A conga line of suckholes - Mark Latham's speech on war with Iraq
Wed, 12 Feb 2003 03:31:05 +1100
This is a link to, and quotes from, Mark Latham's speech to the House of
Reps on 5 February 2003, regarding the planned war on Iraq and the
quality of Australian national leadership.
Last Wednesday 5 February, on ABC Radio National's PM program,
http://www.abc.net.au/pm/ I heard some rousing oratory from the
Honorable Mark Latham, Member for Werriwa (Sydney), on the imminent war
on Iraq, and the quality of Australian and US political leadership It
was robust and lively!
I was surprised to find no mention of it in The Age the next day -
surely this august Journal should report this, if only as an example of
I tried to find it in Hansard, but was thwarted by the 2003 section of:
not appearing in Netscape 4.77. Tonight, with Mozilla, I found his
speech, at 12:30PM, page 26, of:
Unfortunately Mark Latham's speech is not mentioned in the archived
version of the PM program:
PM has a 5PM version on Radio National and a 6PM version on local radio
- I must have heard the version which was not the one archived in audio
and text. There seems to be no previous audio at the Parliament House
site. But the "Politicians line up for Iraq debates", there is is some
material which must have replaced what I heard, such as Labor's Harry
Quick, commenting on the anti-terrorist booklet and fridge-magnet being
being sent to all Australian households, which he described, with
apologies to the Speaker, as being "as useless as tits on a bull".
I want Mark Latham's speech to have some way of being found on the Net,
such as by searching for:
congaline conga-line of suck-holes conga line of suckolds
(the last was my private education interpretation of the word I
heard on the radio for the first time . . . paralleling how I,
and a child I know who is now 8, due to our private school
educations, when attempting to spell "fart", never having read
it, came up with something like faught, or in my young
friend's case: phart . . . or was it pharght?)
so I am taking the liberty of reading into the Record of the Link
Institute, for the benefit of succeeding generations. I figure this is
a unique and worthwhile use of the Net.
If anyone can point me to an audio recording of this memorable piece of
oratory, I would be very grateful.
Parts of Mark Latham's speech follow.
My own view is that Saddam Hussein richly deserves any bullet or cruise
missile which a UN backed intervention delivers to him. The same goes
for a few other dictators, such as in North Korea. But I think that it
is nuts to be pursuing this whilst at the same time allowing the
*democracies* of Israel and its supporter the USA to continue the
killing and subjugation of Palestinians, especially by continuing to
build settlements in the land which should become the Palestinian state,
dividing it up into rabbit warrens of disconnected small tracts and
towns, under the pretence of this being an acceptable permanent homeland
for all Palestinians. For more information on the situation in
Palestine, and especially maps of the settlements and sliced up
remainders of Palestine under Palestinian control, see the Foundation
for Middle East Peace:
The latest reports are easy to find. A current map is here:
I think this is another excellent use of the Net. Why are these maps
not more widely used in the media? Everyone should see such maps
whenever the questions of Palestinian and Israeli conflict is in
I am doing my bit, by presenting a recoloured easier-to-view version of
a map of the settlements, which is normally only found inside a PDF
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Here are the parts of Mark Latham's speech which I liked the most.
I would like a Prime Minister to speak the truth, as he or she perceives
it, so clearly and boldly.
- - - - - - - -
For all its might and power and for all its outrageous expense and
military technology, the American war machine is geared up for just one
purpose: wars with nation states. In effect, it is a one-trick pony.
This is a powerful war machine but it has only one strategy: to wage war
against nation states. It is yet to develop an effective strategy for
waging war against the terrorists themselves.
. . .
Gerecht then goes on to quote a younger case officer, who put it more
bluntly: Operations that include diarrhea as a way of life don’t happen.
That is the real truth of the American war machine when it comes to the
operatives and the intelligence on the ground that is needed to combat
terrorism, particularly in the Middle East. Gerecht concludes his
comments by saying:
Unless one of bin Ladin’s foot soldiers walks through the
door of a U.S. consulate or embassy, the odds that a CIA
counterterrorist officer will ever see one are extremely
That is the reality of the US capacity in this debate. The Bush
administration, of course, is reluctant to admit these sorts of
shortcomings. Instead, it is using the blanket description, the slogan,
"war against terror" to justify other aspects of its foreign policy
. . .
That is the Scowcroft point of view: action against Iraq diverts the
United States for an indefinite period from the war against terrorism.
