Classic Ellis: Winning And Losing Wars, 2007

Saturday, 11th August, 2007, 11.50 a.m.

John Howard has asked Nouri al-Maliki to ‘make more progress’ or he’ll pull out our troops. He’ll cut and run, it seems, which he swore he’d never do as it’s not ‘the Australian way’. Whatever the issue he comes down firmly on both sides of it. This is his trick; this is his way: to seem to be doing something significant while squirrelling money away in billions for the Liberal TV ads we pay for. The sixty million he spent boosting WorkChoices, for instance, and the sixty additional million he spent changing its name, could have funded fourteen small theatre companies for a thousand years on the interest alone. And so it goes.

Ah well. Mustn’t grumble.

1.40 p.m.

Peter Andren, a good man, has cancer and has quit politics. Mortgagee sales in the US have wiped eighty billion off the stock market, hurt the French economy, and threaten, tonight, a world recession. The floods in Britain, the worst in a hundred years, have stirred Private Eye to a joke photo of Tony Blair saying, ‘Après moi le deluge.’ Michael Moore’s film Sicko, which I saw yesterday, shows many dust-sickened 9/11 heroes being treated by Cuban doctors free of charge but refused by capitalist US bureaucracies the first-class surgery they readily give to al-Qaeda heroes in Guantanamo.

And . . . a fifty-eight-year-old man has been released by kidnappers after ‘falling in love’ by internet with Natasha, a Russian beauty who did not exist. He flew to Nairobi to join her, and computer-literate black men with machetes grabbed him and locked him up, said they’d cut off his arms and legs if money wasn’t abundantly paid, and soon it was, and so it went, the Terrorist Economy that now rules us all once more asserting itself.

. . . As it did on Thursday when a reporter admitted that three hundred thousand US weapons had gone missing in Iraq. This means, I guess, half a billion tax dollars were spent on grenades and mortars now killing US troops, and half a billion more will have to be spent now replacing them, and perhaps no more than a quarter of a billion tending wounds and psychoses and comforting the widows and siblings of the sad poor trailer-trash boys and girls they blew away. This one and a quarter billion could have supported three hundred and fifty small theatre companies for a thousand years on the interest alone. And so it went.

Weapons make the US more money than even Hollywood. So if al-Qaeda steals US weapons it helps the US economy. Milo Minderbinder lives; and these days, I guess, runs Halliburton which rebuilds the towns that stolen US weapons bomb and shell, and supplies the body-bags dead US soldiers come home in. This is what I once called Jackal Capitalism; it feeds off the dead, and the frisky jackal pup John Howard, yapping and panting, leaps around the latest dead elephant wanting his tiny share of the rotting meat.

What is one to say of all this? Julian Burnside on Tuesday spoke of ‘Howard fatigue’, of burning up good parts of your brain proclaiming the bleeding obvious, that it’s wrong to kill people, it’s wrong to torture people, it’s wrong to hurt children, it’s wrong to annoy a billion people by killing fifty thousand of their children – or was it only forty thousand? – and then attempting to ‘win their hearts and minds’ by killing three hundred thousand of their adult neighbours – or was it only two hundred thousand? – and driving two million more, including all the dentists, out of the country. It’s hard to force-feed these things through the many, many distractions – the hundred channels on Pay TV, the mobile phone calls to the instant comfort of old friends the moment you’re feeling low – and the spin, the expert spin that makes it seem like it isn’t happening.

It’s very good, the spin. The verbs ‘win’ and ‘lose’, for instance, and the adjectives ‘better’ and ‘worse’ are gone from the language. We’re not winning in Iraq and we’re not losing: we’re ‘making progress’ in some areas and ‘making less progress’ in other areas. We don’t dare even ask any more if the average dentist, academic or graduate female had a better life under Saddam – not fearing daily death in the marketplace by suicide bombing for instance, or by helicopter gunship attack on a luckless neighbour with the wrong surname – or a worse life, fearing the midnight doorknock, torture and rape by Uday. We are only allowed to call this new imperilled way of things ‘the birth-pangs of democracy’; which means, I guess, it’s all right for you to get killed, wiped out of history for ever, so long as one of your neighbours gets to vote in an uncorrupt election in 2015 for a mad sheikh who then forbids your daughter a liberal education and a sexual life and a university degree. These are the ‘birth-pangs of democracy’, a phrase the childless Condoleezza Rice got some stick for. What does she know, it was asked, of even the birth-pangs women survive? What does she know about anything female at all?

