The Australian voters have handed John Howard and his party a stunning defeat after almost twelve years in office.
“My fellow Australians, a few moments ago I telephoned Mr Kevin Rudd and I congratulated him and the Australian Labor Party on an emphatic victory,” Mr Howard told the crowd.
Mr Howard said he harboured no ill will to Mr Rudd.
“I wish him well in the task that he will undertake,” Mr Howard said.
As Glenn Greenwald notes, it is the end of a government that had been sycophantic in its echoing of President Bush’s pro-war policies and nearly as obnoxious in injecting itself into the politics here in the U.S.
But nothing captures the core corruption and dishonesty of John Howard — and that of other blind supporters of the war in Iraq generally — quite as vividly as a May, 2003 speech he delivered to the Australian parliament, in which Howard hailed the Greatness of George W. Bush and praised Bush’s “Strength and Determination” for having led the “American-led coalition” to “Decisive Victory” in Iraq.
In doing so, Howard gloated about how wrong war opponents were, specifically condemning:
the way in which speaker after speaker [from the Labor Party] impugned [Bush’s] integrity, assaulted his judgment, and called into question his ability to lead the U.S. in this very, very difficult conflict. History has proved them wrong.
Howard mocked the “infantile” objections of war opponents and “all of the[ir] doomsday predictions,” which — he boasted — were not realized. After all, Howard roared: “there were not millions of refugees” and “there was no long-drawn-out, bloody, Stalingrad-style, street-to-street fighting in Baghdad”
The ignominious defeat of John Howard had many causes having nothing to do with his disgraceful pronouncements on Iraq (though his opponent, Kevin Rudd, did pledge to begin withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq). Nonetheless, it is still satisfying to witness such a well-deserved ejection from power of one of the last political leaders loyal to the disastrous Bush/Cheney/neoconservative war agenda.
It might just ring an ominous bell for those here in the States who are doing the same thing in the upcoming presidential election. Four hundred dollar haircuts, flag lapel pins, laugh analysis, and all the other little trivialities may give the pundits things to talk about ad nauseum, but when you get right down to it, most of the people in this country are sick and tired of the war and the fear-mongering and could give the candidates who played off those tactics a real shock. What will be even funnier is the pundits who will say the next morning, with an apparent straight face and no tinge of irony, that they never saw it coming or realized how deeply we hate this war and the people who started it.