Tony Iltis (GLW #752)makes much of the West's fumbling and imperialistic attitude towards Afghanistan in modern history. What he neglects to mention is that polling of Afghans has, consistently since the invasion, conclusively shown that the Afghan people do not think of the NATO forces as occupiers and are glad to have them in the country. This includes the largest poll ever undertaken in Central Asia.
Even if this does not make some kind of a case for the West, this is worthy of mention. Surely it is a significant part of the whole equation of the matter, right? In a newspaper whose articles on the Iraq war make much of the fact that the majority of Iraqis do not want Coalition forces present (an important point), it seems unavoidable that the actual Afghans' opinion of Western presence should be mentioned, even if it makes us a little less comfortable and makes it a little harder to form the conclusions we want to form.
In regard to Bill Henson and the work at the centre of both outrage and support: arguments about who does or does not support artistic expression, and what is or is not art, are futile. If snobs continue to reduce the debate to simplistic dichotomies of art vs pornography or "the enlightened" vs "the wowsers" they're as bad as, if not worse, than moralists who reduce the debate to one of mere obscenity.
Bill Henson creates exquisite works but why permit that to eclipse the subject at hand, which should be whether or not a child can consent to being photographed sans clothing for an image which is made almost as much for commercial interests as it is artistic. This is what makes the fact that some of the supporters of the photographs are public figures who identify frequently as progressive or left wing so laughable. By allowing their laissez faire attitude to eclipse any knowledge of gender in this context, they elect, however unintentionally, to side with the liberal right and anyone else who chooses to believe that consent is as black and white as saying yes or no.
Art is there to push the envelope, but when it serves to reinforce the existing status quo of sexualisation of underage girls the rhetoric of what is or is not edgy just doesn't cut it, I'm afraid.
Kelvin Grove Qld
As I am in regular contact with the union rep at the bank where I do my banking, I am reliably informed that the staff are strongly opposed to the proposed amalgamation of St George and Westpac. They rightly point out that the amalgamation will benefit the bank directors, and will be to the detriment of the employees, the customers and the general public.
If the amalgamation comes about it will result in many job losses, the closure of banks, less service to the public, the ruination of careers in the banking industry and the further growth of monopoly in banking.
I fully support the Finance Sector Union of Australia in its campaign to prevent the amalgamation.
Rob Wesley-Smith (Write On GLW #751) is attacking a straw person when he responds to articles I have written about East Timor by explaining that, after the last parliamentary elections, Fretilin would not have been able to form a government that could survive a parliamentary vote.
After the current governing coalition took office I wrote, in GLW #721: "Fretilin has argued that under the constitution the party that won the largest number of seats should have been asked to attempt to form a government first. Given that a Fretilin government would have been unable to win a parliamentary confidence vote, the final outcome would have been the same."
In his letter Wesley-Smith says that this was after elections in 2006. The elections were in 2007, however in 2006 the Fretilin government of PM Mari Alkatiri was indeed overthrown, but not through constitutional means. Following the dispatch of Australian troops to quell disorders, the Australian government and media were vocal in calling for Alkatiri's resignation. The key figure in creating the disorder was the late Major Alfredo Reinado, who was Australian-trained and had reputation of being close to Canberra. After being arrested by Portuguese UN police, Reinado escaped from an Australian-guarded jail, with his supporters and their weapons.
Taken together with the failure of Australian troops to prevent arson attacks (particularly against Fretilin supporters), their shooting of unarmed protesters in February 2007 and credible allegations that they harassed Fretilin campaigners in the 2007, the picture that emerges is one of Australian political and military interference in a neighbouring country. Australia's long history of using any available means, including support of the genocidal Indonesian invasion and occupation, to gain control over East Timor's hydrocarbon resources makes the reason for this interference clear.
GLW would be failing as an Australian-based progressive and anti-imperialist newspaper, if it did not expose and oppose Australian imperialist aggression against our neighbours. Unfortunately, some activists who played an admirable role in building solidarity with the East Timorese struggle during the Indonesian occupation appear, since 2006, to have forgotten that the main task for Australian solidarity activists is to oppose Australia's neocolonial agenda — often dismissing such opposition as "pro-Fretilin bias".
Wesley-Smith's letter said nothing about Australia's military and political meddling in East Timor. I would be interested to know where he stands on the question.