Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Crocodile Bush goes to Sydney
It's been some time since I've checked in with Australia, one of our allies in the Axis of English, but since Bush is now gracing their shores, let's see what they've been up to.
The occasion for Bush's visit is the annual Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which brings together leaders from the Pacific Rim and offers them the opportunity to plan their predations for the coming year without the bother of democratic intervention.
The APEC Australia 2007™ year culminates with the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting (AELM), the most significant international gathering of an economic kind that Australia has hosted. The AELM takes place in an informal, relaxed retreat setting in which leaders can address issues of strategic importance that affect the region.It's more like a vacation really, which I suspect is the only way they could convince Bush to go.
Keeping things quiet
Of course, where Bush travels there will always be attempts at protest. But Bush has a special fondness for both Britain and Australia because neither has a constitution. It makes life so much easier for a dictator.
In his honor the police of New South Wales, where Sydney lies, were given "special powers," though there's some vagueness as to what they were. After they were announced, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) tried for more detail—
The ABC approached the New South Wales Minister for Police, the New South Wales Attorney-General, and the deputy Premier and Minister for APEC, but none were available for comment about the APEC police powers.
Ain't democracy grand?
This much was known—
The New South Wales Government has given police special powers, including a secret list of people who can be banned from the APEC area in inner Sydney.
People who breach the high-security zone housing world leaders face up to six months in jail and anyone assaulting police will find it harder to get bail.
It's really a warm-up for more severe restrictions on civil liberties—
Human Right Monitors is worried the special police powers might stay in place after the summit.
Special temporary police powers were also introduced for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and after the games some of the laws remained in place in areas surrounding Sydney Harbour.
"What it means is that in every big protest in the future there may be similar emergency powers, then similar emergency powers are introduced at small protests, then the emergency powers may become permanent," [a spokesperson for Human Rights Monitors] said.
Where Bush goes, freedom goes—out the door.
Protests were planned for a route that would pass the American Consulate, but the police felt it might disrupt traffic and have demanded that the demonstrations be held in a "protest zone," reminding us of the Orwellian "free speech areas" now created in the U.S.—areas set aside to assure that any "free speech" will go unheard.
But the police are prepared. ABC reports that for Saturday's march—
Police will have a $600,000 high-pressure water cannon to use on protesters if they become violent and threaten public safety and property during the September 2-9 summit.
A five-kilometre fence will run through the city, along Bridge, Macquarie and Phillip streets.
Police say pedestrians will be able to access to the fenced-off areas through control points.
ABC also reports that a former American Marine, who has served two tours in Iraq, has gone to Sydney "as a chance to directly voice his dissent over the war." He seemed to be under the illusion that the Australian government would let him speak in a way that he couldn't at home. But his opposition is at least being reported in the Australian media in a way that would never pass the corporate censors in the U.S.—
"We are done being told under the threat of court martial to run over children that get in the way of our speeding convoys.
"We are done raiding and destroying the homes of innocent Iraqis on a nightly basis.
"We are done abusing and torturing prisoners."
As for what Bush has been doing, he's made a deal with the Australian Prime Minister John Howard to keep Australia's token force of 500 "in Iraq."1 The bait was a promise of easier access to American arms merchants.
With most of our original "allies" in the Iraqi invasion long gone and with the British doing their best to hightail it out of Basra, the Bush administration would offer just about anything to maintain the appearance of international support for the Iraq War effort. And if the U.S. can export more of the one thing it unreservedly manufactures better than anyone else—weapons—so much the better.