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Here’s a piece I wrote as a personal response to an article by Paul Kelly which was critical of Mark Latham’s viewpoints on the Australia – US Strategic Partnership.

At the time Latham was Opposition Leader and having a good run. At that point he was regarded as a serious threat to unseat John Howard as Prime Minister.

Latham made a speech to the Lowy Institute which prompted a full-barrell assault from Kelly using the most hypocritical of logic.

In my view Kelly revealed himself at that time as a Howard/Liberal partisan. Usually Kelly is very considered and equitable in his comentary but just occasionally, when he smells blood in the water, he drops his guard and shows his true allegiances.

This was one occasion when he did so:

Paul Kelly: The Innocent Extremist

Paul Kelly, Editor-at-large of the Murdoch-owned “The Australian” newspaper is an Australian patriot and strongly pro-American. Befittingly, he is a member of the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, a selective association of high-profile business and political leaders and journalists. Kelly has a vision for an Australia which is militarily capable, economically dynamic and secure from foreign threat. He wants Australia to take positive steps to maintain its middle-power status, achieve real and increasing influence in international affairs and guard against the slide which has, in his view, seen New Zealand fall to the bottom levels of influence amongst Western nations.

For Kelly the primary determinants of a nation’s strength and influence are population, GNP and technology (especially military technology) supplemented by participation in regional and global economic and political forums. Underpinning all this for Australia in Kelly’s strategic model of Australia’s international political economy is a close relationship with the USA. This special relationship provides Australia access to advanced military technology and influence-by-association.

Kelly does not emphasis a direct guarantee of security as a product of a close bilateral relationship with the US, rather stressing that insider access to sophisticated US military technology makes Australia capable of military self-reliance. Self-reliance incorporates Australia’s capacity to defend itself in its own right and ability to act as a metropolitan power within the Australia-US ANZUS alliance, itself located and operational within the logic of a US hegemonic world order.

Kelly therefore describes a layered approach to the way in which Australia should approach its foreign policy. He believes Australia should pursue multilateralism through the UN alongside regionalism within ASEAN simultaneous with honouring and protecting the bilateral US alliance. He sees these bilateral, regional and multilateral layers as synergistically reinforcing each other producing an Australia capable of playing a constructive role in world affairs.. For example, close bilateral relationship with the USA gives Australia credibility with and thus potentially greater entrée into ASEAN and the ears of regional leaders most importantly China and Japan, but influence in ASEAN and regional nations simultaneously makes us more useful to the USA as a holder of insider influence within Asia. This expert status on Asian affairs gives rise to the possibility that Australia may successfully advise the USA on wise Asian policy and (non) interventions.

While Kelly advocates that Australia participate fully within the UN and maximize its opportunities for influence there, he sees the WTO as the more important world body. Kelly believes that thorough-going adoption of the WTO “free-trade” proscriptions will vitalise Australia’s economy, drive up our GNP and hence increase Australia’s international standing in a far more direct way than the slow and patient accumulation of influence through constructive negotiation.

Kelly believes the Unites States is a far better guarantor of international security than the “fragile” UN which “need[s] … U.S. security policy leadership” but is eager that the US remains within it. He wants the USA to work within the UN for two reasons. First, without the US, global institutions would be “crippled” leading to a breakdown in worldwide political and economic structure and stability; Secondly and patriotically, Kelly sees it in Australia’s interest that the US work within the UN since if the US turned its back on the UN to intervene unilaterally and arrogantly in world affairs, Australia’s regional standing with South-East and East Asia would be compromised.

This follows because of Australia’s strong, perhaps over-strong, identification as a US agent within East and South-East Asia. Kelly identifies a worst-case scenario for Australia in regard to arrogant US unilateralism for Australia where Australia could be barred or expelled from Asian regional forums if Australia is seen merely as an agent of US global power, the US’s “deputy sheriff”. Kelly supports America’s status as global hegemon and organiser of the global trade regime, but he wants the USA to be a “prudent hegemon” (Kelly, Australian for Alliance, The National Interest, Spring, 2003) working within the UN and sensitive to regional alliances and sensibilities.

