March 20, 2003

PETER FITZSIMONS - whose immediate

PETER FITZSIMONS - whose immediate response to September 11 was, let it never be forgotten, to declare how "desperately sorry" he was for the "incredible suffering" of Osama's terrorists - is again exercising his powerful intellect:

There will come a time. A time when historians will look back on this day and try to gauge just what the mood of the Australian people was on the eve of the invasion. To those historians I say, "Welcome to our nightmare".

To those historians, I say: "Why are you reading Peter FitzSimons?"

For the short answer is that there is no one mood which can be ascribed to the nation as a whole, and as a matter of fact none of us can remember a time when - with the possible exception of the Tampa episode - we were ever less united and more at each other's throats.

FitzSimons writes for a broadsheet, but his inclinations to drama and exaggeration are those of the greasiest tabloid hack. Where is this throat-atting he speaks of? Certainly not in the offices of the Sydney Morning Herald, where group hugs long ago replaced story conferences.

On the one side of the argument there are those who gravely assure us that this is a just war and that we Australians are honour-bound to be a part of an action which will deliver what the world most needs at the beginning of the third millennium - which is Western violence wrought on Muslim territory.

As opposed to Muslim violence wrought on Western territory, which FitzSimons has apparently dismissed from the whole equation.

This is the way to a more stable world, they say, and none of them appear to have the slightest problem that so far there has not been a scintilla of difference between what George W. wants and what John W. does.

FitzSimons wants us to stand side-by-side with the Great Satan's foes. Won't happen.

And then there are the rest of us. Who are we?

I don't know. Two-legged carp? Amoral, insensible flesh loaves? Reason-defiling swarms of insect people?

We are first and foremost those who resent headlines like the one carried on the top of the front page of the Herald yesterday - "Australia chooses war" - for the simple reason that Australia bloody well did no such thing. In our view John Howard chose this war, and we want it on the record that the vast majority of us are against it.

Just like FitzSimons was against the war in Afghanistan, which he believed would level houses, turn schools into rubble, eradicate hospitals, destroy infrastructure, and cut Afghans off from medicine and health care.

Even if the whole thing is over in four days and the combined military might of the invaders takes out a nation where the majority of the population is under 15, we still want it on the record that we are against it.

The war isn't directed against a "nation", or teenagers. You know this, Peter. Stop being a dick.

And yes, we know that the Iraqis are not free to protest as we protest, nor write narky columns and letters to the editor as we do, but we still don't feel that dropping bombs on them will make it right.

The worst human rights violations FitzSimons can identify in Iraq are limits to free speech. Iraqis wish.

We further feel that the test of the "success" of this war will not be in how many days it will take to achieve nominal "victory" but in what kind of world will emerge from it.

After Saddam is dead and his regime destroyed, ask his former citizens what they think of their new world. Once all the dancing stops, that is.

Even before the first bomb is dropped, however, we know that bitter division is not confined to Australia, but also describes what was formerly known as the Western alliance.

Sounds like there isn't a scintilla of difference between what Chirac wants and what FitzSimons wants.

But back to our bewilderment.


We don't understand how in Britain the likes of Tony Blair can have 121 MPs from his party publicly break ranks from him - as well as suffer the humiliation of seeing three of his ministers resign - and yet, here in Australia, our Liberal Party apparently stands totally united behind its leader. How can it be that in all the ranks of the parliamentary Liberal Party there is not even one person with the courage of their convictions to make a stand and say what they surely must feel: that this is crazy? Just one!?

"That they surely must feel"? Despite being equipped with Helen Keller's observational skills, FitzSimons is somehow able to read minds.

Make no mistake. So bitter is this division in Australia at the moment that all of us who are against this war find ourselves being accused of being "pro-Saddam" and all the rest. We are not that.

Well, you're not exactly against him. Note also that just a second ago FitzSimons was complaining about a lack of division in the Liberal Party. Make up your mind, man! Is division a bad thing, or a good thing?

But in a contest of evils, we feel that by far the greatest danger lies in tearing the world asunder and can't help but feel that wherever he is, Osama bin Laden could surely not be more delighted with the way things are heading.

Like most dead people, Osama is happy as a clam.

Mostly, though, there is this. As we tuck our children into beds at night, we can't help but wonder just what it would be like to be a family in Baghdad doing the same ...

Once they've detached the torture squad's electrodes, and explained again why Daddy has no tongue.

We do not want this war. And we are outraged that it has come to this.

FitzSimons offers, of course, no alternative.

Posted by Tim Blair at March 20, 2003 12:56 PM