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John Howard, the freedom medal and the death of satire

So George W Bush – the Commander in Chief of Global Terror – is to give our former Prime Minister John Howard – the Man of Steal – a freedom medal for his “work in improving the lives of [his] citizens and for [his] efforts to promote democracy, human rights and peace abroad.”

As Tom Lehrer said when Henry Kissinger – the man who bombed the hell out of Vietnam and Cambodia and killed millions – won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize: “It was at that moment that satire died. There was nothing more to say after that.”

Giving Howard the freedom medal is a macabre joke. But neither Bush nor Howard, or that other accomplice in terror, Tony Blair, are laughing.  They think this is serious stuff.

I suppose the man who won the 2000 Presidential election by five Supreme Court votes to four feels no compunction in giving this “honour” to John Howard who in the name of democracy won the 1998 election with 48.9 per cent of the popular vote (on a two party preferred basis.)

George W Bush is the antithesis of freedom.  His sanctioning of rendition and torture and his establishment of the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay are but two indications that he is opposed to freedom. His invasion of Iraq has killed 1 million Iraqis – roughly the equivalent of September 11 wreaked on the Iraqi people every week. His support for the terrorist state of Israel has reached the highs of now encouraging and condoning the present campaign of genocide – a campaign going back more than 60 years – against the Palestinian people.  These are the actions of a warmonger and war criminal, not a man of peace.

I hope I live to see the day when American workers rise up and sweep aside the imperialist elite and in doing so let loose the hounds of freedom across their nation and the world.

The US media is getting in a tizz because Howard is staying at Balir House and has gazumped Barack Obama in doign so. Well, I suppose that has some new value. But what about the obsecenity of one war criminal giving another war criminal a medal for spreading “peace”, “democracy” and “human rights”. It just shows the shallowness of most of the US media (and the Australian media, to be fair) Both have also shied away from admitting the reality – Western leaders are the major global terrrorists.

And what of our own John Howard, who claims the award is an honour for the Australian people? Not for me it isn’t.  If I had a chance I’d throw my shoes at this Mini Me war monger and war criminal.

Howard has waged war at home and abroad. At home his war has been against workers, Muslims and refugees, and abroad it has been against a range of people from Iraq and Afghanistan to The Solomon Islands and East Timor.

Howard’s Work Choices laws were about giving the bosses more and more power over workers. He lost the election  in part because of this particularly nasty piece of pro-ruling class, anti-working class, anti-human rights legislation.  It was such bad law that even the lapdogs of the ACTU “campaigned” against it, and the International Labour Organisation condemned it for breaching various principles including the right to belong to a union and to bargain collectively.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission has such draconian powers that union members can be threatened with jail for refusing to attend “compulsory” hearings with the ABCC about off-site meetings in lunchtime of union members. 

The 1998 waterside workers’ dispute saw dogs and men in balaclavas attack picketing strikers.  Scabs trained in Dubai. Some commitment to democracy and peace!  The unions won in the courts, but lost in the ports.

Howard has enriched our lives so much that his economic legacy has left we workers at the mercy of the global recession, and seen our living standards (through falling house prices and devalued superannuation benefits) crash.  All this has happened before unemployment jumps next year to at least 6.5 per cent or an extra 250,000 jobless at a minimum.

Look at Howard’s criminal activities overseas. We invaded East Timor and the Solomon Islands, under the guise of humanitarianism, to extend our interests in the region and warn other nearby countries that we are a powerful military prepared to use our firepower if we want.

Howard joined Bush in the invasion of Iraq, giving political support to this heinous crime and using the fradulent excuse of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  In other words he lied (not for the first time) to the Australian people about the reason for the invasion. 

Howard is complicit in the death of one million Iraqis through sending troops to Iraq to support US imperialism. That’s the sign of a peace loving man?

We are supposedly leaving Iraq (although advisers and guards will remain).  This is a defeat for Australian imperialism in Iraq but is counterbalanced by an increased concentration on the war in Afghanistan. Pressure from the US to increase our troops there will only intensify after Obama takes office. The Government could agree to do that, especially if European countries buckle to Obama’s demands and increase their troop numbers.

It was Howard who joined with the US in the invasion of Afghanistan.  The public rationale was to fight ‘terrorism’ and ‘capture’ bin Laden. These are cover for the real reason – the US judged that it was in its strategic interests to invade Afghanistan (in part to help encircle China.) There is little chance of success there. The Taliban will defeat Western imperialism.

