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Brown has a bob each way and is left with no place to stand on Iraq

By Martin Philip - posted Wednesday, 28 July 2004

US President George W Bush thinks the September 11 commission got it wrong. Despite the finding of no “collaborative relationship” between Iraq and Al Qaeda, Mr Bush insists terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s activities in Iraq are proof enough Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were in cahoots.

Al Zarqawi is such a baddie, insists Bush, because he is “still killing innocents inside of Iraq”. Sound familiar?

It should be familiar to Senator Bob Brown watchers. Brown’s diatribe in the Tasmanian Parliament on April 4, 1991 echoes Bush’s words. Here’s what the future Bush Jnr heckler said back then: 


The House calls on the Prime Minister Bob Hawke to act immediately to put pressure on Australia's allies to intervene in Iraq to stop the slaughter of the Kurds and establish their right to self-determination ... we're in the disgusting position of sitting on our hands while these people are absolutely slaughtered - the least we can do is get our Prime Minister to speak up and put the full weight of this country towards the protection of these innocents.

What a noble enterprise it is to – protect the innocents! Kipling could scarcely surpass such an eloquent call to arms if he were still alive. The white man’s burden weighs heavily on Bob Brown – or so it did 13 years ago.

George Bush Snr and his then Australian lieutenant Bob Hawke resisted the urgings of Brown and the other would be neo-imperialists’ call to liberate the Kurds back then. However, George Bush Jnr and his Pacific sheriff John Howard have taken up the challenge and done exactly what Brown demanded all those years ago.

And guess what? Bob doesn’t like it. The liberation of Iraq he considered so important in 1991 is suddenly tantamount to a war crime.

And the brave dissident Brown told Bush Jnr as much in a joint sitting of federal parliament last year, clearly relishing the international attention he attracted for all of 10 seconds.

Brown’s posturing is undoubtedly hypocritical: one minute Australia is “sitting on its hands” as Iraqis are butchered, the next it is breaching international law by participating in the intervention he demanded.


In fact, hypocrisy is the key to Brown’s political strategy. He’s the leader of a minor party with marginal influence on actual events. Sure, the Greens might be able to use their Senate numbers once in a blue moon to influence proceedings - provided Labor needs its votes - but Brown doesn’t want any genuine responsibility.

Rather, Brown simply wants to be in the limelight. He is desperate to retain his mantle as messiah to the hideously over-educated inner-city leftists that can’t bring themselves to vote Labor. In order to keep his lucrative gig on track, Brown has to cast his adversaries as unprincipled, even if that means holding contradictory positions on a variety of issues.

Given Brown’s concern for Iraqis, shouldn’t he now be applauding the arraignment of Saddam on war crimes charges? And isn’t there further cause for joy now that "Chemical Ali”, whose suppression of the Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in 1991 made the action taken against Brown’s beloved Kurds look like a tea party, is also in the dock? Alas, the senator remains silent.

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About the Author

Martin Philip is a postgraduate journalism student at the University of Queensland. He has worked and travelled extensively in Europe, Morocco & Turkey.

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