Bush/Rice To Australia, Asia : Screw You Guys, We're Going Home
China, Russia Likely To Use APEC Talks To Warn Australia Over US Missile Shield Plans
What does it take to make jets of steam shoot out the ears of the usually fawning local NeoCon mouthpiece, and avid BushCo. apologist, Greg Sheridan?
The grinding, frightening clanging of an all too obvious reality is rattling Sheridan's head. The United States doesn't regard APEC to be anywhere near as important as Howard does. If they did, Bush, or at least Condi Rice, would be hanging around for the full weekend of meetings.
With Bush to attend only day one of the two-day leaders retreat, which has become the heart of APEC, a secondary struggle with the Australians emerged over who would represent the US in the President’s absence.
Until quite late, there was every chance that Bush might not come to APEC at all.
However unpopular Bush may be in Australia, this would have been a devastating blow for John Howard, APEC and the US in Asia Pacific regionalism.
Nonetheless, this was the course that all of Bush’s top advisers strongly advocated.
He cancelled a summit with heads of government of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to focus on Iraq. Bush was supposed to attend this summit on his way to APEC.
...Bush is prepared to snub ASEAN because of the pressing politics at home of the Iraq war.
His Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is prepared to do the same. She skipped the ASEAN ministerial conference for the second time in three years because of Middle East commitments.
When Rice first missed an ASEAN ministerial conference - her predecessor, Colin Powell, attended all four during his term - she was mortified by the severity of the Southeast Asian reaction.
...she turned up last year, but this year skipped it again. Rice was also extremely reluctant to come to APEC but Bush’s attendance gave her no choice.
However, the White House advisers had some success in convincing Bush to leave early.
He will attend the first part of the APEC leaders retreat on Saturday before flying home that night.
The Australians wanted Rice to attend Sunday’s meeting in Bush’s place. This led to a fierce argument between the Australians and Americans.
The Australians tried a little brinkmanship. It was to be Rice or nobody. The gamble failed.
With all the critical Iraq work to come up in the next few weeks, Rice was not going to miss 15 hours on a plane with her President.
In short, those 15 hours were more important than a day with 20-odd Asia Pacific government leaders.
This is a sorry reflection on the priorities of the second Bush administration as compared with the first. Powell would never have done this.
...Rice, like Bush, could not be bothered with the second day of the APEC leaders meeting.
In the Asia Pacific, the US president is required to attend APEC once a year, and the secretary of state is required to attend APEC and ASEAN.It’s not too much to ask for the most dynamic region in the world, containing a slew of US treaty allies. It is, though, apparently too much for the US to give.
How could President Bush do this to Australia, Sheridan quivers? How could Bush and Condi Rice do this to Howard?
BushCo. don't give a bucket of fuck about Australia, not as much as Howard would have you believe anyway, and they couldn't care less about Howard's ultimate hour of glory, as he basks in the warm glow of his long dreamed of APEC Sydney summit.
Australia contributed billions of dollars, and thousands of Australian soldiers, to America's War On Iraq, and in his first visit since that fiasco began, BushCo. can't even be bothered hanging around for the full round of APEC meetings. Nor can Rice.
BushCo. are not going to commit to anything more than the most meagre of climate change related "aspirational" goals in cutting emissions, supposedly one of the key focuses of the entire summit. But the US expects Australia, at APEC, to fully commit to supplying uranium to anyone the US tells them to.
They also expect Australia to take the heat from China, and Russia, over the US-Japan
-Australia plan for regional branches of the Missile Defence Shield.
"It's not about containing China," Alexander Downer squeaks.
Who believes him? Nobody.
China, backed by Russia, think that's exactly what the US missile defence shield is for. And clearly it is.
So why is Howard being all but snubbed by the BushCo. in his moment of international diplomatic glory? Has Howard already told them he will begin pulling out Australian troops by mid-2008? If he manages to somehow win the coming elections?
The excuse that Bush has to get back to the US to deal with the General Petreaus report on the Iraq "surge" is worthless. Bush is not going to pull US troops out of Iraq, and Congress is not going to stop funding the war.
