SO WHAT'S old Robert Mugabe been up to lately? You'll never guess ...

Hidden from a world whose gaze has been fixed on Iraq, a full-scale reign of terror has been unleashed on opponents of the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Zimbabweans were arrested and tortured as Mr Mugabe, apparently taking advantage of the lull in international scrutiny, stepped up his campaign of repression during the three weeks of the United States' war on Saddam Hussein.

Hello, United Nations? Hello? You're the guys who stop these things, right? Could've fixed Iraq if only you had the time, yes? Well, here's your chance to prove yourselves.

Let's see you remove Mugabe.

Within three weeks.

UNITING CHURCH peacenik Reverend Dr Peter Matheson has a sinister warning for all of us pro-war types:

It would be very unwise to underestimate the degree of outrage in Christian congregations on this issue.

I'll take my chances, Churchy. What is your fearsome Lamington Militia going to do about it? Drag me away to one of your Uniting Church atrocity camps, with the Feast of the Infinite Boredom and the Old Women Who Knit and Talk and Sew and Talk and Talk and Talk?

Actually, that is pretty scary. I take it all back. Please forget I said anything.

KEN PARISH, the Wogblogger, and Tug Boy Potemkin all have opinions on the continuing Media Watch debris debacle. As usual, permalinks are bloggered (to use Tim Dunlop's fine word) so scroll down on sites where the relevant post isn't immediately obvious. Or scroll up, just for the giddy pleasure of redundant up-scrolling.

On MW, reader Bill Tyroler of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, writes:

Media Watch originally disparaged *a* claim by the Telegraph -- but there were necessarily multiple claims: the flag was at the Pentagon 9/11, *and* that it was recovered under debris. MW's argument that it meant to separate out the claims and focus purely on the latter is at best casuistic. Even if a reader were to put any credence in their transparent dodge, they'd still owe an apology, for fatal ambiguity -- a serious enough transgression for a self-anointed media watchdog group.

Their defense is insultingly flimsy. The emotive power of the original account derived from the fact that the flag was *at* the Pentagon 9/11. Who cares precisely where it was found at the site? It could have been blown a mile away and the symbolism would resonate no less for that: American resiliency. This is obvious, which makes your rebuttal spot-on -- that being *nearby* debris suffices.

(For that matter, the Telegraph's account says the flag was found under "the debris." There was a helluva lot of debris at the site; it wasn't a unitary whole. Take away the definitive article and the claim is plausible on its face. Media Watch likely drew a rash assumption that the flag was supposedly pulled from tons of debris, something they apparently thought implausible, and that therefore the flag had not in fact been at the Pentagon that day. Rash assumptions -- just what you'd expect from a media watchdog.)

CHINA has its own looting problem, to which it applies the standard Chinese solution:

Three people have been sentenced to death and executed on the same day for looting tombs in northeast China, according to state press.

The men were found guilty of looting a number of tombs that dated back 2000 years in Jilin province, the China Daily said.

WHERE'S MY apology, Mr I'm-so-sorry-to-Tim-Robbins-and-Susan-Sarandon?

I wasn't even invited to the Famous Baseball Hut in the first place. My right to free speech - crushed! It's because I'm Australian, isn't it? Isn't it? Racist hegemonsters.

IRAQIS miss the good old days. Remember all the fun of being suspended from meat hooks, and the thrill of having family members simply disappear? Man, those were some crazy times! Oh, mercy!

THERE'S big money in spam:

The US Federal Trade Commission is taking a spam operation to court, alleging that it flooded email accounts with pornographic material disguised behind bland subject lines like "new movie info" and "wanna hear a joke?".

In the complaint filed Tuesday, the FTC accused Brian D. Westby, of Ballwin, of sending millions of emails to drive business to more than 20 adult websites centered on one called "Married But Lonely." Mr Westby earned more than $US1 million in commissions from this spam, the FTC said.

NO WONDER all the lights are out in North Korea. There's nobody home:

A swath of North Korea's military and scientific elite, among them key nuclear specialists, has defected to the US and its allies through a highly secret smuggling operation involving the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.

The defections have taken place since last October and have been made possible through the help of 11 countries that agreed to provide consular protection to smuggle the targets from neighbouring China, according to sources close to the operation, which has now been wound up.

And the name of this top-secret deal? Operation Weasel!

UPDATE. Mucho comments about this over at LGF.

OUR BOYS are on a roll:

Australian special forces have discovered more than 50 Soviet-made fighter jets, an underground weapons cache and a vast store of anti-aircraft guns and munitions at an Iraqi base west of Baghdad.

Australian commander Brigadier Maurie McNarn said a French-made Roland anti-aircraft missile system was also found, although it was too early to say when it was acquired and how. He also revealed that secret contacts with Iraqi air force commanders had played a big role in persuading them not to deploy their weapons against US-led forces.

About 200 Australians were involved in the raid. They came under fire as they landed but soon secured control of the base after a light presence of Iraqi forces fled when their fire was returned.

Fantastic work.

HAPPY EGGDAY or Overpass or Holy Bunnykins or whatever it is you're celebrating today. Here in Australia, where everything is upside down and back to front, we mark Easter by forcing rabbits to eat chocolate. It's a regional thing.

WHY DID Iraqis trash their museum? Robert Fisk wanted to know, so the WSJ's Eric Gibson helps him out:

In short, Iraqis laid waste to the museum in Baghdad because it had become the symbol of a hated regime. And little wonder. Saddam stole his country's treasures, hauling off truckloads for his enrichment. But he also misappropriated Iraq's history by making it a tool of his personality cult.

In time some of those objects may find their way back to Baghdad. But with Saddam now gone, their past is once again their own.

WHILE WE'RE talking about The Great Exaggerator, check out this superheated Fisk prose:

The National Library and Archives - a priceless treasure of Ottoman historical documents, including the old royal archives of Iraq - were turned to ashes in 3,000 degrees of heat.

No fact eludes ThermoFisk, the molten media megaman! Still, 3,000 degrees does seem a little warm. It's the sort of temperature you achieve in industrial furnaces rather than paper fires. Heat experts: send me a note.

UPDATE. From Mark Brothers in Oklahoma City:

I'm not a heat expert, but I am a blacksmith. 2,000F is the temperature you get in a forge to weld steel, and it takes a good fire and draft - from a blower - to get there. I doubt you could get 3000F in any normal fire in a structure.

Anthony brings his fire expertise to the issue:

For a little while, I worked in the fire zone of the Oakland Hills fires, assessing the damage. The firestorm was fed by trees (mainly eucalypts and pine - nice resiny fuel sources) and wooden houses, with a little assistance from natural gas lines which weren't immediately cut off.

In the wreckage, there was a *lot* of softened glass, but not that much that had actually melted. Glass melts at about 1400 degrees C, or about 2550 degrees F. So - most of the fire zone saw temperatures of less than 2500 degrees F. That's for a fire fed by higher temperature fuels than paper.

Florida's Maureen Lamson examined data from the World Trade Center fires and smaller blazes, and writes:

The fires in the National Archives and Library of Qurans in Baghdad are diffuse fires, and given that each building contained a great amount of paper (especially old, dry paper without fire retardant coatings), they might fit into a "fuel rich" category. Average house fires reach 500-650 degrees Celsius (932-1202 degrees Fahrenheit), whereas the WTC fire, fuel rich because of the 90,000L of jet fuel (which is more like kerosene than gasoline), may have reached a maximum of 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit). 

I don't have a formula to calculate the likely temperature of the archives or library, but they were clearly between 932-1,832 degrees Fahrenheit -- the house low and the WTC high--nowhere near 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As we know from Ray Bradbury, paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, but doubling the fuel does not proportionately double the heat (e.g., throwing a second log on the fire does not provide twice the heat, it simply makes the fire burn twice as long). My own unscientific estimate would be that the Baghdad buildings burned at a temperature near the upper range of a house fire -- 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit -- given the amount and quality of the paper contained in the buildings and assuming the arsonist did not use any accelerants.

I love your blog, and thank you for posting it and also for leading me to Professor Bunyip. I'm beginning to think Australians are the funniest people on the planet.

If only we were as funny as Three Thousand Degree Bob. Mark Sloboda points out: 

3000 degrees celsius is the temperature of the cooler areas of the sun
(the sunspots).

At 100,000 atm at 3000 degrees celsius graphite converts to diamond.

That must be some really special paper they're using there.

Robert Fisk - now revealed, as if there were any doubt, to be pathologically incapable of accuracy - might be using something special as well. Imagine if he was a sports writer: "The Anaheim Angels have won the 2002 World Series after a 620-mile David Eckstein centerfield blast drove in all 36 base runners late in the 89th innings. The diminutive (3' 2") Eckstein punched the air with all four fists as he rounded 17th base, his interstate swat having delivered the series to the Angels and earning Eckstein the MVHA (Most Valuable Human Alive) award for the 110th consecutive year. He celebrated by invading Palestine."

RETIRED US ARMY soldier Joe Butin, of Kansas City, writes:

I want to express my thanks to the Australian government for their support, and most of all to the brave Australian forces who have been fighting alongside American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

From Frank Gaines in California:

Just a note from a Southern Californian to the Australian public via your blog - we thank you for the courageous participation of your troops, your Prime Minister's backbone, and a job well done.

Be advised that the price of your excellent wines may rise as I and all of my friends have switched from French to Australian (and, of course, our own Californian) wines. As they say down here San Diego way - Gracias!

Virginia's Victoria Salmon writes:

We love you guys! Australians are too cool! Thanks for all the help!

Incoming from Chicago's Rick T.:

Sincere thanks to all down there who supported the war in Iraq, especially the brave SAS and your
Prime Minister. Must walk funny with the size of stones he has. Look forward to his visit next month.

And John J. Coupal, of Lexington, Kentucky, is in a mood to celebrate:

I think it's time for me to go out and buy some Australian wine, to replace that French stuff! We Yanks are very grateful for the splendid accomplishments of the SAS.

Tons of similarly appreciative e-mails have arrived. I'll post more as I find them beneath Spam Mountain, and forward 'em to whoever is the correct Australian Army contact.


HAIRCUTS ARE MY BUSINESS. Ken Layne tells a Marlowesque tale of his visit to The Bad Barber of Old Reno Town:

It was a plain little text ad in a box with the words "REGULAR HAIRCUTS" in the middle. Oh, and it had the little barber pole clip-art. I found the place, waited for an hour with the old Newsweeks and Playboys, and finally got called to the chair.

This dude was old, but not in the good way.

He nicked my ear with the clippers, cut my neck with the razor and left me looking like a goddamned duck. And then he charged me $15 for this crap. Also, he had nothing to say -- just a lot of gruesome coughing and snorting. And the asswipe didn't even thank me for the 20 percent tip I stupidly gave him for this pathetic haircut. I hope the sonofabitch had a stroke that night.

Sounds like Ken's skullslasher might have had one the previous night.

WHO THE HELL would cover a corpse with bacon?

Islamic organisations and family members today told of their horror at the discovery of the body of a Muslim woman in a hospital mortuary covered with rashers of bacon.

The Metropolitan police's racial crime task force is investigating the desecration of the body of the 65-year-old grandmother, who had died from cancer, at Hillingdon hospital in west London.

The crime was discovered as staff arranged for the body to be viewed by family members.

Forensic experts have also examined the bacon and the gown the woman was wearing.

Although the Guardian doesn't say, the violation happened two months ago. Strange that a story this troubling and weird was kept quiet for so long.

SPEAKING OF the coalition's failure to locate weapons of mass destruction (well, I wasn't, but I guess someone is, somewhere) David Nieporent makes an excellent point:

I thought the UN was going to need months to finish their inspections. So how come the U.S. was supposed to find them in three weeks -- especially when preoccupied with other matters in that time period, such as winning a war?

That's a subject these people might discuss the next time they, er, "miss" their train.

(Train link via Nigel Kearney.)

THE WORLD'S favourite political satirist is now available in doll form:

A US company has produced a speaking doll of the former Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, whose news conferences during the assault on Baghdad brought him brief fame, a cult following and the sarcastic nickname "Comical Ali".

In tribute to what it called Sahhaf's "one-man battle against the observable facts", Hero Builders has produced 30-centimetre images, that were available today on its website.

The "Iraqi Dis-Information Minister" doll is for sale at $US24.95 ($A40.80), with the talking version available for $US35.95 ($A59) saying: "There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!" and "Our initial assessment is that they will all die."

The doll isn't much smaller than the real thing, reports Kim Sengupta:

He is a tiny man - not much over 5ft tall - and has a lugubrious face faintly resembling Walter Matthau.

Sengupta, writing in The Spectator, has some intriguing Sahhaf biographical details - and salacious gossip, spread by aides to the Spinmaster himself:

He was born in 1940, and worked as an English teacher in Baghdad before joining the Baath party in his twenties. It is said that he came to the notice of the local leadership as someone worthy of nurturing when he denounced his brother for disloyalty.

There is a rumour, repeated with relish by the 'minders' from the information ministry, that he is gay. That, however, may have something to do with the fact that he is one of the very few men without a moustache one sees in Baghdad.

BRIT PM TONY BLAIR was prepared to quit over Iraq, reports The Times (in Breaking News):

Tony Blair has disclosed that he instructed officials to prepare for his resignation if he lost a crucial Commons vote on war with Iraq. In a press report today, the Prime Minister confirmed that he had been ready to quit if he was defeated in last month's vote authorising military action by rebel Labour MPs. "In the end, it is a decision you put the whole of the premiership on the line for," he said.

HOW HARD does Puce rock? As the man himself might say, "I am rock out the hardist, all american chuby pipple know it. CLICK"

FIDEL CASTRO is so wicked he's almost an ... Ashcroft! Matt Welch crushes a delusion outbreak in the LA Weekly.

SOME FINE work lately from the Wogblogger:

You know how sometimes you see or hear a person and you wish they would get stung by a bee in the eye ... or something else natural but hurty.

Earthmother Susan Sarandon, to whom the above is directed, would appreciate the nature-based sentiment.

WHAT do we want?

The right to dissent!

When do we want it?


THE GREAT Media Watch brawl continues! Cornered, frightened, and wrong in so many ways, the Media Watch collective is fighting back like a shack-bound survivalist down to his last bullet.

Earlier rounds in the battle may be viewed here and here. Various folks have subsequently confronted the blame-evaders on Media Watch's own turf. This came from N.J. Smith:

I detect a Media Watch wriggle going on here.

The nub of your original claim was that it was seemingly implausible for the Tele to say that the flag which happened to adorn Saddam's face could have somehow been one from the Pentagon when it was attacked on September 11. It has since come to light, quite extraodinarily, that it may indeed have been the case. AP says so, Cpl Chin's family says so, and other reports such as the Daily Telegraph in London say so.

The Tele may have stretched the truth and placed the flag under the debris - but are you really that surprised a tabloid would do that?

For Media Watch to now start splitting hairs about the flag being "recovered from the Pentagon" rather than "under the debris" damages Media Watch's reputation.

If that flag WAS recovered from anywhere at the Pentagon, then acknowledge it. You expect better of others, and we are entitled to expect better of Media Watch.

The unnamed moderator at the Media Watch guest board - I suspect the anxious hand of Media Watch executive producer Peter McEvoy - snapped back:

Go back and read the transcript or see the video to find out what we actually said rather than making up your own nub for our claim.

While you're at it check the other sources as well. The Daily Telegraph (London) and The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) talk about the flag being "recovered from the Pentagon" or found "under the debris". AP doesn't say that and the quotes attributed to Lt McLaughlin and his family don't either.

When will Tim Blair apologise?

Short answer: never. Long answer: never, you wrongness-committing, poor research-doing tax drain! I sent this note:

The Daily Telegraph claimed:

"The Stars and Stripes used by US Marine Corporal Ed Chin to cover the statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square was under the debris at the Pentagon following the September 11 al-Qaeda terrorist attack."

Media Watch described the entire claim as "incredible", wondered if it could be true, and asked a Navy PR man in Qatar about "the Tele's claim". He "seriously doubted it".

It now turns out the claim is true, with the only point of dispute being whether the flag had been under debris. Is that why you called the US Navy in Qatar - to ask about debris? How could Ensign Luckett in Qatar be expected to know about debris in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001? What questions did you put to him? And what element of the claim was he addressing with his answer? Awaiting your response, and your correction.

Mr Moderator's cranky answer didn't address my questions:

So the claim is true except for the bit that's false.

That's not really much of an apology for someone who has got it so wrong.

The bit that's false is the bit that matters. The Tele claimed that a flag rescued from under the rubble of the Pentagon, found its way to Baghdad to be wrapped around Saddam's statue. That was, and remains incredible.

The Tele can't back that up and neither can you.

What was that you said about us being a disgrace?

I'll spell it out: D-I-S-G-R-A-C-E. Media Watch's report didn't point out any isolated "bit that's false". It presented the whole claim - the Pentagon, September 11, flag to Baghdad - as false.

But the flag did come from the Pentagon. It was there on September 11. And it covered the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. All Media Watch has left is that the flag wasn't beneath debris - in which case we can assume it was at least nearby to debris, because it was in the Pentagon.

In light of Media Watch's reaction to their error, this quote from Media Watch host David Marr - uttered when he was first appointed to the godless job - is hilarious:

Marr agrees that in the past Media Watch was quicker to point out others' mistakes than correct its own. He aims to redress that. "We've got to let our critics have a bit of air."



WHY MUST all the great comedians die young?

(Via Rand Simberg, who is as heartbroken as I.)

