Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – Abbott’s plunge into the Syrian cauldron

To save his own political skin and to win next month’s khaki by-election in Canning, WA, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is on the brink of ordering the RAAF to bomb Syria.
Any bombing raids would be illegal and they are not sanctioned by a UN resolution. The rationale will be that it is a humanitarian mission.
Will the air raids achieve the stated objective of crushing IS? No.
The next step will be to commit soldiers on the ground in Syria.
That crazy strategy is currently argued by militaristic think tanks in Washington, London, Tel Aviv and Canberra but resisted by anxious public opinion.
Abbott is drawing Australia ever deeper into the cauldron of Middle East tribal and religious warfare.
This is exactly what IS wants – to drag the West into a marathon, budget-consuming and open-ended conflict, giving it time to recruit and consolidate.
Interestingly, the only impediment to Abbott’s plans is not Bill Shorten or his spineless shadow cabinet but some top officers in the Australian Defence Force who are convinced it is “madness” to get more deeply involved in the Levant crisis.
Cambodia is a long way from Syria but we should recall President Nixon’s decision in 1970 to invade and bomb Cambodia in an attempt to close Viet Cong supply lines.
The assault was supported by Australian defence officials, the crazed Brigadier Ted Serong and the Liberal governments of John Gorton and Billy McMahon.
It coincided with a coup against Prince Norodom Sihanouk by the CIA-backed General Lon Nol and the execution of thousands of Vietnamese peasants in farming and fishing communities along the Mekong.
After Lon Nol’s bloody rule, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge took over, inflicting an estimated three million deaths during its Year Zero genocide.
The Cambodian operation broke the US economy and forced Nixon to end dollar convertibility into gold and smashed the Bretton Woods agreement which had regulated the world economy since the end of World War Two.
The world capitalist system has never been stable since the “Nixon shock” of 15 August 1971.
Will history repeat itself? And what will be the consequences of an expanded air and land war in the Middle East?

Heydon unravelled

When Dyson Heydon played rugby at Sydney University he earned the nickname “dirty Dyson”. When Tony Abbott played for the university XV he didn’t have a nickname but he was known as a brawling animal.
Heydon was dean of Sydney University’s law school when he chose Abbott to be Australia’s Rhodes Scholar for 1981.
Prime Minister John Howard elevated Heydon to the High Court of Australia in 2003. He stepped down when he reached 70 in February 2013, eight months before his former student became PM.
One of Abbott’s earliest decisions was to launch a royal commission into the trade unions. Its other purpose was to put former prime minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Bill Shorten in the dock.
The aim was to smear the Labor leaders, shame and humiliate them. He chose Heydon for the role of judge, jury and executioner with legal fees of $1 million a- year and unlimited funding.
I am grateful to Justinian’s publisher/editor Richard Ackland for introducing me to the blog of Melbourne barrister Geoffrey Gibson who has startlingly refreshing views on Heydon.
Gibson wrote: “It is difficult to avoid the inference that the government chose to go ahead with the appointment [of Heydon] in spite of all the difficulties because they were set upon giving to their inquiry the gloss of the seal – the cachet, if you prefer – of the High Court of Australia – and there you have the whole bloody problem. We have drawn the courts, and our best one, into the political gutter.”
He concluded: “What did we Australians do to deserve this smutty little fiasco; more signally, what have we done to deserve these truly awful people who so truly believe that they are our ruling class?”

UK Labour decides

The Blairite rump of the British Labour Party is in full cry trying to stop the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the party’s next leader.
Tony Blair is leading the charge assisted by other party heavyweights, Gordon Brown, Jack Straw, Alan Johnson, David Blunkett, David Miliband, Neil Kinnock and former Downing Street spin doctor Alistair Campbell.
The above-named were all complicit in hi-jacking the Labour Party 25 years ago and shifting it into an anti-union, pro-business and pro-American instrument of inner-Cabinet (executive and anti-democratic) rule.
Laughably, they are now accusing Corbyn’s supporters of “hi-jacking” the party, yet they all agreed to the system of electing the leadership by a membership ballot.
Ballot papers were sent out on August 14 to all party members, affiliated supporters who joined through trade unions and supporters who paid £3 to vote. Voting ends on September 10 with the result to be announced on September 12.
The mainstream media, led by Rupert Murdoch’s Times, Sunday Times, Sun, Sunday Sun and Sky Television, and the virulent pro-Israel lobby, are all demonising Corbyn and predicting the destruction of the 110-year-old Labour Party if the North London MP is victorious.
One of the Murdoch press’s most bizarre recruits was 85-year-old Baroness Betty Boothroyd, the former Speaker and reactionary Merseyside MP, who lamented, without any sense of irony, that the party was “galloping towards the precipice” and heading for the “scrapheap of history”. (Who wrote this clichéd crap?)
However, a broadside was fired in support of Corbyn by Professor David Blanchflower, an eminent economist and a former member of the Bank of England’s external advisory committee.
His letter was co-signed by an A-list of economists and academics in a letter to The Guardian (“Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics”, 23 August 2015).
Blanchflower and his supporters argued: “The accusation is widely made that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have moved to the extreme left on economic policy. But this is not supported by the candidate’s statements or policies.
“His opposition to austerity is actually mainstream economics, even backed by the conservative IMF. Despite the barrage of media coverage to the contrary, it is the current government’s policy and its objectives which are extreme.”
Although not all the signatories were Corbyn supporters they signed the letter in order “to clarify just where the ‘extremism’ lies in the current economic debate.”
Perhaps Australian economists should consider a similar salvo against the juvenile economic nostrums of Abbott/Hockey?


  1. Another piece of scholarly research !

    I was in Vietnam in 1970-71 and witnessed the training of Lon Nol’s soldiers.

  2. A voice here from blighty: Corbyn is romping home and nothing the New Labour establishment do or say will stop that now. Why, is simple. He is the only one who speaks sense and answers questions without going into standard politician duck and dive avoidance. Me – not sure I even support Labour – I would vote for him in a flash. All the other candidates *say* they understand voters’ disillusionment and disconnection from politics BUT THEY JUST DON’T GET IT. Corbyn by a mile and I for one look forward to the ruck 🙂

  3. Simply no one – can enjoy the news as you deliver it – so gloriously. To expats.
    The BBC today…seeking Aus news…found something about a snake having it’s head locked in a Coke can.

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