THE AUSTRALIAN'S Terry Plane reports on a mystery mission to Iraq involving a medico now resident in Adelaide (no link available):

Dr Aidinis had cause to look at Hussein more closely than most. As a member of a four person, US-sponsored specialist medical team in the late 70s, he flew into Baghdad on a secret mission - to fix Hussein's back.

"It was all very hush-hush," Dr Aidinis recalled yesterday. He was not told until he was about to board an aircraft at Dulles airport in Washington DC where he was going or what he was doing. "We were told that if things went wrong we were on our own - without our passports."

Dr Aidinis, then professor of anaesthesiology at George Washington University medical centre, was chosen by the US state department to accompany two other professors - of neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery - on a goodwill mission endorsed by then US president Jimmy Carter.

Aidinis and his team repaired the brute, who invited them to return to Iraq any time they liked. The doc's prized memento of Operation Fix Saddam is "a mounted citation from the White House, signed by Mr Carter."

SADDAM HUSSEIN is "very confused and mixed up", according to a Michigan peacenik. Maybe it's just a phase he's going through.

Also at Country Store - Saddam's impersonator exposed!

A DAY that will live in infamy? I don't think so. Heather Havrilesky disses the couch-bound war viewer after several hours of viewing war from her couch, and concludes:

This is an eye for an eye, on a global scale. We finally one-upped Osama bin Laden by providing a spectacle more stunning than the one the world witnessed on Sept. 11, 2001. Now, instead of sympathizing with us, angry masses of disempowered citizens throw stones and set fires in the streets of cities across the globe, while at home arrogant men continue to brag about their deadly toys.

Dumb bunny.

PEACE PROTESTS are the real danger to human life. The UN should move to ban them.

TEACHERS. What are they good for? Absolutely nothing.

NEXT, we go after the advertising people.

THE AUSTRALIAN discovers an insight into John Howard's thinking:

Howard seems to have left his ultra-brief speaking notes (written on hotel notepaper) at the lectern after he gave a controversial press conference last week in the Kiwi capital Wellington, linking the campaign against Iraq with the Bali bombings. And this is what the PM, who famously shuns speechwriters and typically speaks off the cuff, wrote down: "Disarming Iraq is part of the wider war vs terror, because of Iraqi's past and ongoing support for terrorists. If Iraq is not disarmed there cd be more terrorist attacks like Bali or worse (worse sharply underlined)". So frightfully simple.

Sometimes it is.

QUICK! Someone grab a screen shot of this pic before it vanishes.

UPDATE. Andrea got it!

SKYNEWS reports the collision of two British helicopters. Seven Royal Navy personnel are said to be missing.

THE DANCING has begun.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD'S Lindsay Murdoch witnessed an Iraqi-US battle near the Kuwait border:

The Iraqi gunners fired first, soon after United States President George Bush announced the attack on Saddam Hussein was under way.

It was a fatal mistake.

A few minutes later ...

"Dead bodies are everywhere," a US officer reported by radio.

Poor bastards. Imagine dying for Saddam Hussein.


Mr Donald said environmental concerns such as damage to sand-dunes by tanks and pollution from burning oil wells were one reason for opposing the war.

Tell it to the Iraqis, sandboy. Tell 'em you think dunes are more important than liberty.

ROBERT FISK'S SOURCES are ignorant. File this under “the fuck you say??!!”

SIGH. IF ONLY all anti-war types were as thoughtful as Tony Pierce.

(Via Emmanuelle Richard, who also has news of an important cultural revelation.)


"The Pope has said this war is wrong, that it is a SIN." The Pope also says homosexuality, birth control, abortion and -- particularly relevant in your case -- gluttony and sloth are sins. The Catholic Church doesn't serve a' la carte. The management insists you take the set menu. Are you ready to order, sir?

A NEW ZEALAND journalist interviews John Pilger, and emerges with the impression that Pilger has become "so angry about the world that merely suggesting there might be another way to look at it in order to elicit a view from him felt like some kind of outrage".

Capitalism won. Poor John.

(Via NZ Pundit, currently loaded with quality posts)

WHY THE HELL would the New York Times remove this remarkable photograph? (Oh, and scroll down the link to see the image headlined "No description necessary".)

GORE VIDAL'S WORLD: where Bush wasn't elected, Blair is a coward, and rabbits yap.

CHEMICAL ALI has been removed from the periodic table.

PEOPLE WANT to know where to find the audio clip I played on 2UE this morning. Go here - and don't try with me the ping pong, little girl.


A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, told UPI the trip "had shocked me back to reality."

Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."

INSTAQUITTING! An anti-war blogger says he's retiring before he turns into Glenn Reynolds.

LET'S REVIEW the predictions of Bob Ellis, made a couple of weeks ago:

We are told, for instance, that "regime change" in Iraq will be easy because its people will be glad to be rid of the evil tyrant Saddam Hussein and they will welcome the conquering US troops in the way, presumably, the Parisians did in 1944.

They will applaud when Saddam is killed and Tariq Aziz put in a filthy cage in Guantanamo Bay and a junta, friendly to President George W. Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, takes over the oil wealth and redistributes it among the more deserving.

Well, perhaps, but I doubt it ...

Why, one might ask, would anybody welcome their neighbours' killers, their schoolfellows' killers,
their family's killers, anywhere?

