Howard’s In Trouble

Mark Seymour on Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s Iraq faltering.

Author: Mark Seymour.

Date: 20 February 2007.

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Howard’s vitriolic attack on Barack Obama, the popular presidential candidate for the Democratic party, was a deliberate ploy to divert the media’s attention away from global warming. Unfortunately he jumped out of one frying pan into another frying pan. Iraq isn’t working for him anymore. And why? Because the stats don’t look good.

The latest newspoll shows 65% of Australians want withdrawal from Iraq, either staged or immediate. Clearly this doesn’t fit well with Howard’s conception of how the war on terror needs to run and Howard simply doesn’t grasp how the majority of Australians could have it so wrong.

He is after all, a man of strong convictions. So much so that he has just announced an increase in our military commitment, as if by demonstrating his loyalty to the U.S. he will carry the day with a majority of Australians, who continue to support the U.S.alliance in principle. On the other hand this move can be seen as a political strategy to force Kevin Rudd to invent foreign policy on the run.

Whatever Howard’s motives are, the fact is there is real electoral division brewing over Iraq and Howard knows it. Australians have simply grown tired of the carnage. No matter how much the tabloid news media try to smother bad news from the middle east with layer upon layer of feel good stories about rescuing kittens trapped in drain pipes, Iraq continues to dominate the news.

Running hard on the U.S. Alliance has worked well for Howard. But the electoral mood has shifted. It’s been a summer of discontent. Our obligations under the alliance, or Howard’s interpretation of them, have rapidly become irrelevant as the population has had to grapple with massive water shortages and devastating bushfires. The alliance has become an obscure side issue.

People are either beginning to wonder what it really means or are simply tired of all the chest beating from the Department of Foreign Affairs in the face of what looks like a total military cock up. Australians have been newly awakened to the imminent gravity of environmental catastrophe and the Federal liberal party has been caught, politically speaking with it’s pants down pissing into the electoral wind.

Australians have simply had enough. The invasion was poorly planned and executed and the results have been catastrophic. Regardless of how much Howard keeps beating up the terrorist fear factor, the fact is, invading Iraq was an irrelevant gesture invented by idiots and Howard can’t use it anymore to draw support when the majority of Australians have moved on to more important things, like saving the planet. Bring ’em home!