Modia Minotaur

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Friday, October 20, 2006

The Exit Strategy Begins

I've never seen Alexander Downer look as steamed up as he did during Question Time this week as the Opposition relentlessly pursued him over the ever-worsening situation in Iraq. All the usual excuses were used - freeing the Iraqi people from a tyrant, cutting and running would let the terrorists win, and so forth - but it looks like the excuses may finally be running out. Yesterday, George W. Bush did not deny comparisons between the situation in Iraq and the notorious Tet Offensive.

The feeling is groiwng that a `new approach' is required in Iraq. Whether this is prompted by the upcoming US mid-term elections or the fact that 73 American soldiers have already died in Iraq this month alone is hard to say, but the main thing is that a break in the stalemate seems imminent. Any Australian reaction will inevitably follow the American, and there is evidence that this has already begun, and figures such as Downer are beginning to look increasingly like General Westmoreland, the US army general who told reporters covering the bombing of the US Embassy in Saigon - while in fact standing in the rubble of the embassy - that there was `no evidence' that the enemy had managed to breach the building. In another example of the power of journalism, Lyndon Johnson is reputed to have finally decided to withdraw troops following a negative editorial by Walter Cronkite.

It's hard to say whether there will be a definitive moment that inspires the Coalition of the Willing to change tack entirely, or even a piece of symbolism that crystalises public dissent, as did the famous photo of the execution of prisoner Nguyen Van Lem during the Vietnam War. Sadly, public dissent has never seemed a factor in the decision to go to war with Iraq, as any of the estimated eight million people who attended peace rallies across the world in 2003 will remember. John Howard spoke a rare true word when he admitted his decision to send Australian troops was the least poll-driven move he had ever made. It is only when political will changes that the situation will change.

In any case, it is very worthwhile to read Cronkite's statements in the context of the current situation.

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