HOWARD’S VALUES- CREATING A BETTER PLACE. PART IV

By Erasmus Baraniak

John Howard knew, or ought to have known the truth about WMDs. Equally John Howard knew, or ought to have known about the AWB scandal; the reported corruption during Downer and Howard’s reign of bribing Saddam Hussein with no less than $300 Million through a Jordanian transport company to keep buying Australian wheat via AWB- contrary to UN sanctions at that time.

In the aftermath of AWB Inquiry it became clear that a Canadian High Ranking UN Official alerted the Howard government of their breaches of the UN sanctions. She had copies of email and other correspondence she at that time sent to the Australian government to prove that the Howard government knew what AWB, a government sanctioned operation, was doing in Iraq. Yet AWB sallied on, and Alexander Downer even met with Saddam Hussein during that time.

Howard and Downer were able to extricate themselves from culpability in the manner they fashioned the AWB-Cole Inquiry Terms of Reference. The Terms of Reference were narrowly designed to lay all culpability on the directors, officers and employees of AWB. It intentionally took the focus of Inquiry away from political responsibility. This modus operandi was designed by one of three senior Advisors/Bureaucrats within Howard’s team who rescued Howard on a number of occasions, including in the Tampa and the Children-Overboard scandals. The Canadian Bureaucrat was never heard of again after initial denials and departmental buck passing in Canberra and within AWB. The Cole Inquiry Report is now publicly accessible to those interested.

In the case of WMDs, the Howard government was clearly exposed to have known that it was lying to the Australian public on the real purpose of invading Iraq, and it had nothing to do with WMDs. Andrew Wilkie, former high ranking military and intelligence officer in the Office of National Assessments, a graduate of Duntroon, exposed the Howard government of deliberate obfuscation and dishonesty about the non-existence of any Weapons program in Iraq. Wilkie, in as many words, says Howard politicized the public servants and the intelligence, resulting in a lie to Australian public of the basis of going to war against Iraq. The truth gleaned from all tested intelligence put to Howard at that time disproved the case for existence of WMDs, hence war.

Andrew Wilkie, today is an Independent Member of Parliament, who succeeded Labor’s Duncan Kerr, as Member for Denison. He occupies an ample electoral office on the main street of down town Hobart. In his 2004 book “The Axis of Deceit”, he clearly outlines for all who care to read the deliberate Howard Government intelligence failures, designed to sully the mandate of the Australian people, and take Australia to war in Iraq.

Howard has amply rewarded the three Advisors who mostly designed his “ see no evil- knew no evil-did no evil” escape strategies in above scandals, with lucrative and powerful posts within the Australian intelligence community and overseas diplomatic posts, where they serve today. But what about the thousands slaughtered and maimed, homes and businesses destroyed, ancient artifacts of great human interest and posterity bombed to bits, lives and a way of life absolutely torn apart- all based on a lie? How do you take back the broken pieces and apologize for a grave and costly mistake?

When we stand back and reflect upon that period before and after the invasion of Iraq, the frightening level of misinformation by the US government in the media on WMDs , brain washing and the perpetuation of a deep phobia appealing to the darker side of humanity against Muslims and Arabs, and the United States successfully engaged in, co-opting the British and the Australian Governments as willing accomplices to this lie, we realize that humanity birthed a new meaning to the word insanity.

Humanity also birthed a new form of anarchy based on our rightness. The prevailing notion of us against them, we are right they are wrong or we know better than them, fails to accommodate the valid possibility that another story, another narrative, another explanation may exist and also be equally valid, or even the possibility that we could be completely wrong. The West’s unwillingness to distinguish between individual terrorists or their organizations and believers of a certain religion, blindly or deliberately pushing its own agenda of the hour, to control energy fields of the middle east for its own economic gain in the guise of pursuing WMDs , has robbed democracy and capitalism of its essential gloss.

We accuse others of fanaticism but fail to see our own fundamentalism. We do not live as people who know and realize that this generation does not have all the answers. That which we think we know may only be partial to greater truths and enlightenment yet to be revealed. We do not live as people who revere the seat of science and mathematics that perpetuated life during the construction of the pyramids of Giza, for example. Such state of enlightenment and knowledge that incorporated complex elements of light, energy, truth and astronomy as well as aspects of mathematics, geometry and metaphysics, in such bold fusion of pure human brilliance, despite our various other advances, is lost to us. We ought to be humbled by the realization that we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle in our hands, and live accordingly.

We still do not have the cure for many illnesses that plague our human condition. Yet we are bent on killing and maiming fellow humanity for ideals that don’t have feelings nor talk back to us, and for lies that weaken our moral fibre. We live and breathe in a limited sphere of intelligence with limited resources, and yet, we summon the audacity to do hideous things to each other and to the environment that does not commensurate with our own limitations.

We have filled this space in history with greed and selfishness, from individuals to multinational corporations, that has resulted in scarcity and starvation. Economic growth that comes not from harmful extractive activity but through living in harmony with the universe, discovering new frontiers of knowledge and truly appreciating the magnificent joys of being alive on this planet are privileges. They are privileges reserved for people and nations who walk humbly and deeply venerate each other and the earth, its creatures whether in the deep oceans, in the celestial skies above or on our magnificent land decorated with rivers, valleys, forests, mountains and big skies.

We have inflicted all manner of violence on others and their innocent children in the name of God, freedom and democracy instead of seeking a higher path of understanding. Lesser still, we have gone to war on the basis of a lie. We have sowed in the destruction of their homes and their livestock in the name of freedom and democracy instead of seeking to forge another road to the hearts of those who do not understand us. We have bombed their homes and destroyed their human spirit that we may conquer them and take their resources, instead of forging ways of trading in and sharing these resources. In so doing we have succeeded in making freedom and democracy the symbols of our rightness and their wrongness.

The greatest destruction ever wrought upon human beings anywhere throughout history has been by the hands and designs of fellow human beings. It has never been the handiwork of mental retards, but of Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents and governments carefully planning with big budgets, carefully crafted bombs, missiles that would penetrate bunkers and long distant bombers with video camera gauges to film the carnage left behind.

The modern bomber carries with it by deliberate design a camera that videos the ghastly and macabre sights of the destruction inflicted, the searing and tearing limb to limb of helpless flesh, and invariably the shedding of innocent blood, of unsuspecting bodies in their various parts lying strewn everywhere against ghostly night skies. The film clips do not often do justice to the sheer terror in the faces of those about to die by our bombs and our guns, or the cries of terror or agony of a mother clasping the half torn body of her child. After every raid, teams of serious men and women, sit, huddled, poring over photographs and video images, like a macabre bloodthirsty ritual, only to determine if it was a good kill or a bad kill. We never stop to ask- how can a kill be a good kill? Where, we kill more or innocent people than intended, we just glibly shrug our shoulders and say, oh it’s just too bad. We callously call it collateral damage these days, all in the name of democracy and freedom. It is us who have come to define freedom as a prison and democracy as the hand that murders, maims and mutilates.

The history of Christianity, for instance, is littered with the causes of the right and the truth, those who had the truth, those who adhered and those who didn’t. The church burnt people at the stake those accused of witchcraft or sorcery, without any trial. Wave after wave of crusades killed maimed and tortured fellow humans in the name of God and the right because they did not believe in ‘our’ god or chose to disagree with the ‘truth’ as the church saw it. The church did not give any chance to ‘heretics’ as it called them, or placed any value on human lives sufficient to grant them the chance of repentance and rehabilitation in the truth.

In reflection, you have to ask today, what ‘truth’ was so precious that it demanded its redemption by the blood of humans slaughtered or burnt at the stakes? What truth was so absolute that a mortal soul had no chance of repentance before ‘our’ god but was seen to be permanently condemned to damnation?

