We are paying the price for our deployment in East Timor. If Indonesia had decided to oppose us they would have had battle on their hands and I have heard a theory from a soldier who served there that we would have prevailed because of the superior quality of our forces – but it would have been close.

The overriding factor in his would be that the USA would have come to our aid convincing the Indonesians that, although a few militias should be allowed to take potshots at our troops, the Indonesians should let East Timor slip away.

Now, I believe that we are repaying part of the debt for that unspoken backup. The office of Deputy Sheriff comes with both advantages and responsibilities. Be on the lookout for increases in the size of our armed forces, which are stretched thinly as it is.

We need to have two battle-ready battalions in Australia at all times – and soon this may comprise of boy scouts armed with shanghais at the rate that the government is sending our troops to other countries.

Again my belief, but I feel that the fact that they are protecting the Japanese and that we are going there at the request of the Japanese Prime Minister is not a major influence on the PM’s decision. John Howard is a master, as all great politicians are, of hiding the true reason for doing something, and this can be seen as an effort to show that there are many different countries in Iraq (not just US, GB and Australia).

He is trying to say ‘We aren’t just following the US blindly, we are responding to a request to protect a neighbour in our region from terrorists’.
Don’t ask John Howard about the next stage of deployment because that is always to be decided. Go further into a possible future and get him to rule out introducing conscription.

I’ll sign up to Crikey for two years if he says that he won’t.


Peter Alford writes in response:

As usual, your shadowy correspondents check their brains in at log-on, along with their identities.

As I recall, the standard critique of Australia in East Timor in 1999 was that we’d got ourselves into a job that was so dodgy even the Washington empire didn’t want any bit of it. Now Thomas NoName says that, all the time, the US was waiting in the wings to pull our troops’ arses out of the fire if anything went wrong. And this is the debt we now have to repay in Iraq.

Jeez, give us a break AnonymousMan … there’s actually a straightforward reason for the Samawah deployment, if you had the brains to look for it.

As it happens, I went to Dili the weekend the Australians got there and I think I can support Thomas Anonymous’s soldier friend, though I also think he’s being a bit modest. He and his colleagues would have absolutely cleaned the clocks of the TNI because they were an ill-disciplined, ill-equipped, ill-led rabble. The militias were much cr*ppier. It could have been nasty, particularly if there had been a contested landing but the result wouldn’t have been in any doubt.

Oh, and why does the Howard government, or any other, have to respond to Tommy Cipher’s challenge to deny conscription? I first heard this suggestion from an anonymous (natch) caller to the Sydney Suns newsroom about 1980. This hero said he’d actually seen the conscription form and when encouraged to show it to me (I was young and silly and really wanted this story to be true), he hung up in a huff, “mainstream media … part of the conspiracy… fascist b*stards”. 25 years later and of course we’ve all done our 24 months in the maw of the military machine, haven’t we?

CRIKEY: Read more responses from subscribers to the latest Iraq deployment on the site here: http://www.crikey.com.au/articles/2005/03/003-0001-555.html

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