Ultimately, however, Kelly always preserves and valorises the US prerogative for unilateral military intervention and places the onus on the UN to accommodate and legitimise US unilateralism.

“This is not an argument against all [US unilateral] military action. It is an argument for more attention to the tone of U.S. policy, and for legitimizing military action by law and through coalitions whenever possible.” (Kelly, Australian for Alliance, my emphasis)

Kelly believes that UN accommodation and legitimisation of US hegemonic power is the only way that the UN can survive as a credible organisation. The rights of the US to be global hegemon and take unilateral actions in its own interests are not questioned. Writing in the Weekend Australian (7-8/9/02) Kelly said:

“If the US does return to the Security Council, that will become a decisive moment in world history. It is when the main powers must decide whether they will allow the US to solve its problems within a UN framework or whether they confirm for the US that the unilateralists were right all the time and that it [the US] must commit to a new go-it-alone phase.”

Kelly is so pro-US that he is even somewhat antipathetic toward Western Europe which he sees as being prisoner to a consensus model of international affairs to the detriment of decisive and warranted interventions.

Australia therefore does not want an America so imprisoned by the search for consensus that it is paralyzed from taking military action….Indeed, nothing would cause more dismay in Australia than seeing the European Union prevail within [the UN and other multilateral] institutions at the cost of those institutions’ ultimate viability.

Kelly’s overall views lead him to advise the US to tread carefully in the world, surely to wield hegemonic power but prudently and constructively so as to encourage open world trade and, therefore, mutual weal. But Kelly also believes that the US is entitled to act unilaterally where warranted. In relation to Al-Qa’aida, Kelly is clear that US action is not only warranted but necessary.

In Kelly’s view the “transforming impact of September 11” , when Al-Qa’aida smashed those aircraft into the World Trade Centre, has changed the world. To Kelly, Al’Qa’aida represents a barbaric movement at war with civilisation itself. September 11 in Kelly’s view was “an attack on universal values” . Negotiation with this atavistic force is “folly” since “appeasement would usher in a new dark age” . Al-Qa’aida must be destroyed. In these circumstances the US is legitimised by moral imperative to act as the “prudent hegemon” to preserve order and peace.

In this transformed world Kelly notes a transformed mood of the US towards its allies. America now expects more action and more obedience from its allies.

“The US is less interested in historical allies and more interested in allies that perform, a point John Howard knows. Its sense of being the “indispensable nation” is in play again. Driven by both fear and resolve, the US is making harsher judgments about its friends.”

In Kelly’s view the US’s unswervable determination to intervene in Iraq makes it impossible to ignore the US call to arms since to do so would imperil the ANZUS alliance so crucial to Australia. It would amount to national suicide to ignore US the at a time when it is willing to demote non-performing allies, in particular who fail to provide political support for non-UN authorized intervention through participation in America’s Coalition of the Willing.

Thus Kelly speaks of Australia being “hostage” to the US “regardless of the quality of the arguments the President makes or fails to make” that Latham’s call to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq is not only wrong but “chilling” because it will “enrage the Bush administration” and is “at odds with the US political spectrum from George W. Bush to John Kerry”. Surely, Latham is “asking for trouble from Washington”. In Kelly’s view Australia has “no choice but to join an Iraq war” “anything less would imperil the 50-year US alliance” and he believes that Australians understand this instinctively knowing it to be “the Australian way of war”.