Australia is an imperialist country.  It wants to expand its influence in the immediate region and South East Asia.  It also wants a strong bulwark against Chinese imperialism.  So Howard (like Rudd) strongly supports US imperialism by joining in its major wars. 

Since 1885 attaching ourselves to the major imperialist power has been an important part of Australia’s defence thinking. From the Sudan (when we were not yet even a nation but beginning to think like one) to the Boer War to the First and Second World Wars through to Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, our position has been to attach ourselves to the dominant world power to gain an insurance policy against other imperialisms and to allow us to operate under the umbrella of that protection in the immediate Pacific region and expand our clout further into South East Asia.

Human rights?  Mamdouh Habib alleges he was tortured and that that some of his interrogators had Australian accents. (He lost his case on this issue because it was difficult to prove and the Government may have suppressed information that supported Habib’s case.)  Habib spent five months in Egypt as part of the Western outsourcing of terror before being taken to Guantanamo Bay and imprisoned without charge for years.

David Hicks rotted in Guantanamo Bay until, driven to despair, he pleaded guilty to fake charges to get home and move on with his life.

What crime did Australian permanent resident Cornelia Rau commit to spend almost a year in a concentration camp known eumphemistically as a detention centre?  How are these centres about improving human rights?

Locking refugees up or sending them to prison in Nauru is a denial of human rights.

Howard’s draconian anti-terror laws have created thought crimes. They have been used to convict innocent men. 

Dr Haneef spent 12 days in confinement under these anti-democratic laws. They offend the very essence of human rights.

In 2001 Howard attacked the Tampa with its hundreds of rescued refugees on board, in contravention of all human rights conventions.

He lied for base political purposes about children overboard. “We will decide who comes into this country and the circumstances in which they come” was the hate filled electoral catch cry of this vile representative of the ruling class. That’s not human rights, it’s the negation of decades of international law and rights provisions.

Howard overrode the Racial Discrimination Act to invade the Northern Territory as part of a deliberate strategy to dispossess the original inhabitants.  Is that defending human rights? 

What did he do when the crypto-fascism of Hansonism began to win seats in Queensland and had Pauline in Canberra?  He dog whistled to them, rather than standing up to them.  Some democrat, some peace lover.

Howard has nothing in common with peace, freedom or democracy.

I’d like to comfort myself with the fact that we have sent Howard to the dust bin of history and that Bush is about to leave in disgrace as possibly the worst President ever.

However Obama so far looks as if all he is a competent Bush. It’s change you can’t believe in.

And in Australia the HowRuddistas are, predictably, continuing much of Howard’s anti-democratic, anti-human rights, imperialist, hate filled and violent agenda.



Comment from Bob the Binder
Time January 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm

To everything you have written about John Winston Howard (who thought he was God) I heartily agree with you.

Comment from john tons
Time January 8, 2009 at 10:44 am

Death of satire? I would have thought that was when the French gave the USA the Statue of Liberty.

Comment from John
Time January 8, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Thanks john tons.

Lehrer’s comment was probably apocryphyl and I suspect there are many moments in history when our own biases find something just too upside down or bizarre that the comment about the death of satire comes to mind. It may also be that it is a convenient cliché for hacks like me.

Comment from richmond
Time January 15, 2009 at 12:11 am

The ‘medal’ presentation is just a cover, I suspect. The thief in chief needed his buddies to help him carry out everything that’s not bolted down from the White House. Only six days to go!

Comment from John Passant
Time January 15, 2009 at 4:46 am

Thanks richmond

Come on 20 January! In saying that Suspect it is going to be a bit like happened here in Australia – elation at Howard’s defeat but growing disillusionment with his replacement who often continues the previous man of steal’s policies. or tweaks them.

As I said on another blog on this site, it is the position which makes the person, and so I think Obama will continue the wars overseas (emphasising Afghanistan rather than Iraq) and will possibly fix up some messes at home like health care.

But as to the US economic crisis? Stimulus packages don’t address low profit rates. Cutting wages and conditions and lengthening the unpaid working day might help (from a capitalist’s point of view.) So he may well continue the war on workers since profit is his game. Thus he cannot preside over a shift in wealth to workers. he will have to preside over a shift in wealth to bosses.

I don’t know how much room to manoeuvre there is in that regard. Average wages fell one per cent during Bush’s 8 long, dark, reactionary years. But the rich got much richer. The minimum wage is 5% lower.

Workers’ wealth (houses and super) has collapsed 20 per cent.

I am not sure Obama can or will address these issues since to do so involves a fundamental challenge to the rule of profit.

Let’s see what happens.