FROM THE Weekly Standard:

You may have heard the story about how Colin Powell forced the U.N. to cover Picasso's "Guernica" while he made the case for war in Iraq. It isn't true.

FREEDOM! Freedom for the oppressed!

THE PRICE of protest: $110,000!

One of the two peace activists who climbed the Opera House and painted a red "No War" slogan on the tallest of its white sails said outside court yesterday that he did not regret the protest.

"I did what I felt I had to do. I hope to never have to do it again, but I don't regret what we did," said Will Saunders, a British scientist in Australia on a working visa.

Police prosecutor Jeff Philippe told the court the cost of the damage to the Opera House was about $111,000.

Make 'em pay every cent.


Australian SAS troops have captured up to 60 Ba'ath Party leaders and Fedayeen fighters as they attempted to flee into neighbouring Syria.

The captures in north-western Iraq this week underline the unsung role that Australia has played in the war against Saddam.

Key among the 2,000-strong Australian contingent is a squadron of about 150 Australian SAS, highly respected in the special forces world. They worked closely with British and American counterparts and were involved in the seizure of air bases in western Iraq.

MAKE NO MISTAKE, Phillip Adams is mining Indymedia for his columns:

Make no mistake, if the US can't find those chemical weapons in Iraq, it'll smuggle some in and plant them.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DEBRIS. Media Watch is now claiming that its dismissal of the "Pentagon flag on Saddam's statue" story is based entirely on the Daily Telegraph's description of the position of Pentagon debris relative to the flag prior to its recovery on September 11. Here's the original Telegraph report:

The Stars and Stripes used by US Marine Corporal Ed Chin to cover the statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square was under the debris at the Pentagon following the September 11 al-Qaeda terrorist attack.

Media Watch dismissed the Telegraph's claim - not specifically the claim that the flag had been under debris, but the claim in general - as "incredible even by the Tele's standards". The program contacted U.S. Central Command in Qatar to determine if "the Tele’s claim could possibly be true".

An unnamed "moderator" at Media Watch's website now offers this:

We can't find any other source to support the claim that this flag was pulled from under the debris of the Pentagon attack. Lt McLaughlin doesn't make that claim nor does Associated Press. But The Tele does and that's why they were singled out.

As part of our research last week we wrote to The Tele and asked them "Could you explain why you believe the flag to be from under the debris of The Pentagon?" We have received no reply.

Only The Tele and Tim Blair claim it was rescued from the debris of The Pentagon after the attack.

(I never made any such claim, but that's Media Watch for you. Scroll down the page to read my earlier piece on this.)

The London paper wasn't quite as graphic in its claims as its Sydney namesake. They said the flag was "recovered from the Pentagon" rather than "under the debris". Still waiting for Tim Blair's correction.

And I'm still waiting for theirs (incidentally, it's perhaps a measure of the program's confidence in their ultra-legal, microfine-splitting defence that nobody from Media Watch has contacted me requesting a correction).

Media Watch's original criticism didn't focus upon the flag's precise Pentagon recovery point. Rather, Media Watch called into question the entire issue of the Pentagon as the source of the flag. Or are we expected to believe that Media Watch didn't think it was "incredible" that the flag had come from the Pentagon, didn't wonder if it "could possibly be true" that the flag had been at the Pentagon on September 11, but was sceptical only about the debris?

If so, why didn't they say that?


REUTERS could really have taken just a little more care with this intro:

Doctors at a Kuwaiti hospital on Wednesday began treating an Iraqi child who touched hearts around the world after he lost his arms.

BILL CLINTON is having some sort of Scott Ritter reversal-of-earlier-policies moment:

"We can't run," Clinton pointed out. "If you got an interdependent world, and you cannot kill, jail or occupy all your adversaries, sooner or later you have to make a deal."

Like ... what, for example? Cede Iowa to Islam? Let Mullah Omah throw the first ball of the World Series? Enforce the death penalty for adultery? What "deal" you be proposin', Bill?

He said he believed Washington overreacted to German and French opposition to US plans for military action against Iraq and suggested that the current administration had trouble juggling foreign and domestic issues.

"Since September 11, it looks like we can't hold two guns at the same time," Clinton said. "If you fight terrorism, you can't make America a better place to be."

Clinton sure did less than he should have to fight terrorism. And, as we know, everything turned out just great!

UPDATE. Moxie says it better than I ever could, and looks better doing it. Yo, Mox!

"THE NETHERLANDS is way too tolerant":

The killer of the Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was sentenced to 18 years in prison yesterday. Prosecutors had demanded a life term.

Volkert van der Graaf, 33, a vegan animal rights activist, had confessed to shooting Mr Fortuyn outside a radio station in Hilversum on 6 May, 2002, days before the general election. He was arrested minutes later the murder weapon in his pocket, gunpowder on his hands and Mr Fortuyn's blood on his trousers.

"The accused deliberately and premeditatedly robbed Pim Fortuyn of his life. After calm consideration he shot five bullets into the neck, back and skull of Fortuyn who died from his wounds," Frans Bauduin, the presiding judge, said.

The judges said it was unlikely Van der Graaf would kill again ...

Unless he meets someone special.

... and he deserved a chance to rejoin society. The prosecution said it had not decided whether to appeal.

Mr Fortuyn's supporters in the gallery jeered and stamped their feet as the sentence was read. One of them, Patricia Houdkamp, wept. "What do you have to do to get a life sentence? The Netherlands is way too tolerant."

It gets worse:

Van der Graaf looked relieved. With good behaviour and time served taken into account, he could be free by 2014.

THE AUSSIE Street is certain to react angrily after this cultural slur:

Actor Tim Robbins pleaded with listeners at the National Press Club yesterday to "defy the intimidation that is visited upon us daily in the name of national security and warped notions of patriotism" after calling some members of the press "Aussie gossip rags" and "talk-radio patriots."

Holy Imam Barry will place a Foster's Fatwa on Robbins tomorrow, with these words of Australian scripture: "You're dead, mate."

