Friday, December 08, 2006

Howard’s Head in the Sand Over Iraq?

Messrs Howard and Downer will deny until they’re black and blue in the face that oil had anything to do with the invasion of Iraq. Just before the invasion, they parroted the lies of influential members of the American establishment – both those in the Bush administration and some in News Limited – that the war was being fought to make us safe from terrorism.

Later, when it turned out Iraq had no WMD’s and the Iraqi Ba’ath Party had no links to Islamist terror groups, other excuses were put. We were told democracy and peace would be restored to Iraq. We were told that human rights of Kurds and other groups were at stake.

Iraq remains a quagmire, heading for what seems inevitable sectarian and ethnic civil war. Groups like al-Qaida continue to murder and maim innocent Iraqi civilians in a manner they could never have dreamed of when Saddam Hussein was in power. We are part of the mess.

It says a lot about John Howard that he wasn’t prepared to come clean with the Australian people about taking them to a Middle Eastern war. Yet a member of his government was prepared to tell his buddies in the Australian Wheat Board as far back as February 2002, well before the first Bali bombing that Howard reminded us constantly of when arguing his case for war.

Mr Howard says that the Australian official who told AWB of the government’s intentions of joining the American war in Iraq was expressing a personal opinion. If that is the case, how is it that an Australian diplomat knows more about American intentions in relation to Iraq than the PM himself? Maybe Howard isn’t surely he must be wondering how much intelligence and how many security decisions the Bush administration shares with him.

On a Saturday night some weeks back, American comic Azhar Usman posed this question to his Sydney audience: “Why did they call the invasion Operation Iraqi Freedom? They should have called it Operation Iraqi Liberation. That would have made more sense. O.I.L.”

And at a conference on The Journalist and Islam co-organised by Macquarie University and UTS, The Australian’s opinion editor Tom Switzer acknowledged that his newspaper made a huge blunder in supporting the war in Iraq.

Journalists and editors like Switzer are honest enough to acknowledge the war was (in his words) a “complete disaster”. So has the Iraq Study Group appointed by President Bush.

Yet John Howard and his ministers have their heads plonked firmly in the sands of Iraq. Howard is the only world leader left who unconditionally supports indefinitely staying in Iraq. Hardly a statesmanlike position to be in.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

Keith Ellison and the Koran controversy

Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison made history as the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. And already, neo-Cons like Dick Prager (who happens to be Jewish) lament Ellison “will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.” Apparently this act “undermines American civilization”.

(In fact, the actual swearing-in ceremony is done by all congressmen together and doesn’t involve any scriptures!)

Another Philadelphia-based neo-Con shock jock
posed this question to Ellison during an interview on CNN on November 14: “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies”.

One neo-Con blogger asks: “Does Keith Ellison, recently elected to Congress from Minnesota , think he's Allah's son? If so, his allegiance should be sworn in a nation where Muslim is the founding principle.” I never knew Muslim could be a founding principle.

Ellison’s critics forget that the US Constitution is essentially a multicultural and multiconfesional document. Don’t expect multiculturalism-haters like Janet Albrechtsen to be taking up US citizenship in a hurry, regardless of what her Uncle Rupert does!

Ellison won’t be the first Muslim democratic representative to take an oath on the Islamic scripture. In 2002, Labour MP Dr Ashraf Choudhary was sworn into the New Zealand Parliament on the Koran. He was criticised at the time by the current Kiwi Foreign Minister Winston Peters who claimed this represented a breach of proper Parliamentary procedure.

In the home of Westminster Democracy, Parliamentary rules specifically provide for the Oath of Allegiance to involve a Jewish MP holding the Old Testament or a Muslim MP holding the Koran. Baron Ahmed of Rotherham took his oath in the House of Lords whilst holding a Koran.

Returning to Congressman Keith Ellison, Minnesota TV host Don Shelby cited two websites linked to al-Qaida which described Ellison as “one of them, a one way ticket to hell”. With enemies like that ...

© Irfan Yusuf 2006