‘Success’ and ‘failure’ are words not used much now either. Is Condoleezza a foreign policy success? It’s not been lately asked. Though the war on Hezbollah she refused to stop was a cock-up for both Israel and Lebanon, though Olmert’s approval rating has fallen to 2 percent, though Pakistan is mutinous, Afghanistan a shambles, Iraq the worst American debacle since Vietnam, Russia in Cold War with America again, her policies despised by a billion Muslims, three- quarters of a billion secular Europeans and Catholic South Americans and – not a small number either – a hundred million Americans.

But is she a failure? It’s never asked. She’s making progress on some fronts, less progress on some fronts, and that is the sum of what it is decreed, and what it is permitted, we know. Like Stalin’s Five Year Plan her ‘progress’ towards the desired end, the shining city on the hill of democracy worldwide, is never questioned; it is automatically assumed. It is foreordained. And fifty years from now, clustered on the slopes of the sun-parched Himalayas among the corpses of our relatives, we will know she was right.

Leave a comment ?


  1. So, if the needle keeps breaking when being inserted into the spine and then the baby comes before the epidural takes effect, does that make you more female than the next person? What are females before they have children, ghosts? Or genderless human bots? Are men allowed to use phrases that loosely relate to child birth? Is it just that the female brain has no point or activity beyond childbirth so any women who has not undergone the experience needs to be identified and kept separate in a holding pen while holding no views relating to life and death? We need concentration camps out in the country like the ones the Germans were put in to house women until they give birth, when they are free to put forth their views in whichever metaphorical language applies. Women who can’t have children can get their own teepee and be pitied, women who don’t want children can be shot.

    • When did I say that? Do not lie about me, or I will ban you, even you, for life.

      When did I say women should be put into concentration camps?

      What are you talking about?

      Do not tell lies. Do not tell lies.

      • I am saying that, following on from the logic. You said -

        These are the ‘birth-pangs of democracy’, a phrase the childless Condoleezza Rice got some stick for. What does she know, it was asked, of even the birth-pangs women survive? What does she know about anything female at all?

        Answer the question. If the needle goes in first go are you less knowledgeable of all things female than if they keep botching it? And what about in third world countries when you’re lucky to come out alive, is that the all things female jackpot?

    • He is quoting someone else, Reader1.

      If we are to be taken to approve of everything we quote, I must support Hitler, Stalin, Goebbels, Kennedy, Howard, Whitlam, Churchill, Ayn Rand, Reagan, Karl Marx, Machiavelli, Paul the Apostle, Moses, Jesus Christ, Chris Hitchens, Gillard and Abbott, all at the same time.

      To name a few.

      • It is a “pundits say that…, therefore…” straight up propoganda technique used every day in the MSM, that is the context that it is being used here otherwise why say it at all as it is just emphasising the sentiment. Who said it? If it was “a handful of extremist tea party civillian militia men in South Carolina were critical of a childless woman using the phrase birth pangs because being childless they felt she understood nothing of what it meant to be female”, the impact of the statement would come with an entirely different slant. Likewise, if you were to quote Ayn Rand or Hitler in an approving context, that would put you on questionable footing unless it just so happened to be a really good quote on it’s own, which is unlikely. Bob is pushing an agenda but distancing himself from it for safety. Women who have not undergone childbirth know nothing of being female, yes or no, pick a side. Because if yes, that leads on to some fairly far out implications that perhaps ought to be examined. Otherwise, vague opinions from unnamed people lending weight and authority to an unspecified but alluded to proposition is a cheap trick argument.

        • Go fuck yourself.

          Apologise for saying I think childless women should be re-educated in concentration camps, or be banned for life.

          You do not tell lies. You do not tell lies.

          You do not.

          • You go fuck yourself, I am so over it. I said childless women should go into concentration camps. I said that. Repeat, I said that. If you don’t know anything about being female, and you are female, and being female is no more than being in a body that is a female body, and you don’t know anything about being female even though you are in a female body, then what’s the point to you? There’s no point to you being in society until you give birth and you know a thing or two about being what it is you are. Only applies to females.

            • I just meant those camps that the Americans sent Japanese American citizens to during the war, and I believe we did the same with German Australians at one point although I could be wrong about that.

              • Of course we did, German born Australians, and Italian born Australians, and the Japanese born (if there were any).

