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  • History or bunkem?
    friendly fire incident in a war which they were common But what happened at the Palestine Hotel was a different matter On 8 April three war correspondents were killed by Americans at locations that were known to the Pentagon to be housing media Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk was killed when an American tank fired a shell at the Reuters suite on the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel Jose Couso a cameraman for the Spanish TV channel Telecino was wounded in the same attack and died later in hospital And Tarek Ayyoub a cameraman for al Jazeera was killed when a U S plane bombed the channel s office in Baghdad American forces also opened fire on the offices of Abu Dhabi TV whose identity is spelled out in large blue letters on the roof There was no love lost between the Coalition forces and al Jazeera The Pentagon has never forgiven al Jazeera for broadcasting Osama bin Laden tapes around the world from its Kabul office during the war in Afghanistan In this war it has regarded al Jazeera as an enemy propaganda station putting out devastating accounts of Iraqi civilian casualties to a vast Arab audience thus fuelling anti American sentiments Al Jazeera was apprehensive about American reaction and repeatedly informed the U S military of the exact co ordinates of its Baghdad office so that if it were hit the Pentagon could not offer the excuse that it was an accident It was a waste of time The Pentagon has offered neither explanation nor apology Contradictory accounts It might have tried the same silence tactic over the Palestine Hotel attack If fact it did When the news of the attack first came the American command said nothing until it emerged that the French TV channel France 3 had filmed the tank aiming and firing Then the Coalition put out a series of contradictory accounts Colonel David Perkins commander of the 3rd Infantry Division s 2nd Brigade said Iraqis in front of the hotel were firing rocket propelled grenades at the tank Then the Division s commander General Bouford Blount issued a statement saying that the tank had come under sniper fire from the hotel s roof and had fired at the source of the shooting which had then stopped Correspondents in the Palestine Hotel insisted that there had been no grenades and no sniper fire Sky s correspondent David Chater said he had not heard a single shot The BBC s Rageh Omaar said that none of the other journalists in the hotel heard any sniper fire But the most telling evidence that the tank fired without provocation is that France 3 s cameraman had started filming some minutes before the tank opened fire and his camera s sound track records no shots whatsoever More puzzling was an official Spanish government statement about the death of Jose Couso The Defence Minister Frederico Trillo announced that the Coalition had actually declared the Palestine Hotel a military objective 48 hours before it was attacked and that the correspondents should have left This was news to the correspondents all of whom denied any knowledge of any warning Journalists a watchdog group that defends press freedoms demanded an investigation and in a letter to the U S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it believed that the attacks on correspondents violated the Geneva Conventions My own view is that there will be no investigation no explanation no apology I am convinced that in the light of all the foregoing evidence the Pentagon is determined that there will be no more reporting from the enemy side and that a few deaths among correspondents who do so will deter others To that end I believe that the occasional shots fired at media sites are not accidental and that war correspondents may now be targets some more than others And the Pentagon s policy will work Al Jazeera seriously considered pulling all of its correspondents out of Iraq because it could not guarantee their safety Arab TV and British media bosses will think twice in any future war of sending staff reporters to the enemy side not least because insurers will refuse to underwrite the risk I think the Pentagon is not concerned in the slightest about public unease over its attacks on journalists because it is convinced that the public especially the American public will support its view and its actions Consider the difference in the way the war has been reported on the two sides of the Atlantic It is as if you are looking at two different wars For the Americans the war has been essentially a military story and a sanitised one at that With five out of ten Americans believing that most of the terrorists who carried out the attack on 9 11 were Iraqis the American media decided that its readers and viewers were not interested in the plight of Iraqi victims of the war The New York Times said it aimed to capture the true nature of the war but avoided the gratuitous use of images simply for shock value Steve Capus executive editor of NBC Nightly News complained You watch some Arab coverage and you get the sense there is a blood bath at the hand of the U S military That is not my take on it The biggest radio group in the United States Clear Channel used its stations to organise pro war rallies McVay Media one of America s largest communications consulting companies advised its radio clients to play patriotic music that makes you cry salute and get cold chills and under no circumstances cover war protests because they will hurt your bottom line When New York magazine writer Michael Wolff broke ranks at the Coalition s daily press conference at Qatar and asked General Brooks Why are we here Why should we stay What s the value of what we re learning at this million dollar press centre he soon had an answer

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  • Book review: Manhattan to Baghdad by Paul McGeough
