Objectives of the mission by Australian Defence Forces in Iraq/Syria, masterminded by Field Marshal Tony Abbott, change from week to week.
Amid the release of bloodthirsty and homicidal ISIS videos late last year, Abbott wrapped himself in the flag and ordered Special Forces and RAAF warplanes to “destroy the death cult”.
Instead, Australian aircraft became involved in air support for the Kurdish Peshmerga, a liberation army dedicated to establishing a Kurdistan state.
As the RAAF bombed ISIS positions, the Peshmerga broadened its hold on territory in Iraq as well as Syria.
Watching from the sidelines, politicians and generals in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran were alarmed by the Western-backed expansion of Kurdistan, and the future of Kurdish national independence remains under a cloud.
In recent weeks, Australian aircraft have been diverted to target ISIS strongholds in Tikrit and the oilfields of Kirkuk and Mosul where the ground war is being spearheaded by the crack al-Quds force from Iran.
It means that the previously hated Iranians are now Abbott’s military allies in Iraq. Without any Canberra announcement, Australian forces have become a surrogate weapon in Tehran’s war against ISIS and inadvertently involved in Iran’s broader strategic objective of establishing a Shi’ite Islamic Republic in Iraq in which Sunnis will be either expelled or rendered into an impotent minority.
So how will things unfold? First of all, Australian military personnel will be targeted by Sunni militias which are cousins of the ISIS pyschopaths.
How long before Sunni militiamen attack or kidnap members of Australia’s military expedition?
How will Australians react to videotaped beheadings of soldiers cynically sacrificed to save Abbott’s skin?
Keeping Abbott as commander-in-chief is so frightening that the top brass must be looking for alternatives.
The firing squad
Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising when Irish nationalists mounted an armed rebellion against British occupation and demanded secession from Great Britain and self-rule. The ringleaders were rounded up and shot dead by a British army firing squad. A total of 3,430 men and 79 women were arrested in raids across the country; of these, 1,841 were sent to England and interned there. Fifteen men were condemned to death, including the seriously wounded Scottish-born socialist leader James Connolly who faced the firing squad tied to a chair. The martyrs to Irish freedom were Patrick Pearse, William Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Thomas J Clarke, Joseph Plunkett, Edward Daly, Michael O’Hanrahan, John MacBride, Eamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, Sean Heuston, Con Colbert, James Connolly and Sean MacDiarmada. Their bodies were dumped in a mass grave without coffins. Irish-born nationalist Sir Roger Casement, diplomat, poet and human rights activist, was convicted of high treason and hanged at Pentonville Prison in north London.
I can’t accept the narrative – English firing squads good, Indonesian foreign squads bad. They’re all bad.
Copyright Agency Limited CEO Murray St Leger has resigned to return to his home in England.
He was CAL’s deputy CEO before moving to the top job just over a year ago where he was handed a jumbo salary of $500,000 a year.
The pioneers of CAL worked for peanuts to ensure that writers, reporters, poets and photographers received money for the reproduction of their work. It was an honourable and thankless mission but they eventually won, convincing publishers to cooperate with a national copyright agreement.
Since then, tens of thousands of humble writers, myself included, have received annual cheques from CAL where the reproduction fees are collected, collated and distributed.
St Leger, a former managing director of McGraw-Hill Australia and president of the Australian Publishers Association in 2009-10, joined CAL in 2013. By leaving the organisation in July he is assured of a fabulous termination payment.
CAL chairman Sandy Grant, himself a highly successful Melbourne entrepreneurial publisher, thanked St Leger for his contributions to the publishing industry, namely www.learningfield.com.au that delivers digital textbooks to students’ and teachers’ devices and www.readingaustralia.com.au to bring Australian stories to classrooms.
Am I opposed to high salaries per se? No. CAL is not a factory with wage slaves but a not-for-profit non-government organisation (NGO) with very talented middle- class professionals in its hierarchy. But does one of them deserve $500,000, a salary that could pay for three top executives? I think not. It is inexcusable and obscene.
CAL manages a culture fund which plays an exceptional role assisting writers, sculptors, poets and playwrights to have their work published, exhibited and performed. Let’s hope that St Leger’s successor continues to put writers at the heart of CAL’s mission and not the publishing industry.
Coalition of the willing
Miklos Banffy, 1873-1950, was an old school Middle European diplomat, an MP in the Hungarian Parliament and the foreign minister who obtained Hungary’s admission to the League of Nations.
His memoirs were translated into English in 2003 and published under the title The Phoenix Land. They are written with charm and humour and filled with snippets of history that would be lost but for Banffy’s enjoyable classic.
As Hungary’s delegate in Geneva to the founding conference of the League of Nations, Banffy lobbied representatives of China and Japan to block the membership of Serbia.
“They talked to me unreservedly about their former allies, especially about the English, who were the subject of much criticism,” he writes.
“They all believed that they had been made false promises that Australia would be opened to Chinese and Japanese immigrants so as to induce them to support the allies in the war. Both countries suffered from rapidly increasing populations they could not support at home, and as Australia was so sparsely inhabited they had counted on this promise as a solution to their problems.
“When the war was won, however, the promise had not been kept, and even America imposed new restrictions on immigration.
“The Far Eastern countries received no reward, and even access to colonisation in Polynesia was denied them. And not only that, but it seemed that there was to be no question of restitution of the huge losses they had incurred. The gist of everything they said was that they no longer believed in the good faith of the countries of Europe.”
I can find no public record of Australia agreeing to accept migration from China and Japan as part of a secret deal between Britain and the rulers of Beijing and Tokyo. The gist of the secret arrangement seems to have been: stay on the British Empire’s side during the war and we’ll give your people migration rights to Australia after it’s over.
I wonder what secret commitments John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julie Gillard and Tony Abbott have given London and Washington in return for pouring troops and war equipment into Afghanistan and the Arab world?