Governments in the west behave as if truth, democracy and human rights are such malleable and elastic brews, brimming with generous flavors of relativity, depending on who we are drinking with. We run domestic public opinion through the media by asking whether those locked onto our heat seeking missile radar screens are on side with us or against us as the ultimate test of truth, democracy, and whether they deserve to have rights as human beings. We have come to view might as being right all the time. In the US and its Coalition taking unilateral preemptive military action without UN Approval for the invasion of Iraq, our ability to enforce our rightness has been automatically co-opted in the cause of democracy and freedom.

If democracy is such a relative and malleable brew, then it must also stand for the validity of the other argument, the other hypothesis, the other narrative that we must allow to exist and understand, just like the ancient Greeks and Romans did as an essential part of the synthesis of reason by which process democracy was birthed.

In the five day war between Georgia and Russia, the United States and its Allies quickly moved to support Georgia and condemn Russia in the name of democracy. Western media painted Russia as the wicked aggressor in that war. What they failed to mention was that the United States has been deeply involved in the political and military training of the Georgian army for the last 15 years and on at least three past occasions in 1992, 2004 and 2008, Georgia has been using full Military force to invade and take forcefully two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, resulting in thousands dead or homeless, sending refugees into Russia. It seems from this, more often than not, the United States and its cadre of followers appear to easily view or brand certain countries as part of the ‘Axis of evil’, ‘Undemocratic’ or ‘Rogue States’ through the narrow prism of self-interest.

The lessons of Vietnam should ring loud and provide clear parameters to the powerful countries to act within. The US refused to recognize Vietnamese Independence in 1945 and for 9 years vigorously supported the French to re-colonize it. The US supported one of the most blood thirsty and vicious dictators in President Diem. While the poor village people watched and waged guerilla warfare, the leaflets promising peace, harmony and democracy were followed by deadly bombs and chemical warfare. This was followed by a full scale invasion that saw the deliberate poisoning by the United States and its Allies of water sources and paddy fields. In addition to what Diem killed, the Allies killed hundreds of thousands more, destroying entire families and villages. Some two million people were killed in all in the name of democracy and freedom. Their human rights were not a factor in the equation.

Today that country is only just rising to drink of the bittersweet spring of forgiveness that flows from remembering, yet deliberately choosing to channel the tears and the blood of its innocent, into a flood of progressive activity, to build a modern democratic State, for the sake of their children and as a tribute to their dead, and homage to their ancestors. It is a quiet and deliberate miracle by a peaceful and genteel people, a mark of inner strength and resilience, from brokenness to breaking free.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was touted by George Bush and Tony Blair as necessary to establish democracy and human rights in that country. Saddam Hussein was branded an evil despotic dictator. No one dared utter the fact that he was set up and financed by the Americans and armed by the British. He used the arms and chemical weapons supplied by the British and Americans to massacre Kurds in the thousands. (That is supposedly how they knew he was supposed to have weapons of mass destruction). No one in America or Britain batted an eye lid over that. Today that country, with hundreds of thousands dead, is still caught in strife and turmoil caused by the lies of the US and its allies.

The role of media in western democracies in branding and profiling certain countries as part of the “Axis of Evil” (or for that matter, boat people as” illegals”), is a critical tool of the US and its allies for controlling public opinion.

In 1988 Saddam attacked and killed over five thousand people in the Kurdish village of Halabja in northern Iraq with chemical weapons supplied by Anglo-American interests. Not a word was uttered by the West in protest. It was only when Saddam made the mistake of invading an Anglo-American ally in Kuwait that the human rights and freedoms of the Kurds became an issue in the Western media. What double standards! People even engaged in violent protests in London over the plight of the Kurds in northern Iraq during the period of Gulf war. You have to ask where were these English people when Saddam poisoned thousands Kurds in Halabja?

Turkey shares a common border with Iraq. At the time of Sadam’s invasion of Kuwait, while Brits were protesting over Iraq’s treatment of Kurds in Iraq, what was actually happening in neighboring Turkey would have had any normal person gasping for air. Turkey slaughtered thousands of Kurds with British and American supplied tanks and guns while CNN and Western media were selectively decrying Saddam’s slaughter of Iraqi Kurds. Turkey is a member of NATO and its military received US$8 billion worth of arms, tanks, helicopters, and ships, generously gifted by the Americans at that time. No one condemned the Turks.

