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Christian based service movement warning about threats to rights and freedom irrespective of the label.
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
Edmund Burke
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Thought for the Week: "Why is it that waging war is unjustified until the UN decrees that the war is justified? What makes the UN the moral arbitrator that justifies the killing of people and destruction of a nation's property? The UN was the organisation that was going to have us beating our swords into ploughs and our spears into pruning hooks. Now the UN seems to be the world sponsor of war."
Neville Brigg, "Central Coast Herald", March 2003

OBLIVIOUS TO APPROACHING CATASTROPHE

by Jeremy Lee
Like children playing with a live hand grenade, the leaders of "the coalition of the willing" play unknowingly with the history of their times. The rest of the world looks on aghast, hardly knowing whether warning protests will hasten or reduce the danger. The Weekend Australian (8-9/3/03) told us that President Bush was praying: "'... My faith sustains me, because I pray daily,' he declared to the nation at his rare prime-time press conference last night, a little teary-eyed at the thought of all the people he didn't know who were praying for him. 'I pray for guidance and wisdom and strength.'

Should he commit troops, he'd pray for them – and for the innocent Iraqis. 'I pray for peace,' he added..." Which seems disingenuous, to say the least, when the decision for life or death is in his hands! Many a leader in history has evoked divine aid when going to war and more than once adversaries have sought victory against each other from the same Deity. There is no doubt that individual combatants have had prayers for protection answered. Too many examples, from Generals to humble privates, can testify to this. But it is another matter to pray for innocent victims while at the same time setting the machinery of war in motion.

The Christian God, the Holy Trinity, is the epitome of peace, mercy and succour. It seems a growing number, exhausted of any belief that war brings peace, are turning their cheeks to the gun and the bomb. Should the US, tailed by Britain and Australia, go to war despite the United Nations, they have only the vaguest notion of the domestic revulsion and protest they will unleash. Factored in to the current situation are the combined prayers of hundreds of thousands round the world. His Holiness the Pope has made his position, and the official position of the Catholic Church quite clear. He has sent his envoy to the White House to convey that position to President Bush. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rohan Williams, is equally opposed to war.

While protests continue in the streets, Catholics assembled in their cathedral in Sydney to add their prayers for peace. The same has happened in a number of other churches. It is not, as President Bush would have us believe, a decision beyond his control. There is absolutely nothing to say that war against Iraq, with its horrific aftermath, can be construed as a legitimate Christian position. Nobody can say what is going to happen. On the surface it appears that the world once again faces war. But a considerable body of prayer worldwide simply asks for Divine intervention to frustrate any and all plans for war.

It would seem at this stage as though such prayers have already been partly answered. With the greatest fire-power the world has ever seen poised to annihilate Iraq, one delay after another has dogged the once-confident decision-makers who, not so long ago, saw war as a mere matter of course. Never has the simple petition "Deliver us from evil" had so much meaning.


TURKEY CAVES IN

After initially rebuffing the US demand for a staging base to invade northern Iraq, Turkey has finally succumbed. The price was money and debt relief. Commentator Mehmet Ali Birand, writing in the Turkish Daily News on March 1st said it all:
"When you are poor, when your creditors hang on your door, you find yourself helpless. Your powers of resistance start to ebb. You have to speak in an intimidated manner, when confronted with your creditors' proposals. This is because you know very well that the moment you say 'no' officials from the bailiff's office may knock on your door. You may find yourself unable to even feed your family. "So, whether you like it or not, you accept the demands the other side makes. Then you say, Damn this poverty!
"Look at the spot we are today. As a result of so many years of mismanagement our debts – domestic and foreign – have climbed to $200 billion. This year's debt servicing alone will amount to $73 billion.
The markets are waiting for the reply to be given to the United States. It is public knowledge that if the reply turns out to be negative, this will play havoc with the markets ..." (carried in The Australian Financial Review, 3/3/03)

One wonders whether President Bush prays for free choice for Turkey in his daily prayers? There seems little doubt that global debt is a strategic weapon in the hands of the money-lenders in their quest for even greater control. Which brings us to Australia, where net foreign debt has risen to $354 billion – about $18,000 per head for every man, woman and child in the country.


AUSTRALIA'S TRADE POSITION SLIDING

The drought has been seized on by Treasurer Costello as a major excuse for Australia's record trade deficit. But the problem is much deeper. John Garnaut, writing in the Weekend edition (18-19/1/03) of The Sydney Morning Herald, pointed out:
"....Australia's trade performance hasn't just hit an air pocket, it has crashed. So what's going on? "Last week the acting Minister for Trade, John Anderson, implied that the drought accounted for 91 per cent of the deterioration in exports so far in this financial year. "It sounds reasonable, but it's not true. A researcher for the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics said the effects of drought were 'only just beginning to show up'. "'There's a strong possibility that the effect of drought will get worse on the monthly trade balance,' the researcher said. The export figures are actually worse if rural commodities are not included. "Before he spoke of drought, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said the deteriorating trade performance only reflected the weakness of the global economy next to our own. "That's not true either....." Garnaut pointed out that our trade position in comparison to other countries in the Asia-Pacific, was woeful. Our exports to China, which had expanded in 2000-01, had dropped to a standstill, and China was importing more from other countries. For the rest of Asia, our exports had shrunk 5 per cent. Exports to India had fallen 6 per cent. To Japan 7 per cent. And our exports to the US - our so called 'free trade' friend - have shrunk by 8 per cent. And of course as imports stay steady, or rise, the trade gap looms large.

Garnaut finished his January article: ".... It's too early to tell why Australia's 20 year export boom came to an abrupt halt in 2001, but it is likely that the problem is about to get a whole lot worse .... If yesterday's 12 per cent rise in December imports is any guide, the Government had better steel itself for a torrid 12 months on the trade front.

It's just going to blow the trade account out of the water,' says Westpac economist Huw Mckay, who expects a record trade deficit of $2 billion for December....." In the event, the December trade deficit was over $3 billion. And the worst is yet to come.


THE REFUSENIKS IN ISRAEL

Although the violence and terror under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon continues to escalate in Israel, it is easy to overlook the presence of a minority of courageous soldiers who have spoken out against current policies. Ed O'Loughlin (The Sydney Morning Herald, [Weekend] 8-9/2/03) wrote of the 520 Israeli reservists who signed an open letter declaring they refused to serve in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza. 121 of these have now served jail sentences for their refusal to serve.

In January a full time intelligence officer was dismissed for withholding information he felt would result in the deaths of innocent Palestinians. "....For Major Chen Alon, and the other 519 signatories of last year's 'Courage to Refuse' letter, the whole occupation is illegal and wrong. 'We are all frontline combat soldiers, Zionist patriots and willing to defend their country and fight against any real aggression against the State of Israel, but were not willing to humiliate and starve and expel and repress 3 million people,' Major Alon says. .... Major Alon received his last call up 18 months ago, after the outbreak of the current intifada. He recently served 21 days in military prison for his refusal to go back.
"'We were in Bethlehem,' he recalls. 'One night we demolished the house of an innocent Palestinian family where the only crime was building an illegal balcony or something. After that we were firing tank shells into private houses and we wounded several people .... I realized then that our presence was only to get a few more people killed or wounded, to keep the war going on. The occupation for me is many horrible details, of curfews and sieges and children who can't go to school.' ...."

The importance of small minorities, even single individuals, prepared to speak out and, if necessary, suffer for the truth, cannot be overestimated. They are a threat to the power-wielders who demand total obedience, and who fear dissent of any kind.


FEARFUL PARTY SHEEP ON THE BACK BENCH

One of the most frightening aspects of parliamentary performance at the moment is the resounding silence of Coalition and Opposition backbenchers on whether or not Australia should go to war. One would think the debate is confined to John Howard and Simon Crean, with the occasional comment from Bob Brown. Are we really to believe that every Liberal and National, in their heart of hearts, uncritically accept the views of their leaders, and feel justified in consequence in remaining silent? It is a travesty of true representative government, and will not change until a minority of voters taker steps to winkle out the cowardice of silence in their representatives. As well as national polls and other forms of protest, we need a polling team in each electorate, aimed at the local member of parliament, so that his or her personal views are passed on to electors.

