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Online Opinion http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=8404

This time Israel has really overstepped the line. Israel knows but it doesn’t care. This is dangerous.

Hamas is the product of generations of abuse and frustration by Israel against Palestinians.

A radical, even fanatical organisation, it has been fathered and nurtured by Israeli aggression. Israel’s stubbornness and fear has made it as radical as Hamas. Both sides understand each other. Just as black and white South Africans understood each other during the oppression of Blacks under Apartheid (a regime which Israel supported and helped to survive).

Israel felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Time was running out in which to implement a long planned strike against the Hamas leadership in Gaza. The morally bankrupt Bush regime would soon be gone, the western media was on Christmas holidays, the window of opportunity was now; particularly as it might give the so-called Israeli moderates a better showing in the forthcoming election, so they could appear to be as tough as the mad self destructive Israeli Right.

Israel seems to draw on the notion of being persecuted and certainly calls on it to justify its disproportionate reaction to Hamas rocket attacks. “Israel has the right to defend itself,” says Mark Regev, the truth altering Israeli spokesman. It used to be that Israel claimed the right to exist, now it is the right to defend and it has to be because Israel seriously compromised a number of “rights” when it refused to hand over occupied territories from the war of 1967 and subsequently built settlements on them with United States complicity.

Israel lies and the western media complies, further widening the gap between the way Arab and Islamic affairs are reported in the west and elsewhere. Israel lies and in so doing loses the moral high ground and does not care. It is a road to nowhere and undermines the basis for the foundation of Israel, which was a home for Jews to practice their religion free from persecution.

No where within the Jewish religion do I find any justification to lie in order that the Jewish faith might survive. And in any event the Jewish faith will survive no matter what happens to Israel, which has become a perversion of what it once was and what it was intended to be.

Some of my best relatives are Jews. None agree with this cruelty and self destructive madness. Many Jews oppose Israel’s actions in Gaza with the heavy handed and ruthless killing of the innocents. They oppose the Israeli blockade of Gaza. What has Israel become, what sort of a role model for Jewish children around the world?

The response of the Rudd Government has been pathetic. When the attack first started I rang Julia Gillard’s office’s (they were unmanned, as was Stephen Smith’s and Kevin Rudd’s) to put the point that Australia had troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and should not therefore appear to condone actions that might create more hard line Islamic radicals.

I had called to urge a balanced statement; one that might indicate an understanding of the fevered thinking that led Israel to attack, but also to the disproportionate nature of that attack and the need to seriously consider the lives of children, so that when that threshold was crossed, as the Israeli’s have done increasingly over the past decade, Australia would have prepared the ground to protest.

I presume, that despite their caution and their desire to please, and therefore survive, which ever pusillanimous government is in power in Australia, our security services have pointed out to Kevin Rudd that this Israeli attack has seriously upped the anti among those that we choose to call our enemies, In the absence of a strong condemnation of Israel, we have made our soldiers, particularly in Afghanistan, even greater hostages to fortune.

If possible, this Israeli spleen letting will have further radicalised radical Muslims around the world and created many more. Has the Australian government analysed the editorials from the Arabic and Urdu press? I think not, otherwise Rudd and/or Smith might have said something, anything, which indicated other than support for Israel and the US, when we have troops on the ground ostensibly fighting to bring about moderate and stable government’s in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What does Rudd believe caused the phenomena of al-Qaida, if not from real and perceived injustices against Arabs/Muslims by Israel and the United States? And what are Rudd’s thoughts on how a settlement might take place in Gaza given that Australia has an expensive commitment to peace in the Middle East?

For Israel to have created more instability and uncertainty in the Middle East is irresponsible and selfish in the extreme, being undertaken, as it was, at a time of growing difficulty for the world economy which brings with it the seeds of political instability. Israel’s recent actions feed into that.

Canberra Times http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/opinion/editorial/General/crisis-needs-strong-leadership

How prepared is Australia to handle the biggest crisis facing it since December 1941, when Japan entered the war?