The American and British media has controlled the news process and what to decry. Such double standards and false morality in the name of democracy and human rights are carefully concealed by the powerful that control the media houses to promote selective values.

Again, democracy and human rights appear to be malleable concepts depending on whether the abusers are on our side or not and who controls the media. There has even emerged a sad rule of thumb that the West uses to measure the importance of human lives and human carcasses – whatever appeals on the day to the West’s own sense of self preservation.

Democracy, to last as an ideal and to maintain its relevancy in a newly ordered world, must be allowed to rise above the self-interest of the West and must deliver equally and justly to all, and for all, lest the stench of hypocrisy suffocates the world and tips the balance of the delicate laws of nature that governs the universe and its inhabitants in favor of abject anarchy.

There are numerous similar examples of the Vietnamese and the Kurds stretching from the deserts of Africa to the jungles of South America where the United States has become the sole arbiter of good and evil. In Nicaragua, for example, hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered this century by US backed militia in the pretext of preventing communism.

Truth, democracy and human rights have been defined and re-defined the American way across the globe. Some of that hubris has rubbed off on Australia in its dealings with its own indigenous population and the Pacific people, where democracy, truth and human rights seem to be subjected to a true blue dinky die form of cultural relativism that condemns others to their apparent wrongness but magnifies downtown cosmopolitan Australia in all its glorious and stupendous rightness.

For the cause of human rights in Australia, it seems generations of Australians have not shaken off the shackles of oppression and injustice toward their own. As Menzies was with Wilfred Burchett in the 1940s (over Burchett’s reporting contrasting reviews on what the West was really doing in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Hiroshima and later on the Korean Peninsula), for generations it seems, Australia latently incubates an inclination or culture of political oppression and social blindness toward those who speak the raw truth, stand on principle or are ethnically different.

Wilfred Burchett was never given a fair go by Australia, his own country. He was stripped off his passport, his citizenship and denied his nationality. He was literally deported by his own country into oblivion. He lived in exile until the day he died almost a decade ago.

Australia has a history of oppressing those who voice a new or novel idea; express alternative views to the mainstream, those who blow the whistle on the system, and those who simply appear racially, ethnically and culturally different, vulnerable, weak and defenseless. Its legal system is willing to give effect to the full rights of the dead (in matters of probate for instance) whereas the basic rights of the living appear to be entreated with a form of relativism, sometimes downright trampled upon with impunity, as is the case with boat people at the moment.

Australia takes issue on and speaks of truth, justice, democracy and the freedoms of people in faraway places like Zimbabwe, Iraq and Afghanistan but is blind to the injustices and oppression it metes out at home. In terms of the future, such inclination unfortunately does not bode well for those who are not Australian or those on the fringes of mainstream Australia.

It is lamentable indeed that Australia has become somewhat of a cultural cringe and intellectual wilderness of a degree that is unable to recognize, respect, live with, tolerate, embrace and celebrate the synthesis of ideas and humanity that is a necessary hallmark of a first world democracy, and of mature and progressive societies. Australia has a way of passing the buck , or being ever so defensive when the truth is spoken, however softly. Australia must mature in ways that will necessitate it to speak peace instead of war, invest in equality and justice instead of commercial exploitation of its neighbors and the weak and vulnerable within its borders like its indigenous people, and boat people.

What is blind prosperity and power without compassion, war without morality and military or economic might without greater capacity for understanding and acting within the bounds of fairness and justice to fellow humanity?

In Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s recently published book, ‘The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better’, they statistically prove that societies that deliberately seek equality in the distribution of the wealth of the nation and its opportunities, reap tangible benefits of a healthier society with greater social cohesion and less social problems.

