Aussies moral conscience asleep

Excellent article in The Age today by Robert Manne, a professor of politics at La Trobe University. He makes some astute observations regarding the average Ocker’s lack of interest in anything unethical the Howard government does, and on Howard himself.

Manne says that “The Howard prime ministership has had a strangely mesmeric quality that has put the national moral conscience to sleep”.

Regarding Howard’s decision to go to Iraq and kill “rag-heads” as one ocker described Arabs yesterday:

Even if Howard continued to defend his actions strenuously, if
he at least was anxious or agitated about this state of affairs, I
would be able to feel for him some respect. What unnerves me is the
calmness of his demeanour, the apparent near-entire absence in him
of a troubled conscience or the kind of self-scrutiny that might
lead him eventually to remorse. Howard is one of the most nimble
but also one of the most morally complacent politicians I have ever

Howard rightly asks us to contemplate the pain of the families
of the 3000 innocent people who were murdered on September 11. Does
he, do we, feel nothing for the families of the tens of thousands
of Iraqis whose lives have been lost in the killings and the
murders that have occurred since the invasion of Iraq, for whose
involvement in which our Prime Minister was honoured, in Washington
last week, with a black-tie dinner and a 19-gun salute?

My answer would be that no, today’s society is all about self-interest and stuff anyone else. Hence the rise in four-wheel-drive ownership, and the reluctance of anyone to help another in distress. Witness this week the murder of Juan Zhang. Eight people heard what they have described as blood-curdling screams but did not contact police or investigate. Her body was found this morning. Through non-action, her blood is on their hands. And so to the Australian public has not baulked at the atrocities being committed
by its ally in Iraq, and so the blood of the children of Iraq is on theirs.

While Howard was in Washington, centrist political think tank
the Brookings Institution published its most recent study of the
outcome of the invasion of Iraq. According to this study, since the
invasion, between 44,000 and 89,000 Iraqi civilians, perhaps 55,000
Iraqi insurgents, and 2500 members of the invading forces have been

Even though the US has spent or approved the spending of $US435
billion on Iraq (which is 15 times the entire annual Iraqi GDP) –
an even larger number of Iraqi children (9 per cent) are suffering
from acute malnutrition than was the case before the invasion of
March 2003; more than two-thirds of Iraqis still do not have clean
water; and residents of Baghdad receive on average fewer than six
hours of electricity a day.

Two-thirds of Iraqis feel less secure now than they did before
the invasion. Fewer than 1 per cent believe that the occupying
forces have improved security. Before the invasion the Baghdad
morgue processed fewer than 100 corpses a month. In the first three
months of this year, it processed 3427. Iraqis are now losing hope.
A year ago, 67 per cent of Iraqis believed that their country was
at least heading in the right direction. At present a mere 30 per
cent still believe that this is so.

Read the full Article here:


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