MUNGO MACCALLUM. Morrison kowtows to Trump

Even as Donald Trump announced he would cut and run from Syria, leaving his Kurdish allies to whatever bloody fate awaits them and opening a door for the resurgence of ISIS. our fearless prime minister was not ready to breathe a word of criticism of his friend, ally and protector.

To the contrary, in fact: the man of titanium actually praised the Donald for keeping an election promise, in that some years ago he said he would bring his troops home, as part of making America great again.

It was time to stop the stupid, endless wars, Trump declared – and perhaps he has a point. After all, for all his belligerence, against North Korea, Iran, and even China, he has not personally started any wars. That was left to his predecessors, most particularly George Bush, whose misguided and disastrous response to 9/11 began the invasion of Iraq and the whole ghastly imbroglio that followed.

But the hard reality was that America broke it, and America owned it. Neither Trump nor any other president can simply wish it away, wash his hands of it regardless of consequences.

Some of his apologists are now pretending that he never gave Turkey a green light to invade – the idea was only to withdraw US troops, and allow the establishment of a buffer zone of peace between Turkey and Syria. But such ingenuousness does not stand up to the faintest scrutiny.

Turkey’s autocratic president Recep Erdogan has publicly threatened for years to crush the Kurds within his own borders and subdue any on the outskirts.

Like Trump, he is now doing more than honouring his promises. And of course there are side benefits: a swift war would be a useful distraction from the economic woes causing protests within his country and the so-called buffer zone would be a convenient dumping ground for the  huge influx of refugees that fled the long-running conflict.

Indeed, Erdogan is attempting to use them as a bargaining chip: if the European nations, deeply unhappy over his invasion, try to impose sanctions against his regime, he will open Turkey’s borders and flood the west with asylum seekers. It may or may not be an empty threat, but for many leaders already battling with  problems around immigration, it remains a potent one.

And Trump himself has already walked back from his initial line that the invasion was “a bad idea” and that if there were to be significant civilian casualties, he would use sanctions to bring Turkey to its economic knees. Within 24 hours he was now talking about mediation between Erdogan and the Kurds as the desirable path, a move immediately rejected by the triumphant Turkish war leader.

So roll on the stupid, endless wars – but without, for once, American participation.

Australia’s predictably supine reaction was to say it was deeply concerning, but all Turkey’s fault – Scott Morrison and his Foreign Minister Marise  Payne had a quiet chat with one of Trump’s current enforcers, Mike Pompeo, as a result of which Morrison berated Turkey for what he described as a “unilateral” crossing of the border, ignoring the fact that Trump had implicitly invited the Turkish troops to do so. And in his compliant response Morrison has confirmed that whenever Washington begins its next stupid, endless war, Australia, as always, will be the first in line to join in.

Arguably, this subservience makes him even more reckless and dangerous than Trump; at least the American commander in chief of a super power can claim some justification for his bellicosity as the west’s self-appointed policeman,  guardian of both the national and international interest. Morrison is offering Australia as no more than cannon  fodder – sending Australians into battle in the name of mateship, an alliance which has been shown to be less reliable than ever with no conceivable national interest involved.

And it will only a need a simple tweet from the White House for the call up to begin – thus it was in Vietnam, the leaden standard, and thus it has been ever since. The hapless and long-suffering Kurds may be the first casualty in Trump’s impetuous move but they are unlikely to be the last.

And as the political crisis over Trump’s impeachment continues and escalates he is likely to become more unstable and unpredictable. A smart prime minister – a serious and sensible ally – would have been warning of restraint both privately and publicly, and planning to avoid  becoming entangled in America’s problems, both domestic and overseas. ScoMo appears more interested in going to the footy in Fiji to bring out the water and the kicking tee for his prime ministerial selections.

However, if he could tear himself away from marketing his marketeer image, there is something useful he could do: consider the inevitable victims, many of whom are already on the run as the Turkish bombs and artillery are driving them out of their makeshift refuges.

Forget the ISIS prisoners – if they escape it will be someone else’s problem. But taking in an emergency planeload or two of Kurdish refugees, if they wish to abandon their last hope of a state of their own, would surely be a worthwhile contribution to an unfolding disaster. After all, we did it once before, with a special consignment from Syria – now there is an even more pressing moral obligation.

And then there are the Australians immured in the camps. Border supremo Peter Dutton is utterly dismissive – the men are effectively traitors, to be stripped of their citizenship. And the women – why, some of them, many of them, are as bad as the men, so bringing them back to Australia could precipitate what Dutton quaintly calls a “mass casualty event,” even if his suspicions were founded and they were charged and convicted under Australian law.

But what about their children, usually the outcome of rape or at best forced marriage? Even Dutton and Morrison have evinced a touch of concern for them. If their version of the lucky country stands for anything, surely it should include at least an effort to free them and bring them to the safety of the extended families pleading for help in Australia.

It would obviously be the right and decent thing to do, and Trump would presumably raise no objection. And if he did, then it would surely be finally time to tell him to get stuffed.




Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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7 Responses to MUNGO MACCALLUM. Morrison kowtows to Trump

  1. Allan Kessing says:

    It is beyond my wit to see how this country, so subservient to our “new Great & Powerful Friend” following the eclipse of Imperial Britain, can extricate itself from this grovelling dependency.

  2. Philip Ludington says:

    Mungo, if my memory serves me right, Bob Menzies begged the Americans to make a request for Australian troops to take part in the Vietnam adventure. The grand strategy was to ensure Australia’s security by entangling/encouraging the US into a long term, large scale presence in our region. Hopefully Morrison isn’t as duplicitous as his party’s founder.

  3. Jane says:

    The horror, the horror… it never ends and gets progressively worse… apprentice Morrison and his puppet master, Darth Spud are two of the most frightening politicians we’ve elected .., period. Makes Howard and Keating look quite reasonable.., then again, it was Howard who really prepared the way for the current dark forces.
    I’m actually finding it hard make jokes about these two.

  4. James O'Neill says:

    BR is correct. Australia is wedded to each and every misadventure that the Americans choose to get into. It doesn’t matter if Trump is removed. Do you seriously believe that a President Pence would be better or different, or any of the likely Democrat replacements?
    It doesn’t matter which of the two major parties are nominally in charge, the foreign policies are essentially indistinguishable. The real crunch will come when China says enough and preferences its multiple belt and road partners.

  5. Kien Choong says:

    I never really understood why the European countries, Australia, US and Canada did not repatriate the ISIS fighters and put them on trial in their home countries. Now it’s too late to do so! Can any one from the security establishment explain how this has made the world safer?

  6. Ken Dyer says:

    It goes without saying because it has been said time and time again, that women and children are the main casualties in wars between men. It does nor matter if the women and children are connected to ISIS or not, they will suffer horribly, if they are not already.

    Morrison and Dutton are complicit in the war crimes that will inevitably occur because of their inaction.

  7. Barry Reynolds says:

    “It would obviously be the right and decent thing to do, and Trump would presumably raise no objection. And if he did, then it would surely be finally time to tell him to get stuffed.”
    If you or anyone else expect Morrison or the spud to do either of these things, to sort of quote a movie, “Mungo, you’re dreamin”

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