March 1, 2007


Australia: the new 51st state (John Pilger, 05 March 2007, New Statesman)

Australia is important because of a remarkable degree of servility that Howard has taken beyond even that of Tony Blair. Once described in the Sydney Bulletin as Bush's "deputy sheriff", Howard did not demur when Bush, on hearing this, promoted him to "sheriff for south-east Asia". With Washington's approval, he has sent Australian troops and federal police to intervene in the Pacific island nations; in 2006, he effected "regime change" in East Timor, whose prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, had the nerve to demand a proper share of his country's oil and gas resources. Indonesia's repression in West Papua, where American mining interests are described as "a great prize", is endorsed by Howard.

This sub-imperial role has a history. When the six Australian states federated as a nation in 1901, "a Commonwealth . . . independent and proud", said the headlines, the Australian colonists made clear that independence was the last thing they wanted. They wanted Mother England to be more protective of her most distant colony which, they pleaded, was threatened by a host of demons, not least the "Asiatic hordes" who would fall down on them as if by the force of gravity. "The whole performance," wrote the historian Manning Clark, "stank in the nostrils. Australians had once again grovelled before the English. There were Fatman politicians who hungered for a foreign title just as their wives hungered after a smile of recognition from the Governor-General's wife, who was said to be a most accomplished snubber."

Australia's modern political class has the same hunger for the recognition of great power. In the 1950s, prime minister Robert Menzies allowed Britain to explode nuclear bombs in Australia, sending clouds of radioactive material across populated areas. Australians were told only the good news of being chosen for this privilege. An RAF officer was threatened with prosecution after he revealed that 400 to 500 Aborigines were in the target zones. "Occasionally we would bring them in for decontamination," he said. "Other times, we just shooed them off like rabbits." Blindness and unexplained deaths followed. After 17 years in power, Menzies was knighted by the Queen and made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

An undeclared maxim of Australian politics is that prime ministers become "statesmen" only when they serve imperial interests.

Here's the dirty little secret, the same is true of American and British leaders--they are considered historic to directly the extent that they extended the Anglosphere and the End of History. That's why the only British prime ministers anyone has ever heard of in the past hundred years are Churchill, Thatcher and Blair and the only presidents people even mount arguments for are Wilson, FDR, Truman, Reagan and W, for their respective wars against Imperialism, Nazism, Communism, and Islamicism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 1, 2007 8:14 AM

Does this mean we have to start liking Yahoo Serious again?

Posted by: Bryan at March 1, 2007 12:08 PM

I used to want to trade Canada for Australia, but now Canada has gotten with the program, so perhaps we can trade New England or Washington state instead. It's doubtful they'll ever get with the program.

Posted by: erp at March 1, 2007 12:14 PM

Right. John Howard & Tony Blair are Pres. Bush's lapdogs and are unable to think for themselves. No chance that they might actually honestly believe in their positions.

Yet somehow it would be "courageous" to be the servile followers of the likes of John Pilger & his dinner-party ilk. Most confusing is how they square their accusations of political cowardice & servility towards anyone supporting the USA with their constant tiresome trumpeting of opinion polls allegedly showing that 99.99% of the world (hence, the electorate of Blair & Howard) hates us. Yet another bit of leftist circle-squaring conventional wisdom that I'm apparently not smart enough to understand...

Posted by: b at March 1, 2007 12:21 PM