For Kelly the parameters of Australia’s freedom in foreign policy engagement are delimited by the mood and dictates of the United States. This is why “September 11 has created a new strategic challenge for America’s allies”. America is demanding more of its allies and Australia is beholden to deliver even where other relationships, whether regional security or trade, are imperilled. ,12

The tension between Australia’s relationship with the US and our regional relationships and security is a special concern of Kelly which he discusses regularly in his columns and speeches. For some time Kelly insisted that Australia’s participation in the Iraq invasion should be contingent on sanction through the UN in view of the danger of alienating Indonesia, the single most significant Islamic nation in Australia’s orbit. Kelly’s view, shared by a respectable cohort of Defence commentators, is summarized as follows

“Australia’s security will be determined by its ability to promote the dominance of moderate over radical Muslims in Indonesia. Accordingly we cannot afford to generate resentment among Indonesian Muslims by siding with the US in any invasion of Iraq not sanctioned by the UN.”13

But Kelly’s commitment to the UN is skin deep. Writing a few months after the preceeding article appeared Kelly made explicit that the value of the UN is that it provides “a cloak of respectability” for US unilateralism sufficient to deflect “anti-Americanism”. Even if “anti-Australian sentiment” generated by participation in US military ventures “fans hatred among [Indonesian] Muslim radicals…this is not a conclusive argument against Australia’s participation in Iraq or other U.S.-led coalitions if such participation is justified on its merits”. 14

It can be seen then that Kelly’s support for the US is near total and his support of the position that Australia should militarily support the US on-demand is likewise near total. The only hypothetical brake Kelly would pull on Australian participation in US-led military ventures is when that participation would compromise Australia’s inclusion in regional economic forums or severely harm Australia’s trade with China. At that point Australia’s support for the USA could only be “declaratory” as in a hypothetical US war with China over Taiwan.15

Even so, in the real world Kelly is prepared to tolerate major disruptions to Australia’s trade in order to appease the US. On July 29 2002, The Australian Finiancial Review noted with concern that Iraq halved a one-million tonne wheat order, perhaps jeopardizing the $829 million per year wheat contract with Australia’s second-largest wheat customer. This Kelly dismissed as a “short-term commercial cost” in support of the bilateral relationship.16

Kelly, then, notwithstanding increased security risk to Australia, marginalisation of the UN and hence international law, the damage of trade and regional relationships and his concession that “[the Iraq] war is not essential but war by choice of the US”17 is in favour of the invasion of Iraq and Australian involvement in it.18 It is, apparently, “justified on its merits” which can only be the need to avoid imperilling the ANZUS alliance.19 The only element that Kelly remains true to in his so-called layered approach to Australian foreign policy is the bilateral relationship with the US. Everything else is discardable. This tells us the truth about what Kelly really believes. Despite his projection of a moderate, layered, foreign policy viewpoint, Kelly’s views,in truth, are better presented as “All the way with LBJ”.

Intertwined with his nuanced public views on the relationship between Australia, the US, the UN and Asia, Kelly reproduces many of the statements from the Howard, Blair and Bush governments which argue for continued involvement in what Kelly knows is a US war of choice. Kelly has repeated for example, that Western nations must stay on to rebuild the Iraq they destroyed in order to prevent the legacy of a failed state (“A Misinformed Curtin Call”. March 31, 2004), that to withdraw from Iraq will encourage terrorist action against the West (“Jihadists keen to repeat Spanish effect”, March 24, 2004), that “Iraq is a decisive theatre in the war on terrorism” (“Howard Plays The Man”, April 3, 2004), that Australian involvement in Iraq does not increase Australia’s security risk – contradicting himself on many previous occasions – (“Spanish-style backlash for PM?”, March 17, 2004), that French and German caution in the UN is an impediment to effective world security and that Al-Qa’aida represents a vandal’s attack on civilisation itself which the West would be as foolish to ignore as Rome the Visigoths (see note 9)

Given his significant agreement with government propaganda some wonder if Kelly is shifting politically to the right following a trend in accordance with perceived management directive of the Murdoch newspaper group. In support of this one can also note an apparent hardening or contradiction of Kelly’s previously held views: that Australian involvement in Iraq does not increase security risk, that American militarism must be legitimized by the UN and that the Australia-Indonesia relationship must balance the Australia-US relationship

In my opinion Kelly’s fundamental political viewpoint has not shifted much, if at all, for years. While his columns shed crocodile tears for the UN and the negative effects of US unilateralism on Australia’s regional relationships, Kelly’s heart lies firmly with the US. In his pieces which explore the meaning of his support for the UN, Kelly is quite straight-forward that he expects the UN to be subservient to his preferred hegemon, free even from the “paralyzing” effect of other Western democracies. Kelly’s published opinion has hardened as the US demands on its allies harden. This is to be expected within Kelly’s framework of pre-suppositions about the world. Quite likely, Kelly’s support of the US is independent of that of Murdoch’s.