If what I'm expressing reads like kindergarten prattle, it's because under Bush all talk of foreign affairs is now on this level ... He thinks that death doesn't matter.

And he's wrong.

And the Mother of all Armageddons is waiting to tell him how wrong he is.

You wait and see.

We're still waiting, Bob.


SYDNEY READERS: tune in to 2UE at 11.00am tomorrow to hear me on John Stanley's Saturday panel show with guests Jan Murray and John Lyons. Lotsa laughs, possibly some violence.

MORE EVIDENCE of the balance and lack of bias at the ABC:

JOHN HIGHFIELD: Well the Nazis used to call it "blitzkrieg" when they did it prior to the Second World War, a softening up process. The Americans are calling it "shock and awe".

Highfield isn't a guest. He's the fucking host.

JAMES MORROW performs a mass fisking upon the Sydney Morning Herald's letter writers. Picture a MOAB lobbed into Oxford Street.


Gorske, who downed his 19,000th Big Mac on Wednesday, said he wouldn't know what else to eat if it weren't for Big Macs.

"I'd be clueless," he said, adding that he ate a piece of pizza recently, but it "just wasn't the same."

Speaking of clueless, Robert Fisk in Baghdad is loading up on siege cheese:

At the Tabarak store – in English, the "God Bless You" store – I put 24 bags of crisps, boxes of long-life cheese and 30 cans of the most tasteless soft drink in the whole world on the counter. After a siege or two – the 1982 Israeli siege of Beirut was my first – you develop an uncanny knack of knowing what to hunt for.

Fisk has foolishly announced to the world his abundant supplies of crap food. Hostile children will soon assault him and steal it all. That's if these store owners don't get him first:

At Baalbek Nuts I bought pistachios from the Lebanese owners, who answered my request for their thoughts on the war with the typically Lebanese response of "no problem". It's a lie, as we all knew.

Calling Lebanese liars. And Bob wonders why he always gets beaten up.

AUSTRALIANS support the war:

The first Australia-wide poll since the war began has found a slight majority of Australians approve of the United States using military force to depose Saddam Hussein.

But Australians still remain divided on whether Australia should be involved, with 48.5 per cent disapproving, compared with 46.5 per cent who do approve.

ABC radio host Richard Glover believes the number disapproving to be 70 per cent. No doubt today he will correct his error.

DIFFERENT early accounts of civilian deaths reported one casualty, ten casualties, and no casualties. Using the Marc Herold Murder Misoverestimater, we arrive at this definitive calculation:

1 + 10 + 0 = 1,100 innocent Iraqis killed

TURNS OUT that the French have actually sent troops to Iraq after all.

UNTIL I can find out exactly what the desolate Baghdad intersection being shown on all the cable networks is called, I'm going to refer to it as "the corner of Maple and Hegemony".

Either that or "Shock and Awe".

THIS SUCKY REPORT of Sydney's war protest was written by the Sydney Morning Herald's Jacquie Maley, and glowingly quoted Walk Against War Coalition drone Amanda Tattersall - one of Jacqui's old school friends. Together, forever, fighting for peeeeeace!

HERE ARE the two earnest little peace puppies who defaced the Opera House. And here are their e-mail addresses. Send 'em a note, culture lovers!

HADI KAZWINI, a refugee from Iraq, has a message for Australian troops:

Your names will be recorded as heroes in the bright lists of history. You will help restore the weeping face of humanity with your good deeds.

Read the whole thing.

ASKED IF he wanted the US/British/Australian coalition to triumph in Iraq, Simon Crean refused to answer:

The Opposition Leader was asked a pertinent question: given his relentless criticism of the war, did he now want the coalition to win?

Remedial Politics 101 tells you this was a no-brainer; something like "Yes - and quickly" might suffice. Instead, Crean argued there was still hope for a diplomatic solution.

Little wonder Alexander Downer had this to say to Crean in Parliament:

I'm shaking my head in desperate sorrow for you, you pitiful creature.

UPDATE. Maybe Simon can find a position on the San Diego City Council .


BOYCOTT the liberal-dominated US entertainment industry in order to send a message to the conservative US government? It makes sense to Gerald Stone, who probably eats steak to celebrate vegetarianism and raises toasts to sobriety.

(Stone's opinion piece was prompted by his letter earlier this week to the SMH, where no bad idea goes unpublished.)

Here's a typical brutish right-winger who'll be wounded by the movie show boycott:

One of those at the front of the march, behind a "No war on Iraq" banner, was actor Heath Ledger, who is in Melbourne to launch the new Ned Kelly film.

Ledger called on Prime Minister John Howard to assert the nation's independence. "I think John 'Coward', should just grow up," he said earlier while watching the war on Iraq unfold on television. "He's so subservient to this guy (US President George Bush) and they're sending 250,000 troops over there. Why should we send our 2000? It makes no difference. We've got nothing to do with it."

I agree with Stone. You are so boycotted, kid. Meanwhile we await the US film industry's response to Stone's blatant McCarthyism.

SADDAM HUSSEIN, the environment's friend, is said to be torching oil wells.

SIMON CREAN'S hypocrisy and opportunism is shocking. Thursday's editorial in The Daily Telegraph puts him to rights:

It should be remembered that with a flip of just one vote the Australian Labor Party would be supporting the invasion of Iraq that could start today.

If there had been a switch in French thinking, leading to Paris backing the US-sponsored resolution before the UN Security Council, Simon Crean would be waving off the bombers.