DIVYING UP THE SPOILS ALREADY!

Reuters online (Houston, 6/3/03) released the news that an American Defense Department source said the Halliburton Company subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) has won the contract to oversee any fire fighting operations at Iraqi oilfields after any US led invasion. Readers will remember Vice President Dick Cheney served as Halliburton's chief executive officer from 1995 to 2000.

SUSPECTS DIED IN INTERROGATIONS

from Andrew Gumbel's website, Los Angeles, USA, March 7th, 2003.
American military officials acknowledged yesterday that two prisoners captured in Afghanistan in December had been killed while under interrogation at Bagram air base north of Kabul – reviving concerns that the US is resorting to torture in its treatment of Taliban fighters and suspected al-Qa'ida operatives. A spokesman for the air base confirmed that the official cause of death of the two men was "homicide", contradicting earlier accounts that one had died of a heart attack and the other from a pulmonary embolism. The men's death certificates, made public earlier this week, showed that one captive, known only as Dilawar, 22, from the Khost region, died from "blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease" while another captive, Mullah Habibullah, 30, suffered from blood clot in the lung that was exacerbated by a "blunt force injury". The western world certainly has advanced fast to barbarism.

AFGHANISTAN DROPPING OFF US RADAR SCREEN?

Do you remember the reasons given for the US invasion of Afghanistan? Under the banner of a 'war on terrorism' the American Administration waged war against the Muslim Taliban, insisting it would also lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden, (who was nowhere to be seen) and declared they would assist with the emergence of that troubled country into a peaceful and stable nation, preferably a democracy. The Afghanis are now realizing the vision of a stable, peaceful 'democracy' is not going to be fulfilled – at least the American Administration is not going to do it for them!

According to Ehsan Ahrari in the Central Asia Times, March 7th, 2003, the American Administration's focus has shifted to the "coalition of more than 90 countries" and they are hotly pursuing "the networks of terror with every tool of law enforcement and with military power". George Bush announced they have "arrested, or otherwise dealt with, many key commanders of al-Qaeda". Across the world they "are hunting down the killers one by one. We are winning" crows George, "and we're showing them the definition of American justice." Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, Radio Free Europe reports (February 27th, 2003) the UN has suspended aid work in Afghanistan due to uncertain security. A UN spokesman told reporters the decision had been taken to suspend aid work in some areas "after tensions had risen in several of the country's northern provinces". There had been no progress in efforts to disarm warlords operating in the regions.

Victoria Burnett, Financial Times, February 27th, wrote: "Afghanistan: War is won but peace could yet be lost, .... the Taliban is believed to be regrouping, now with a new ally, renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Barely a day goes by without a rocket fired at a coalition base and the ISAF, [International Security Assistance Force] the international peacekeeping force in Kabul, is rattled after a spate of attacks. In recent weeks coalition forces have twice engaged in the heaviest fighting for a year." The Russians spent 20 years trying to conquer these people, what made the Americans think they could do it in less time – or that they could do it at all?

Ehsan Ahrari admits (Central Asia Times) the idea of committing American troops to Afghanistan for the next twenty years is not a popular policy in Washington, but he warns if they are not in it for the long haul, they risk losing the ground gained to groups even worse than the Taliban. He lists the needs of the country, which will expand the legitimacy of the government headed by President Hamid Karsai, the candidate hand-picked by the Bush Administration. To this day, Karsai acts more as a Mayor of Kabul than as the President of a Republic.

First: Big 'bickies' will have to be spent
First is the need for the building of institutional infrastructure all over Afghanistan, including an extensive network of roads, schools, irrigation, transportation and health systems, and, more important of all, a stout law enforcement system. And the list goes on.

The second need
Karsai needs mega-bucks to build this infrastructure. It looks like the dreams of billions of dollars, in the form of aid, pouring into the coffers of the government are not being realised. Ehsan Ahrari thinks, "the industrial donors have established a shameful record". A Tokyo conference in January 2002 pledged $4.5 billion over five years, but "the finance ministry in Kabul has said that $20 billion to $25 billion will be needed to rebuild the nation's crumbled infrastructure". The US Congress approved the American commitment made at Tokyo, amounting to $3.3 billion. But, contributions from other countries have been lagging.

The third need
Thirdly is the need to build up the Afghan security forces. Building these forces in a war-ravaged country is awesome indeed. For Afghanistan, this task is immensely complicated by the presence not only of multi-ethnicity, but also of deeply entrenched rivalries and hatred that accompany that reality. Presently, two armies coexist in Afghanistan: the fledgling Afghan National Army and the loosely knit group of fighters who came together to fight the Taliban. The United States is training the Afghan National Army, whose current size is reported to be 3,000 recruits. However, according to a report issued by CARE (a US-based NGO), few have been paid. "About half have deserted because of tensions between different ethnic groups, low pay and poor housing." Warlords, on the contrary, have a very good record of maintaining their militia because they can offer them "steady salaries, good housing and prestige", notes the NGO report.

The fourth need
The continued presence of warlords itself is a constant challenge to the already shaky authority of Karzai. For law and order in and around Kabul, he is dependent on the ISAF. The rest of the country is under the purview of 8,000 American forces who are in charge of expanding the government's power. However, as frustration among the 44 percent of the Pashtun population escalates, American troops are likely to be perceived as an occupying force.

The fifth need
There is no incentive for the population to produce 'alternative crops' when the thriving opium 'economy' services a ready-made market. A UN report issued in February, 2003 was very revealing, "Afghan poppies serve as the raw material for about 80 percent of the heroin and other opium derivatives sold illegally in Europe." It noted the "corrosive effects" of the Afghan drug trade on the neighbouring states. "Data from the region shows there are close to 1 million opiate abusers in Iran, 700,000 in Pakistan, and more than 300,000 in Central Asia. As a percentage of the population over age 15, this amounts to nearly 1 percent of the population in Pakistan and Central Asia and 2.8 percent of the population in Iran. That's a far higher percentage of abusers than in Western Europe." Women and children provide a large chunk of the labour force necessary for the cultivation of the poppy crops. It seems to have dawned on Hamid Karzai that the Afghanis could be left to 'fend for themselves'. In February of this year, he showed up in Washington to remind the Americans, "Don't forget us if Iraq happens. If you reduce the attention because of Iraq ... and if you leave the whole thing to us to fight again, it will be repeating the mistake the United States made during the Soviet occupation."


BASIC FUND

Thanks to the generosity of a number of League supporters, the fund has reached the figure of $22,562.00. It is beginning to look a lot healthier, but please don't let the momentum slow down. In comparison to other groups, and thanks to all those who give so generously of their time and labour, we really do have a modest target to reach – $60,000.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION AND CIR

South Australians have been handed such an opportunity to have Citizens' Initiated Referenda. The opportunity will not come again in our lifetime, we must not fail. Included with this week's Bulletin is a sample copy of a submission Independent Member of Parliament Peter Lewis is circulating. He wants every South Australian elector to send in a submission to the Constitutional Convention no later than March 28th, 2003. If you haven't already sent in one please make the effort, pick out the sections you can agree with and send in your submission. Don't forget to include your name and address and sign the submission. State your Choice for a STATE of CHOICE: Tick the boxes of the items that you agree with, sign, fill in your name, address and date, and send it to the Constitutional Convention Office. Alternatively, write your own suggestions. Either way, you have contributed to the history of South Australia. The Citizens Initiated Referendum (CIR) is very important, because with CIR we will be able to change bad laws and/or propose new laws for the benefit of ALL South Australians.

SUBMISSION TO CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

I am in favour of the items marked.

* 1. A binding on government with Citizens Initiated Referenda, with 50,000 (OR your choice ............000) signatures, verified by the SA Electoral Office and collected from the State at large, or 20% of each of 7 House of Assembly electorates (32,000) needed to call a referendum. Reason: To give the people of SA some control over the laws that govern them.

* 2. Ban How To Vote Cards from being distributed outside polling booths. Reason: Waste of paper, trees. Prevent harassment of voters.

* 3. Introduce a system of elections for the Lower House (HofA) that allows for the representation of significant minority political parties and which also allows top-up of the party with the greatest number of single Member seats, to form a stable Government. Reason: Minorities have a voice, yet the Government is stable.

* 4. Reduce the number of MPs in the Lower House (HofA). Reason: Conditions have changed since the Parliament first started, so now we do not need so many.

* 5. The Upper House – Legislative Council (LC) should be a dedicated house of review, through its (all) committees and sessional processes. Reason: The current structure is dominated by parties, impeding objective review.

* 6. Re-introduce regional seats for at least some of the Upper House Members. Reason: To force fairer re-distribution of public expenditure across the State.

* 7. All Ministers in the Lower House (HofA). All Committees in the Upper House (LC). Reason: No Minister can dodge Questions and is properly accountable. Upper House (LC) becomes a true House of Review.

* 8. MPs salary and perks increases to be in line with CPI increases. Reason: To improve their standing in the community.

* 9. Speaker of the Lower House (HofA) to be independent of government and opposition parties. Reason: To have an independent (non biased) Speaker.

Authorised by Hon. Peter Lewis, 64 Adelaide Road, Murray Bridge, SA, 5253

Signature:
Name:
Address:
Date:
Send to: Constitutional Convention, PO Box 464, ADELAIDE, SA, 5001


SYDNEY CONSERVATIVE SPEAKERS' CLUB

The next meeting will be held towards the end of March as usual. The speaker has yet to be announced. The convener wants Sydneysiders to know the Lithuanian Club has now opened their own Dining Room and you are welcome to purchase and enjoy a meal before the CSC meeting each month. So plan to come early and enjoy a meal and fellowship prior to the formal meeting.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

The following letter appeared in the Central Coast Herald, March 1st, 2003:

Make your votes count in the coming NSW election: "The coming NSW election will be an opportunity to let the government know what we really want. It is okay to vote for a minor party first, because this tells the politicians that we favour the policies espoused by that party. Due to the new system of voting that will be in operation at this election, called "optional preferential", you say just where your vote is to go if it is not used by the party you gave a number one to. This means we can number our preferences above the black line when we vote for the Upper House. If our minor party doesn't get a representative in, then our vote is not wasted. It goes on to the party we put as number two – probably a major party, and they get another person in. Just be sure that you know all the policies of the party you wish to vote for. It is your state, your country and your future that you are voting for." – Neville Briggs, Singleton, NSW.


BOOKS ...

EVERY DROP FOR SALE – Our desperate battle over water in a world about to 'run out', by Jeffery Rothfeder. Australians know from very recent experience, without a reliable source of water, no community is sustainable for long. Water is essential for life. That is why they need to be aware of what is happening to the world's water supplies. The writer explains in this vivid and well-told account, water – the most necessary ingredient of life – may well become the flashpoint for the most serious conflicts of the future. This is a well-researched book, with fascinating insights into a problem that will soon emerge as a series of catastrophes if we don't pay attention to it.
The author warns: "In the most striking incident, the Six Day War of June 1967 between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Israel quickly conquered the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. But while most people think of the war as yet another border dispute, it was actually fought over water."
"People generally regard June 5th1967, as the day the Six Day War began," says Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, an army general during the conflict, "But in reality, it started two and a half years earlier, on the day Israel decided to act against the diversion of the Jordan." (Pages 51-52). Water conflicts may affect the future of the planet. In the overall water crisis itself, any number of initiatives can be undertaken to alleviate water scarcity and pollution, and to undo the negative consequences of unnecessary dams and misguided diversion efforts. But by their very nature, water conflicts tend to pit one against one – even when one means "many" – face to face, my need versus your need". A reading must – Price $56.00 posted: Order from your State Bookshop.

WHY NOT A SAY FOR THE AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE?
This little booklet offers questions and answers to the proposed Citizens' Initiative and Referendum. It answers the question, how do we restrain our representatives in parliament who make momentous decisions (on our behalf!) that affect the lives of us all? The Swiss system, which enables electors to demand a referendum on unpopular issues, has been generally beneficial to the Swiss people since 1830. $3.00 posted. Election comment authorised by B. Luks, 145 Russell Street, Melbourne, 3000

© Published by the Australian League of Rights, P.O. Box 27 Happy Valley, SA 5159