Hearts and minds


The battle for Fallujah killed 71 American troops and at least 1200 insurgents. 2000 suspects were detained, and of those, 1200 have since been released. Over 200 000 people fled the town. More than 35 000 families are now displaced and suffering critical shortages of food, water and electricity.

Attempts to sustain the fiction that the world is a safer place because of the US invasion of Iraq are long over. The attack on the US Consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia by Islamic militants was no surprise. Few in the Muslim and Arab world accept protestations that the Bush administration is conducting an experiment in democracy rather than retaliation.

New photographic evidence of prisoner abuse pre-dates Abu Ghraib and the Red Cross claims that Guantânamo Bay and other detention facilities inflict ‘cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment’ that is ‘tantamount to torture’. Unmoved, Pentagon officials declared that information obtained from detainees under torture could be used to establish whether they are ‘enemy combatants’. Thus is overturned a seventy year old convention that statements obtained under torture are inadmissible as evidence “ but our independent-minded government has no difficulty at all with the proposition.

Instead, the Howard Government has changed the subject to more important local issues and is dealing with a spot fire about electoral sweeteners in its regional grants program. ‘A bureaucratic bungle at worst,’ says the PM about a grant to Horse Australia. Julia Gillard disagrees. This is ‘protection of the worst form of corruption in government,’ she says. Meanwhile the self-immolation of Labor continues.

In this issue of NewMatilda, Alison Broinowski writes about the perceived clash of civilizations by fundamentalists in Islam and the West. Ghali Hassan points out the devastating decline of Iraqi health especially amongst children. Spencer Zifcak takes apart another High Court finding, this time the case against Iranian, Mahmed Behrooz, who broke out of Woomera. Andrew West nominates progressive popularism as a way forward for Labor. Ian McAuley has some fresh ideas for a new health policy for Australia and invites discussion. Peter Lewis has been listening to Robert Reich on smart creative workplaces. Helen Smith takes issue with those who blame feminism for the pressures of consumerism and the search for perfect motherhood. The ironies of U2 and the new cool are dismantled by Gregory Day. Adrian Monck and Mike Hanley on what we know and don’t know about the Ukraine. And there’s Arnold Zable on the role of International PEN and writers in detention.

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