In respect of Australia Wilkinson and Pickett make the salient observation that it is a country that has had a big increase in inequality and injustice resulting in social problems like increased drug use, violence, obesity, school failure, teenage pregnancies etc. Inequalities in society does breed problems associated with a person’s perception of themselves and this translates directly into the quality of their social engagement with society members.

The values of fair go and mate-ship as espoused by Howard still remain in the realms of mythology. Initially it was Rudd’s (and now Gillard’s) Labor government seized on this new book as providing empirical evidence for social democracy, the basis to tax the rich mining companies more than ever before in a bid to balance the high level of budget deficit, in post GFC Australia. Whilst GFC is increasingly being ideologically viewed more and more as a direct result of neoliberal policies of governments that have glorified greed and excess to the benefit of a few and to the disadvantage of the majority, Wilkinson and Pickett’s work is being embraced as timely in aid of fundamental ideological shifts for the better.

In the United States, companies with large executive salaries and directors payouts are being hounded by the Obama administration on behalf of beleaguered shareholders. In a country that celebrates wealth, and publicly proclaims greed is good and the pursuit of ones happiness through accumulation of wealth as noble and honorable, this change in public policy is driven by what society has now come to realize as morally reprehensible some of the avoidable adverse aspects and consequences of greed.

Politically, in Australia, the then Rudd (and now Gillard) government has ideologically shifted most of the blame of the financial crisis to the Liberal Coalition Parties’ corner blaming them for their policies of encouraging big business and traditionally concentrating wealth in a small percentage of the population.

Concentrating the wealth of the nation in the hands of a few is no longer good policy and governments have now been shown by empirical statistical evidence to deliberately shift and spread wealth across the wider cross section of society as a matter of beneficial public policy. This has got to be one of the major public policy shifts for capitalism in our time as traditionally capitalism embraces individualism and the pursuit of happiness by the individual in a market driven economy. A critical flaw in capitalist individualism that the world is becoming more aware of is that accumulation has a limit.

We cannot keep raping the limited forests without endangering ourselves and other creatures that share this planet with us. We cannot keep raping the depths of the oceans without destroying whole food chains and complex marine eco systems that are interdependent to provide us a continuous food source and fill our souls with a heightened sense of wonder.

As humanity, we cannot live life in little boxes when are meant to live as a people and as communities sharing and caring for each other. The long tailed adverse consequences of two centuries of not living as communities, of building societies largely characterized by individualism- a curse of industrialization that elevates some humans above others using artificial and superficial distribution of wealth and inverse social ordering, are slowly being realized now in poverty, homelessness, mental illnesses and other social ills. Only a few select are feasting while most of the world are starving and dying. A few at the apex have a voice and control the wealth of the world while the rest fall in a graduated scale to a base that is filled with those deemed as people with no voice, no face and generally deemed as unworthy.

We cannot keep taking from the earth without causing an imbalance is what is otherwise a beautifully and intricately balanced creation where everything is so wonderfully and gracefully put together in their most awesome complexity; wholly purposed to give and sustain life. Dissenters in society already benefitting from such dis-ordering of humanity and unequal distribution will see this as a new socialist creep into market economies, as a disincentive to individual exertion. They will continue to deliberately fail or even refuse to see the wider benefits and overall good of a more equal, sharing and caring society.

Those who argue against more immigration into Australia, for example, seek to disguise their own greed, their own insecurities, their own dark racism and prejudice, by mounting arguments of scarcity or other forms of social or racial vilification to keep the wealth within the hands of a few.

Are we now facing an era of change? Will we see a new invigorated American Foreign policy after the coming elections , an America that prides itself on building confidence in international institutions and building bridges between peoples of the world for a fair, humane and equitable world instead of military confrontation (using the scarce capital and resources of the world) that directly threatens the collapse of the world’s financial system and the environment?

Will we see a shift in free market and free trade ideology to embrace a more equal distribution of the wealth of the world according to the needs of each peoples of the earth? Will we, in our lifetime, see an international inventory of the world’s resources being made and trade is regulated to ensure the best use is made of these resources for the greater good of humanity taking into account the ability of mother earth to keep replenishing some of these resources? Will we see America cease from advocating its tyrannical one eyed definition of democracy, freedom and human rights?

