The Guardian 28 February, 2007

Editorial

Why Cheney? Why now?

It is difficult to understand why Dick Cheney came to Australia at all. If it was merely to tell Australians that the US-Australia alliance is "rock solid" and that Australian soldiers are brave and "doing a great job", it was a waste of time. John Howard is always on hand to tell us that at every opportunity. If it was to stiffen Howard’s resolve not to "cut and run" he did not need any persuading on that score.

Maybe it was meant as a back-up for Howard in the coming federal election. If so it was a flop and could do more harm than good. It put Iraq back on the front pages as an issue that the majority of Australians remain opposed to and want the troops home. He had nothing worthwhile to say about David Hicks which is becoming an increasing electoral liability for PM Howard.

He did carry on about the "China threat" but that was a rather stupid thing to do when Howard claims Australia’s relations with China as one of his government’s foreign policy achievements. In any case does Cheney expect that Australia is going to twist the tail of the Chinese dragon when they are buying billions of dollars worth of coal, uranium, gas, iron ore and wool?

Cheney did not come to talk about the all important question of climate change or how to build on the treaty of amity and cooperation which most Asian countries adhere to.

He did not seem to have any words of welcome for the recently concluded six-nation agreement regarding the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. The deal could have been finalised years ago but there was one snag — Cheney and the other warmongers in the Bush entourage opposed any agreement.

The only thing that seems to be on Cheney’s mind is war — war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, preparations for war against China and Russia where the US and NATO are attempting to build a network of missile bases to surround both countries. Then there are the very real threats and preparations for an attack on Iran, probably using nuclear weapons.

As a young man Cheney applied for four deferments to avoid involvement in the Vietnam war. "I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service", he commented later.

While his visit amounted to next to nothing as far as any worthwhile content was concerned he did succeed in snarling Sydney traffic for a couple of days while his 32-car 1.5 km-long cavalcade was given priority on Sydney’s roads. Even the Sydney Harbour bridge was closed making this inconvenience a much bigger talking point among Sydney-siders than either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Cheney’s visit was greeted by a scathing feature article in the SMH (23/2/07) by Peter Hartcher, the Political Editor of Sydney’s prestigious newspaper. He wrote, "Cheney is generally regarded in Washington as the most powerful Vice-President in memory. It is a pity of historical proportions that he used that power to advance dismally unsuccessful and destructive policy".

Bush’s then Secretary of State, Colin Powell, commented that Cheney in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, seemed to be in a "fever" for war.

Hartcher reminds us that Cheney signed off on Guantanamo Bay and the torture which goes on there and at Abu-Graib and elsewhere.

"How can America go around the world preaching democracy and human rights with a straight face while you have a Vice-President defending torture?", recalled Peter Hartcher quoting Jim Steinberg, the dean of international relations at the University of Texas and a former deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration.

It is always possible that Cheney had something private and confidential to tell John Howard as they cruised the Sydney Harbour safe from any danger of phone taps or being overheard. John Howard is well and truly in the camp of Cheney, Bush and Blair. This is an "axis of evil" if ever there was one. They are an extreme danger to the whole world as they cook up more war adventures. All four are capable of psyching themselves into another war fever before being finally consigned to hell and damnation by the people of their countries.

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