May 2003 #2

Iraq and the Governor General

Are there any similarities between the recent war on Iraq and the hurrah facing our Governor General?

I always find it interesting to do a bit of a background search on "issues of the day". Sometimes what is out there, in the public domain, is rather

For instance late last week the US administration pulled its highest-ranking official, Lieutenant General Jay Garner and his retinue, from Iraq. Late last
week our own governor general, Peter Hollingworth "stepped aside" and his immediate personal staff were deployed to someone else.

Both men were controversial appointments by any measure and it seems both have failed miserably in meeting the expectations of their political masters. Both men have lived off the public weal for a number of years. Both men, although disgraced in office, still receive their weekly paycheck, although for all intents and purposes they are unemployed.

In Peter Hollingworth's case, he will continue to get his $6,000 a week publicly funded salary while the lowest income families find themselves slugged once more by fiscal pea and thimble tricks. Of course he also get free meals, board, first class travel, free tickets to shows and sports not to mention free health and medical care plus a lifetime pension when he retires or is replaced. Pity the poor wage slave eh?

In Iraq we find the US administration has appointed a high level public relations flack to the position of administrator. L. Paul Bremer, a former Ambassador and Executive Secretary of the State Department, now finds himself in charge of managing the "on the ground" public relations debacle that the US calls Operation Freedom or Liberation or some such smarmy, double speak. Bremer, a right wings conservative, was the CEO of Marsh Crisis Consulting and was a Bush appointee to the Orwellian titled "Homeland Security Advisory Committee". In 1999 he was appointed the chair of the US National Commission on Terrorism. The review of US counter-terrorism strategies was obviously not effective or prescient.

Prior to taking up his post at Marsh Crisis Consulting, Bremer was the Managing Director of Kissinger Associates. That's right the notorious war criminal and terrorist organiser, Henry Kissinger's firm. Charges of war crimes have been brought against Kissinger for his lack of regard of human rights and dignity during his time in the US administration.

Our own Peter Hollingworth seems to have turned a blind eye to child abuse during his former job and it also seems he was quite prepared to hand out jobs to the boys in order to protect them if and when necessary. His defense has always been ignorance and he lamely points out that "back then things were different". Like Kissinger, Hollingworth attempts to defend the indefensible. 

Paul Bremer has been described as "Kissinger gofer" who at one time advocated hiring "any" terrorist as long as they were "our" terrorists. As a PR flack his prime role in Iraq will be to ensure that as the large multinationals, such as Dick Cheney's former employer Halliburton, dig deeper into the trough of public money that will flow in for reconstruction efforts, that any potential negative press this will generate is stifled. 

Interestingly, Bremer's biography says that his role at Marsh was as the head of the "political risk business" which also included dealing with governmental "financial mismanagement.

Peter Hollingworth has now employed his own PR flack to run his image rebuilding campaign.

Both men are bunkered down at the public expense. Hollingworth continues to occupy "our house" and will continue to be served by the 60 or so staff employed there. Of course we now pay for two men and their families to occupy "our house" , but we go into that now. Of course, Bremer will be well catered for, living in one of Saddam's old digs - a presidential palace. It's worth remembering that both men's extravagances have been criticised as belonging to a bygone age of repression, oppression and autocratic rule. Mmm, we still have a Queen and her boy as our head of state and anything we want to do must be run past Her Magesty 's nose.

Like our own boy in the big house, Bremer will remain in place only as long as he does his master's bidding. In his case that will be to ensure that the well connected multinationals, whose former executives now occupy the White House, get the pick of the takings in Iraq.

Hollingworth, like Bremer, now finds himself having to prove his mettle on the ground.

Both men have found themselves entering into the real street fighting. Sure Bremer's enemies are not dead so I guess Hollingworth has one advantage on that point. However, both men rely on their political masters for their ongoing enjoyment of the "high life".

On that point, a slight digression. Are there any similarities between the average Iraqi and the average Aussie? In some ways yes.

Once more the underlying "contradictions inherent in the system" (to quote Eric Idle if I recall) were revealed in the comments by Minister for Denial, Amanda Vanstone.

In a revealing offhand remark, she made the observation that for those on low incomes the Government's so called "tax cuts" wouldn't even pay for a light snack of a milkshake and a sticky bun. So it seems like our Iraqi counterparts, getting fed will remain a real issue for those on low or no incomes. The only real difference between the Aussie battler and the Iraqi people is that, at least for those lucky enough to have a job, the Aussie will probably get paid at the end of the week (as long as AMP doesn't go under) and he or she doesn't have to dodge bullets on the way to work each day.

Returning to our main topic, it would seem that there are a number of similarities between the situation in Iraq and here at home.

Both administrations are facing crises of image and have brought in the image managers to do a quick make-over and reposition their respective clients (the US corporates in Iraq, the reputation of the GG's office here at home). 

It seems that both administrations were aware of the problems facing their men long before the issues became public. Both administrations have attempted to do some crisis management to hose the issues down. However, unlike Howard, who sat on his hands for five months after becoming aware of the allegations against Hollingworth, US Corporate flunky now Chief Head Kicker, Donald "duck" Rumsfeld, pulled his man out as soon as he could find a compliant replacement. However, one similarity both men have is pig headed stubbornness.

Much ridicule was heaped on the former Iraqi Information Minister, Comical Ali (Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf ) for his denials that the war was actually happening, but if we examine the comments of Howard and Rumsfeld, we have to ask ourselves who is trying to fool who. All three of them seem to live in their own fictitious world that is occupied by fairies, little green men and WMD's, all of which in the real world are yet to have their existence proved.

So where do we go from here? We have tin pot regimes ruling over us who attempt to keep us amused with bread and circuses. Mouldy, stale bread and old, recycled acts for sure, but bread and circuses nonetheless.

The main thing to remember is that these regimes are of our own making. We, as citizens have allowed our voices to be appropriated and used against us. There is potential for us to regain the ground we have given up but the battle will be long and gruelling.

Just like our bothers and sisters in Iraq there are forces arrayed against us in the battle for our hearts and minds. How we choose to face up to that battle will decide our community's future. The question for us, as always, is, when the battle comes to your street, whose side will cast your lot with?