Mr Crean is not opposed to war on Iraq. He just does not like the way the invitation has been written. Mr Crean does not want to be seen doing the bidding of George Bush – but he will allow Jacques Chirac to decide Australia's course.

He wants the 2000 Australian troops in the Gulf region withdrawn, but not the 300,000 American and British troops, the ones who will do the most damage.

Worthless Crean. History will judge him cruelly, if it bothers to judge him at all.

ONLY A LEFTIST economist - who believes that one person's wealth makes another person poor - could write this:

Bush personifies the American quest for absolute security. Americans don't yet understand or care that this status can only be achieved by making everybody else absolutely insecure.

ABC RADIO in Sydney yesterday opened its lines to talkback callers, urging them to voice their opinions on the war. The first several callers were predictably anti-war; one wanted the Governor-General to fire the Prime Minister; a young woman complained that Australia's involvement had "destroyed the security" of her children's generation; several condemned "this illegal war" and urged people to attend a demonstration at Town Hall.

Eventually a pro-war caller got through. In heavily-accented English, he praised John Howard as a "brave man". Next, a furious female caller said she was "disgusted" by Australian appeasers. She was followed by an Italian woman who hailed America as "our ally".

I expected that to be the end of reason, but the pro-war callers kept coming. "I've never voted anything other than Labor all my life," said one oldtimer, announcing his conversion to Howard. "It's great to live in Australia, where you can protest and not get your tongue cut out," noted the next pro-warrior. Another dismissed the UN as "a bunch of wimps". "I'm from the Middle East myself," said yet another, calling for Saddam's violent removal.

At a guess - and I didn't hear all the calls, so this could be totally inaccurate - there were more pro-war calls than there were anti. Australian readers, who are aware of the usual preferences of the ABC and its audience, might be surprised. I was.

Two calls in particular stood out. One came from a woman whose brother, working for a western company fifteen years ago in Iraq, was kidnapped by Iraqi secret police. "He was an absolute mess" when returned to his family, she said. He'd been held captive and tortured for nearly a month.

The other came from an older woman named Jill. Her family had migrated to Australia after WWII. "I wish we'd had politicians in the 1930s with the guts of Tony Blair and John Howard," she said, her voice catching slightly. "Why?" asked the host.

She answered through a rush of tears. "Because then I'd have a lot more relatives."

UPDATE. Gareth Parker monitors commercial radio, and discovers exactly the opposite talk-back trend.


DRUDGE reports the first casualty figures from Iraq. As to accuracy, take into account the primary source:

Ten people died in the first wave of U.S. airstrikes on Baghdad, Russian ORT state television reported from the capital, citing the Iraqi Information Ministry. There was no other confirmation of the reports.

UPDATE. Iraqi officials cited on ABC radio now claim no people died.

THIS WaPo opening paragraph is beautifully written:

Around 4 p.m. yesterday, Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet offered President Bush the prospect -- improbable to the point of fantasy, yet somehow at hand -- that the war against Iraq might be transformed with its opening shots. The CIA, Tenet said, believed it had a fix on President Saddam Hussein.

Read it out loud. Christopher Johnson, meanwhile, has an example of how not to write an opening par ...

QUOTE OF THE WAR (day one) via Dan Meijer, who caught this line from a US Marine officer addressing his platoon, shown on one of the news stations:

"When the president says go, it'll be hammer time."

Dan is now trapped in an early '90s timewarp. Invest in the internet, Dan! Sell before '98!

PROTESTERS, always protesters ...

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in capital cities across Australia to condemn the war on Iraq.

Summoned at only three hours notice, this afternoon's impromptu anti-war rally in Sydney still managed to muster up thousands of protesters.

It's not as if they had anything better to do. As for "impromptu", the Sydney Morning Herald has been publishing helpful protest guides.

Happily, these guys showed up:

Protesting against the speakers themselves were three Kurdish-Australian men, brandishing pictures of the dead civilians killed by Saddam Hussein's 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish city of Hulabja.

One of the trio, Gafoor Muhamad of the Australian Kurdish Community Association, said of the gathered crowd: "I think these people don't understand what they are talking about. They are supporting Saddam emotionally."

ABC-TV just reported Iraqi Scud missiles hitting Kuwait.

FIRST PICTURE of the attack launch.

And the strike.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH'S David Penberthy recently re-wrote his paper's September 11 coverage to accommodate the demands of anti-discrimination zealots. No link is available, so I'll post it here in full, "tastefully shorn of any inflammatory references to gender, size, race, sexual preference, religion, handicap, and special culinary requirements ..."

MANHATTAN MISHAP, September 12, 2001

Two public buildings were destroyed in New York City yesterday after a collision involving two passenger jets.

While mechanical failure has not been ruled out, The Daily Telegraph understands a group of persons, sharing a common belief system, may have deliberately or unwittingly caused the jets to fly off course, striking the buildings.

Structural engineers were unable to say last night whether the collisions were the sole cause of the collapse or whether design faults may have also played a role.

The Manhattan area has also been plagued in the past by flood and tremor, raising questions about the buildings' stability.

Despite the absence of firm evidence, people outside the buildings were quick to apportion blame for the collapses and the death they allegedly caused.

"When he find the sons-of-bitches who did this we should bomb them back to the Stone Age,'' said one person, expressing a level of hostility for which this newspaper apologises.