Australia is not yet in crisis as a result of the international financial meltdown. It is still living off accumulated fat.

Most analysts agree that bad times are in front. However, they have been reluctant to put the forthcoming crisis into context and to give it shape and form. Only by doing so will we meet and match the challenge the crisis offers and develop appropriate responses.

The response so far has been one of panic, akin to the sale of harbour-side properties and the flight to the Blue Mountains when the elite of Sydney feared a Japanese invasion. Risk-averse politicians and public servants, nurtured on a diet of a paralytic fear of terrorism for the past 10 years, went into full panic mode before Christmas throwing $10billion at consumers. It evaporated like water on a hot road.

Half went to pay off debt and of the rest, most went overseas to China and other producers of goods. I would estimate that around $1billion went into circulation in Australia. Which means that only one tenth of the money outlaid by the Rudd Government, on the advice of Treasury, had the effect it was intended for; not such a good result, although with the massive private debt, paying some off is not a bad thing.

The politically sensitive Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded a 3.5per cent growth in pre-Christmas spending as a result of the injection of taxpayers’ money. It claimed it was the best result for eight years. The claimed result flies in the face of anecdotal evidence.

In any case, the effect on jobs and the economy was limited because beyond the short-lived benefit to the services sector, very little money was spent on Australian-made goods. There are not many of these with many manufacturers having gone offshore under Keating and Costello.

The impact of severely reduced economic activity will dramatically affect Australia because of our narrow economic base, resting as it does on mining and agriculture, the former dependent on sales to China and the latter on the sale of wheat, wool and meat.

The Howard and Rudd governments ripped the competitive advantage from Australian wheat sales by abolishing the single desk after the Australian Wheat Board bribed a corrupt Iraqi government to hold the market in the face of Australian preparations to go to war against it.

Australian banks pushed easy credit for the past 15 years, urging the young, the weak and the infirm, among others, into building up a national private debt of $1.2trillion dollars.

Those same urgers are still running the banks. How is it then that Australia is, ”better placed than most other countries to withstand the effects of the global meltdown”, according to Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner? It is not.

Of course, it is a good thing to spend money on schools and all other forms of infrastructure whether or not there is an economic crisis, but where might savings be made? Savings will be achieved by the effectiveness of each dollar spent on productivity leading to jobs and import replacement.

Defence is the first place to look, together with the over-inflated budget of the Australian Federal Police and the racist and ideologically driven budget of the Department of Immigration.

Defence spending over the past 10 years has been geared to pleasing the American alliance and fitting in with US force structures rather than the defence of Australia. Australia could have got by with smaller submarines but in order to continue to get praise from the US for the work of the Oberon Class submarines spying for the US off Vladivostok and Cam Ranh Bay during the Cold War, Kim Beazley, as Minister for Defence, built the ill-fated Collins-class submarine. It was the technological equivalent of building a one-off run of eight Airbuses.

The economic meltdown will bring political instability with it, including to our region. The ADF is not geared to fight a prolonged engagement in our region. The purchase of the very expensive and untried F35 fighter was a poor strategic decision made by John Howard. It should be reversed and pressure put on Barack Obama to sell us the F22.

The recently purchased Abrams tanks cannot operate in our region; who can we sell them to?

What resources do we need to sustain operations in our region? Australia spends billions on state of the art defence equipment manufactured overseas, paying for it with non-renewable mineral exports. Australia has a luxury boat industry looking for work; why not use it to build fast and cheap patrol boats? We should start to think outside the loop as the Somali pirates have done.

The movement of goods produced by the two major economic sectors in Australia, mining and agriculture, has been inhibited through poor infrastructure now is the time to address this long outstanding problem in rural Australia.

As Rudd has noted in his article in The Monthly magazine, the private sector is not the answer to solving all problems. There is no case to be made for the market place to regulate the flow and placement of water through trading.