What is initially unexpected from Kelly though, is the energy and negativity of his reaction to Mark Latham’s recently enunciated views on Australian foreign policy. In reviewing Latham’s speech to the Lowy Policy Institute For Foreign Affairs, “Labor And The World”, Kelly branded Latham “radical on the US alliance”, representing a “generational leap beyond The Hawke-Keating-Beazley era” which “was genuinely pro-American”. Kelly said Latham instead sees “an America for which [he and the ALP] has scant regard” representing the”visceral hatred” of the ALP towards America.20

Latham was in fact very complimentary to the US which he described as “a great and robust democracy and committed Labour to “the Alliance with the United States” which he described as “a Labor legacy of which we are very proud.” noting that “[The Alliance] has been strong in the past. And it will be strong in the future”

Far from being a radical, Latham utilised language that marked him as being unopposed to the prudent use of US hegemonic power noting that “[The US] has assumed the ultimate responsibility: global leadership for the purpose of global cooperation and security.” He is comfortable in using the US-sourced term for its current foreign policy “the war on terror” which Latham believes “will be long and sustained.” since “the dangers terrorism presents have to be addressed on many fronts”. Latham is not opposed to “humanitarian intervention or pre-emption under Article 24 of the UN Charter”, one of the pretexts for the American invasion.

In fact Latham’s foreign policy viewpoint maps very closely to Kelly’s own oft-repeated views. Latham described Labor foreign policy as being based on “three pillars…” support for the United Nations and multilateral institutions, our alliance with the United States and our engagement with Asia”. This is identical in tone to Kelly’s own layered approach. Like Kelly, Latham makes special reference to China in foreign trade calculations and again like Kelly, Latham carries special regard for an open economy based around WTO guidelines – in Latham’s words “Labor believes in multilateralism, most of all through the WTO”.21
Given that Latham’s views so well overlap with Kelly’s it is superficially unexpected that Kelly is so opposed to Latham’s viewpoint and so unfair in his characterization of Latham’s supposed “hatred” of the US. Latham’s mistake of course, and what makes him “chilling” to Kelly is that Latham really does seem to believe in a semi-autonomous, layered foreign policy for Australia not dictated by shifts in American mood or demand.

This makes Latham “dangerous”. He opposes the American doctrine of pre-emptive war – not the UN definition – which is the ideological lynchpin for the war on terror, does not support the Iraq invasion and favours a “Defence of Australia” military posture rather than an expeditionary force posture. Clearly Latham’s views carry the possibility that Australia will not provide troops for subsequent US pre-emptive invasions. This risks the rage of the Americans and a possible downgrading of the bilateral relationship. For Kelly this represents national disaster, hence his hostility toward Latham.

Kelly’s criticism of Latham extends to odd lengths. Kelly writes

“[Latham’s Lowy’s Institute speech] says nothing about the value of the US role in
the world or the US as a force for good. Nothing.”

By “a force for good” Kelly presumably means that the USA is devoted to foreign policy goals incorporating the furtherment of democracy and human rights around the world, the relief of suffering, humanitarian aid and so on. In contrast, in the same article Kelly considers China to be something less than a force for good and chastises Latham and the ALP for

“a touching innocence about China that seems devoid of
critical assessment.”22

But who is the innocent: Latham or Kelly? Is the US really “a force for good”? Since Kelly’s article on Latham was written in the broader context of Latham’s call to return Australian troops from Iraq I will restrict my comments to recent US policy and actions there.

Kelly is apparently unaware that the US actively supported the murderous Saddam Hussein during the period of his worst crimes including his mass killings of Kurds by gas attack.