    is a serious book by a serious journalist a man with his heart in the right place who has a natural sympathy for the underdog And like all good journalists McGeough has been blessed with the luck of being in the right place at the right time He was in his New York apartment 34 floors above Ninth Avenue when the al Qaeda terrorists struck Being a good reporter he did his best to get to the scene and describe it Six blocks from what is left of the World Trade Centre the streets are full of crying people The city is totally shocked A massive mushroom cloud hangs overhead Papers that a few minutes ago were on people s desks now litter the streets and float in the air like a blinding white snowstorm It is 10 30am The second tower has collapsed But McGeough is thoughtful too His reporting from Israel and the occupied territories shows how the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seized the opportunity provided by George Bush s war on terrorism to intensify Israel s battle with the Palestinians and their suicide bombers In a five minute address in which he used the word terrorisma 14 times Sharon told Israelis We must fight this terrorism in an uncompromising war to uproot these savages He says the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp was not a massacre but quotes various international organisations as concluding that it could well have been a war crime His descriptions of what he saw in the camp and the people he interviewed there leave little doubt about his own conclusions Nothing could prepare you for the reality of the destruction or the listless response of the inhabitants The smell of decaying flesh came from buildings that still stood and from different sections of the rubble He recounts how Israeli soldiers shot at journalists trying to enter Jenin and how his way was blocked by machine gun fire But McGeough s sprint along the edge of death came not in Israel but in Afghanistan in November 2001 He was riding on an armoured personnel carrier when it came under Taliban fire A German correspondent sitting beside him and two other correspondents were killed McGeough resists the temptation to become the hero of his own story instead making the telling observation that unlike the fighting armies and terrified civilian population foreign journalists were there by choice With America s war on terrorism set to go on for the foreseeable future McGeough will no doubt remain busy He ends his admirable book with a few reflections on the major player in this deadly game The failure of the US to do anything about legitimate historic claims by oppressed minorities like the Palestinians and the Chechens ensured the continued festering of terrorist breeding grounds But George W Bush was determined to march on Baghdad Somehow the President was in the wrong place fighting the wrong war Phillip Knightley is one of the world s

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  • England and Australia are trading places
    and excuses for failure put an end to Australia s colonial inferiority complex Not a bit of it It turned out that those fiendishly clever Pommies had a fall back position Even as we beat the English however we still served their purpose says Knox Their solace was and is that defeat in sport only confirms their broader human superiority By confining themselves to playing games for fun rather than for life and death the English were allowing us to have our jollies Being such gracious losers liberated them to to admire the tourist monkeys and indeed to fall in love with Warne for he is everything an Englishman thinks an Aussie should be their master at the game and their inferior in everything else in life So there is a lot of Australian resentment to cope with before this swapping of roles is completed Let s consider its origins An Australian backpacker I know was asked by the immigration officer at Heathrow what was the purpose of his visit He said he was a tourist For a few minutes the officer chatted with him in a friendly manner and elicited the information that the Australian was a keen amateur actor You never know your luck in London the officer said cheerily Why don t you go to a few auditions in the West End You might get a part Thanks for the tip the Australian said I will The officer immediately pounced I m denying you entry to Britain on the grounds that you intend to seek employment here You tricked me the Australian said The officer replied I m just doing my job The Australian glared at him for a moment and then hit back in the most hurtful manner he could think of It may be your job but it s not cricket There are more important English acts that Australians considered were not cricket A director of the Bank of England recommended in the middle of the Great Depression that to force Australia to repay its London loans Australians natural optimism their belief that something would always turn up had to be destroyed There was Britain s plan in 1942 to abandon Australia to the Japanese if necessary so as to concentrate on the war against Germany There was the decision to join EEC and end Commonwealth trade arrangements And most painful of all the 1971 Immigration Act ended at a stroke the right Australians had enjoyed since the founding of their country in 1788 that of free entry into Britain and full equality there with their kith and kin A more general resentment was that the English preferred to believe all the old stereotypes about Australians instead of keeping an open mind In a match at Lord s some years ago Australian fast bowler Mervyn Hughes he of the big handle bar moustache was fielding near the boundary Between overs he signalled to the dressing room with two fingers raised In a mock Aussie accent

    Original URL path: http://phillipknightley.com/2005/09/england-and-australia-are-trading-places/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Will England-Australia relations ever be the same again?
