I had no problem with the fact that Nick Warner, the head of Australia’s foreign spy agency, ASIS, recently saw fit to allow himself to be photographed alongside Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
After all, an ambassador, as I suppose Warner might in some sense be categorised, is, according to the famous definition by Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639) ‘an honest man sent abroad to lie and intrigue for the benefit of his country’.
But I was appalled that he saw fit to take his lying and intriguing so far as to be shown emulating Duterte’s infamous closed-fist ‘salute’.
This gesture smacked to me of a suggestion that we Australians were being represented as being ‘all the way with Duterte’ to a degree chillingly reminiscent of then Prime Minister Harold Holt’s notorious 1966 declaration that we were ‘all the way with LBJ’ in the disastrous Vietnam War.
A conflict that, as revealed by two of the best books on the subject that I have recently re-read, David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest and Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie, was characterized by as much lying to and intriguing against the citizens of the US and its allies as it was by lying, intriguing and fighting in what were allegedly their countries’ best interests.
Advocates of continuing and catastrophically escalating the Vietnam war spared nothing in their attempts to cover-up the fact that the corruption of the Diem and other, successive South-Vietnamese regimes was, as Sheehan wrote ‘a malignancy that poisoned the entire system of government.’
‘Graft was the main preoccupation of those on the Saigon side….their greed was too rapacious to permit any thought of its ultimate consequence,’ Sheehan continued.
In other words, far from a case of lying – or, as in the cases of countless combatants and civilians – dying for the good of Vietnam, the US, Australia or any other country, it was a classic case of paying dearly for defying the proverbial caution that I’ve had cause to mention many times before in these columns, ‘if you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.’
A lesson that the US, Australia and others apparently so far forgotten as to be currently learning all over again in such perennial sinks of corruption as Iraq and Afghanistan.
And now, apparently, the latest dog that Australia is in the process of deciding to lie down with is Rodrigo Duterte, who describes himself as ‘The Punisher’ in celebration of his penchant for promoting the killing of ‘suspected’ drug-users and dealers by his notoriously corrupt police.
As apparently effective as his forces of law and order have been against unarmed ‘suspects’ and innocent bystanders, however, they have proven something of a failure in combatting armed Islamic insurgents.
So much so, in fact, that these murderous scum identifying themselves as part of Islamic State have gained such a firm foothold on the traditionally guerilla-infested island of Mindanao as to have occupied the city of Marawi.
Where, despite visits from Duterte and typical snide ‘encouragements’ from him to avoid getting caught committing rape and other war crimes, they appear to have been suspiciously slow in achieving victory.
So slow, in fact, as to inevitably recall the pathetic fighting record of the erstwhile Army of the Republic of (South) Vietnam, or ARVN.
And thus to apparently need, as in the case of ARVN, an infusion of foreign special forces to ‘support and advise’ local troops.
Australia has reportedly offered such forces in addition to the spy aircraft it already has in action there. But why?
Where, I wonder, are the Philippines’ partners in ASEAN, especially its two closest and most Islamic neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, where many of the IS fighters allegedly hail from?
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in rebuttal of allegations that he shared in the loot from the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad (MDB) fraud, has claimed that he received a huge cash donation from a Saudi prince in recognition of his anti-IS activities, so here’s his golden opportunity to earn even more credit.
In any event, as far as I’m concerned the Australian government has more than enough fleas to be going on with, having so far apparently forgotten the stern lesson of Vietnam in recent years as to have tried lying down with such dogs as the corrupt regimes running Malaysia, Cambodia and Papua-New Guinea in vastly expensive and largely vain attempts to rid itself of unwanted asylum-seekers it chooses to demonise as ‘boat people’.
Most of whom are perfectly legitimate and deserving refugees from places around the world where Australia has aped its US ally in lying down with the corrupt regimes currently in power, like Iraq and Afghanistan, or in hopelessly failing to remove them from power, as in Syria.
As long as we’re on the subject of dogs and fleas, I’d also like to make the point that it’s high time the civilized world stopped buying China’s lie that it’s powerless to control North Korea.
Ever since the Korean war, in which it threw away the lives of an estimated 250,000 of its own troops in support of the North’s failed attempt to capture the South, China has been the dog that’s supported the North-Korean flea and told it when to jump and whom to bite.
So China, not North Korea, is the mongrel that Trump should be tweeting against, and that Australia should be shaking its comparatively puny fist at, while fleeing fleas like Duterte as fast as possible.