Throughout the 1980’s the US provided military equipment to Saddam along with strategy advice and intelligence, acted decisively to prevent Iranian victory in the Iraq/Iran war, donated billions of dollars in financial aid, sold Saddam chemical agents including VX Nerve Gas and Anthrax and underwrote his Ballistic weapons programs. The CIA even calibrated Saddam’s Mustard Gas weapons for use against Iran.

The USA blamed Iran, not Iraq, for the notorious Halabja gas attacks knowing the truth to be different. Even after a U.S. delegation travelled to Turkey at the request of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in mid-late 1988 and confirmed that Iraq “was using chemical weapons on its Kurdish population” the State Department was urging closer relations with Saddam. In Sept. 1988 the Reagan administration overturned its own Senate’s “Prevention of Genocide Act” which would have made Iraq ineligible to receive U.S. loans, military and non-military assistance, credits, credit guarantees, and items subject to export controls. In Oct. 1989 President Bush signed National Security Directive 26 providing Iraq with a further $1bn in aid amongst further significant support. 23

The US was not in the least concerned about the mass killings of Kurds under Saddam. The US at the time was pro-Saddam in order to prevent the rise of Iran as a regional hegemon. The Kurds were completely expendable in the face of the Iranian threat to the greatest strategic asset in the world, namely, Middle East oil.

The US committed numerous atrocities during the first Gulf War including cluster bombing in civilian areas, deliberate withholding of medicines and medical equipment from hospitals, destruction of civilian water supplies and the use of radioactive weapons.24

Contrary to US and British claims, the No-Fly zones instituted after the first Gulf War were not designed to protect the Kurds or the Marsh Arabs, Turkish troops and aircraft regularly entered the northern no-fly zone covering Iraqi Kurdistan to bomb and kill while the US and British stood aside.

Similarly, in the Southern zone, Iraqi troop movements were not prohibited, not even Iraqi military helicopters, only Iraqi jets. Hence, US and British planes circled overhead or stayed grounded while Saddam marched in with customary brutality to crush the 1998 rebellion. Entire towns were leveled, mass summary executions ordered and historic Shia shrines and mosques bombed. It is estimated that Saddam’s forces killed 100,000 Marsh Arabs in the five months ending September 1998. American troops were ordered not to prevent the mass killings. The extra concession to allow Iraqi military helicopters into the Southern No-Fly zone but not the Northern was obviously made to facilitate Saddam’s murderous rampage 25

The trigger for the latest US invasion of Iraq was the infamous 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, not concern for democracy or human rights. The US Administration moved quickly to make political capital out of the sorrow and anger amongst the public to blame the attacks on Iraq in a knowing untruth and so justify their invasion.

Bush Administration claims in regard Iraqi WMD’s “’dangled in front of [the media] failed the laugh test,’ the editor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists commented, ‘but the more ridiculous [they were,] the more the media strove to make whole-hearted swallowing of them a test of patriotism.’ (Linda Rothstein, editor BAS, July 2003) But they served their intended purpose. Quickly a majority of Americans came to believe that they were present targets of Iraqi WMDs. Foolsd by their own government who knew otherwise, almost fifty per cent of Americans linked Saddam Hussein to the World Trade Centre tragedy. All this helped Bush and his insiders drum up support for the Iraq invasion. 26

In September 2002, Donald Rumsfeld repeated these untruths to the Senate Armed Services Committee:
Senator Mark Dayton: “What is it compelling us now to make a precipitous decision and take precipitous actions?”
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld: “What’s different? What’s different is 3,000 people were killed.”
The CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack summarized the effectiveness of the Bush administration’s propaganda assault against its own people like so:
‘The real difference was the change from September 11th. The sense that after September 11th, the American people were now willing to make sacrifices to prevent threats from abroad from coming home to visit us here made it possible to think about a big invasion force.’ 27

