On 15 February the electronic media the world over transmitted snippets of the huge anti-war processions across the globe. In the Sydney procession one saw a dummy George Bush dragging by chain a dummy dog; the dog had John Howard’s face. That must have reminded anyone who watched it of Tony Blair who has been called “George Bush’s poodle” by the British press. So far Australian press has not dubbed Howard anything close to be a canine. Hence, this writer can take the dubious honor of calling him George Bush’s lapdog, assuming that if Tony Blair has not shown any resentment for being called a poodle, Howard too will not mind it. In fact after being called “Bush’s poodle” Tony Blair became more pro-Bush than before, and went on an offensive tour around the world selling to all and sundry Bush’s obsession with invading Iraq. Blair’s poodlization was in fact making of a new Blair, a Blair who Bush is proud to call “Friend”.
Howard’s credentials belittle those of Blair’s. After winning re-election he proclaimed that under his rule Australia would act as America’s deputy in Asia-Pacific (He actually said that!). That raised a lot of eyebrows in Asia-Pacific, but Howard did not seem to bother. After the Bali blasts in October 2002, Howard threatened to attack any Southeast Asian country by way of pre-emption against terrorism. That raised a storm in Southeast Asia, and Dr Mahatir went to the extent of saying that Australia would have a “bloody nose” if it ever attacked any part of Malaysia under any excuse. Again Howard was not moved. Recently, despite a totally contrary public opinion, he has been out-Blairing Blair by readying the Australian Army to be a part of the possible American invading hordes to Iraq. Bush and Blair have publicly praised Howard for his “anti-terror stand”.
Howard has by all means passed the test of blind, personal loyalty to the person of George Bush despite great opposition by the Australian masses. There must be some deep psychological motive behind his throwing himself in with George Bush. Otherwise Australia has no reason to be a part of the American “War on Terror”. Australia has never been on the hit list of any terrorist organization whatsoever, let alone the Islamic militants. Osama bin Ladin or any of his acolytes have never mentioned Australia even in passing. The Bali bombers who blew up scores of Australia are on record saying that they had no intention of killing them; they wanted to kill only the Americans. But it was the people of Howard’s ilk who dubbed Bali as Australia’s New York, a totally meaningless analogy.
Despite pressure from the public and the parliamentary opposition, Howard has refused to budge from his stand to stick to George Bush’s intention of invading Iraq. The American “War on Terror” is by no means an Australian concern. But Howard claims that it is.
Perhaps in his daredevil myopia Howard has not entertained a simple question that must have crossed many a mind simpler than his own: What if some terrorists accept the challenge that he has unwittingly been throwing at them? Terrorists are no Santa Clauses. What if they blow up some important Australian targets? Hopefully it does not happen, but it will take only a single blast in the downtown Sydney or Melbourne to shake the Australian economy to its foundation. Once that happens, what could Howard do? An economically destabilized Australia will spell Howard’s own political doom, but in his monomania to win over American approval he seems to have forgotten that.
Howard has never been known for his love for principle-based politics. In the early 1990s he had to quit politics after making extremely offensive racist remarks about the non-white Australians. Recently he narrowly won re-election because he took a sheer non-humanitarian stand against around 400 Muslim refugees who wanted political asylum in Australia. But this time he has not pitted himself against innocent, poor refugees.
Abbas Zaidi writes for The Nation, Lahore. His writings have appeared, amongst others, in Exquisite Corpse, The Salisbury Review, and Southern Oceanic Review.