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Don’t Confuse Me with Facts – I’m a Teacher
In February, The Australian newspaper printed a half-page anti-war advertisement from three teachers’ unions. In large type it read:
War on Iraq will kill tens of thousands of innocent children and their families. Many more Iraqis will suffer disease, hunger and homelessness.
This week I emailed the three unions – the Australian Education Union, the National Tertiary Education Industry Union and the Independent Education Union – asking if they were going to apologise for getting it so wrong.
Only one replied:
We did indeed say that tens of thousands of innocent children and their families could be killed in Iraq. [No, you said “will” be killed.]
The only figure I have comes from a US-funded researcher in Baghdad who has only been able to identify 5,000 men, women and children civilians killed by the US, British and Australian forces.
I don’t think we should be apologising for the discrepancy. Rather those who conspired and apparently lied about the reason for the attack should be apologising for the deaths of any.
Here’s another sentence from that February advertisement:
Our members teach respect for human rights, dialogue between cultures and nations and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Fine. A shame they don’t also teach taking responsibility for one’s statements and actions, and admitting mistakes.
Update (June 21st, 2006): Clearly I got the above piece wrong (like some of the other stuff I write), my sarcasm was misplaced, and I must take responsibility for my own statements. An email I received kindly sets me right:
Good morning Martin:
I happened to be poking around on the Internet to track down a bogus story about "The Sneeze" at the University of Maryland, one that was promoted by your cronie John Mark, another full-of-bull preacher with an agenda. I read your editorial "Don't Confuse Me, I'm a Teacher," and let me tell you that not only are you an arrogant twit, you are doing your followers (whoever those ignorant lambs may be) a disservice by promoting lies. The only thing that those teachers' unions got wrong in their estimate of the civilian casualties in the war was the magnitude of the slaughter. You ridiculed them for estimating that "tens of thousands" of Iraqi people. Guess what? A watchdog group at www.iraqbodycount.com estimate the deaths at betwaeen 38,475 and 42,889; CNN news estimates that number to be over 100,000. SO WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO ISSUE A RETRACTION AND APOLOGY TO THEM? But I guess since those women and children are only Muslims, not real children of God like you, they are only "collateral damage" and don't really count.
You are an insult to anyone who respects truth and intelligence, morality and decency. But I guess you politcal/religous animals don't sell enough merchandise and fleece the flock out of enough donations with truth, do you?
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On April 1st The Australian’s business writer Mark Westfield agonised over the problems of stock market investment in the middle of a war.
For ordinary Australians wanting to know what to do with their savings or investments, Bush and Rumsfeld can no longer be believed….
Given that the British Army, arguably the best and most experienced fighting force in the world, cannot take the port city of Basra, one can only wonder how the more panicky Americans will take Baghdad, a city four times the size of Basra and where the defence of the country will be concentrated.
By all reports the hottest video doing the rounds in Baghdad is Black Hawk Down, the movie of how a rag-tag group of poorly armed militia repulsed and inflicted heavy casualties on a heavily equipped US force in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993.
This was a far less complex battle than the test facing the Americans in Baghdad. Based on how the Americans have gone so far, they cannot possibly win this war without resort to killing civilians on a scale which will be unacceptable to the rest of the world….
When will the military tire of being made the scapegoat for their inability to subdue Iraq and put the blame where it belongs, with the politicians?
What happens, too, when US investors take their eyes off CNN and start focusing on their sick economy?
The signs point to shares falling against a backdrop of a drawn-out conflict in which the defenders will stick it out in the belief political pressures in the Western democracies will force the invaders to stop bombing before they achieve a military solution.
This will take months, not weeks. Investors have every reason to feel misled.
He got that last bit right.
On April 1st, the day of that article, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 share market index touched 2882. It’s been in a steady uptrend since. Yesterday it closed at 3084.
* * *
Keeping Out the Truth
Yesterday The Australian’s “Prime Space” commercial property supplement carried a long article (not online) on the prospects for Australian construction companies in rebuilding Iraq.
It was an eminently fair report, noting that intense competition and lack of Mideast experience meant that Australian companies have so far won little business. It quoted the boss of construction giant Leighton Holdings as affirming that Iraqis themselves will repair much of their infrastructure: “The opportunities to be involved will be limited,” he said. “Iraq is not a Third World country. It is a Second World country. The Iraqis are competent people.”
And yet editors at The Australian chose to highlight this article with a full-age photo of George Bush, hand raised, and the giant caption: “KEEP OUT!”
June 13th, 2003