January 30, 2006

Australia's "Teflon PM" Turns Toxic

They call John Howard the "Teflon PM" because nothing ever sticks to him. Whenever the shit hits the fan, Howard always claims he didn't know, wasn't informed, wasn't involved.

Now we find out that he was personally involved in by-passing UN sanctions to help the Australian Wheat Board trade with Saddam Hussein before the 2003 invasion. This from SMH today:
Prime Minister John Howard and Trade Minister Mark Vaile asked wheat exporter AWB to keep them informed over its trade with Iraq just before its chief executive negotiated an illicit deal with Saddam Hussein's regime, new documents show.

A letter from Mr Howard to AWB chief executive Andrew Lindberg was released, along with scores of other documents, by the Cole inquiry into the UN food for oil scandal, Fairfax newspapers reported.

In the letter dated July 27, 2002, after Iraq threatened to cut wheat exports from Australia, Mr Howard told Mr Lindberg: "In view of the importance of the matter, I suggest the government and AWB Ltd remain in close contact in order that we can jointly attempt to achieve a satisfactory outcome in the longer term".

Shortly afterwards, Mr Lindberg and other AWB staff, along with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials, visited Iraq.

The inquiry has been told that during that visit, Mr Lindberg agreed to pay $US2 million to the Iraqis that was to be disguised in an inflated wheat contract.

And in November 2000, Mr Vaile wrote to then AWB chairman Trevor Flugge urging him to "maintain a close dialogue" with his office and with DFAT officials.
Ironically, this news breaks just as we learn that teflon - that magic non-stick product with which we have all been so relaxed and comfortable for so long - is now considered toxic.

UPDATE: Howard rejects calls to broaden the terms of the AWB enquiry, claiming that he was never advised how things were being done:
Mr Howard says he wrote to AWB in 2002 because Iraq was a key market for Australian wheat but he says company officials never told him how they achieved the deal with the old Iraqi regime.

"They didn't go into any detail," he said.
How many times are Australians willing to fall for the same lie? And we think the Bush-voting Americans are dumb...

It's basically the same question, isn't it? Either ignorance due to stupidity or ignorance due to incompetence. Either way, unforgiveable. Remember: Iraqi children died for these lies.

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