    return there to settle Even Australian republicans agree that links like these do not fade overnight Since the arrival of cheap air travel half the Anglo population of Australia has made the pilgrimage to Britain to see where they originally came from and of course hoping to teach a new generation of Poms a thing or two about literature art music theatre film TV journalism business and life in general Margaret Fink the film producer My Brilliant Career a quintessential Australian was here this summer to visit the family origins in the Lake District Who took time off to drive her there her old Aussie mate Dr Germaine Greer Where did they go for dinner in London one night To the Royal Overseas League that imposing caught in a time warp club in St James s that celebrates the bonds of the old Commonwealth countries and not just the white English speaking ones I know because I invited them there Both would find the suggestion that a Rugby match would alter Anglo Australia relations as ludicrous as it is insulting We have withstood tougher sporting challenges than than this Take the infamous Bodyline Test series between England and Australia in the season of 1932 33 England s captain Douglas Jardine and the English cricketing establishment were coldly determined to win Sound familiar Jardine let loose on the Australian batsmen his two big fast bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Voce both from Nottinghamshire with orders to try to hit the Australians hard by bowling at the body rather than the wicket It worked The Australian sporting journalists complained that England had sunk to an all time low The English sporting journalists told Australia to stop its undignified snivelling and learn to be good losers Sound familiar When Jardine complained to the former Australian captain Victor Richardson that one player had called him a Pommy bastard Richardson summoned the Australian team and in front of Jardine asked All right which of you bastards called this bastard a bastard Relations sank so low there was talk in the press of the whole tour being called off Yet how did it all end In Sydney in the last Test of the Bodyline tour Larwood the man who had tormented Australia a bowler and therefore not expected to make runs scored 98 The Australian crowd rose to its feet as one and cheered him all the way back to the pavilion So why the fuss over a little needling this time around My view is that we are all the victims of the marketing gurus from the Rugby Football Union In a few short years they have transformed a cash strapped minority game into one from which the RFU now stands to make some 60 million annually But at first it did not look as if the dream final between England and Australia was going to happen Australia was a long odds fourth among the final four And if England thought the Australia media had

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  • Book Review: Black Kettle and Full Moon
    when citizens who set up folk and regional museums asked him questions about candles tobacco tins matches bottles jars jam making shoelaces and billy cans In a spasmodic way I began to collect the evidence in this book long before I decided to write the book he says But where did he find the information Sometimes living Australians could remember something a great grandparent had told them Newspapers of the period proved a gold mine A report of a fire which destroyed a shop would list all its contents Shipping notes listed cargoes catalogues for trade fairs showed what was on sale paintings revealed much when you knew what you were seeking someone from a family of butchers would remember what was traditionally used in sausages as colouring and preservative So the book is fascinating in its detail Prepare to have a lot of your cherished beliefs and prejudices shattered Garlic was in common use in Australia long before the first Italian and Greeks immigrants arrived Most Australian men did not drink beer but spirits especially rum The favourite drink of everyone was tea It was taken black sweet and piping hot and more was drunk in Australia that in all of Continental Europe far more than even the teeming population of India could down It was drunk morning noon and night with meals and in between The meals were of course meat meat and more meat Before refrigeration there was no export market for meat so Australians had to eat the lot themselves They tucked in with vigour To know the full taste of meat was to be an Australian And not just beef and mutton Butchers sold pig s trotters tripe kidneys brains and tongues dripping and lard flaps of mutton sausages and saveloys and corned beef Until state governments stepped in and passed protection laws Australians also ate a wide variety of native birds from swans to emus Blainey writes Visitors were less surprised by the vote than by the meat That every man could vote was interesting That nearly every man and woman could eat meat at nearly every meal was astonishing Some parts of everyday life were more efficient than they are today In Sydney in the 1880s you could post a letter early in the morning and receive a reply before sunset Blainey modestly admits that after three decades as an historian some of his discoveries suprised even him I did not know that each locality in Australia at one period kept a different time on its clocks When it was noon in Sydney it was already two minutes past noon in Newcastle There is a lot more along these lines you could have ice in your summer drinks but the ice was not from the local ice works they came later It was cut from winter ponds near Boston and packed in straw brought as cargo on sailing ships to Australian ports And did you know that Australia had a distinctive odour We

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  • Can we survive six weeks of Australia?
    at how well ordinary people ate Large portions of meat three times a day was common Settlers from Ireland and the industrial cities of Britain wrote home praising Australia and more and more immigrants poured in In many ways they were some of the best of British adventurous and hard working and they helped make Australia the country it is today But they could so easily have turned it into a nation of Poms Down Under suppressing their longings for England s green and shaded lanes miserable that Home was so far away Australia could have become as one Prime Minister Billy Hughes himself born in London hoped as much a part of England as Middlesex Instead something different happened almost as if the land made the people The new arrivals in Australia soon tackled the age old question how should we order our affairs so as to get the best out of our brief life on this planet Their reasoning was simple Australia is a new country of limitless potential If we want to create a new society to leave behind the class divisions of the Old World to avoid servility and poverty then we should divide everything in a fair and reasonable manner So fair and reasonable became the touchstone of the Australian way of life As a result in a manner unprecedented anywhere in the world the Australians passed law after law to improve the welfare of its citizens Votes for women 18 years ahead of the United States 16 years ahead of Britain and 70 years ahead of Switzerland the secret ballot free and compulsory education for all children old age an invalid pensions safety at work fixed working hours and minimum wages A country often criticised for its lack of culture passed a law in 1908 providing a pension of 1 a week for distressed authors The journey was not always smooth The debate over whether the country should become a republic revived some of the sectarian enmity between Irish Catholics republicans and Anglo Australian loyalists that disfigured Australian life for so many years And the recent harsh treatment of asylum seekers showed that the racist sentiments that everyone hoped had died when Australia abandoned the White Australia policy still linger And yes there are classes in Australia but they are not defined by what school you went to what accent you have or what work you do but by how much you earn And even this is not that important because on Bondi beach free and open to all there is no way of distinguishing the merchant banker earning 300 000 a year from the labourer earning 30 000 they are both there for a swim A few days after Tony Blair had become Prime Minister in 1997 an Australian rang a British political commentator offfering advice on what made Blair tick You ve got to realise that Tony s not British at all he said He s Australian Ponmdering what this meant the

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  • All mates in a place of marvels
    Luckiest Country now but it has got there the hard way We read of vicious political feuds and conspiracies of Irish shenanigans and English snobberies of sordid poverty and endemic corruption We learn that before the first world war a Dr John Gilruth planned to make the Northern Territory an independent British colony with himself as Viceroy and that in the 1950s the Federal Government had a contingency plan to send all Communist sympathisers into internment camps Twice at least Australia has nearly come to civil war and there is a theory that Harold Holt the PM who vanished for ever in 1967 was whisked away on a submarine by his Chinese spy masters It took Australia many years to get over the depression of the 1930s There as in Britain scabs and strikes and means tests entered the national consciousness and even now many of the Lucky People still live poorly enough In some city districts the night cart went its stinking round of outdoor lavatories until 1998 although I called very early in the morning says a sewage collector I still surprised some people on the throne they were all very nice about it and apologised for keeping me waiting Spies crooked policemen greedy capitalists bent politicians and drug rings all figure in this book and squalidly there runs through its pages a miserable leitmotif Australia s treatment of its Aborigines Knightley deals skilfully and generously with all the great issues his country has faced two world wars the weakening of the British link relations with America and Asia the transformation of society by multi ethnic immigration The greatest of Australian themes though the nation s tragedy and we hope its triumph has been the national attitude towards the indigenes By now most of us know the awful story of their persecution there were murderous punitive expeditions even in the 1920s but Australians themselves may be taken aback to be reminded here in unforgiving detail of the thousands of half caste children officially kidnapped in the pursuit of generic purity Thank God the book can also record the noble stirring of national conscience that has occurred in our own time It will necessarily be a slow process White Australia has been a principle ingrained in the national psyche and the just sorting out of land rights demands Solomonic wisdom But enlightenment has undoubtedly set in Knightley sees the great change beginning in 1975 when the Gough Whitlam the Prime Minister restored 2 000 square kilometres of land to the Gurundji tribespeople of the north to you and your children for ever The Gurundji leader responded historically We are all right now he told the PM and the nation We are all friendly We are all mates Australia is a marvellous place brave and big and funny and clever but if there is one thing it has traditionally seemed to lack it is kindness I would far rather have a stroke in the streets of Manhattan than on Circular

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  • Gun culture
    Australia followed by the land grabs of the 18th and 19th centuries forced Americans to defend themselves not only against the original inhabitants but also against their neighbours This produced a society that is basically anti social where to own and carry a gun is commonplace where children are taught by parents how to use firearms and as recent school massacres show have no hesitation in using them against fellow pupils It is easy to overlook how common guns are in the United States and how often they are fired I was a passenger in a car in Los Angeles recently when another motorist obscenely abused the woman who was driving me I began to remonstrate with him but my woman associate hastily drove off Never never get into an argument with a driver in Los Angeles she said You wouldn t believe how many people carry a hand gun in a holster fixed to the steering column That guy could ve shot you In contrast Australians are basically a social people and have developed a car culture rather than a gun one The great Australian mythic western Mad Max is more about cars than about guns Guns in Australia have been traditionally farmers tools You don t find glass fronted gun cabinets in Australian suburban houses There are no gun fairs pistol mail order catalogues revolvers in bedside table drawers Saturday night specials on sale in pubs little chromed ladies automatics in purses at Tupperware parties A Washington based journalists told me You d be shocked at how many young women here carry a pistol in their purse This is not the way Australia wants to go Australia does not need a gun culture When a disturbed young man ran amok and killed HOW MANY people at Port Arthur in 1996 the Federal government had the courage to implement national gun control laws that limited access to firearms But limiting access is not enough it is also necessary to avoid making guns appear glamorous Yet surely the excitement of firing a gun is behind the government move to allow teenage cadets to be taught how to use a weapon The government says that teaching teenagers how to fire military weapons is a constructive move that will give them new skills self discipline and improved concentration This is an unconving argument and one might ask how in the end will these weapon trained teenage soldiers differ in their acquired gun mentality from the child soldiers of war ravaged African states A much more likely train of logic behind the new scheme goes like this the Australian Defence Force needs more recruits Cadets are a traditional source but being a cadet has lost its appeal Could this appeal be restored by promising cadets a chance to use a firearm If this is official thinking then a great opportunity has been lost Why not ignore gun culture and attract cadets by offering them traditional Australian skills riding orienteering outback survival skills It

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