ROBERT FISK is acting all unilateral again:

I saw the looters. One of them cursed me when I tried to reclaim a book of Islamic law from a boy of no more than 10.

Impose his Western values on the youngster, would he? White imperialist bastard.

NICE PIECE in the SMH mentioning my TV pal Bryan Cockerill, who is actually much more unpredictable and chaotic than anything that appears on his show:

While Gibson does his character voices, sound wizard Julian Maskell interweaves them with sound effects and the video clips. Cockerill constantly peppers his commentary with "that's great!", "sensational!" and "perfection!"

During filming, he continues to bubble. "She was hot! That was incredible. Tell her how good it was," he says down the phone. He's talking about the show's new host, Toni Pearen, whom he calls "the glue that holds the show together".

If ever you imagine that TV is easy, you should go watch someone like Bryan at work. Fifteen tasks per second, all day long. Beats me how people do that.

I'LL BE at Sky News this afternoon to record an Australian Agenda panel program with fellow guests crazy Kerry Nettle,
raving Reverend Ray Richmond, and
reasonable Ross Cameron. The show goes to air at 7.30 tonight and will be repeated three times during the week. A serene, contemplative performance is predicted.

MEET GI JOE - from Australia:

Warrant Officer Joe Day has seen action in the Iraq war like no other Australian soldier.

The 36-year-old from Victoria has been with US forces since they crossed the border from Kuwait four weeks ago to when they liberated Baghdad and headed north towards Iraqi Kurdistan.

JIM TREACHER and Ken Layne attempt to out-peace the peaceniks. This is what democracy looks like!

I HAVEN'T answered any e-mail in days. What the hell is wrong with me? No, wait; the problem isn't me, it's the e-mail, which keeps returning sent messages. Sometimes I get us mixed up.

Ozemail are fixing things. Until then, some people will get e-mails, and most won't.

LIBERATION is at hand! Thousands cheer as Michael Moore's statue comes crashing down.

SLIDIN' SIMON continues his graceful exit:

Simon Crean faces a caucus showdown during next month's budget session of parliament as public support nosedives for his leadership and the Labor Party.

The Australian has learned that internal ALP polling reveals the party is in dire shape and would lose a string of marginal seats in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

"We are headed for a massive defeat," said one senior Labor figure who has been privy to the secret polling.

Some secret.

DOG-KILLING hop-monsters have taken over small Australian towns:

Starving kangaroos have besieged several towns in central Victoria, sparking renewed calls for a cull.

Some Heathcote and Rushworth residents are in fear after reports of huge mobs attacking and killing a local dog.


Someone fetch the wheelchair, and top up the swimming pool ...

THIS WEEK'S Continuing Crisis column in The Bulletin mentions Phillip Adams, Mike Carlton, Geoff Kitney, Matt Price, Jonathan Holmes, George W. Bush, Heath Ledger, Leo DiCaprio, the Fremantle Dockers, Saddam Hussein, human shields, the BBC, the SAS, Uzma Bashir, Donna Mulhearn, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, Fidel Castro, Stephanie Schaudel, Colonel Sanders, Eason Jordan, CNN, Uday Hussein, and my cold medicine/psychotropic drugs/narcolepsy treatment/vanilla Coke addiction.

Bulletin readers looking for Eason Jordan's confession (barely reported in Australia, by the way): click here.

ON MONDAY night, Media Watch host David Marr casually dismissed the whole "Pentagon flag on Saddam's statue" story as bogus:

MARR: That most enthusiastic barracker for the war, Murdoch's Daily Telegraph, called this a "Moment in history ..." and then made a claim incredible even by the Tele's standards:

DAILY TELEGRAPH: "The Stars and Stripes used by US Marine Corporal Ed Chin to cover the statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square was under the debris at the Pentagon following the September 11 al-Qaeda terrorist attack."

MARR: We asked U.S. Central Command in Qatar if the Tele's claim could possibly be true.

NAVY ENSIGN DAVID LUCKETT: I seriously doubt it …

And that's where Marr concludes his investigation - with a solitary abbrieviated quote from the US Navy's media guy, gathered on a date unknown, and serving to imply that the many people who've provided accounts supporting the Pentagon flag story are liars.

You'd think that Media Watch would have contacted several further sources before airing so serious an accusation. You'd think that Media Watch - assembled by 30 or so people, including three reseachers - would have at least contacted the parents of US Marine First Lieutenant Tim McLaughlin, the man who handed the flag to Corporal Chin. In fact, Media Watch didn't have to go to the trouble; the Associated Press already had, days earlier:

''Obviously his mother and I are extraordinarily proud that he is out there in front of things doing what he is doing,'' Philip McLaughlin said Thursday.

He said Tim had sustained a serious training injury and was working a staff job in the Pentagon when the airliner crashed into the building on Sept. 11, 2001.

''Tim actually went back into the Pentagon and assisted after the attack occurred. He was given a flag that day and has kept it with him ever since,'' McLaughlin said. ''In fact, I saw him pack it when I was out to see him in 29 Palms Marine Base in January.''

McLaughlin's local newspaper in New Hampshire also contacted the Marine's parents:

Local Attorney Phil McLaughlin spoke with The Citizen on Thursday ... He responded to his son's reported actions by saying they exemplify the character of a man dedicated to his country.

"I am not the least bit surprised by what was reported ... my son is a combat Marine," he explained.

The father pointed out that his son has been carrying the flag with him ever since it was given to him on Sept. 11.

Marr and his crack team of truth-seekers - don't they read any newspapers besides Sydney's Telegraph? - overlooked this report and interview from Stephen Farrell, in Baghdad for the Times of London:

Watching from the sidelines, Lieutenant McLaughlin took his Stars and Stripes out of a sealed pouch, so that it could be wrapped around the statue's hollow metal head.

The 25-year-old Russian language and poetry graduate explained later that a broken leg had taken him to room 5E678 at the Pentagon, where he was working as a general's aide on September 11, 2001.

"I had just gone for my morning run and I was right at the Jefferson Memorial when the plane hit the Pentagon. I sprinted back because my older brother also works there. After I searched for him and found he was all right I spent the rest of the day at Ground Zero, helping out the ambulance and firefighting guys ...

"This flag was given to me on September 11. Now it is in Baghdad and now I am happy."

Lara Marlowe of The Irish Times provides helpful corroborating detail to Farrell's mention of the "sealed pouch":

"That flag came from the Pentagon on 9/11," Sgt Lambert said with something like awe in his voice. "Lt Tim McGloughlan [sic] was there on the day. We brought it all the way from 29 Palms. We drove our tanks all the way from Kuwait City with the flag in a plastic bag."

The non-Murdoch UK Daily Telegraph and the BBC also carried pieces including the Telegraph's "incredible claim". Why was the Telegraph targeted for mockery?

Marr and his Media Watchers appear to have run with the first opinion they received that supported their prejudiced notion that the Telegraph had fabricated the flag story. They've either ignored or never sought out the articles cited above, and cast as untrue the statements of Lieutenant McLaughlin, his family, and several of his fellow Marines. Media Watch is a disgrace.

Think they'll apologise? I seriously doubt it. Send them a note here.


NO BLOOD FOR SLOGANS! Right from the start, this illegal and immoral war was a conspiracy to prop up greedy western badge corporations:

John Trowbridge's little badge-making firm, Better Badges, has been in existence for 20 years, and business has never been better. He and his two colleagues have seen sales multiply by a factor of 10 thanks to the war. He has supplied 200,000 badges to the Stop the War Coalition, with slogans ranging from Don't Attack Iraq to Not in My Name and Stop the War. "Mr Blair has managed to politicise the whole country," says Trowbridge, a lifelong leftie. "And he's done me the world of good."

Why do you think the only building they're protecting in Baghdad is the Ministry of Badge? That says it all.

THROUGH TEETH clenched so hard the enamel is beginning to fuse, the New York Times reports:

Americans overwhelmingly consider the war in Iraq a success, and a majority say the victory will stand even if Saddam Hussein remains at large or if the United States fails to unearth chemical or nuclear weapons, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

The poll, taken over the weekend, found that for the first time since 2001, a majority of Americans, 62 percent, believe that the nation is winning the war on terrorism.


Although it would be foolish to predict what will happen in Iraq now, the apocalyptic predictions of as many as 500,000 civilian deaths (from a widely quoted leaked UN report) have so far proved exaggerated.

ACCORDING to the Sydney Morning Herald, Camp David is in Crawford, Texas.

SIMON CREAN is toast, as usual:

Voters are clamouring for Kim Beazley to regain leadership of the federal ALP, with almost four times as many voters supporting him over Simon Crean to steer Labor to the next election.

After almost 18 months as Opposition Leader, only one in 10 Australians wants Mr Crean to spearhead Labor's next election campaign, compared with 36 per cent support for Mr Beazley.

And even more damaging for Mr Crean is that only 13 per cent of Labor voters want him to remain at the helm.

Bob McMullan remains (publicly) hopeful:

The upcoming Federal budget process would give Opposition leader Simon Crean the chance to put Labor's position to the public, ALP frontbencher Bob McMullan said today.

And so does Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf:

"The people love the Great Simon and will defend to the exhaustion of their preference votes his right to create disorder out of harmony."

HERE'S a bunch of media goofs for the kids at Media Watch to make fun of: The Bulletin's editor-in-chief (not editor) is Garry Linnell; Robert Fisk's surname doesn't include an 'e'; General Vincent Brooks (who addresses journalists at Camp Doha, not 'camp' Doha) is never General Vincent Brook's; and John Mcnamara would probably prefer that his name feature a capital N.

UPDATE. Reader Jason Cakebread points out:

The correct official name of Central Command's HQ is Camp As Sayliyah, which is outside Doha, which is the capital of Qatar.

EXCELLENT letter in today's Australian:

A left-hander winning the US Masters! I didn't think Augusta National let them play.

Andrew Nicholls

Geraldton, WA

WITCHCRAFT is to be decriminalised in Victoria. Several ex-girlfriends will be ecstatic.

ANDREW BOLT refuses to let the anti-war Left off the hook:

Recall just some of "peace" activists' predictions to show how they dreamed of a war in which millions died, and Iraqis greeted our soldiers not with kisses but bullets ...

ABC star Terry Lane wrote in The Sunday Age: "I want the army of my country, which is engaged in an act of gross immorality, to be defeated."

Phillip Adams gleefully wrote just two weeks before Baghdad's fall that the war brought "back memories of fiascos and failures -- from Vietnam to Somalia", and looked like ending with "a Stalingrad-style battle in the city".

SBS did much as you'd expect from a public broadcaster whose vice-chairman, Neville Roach, asked that "journalists . . . in every article, every editorial, every report, highlight the murder and mayhem that our nation is about to release".

Remember Carmen Lawrence predicting the death toll could reach 480,000, and our soldiers would be "complicit in mass murder"?

Bolt has further examples. Many cited said the same things about Afghanistan.


Prime Minister John Howard wants to reform the United Nations, saying the presence of France as a permanent member of the Security Council "distorts" the council.

He wants Japan, a South American country and India to be represented on the Security Council. France was there only because it was a global power at the end of World War II, he said.

It was?

FORMER MAOIST Barry York writes that good Marxists would have supported the war in Iraq:

It is too late for the so-called Left in Australia to stand anywhere but condemned for its failure to support the successful war to liberate Iraq. It stood on the side of reaction, and the history books must place its leaders alongside the British pacifists of the '30s who, as George Orwell pointed out, gave comfort and objective support to Hitler. The pseudo-Left proved not just that it can be wrong but that in the name of anti-Americanism it can support fascism.

The leaders of the anti-war movement predicted the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the war. They warned of ferocious resistance to US-led forces by a people whose opposition to Saddam Hussein would be displaced by hatred of the invaders. I had a different view: I was confident the paper tiger would crumple. Faced with a choice between a fascist regime in Iraq or a bourgeois-democratic one, I retained enough Marxism to tick the right box.

IRAQI information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf is now universal journalistic shorthand for comical inaccuracy. Kinda funny, considering how mainstream outlets like the BBC weren't treating him like a joke when he was actually saying all the stupid things in the first place.

GLOAT-WATCH! P.P. McGuinness charts left/right triumphalism from the outbreak of war to the present.

THE INDEPENDENT'S Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is offended:

It is not just the vulgar, premature bawdiness of pro-war triumphalists which I find revolting. It is that they accuse anti-war people of being uncaring about the people of Iraq, and the lack of concern that these proponents of war show for the bodies of the killed and those maimed and injured by their invasion.


Yes, Saddam Hussein is gone and, for Iraqis (except the innocent families of his supporters), that is deliverance. But at what cost - present and future? And with what consequences - foreseen and unplanned?

Always with the plans. Lefties don't get it. You can't plan a free society. Yasmin would apparently prefer Saddam's "plans" to the chaos of a citizenry happily running around unencumbered by electrodes.

I wrote that the Americans were receiving no "overwhelming welcome" and that is still true. That statue in Baghdad was pulled down by US troops with around 200 Iraqis as extras. Warniks feel vindicated and are foolishly cheering with all of Rupert Murdoch's outlets. But that is no reason to subscribe to such delusions.

Let's indulge Yasmin for a moment, and assume that her figure of 200 is accurate. What does she think it means when 200 people do something that only a couple of months earlier would have had them all killed?

In 1970, I was on the streets of Kampala with hundreds of thousands of others screaming and dancing for joy the day Idi Amin came into power, placed there by the US, the UK and Israel. Mobs are not dependable nor good at foresight when momentous changes take place.

Depends on the mob, depends on the changes. (By the way, wasn't this "mob" described only a few words earlier as being only 200 people?) I didn't notice Yasmin dismissing the anti-war mobs for their lack of foresight.

The scenes of bedlam are going to be very useful to the occupation because they will enable the US to "reluctantly" impose rule over barbaric natives (who by that time will be begging for it in ever greater numbers) – ever the reason for imperialism. We are back to the days of the scramble for Africa when colonial white powers took over countries to "protect and civilise" them.

That is exactly what the colonial imperialist Robert Fisk has been urging. If The Independent was the White House, this might be described as a "rift".

The US regime says it wants a "democratic" Iraq but with leaders it approves of; that it wants a free-market economy and that it wants the oil to pay for all the devastation ... What if the Iraqis don't want the exile puppets imposed democratically?

Then chances are that they won't vote for them and they won't get them. Leaders are not "imposed" democratically.

What if they decide that to rebuild they would rather have a social-democratic model with a partly managed economy, especially when it comes to the management of oil? Are they free to do this? Of course not.

Depends on who they vote for, I suppose. If the Social-Democratic Partly Managed Economy Party gets the most votes, they'll win. Yasmin is getting a little ahead of events here; we as yet don't know what form an Iraqi government will take.

Finally, those people with newly found concern for the Iraqi people, where were they for the past 13 years ... What do pro-war people say about the effects of depleted uranium?

We say: what effects? And then we say: goodbye, crazy lady.

ROBERT FISK is one excited correspondent:

Did I sit on President Saddam's throne? Of course I did. There is something dark in all our souls that demands an understanding of evil rather than good, because, I suppose, we are more fascinated by the machinery of cruelty and power than we are by angels.

Whatever, throne boy. Just as well that Fisk didn't attempt to imitate the brilliant Lee Miller, shown here in Hitler's bathtub.

HERE'S a headline you never expected to see.

PAUL SHEEHAN is lately in no mood to take prisoners:

In Australia, the rearguard action of behalf of Saddam's regime was fought by Greenpeace. Within 12 hours of al-Sahaf's last stand on the roof of the Palestine Hotel, Greenpeace executed an ambitious public relations guerilla raid on the Australian Navy. Last Tuesday, as HMAS Sydney was leaving Sydney Harbour en route for duty off Iraq, where it will protect the shipping that will bring most of the humanitarian aid to Iraq, a flotilla of 20 small craft and motorised rubber dinghies broke through a cordon of water police craft and sailed in front of the warship.

One policeman was injured and 10 Greenpeace activists were arrested, including a Greens MP, Ian Cohen. What did Greenpeace want? Describing the war in Iraq as "illegal and immoral", Greenpeace issued this demand: "No more Australian troops should be sent to Iraq, and the ones that are there should be sent home immediately."

Al-Sahaf would have been proud.

I got the impression chatting to Paul last year that he'd had enough of idiots and was going to spend 2003 tearing them apart. Seems for once I may have been right.

THERE'S SOMETHING wrong about Walter Cronkite hosting a program on Armageddon. He's like, what, 1,200 years old? And he's warning us about Doomsday? Didn't Cronkite once predict this in a series of cave paintings?

IS IT just me, or does Robert Fisk sound like he misses ol' Saddam?

The fresh black paint is everywhere. "Sadr City", it says, where once the name was "Saddam City".

How tragic. Still, Baghdad Bob holds out hope that an uprising may soon take place:

The gunmen appear to be loyal to their individual mosques and they are in no mood, yet, to take on the Americans.

Fingers crossed, Baghdad.

BLOOD on Bloomberg's hands.

EVERYBODY IS appalled by the ABC's new website. It's uniformative, difficult to navigate, and fails to project the organisation's image. But do any of these naysayers come up with an alternative design? No!

Here's one I whipped up in just a few minutes. Slap some links on there and it's perfect.

THERE ARE no second acts in American life. Lots of second helpings, though.

TIME magazine art critic Robert Hughes has been fined $2,500 for causing a massive car accident in Australia while driving on the wrong side of the road.

