Tim Blair


New Criterion



Thursday, February 27, 2003

Just as Other-People's-Media Watch presenter David Marr was gearing up to reveal to us the cause of Auntie's peculiar invention of Indonesian government policy, along comes his boss Russell Balding and tries to steal his lunch.

The litany of errors contained in Mr Akerman's column of last week (18/02) was
compounded this week through the wholly inaccurate claim that the ABC "was
forced to apologise for fabricating a news story which had the potential to
damage Australia's relationship with Indonesia".

When ABC News management identified the error they moved to rectify it. The
Corporation was not "forced" to apologise. It chose this course of action
because it was the proper thing to do.

Nor was the story "fabricated". It was a mistake and the ABC was not reluctant
to admit to it
splashes his leak to Crikey.

Russell, your invention sure was a mistake, but it is still an invention. How did it come about?

Auntie's flacks are spreading the rumour that it was all Jakarta reporter Jim Middleton's fault. He just didn't make himself clear.

Well, Middleton can speak - or leak - for himself, but speaking for Uncle, who heard the item, the disjunction between the rubric inserted in Sydney and the story from Jakarta, was so wide that there was room for Russell Balding's credibility gap.

So we're left with the question: how and why does Auntie's national TV news service invent news that is not even credible?

Still some work for David Marr.

THESE DAYS, an "imminent threat” is the hijacked airliner that hasn't yet hit the skyscraper or one man, with no discoverable connections to any government, who hasn't yet released the weaponized smallpox.

I know it doesn't sound reasonable, Christopher.

Unless you have a deep knowledge of international law.


No more the grey accountant, Auntie's chief flunkey, Russell Balding is beating the boards in a drive to snare the quarter billion Auntie needs to put JJJ in every Australian shanty.

"Rap for the RARAs" is Russell's slogan, but it may not be enough.

The ALP is upset. If it isn't enough to give comfort on an hourly basis to the ignorant intransigents of the Labor left whose megalomania then has to be massaged by every backbencher and office-holder, Auntie has cut Simon Crean's reply to John Howard's take on "blood, tears and sweat". In favour of Playschool.

Probably did Simon a favour - it certainly did parents a favour, but the ALP Senators on the Estimates Committee are not showing any gratitude.

A similar credibility problem confronts Russell when he tries to call Piers Akerman to account for claiming, in a column in the Telegraph, that Auntie was sponsoring the push for West Papuan independence.

Unlike some columnists, such as Mr Akerman, the ABC cannot and does not advocate on behalf of political causes. thunders Russell, in a letter he has run through Crikey since the Tele won't play.

This minion has more chutzpah than his own Gastropod, and equal credibility.

Not only does his commentariat peddle leftism day in, day out, explicitly and with sneering contempt for even the idea of giving a hearing for another point of view, but a consistent leftism infuses much of the remainder of Auntie's 24-hour day.

JJJ thinks the adult world a hoot, but the political agenda of the left is promoted like holy writ, without reflection.

For Radio National it's just a matter of "collective - good; profit - bad", to paraphrase Napoleon the Stalinesque pig from Animal Farm.

The embarrassment of association with the push for civil war in West Papua does not lead Russell to reflect on RN's practice of sharing its political agenda-setting with left-wing NGOs and quasi-faculties like UTS's activist kindergarten for hacks. He just denies that it's policy.

If Auntie's indigenous affairs pulpit, Speaking Out, is pushing its liberationist ideology into other people's backyards, not to worry, they also talk about sports legend Eddie Gilbert so there can't be a problem.

At Auntie's shop, mindlessness is regarded as an excuse.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003
A PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE on Iraq would constitute a crime against humanity, write 43 experts on international law and human rights according to Henny Herald's sub-editor. What they say is The initiation of a war against Iraq by the self-styled "coalition of the willing" would be a fundamental violation of international law.

What's an expert on human rights? How do you earn the qualification? Good questions.

But let's look at their argument.

1. International law exists, and its requirements haven't been met.

International law recognises two bases for the use of force. The first, enshrined in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, allows force to be used in self-defence. The attack must be actual or imminent.