Bush could just play tapes of previous "We Gotta Stay In Iraq, Here's Why" speeches and it would have the same effect as him being there in person.
The real reason why Bush wants to rush home is because he wants to be there for the sixth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. The only time of the year the vast majority of Americans stop wishing that his head or his heart will suddenly explode, taking out vice president Dick Cheney at the same time.
Howard and Downer can spin the BushCo. abandonment of the APEC summit whatever way they want. The Chinese, all the Asians, know they're being snubbed. And they will not like nor appreciate such disrespect from Bush and Rice.
You think you got problems at home President Bush, the Chinese might say, well you better sit up and take notice of this part of the world. If you intend for the US to be a future player in the region, that is.
There will be big, important, world changing meetings at APEC. Yes indeed.
But the biggest and probably most important will be between Russia's prime minister Putin and China's president Hu, who'll be holding follow-up talks to their recent, and apparently successful, joint war games in Russian territory, which marked the military debut of the Shanghai CoOperation Organisation, a future challenger to the global reach of NATO.
They'll share photos and grins with Howard and Downer, and thank them for being gracious hosts, and throwing one hell of an expensive party in the most beautiful city in the world, but Howard and Downer won't be invited to the Russia-China talks.
Well, not to the one that really matters anyway.
Putin and Hu know that Howard and Downer are all but gone from the world stage, and the NeoCon militarism they so avidly supported will go down in history as utterly noxious and horrific, with the smoking ruins of Iraq as its unforgettable apex.
Why should Russia and China bother wasting time with Howard and Downer when, with the US heading rapidly towards recession, they've got half the world to now carve up between themselves?
How much time Putin and Hu spend with Kevin Rudd and his team will be a good indication of how Russia and China are planning to deal with Australia in the coming years.
On the grand bargaining table of a new world order, that is the "One World" that China will market via its 2008 Olympic Games, what does Australia have to offer besides the threat of help the US expand its regional hegemony?
As Paul Keating said recently, "...if we didn't have a pile of minerals to sell to the Chinese they (would) barely doff their hat to (Howard)."
For the next decade at least, China and Russia will both be very interested in our coal and uranium. It seems unlikely the demand for those energy sources will lessen, regardless of who runs Australia.
But Australia is not the only country that can supply such minerals to Russia and China.
Should Australia continue down the road of US-ghosted aggression against China, through its involvement in the US Missile Defence Shield, China may well use the tens of billions it pours into the Australian economy, through coal purchases, to try and ween us away from America.
Alexander Downer would have us believe that China and Russia are not concerned about our involvement with the US and Japan in establishing American missile defence outposts and infrastructure. But Downer is lying, as usual.
Downer, in an interview last night, tried to claim that a meeting between Australia-US-Japan leaders during APEC was no big deal, and was more to do with trade expansion in the region. But China, Australia's biggest trading partner, is not invited to those talks.
Why is that?
Because the prime focus of Japan-Australia-US dialogue will be the firming of plans for co-ordinating defence assets, with an eye towards keeping China from expanding too far, too far quickly, and destabilising the regional status quo.
Whomever controls the Malacca Straits in the next two decades, through which China is shipped most of it oil and coal imports, in turn controls, in some very important ways, the growth of China.
Australia, Japan and the United States intend to keep the Malacca Straits firmly under their control for as long as possible. One of the reasons why the Howard government has assigned billions towards expanding our naval capabilities.
With Australia committing more than $2 billion to the US upgrading of military satellite systems, it's clear Australia is committed, along with Japan, to US plans to deploy missiles and missile defence shield assets throughout the region.
Russia and China will both likely confront Howard and/or Downer over the missile shield controversy during the APEC talks. If either still believe there is a way to stop Australia from going down that path with the US and Japan.
But don't expect to hear Downer or Howard mentioning anything about those discussions. It won't be news of the good kind.
You'll have to look to the Russian and Chinese media to get that story.
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