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Issue #1528      23 November 2011

Culture & Life

Foreign minister speaks with forked tongue

Did you see the news report about the recently declassified documents exposing Kevin Rudd’s double dealing over nuclear disarmament? I am not surprised if you didn’t, because it was a truly tiny item measuring only a couple of inches by one column.

Kevin Rudd while Prime Minister “had made a campaign against nuclear weapons a hallmark of his foreign policy” at the same time privately sending messages to the US government urging them to maintain a “reliable” and “credible” nuclear arsenal.


The documents in question related to Rudd’s period as Prime Minister. As The Sydney Morning Herald put it: Rudd “had made a campaign against nuclear weapons a hallmark of his foreign policy” but that apparently was strictly for public, domestic consumption. In reality, the newly available documents reveal, Rudd was privately sending messages to the US government urging them to maintain a “reliable” and “credible” nuclear arsenal.

It seems that, in 2009, at the same time that Rudd was big-noting his campaign to “rid the world of nuclear weapons”, he sent a confidential submission to a US review of nuclear readiness in which he supported the idea that the US should retain its nuclear weapons for “deterrence”.

A bookie might say that Rudd was merely trying to “have a bit each way”, but what it reminds me of most clearly is the scene in so many Hollywood westerns where the Indian chief, fed up with being lied to all the time, growls out: “White man speaks with forked tongue.”

That’s certainly what Rudd was doing, but apparently a lying PM is not newsworthy anymore.

While on the subject of things you may have seen in the media, did you note the cool response of the Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, to the occupation of St Paul’s churchyard by anti-Wall St protesters? The protesters had occupied the churchyard on their way to occupy nearby Paternoster Square, but the square it seems is private property and the police were waiting to thump them if they tried to take it over. So they simply stayed put and occupied the churchyard.

The City of London police took a hard line, surrounding the peaceful demonstration and refusing to allow anyone to enter or leave until late in the evening. The police maintained their action was to “protect” the cathedral, and zealously tried to prevent anyone from even sitting or standing on the cathedral steps. Enter the Reverend Dr Fraser, who asked the police to move on. He did not believe that St Paul’s needed “that kind of protection”.

He declared himself a supporter of the democratic right to peaceful protest and said the aims of the occupation movement were in keeping with Christian values. “This morning”, he said, “I read a bit from Matthew Chapter Six, about how you can’t serve God and money.” (With talk like that, the Reverend Dr Fraser is in danger of being outed as a closet Bolshie.)

His sentiments were in line with those of the protesters, at any rate. One demonstrator came dressed as Jesus Christ, with a placard declaring “I drove the money changers out of the temple for a reason.”

But while ordinary people all over the world are joining protests aimed at money changers (and the banks they own), others are struggling against war mongers and other corporate thieves as big business tries to reassert its dominance over the globe.

At the very time that the US and its main European allies – France and Germany – were finishing their destruction of the most developed North African country for refusing to toe the imperialist line, the US President was telling his people, with a completely straight face, that “the threat of war is receding”. Almost in the same breath he was boasting about US plans to put its military forces into four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as into northern Australia, countries with strategic minerals and/or oil.

Last month only Chinese and Russian vetoes stopped the leaders of the US, the European Union and Turkey from pushing a resolution through the UN Security Council that would have enabled NATO to intervene militarily in Syria under the pretext of defending civilians and human rights (similar to the stunt they pulled in Libya). The US was furious at the Chinese and Russian action.

The US recently used its UN veto to block the admission of Palestine to the world body. Palestine’s admission would have been very inconvenient for the US stalking horse Israel. As Adnan Azzouz, of the Syrian General Federation of Trade Unions says: the US veto “is a cover for Israel’s settlement policies and the denial of the right of return of the Palestinian people”.

Not so long ago, the bloated US military budget meant mega profits for numerous US corporations coupled with dominance of global trade relations. But now, it is increasingly obvious that such a level of non-productive military expenditure is unsustainable. It can only lead to a warping of the US economy and a huge waste of finite resources.

The calamitous rise in poverty, its devastating spread across the US from coast to coast, the obviousness of the decline in living standards for working Americans, all this adds up to a crisis in the US economy unprecedented since the Great Depression. The rich may be richer than they ever were before, but at the same time the number of dirt poor US citizens has climbed astronomically.

What’s more, it is more visible than ever before. No amount of smoke and mirrors, no amount of glamorous Hollywood movies or escapist TV series can hide the reality that confronts Americans daily. The prevailing poverty that underscores that reality is so ever-present it has even been incorporated into the escapist fare that is supposed to take people’s minds off the reality.

That more and more people are saying “enough is enough!” is a very positive sign, as are the demonstrations against the banks. There is a long way to go yet, but the people are stirring.  


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