                What else would you do? If New Zealand declared war on us tomorrow, we would round their citizens up as well (some might say do it anyway) :lol:

                • Reader 1 is banned for life.

                  • “What does she know, it was asked, of even the birth-pangs women survive? What does she know about anything female at all?” is extremely insulting and I don’t understand how anyone can be so dumb.

                  • It’s too obvious to point out so it makes it difficult. I have only ever had sex for pleasure, never once to have a baby and yet that doesn’t fit in to your theory so my own experience is wrong? This is a numbing intellectual glitch on your part, it’s not my fault.

                  • I mean, “some say that childless women tend to go crazy” as you once pointed out to me - what’s the offshoot of that? Responsible citizens need to be keeping an eye out for any childless woman who seems likely to pop, while the childless women themselves need to either elude the possibility by giving birth or maintain a strict self-monitoring regime and book themselves in to the place with the nice, young men in their clean, white coats at the first sign of any disquietitude.

  2. People have short memories. They look at what is happening now and say “They’re all the same, these new governments are no better than what we had!”

    “Gillard is the same as Howard!” they say.

    Well fuck me, my memory is better than that. And Bob’s article reminds us of that in spades.

    Obama no better than Bush? Hillary no better than Condy?

    We laugh until we cry.

    :lol: :arrow: :cry:

  3. “the birth-pangs of democracy”

    What does Condoleezza Rice know of “fearing daily death in the marketplace by suicide bombing for instance, or by helicopter gunship attack on a luckless neighbour with the wrong surname – or a worse life, fearing the midnight doorknock, torture and rape by Uday”?

    Reader1, it was Condoleeza who chose to compare the war in Iraq - hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced - with an act of childbirth. It was not a stupid remark because she’s a woman, or because she’s single, or because she doesn’t have children. It was stupid because it was pure cliched spin. What she’s saying is “this is only natural!”, when it was anything but.

    • Oh, for fuck’s sake, I’m done dealing with morons, I just hope the feds haven’t popped allsy. He was getting too close to the truth. If you have a flange, you’re a chick. That’s all it takes. The English language is as free to you as it is to anyone else, birth-giving status is irrelevant. It is offensive to call someone not female because they haven’t had children. That’s not the criteria. The criteria is a flange. You define your own gender, leave other’s to figure out their’s themselves.

      • R1, why be such a moron yourself, what’s the matter with you, you are always on the warpath…

      • From Reader1 to Annabell, in a previous exchange.

        “There is no fixed meaning ergo there is no appeal. If Bob wants nothing to do with you and it’s his blog ….well then that’s just the situation, there’s no other external locus of authority apart from that one unalterable fact.
        Take a hint. The personal preference of …. the blog host is that you gather up your pals and head off to kindergarten where life is beautiful all the time. Trust me, you’ll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats. There is a whole world of problems out there to fix to your exact specifications, your talents are going to waste here.”

  4. Birth pangs is about the difficulty associated with a transition. Nothing about it being natural. Nothing about it being female except if you’re using it in the sense of childbirth which Condoleeza obviously wasn’t. But nothing about being childless would delegitmise her talking about childbirth either.

    • You are obviously R1, why write under yet another pseudo. Stick to one, it’s more honourable.

      • I’m at a loss what I’ve done to offend you. Please go away you irritating person.

      • l’Inconnu is not Reader 1.

        • You would say that, wouldn’t you Reader1? Only joking. As far as these tedious random insults go we are all Reader1.
          Something should be done about it. We need a shield against the venom infused honey. Or is it honey infused venom? Never mind.
          I hereby declare the birth of the umbrella club, in solidarity with Reader1′s recent determination. Whenever this person drips on us in the future, the members of the club invoke shelter by simply replying ‘umbrella’. Membership is automatic on application, you just use it.
          Join us in the fight against oppressive, goody-goody mania!

  5. Speaking of Condy Rice, in the same rambling press conference where she used the birth pangs metaphor, “the birth pangs of a new Middle East” things moved rapidly : she later accused the “extremists” (Hezbollah in this case) of trying to strangle democracy in its crib :

    “And those extremists want to strangle it in its crib.”

    The conference also featured such gems as :

    “I want the violence against civilians to stop because the violence against civilians needs to stop.”

    A perfect Secretary of State for Dubya, without a doubt.

Leave a Comment

* Copy this password:

* Type or paste password here:

97,350 Spam Comments Blocked so far by Spam Free Wordpress

NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>