After recent events on the Turkish-Iraq border, the boot’s well and truly on the other foot – or wing, if you prefer.

The relevant phrases today arose immediately after 9/11, when, we were told, a new era had dawned. The United States would no longer engage in shabby Realpolitik nor toady up to tyrants. The Global War on Terror was, Mr Bush explained, “a confrontation between good and evil”, and America’s mighty military would serve freedom the world over.

Now compare the Kissingeresque scenario currently unfolding.

Turkey today sees itself under attack by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and so naturally invokes the old Bush doctrine, in which any country that harbours terrorists becomes itself a legitimate target.

Why aren’t the Americans keen on this? It’s not simply because the Kurdish areas in Iraq provide the only oases of stability in that ravished country. No, it’s also because they’ve been covertly supporting the same terrorist organisation that their Turkish allies want to destroy, since the PKK’s attacks in Turkey matter less to Washington than the PKK’s attacks in Iran.

As author Reese Erlich explains:

… the Kurdish people have very legitimate grievances against the government in Tehran. The U.S. has taken advantage of that. In the case of one group, the P.K.K. or the Kurdistan Workers Party and they are along with Israel sponsoring them to carry out guerrilla raids inside Iran and its part of a much wider plan by the United States to foment discontent and actual terrorist activities by ethnic Iranians in various parts of Iran. And when I was in northern Iraq, I was able to determine that that kind of activity is going on from Iraqi soil under the Kurdish controlled areas of Iraq, into Iran.

Imagine the consequences if someone proved that Iranian groups had been funding terrorist attacks within the US.

Ah, but as Nixon said, when the US President does it, that means it’s not illegal. So Western troops (including, apparently, Australians) engage in skirmishes across the Iranian border, and US neocons cavort with Iranian “opposition groups” that even the State Department considers terrorists – and no-one blinks an eye.

In the midst of this, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates lectures Turkey about how it’s bad to launch unilateral invasions.

“I told him that lacking actionable intelligence, for them to send a large force across the border without any specific targets was likely to lead to a lot of collateral damage,” Gates said, referring to civilian casualties.

Well, quite. The smoking ruins of Iraq provide a pretty clear proof of that particular proposition. In fact, when you look at what the Americans currently face in Iraq, the Turkish eagerness for war recalls that TISM song about River Phoenix: “I saw him in compulsive throes/I said, ‘I’ll have one of those’.”

Nonetheless, the Bush administration seems equally eager to drink the slab that Bon Scott drank, by following the Iraq catastrophe with some kind of fresh military adventure in Iran.

What’s any of this got to do with the Australian election? Well, nothing, since, for obvious reasons, neither Labor nor Liberal wants to talk about foreign policy. Both remain committed to the US alliance, and that doesn’t allow for much wriggle room when it comes to American intrigues.

So the old phrases about self-determination and human rights and opposition to terrorism go out the window, and freedom sells itself to the highest bidder. As McAuley knew, there’s a word for that.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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