Others blamed "Arabs'' for the attack but it should be stressed that the race of those who may or may not have interfered with the passage of the jets has no bearing on the nature of the collision or the ultimate collapse of the edifice.

More than 2000 people are believed to have died as a result of the collisions.

Friends and family of those who died said yesterday it was "a tragedy'' that their ``loved ones'' had been killed "going to work''.

However, it should also be pointed out that by "going to work'' in these buildings they were contributing to a system of economic order which offends and troubles other persons in other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, another building was hit by a plane in Washington and a fourth plane crashed in the state of Pennsylvania in what some analysts have been quick, possibly too quick, to describe as related incidents.

These other collisions have prompted claims that a group of persons may have entered the cockpit of the plane, loudly affirming the greatness of their chosen deity in a foreign language while interfering with navigational equipment.

American news sources reported last night that these persons may have even tried to fly the planes deliberately into the buildings, labelling them "suicide bombers''.

However, there was no evidence that any bombs were found on board and the nature of their demise cannot be discussed in accordance with guidelines covering the responsible reporting of suicide.

Whatever the case, the incidents triggered jubilant scenes in some parts of the world where people express a high level of commitment to their chosen faith.

There were suggestions that a social organisation called al-Qaeda, headed by a Mr. Osama bin Laden, may have been involved.

Mr bin Laden has been described as "a dangerous terrorist'' but others regard him as a religious man who would only use violence as a means of answering the might of the American military-industrial complex.

WAR HAS BEGUN. Cruise missiles have been launched against "targets of opportunity" in Baghdad.

UPDATE. Fox is reporting that the US military has hacked Iraqi state radio, and is broadcasting the following: "This is the day you've been waiting for."

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.

WELL, of course I'm also a Pentagon spokesman. You think I make a living just with this blog?

(Via Wilbur)

READER DAVE F. writes:

I think you're wrong about the Oscars being a platform for the sublime and the ridiculous to have another go at Bush and the war. On the contrary, now the troops have hit the ground and the solid waste has hit the propeller, they will not dare open their yaps for fear of backlash from the moviegoing public.

I believe the first word any recipient or guest presenter utters such as "oil", innocent," or any others on the producer's list will result in microphone cutoff. I reckon the blabbermouthed will be told the conditions in no uncertain terms.

It'll be interesting to watch. Michael Moore's audience, of course, dwells entirely within the Backlashville city limits, so he likely won’t be reluctant to make a fool of himself; he knows where his money comes from. As for the others, they may well have noticed the career-halting effects of Dixie Chick Syndrome. I'll post a form guide by the end of the week.

IT'S THE THREE ANGLOS, starring Yul Brynner as John Howard.

THE HUMAN SHIELDS and their preachy pals are in place:

The Reverend Neville Watson, a 73-year-old Uniting Church minister from the Perth suburb of Wembley Downs, is with a world Christian group that is not a part of the shield movement. Instead, they are here to pray and comfort the Iraqi people.

"I had this awful thought that this might be our last supper, so I brought this," he said, holding up a camera. "Makes you think what this is all about, doesn't it?"

It makes me think how many teeth you'll have left after chowing down on a Minolta.


Australian Special Air Service troops and clearance divers aboard the HMAS Kanimbla are moving into position to participate in the initial assault on Iraq, according to military experts.


Prime Minister John Howard today led a scathing attack on France for its strong opposition to war on Iraq ... Federal parliamentary secretary Warren Entsch called the French international vultures.

Whoa! Entsch went on to describe France as a nation that "circles around and does nothing for itself, waiting for the opportunity to go and pick the benefits of other peoples' hard work." He evidently provoked a free-wheeling beret assault:

France was also condemned in the parliament by several MPs as treacherous, duplicitous, World War II Nazi-collaborators and makers of inferior wine whose talents were restricted to cooking.

Jacques Chirac might want to reconsider his visit.

TERRY OGLESBY is right - the name is perfect.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD'S Mike Seccombe, desperate for an anti-war angle, finds wild inspiration in banal coincidence:

Remember the scene from Apocalypse Now? Colonel Kilgore, the mad militarist, "loved the smell of napalm in the mornings", swooping down in his helicopter to blow away Vietnamese civilians, as specially mounted speakers on his chopper blared Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.

Ominous coincidence, then, that as the Herald was waiting on hold for the Prime Minister's office yesterday, the recorded music was Ride of the Valkyries.

There was John Howard, on his feet, arguing that Australia, for the first time in its history, should be involved in a pre-emptive strike against another nation.

And on his office phone the music of German militarism.

A violent metaphor for the violence about to be unleashed on Iraq.

Wait until Seccombe learns that Howard's prime ministerial vehicle uses oil. An ominous coincidence!

MORE PEACEFUL ANTICS from the anti-war crowd:

An anti-war farmer has admitted he tried to enlist people to shoot at Parliament House earlier this month.

What? Without UN sanction?

FOUR REASONS why Western values will prevail.


The Iraqi opposition is trying to verify reports indicating that Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz may have been killed on his way to the Kurdish part of the country.

"We have received no confirmation of such information," Iraqi Charge d'Affaires in Sofia Yahya Mahdi told BTA.

"This is not true. Mr Tariq Aziz is a well-known patriot, he will stay in Iraq and he will be in Iraq till his last moment," the charge d'affaires said.

He may have done exactly that.

The Dixie Chicks are attempting the risky Hillary Gambit:

Are the Dixie Chicks victims of a right-wing conspiracy?

That's what their manager, Simon Renshaw, has told country music stations being pressured to drop the Chicks' music after lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush last week.

In an e-mail to stations distributed by Sony Music, their label, Renshaw says the protest has been orchestrated by Free Republic.

"Your company is being targeted by a radical right-wing online forum," Renshaw says in the e-mail. "You are being 'Freeped,' which is the code word for an organized e-mail/telephone effort attempting to solicit a desired response."

"Freeped" is a code word?


FORMER AUSTRALIAN government minister Andrew Thomson, now based in DC, on anti-Americanism:

Behind the bitter diplomacy lies an unspeakable truth: A great many people who live in wealthy countries are hostile to the United States and secretly believe that America deserves to suffer these attacks. True, they believe this in the abstract. They don't believe Americans as individuals deserve to be murdered. But what they believe--in ferocious, mindless hostility towards "America"--results in the regular slaughter of ordinary people just like themselves and their families, who happen to be citizens of the United States.

As a consequence, the murder of Americans has become not merely an object of complacency in wealthy Europe, but the inevitable outcome of its professed foreign policy. Finally, Americans are waking up to this appalling new reality.

The link was sent by Nelson Ascher, who writes: "Is there something special with the air or water down there that keeps some minds sane?" No! It's the cigarettes and the wine.

PETER BRIFFA channels the Brit columnists. Bonus points for somehow including a reference to Collingwood.

THE DAILY MIRROR, exercising the same elevated judgment that saw it re-hire Bronze Age pundit John Pilger, believed the biggest story in the UK yesterday was Clare Short's backflip. Possibly the Mirror is taking things too personally.

IT WAS FUN today listening to ABC radio host Richard Glover swap inaccuracies with guest Michael Ignatieff (Glover: "70% of Australians are against war"; Ignatieff: "The Blair government is hanging by a thread"), and Glover's attempts to spread his moral hurt were entertaining (he described a blue-sky Sydney day as "grim") but the real highlight was Glover's call to an elderly Australian human shield, bravely protecting a water treatment plant outside of Baghdad.

Glover didn't get the chance to ask even his first question before the old woman launched into her speech: "Don't let anyone convince you otherwise! This war is all about oil!"

And so on, for several minutes. Glover may as well have interviewed Uday. For all I know, he will tomorrow. If Uday is still able to speak.

HAS TARIQ AZIZ been azapped?

The Iraqi opposition is checking reports, according to which, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has been killed while trying to enter the Kurdish part of the country.

We do not have any confirmation of this report, Iraqi Ambassador in Sofia Yahia Mahdi told BTA. According to him, this is cheap anti-Iraqi propaganda.

I prefer to think of it as a happy bedtime story.

SO GO investigate the BBC already:

The New York Police Department has stepped up security outside major television news outlets in Manhattan to prevent possible takeovers by terrorists who may want to broadcast anti-American messages.

"It's a concern, especially with international television companies," police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Tuesday.


SHERYL CROW displays her keen eye for news and newsmakers:

There are many questions that beg to be asked. Some are being asked rhetorically by many journalists, including a great writer at the New York Times by the name of Daniel Friedman.

Not to mention Eddie Pilger and Zebulon Fisk. Maybe Sheryl should never have given up booze.

(Via Drudge)

NOW BEING SERVED ... a delicious Italian stupidity salad:

In Italy, militants briefly took over the offices of the US Esso oil company and pacifists temporarily blocked an Esso fuel terminal, as activists vowed to launch crippling strikes if war starts.

That's all three idiot breeds in the one dish. Sort of like a political form of turducken.

LEIGH HANLON has an intriguing clue as to the likely commencement of Operation Anglosphere.

WELCOME to baby Claudia - a child of the blogiverse!

DESPITE MASSIVE DEBT, league fines, player disputes, and injury problems, Carlton is confident. An AFL piece by me in The Bulletin.

BRITISH bomb arrests:

Anti-terrorism police had arrested three men after finding two homemade bombs at a flat near London's Gatwick Airport, police said.

Sussex police said the men, who they described as European nationals, were arrested yesterday evening under the Terrorism Act 2000 in Crawley, less than 8km from the airport.

AS USUAL, Michael Moore is wrong. The Flint Blimp's latest open letter to the President defends the French, asking if people have forgotten that "a Frenchman built the Chevrolet."

"Got any idea who he meant?" writes Bob Black, of Edmonton, Canada. “W.C. Durant wasn't a frog, was he? There was that Louis Chevrolet guy who was involved for a while, but of course he was Swiss. I'm stumped."

Quite so, Bob. Old Five Chins can't get anything right, even when it's about people connected to Moore's home town. (By the way, does anyone sane ever write an open letter these days? The form has become an indicator of pitiful delusion.)

Maybe you want to post your own open letter at Moore's website. Well, you can't; his online forum has been permanently removed, although the old link still claims this is due to apparently temporary "technical reasons". Enjoy the Oscars, fat boy!

