Monday, June 23, 2003

The intelligence down under 

One has to wonder at the sort of apathy found in Australia. To my knowledge, there is no strong christian movement to bond with the values of Australians, and blur the line between religion and government, as has happened in this country, lending to a much too important prominence of government, in the wrong areas, in the lives of Americans right now. Whew, I got that out.

This article suggests Australians are apathetic because their government has lied, and has lied often. From the guardian:

No surprise there, a cynic might say. The Australian public have grown used to their government lying, most scandalously during the xenophobic campaign for the 2001 federal election.

In a masterpiece of innuendo and misinformation, ministers told the public that refugees on a stricken ship off the northwest coast of Australia were throwing their own children into the sea in an attempt to force the coastguard to pick them up and take them ashore. A photograph was given to the media purporting to show those children floating in the water.

Ministers hinted that Islamist terrorists might be choosing this hazardous route to get into Australia, particularly absurd claim given that western-qualified English-speakers such as Mohammed Atta are precisely the sort of Muslim immigrants that Australia's immigration department is still happy to welcome.

In fact, the photograph showed an Australian coastguard rescuing adult refugees after their ship sank. The "children overboard" claim was inspired by a single, unconfirmed report in which a refugee on deck was seen through binoculars lifting her child into the air.

Or is it the Australian panache for good times; a kind of happy-go-lucky decadence, that leaves little room for the sometimes dark and messy game of politics.

If national stereotypes are anything to go by, Australians might be expected to concentrate on their desire for good times, rather than worry about what's going on in Canberra. And true to form, public reaction from third member of the coalition of the willing has largely been one of ennui.

However, it appears Australians are getting their wake-up call, and indeed, the Australian wake-up call is going to England.

This week he is in London, where the foreign affairs select committee will question him further about the subterfuge used to sell the war. His testimony is likely to be explosive. Governments in Washington, London and Canberra, he will say, were simply lying to the public about Iraq.

Who is this man?

The revelation came with the resignation of Andrew Wilkie, a senior analyst at Australia's top intelligence body, the office of national assessment (ONA). A former soldier with an open, affable manner, Wilkie used to sit in his Canberra office reading raw intelligence reports from Australian and international spy agencies, weighing them up and then boiling them down into briefings for the prime minister and cabinet.

And what "revelation" might this be?

Evidence about that missing stockpile of weapons of mass destruction was similarly unreliable. "It was clear before the war that some of the evidence on WMD coming out of Britain and America was garbage," he says. "It was being skewed by political information from Iraqis who were trying to encourage a US invasion."

And why was this invasion wanted?

I know for a fact that in Australia, the government was being well advised that WMD was not the sole reason for Washington going to war," he says. "In fact, it wasn't even the most important reason ... The British and Australian governments were well aware of the real reasons for the war."

Unbelievably, the guardian article pretty much ends there. I don't know if Wilkie is going to reveal what he believes to be the reason. I am looking foward to his testimony before the English foreign affairs select committee. In the meantime, fill in the blanks.