Water, like clean air, is a national commodity with equal entitlement of all citizens to adequate and clean supplies. Selfish sectional interests have cornered the supply with the connivance of government. The supply and protection of water resources must become part of the Government’s infrastructure program.

Handing money to the states for these projects looks like a prescription for double dipping. Who will monitor their expenditure of federal money on national projects? How much will be lost as the states take their cut through wages, real and contrived administrative costs, and poor procedures? The federal Government must take a measured approach to the crisis. It must display prudence, wisdom, character and compassion in other words leadership of a high order. However, having elected to keep many of Howard’s acolytes in senior public service positions it is operating with one hand tied behind its back. It needs balanced and considered advice; the days of snowing with spin are over.

As the crisis deepens and the need to create jobs grows, the Government might consider the introduction of national service for the ADF, national infrastructure, hospitals, aged care and social welfare institutions and organisations

Online Opinion http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=8338

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald of December 19-21, “Turn the tables on Afghanistan”, retired Australian General, Jim Molan, claims that the success achieved against terrorists in Iraq can be translated to Afghanistan and he calls for an increase of up to 6,000 Australian troops.

I think Molan premature when he talks in terms of Iraq being a success. The destabilising effect of the invasion will, in my opinion, be felt within Iraq and the region for another decade at least.

He talks of the Afghan people, when in fact there is no such entity. The majority are Pushtuns who dominate and mistreat minority groups including the Hazaras, Tadjiks and Turkmen.
Molan ignores the divisive influence of topography on both military activity and nation building and posses the blind optimism not seen in Australian military and diplomatic analysis since Vietnam.

Molan claims that, “Our great weapons are our morality and openness to scrutiny … Our information must be truth”, which, unfortunately, does not apply to reporting on the war in Afghanistan, David Hicks, Mohamed Haneef, Guantanamo Bay and the treatment of refugees including Children Overboard.

The hope and ideologically driven wishful thinking put forward by Molan as fact will not substitute for hard analysis.

The mistake for the West is not to see the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a line on a colonial map. People on both sides of the line are related, they share a common language, culture, religion and economic hardship. On the Pakistan side of the border the area comprises two of Pakistan’s four provinces, Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province. The British did not establish a presence and neither have the Punjabi’s who make up the bulk of Pakistan’s army and public service.

US bombing of villages and homes, only serves to weaken the tenuous influence that Islamabad exercises. The US has learnt none of the lessons of Vietnam. The US and NATO presence conveys a sense of being occupied, the destruction of property and homes and the deaths of innocents, translates into recruits prepared to fight for a war lord, the Taliban or whoever else will arm and feed them.

The Russians found in Afghanistan that they were fighting a number of different warlords, all with a different agenda. And so it is now for the US and its allies. Increasingly much of the opposition is focused on getting rid of the Western foreigners as much as it is around ideology and religion.

The policy driving the war and the manner in which it is being prosecuted makes the war in Afghanistan unwinnable. Terrorism is founded in belief, ideology and emotion. Does anyone in the western alliance seriously believe that they can blast, kill and maim their way to a victory in which no known terrorist is left standing in Afghanistan?

The economic crises impacting on America will likely determine the level of its future commitment to Afghanistan which is reason to talk while it still has some leverage. Should the US come to rely on foreign loans it might be expected that at some point lenders might seek conditionality.

Australia has no business in the conflict. It is a regional issue. Australia allowed itself to be sucked in on the basis of our alliance with the US, which increasingly promises little. The war in Afghanistan will not bring about an end of al-Qaida nor the Taliban, to do so by military means would take more troops than the US put into Vietnam and the absence of many other regional factors which play out against the US.

In these uncertain times Australia needs to get its house in order and prepare for unusual and unpredictable events that might unfold closer to home. Australia does not need its forces strung out around the world, particularly when the US has a reduced and reducing capacity to service our Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan contribution to the alliance.