The second basis is when the UN Security Council authorises the use of force as a collective response to the use or threat of force ... only if there is evidence that there is an actual threat to the peace (in this case, by Iraq) and that this threat cannot be averted by any means short of force (such as negotiation and further weapons inspections).

Now the experts rush on to conclude that the conditions haven't been met. So these 43 multi-talents are not only experts on international law and human rights, but also on military affairs, intelligence, geopolitics and global terrorism, because all of that's involved in applying that law.

How do they convince us punters that they've got the real stuff? By a neat sleight-of-hand.

2. What the US is proposing is a new doctrine, pre-emptive attack.

This doctrine contradicts the cardinal principle of the modern international legal order and the primary rationale for the founding of the UN after World War II - the prohibition of the unilateral use of force to settle disputes.

But this doctrine is only really new if you believe that a nation must wait to be attacked by a particular State in order to prove that it is defending itself. And that, as several countries discovered in 1939-41, is a very dangerous maneuvre. When should the democracies have acted, assuming they had the will? 1936? 1938? Five minutes before Hitler's bombers and tanks moved east?

Where is your analysis of the nature of today's threats? The beast in 2003 is not the beast of 1938, so now add in WMDs, global Islamic terrorism, rogue states, the continuing unreliability of allies in long campaigns. Your thoughts, Professors?

Silence. These lawyers are hanging judges who don't publish their reasons.

Then we follow with a glissando into the justification for invoking the UN's provisions for collective action. And pretend it's part of the argument about self-defence.

The weak and ambiguous evidence presented to the international community by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to justify a pre-emptive strike underlines the practical danger of a doctrine of pre-emption. A principle of pre-emption would allow particular national agendas to completely destroy the system of collective security contained in Chapter Seven of the UN Charter and return us to the pre-1945 era, where might equalled right. Ironically, the same principle would justify Iraq now launching pre-emptive attacks on members of the coalition because it could validly argue that it feared attack.

What a load! Professors, would you let your first-years get away with logic like that?

And since you've introduced the subject of UN action on Iraq, where do UN resolutions in 1990-1 and 2002 require the US - which has been kind enough to provide the means that makes the UN more than a bunch of Antipodean professorial wankers, to play Dick Tracy with Saddam Hussein and his European co-conspirators?

3. The US always kills more bystanders than is reasonable.

Even if the use of force can be justified, international humanitarian law places significant limits on the means and methods of warfare. ... Intentionally launching an attack knowing that it will cause "incidental" loss of life or injury to civilians "which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated" constitutes a war crime at international law.

I somehow guessed we'd get here; the US government is comprised of war criminals.

The military objective of disarming Iraq could not justify widespread harm to the Iraqi population, over half of whom are under the age of 15. The use of nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive attack would seem to fall squarely within the definition of a war crime.

Did you see that? Just before you could ask what they meant by "widespread" they nuke you. What a shut-your-face that was. But even without the nukes:

Estimates of civilian deaths in Iraq suggest that up to quarter of a million people may die as a result of an attack using conventional weapons and many more will suffer homelessness, malnutrition and other serious health and environmental consequences in its aftermath.

Whose "estimates"? And why "up to" rather than the best estimate? This are standard rhetorical devices employed by political shonks. Is that what you are, professors?

What about the 'estimates' that 'up to' ten million Iraqis will be dancing in the streets when the Saddamite dictatorship falls? And the lives saved by ending those UN sanctions. Not to mention the two million Saddam-generated corpses, who have no rights.

Can I ask, professors, whether the case in international law for action by the targets is enhanced by the propensity of rogue states for acquiring nukes etc and spreading them round?

The professors have this stunning answer:

4. Heads of State can be put on trial before their regimes are destroyed by war.

Until recently, the enforcement of international humanitarian law largely depended on the willingness of countries to try those responsible for grave breaches of the law. The creation of the International Criminal Court last year has, however, provided a stronger system of scrutiny and adjudication of violations of humanitarian law.... It specifically extends criminal liability to heads of state, leaders of governments, parliamentarians, government officials and military personnel.

That's good news, people. I'm prepared to lend you my old .22 if you're prepared to lay hands on old Saddam and Jung-il, and frog-march them into your tribunal.

