The gang sat around the Brushtail Cafe contemplating Tony Abbott’s increasingly bellicose pronouncements.
“I don’t get it”, Joadja said, polishing glasses. “Tony Abbott is going back into Iraq in order to help the government fight against the Islamic State terrorists, right?”
“Right”, said Old Possum, draining the last swig of cider from his bottle.
“But it seems we’re mainly going to be helping the Kurds, who, basically, just want to break away from Iraq and the Kurds we’re helping include the PKK, which we regard, officially, as “terrorists”, because they’re nationalists who fight for a Kurdish state which includes bits of Turkey – where the government is Sunni islamist – and Iran – which is Shia islamist. Lovely people the PKK, they rescued a lot of Christians and those poor Yasidis. I heard that on the news.”
“Ah, but we’re not going to be arming the PKK. Oh no. We’re going to be arming the Peshmerga – the official Kurdish army-type persons.”
“So where do the PKK get their arms?”
“From the official Kurds, of course.”
“Oooooh-kaay. But Iran is also against the IS mob, and they’re helping the Iraqi Government because the IS are Sunni terrorists so they – the Iranians – must be our friends and allies, right?”
“Oh no. The Iranians are our enemies, because they want a nuclear power industry, and they might just leverage that to get the bomb, and because they’re against Saudi Arabia, which bankrolls Sunni fundamentalists, including, for sure and certain, Al-Qaeda, IS and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Iranians are evil.”
“But if the Saudis persistently back Sunni terrorists, they must be our enemies, right?”
“No, no, no. The Saudis are our allies, because they’re allies of the US of A and we’re allies of the US of A … no matter what. The Saudis are our sort of islamists.”
Joadja pressed on: “Even though, like the IS, they behead lots of people, all the time, for things we wouldn’t even regard as crimes?”
“Oh, that’s just a cultural thing. We have to be culturally sensitive. Anyway, they behead them after a proper legal process. Our glorious American allies kill lots of people in novel and more painful and prolonged ways after due legal process.”
“But we like the Saudis because they still have lots of oil, right?”
“That would be way too cynical. Wash your mouth out.”
“But not as much oil as the Russians?”
“Ah … sorry, what was the question?” Old Possum chuckled.
“Oh don’t worry. Okay, now let me get Syria straight. The Assad Government, who are secular, are locked in a vicious struggle with IS, so they must be our friends?”
“No, no. Assad can’t be our friend because the Russians are backing him, and when the Russians back a secular regime we always back the fundamentalists opposing it. Assad’s is a terrible authoritarian regime. Assad kills his own people. We follow the US on that one, so we’re sorta backing “moderate” Sunnis heroically fighting Assad while they’re being wiped out by the IS, who are our enemies.”
“Well how about this? IS have just released a video on YouTube saying Vladimir Putin is the great Satan next in their sights. Why isn’t Russia then an ally in the fight against IS?”
“Ha! Are you hopelessly thick? Tony Abbott is leading us to war with Russia. Even as we speak, Australia is marching in battle array towards Ukraine, eager to come to grips with the enemy”
“Ha, ha, remember what Bernard Montgomery said about getting into wars with the Russians?” said Old Stan, the retired colonel, as he mopped up the last dribble of egg from his all-day vegetarian breakfast.
“You mean, Monty of El Alamein? the most famous gay field marshall since Alexander the Great?”
“Yeah. He said ‘There are two rules of war. The first is don’t march on Moscow. The second is, don’t go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia’, and then he added ‘I made up those two rules myself’. Monty was always robustly modest.
“Anyway, here’s Abbott rushing to break rule one, and as for rule two, he might as well have broken that too, because Ukraine is only just over the border from Central Asia and the terrain is the same.”
“But hang on, like Howard before him, Abbott is big on talk but short on commitment”, I said. “The commitment against IS has so far amounted to maybe sending some fighter jets to lob bombs on somebody or other from a couple of kilometres up. And notice this: Abbott talks big about going to war against Russia just a few hours before Putin and Poroshenko announce a cease-fire. He may well have known that was about to happen.”
“Perhaps, but remember Vietnam. Even small, insincere, commitments can put you on the slippery slope.”