Of all the speaking platforms in all the think tanks in all of Washington, and
he walks into Michael Ledeen’s!

The American Enterprise Institute
announces that it is proud to host Brendan Nelson, Minister of Defence of
Australia, speaking on the subject “Enhancing the US-Australian Alliance”.

Tough subject. Short of announcing that Richard, youngest son of John
and Janette, is to wed Jenna and Barbara, twin daughters of George and Laura, it
is hard to imagine what Nelson could say that would enhance the alliance after
Australia’s “no questions, no complaints” role in the Coalition of the

Fortunately Nelson will have a friendly audience at the
think tank that is the unrivalled home of neoconservatism, now that Project of a
New American Century has apparently folded.

Washington has more think tanks per square metre than any city
on the planet, so why did Nelson choose the AEI? The Brookings
and the Council on Foreign
are more prestigious and less partisan,
and have a past speakers list that reflects that – by comparison, world leaders
and serving Cabinet ministers are rare these days at the AEI.

Is Nelson a
B-list speaker who could only get a gig at a B-list think-tank; or is the Howard
Government, fresh from Alexander Downer’s neocon
, signalling that even though the discredited
foreign policy doctrine is as popular as a chicken with a runny nose elsewhere,
it still has friends Down Under?

When it comes to “bomb some sense into
them” advocates, the AEI has the most hairy-chested scholars
in town. (Denying climate change and
discrediting the UN are two of its other causes.)

No-one there is more
colourful than Michael “faster, please” Ledeen, who is yet to see a world
problem that the marines and enough heavy ordnance couldn’t solve (he recently
accused George Bush of adopting a Clintonesque
toward Iran).

Not only did Ledeen
push more vigorously for the Iraq war than anyone this side of Greg Sheridan,
there are some who believe he may even have had a role in starting it. The full
version is too long to tell here, but this
Craig Unger article
for the latest Vanity Fair is a
good place to start.

The short version: there are links between Ledeen
and the fake documents that purported to show Saddam Hussein was dealing in
yellowcake from Niger, a false claim that found its way into George Bush’s
State of the Union address

company Nelson is keeping.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey