The Australian’s foreign affairs correspondent Greg Sheridan thought he could abuse Saddam’s favourite Western MP but he only served to make himself look silly during a debate on Lateline on Monday night which has bubbled along all week such that our war correspondent Hugo Kelly has now filed two pieces on the issue.

And, mercy, it seems this demi-warmonger has a hotline to Washington! No sooner had the paper hit the streets, than Bush’s national security adviser Condoleeza Rice weighed in, saying the US “does not have the luxury of doing nothing” when it comes to Iraq.

Words, however, are not enough for Sheridan. He wants war, now! Or, he explained helpfully today, Saddam’s agents could sail a nuclear bomb into Sydney Harbour and explode it.

If John Howard sees himself as the Deputy Sheriff in our region, there’s no doubt that Sheridan, one of BA Santamaria’s former Commie-bashing bovver boys, has taken the role of Cool Hand Luke around these here parts. Here’s Sheridan’s full fulmination

Meantime, Crikey readers have taken to the barricades in the Sheridan skirmish. Some have called on him to parachute into Baghdad, or to renounce journalism and take on a new career as a football hooligan

Others supported Sheridan. Jim Toohey called on Crikey to take its medication more regularly, and questioned our assertion that feisty Scottish MP “Gorgeous George” Galloway had beaten Sheridan in their TV skirmish on Monday.

We’ve published the best of the feedback below:

Brett Gaskin from Sydney took his protest to Sheridan direct:

Dear Mr Sheridan,

Regardless of any personal opinion on the matter of war with Iraq, you should know that your behaviour on Monday night’s Lateline program was nothing short of disgraceful. Name calling and generally acting like a spoilt teenager was an extreme embrassment to yourself, and Australian journalism in general. Anyone who saw the program will now disregard your opinion, on television and radio alike, as irrelevant. As your career consists of providing observation and opinion, maybe you should consider a new vocation. I’d suggest football hooligan.

Sincerely,

Brett Gaskin

Sydney

A ZIONIST CONSPIRACY?

David Parker had a fresh angle:

Upon reading your article on the less than satisfactory performance of Greg Sheridan on Lateline 12/8/02, I see that most of the criticism and attacks of the pertinent areas had been mentioned, but I would like to add an area that was overlooked, perhaps.

Sheridan made a statement relating to “The very best assessment by the most disinterested people is that this would simply be a trap for the West to delay us” to which George Galloway responded by stating “I suspect Martin Indyk would find it amusing to be described as disinterested. He is a man who used to be the head of the pro-Israel lobby on the Hill in Washington. He’s a former American ambassador to Israel. He’s one of the most hawkish, most pro-zionist politicians in America. Of course he would be saying things that your guest is saying.”

Reviewing the ABC transcript, it leaves out the interjection by Sheridan accusing Galloway of drumming up “another zionist conspiracy”.

Maybe this is an area the ABC chose not to pursue, however Sheridan’s dismissive attempt at refuting an argument, shows all the typical characteristics of a schoolyard bully, not a so-called foreign affairs correspondent for The Australian.

Sheridan’s entire performance was littered with intimidation and personal attacks. As a “leading(?)” journalist I would think that he could conduct a discussion, albeit a serious discussion, with facts and even questions and a degree of knowledge, but it became very apparent that he neither had any facts or any knowledge, and now any personality other than that of the schoolyard bully.

Greg Sheridan has no credibility as a journalist or even commentator on foreign affairs. As far as any publicity is good publicity goes, Greg, not this time!

– David Parker

CRIKEY TAKE YOUR MEDICATION!

Jim Toohey took us to task for our wishy-washy appeasement of Saddam. He wrote:

I think Sheridan’s advice is also relevant for Crikey. I don’t know what medication Crikey’s on but if you honestly score the head-to-head on Lateline as a win for Galloway then you need to get it changed quickly!

I may of course be reading the wrong transcript but the one directed to us in yesterday’s e-mail clearly shows Sheridan coming out on top. He makes the following points;

* Galloway has been accused of being an apologist and mouthpiece for Saddam in his own country by his own party

* Galloway continues to site the trendy anti-American’s (like Pilger and Crikey?) wet dream about a million deaths as a result of UN sanctions despite the clear independent evidence available from northern Iraq which Saddam does not control but is subject to the same sanctions – according to the BBC life expectancies have improved. When Sheridan mentions northern Iraq we don’t hear a peep from Galloway.

* Both Sheridan and Tony Jones keep asking Galloway if he believes that Saddam does have these weapons of mass destruction – he becomes all precious and refuses to answer.

Sheridan did come on pretty strong but it’s hard to be polite with a clown like this. Tony Jones (obviously dismayed that the program was not going to script – bash America at all costs) did admonish Sheridan at one stage – it’s a pity he wasn’t such an avid defender of courtesy when interviewing the Prime Minister last year!

I have no doubt that had the September 11 attacks not occurred, Iraq would not be threatened with American invasion. I am also sure that protection of the Western world’s oil supplies features heavily in American considerations. However, no one can deny that Iraq and its neighbours have suffered horrifically at the hands of Saddam Hussein or that it’s difficult to imagine any replacement government could be worse for the people of Iraq.

In Australia, for many years we had our own apologists for human rights abusing military dictatorships . Finally, only a determined military operation freed the long-suffering people of East Timor. Now one of the former apologists working for the Labor party reckons we should apologise to the Indonesians for the offence we caused in liberating the East Timorese!

Go and see your GP Crikey and get your medication reviewed!

Regards, Jim Toohey

We Replied:

good onya Jim. At Crikey, we like plurality of thought.

All I ask is: we all agree Saddam is a bad man. So why is Bush Jnr (and his Antipodean apologists) beating the drums of war against a dictator the US oligarchy funded and supported? Why did his dad stop at the border 10 years ago?

A: The positioning of Saddam as Demon of the Month is about politics – oil politics – not “human rights”. As our farmers are discovering, when we delegate our foreign policy to the Texas oilmen, we don’t always thrive. Now I must hurry down to the pub for my medication.

Hugo

Jim fired back:

Hugo,

I have just returned from lunch and found your reply – unfortunately, due to time constraints I was unable to get “Medicated “; I’ll leave that for tonight.

With regard to your question;

Why is Bush Jnr beating the drums of war? Why did his dad stop at the border 10 years ago?

I think you’ve answered it yourself. Bush Jnr is beating the drums of war precisely because September 11 showed the Americans that “bad men” like Saddam have no compunction about blowing up thousands of American civilians if it suits them and that the more dangerous the weapons they have the more civilians will die. Sounds like a pretty good reason to me!

With regard to Bush Snr’s failings 12 years ago, I couldn’t agree with you more. Think of the suffering which might have been avoided for the people of Iraq if Saddam had been toppled then.

I have agreed that oil considerations are probably fairly high on the priority list for the Americans but my answer is so what? If one of the most murderous dictatorships in the Middle East is toppled and replaced by something better the people of Iraq win, the West wins (less of a threat of terrorism), the Middle East peace process might get a kick along and the poor repressed Iranians might be encouraged to free themselves from an extreme right-wing religious government that stones to death women, homosexuals and anyone else who doesn’t toe the line. The only losers losers will be Saddam , Osama et al.

Kind regards, Jim Toohey

Meanwhile, John Harmann wrote:

One of the worst aspects of Sheriden’s pathetic ‘debate’ with Galloway was his comparison of an Iraqi war with the US’s attack in Afghanistan . Iraq is a much more militarised country and Saddam, far more savvy than the Taliban, and if as Sheriden claims it has weapons of mass destruction, a war there would not be the walk-over it was in the Afghani dirt hills. I say Greg should be amongst the first to parachute into Baghdad if he’s that confident it will be so easy.

Jim Harmann

Are you listening, Greg? The challenge has been set!

ends

Now, this is the earlier piece that Hugo filed on our friend Greg Sheridan:

Sheridan – Santamaria’s love child

By Hugo Kelly

Crikey’s War Correspondent

Greg Sheridan, the self-important foreign editor for The Australian who is all in favour of sending our boys to Baghdad to kick Saddam’s ass, has a long history of bellicose conservatism.

We are reminded that Sheridan used to be close to Bob Santamaria, and was a regular speaker at Santa’s gigs. In particular, Sheridan used to fulminate about foreign policy – and in particular, the looming communist menace – to impressionable young Santamaria-ites at the National Civic Council uni student camps.

In fact, my colleague Hillary Bray has some interesting recollections about Sheridan’s past writings:

“We should never forget that Sheridan was up there with Des Keegan and Katie West spouting all sorts of shit in the Oz in the eighties as one of Santa’s more prominent helpers. While I’m all for kicking Iraqi butt – now that he plays the cosmopolitan so convincingly it’s good to remind the folks that Greg used to write telling us that a Soviet fleet was gathering in Cam Rahn Bay and about to head south any minute.”

Now the commos are gone, Sheridan’s new straw man is Saddam. The Sheridan style came to the fore during his rowdy exchange with feisty Scottish MP George Galloway on Monday’s Lateline.

In a vicious attack, he launched a number of grenades at Galloway – including calling him mentally ill. At Crikey, we love giving oxygen to MPs who buck the rigid party system and express views outside the iron-clad party platform.

And Galloway, who argues the looming attack on Saddam is more about oil than human rights, is certainly one of those.

A British journalist who heard about the whipping dished out to Sheridan by the Saddam-loving Galloway has sent through some interesting revelations on “Gorgeous George”.

“Good to know we can beat you at something. Galloway is known as “Gorgeous George” in the Commons. He’s quite a feisty character, and not afraid to use his fists,” says our UK journo.

“He was once arrested for decking a bloke in the street after he went round to one of his (many) girlfriends homes and found the other fella in attendance.

“He’s also used to people like Jeremy Paxman attempting to verbally roger him on programs like BBC’s Newsnight (the same Jeremy Paxman who once asked a Labour cabinet minister the same question SIXTEEN times when he felt he wasn’t being given a proper answer, and who only two weeks ago asked the Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy: “So is it true then that you’ve got a bit of a drink problem?”)

“If only Mr Sheridan had known this!”

Name withheld

At Westminster, Galloway is viewed as Saddam’s most eloquent spokesperson. One observer thought it was important for Sheridan to throw a bomb early in the Lateline interview. “It was only when Sheridan forced Galloway onto unfamiliar/unrehearsed territory that he could be seen for what he is – a contemptible liar and apologist for a regime which has killed thousands of its own citizens.”

“The trade embargo has not killed a single Iraqi child. The oil sales that have been allowed would have fed Iraq many times over. The problem is that the proceeds of those sales are being spent on the creation of weapons of mass destruction.

“The continued decimation of the Kurdish people is one of the world’s greatest crimes. Sheridan is not afraid to stick it to the Howard Government when need be – and I actually think he held his own last night.”

Another Crikey reader has sent the following letter to Sheridan:

Subject: Letter to sent The Australian – re Sheridan

Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2002 17:22:03 +1000 (EST)

From: Mike Smith-White

Dear Mr Sheridan,

I watched Lateline last night.

I do not know of you and I do not know of the other guest either. I have no position on the topic you discussed, but let me say that last night you came across as a complete and utter f*ckwit.

The other person argued his case like a gentleman. He attempted to make his points in a professional and appropriate manner.

You do not have to agree with him but you should argue against him professionally and not attack him personally. In fact, you seemed so gutless that you used other people’s “smart arse one liners” to attack him personally. That is so pathetic and indecorous.

And they weren’t even funny!

You came across as a pompous imbecile rather than a professional journalist. I am going to recommend that the ABC never has you as a guest again and I am appalled that The Australian’s journalistic standards are so low. I have now lost some respect for the paper.

And … given you like personal attacks, let me say you look like an absolute GEEK that has always had problems with women!

Don’t go back on TV for your own sake.

Sincerely, Mike Smith-White

This is what we sent to subscribers on Tuesday:

5. GREG SHERIDAN – CHIEF TOAD

It was a bad night for The Australian’s self-righteous foreign editor, Greg Sheridan. In the race to see who can best toady up to Washington in beating the drums of war, he’s neck & neck with Lex Loser and the Prime Miniature.

Warmonger Greg’s all for unleashing the might of Australia’s military strength against Baghdad – never mind that Downer’s sabre rattling has already put at risk $800 million worth of grain contracts to Iraq.

Last night, clad conservatively in Brown-nose Brown, Sheridan got flogged on a Lateline debate with feisty Scottish MP George Galloway, who’s just returned from a tour of Iraq arranged by Saddam Hussein. The interview began – and continued – with childish name-calling by Sheridan, whose bullying style is matched only by his vastly inflated sense of self-importance.

Galloway issued a number of memorable putdowns to Sheridan, including: “We’ve now got people like your guest – I’m sorry I’ve never heard of him before, so I can’t tell you his name.”

Bullseye!

More feedback: Sheridan a goose

“In all my time of watching Late Line and every other form of current affairs and political or discussions type TV fare, I have never seen anyone make a bigger goose of themselves than Greg Sheridan.

To say he was a disgace, a bully (failed), a turd of the greatest magnitude could not possibly do justice to his outrageous attempt to belittle the UK MP George Galloway.

I have no idea whether Galloway lives in some style for his apologetic defence of Iraq or to even imply that Saddam is not the anti-christ, but that is absolutely no reason for Sherridan to run out a string of other people’s insults. His smug and ill-considered efforts to throw a few verbal claymores into the so-called debate was further embellished by his Barry Jones like bearing and hairsuite appearance.

I thought Tony Jones was as weak as water to not severely admonish Sherridan and tell him quite forcefully to desist although at one stage on Galloway’s quiet reasonable request Jones did confirm that he was right to think he was there to participate in discussion on a “serious” programme.

There’s only one thing for it…before the bombs start dropping could Rupert or the Australian please dispatch Sherridan to Bhagdad to cover Peter Arnett style what he’s so seriously keen to see happen.

But I very much doubt even that will loosen his sphincter as it would already appear to look as if he he’s somehow managed to turn himself inside out!

After all these years of Barry Humphries euphismisms…I think I now know what a “dead bear’s bum” actually looks like!

Right on Hugo Kelly.

Chuck Heston

View the transcript for all the memorable put downs here

On the Federal Political front, the debate is stirring up similarly heated sentiments. What about Lex Loser trying to seize the agenda yesterday by renaming the Opposition Leader. As far as Lex is concerned, Simon Crean has joined the Ba’ath Party and is now Saddam Hussein’s man in Canberra.

And we thought all he’d done was wonder whether the Howard Government’s policy of risking $800 million worth of grain trade with Iraq by drumming up the war rhetoric was actually in the national interest.

So it’s no longer Slimey Simey, it’s Simey Saddam. We expect to see Crean appearing at future public engagements in army fatigues and firing off rounds from a 12-guage shotgun in front of cheering peasants, Saddam-style.

For his part, Simey reckons Lex Loser’s a fool. And who are we to argue?

Feedback to [email protected]

Peter Fray

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