Monday, July 31, 2006

weak at the knees

Saturday’s The Weekend Australian ran an extract of Greg Sheridan’s new book, promising he would "reveal how Canberra has stood up to Washington", yet what the story actually reveals is the Howard Government’s trademark meekness towards Washington. The Sheridan piece is typical of the conservative media’s obvious desire to reinvent Australia’s role in Iraq, to help insulate the Howard Government from potential punishment at the polls.
As Sheridan sees it, if you want to blame anyone for Iraq, blame Clinton, but whatever you do don’t blame us: see, our Foreign Minister made valiant "repeated attempts to get the Americans to focus on post-conflict planning but [was] unsuccessful...Downer wanted to talk about phase four—the post-bellum period, the peacekeeping and nation building phase". And on it goes: "Downer urged...Downer understood...Downer told...Downer knew..." Even in the opening anecdote involving the Clinton administration, there’s our Foreign Minister sagely contemplating the long-term picture: "Downer said Australia would support the US but he wanted to know what the US planned for post-Saddam." Sheridan reports that the US said it was "planning for the future...but did not offer any details." Well, this was good enough for Downer. "’You can count on us,’ he said, or words to that effect," Sheridan confides. He refers to Downer’s own proposal for an exit strategy for Iraq, which America evidently politely ignored. (A man, a plan, a pair of fishnets: Iraq.) Anyone know, what was Downer’s brilliant plan? Does he have one for Lebanon? And will he genuinely "stand up to Washington" by insisting on some kind of plan before committing Australian troops this time?