Saturday, June 02, 2007

R.I.P. Robert Mitchum

There’s a YouTube video of Robert Mitchum, circa 1966, currently enjoying much vogue among the ‘With Us Or Against Us’ war puppies.

Asked if the US should pull out of Vietnam, Mitchum pontificates — almost lucidly — with all the conviction of the couch-bound warrior caste (the precursor to the present day keyboard warrior):

There’s no way — you can’t pull out. You can’t pull out of the human race. It’s impossible — believe me! — you can’t pull out. Anybody who’s been over there, they’ll tell you, you’ve no choice, you can’t get out.

Having just rejected the possibility of any alternative to pulling out, Mitchum is then asked by a journalist: “What are the alternatives, Mr Mitchum?”

Apparently unperturbed, Mitchum replies:

The alternative is to push the button, is to kill them all. If they don’t learn, kill them. If they won’t be peaceful, kill them. That’s the alternative.

The alternative to “not pulling out” is to “kill them all”? And this guy is supposed to be an antidote to modern-day Hollywood cluelessness? Perhaps I’ve missed something, but I’m certainly impressed with how unfortunate the rest of us are that we can’t live in the neat, push-button world that Mitchum must have inhabited.

But, more to the point, the fact is that the Vietnam War, which Mitchum was supporting in these remarks, is almost universally accepted as a huge mistake, if not a fundamentally immoral undertaking.

If they won’t be peaceful . . . ?? Oh, please!!! Surely Mitchum must have had some idea of the tonnage being dropped on Vietnam at the time by his own country’s peace-loving government. And the escalation, to an appalling degree, of what was after all a civil war in a South East Asian backwater. And all in support of a corrupt, puppet regime.

Mitchum’s bring’em-on bravado from the grave has, of course, been greeted enthusiastically by the ‘Give War a Chance’ end of the blogosphere. The general consensus of the Muftim’s Tim Blair’s fellow travellers seems to be that Mitchum’s couch-warriordom makes him “a real man”.

There are, however, none more enthused than some of the YouTube commenters, notably this one:

Mitchum is one hundred percent correct. That is the way war should be fought. You fight to win at all costs and damn the “human rights” lawyers. ... Time to bring back carpet bombing like we did in Dresden and Tokyo.

One might hope this individual has some coherent idea of just which society he intends should be bombed back to the Stone Age, but you’ve gotta wonder.

Rest in Peace, Robert Mitchum — latter-day voice of the shit-scared and clueless.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Iraq insiders diverge

During a visit to Australia last week, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari urged coalition countries, including Australia, not to “cut and run” in the face of “very, very serious challenges” facing the “democratic experiment in Iraq.”

This was at a joint press conference hosted by Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who predictably chimed in with the now obligatory warning that “to withdraw from Iraq and abandon the people of Iraq would be of course first and foremost, a catastrophe for the Iraqis.”

Of Zebari’s appeal, Greg Sheridan noted in his column a couple of days later that “The Age in Melbourne, the nation’s most left-wing newspaper and the paper that has most strongly opposed every aspect of the coalition action in Iraq, did not see fit to print a word about it on Tuesday.” Actually, the story certainly appeared in the online edition of “the nation's most left-wing newspaper” that Tuesday, but perhaps for some reason it didn’t make it into the print edition. Or perhaps Mr Sheridan forgot about those blinkers that now appear to be rusted on.

Anyway, it occurred to me that the view set forth by Zebari and Downer is somewhat at variance with the views of another Iraqi government insider, Ali Allawi, a former Iraqi defence minister, and now a senior adviser to the present Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Quizzed by ABC-TV’s Lateline on the consequences of foreign troops withdrawals, Mr Allawi said:

Frankly I don’t think there’ll be much ratcheting up of the level of violence.

I think what will happen is possibly a greater sectarianisation as it were of the military forces and will have much more clearly demarcated lines, between the ethnic and sectarian communities.

In terms of the ability to control levels of violence in areas that are now to some extent ethnically or sectarianaly “pure or cleansed” becomes I think much less.

So I don’t think there will be a serious effect on the overall level of violence. But the instability will continue.

