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May 2004   

Interview: Machine Man
It�s regarded as the most powerful job in the Party, but new NSW ALP general secretary Mark Arbib wants to build a bridge with the union movement.

Unions: Testing Times
Unions are not opposed to drug and alcohol testing, but they do want to see real safety issues addressed, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Freespirit Haunts Internet
FreeSpirit forked out a motza for a whiz bang internet presence then disappeared right off the radar � once it was nominated as our Bad Boss for May.

Unions: Badge of Honour
Surry Hills is home to one of the world�s finest displays of union badges thanks to Bill "The Bear" Pirie and a supporting cast headed by Joe Strummer, Mark Knopfler, George Benson, Annie Lennox and other seriously big noises.

National Focus: Noel's World
Shrill bosses bleat over minimum wage rise, union spinmeisters congregate in Melbourne and Tassie�s nurses take the baton from their mob in Victoria reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Economics: Safe Refuge
A humanitarian approach to refugees and an economically rational one?? I�d like to see that. Frank Stilwell did, when he went to Young in NSW to look into the impact of the Afghan refugees on temporary protection visas who came to work for the local abattoir

International: Global Abuse
Amnesty International have joined the chorus against the violation of trade union rights in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

History: The Honeypot
To the Honeypot come those individuals anxious to get their hands on instant wealth. So it was in the early days of Broken Hill, wrties Grace Hawes in this homage to the mining town.

Review: Death And The Barbarians
This new take on coming of age films focuses on the coming of death and the dignity and maturity it can inspire among those touched by it - though not always easily in the overcrowded Canadian public health system, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers some of the unfolding mysteries of talk back radio.


The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 1
Dr David McKnight, from the University of Technology, Sydney presents a new frame for looking at the competing ideas within Social Democracy.

The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 2
David McKnight concludes the paper he presented to the �Rethinking Social Democracy� conference, in London, April 15-17, 2004.

Out On A Limb
Phil Doyle becomes the first Australian journalist to state that the Olympics will be called off.

The Westie Wing
In the latest episode, Ian West explores what Disraeli called "Lies, damn lies and statistics".

Message from America
Searing snapshots from a landscape of uncertainty have plunged the Bush Administration into deeper crisis, writes WorkingForChange's Bill Berkowitz.


The Mouse That Roars
A number of campaigns this week show how web campaigning is reaching a level of sophistication that is transforming it from a gee-whiz fad to a potent industrial tool.


 Casual Affair Costs Family

 Dob a Driver Strikes Out

 Crash LAME�s Smoking Gun

 Axe To Fall On Skippy

 Internet Replaces Crayons

 Young Lives Crushed

 Feds Move Goal Posts

 Telstra Baulks at Two Percent

 Crane Death Brings Fine

 Worker Breaks Unwritten Law

 Private Nurses Short Changed

 RailCorp Wrecks Weekend

 Thunderbirds Are Stop

 Activists What�s On!

 Justice For Victims Denied
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Message from America

Searing snapshots from a landscape of uncertainty have plunged the Bush Administration into deeper crisis, writes WorkingForChange's Bill Berkowitz.


Before the dust had settled, Major General Jasim Muhammad Saleh, a former officer in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, was replaced by Muhammad Latif, a former military intelligence officer who also worked for Saddam Hussein, as leader of a new Iraqi brigade hoping to stabilize the situation in Falluja.

One day after a May Day front page New York Times photo showing Maj. Gen. Saleh shaking hands with Col. John Toolson of the First Marines, he came under heavy fire from General Richard Myers, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. In appearances on three Sunday morning talk shows, Gen. Myers claimed that Maj. Gen. Saleh had not been properly vetted and would soon be replaced by "another general they're looking at."

Saleh's ouster may also have something to do with his early pronouncement that there are no foreign fighters in Falluja, an assertion patently contradicting the current U.S. position.

It appears that the new Falluja Brigade leader will be Muhammad Latif, who has "a history of standing up to Saddam Hussein," Reuters reported. Although the popular Saleh told Reuters that he "will have nothing to do with the Falluja Brigade," a U.S. military official claimed the Maj. Gen. will still be in the mix, helping to lead one of the three battalions of the brigade.

Meanwhile, the officer chosen by the U.S. to command Iraq's new army, General Amer Bakr al-Hashimi, may have refused to join Hussein's Ba'ath party but he recently acknowledged he felt "proud" to have served under the former Iraqi dictator.

The Bush Administration's policy in Iraq is now a cocktail of contradictory images and messages groping for an exit strategy: The front page photo of Maj. Gen. Saleh with Col. Toolson in the Times followed by his rapid-fire removal; L. Paul Bremer's turnabout on de-Ba'athification and his current willingness to work with former Ba'ath Party members; the ridiculously inadequate vetting process.

A year ago, President Bush was in the catbird's seat: Dressed in full Top Gun gear, the president made his now infamous landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln, the battleship parked in waters just off the coast of San Diego. Against the backdrop of a titanic banner reading "Mission Accomplished," Bush declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

Team Bush expected that image would be a ticket to ride to re-election. Viewed repeatedly in pro-Bush television advertisements "Mission Accomplished" was intended to be imprinted in the minds of the American public as the height of presidential triumph; a fitting foreshadowing of November 2004. Despite the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops and the wounding of thousands since "Mission Accomplished" rendering the ad campaign moot, that image may yet serve an electoral function -- as a symbol of presidential hubris and a reminder of the gross miscalculations the Bush Administration made running the occupation.

All wars produce provocative and searing images, but late-twentieth century and early-twenty-first century wars generate them instantaneously. The authenticity of some of these images, such as the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, often do not stand up to scrutiny. Other images accurately reflect the horrific realities of the death and destruction: The infamous "highway of death" photos that came out of the first Iraq war and the butchered and burnt pieces of bodies of four murdered American civilian security men in Falluja will forever be etched in our minds.

The battle for the hearts and minds of the American public and the people in Iraq is being shaped in large part by video and photographic images. And as the occupation of Iraq continues to implode, Team Bush and its surrogates continue to try and aggressively manage the message.

But media dust-ups are breaking out all over as the administration tries to stem what political commentator Mark Shields recently called the "melting away" of public support for the war. The intensity of the brouhaha over whether ABC's Nightline should show pictures of the U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq caused Sinclair Communications, a company friendly to the Bush Administration, to refuse to air the program on several of its ABC affiliates.

At the beginning of "The Fallen," Nightline host, Ted Koppel, said: "This was never intended to be about us and, for all the controversy that's swirling around this program, tonight is just going to be about the men and women who have died in Iraq since the war began a year ago last March."

After reading the names, Koppel stated that "the reading tonight of those 721 names was neither intended to provoke opposition to the war, nor was it meant as an endorsement... Some of you doubt that. You are convinced that I am opposed to the war. I'm not. But that's beside the point. I am opposed to sustaining the illusion that war can be waged by the sacrifice of a few without burdening the rest of us in any way. I oppose the notion that to be at war is to forfeit the right to question, criticize or debate our leaders' policies. Or, for that matter, the policies of those who would like to become our leaders."

Another recent media ruckus in the homeland was ignited by the unauthorized taking and publication of pictures of flag-draped coffins of dead U.S. soldiers airlifted out of Iraq. The story about the pictures not only made the cable news networks, but the pictures themselves commandeered coveted space on the front pages of newspapers across the country.

Recent photos of Iraqi prisoners naked and stacked in piles and being sexually humiliated in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad at the hands of U.S. soldiers has put the Administration's media machine on the defensive.

First aired on CBS' 60 Minutes II, the photos have been shown on the United Arab Emirates-based Al-Arabiya and the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television networks and newspapers throughout the region have featured them on their front pages.

"Images of smiling U.S. military police humiliating Iraqi prisoners appeared in newspapers around the Middle East -- angering Arabs who condemned the United States as a champion of rights only for Americans," the Associated Press reported. Egypt's Akhbar el-Yom newspaper ran the photos with the banner headline 'The Scandal.' Another paper, Al-Wafd, ran the photos beneath the headline, 'The Shame!'

These photos come on the heels of Middle East network news coverage of the hundreds of dead Iraqi civilians -- many of them women and children -- killed during the U.S.'s ill-advised collective punishment strategy heaped on the people of Fallujah.

After all this time in Iraq, the U.S. is still operating on the fly and grasping for a plan. Try this Rumsfeldian tautology: Whatever has been tried hasn't worked and whatever hasn't been tried hasn't worked, therefore the U.S. might as well give something old (Saddam's army) a try to see if it won't work as well.

Paradoxically, the U.S. may have finally done something that many in Iraq could cheer -- pulling its troops back from Falluja. While the administration's latest partnership is in its nascent stages, it would be worthwhile knowing who comes up with these desperate improvisations. For more please see the Bill Berkowitz archive.

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.


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