth is both complex and prosaic. Abbott needed a boost, and Haider Al-Abdadi, our man in Baghdad, needed at least one other friend in the world. Baghdad is on hand to offer Abbott peer support from other like-minded cronies, other similarly scurrilous, self-interested, discredited merchants of mendacity who will happily laugh long at your jokes until your money runs out.
Abbott, moreover, has much in common with the Iraqi PM, including an embarrassing British citizenship, a capacity for self-delusion, political impotence and a disturbing lack of popular support.
Baghdad, home of the Arabian Nights, is a post-modern fabulist’s paradise, and may take out top honours this year as bullshit capital of the world, although the title is always keenly contested. Canberra, itself, of course, boasts some cred in this area. What richer setting then to repeat the nonsense that Australia is in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government? What more fertile site to reiterate the Abbott crusade against evil? Against the ‘death-cult ISIS? Where better to wear one’s new bomber jacket?
Modern Baghdad, a collective delusion, in the same way that the entire state of Iraq is a convenient fiction, exists almost solely in the minds of those vested interests whom it suits to support its existence. The perfect home away from home for any compulsive liar with quasi-military aspirations and in bed with Big Oil, Halliburton and multinational capitalists, Baghdad appeals greatly to Abbott, but this alone does not explain his trip. Nor does mingling with kindred spirits.
Whilst Abbott has, indeed, been bonding with his peers, a select group comprising other hopelessly ineffectual leaders of another morally bankrupt regime on the brink of extinction, the flying visit was wholly for domestic consumption. The PM is hoping to show his own nation, if not himself, that he is still a vital force. It pays to have as few observers as possible in case anyone starts laughing.
Abbott is counting on a visit to Iraq injecting a little special something into his flaccid career. He is desperate to stem his rocketing disapproval. He wants to give the old action PM routine another spin, this time, as before repeating the palpable lie that Australians are much safer at home if we attack Iraqis overseas. All we need do is ‘knock off’ ISIS in Iraq and we will all be so much safer in our beds in Sydney. And we are morally obliged to help Iraqis take up arms in the fight against evil ISIS.
So far the visit has been an incredible runaway success: Abbott has also been able to slip A$5 million in ready cash into an eager Iraqi palm. Such a piddling amount is likely to be punted away in a night at a Baghdad casino but it proves that Abbott is right on the money when it comes to making the right sorts of gestures.
Abbott’s junket also got him away from having to answer embarrassing questions about why he lied about renouncing his British citizenship. A document search obtained under FOI indicates that there was no renunciation from Tony aka ‘The Great Prevaricator’ Abbott. It looks serious. The Australian Constitution will not allow any Australian who holds dual citizenship to be Prime Minister, but a quick dash to Iraq buys Abbott a distractor if not a bit of thinking time as well as offering priceless photo-opportunities with the boys (and girls) and other opportunities to pose as a world statesman, even if he can’t give our troops a decent pay rise any more than he can be honest with the Australian people about his intention to increase our troop numbers in Iraq or the fact that he is still a British citizen and constitutionally prohibited from being Australia’s Prime Minister.