This is a hard-headed, realistic assessment. Every dollar spent fighting
and then occupying Iraq is a dollar that cannot be spent on attacking
terrorist networks and improving Australia’s domestic security.
President Bush’s foreign policy looks more like American imperialism
than a well thought through and resourced strategy to eliminate
Bush himself is the most incompetent and dangerous president in living
memory. It is a bit rich for him to be preaching democratic values when
he himself failed to win a democratic majority in the 2000 presidential
election. His war with Iraq is more about revenging his father’s
mistakes, it is about the things that happened in Iraq and Kuwait in the
early 1990s and it is about securing domestic political advantage. It is
more about those things than a rational assessment of the best way to
defeat terrorism. Post September 11, Bush needs to be seen to be acting,
giving the American electorate a sense of revenge and puffed-up
patriotism. If he cannot catch Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein is the
next best thing, the next best strategy, for the American Republican
For our country, none of this in our national interest; none of this is
in Australia’s national interest. The government has just spent $15
million on advertising to warn Australians of the terrorist threat in
this country. But if our nation is under threat, as the government
argues, we should not be sending our best troops and equipment to the
other side of the world. If terrorists were to take control of an
international hotel in a major Australian city, where would you want our
SAS and commando troops to be? You would not want them on the other side
of the world; you would want them in Australia, defending Australian
families and Australian freedoms. If there were a terrorist incident on
Sydney Harbour, our open harbour in the biggest city in Australia, where
would you want our navy and other military capacity? We would want them
here looking after the Australian people, first and foremost.
. . .
>From time to time strong leadership comes from saying no to another
country. The Prime Minister puffs himself up and talks about strength.
The real strength and purpose of national leadership every now and then
comes from saying no to another country. That is what Mr Howard should
have said to the Americans instead of committing Australia to forward
deployment and the inevitability of war in Iraq. But he is too weak, and
behind him sits a weak and ineffective backbench. It has been left to
the elder statesmen of the Liberal Party — John Valder, Fred Chaney,
Peter Baume, John Hewson and Malcolm Fraser — to articulate a true
small-l liberal position. Mr Howard and his government are just yes-men
to the United States. There they are, a conga line of suckholes on the
conservative side of Australian politics. The backbench sucks up to the
Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister sucks up to George W.
That is how it works for the little tories, and they have the hide to
call themselves Australians. In my book they are not Australian at all.
They are just the little tories—the little tory suckholes. The backbench
sucks up to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister sucks up to
George W. That is all they have left on their rotten little side of
Australia deserves better than an American apologist as its Prime
Minister. We deserve better than someone who is too weak to say no to
Uncle Sam. In his statement to the parliament, the Prime Minister
dismissed the opposition to war as anti-American prejudice. That is what
he said - "This is just anti-American prejudice." Fancy the member for
Bennelong lecturing us about prejudice. This is the same member of
parliament who opposed sanctions against South Africa, who wanted to cut
Asian immigration, who opposed the Mabo judgment tooth and nail, who
welcomed Pauline Hanson’s first speech in this place as an outbreak of
free speech. He still refuses to say sorry to the stolen generation and,
to this day, cannot bear to utter the word "multiculturalism". Fair
dinkum, this bloke has a PhD in prejudice; he has no right to be
lecturing anyone else.
. . .
We can have a defensive military alliance with the US, but we do not
have to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in every single conflict
and on every single international issue. Just as there were no American
boots on the ground in East Timor, there should be no Australian ground
forces in Iraq. Even if the UN sanctions some form of military action,
Australia’s commitment should be limited.
. . .
The Iraqi regime is not a direct threat to Australia. We must deal with
the threat in our own part of the world first and foremost. We have
higher priorities to pursue in the war against terror. I oppose the
Prime Minister’s strategy. I oppose his toadying to the United States. I
oppose the way in which he is leaving us defenceless, pushing fridge
magnets into the front-line of our nation’s defence while sending our
SAS and other commandos to the other side of the world. He ought to be
ashamed of himself. I believe he has disgraced our great nation and
placed its future security and safety at risk. Every year, each and
every one of us as members of parliament says "lest we forget". The
truth is that the Prime Minister has forgotten. He has forgotten how to
stand up for Australia’s national interests. He has forgotten how to
keep Australian lives safe and secure. He has forgotten how to be a good
Australian, not some yes-man to a flaky and dangerous American
president. I reject the Prime Minister’s statement to the House. I
reject his blind rush to war with Iraq. And I trust in time — I dearly
hope in time — that the Australian people themselves will reject this
Prime Minister and his government.
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