FROM JUAN GATO'S GLOSSARY, useful new definitions for multilateral:

Doing what the French want

... and unilateral:

Going forward without the support of the New York Times

MENTIONED IN this week's column for The Bulletin: PETA, Saddam Hussein, Meryl Yourish, Scott Murray, Julia Gillard, John Howard, George W. Bush, Michael Moore, Nicole Kidman, Tom Schieffer, Simon Crean, John Doyle Ong, Jan Petersen, Martin Hall, David Crane, and John Herron.

MEANWHILE, on Planet Blix:

If Iraq has chemical or biological weapons, it will probably refrain from using them against attacking US troops, Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix said. He told a news conference that Iraq was "capable of building warheads" to carry toxins, but said it was an open question whether it had the weapons.

The main constraint was not technical but political, Blix said.

"World public opinion, which they study quite a lot, is feeling in large measure that going to war is too early. That skepticism would turn immediately around if they used chemical or biological weapons," he said.

Sure, Hans. Iraq is famous for its sensitivity to world opinion.

FOR ONCE, a taxi driver provides a journalist with a useful quote:

A taxi driver unloads with thoughts that ordinarily would bring prison and a flogging: "You like this Baghdad? You should have seen Baghdad before Saddam - he takes everything for his family."

MEET Lenora Tomalin, mother of ultra-leftoid Susan Sarandon:

"I am a conservative. I voted for George W. Bush and I simply agree with most everything he has said," Tomalin told us yesterday ... "It's not that I'm pro-war. It's just that I think that I trust my government more than I would empathize with the government of Iraq."

Of Sarandon's anti-Bush activism, Tomalin said: "That's a given. That's the way she thinks. That's what Hollywood thinks. We don't agree, but I respect her -- more than she does me." But surely, we suggested, Tomalin's 56-year-old eldest child respects her mother's opinions. "Wanna bet?"

OH NO! AUSTRALIA is a divided nation!

Australia was a divided nation last night as its troops prepared to join a United States-led invasion of Iraq and Federal Parliament descended into a bitter debate over waging war without specific United Nations backing.

We're divided here and here as well. Actually, it turns out we've always been divided over one thing or another.

Funny thing about newspapers; they celebrate diversity, then get all upset when people have diverse opinions.

MADELINE MAXWELL, of Austin, Texas, writes:

Back when your countrymen were attacked with the Balinese, I followed your suggestion to earmark a donation to the AU Red Cross. I was so pleased at the suggestion because I simply would not have thought of it, even though I have been a Red Cross volunteer. At any rate, I just heard an expression of fear from the Red Cross/Red Crescent making plans for Iraq. They said that they are scared that they won't be ready because people don't donate until they actually see refugees in trouble. I'm going to make a donation on line as soon as I finish this note to you. Perhaps you would think it worth mentioning on your website.

An aside - I've been so impressed by (and grateful to) both PMs Blair and Howard. I thought Mr. Howard's comments today were downright humbling. With so much of the world rewriting history with a vengeance, I deeply appreciate good comrades.

Madeline isn't alone. Charles Austin asks:

What is the best way for us to express our thanks and support for Australia and PM John Howard?

Send a note to John Howard here. Alex Robson has an excellent idea:

Now that Prime Minister Howard has formally committed our troops to war in Iraq, it would be a great time to write to our troops to tell them that we fully support them, and that we hope they kick Saddam's butt!

Alex forwards this site, which includes e-mail and fax details for such messages. Meanwhile, Combustible Boy reminds Australians that not all in the US are aware of Australia's involvement:

The map-related images in this Fark photoshop contest -- the theme is other things that should be renamed along the lines of Freedom Fries, etc. -- demonstrates that a lot of the Farkers haven't gotten the news that you guys in Oz are on our side in the war.

If this is indicative of the average person's perceptions, then the anti-war folks don't have to worry about John Howard making you guys a terrorist target, since nobody outside of Australia has heard about his pro-war position anyway. It's a shame, that, because I think he's been quite articulate regarding that position.

Get the word out, bloggers! In closing, Rebecca Harris speaks for many in the US and Australia when she writes:

I'll say a prayer tonight for all your boys in uniform as well as for our own, and I'll say it every night until it's over and everybody is home safe.

IF EVER you think bloggers are intemperate, abusive, and uninformed, read Alan Ramsey and be aware that even the world's oldest mainstream journalists are prey to the same flaws:

Finally, we've reached the pits. A sickening humbug of a Prime Minister genuflects to George Bush rather than the anger and foreboding of the Australian people. A pathetic Opposition Leader is desperate enough to think war with Iraq could save his political career. The sanctimony in Canberra yesterday was vomit-making. Is there nothing politicians won't say or do in defence of deceit or ambition?

Of course, if Ramsey was a blogger, nobody would read him. The standards around here are way too high.

WHEN GEORGE W. BUSH blunders verbally, he is an idiot. When a sainted environmentalist blunders, he is apparently being "stark":

Greens' leader Bob Brown used stark language against the decision. "The blood of Australians, if and when it is spilt, is on this Prime Minister's shoulders."

Poor John Howard. He'll be caught red-shouldered.


CLARE SHORT, the UK Labour MP who threatened to resign if war was waged without the support of the UN, will now stay. According to Sky News, she's expected to vote for her government's pro-war resolution.

Maybe this witness statement changed her mind. It was supplied to the organisation Indict (chaired by Labour MP Ann Clwyd) and describes life in peaceful Iraq, where the west has no right to intervene:

"There was a machine designed for shredding plastic. Men were dropped into it and we were again made to watch. Sometimes they went in head first and died quickly. Sometimes they went in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 people die like this. Their remains would be placed in plastic bags and we were told they would be used as fish food . . . on one occasion, I saw Qusay [President Saddam Hussein's youngest son] personally supervise these murders."

Those peace protesters must feel so proud.

MARGO reveals why Simon Crean is such a puss about the war - he's bloody French:

All of a sudden, Crean had the gaul to call his team "a Labor government in waiting", an alternative, he said, which "WILL be prepared to act in Australia's national interests".

The rest of Margo's post is insane.

CHECK OUT the six-wheeled wagon o' justice our boys will be steering into Iraq. We're the Banana Splits of the global military/capitalist hegemony.

UPDATE. Dave Schipani writes:

Mock the Banana Splits at your own peril. They are the deadliest and most effective team in Hanna-Barbera's clandestine counter-insurgency organization. Fleegle is a martial-arts expert whose trademark is ripping out the windpipe of his opponent and showing it to him as he dies. Snorky is an international playboy, fluent in seventeen languages, who uses his magnetic charm and impressive proboscis to seduce classified intel out of enemy agents both male and female. Drooper is a munitions expert who can make high explosives out of table salt and his own feces. And Bingo runs into things a lot with a "bonking" sound.

"Tra-la-la, la-la-la-la" is the last sound you will ever hear.

And from John Stotz, of Fallon, Nevada:

Maybe after Iraq we can roll that bad boy of a killer Oz Land Rover into downtown London and drive old Red Ken nuts. It will be a short drive and it won't cost nuthin! John Howard is THE BOMB! Let's Roll!

A FRENCH website is urging its readers to send pretzels to the White House. Ha. How's about the Americans return some of these to Paris?

THE GUARDIAN is disgusted that Iraq will be rebuilt by tainted and greedy private companies instead of pure, inviolate NGOs:

The United States plans to transform the infrastructure of Iraq within a year of a war ending, but has sidelined aid agencies by allocating almost all the funds available to private American firms.

Non-governmental organisations and the UN would get just $50m, a tiny fraction of the $1.5bn being offered to private companies, according to more than 100 pages of confidential contract documents leaked to the Wall Street Journal.

I hope McDonald's is among those companies. And Starbucks.

THE VANDALISED Opera House - its exterior, incidentally, is covered with thousands of Italian tiles - is being repaired. Cops have charged an environmentalist and a British scientist.

MARGO KINGSTON is predicting World War One Hundred and Eleven:

Without UN sanction, we effectively turn our backs on the body we helped found after World War 11 to help stop World War 111.

This futuristic conflict has troubled Margo before. Hey, and how come Margo hasn't explained to Webdiary readers the background behind her confrontation last week with SMH management? Surely this is a breach of the Webdiary Charter, which holds that "the future lies in a collaboration between journalists and readers" and that "newspapers have lost their connection with the readers they serve". Serve the readers, Margo!

UPDATE. Andrea Harris corrects me - it's World War eleventy-one! And reader R.R. Ryan has news of Margo's apparent links to the US military:

Coincidence or conspiracy? My roommate's father, who flew for the US Army on D-Day, died this past August. Last week his brother finally received the small military plaque to be affixed to the headstone. In addition to getting the birth date wrong, the army made the dubious claim that the man had served in World War 11. We were all quite amused by this, but now that Margo seems to be operating from the same fact set as our military, I'm truly disturbed. Well, all right, I was already disturbed, but this isn't helping.

IN ACCORDANCE with local tradition, all Iraqi diplomats in Australia have been booted.

AFTER WE'VE totally dismantled the UN, we must crush the ICC:

John Howard stands to lose more than the next election if he commits Australian troops to Iraq. He could also find himself facing charges of war crimes, according to international law expert Gillian Triggs.

TUNE IN to the ABC's Health Dimensions program at 6.30pm Sydney time to see ABC reporter babe Shelly Horton zooming around Sydney in my car.

(Shelly's piece is on midlife crises. Naturally, she turned to me for assistance.)

PEACE ACTIVIST Rachel Corrie, killed while grandstanding in southern Gaza, wasn't really all that peaceful.



PROTESTERS have scaled the Sydney Opera House and painted NO WAR on the uppermost sail. In response, the Opera House has announced that it will not engage in any acts of warfare, either domestically or internationally. "I am a building of peace," the structure said. "It is important at this time that we think of the innocent architecture of Iraq."

HELEN CALDICOTT has been talking again. Here she discusses Paul Wolfowitz:

I think he is so disturbed that it doesn't even enter his consciousness. Maybe he was abused as a child.

Here she describes an audience who disagreed with her:

The men listening were almost clinically and psychologically dead.

Here is her recipe for world peace:

They are truly pathological and they should all be removed, as I have said, for the public health of the people of the planet.

She's talking not about terrorists, but about the US government. Speaking of which ...


And here is Helen's artfully-concealed secret agenda:

We are on the edge of annihilation and I’ve written all about it in my book.

It’s not just that America is going to go in [to Iraq] with the hideous weapons of mass destruction that were used in Afghanistan (which I describe in my book).

I think the only thing that can stop this war is if the Pope goes to Baghdad because George Bush will not kill the Pope ... So I've written the Pope and if you want to know the email address, it's in my book.

War profiteer.

MEDIA WATCH, last night:

The Fairfax papers were reporting a survey of 200 kids commissioned by the Australia Institute. It found lots of kids came across lots of dreadful material on the Internet ... The reports were short on evidence about the harm porn might cause – but if Fairfax thinks the panic stories are worth running on page one, they should do something about these images from the Herald's own website.

Me in The Bulletin, last week:

The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia's only broadsheet-format tabloid newspaper, has become alarmed by a study on internet pornography. "It reveals that Australian teenagers have access to thousands of porn sites, covering an extraordinary variety of genres and fetishes," wept Herald columnist Adele Horin. Among them is the Herald's own site, where genres and fetishes abound.

Media Watch is a program about media ethics.

LYLE LOVETT is one class act.


Today the French like to lecture about world peace. This is despite the miserable record of France as a colonial power in South-East Asia and Africa, and its recent effective support for the mass murderers of Rwanda. Moreover, no Western government has a worse record than France in supplying aid and comfort to Saddam in recent years.

At the moment Jacque Chirac is the hero of the self-proclaimed peace movement and a latter-day hero to his nation's left. This overlooks the fact that, if Chirac had had his way, Iraq would have had nuclear weapons around the time it invaded Kuwait.


Saddam Hussein yesterday threatened global retaliation against a US-led invasion, as Iraqis finally grasped that they are on the verge of one of the most merciless bombing campaigns in history.

"JOHN HOWARD has lost it," writes ... Margo Kingston!

Sure he has, alternative reality lady.


PEACENIK ACTORS who plan on using the Academy Awards to condemn the evil war for oil should think again - the peacenik audience won't be watching:

The easiest way for ordinary people around the world to vote against a US-led attack against Iraq would be to refuse to tune into next week's Academy Awards. A massive turn-off of Oscar night - traditionally America's most widely watched program - would send the kind of message even President Bush couldn't ignore. Those reluctant to miss an evening of Hollywood glitz to help avert war obviously couldn't give a damn.

Yes, an Oscars boycott would sure get Bush's attention. "How are the ratings in Oslo, Ari? Down? My God!" By the way, the author of this notion is one Gerald Stone - most likely this Gerald Stone, former executive producer of Australia's 60 Minutes program. TV people have unusual ideas about the influence of their medium.

WE WANT ALL THESE REGIME PEOPLE KILLED. Apparently this attitude exists elsewhere other than in my office. Iraq, for example:

One man pulled aside a reporter. "Don't believe anything anyone says here, because we all know that your translator is a government spy," he said. "We'll only say good things about Saddam to you. But 90 percent of us want Saddam to go. We'll cheer the Americans if they come and get rid of him."

Looking nervously around him, he continued: "We want all these regime people to be killed."

Via the Sharkman.

"UN" stands for uninsured:

Iraq said that five of eight helicopters used by UN weapons inspectors have left for Syria en route to Cyprus after a Western insurance company suspended its cover for the aircraft.

ATTENTION, HUMAN SHIELDS. If any of you are still in Iraq, this is your final boarding call.

SOON SADDAM'S only ally will be Jacques Chirac:

Saddam Hussein's most important Kurdish ally has defected to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq in what officials here say is an indication that the Iraqi president's internal support is beginning to crumble.

Jowhad Herki is chief of the powerful Herki tribe and since the 1960s has supported successive Baghdad regimes in putting down revolts by fellow Kurds. He arrived in northern Iraq via London after travelling there from Baghdad for medical treatment. He is a former member of the Iraqi parliament.

FROM THE GUARDIAN, February 6, 1999:

Saddam Hussein's regime has opened talks with Osama bin Laden, bringing closer the threat of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, according to US intelligence sources and Iraqi opposition officials.

The key meeting took place in the Afghan mountains near Kandahar in late December. The Iraqi delegation was led by Farouk Hijazi, Baghdad's ambassador in Turkey and one of Saddam's most powerful secret policemen, who is thought to have offered Bin Laden asylum in Iraq.

Via the excellent Blog of MidEast Politics.

ROBERT MANNE'S enormous brain is offended:

Last week I read the editorials and the leading columnists of the Murdoch stable in Australia. The overwhelming impression was of propagandistic repetitiveness and great intellectual crudity.

Manne works for Fairfax, whose leading columnists include Margo "propagandistic repetitiveness" Kingston and Hugh "great intellectual crudity" Mackay.


THIS WHOLE business of de-Frenchifying everything - "freedom fries", etc - has become officially hilarious.


Thousands marched in cities and towns in New Zealand yesterday to protest against a possible American-led war to disarm Iraq.

More than 4,000 people marched in southern NZ's main cities of Christchurch and Dunedin chanting "give peace a chance".

IT'S ANOTHER bin Laden tape - and this one you can dance to:

A niece of Osama bin Laden is launching a career as a pop singer after rejecting her Muslim background and throwing herself into the London party scene.

She has been working on a demo tape and reportedly has been advised on her musical ambitions by acclaimed rap artist Wyclef Jean.


MARK STEYN reminds us to fear Canada's ferocious expansionist ambitions:

In 1898 Sir Wilfrid Laurier, prime minister of America's northern neighbor, declared that just ''as the 19th century was the century of the United States, so shall the 20th century belong to Canada.''

The line caught on. ''The day is coming,'' predicted another prime minister, Sir Charles Tupper, ''when Canada, which has become the right arm of the British Empire, will dominate the American continent.''