Tim Blair


New Criterion



Sunday, March 09, 2003
SHOP-STEWARDS TO THE SPECIAL FORCES. That's the role adopted by the kids from the Communard pre-school at Background Briefing today.
Improbable, you think? So does Uncle.

This is the spiel. Our special forces have become the sharp end and the middle of Australia's defence policy since the Fortress Australia policy took hold in the Russell Offices in Canberra, long before most of the pre-schoolers were out of nappies. For years, all of our defence dollars have been going into planes and ships.

As a result, so the story continues, the effective residue of our soldiers have been over-used. Despite the fact they're all volunteers, morale is sinking, resignations rocketing and the rest, who are deployed somewhere near Iraq, are angst-ridden as they see the "vast majority" of their fellow-citizens denouncing the goals they may go into battle to achieve.

Evidence? One anonymous wife, who is upset at not seeing more of her husband; one widow with a compo claim running against the government from the death of her husband in Afghanistan, and unspecified family connections known to the Communards.

The former head of the SAS says the Army has been run down. The Defence Minister denies absolutely that resignation rates are up.

You can draw your own conclusions about whether or not the SAS is in "crisis". It's not of the essence.

What really matters is the root cause of this over-use of the shiny tip of Australia's defence capacity.

Our best soldiers are being used as the Janissaries of Uncle Sam's imperial ambitions. And they know it. And they resent it.

Who says? Background Briefing says.

What Background Briefing won't tell you is that the pre-schoolers and all the older Communards in Auntie's Radio National are backing wholeheartedly the political campaign against the target set for our forces by Australia's elected government. That might raise the question of the reasonable limits of political action when our defence forces are doing our collective work. Not to mention the role of our national broadcaster.

Should a shop-steward be trying to destroy the market for the worker's goods? Of course he should; if he's a good leftist.