It might occur to ask just which of these opposing views is objectively correct. Certainly the remarks by Zebari, as Iraq’s Foreign Minister, would reflect the official policy of Iraq’s government; while Allawi’s assessment probably represents yet another strand of thought in the government.

The short answer, and probably the only answer, is that no-one can know the consequences either way. We all, and particularly the Iraqis, are now locked into the grand “democratic experiment”.

Notwithstanding that apologists for the Bush administration characterise the epic violence of the last four years as the “unintended consequences” of a noble crusade endeavour, the reality is that such dire consequences were broadly understood before the 2003 invasion.

US intelligence agencies warned senior members of the Bush administration in early 2003 that invading Iraq could create instability that would give Iran and al-Qa’ida new opportunities to expand their influence, according to a coming Senate report. ...

The committee also found that the warnings predicting what would happen after the US-led invasion were circulated widely in government, including to the Pentagon and Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office. It was not clear whether President George W. Bush was briefed.

(Hey, if the President wasn’t briefed, then why the ƒυςќ not?!)

The administration is facing renewed criticism for failing to execute adequate post-invasion plans to stabilise Iraq after president Saddam Hussein had been overthrown. Meanwhile, the White House has been trying to make the case that Iraq cannot be abandoned.

Can anyone be even remotely surprised that all the officially “preferred” options seem to lead to a long-term US military presence in Iraq?

Goat Friday

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image source

“... always some drongo who’ll pull a funny face when you’re trying to take a serious photo ...”

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blair Effect misses Al Gore Rhythm

Good grief — Icy blast heralds winter in Melbourne !!!

Victorians should expect a brutal welcome to winter with strong winds, cold temperatures, rain and snow predicted for the next few days.

Okay, we know it must be on the Muftim’s Tim Blair’s mind, so I’ll say it for the tiresome little whacker:

Forget the chill, our planet is just five years away from climate change catastrophe !!!

Thing is, Mr Blair’s meticulous tracking of the Ice Man last had Mr Gore in South America.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Muftim philosophises

There’s been some interesting, um, philosophical discussion over at the Muftim’s Tim Blair’s recently.

First, there was a novel speculation about Janette Howard’s status as the Prime Minister’s wife, in relation to the awarding of “million-dollar government contracts”; followed by an army of straw men mowed down under the scythe of Mr Blair’s critical scrutiny.

Fascinating stuff!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Child protection neglect exposed

Caz of Avatar Briefs, in comments below, raised the matter of the following truly ugly set of numbers:

A review of deaths among children known to Victorian child protection authorities has found that almost half had their cases closed prematurely.

The report by the Victorian Child Death Review Committee, which examined 13 deaths between 2004-06, found that six had their cases closed early.

It also found that 18 children known to Child Protection died last year, up from 11 the previous year.

Problems with case closures, the report states, were most common in situations involving chronic neglect where families were subject to multiple notifications.

As I noted to Caz, this is really an abysmal outcome in such a rich society as ours. And as troubling as that should be, it also seems to indicate a trend of deteriorating standards of child protection in Victoria.

I haven’t yet seen anything by way of response from the Victorian Government. Dare one hope that Human Services Minister Bronwyn Pike will offer a useful policy response to address this state of affairs?

UPDATE 28 MayReported today:

In the wake of a report that revealed 18 children known to authorities died in Victoria last year, Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci said there was an urgent need for Australia to follow the example of Britain and establish a national register of child deaths.

Dr Tucci said protocols within the Department of Human Services’ Child Protection unit dealing with police notification in cases of suspected child abuse were not adequate.

The protocols are designed to ensure a co-ordinated response by Child Protection and police during protective and criminal investigations of child abuse.

However, Dr Tucci said the favouring of minimal intervention practice by the DHS meant many examples of violence and abuse against children never came to the attention of police.

“What the system keeps doing is turning child abuse into more of a welfare issue, rather than recognising it as a crime and using the force of the law to hold parents accountable to the law,” he said.

“I don’t think the protocol is always followed and I think there is a lot of discretion left up to child protection workers in relation to how serious a case has to be before they make a report to the police.” ...