Western power is not committed to democracy in Iraq. In calling for the “people of Iraq” to overthrow Saddam following the first Gulf War, President Bush was really calling for a military coup – another Saddam, but an obedient Saddam. This is admitted by the US itself and seconded by the British:
“We clearly would have preferred a coup. There’s no question about that,” – Bush’s national security adviser Brent Scowcroft Interview on ABC News, 26 June 1997 30
‘I don’t recall asking the Kurds to mount this particular insurrection ….We hope very much that the military in Iraq will remove Saddam Hussein” – British Prime Minister John Major, ITN interview, 4 April, 199128
“..for very practical reasons there was never a promise to aid an uprising. While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf.” – President Bush and Brent Scowcroft, Time Magazine, 2 March 1988

In summary the US is willing to countenance mass killings including the extermination of a half a million children32, use radioactive weapons, cluster bomb in civilian areas, destroy civilian water supplies, deprive civilians of medicines, sell Nerve Gas and Anthrax, build the Ballistic weapons program of a megalomaniac dictator, back military coups and lie to its own population and the world community. And that’s just in Iraq.
Latham has excellent reasons for not eulogizing the US as a force for good. It is Kelly that is the innocent, but I am not certain that this innocence is “touching”.

Kelly is a very influential journalist with access to a large newspaper readership and appears regularly as a mainstream commentator on national TV. His views on US, Iraq and Australia reach into every home. As such his views on the proper attitude of Australia politicians toward US policy (rhapsodic praise) have the potential to influence the entire polity. It is therefore alarming that Kelly’s naivety is so far removed from the truth about US realpolitik and imperial ambitions.

Kelly does not settle for a lack of criticism or even quiet agreement in regard to US foreign policy. The proper attitude for Australian politicians in regard to the USA in Kelly’s view is unrestrained applause. Latham didn’t describe the US as a ‘force for evil’ or less emotively, ‘an outlaw terrorist state’. He just didn’t say they were a force for good. Does Kelly expect Australian politicians as a matter of obligation or respect for the Australia-US alliance to repeat US propaganda verbatim regardless of what they may or may not believe?

Kelly is able to discover that China is sometimes worthy of criticism, presumably due to its repression of democracy in Tiannemen Square, in Tibet and of the Uighur of Xinjiang, but he is apparently not able to discover the facts about American invasion and support for repression in Iraq. This in incredible, if not frankly unbelievable, for a person of his experience and exposure to international affairs.

Paul Kelly is the radical on the Australia-US relationship, not Latham. It is Kelly who is prepared to risk increased security danger, trade reprisal, disrupt regional relationships, fan Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia, fight non-essential wars of choice and turn a blind eye to the death of hundreds of thousands to remain in the good graces of the USA.

This being so Paul Kelly is a dangerous man. Kelly knows, but will not directly state, that the US is committed to preserving its global political, economic and military supremacy through raw power35 as described in its National Security Strategy delivered in Sept. 2002 34. Since we are “hostage” to the US in its present mood in Kelly’s view and “have no choice” except to agree with our ally, Kelly is therefore committed to endless war as long as the US is prepared to wage it.

True, Kelly expects the direct costs to Australia to be very small.33 But as for the costs borne by Iraqis under aerial bombardment, showered by radioactive dust from American depleted-uranium warheads, for the children playing in ruined cities amidst unexploded cluster bomblets with their homes, hospitals and water supply smashed to oblivion – well they are irrelevant.

It can be expected that Kelly will use his position of influence within the electorate to continue to argue for loyalty to the US regardless of how many the US chooses to kill in advancement of its economic and political goals. He can also be expected to energetically argue against those, such as Latham, who will not stomach being associated with such slaughter.

Kelly apparently attended the recent Cancun conference for Murdoch editors and commentators addressed by Bush’s National Security Adviser, Condaleeza Rice. A directive to present the US as “a force for good” sounds like just the sort of “editorial guideline” one would expect to appear in an internal memo or media briefing paper. Unfortunately the results of Kelly’s appalling ”innocence” impact disgracefully on Australian’s ability to make informed voting choices about our association with US foreign policy and hence the practice of our democracy.


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