March 14, 2003

YESTERDAY'S CONFLICTS with management did

YESTERDAY'S CONFLICTS with management did little to perturb Margo, whose copy was up to her usual standard. That is to say, it was loaded with bias and ridiculous mistakes. Following is her account of John Howard's speech to the National Press Club, interspersed with extracts and follow-up questions from that speech:

Margo: When Herald correspondent Mark Riley asked whether it was now time for him to follow the lead of George Bush and Tony Blair and be candid with the Australian people about his intentions in the absence of a UN sanction, he said no. Refusing to comment was "the only responsible decision". That makes Bush and Blair irresponsible, one supposes.

Howard's reply was a little more detailed than "no comment":

Howard: Mark, I'll just repeat what I have said before, and the Australian people understand this a final decision will be taken on that when all the processes at the Security Council are known. I've said before, and I'll repeat it today, we seek the 18th resolution of the Security Council it's not the 2nd, it's the 18th resolution of the Security Council not because we believe as a matter of international law that it is needed. We believe it would be better politically, strategically and in terms of the united voice of the international community, if you could get another resolution. I take you back to what I said in my speech. I really do believe that if everybody got behind the sort of resolution of which I have spoken, and I acknowledge that the prospects of that now are not great, you would perhaps have a real prospect because if you had 15 nations saying you disarm or we're coming after you, and you had the neighbouring Arab states saying look, the game is up, you might just get some change in Baghdad. Now if that doesn't occur, I think the prospects for a peaceful resolution don't appear very bright. We are positioned to participate in military action. That is self-evident. But as you will have observed from the remarks made by our men in the field, they clearly have not received any instruction as yet, and that will not be given until the Cabinet has considered the matter in the wake of the issue being resolved one way or the other, or no way, at the United Nations. That has been my position all along. I think it is the only responsible position. You never in the situation in which I am placed, you never pass up by taking a decision before you need to, the capacity to consider last-minute circumstances that may affect the type of decision you take. You never do that.

That's 327 words of "no comment", covering rather neatly the current impasse. Back to Margo, who evidently can't hear a word Howard says, but hears reporters say things they never said:

Margo: Asked by the Bulletin's Tony Wright whether Australia would still consider supporting a unilateral attack if Britain pulled out, he again refused to answer. What Britain did "is a matter for Britain".

Wright's actual question:

Wright: How comfortable would you have been for Australia to be the single deputy to the US in any strike on Iraq? And when you deployed Australian troops in the first place, did you imagine at that time that Australia could still be in the position of being the only other nation that troops in the Gulf, other than the US and Britain, at this time?

You'll note that at no point did Wright ask anything about Australia re-considering its involvement. And this is the nub of Howard's "refusal to answer":

Howard: We made our decision based on our own assessment. I mean, as to what the British do is a matter for Britain. What we do is a matter for us.

More from Margo:

Margo: His performance got even hairier when Catherine McGrath of the ABC asked about the dangers of Pakistan and its WMD. Howard called Pakistan "a very, very good international citizen", forgetting, perhaps, that Pakistan had helped fund the Taliban in Afghanistan, which housed Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 11 attack.

Again, she has substantially misrepresented Howard's reply:

Howard: I do have some warm regard for the courage and the stance of General Musharraf in the war against terror. I have great admiration for the risks that he's taken and the strength he's displayed ... although Pakistan has not had the same familiarity with parliamentary democracy as India, it is nonetheless in many other ways a very very good international citizen.

She just goes on and on ...

Margo: Mr Howard offered nothing but his "belief" to support his view that Australian and world security would be enhanced by an invasion. He did not mention the blowback of instability in Muslim countries, the possibility that moderate Muslim states could swing to Islamic fundamentalism in response to an invasion and occupation, or the possibility of an explosion in the Middle East.

Why would he? These are the same arguments advanced by the crazy Left before the attack on the Taliban. The reason Howard didn't mention them is because he is not a crank. Speaking of "blowback" and "the possibility that moderate Muslim states could swing to Islamic fundamentalism in response to an invasion and occupation", Margo doesn't mention this section of Howard's speech:

Howard: Australia is a western nation. Nothing can, will or should alter that fact. As such, in this new world, we are a terrorist target. Those who assert that through some calibration of our foreign policy we can buy immunity from terrorist attacks advance a proposition which is both morally flawed and factually wrong.

It is morally flawed because this nation should never fashion its foreign policy under threat. The foreign policy of Australia should always reflect the values of Australia. Bin Laden identified Australia as a terrorist target because of the intervention in East Timor. Let me pose the question, if that threat had been issued prior to the invention in 1999 should the Australian government have pulled back? I think not. Would the Australian public have wanted the government then in the face of that threat to have pulled back? I think not. The proposition about your foreign policy being adjusted is also factually flawed because the victims of terrorists over the past decade have come from many nations sharing a full variety of foreign policy and strategic views.

Posted by Tim Blair at March 14, 2003 11:06 AM