Sorry. I mistook your intentions:

But, if all else fails, it is to be hoped that the fact that there is now an international system to bring even the highest officials to justice for war crimes will temper the enthusiasm of our politicians for this war.

It's not Saddam and Jung-il you want in court - it's George Bush and Tony Blair and John Howard.

5. Only criminal nations defend themselves.

Respect for international law must be the first concern of the Australian Government.

but needn't bother any potential or declared enemy.

What is it about signing a collective statement that turns professional men and women into a bunch of pea-and-thimble tricksters?

To see the full list of those you would never trust with the education of your children - if you had a choice - go here.

And if you want to see a similar quality of argument from Victoria's religious leaders when they stoop to a collective conscience, go here.

Monday, February 24, 2003
I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SAY THIS. I hate to be a nag. But it's two programmes of Other-People's-Media Watch and still they've failed to notice the biggest media story of the year, so far.

They've got multi-cultural whores panting for peace, John Pilger ranting for war on America, Rupert Murdoch drooling for Bush.

They still haven't got the deliberate invention of the kind of news that sets neighbours at each other's throats.

YOU'RE a good left-wing doco maker, launching your latest Cuba piece to a theatre full of like minds.

It was a Friday night. The theatre was full. [David] Bradbury was there to answer questions afterwards. He's a '70s lefty but he witnessed, during several visits to Cuba, the gradual failure of the revolution which has been controlled by the same dictator for more than 40 years. The documentary concludes with the aggressive breaking up of a pro-democracy demonstration by police.

As the credits rolled, the insults flew. "Shame!" cried one woman as Bradbury walked on stage. "Bullshit!" shouted someone else amid other catcalls. A lively colloquium followed in which Bradbury had to defend his progressive credentials from attack by hard left throw-backs who can always rationalise away why the "people" don't need free elections.

Been there, David. Good luck.

WHEN ROBERT "CUDGELS" MANNE sets out to misrepresent his opponents he forswears no rhetorical weapon. As we have seen before.

Is today's situation with Iraq and the other rogue states like that in Europe in the 1930s, as many, including Uncle, have discovered?

Not if you:
*insist that the comparison is also asserting that decadent Iraq today equals resurgent Germany then,
*ignore the post-WWII phenomenon of global Islamism,
*ignore today's weapons of mass destruction, which require no industrial state for their delivery,
*assert that Saddam, unlike Hitler, was provoked by his neighbours into attacking them.

No, I didn't make up that last point.

In 1980 Saddam had grounds to fear hostile actions of the new Islamist regime in Iran. In 1990 Kuwait was threatening the postwar Iraqi economy by demanding debt repayments and, through overproduction, by driving down the price of oil.

By Cudgels' standards there are few oil-producers in the world today that lack the grounds for war. Not to mention a dozen others, including North Korea.

The sub-editor's picked this Cudgels tirade for what it is. He titles it: History rewritten, war justified. Only dictators' wars, but.

Sunday, February 23, 2003
YOU CAN ONLY FIX ONE IF YOU FIX THEM ALL, according to the Northern Territory Government.

The Independent Member for Braitling Loraine Braham wants to block traditional marriage being used as a mitigating factor in sentencing decisions involving men having sex with minors.

Loraine Braham's move responds to the recent case involving Jackie Pascoe Jamilmira and the under-age girl he bought on time-payment from her parents. Then raped.

Can't do that, says NT Justice Minister, Peter Toyne.

"Really its quite inappropriate to be picking one issue out and dealing with it in that sort of piecemeal fashion," he said.

"We really need to have a good overview of all of the issues and that inquiry will be coming back to us in July."

Peter, that is pathetic.

EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY, so popular on the soft left has this problem.

Others want to join in too.

ARMAGEDDON has been postponed. And it's scientific.

NOW, which accusation shall we prefer? ask the pre-schoolers of Background Briefing today.

Will the US desert the people of Iraq too soon after the victory against Saddam, leading to a chaos of retribution, bloodletting and political strife?

Or, will the US hang around suppressing the legitimate aspirations of the Iraqi people for democracy and self-determination, maintaining a puppet administration of no legitimacy at all?

I don't think the pre-schoolers care too much. Whichever way it goes it will prove the folly of throwing Saddam out.

And then there are private military service corporations involved. Oh my God!