Not mentioned much during his trial: the reason Hughes had returned to Australia from his New York home was to campaign for a republic. It didn't help his cause that he'd been away so long he couldn't remember what side of the road Australians drive on.


PAUL McGEOUGH has been in Baghdad too long. He's come down with Fisk Fever. Probably caught it from some of these folks he's been talking to:

"The Americans have disappointed us all. This country won't be operational for at least a year or two," said Abbas Reta, 51, an engineer and father of five, who was among hundreds of Iraqi professionals who volunteered yesterday to help restore services.

"I've seen nothing new since Saddam's fall. All that we have seen is looting. The Americans are responsible. One round from their guns and all the looting would have stopped."

But wouldn't that make it appear as though the Americans were an ... occupying force?

And in the crowd that gathered to protest near the Palestine Hotel there was an ominous warning for Mr Rumsfeld from the mouth of Raad Bahman Qasim, 30: "If this continues in Baghdad, we'll kill any American or British soldier."

What for? They haven't looted anything.

Another of the museum archaeologists, Raed Abdul Ridha Mohammed, 35, was one of the staff who raced to fetch the marines.

"If a country has no record of its history it is nothing. If our civilisation is looted, then we don't have a country. So I blame the US - George Bush promised us liberty, but this is not liberty.

"If we had stayed under Saddam Hussein we'd still have the collection."

And lots more besides. Like the local Gulag 4 Kidz.

As I crested the bridge, the bombed remains of the al-Rasheed international telephone exchange came into view - a high-rise tower filled with the wondrous technology of our civilisation that seems to teeter on warped and spindly concrete columns, which are all that survive of its mid-section after repeated bombing by the US - apparently because Saddam might make a phone call.

You think maybe he’d be dialling the local Chinese take-out? Possibly Saddam's calls might be less innocent. Just thinking out loud here.

After witnessing three weeks of attacks on Baghdad and almost a week of looting - especially of the Iraq National Museum - questions about where the criminality lies become blurred.

Get out of Baghdad, Paul! Get out now, before the fever is terminal!


An aspiring rap star who has been charged with murdering his roommate and eating part of her lung did so as part of his record label's plan to cultivate a "gangsta" image for him, the victim's mother charged in a a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.

Ain't nothin' more special than lung brothers. Or sistas.

ROBERT FISK opposed US intervention to save Iraqi lives, but now he demands US intervention to save Iraqi artefacts:

I contacted the civil affairs unit of the US Marines in Saadun Street and gave them the exact location of the museum and the condition of its contents.

Fisk is providing the US military with information about the activities of Iraqi citizens. I love life.

I HOPE that this great art doesn't get defiled:

The doors of the townhouse opened to reveal a playboy's fantasy straight from the 1960s: mirrored bedroom, lamps shaped like women, airbrushed paintings of a topless blonde woman and a moustached hero battling a crocodile.

"This must have been Saddam's love shack," US Army sergeant Spencer Willardson said.


SWEDEN has been silenced:

For wide swaths of anti-war Sweden - the ones who think Marx and Engels are a German boy band - the reality of grateful Iraqis and the rapidity of American and British military success, this war dealt a crushing blow. So the war debate is relegated to the political fringe and the "mainstream" useful idiots have buried their heads in the sand.

It's sad, really. It feels like they have all come home to find Saddam in bed with another woman. And they would just rather not talk about it.

Australia's Saddamaloids have reacted in much the same way. Margo Kingston took a day off work to recover.

FROM MARK STEYN'S Guide to the Ongoing Quagmire:

"Weapons of Mass Destruction. Remember them? Not a single one has yet been found" (Bill Neely, ITV, April 10). Actually, I almost wish this one were true. Anything that turns up now will be assumed to have been planted. If I were Washington, I'd consider burying anything I found. After all, an America that feels no need to bother faking justifications for invasion would be far more alarming to most Europeans. Instead, horrible things will turn up, but will never be "conclusive" enough for the French, who've got all the receipts anyway.

DENNIS MILLER on the United Nations:

Who are we gonna depend on to take care of us now? The United Nations? For Godsake, I went down and took the UN tour today. Even the guidebook is spineless!

Chas Rich has more.

THE MEMPHIS Commercial Appeal reports that 20 percent of war deaths are blacks:

Nearly a fifth of the fatalities among U.S. troops in the current war in Iraq are black, which will be the highest cost African Americans have paid in any of America's wars if the trend continues.

NAACP chairman Julian Bond, however, notes that the deaths have largely occurred among non-frontline troops. He doesn't see a race angle:

"I was not aware of this and am surprised by it," said Julian Bond, national chairman of the NAACP. "I knew that black soldiers were concentrated in the non-combat positions of the military, which makes this all the more surprising. But clearly, these support troops were subjected to battle conditions unexpectedly."

Bond's considered response will be something to remember when anti-war screechers seize on these statistics as evidence of "Bush's racist war for oil".

"WHY DO you click right through me?" Wayne Wood converts Kasey Chambers' mopey song into a blogger's lament.

THE ORANGE County Register has dropped Bill O'Reilly's column and the Herald-Sun in North Carolina has ditched Boondocks, both for similar ego-related reasons. Herald-Sun executive editor Bill Hawkins explains his decision:

What the syndicate sent us for publication a week ago Saturday was the Boondocks strip with a statement plastered over it that read:

"Special Boondocks protest strip! In order to express the outrage and the disappointment at the situation in the Middle East, as well as an upcoming movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr., in which the actor will undoubtedly shame himself and his race, today's installment of The Boondocks will not be appearing.

"Seriously, folks. Let's stop the madness. The Bush administration's hunger for war, and Hollywood's continued production of movies starring Cuba Gooding Jr., must be stopped. - Aaron McGruder"

Sounds to me like someone couldn't think of a funny strip that day. Hawkins continues:

As long as the strip was in context and characters were doing the talking, we were content to allow McGruder to work out on the edge.

This time, however, he pushed us over it.

CNN's grotesque example of embedded journalism is being properly condemned.