Will we see the heart of world media change to advocate the truth and not continue being the sales department or the propaganda arm of the rich and powerful nations?

Will Australia shift from its traditional iniquities of injustice toward its indigenous people and minorities and build a more economically, politically and socially broad based cohesive and egalitarian society, especially in so far as its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities are concerned? For the indigenous people and for minority groups like refugees, will Australia finally embrace a Bill of Rights that is well and truly overdue to protect the rights of minorities arriving or living among a majority of population that is apathetically basking in the warmth and afterglow of material success with disparately disproportionate distribution of a nation’s wealth and opportunities?

Will we see a more fair and more equal Australia in its dealings with Melanesian Countries of the South Pacific, or will we see more of the same, rip off-cheque-book diplomacy, or unnecessary permanent occupation and rewiring of economies, that threatens to capture the Pacific Melanesian countries in a web of Aid dependency? It is now a well-known secret that Aid is an effective hook, or tool, that Australia uses to re-wire and re-order the Melanesian Countries and their resources and their resources for its own benefit

Evidence suggests that Australia has to do more at home to create a more cohesive and fair society, giving fair go and showing mate-ship to its indigenous peoples that will form the basis of, and a strong foundation for Australia to relate properly to the Melanesian Pacific. Today Australia is not a cohesive society. It is not a society where everyone is having a fair go. It is not a society that practices mate-ship. It is an intellectually insular society that is numbed to the rest of the world. It is not quite unlike a goldfish left in its own bowl for over 200 years, that imbibes on its own brew for all this time, and in the result, heaps endless platitudes on itself like a Judge in Master chef on how good it tastes, how fair and how just Australian society is- when the contrary is true.

As its neighbors, It is both important and responsible for Melanesian Pacific to hold the mirror of truth to Australia. Anyone into the school of Systems Thinking will agree with the basic proposition that, fundamental to the success and perpetuation of any system, or for that matter society as a system, is the capacity to allow into the system the element of reflection, the process of reassessment with necessary checks and balances. Systems Thinking allows that there is no positive growth or advancement without change. For advancement to take place there must be within the existing system the ability to allow new parts or elements in, or the culling of certain parts of the existing system.

The mirror of change must be held up to Australia so that the blow torch of truth can be brought to bear upon its blind spots, or what CS Lewis calls the shadow lands, of Australian government, and of contemporary Australian society.

This is a process that may sometimes evoke anger, or even outright denial. Yet no individual, society or for that matter, nation, can progress without this essential dialectical process, and we cannot expect the condition of man, no matter of what colour or creed , anywhere, but especially in Australia, to improve without this change. Without a process of honest introspection, Australia is only kidding itself in the Pacific if it thinks it can become a model democracy without values that engender fairness, equality and a sense of egalitarianism in the region.

The Pacific will always view Australia with suspicion, as a wolf in sheep skin, until we see real and tangible change toward fairness, equality, social justice, health and education, and human rights being upheld, for Indigenous Australia, boat people and other minority groups. The current government system made of policies and laws applying to indigenous people and boat people is simply unjust, unfair, inhumane, harsh, oppressive, disproportionate, unreasonable, and simply not good enough for a developed country like Australia, prospering on the back of the lands and resources of Aborigine people. Canberra’s treatment of Indigenous people reeks of symbolism and tokenism all the way from Tasmania to the Torres Straits.

Australia has done nothing to rid itself of the initial and underlying felony on which the nation of Australia, as a federation, is built on. Its continuous existence is felonious, and it will always be so until the day a proper treaty is entered into with the various Aborigine nations of Australia to ratify and legalize the taking of their lands and resources, to apply retrospectively. The prospect of success of this, and the terms therefore  are entirely a matter of discretion for the Aborigine nations. This is the measure of mate-ship and fair go that Howard espoused, if it is to mean anything at all in Australia, and particularly to the original owners of Australia.