Has The Australian finally been mugged by reality into
changing its position on Iraq, or does it merely have two of the most
off-the-pace journalists on the planet providing its foreign affairs

The paper, the voice of neoconservatism Down Under, vigorously
supported both the invasion of Iraq and the man most responsible, George Bush.

This morning, a couple of its “heavy hitters”, Paul Kelly and Greg
Sheridan, are singing a slightly different tune – though oddly it’s a song the rest
of the world got tired of months ago.

opens by saying “the Bush administration is
confronted by strategic failure and fatigue” and that “the search has begun for
new concepts to govern the US polity” – comments that were first made in the US
almost 12 months ago.

Kelly then introduces us to his new best friend,
Francis Fukuyama, and spends 80% of his column talking about Fukuyama’s
book After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads. An extract of Fukuyama’s
book appeared in The New York TimesMagazinefour
months ago
and Fukuyama’s movement from the hardcore
neocon position, in articles and speeches, began at least two years

By the way, Kelly describes Fukuyama as “a
neo-conservative who refused to support the Iraq war”. That is not quite right.
Fukuyama has always been more cautious than the likes of Charles Krauthammer or
Michael Ledeen, but he was a signatory to the infamous
1998 letter
calling for regime change in Iraq, he
supported regime change after 9/11, and he supported the 2003 invasion, albeit not very enthusiastically, with reservations about the way it was

Then there is Greg
, the equal of the most bellicose
neoconservative in calling for the invasion, this morning reporting that
“level of violence in some areas of Iraq is worsening dramatically and US forces
may soon be asked to leave by the Iraqi Government”.

That sentence could
have been written any time in the last two years, but Sheridan apparently writes
it now because he has been talking “exclusively” to former US deputy secretary
of state Richard Armitage. Some exclusive. Armitage, who was also a signatory
to that neoconservative letter, talks to anyone with a microphone in the

And Sheridan doesn’t explain why he gives so much credence to someone who is
now a private citizen on the board of directors of the ConocoPhillips oil
company, when there have been literally thousands of “level of violence
worsening” reports out of Iraq.

Footnote: There have been a couple of as
yet unconfirmed reports in the US, includingthis
in The Washington Post, that the Project for a New American Century,
the neoconservative think tank that was the source of that letter, has closed

Look forward to
reading all about it in The Australian around Christmas time.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey