Chris Hunter writes: Re. “Rethinking Afghanistan: it’s OK to be partisan on the military” (yesterday, item 2). In his article on Afghanistan James Brown makes an interesting point “our soldiers need to be non-partisan professionals — able to carry out the wishes of the government of the day, whatever its political persuasion”. This brings to mind certain lines in Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade: “Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why…”

Of course, James is correct, to be successful armies need to follow orders, soldiers who begin to think outside the square become dangerous to the whole system.

This reminds me of a situation I found myself in during my tour of Vietnam in 1969.

One day in Nui Dat I was confronted by an Australian soldier who was nearing breaking point. His gripe was that his tent in Nui Dat was alongside the interrogation centre where the deplorable animal sounds of suspected enemy being tortured for information was slowly driving him insane. I took a walk down to the centre to see for myself, roughly opposite the chopper pad. The area was shrouded by sacking but was silent at the time of my visit. Thank God for that, I’m not sure how I would have reacted.

From then on, whenever I saw prisoners being trucked into The Dat, blindfolded, theirs hands tied behind their backs, I knew what they were in for. But what I didn’t know at the time was how these experiences would erode my entire belief in the so called democratic system, make everything futile, and finally lead to a diagnosis of severe trauma, or PTSD as it is known.

I have little admiration for politicians who support wars for entirely political reasons. The implications are horrendous.


Jackson Harding writes: Re. “Cairns abortion decision effectively decriminalises RU486 in Queensland” (yesterday, item 12). Please. Get it right. Dr de Costa does. It’s MIFEPRISTONE, that’s the name of the stuff. It ceased being RU486 when it became registered.

Drugs under development are referred to by a code (two or three letters indicating the drug company, in this case the French company Roussel Uclaf, and then a number usually doled out in sequence by the company concerned).  You wouldn’t call Viagra UK-92,480 would you?  Well calling mifepristone RU486 is exactly the same thing.  And it wasn’t just the 486th drug synthesised by Roussel, RU-486 was just a shortened name, it more correctly was RU-38,486.

Then again, being a pharmacological purist, I usually call Viagra sildenafil, Viagra is just a marketing name, in the same vein mifepristone is marketed as Mifegyne or Mifeprex.

So any way you look at it calling RU486 is wrong.

If Wikipedia can get it right why can’t Crikey!

Barack Obama and Julia Gillard:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Rundle’s mid-terms: two years in, Obama faces a massacre” (yesterday, item 1). The Crikey editorial and Guy Rundle’s little gem on the Obama train wreck have many things in common. Importantly they weave a connecting thread demonstrating the debauchery of conservatism in the so called “enlightened” first world countries.

Australia produces more and more poverty as our economy rages onward and upward filling the pockets of those who already have a lot and the USA is the same. What we have here is a lack of conviction, commitment and a lollipop level of courage on the part of our “reformist politicians” and that has caused the swamp we now witness. We need John Wayne with a bleeding heart to stampede the herd with whips a’crackin right over the top of the “greed is good” varmits infesting our prairies.

It is not the case that the poor should get poorer, it is not the case that the weak should be ignored, it is not the case that water barons prosper, it is not the case that bloated enterprises are propped up by the downtrodden. Rather it is necessary for our champions to be sturdy, to not yield to the entrenched elite and to walk the walk — not just talk the talk.

Over to you Julia and Barack.

Does “Tips and Rumours” have any standards at all?:

Alex Fishburn writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). According to tips and rumours “Abbott is now regarded as utterly unelectable by all but the most recalcitrant, hard-right members of the LNP federal caucus”. This is supposedly the reason for senior members of the LNP Coalition are trying to persuade Rupert Murdoch to get over hating Malcolm Turnbull.

I would not pretend I think senior LNPers are necessarily all that bright but I seriously doubt anyone of them regard Tony Abbott as unelectable. I don’t think we have ever tossed out a first term government and yet Tony Abbott came very close to pulling that off.

Doesn’t your tipster remember the federal election? Doesn’t your editor? Does “Tips and Rumours” have any standards at all?

If not then here is one: “Crikey is set to be bought out by a rich gazillionnaire and all its writers will receive a million dollar pay off.”

Peter Fray

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