The Iraqi kickbacks affair has certainly been an embarrassment for the
Howard government, but its critics can’t resist the temptation to gild
the lily. Step forward Kevin Rudd, who has noticed that the Iraqi government was also paying subsidies to the families of suicide bombers:

“Please satisfy the Australian people that not one
Australian dollar went to fund the Palestinian suicide bombers, that
not one Australian dollar went to fund Hamas and its suicide bombing
operations in Israel,” Mr Rudd told reporters.

This is just silly. What does he think – that the AWB paid in
specially marked bills, which could therefore be tracked all the way
across the Middle East? Even if they could, the exercise would prove
nothing. One dollar is as good as another; as economists say, money is
“fungible.”

Just as, after you’ve been shopping, it’s meaningless to ask what the
shopkeeper spent “your” $20 on, so if you give a million dollars to
Saddam Hussein it’s meaningless to ask where that particular million
went. There is no “particular” million dollars, there are just
accounting entries. More money coming in means more money going out; if
the money goes to the regime, and the regime funds suicide bombers,
then the money is funding suicide bombers.

Kevin Rudd is an intelligent man, and must know that he is talking
nonsense, but he evidently has so little respect for his listeners’
intelligence that he thinks it doesn’t matter. So far the response
suggests that he is probably right.

Peter Fray

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