Good riddance to John Howard

The Bush-supporting, neocon-revering Australian prime minister suffers a humiliating defeat.


Glenn Greenwald
November 24, 2007 4:28PM (UTC)

(updated below - Update II)

There's a tendency in the U.S. to view the elections in other countries based on the self-centered perspective that the result is always some sort of referendum on the U.S. Hence, all sorts of unwarranted conclusions are typically drawn whenever a pro-Bush foreign leader is defeated or re-elected.

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Like most foreign elections, the humiliating defeat of Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, was driven largely by their own domestic concerns, and it had little (though not nothing) to do with the U.S. Still, it is worth celebrating Howard's defeat in light of how pernicious a presence he was, as one of the very few remaining world leaders who loyally supported the worst and most war-loving aspects of the Bush/Cheney foreign policy.

Back in Febraury of this year, Howard inserted himself into U.S. domestic politics by spouting this Bill Kristol-like smear:

If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for [Barack] Obama, but also for the Democrats.

That comment was not only wildly inaccurate and repugnant in its own right, but it was also unbelievably hypocritical, given that Howard's close political aide, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, tried to intervene in support of Bush's 2004 re-election effort by criticizing John Kerry's claim that unnamed foreign leaders had expressed support for Kerry's campaign, telling The Washington Times: "I think it's probably better to keep foreign leaders and the views of foreign leaders out of domestic elections, I mean, certainly we do that here in this country."

Downer later told an Australian television channel: "whatever John Howard or I, or anybody else may think privately, we'd never say anything publicly about the elections of a foreign country." This year, Howard announced that Al-Qaeda is praying for Barack Obama and the Democrats to win.

But nothing captures the core corruption and dishonesty of John Howard -- and that of other blind supporters of the war in Iraq generally -- quite as vividly as a May, 2003 speech he delivered to the Australian parliament, in which Howard hailed the Greatness of George W. Bush and praised Bush's "Strength and Determination" for having led the "American-led coalition" to "Decisive Victory" in Iraq.

In doing so, Howard gloated about how wrong war opponents were, specifically condemning:

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the way in which speaker after speaker [from the Labor Party] impugned [Bush's] integrity, assaulted his judgment, and called into question his ability to lead the U.S. in this very, very difficult conflict. History has proved them wrong.

Howard mocked the "infantile" objections of war opponents and "all of the[ir] doomsday predictions," which -- he boasted -- were "not realized." After all, Howard roared: "there were not millions of refugees" and "there was no long-drawn-out, bloody, Stalingrad-style, street-to-street fighting in Baghdad":



Of course, truly humiliating declarations of Victory like this -- combined with gloating decrees that war opponents were proven wrong because of how fast and cleanly we Won in Iraq without any of the problems the "naysayers" predicted -- are hardly rare in the U.S. either. Indeed, most of those who spewed such embarrassing tripe continue to do so today.

The ignominious defeat of John Howard had many causes having nothing to do with his disgraceful pronouncements on Iraq (though his triumphant opponent, Labor's Kevin Rudd, did pledge to begin withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq). Nonetheless, it is still satisfying to witness such a well-deserved ejection from power of one of the last political leaders slavishly loyal to the disastrous Bush/Cheney/neoconservative war agenda.

UPDATE: Howard's loss likely includes not only his party's loss of its majority in Parliament, but even the loss of his own seat, a very rare occurrence. I challenge anyone to try to avoid feelings of glee over that result after watching this:



UPDATE II: Our nation's own faux Civilization Warriors are mourning Howard's defeat as though they've suffered the loss of a comrade-in-arms. From National Review's Mark Steyn: "Of all the doughty warriors of the Anglosphere, Howard, his Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and their colleagues had the best rhetoric on the present war."

"Doughty" = "steadfastly courageous" and "brave, bold, intrepid, fearless." Thus, we see here yet again one of the central pathologies of the neoconservative fantasy-warrior: namely, the belief that those who favor sending others off to war are themselves "courageous," "intrepid" and "brave."

On a different note, several commenters have pointed to this video of Kevin Rudd's superb response in Parliament to John Howard's comments about Obama, Democrats and Iraq. As several people have suggested, Rudd's approach provides an excellent template for our own "opposition party" as to how cheap, war-exploiting and Terrorism-exploiting bullying should be treated.

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Glenn Greenwald

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