According to opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Andrew Robb, John Howard always planned to bring Australian troops home from Iraq in 2008. Perhaps he needed them to fight against Eurasia. We’ve always been at war with Eurasia, you know.

“In August last year,” said Mr Robb, “and during the campaign, John Howard quite explicitly – and (then foreign minister) Alexander Downer explicitly – talked about (how) a time would come this year when we would start to replace combat troops with training troops.” One must assume that John and Dolly’s explicit remarks were delivered at a frequency only dogs can hear.

Here’s Lord Downer in November last year, describing withdrawal as “madness”: “Let us make sure that now we are winning in Iraq, we do win (and) we don’t snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory by political stupidity.”

And John Howard, at APEC in September 2007: “We believe that progress is being made in Iraq and we do not believe this is the time to be setting any proposal for a scaling down of Australian forces.”

This might seem like the traditional Howard formula for war without end. But perhaps beagles and dachshunds and Andrew Robb heard a moving call to stop the slaughter. You’ll note that today’s revised Liberal position, in which the party now supports the drawdown of Australian combat troops by mid-2008, entails a withdrawal only a few months later than the March date originally proposed by Barack Obama.

When Obama announced that scheme, John Howard denounced him and the traitorous Defeatocrats for appeasing bin Laden: “I think that would just encourage those who wanted completely to destabilise and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for (an) Obama victory,” the Man of Steel told the Nine Network.

“If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.”

Are we to conclude that al-Qaeda now prays for Brendan Nelson? Possibly that’s the point. With your popularity stuck at nine per cent, you take support wherever you find it.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey