Michael Darby

Observations on politics and poetry by Australian bush poet, Michael Darby.

Michael was born in Sydney in 1945 and is a former Australian Army Officer who has been writing and broadcasting on politics and economics since 1972.

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Saturday, April 12, 2003
As it was in Kosovo, the "international community" is a threat to postwar Iraq

Excerpts from an article by Stephen Schwartz

THE WAR FOR IRAQ'S LIBERATION began on March 19. The fourth anniversary of the NATO intervention in Kosovo was March 24. Kosovar Albanians, a majority of whom are Muslims, lead the Islamic world in their enthusiasm for America. But they hate the United Nations and the European meddlers in whose hands their fate was largely left after NATO's bombing ended. And Kosovar journalists are now warning the Iraqis of the fate that might await them if the U.N. is entrusted with their country's reconstruction.

My own experiences in Kosovo after the NATO intervention may shed some light on the feelings of these journalists. I remember one night in particular, in the capital, Prishtina, in July 2000. Late in the evening, I had gone to a favorite café that served roast chicken. I had just finished my meal when the electric power went off throughout the province -- a frequent occurrence. A groan swept through the little restaurant, because the place had no gasoline generator, and without power it couldn't cook, or serve food, or make coffee, or even get its dishes washed. Candles were lit on the patio, and a few hardy souls -- Albanians, not foreigners -- sat and smoked, drinking wine and brandy. The owner and waiters came out and joined them.

THE ELECTRIC POWER SITUATION, still a contentious topic today, was problematic from the beginning of reconstruction. In that same hot July 2000, in the very same plant that failed to produce electricity, I interviewed the chief technical officer of the Kosovo power system, an Albanian. I listened to his litany of complaints about the foreigners -- the lack of resources, and the endless appeals to his workers to commit their time and energy whether or not they were paid. What kept the power system going, he said, was "personal appeals and patriotism." In the second quarter of 2000, the 10,000 employees of the system had each been paid a total of 150 deutsche marks, or $77. At the end of our discussion, he suddenly turned to me plaintively and said, "Most of the foreigners I have met here don't seem to care what happens. You seem interested. You must help me. What is your advice to me?" The moment was as disturbing to me as it must have been to him.

Now, nearly four years after the fighting stopped, Kosovo still endures a two-hour power cut every four hours, night and day, and even that schedule is by no means reliable -- this in a province that, before the Milosevic era, exported power for hard currency to neighboring Albania and Greece.

Ibrahim Rexhepi, economics editor of the Prishtina daily Koha Ditore, wrote on March 21,

United States promises that the Iraqi people will have a completely different life after the war -- salaries, repaired roads, and electricity around the clock -- whereas Kosovo, four years after the war, is facing low salaries, a disastrous economy, roads rebuilt and then torn up again, and power cuts, as well as cuts in the supply of water and heat."

Maybe it seems unimaginable that Iraq, with its immense oil resources, could ever be without electric power in its cities. But, to repeat, Kosovo once exported electricity, and its power plants were undamaged by the NATO bombing. The Kosovars themselves blame the chaotic state of their power system on the foreign reconstruction authorities.

Not surprisingly, Surroi concluded,

"I was glad when I read in an article in the Wall Street Journal that the United States had decided to conduct the initial reconstruction of postwar Iraq itself, with contractors who work for the U.S. government. At least the Iraqi people will not have to undergo experiments."

KOSOVARS can offer a valuable insight into the situation we expect to face in Iraq. The U.N., they point out, never supported the NATO bombing of Serbia in the first place, so why should U.N. functionaries care how they carry out a mandate given them for reconstruction? Americans were naive, say Kosovars, to believe that the U.N. would effectively fulfil the tasks ceded to it in Kosovo, after the international organization had opposed the intervention.

Many people seem to misunderstand what the U.N. is. They hear about potential United Nations involvement in Iraq, and believe that the peoples of the world will unite, through their U.N. ambassadors, to make Iraq whole after the war. But this perception is mistaken. The U.N. is not the nations of the world united. It is an enterprise located in a building in New York, with satellite operations around the world, employing a certain cadre of people of many nationalities, most of whom are time-servers and ideologues.

In my six years' experience in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, I never met a U.N. representative who failed to conform to a certain professional profile. They call themselves "internationals," and are generally young and inexperienced, although the heads of their missions tend to be old and uninterested. They have a strong prejudice against privatization, and too many of those chosen for economic responsibilities hail from Sweden and other countries where statist socialism remains the political religion.

Internationals have a bias against administrative regime change, and many rationalizations as to why areas they control should continue to operate under officials held over from totalitarian regimes. Recalling the socialist past of Tito's Yugoslavia, Surroi dubs the postwar regime in Kosovo "UNMIK socialism." After NATO's intervention, the U.N. did everything possible to maintain or restore the positions of former socialist bureaucrats. Nor was restitution of private property seized under the Nazis, Communists, or the Milosevic regime ever considered. When U.N. and USAID officials cooperated to draft a regulation on privatization, Kosovar experts objected that its principal effect would be to reaffirm state ownership of nationalized property rather than to restore private property rights. The website of the Kosovo Trust Agency, the body overseeing privatization, states,

Worst of all, whole areas of public life are simply ignored. In the Balkans, the internationals were uncomfortable meeting with religious leaders, and almost never did so. They cared nothing about labor reform, or repair of collapsing pension systems, or culture. In Kosovo, during [the decade] of Serbian [apartheid], the Albanians had established an extraordinary "parallel" school system, in which teachers were paid in clothing, food, transportation, and other goods and services. Kosovo had 28,000 education workers, serving 400,000 students in more than 800 institutions. Children were transported to and from their classes, hot lunches were dispensed, medical personnel were available, and school premises kept clean ‹ all by parents and other volunteers. The teachers, who represented the civic conscience of the Kosovars, looked forward to U.N. expenditures to regularize their schools. They were out of luck. The first action of the international administration in Kosovo was to announce that education must start over from zero.

Since the U.N. had no money for education, the teachers would be paid in scrip, exchangeable for relief supplies. But first, all janitors, cooks, and nurses were fired. No more milk or hot food would be served; school bus service was shut down. It is no wonder, then, that the streets of Prishtina soon filled with children spending their days out of school, selling cigarettes. Nor was it surprising that in 2002 the first group of public employees to strike against the foreign rulers were schoolteachers.

The Kosovars had also done a marvellous job, under Serbian domination, of maintaining a "parallel" private economy, thanks to remittances from their large diaspora in Western Europe and the United States. Here again, the attitude of the U.N., E.U., and related entities was one of unrelieved hostility. Banking and insurance were not among the U.N.'s priorities. No support was given to Kosovar entrepreneurship, investment by the diaspora was discouraged, and the only schemes for economic revival were modeled on Yugoslav socialism. The Sharr cement plant, for example, was offered for tenders by prospective new owners in the spring of 2000, with great fanfare, but with all the familiar featherbedding and a discretionary fund for the political use of bosses. Kosovars soon came to understand that economic reconstruction meant going back to Tito's "self-managed" socialism, every industry top-heavy with parasitic bureaucrats. Claims to ownership of property by the former Serbian masters of the region were given equal standing with those of long-oppressed Albanians -- hardly surprising, since no proper judicial system was put in place.

IS THIS THE FATE that awaits the Iraqis? Will they see the statist economy established by the Baath party preserved? Will ordinary people find, if they go into a government office, that the same Baathist bureaucrat who bullied them before "liberation" still sits at his desk? Will Iraqi workers continue to be dragooned into Baathist trade unions, with strikes virtually outlawed, while entrepreneurs find they must operate without secure banking and insurance systems? Will Shi'a, Kurdish Sufi, and other Iraqi religious leaders, including representatives of the country's significant Christian communities, find the doors of the internationals closed to them?


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Friday, April 11, 2003

IN AUSTRALIA, A CHRONIC SCARE CAMPAIGN has been waged against genetically modified crops. Allied in that campaign have been supporters of three political parties, The Greens, One Nation and the Australian Democrats. Much the same bunch also joined hands in opposing the Howard Government’s Anti-Terrorism legislation.

Here is an excerpt from a wise article in: www.TechCentralStation.com by Duane D. Freese:

Good News: The Bad News Is Wrong

A recent review of media coverage of agrobiotechnology in the current issue of AgBioForum this winter describes what's happening. Examining press accounts from 1990 through 2001, researchers Leonie A. Marks and Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes of the University of Missouri-Columbia found that when news is hottest about agbiotechnology it tends to emphasize potential, even if improbable, risks.

They noted that "coverage linked the potential for GM foods as a repeat of the UK experience with BSE or 'mad cow disease'" when that worry reached its peak in 1998 and 1999. In the United States, the Washington Post, USA Today and Wall Street Journalagbiotech coverage peaked in 2000 and 2001 with fears about damage to Monarch butterflies and the release of a non-human tested transgenic feed corn, Starlink, into the food supply.

But six studies last fall demonstrated GM corn posed no threat to Monarch butterflies, and most recently the U.S. General Accounting Office - Congress' primary adviser on technical issues - concluded that the safety regimen for ensuring safety of GM crops into human foods. And as far as windblown contamination, an Australian study published in a recent issue of Science involving a canola variety genetically modified using standard breeding techniques found that the amount was minimal -- less than 0.2% of seeds in any of the other fields. That's no threat to biodiversity or health, except in the mind of someone who has no understanding that nothing in nature is pure.

Now For the Real Good News

But while the media isn't drumming up fears with overly dramatic coverage, it also isn't doing much reporting or investigating the benefits of genetically modified crops - particularly the environmental benefits they provide.

When a coalition for the Declaration in Support of Protecting Nature with High-Yield Farming and Forestry held a news conference April 30, major news outlets such as the Washington Post, USA Today, and The New York Times took a pass. Why will they cover protesters dressed up as butterflies, but not cover two Nobel Prize winners; former Democratic presidential candidate, George McGovern; a World Food Prize winner and the founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, talk about the need for biotechnology and other tools for feeding the world's millions of starving people?

The same went for a report issued by the Council on Agricultural Science and Technology, "Comparative Environmental Impacts of Biotechnology-derived and Traditional Soybean, Corn and Cotton Crops." The report notes GM crops are now planted on 46 percent of the world's soybean acreage, 7 percent of its corn acreage and 20 percent of its cotton acreage. Indeed, in the case of cotton, that will quickly grow faster, as India this spring took off its anti-GM blinders, approving by referendum import of GM cotton seeds after some farmers, who illegally imported some, proved its pest resistant and environmental benefit.

What kind of environmental benefit? Well, if you don't have to spray as much pesticide, you don't risk killing as many good bugs as well as pests. If you don't have to plough up as much land to keep weeds down, you have less soil erosion. If you can grow more of a crop on fewer acres, you can turn more land over for other beneficial uses - as buffer zones and for trees. All this leads to improved water and air and soil quality, without having to sacrifice yields as happens with intensive organic farming.

GM crops, the report concluded, actually can increase biodiversity, which is why the authors of the study recommend strongly that agricultural biotechnology continue to be developed "to enhance environmental stewardship."


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Thursday, April 10, 2003


This post is an extract from an article titled, "A Question of Blood," and was written by Dan Gordon. Dan Gordon is a former sergeant in the Israeli Defence Force, the author of five books, and a screen writer.

He was in Jenin on April 16, and was told a story by Dr. David Zangen, chief medical officer of the Israeli paratroop unit that bore the brunt of the fighting in Jenin. Dr. Zangen said that the IDF not only worked to keep the Palestinian hospital opened, they offered the Palestinians blood for their wounded. The Palestinians refused because it was Jewish blood!!

The Israelis, who could not have been faulted for saying, "You don't like it, do without...," instead flew in 2,000 units of blood from Jordan via helicopters. In addition, they saw to it that 40 units of blood from the Mukasad Hospital in East Jerusalem went to the hospital in Ramallah and that 70 units got to the hospital in Tul Karem. And on top of that they facilitated the delivery of 1,800 units of anti-coagulants that had come from Morocco.

This information was later confirmed by Col. Arik Gordin (reserves) of the IDF Office of Military Spokesman, who supplied the exact number of units and the names of the hospitals to which they were delivered.

Dan Gordon concludes thus: "So the question to ponder... is how do you negotiate with a hatred so great that it will refuse to accept your blood, even to save its own people's lives? How does an international community vilify a nation that offers its own blood to its enemies, while its own soldiers lie dying, and that, when faced with race hatred that brands their blood unfit, diverts military flights to bring blood more suitable to the taste of those who would destroy them?"


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Wednesday, April 09, 2003


Since the 1980s, Daniel Pipes has been warning that militant Islam had declared war on the United States. Before Sept. 11, he was often dismissed as alarmist, even prejudiced. Today, he is being taken far more seriously.

Finding himself in the spotlight, Pipes has upped the ante, arguing that America's enemies lurk not just in the caves of Afghanistan or the flight schools of Florida. According to Pipes' latest writings, most mainstream American Muslim groups are led by radicals who secretly "dream of turning the United States into an Islamic country."

In 1997, the Middle East Forum's journal published an article titled "Get Ready for Twenty World Trade Center Bombings." The piece warned that militant Islamic terror networks in the U.S. were extremely well-organized and could pull off far deadlier attacks than they had yet executed.

Beyond taking the terrorist threat seriously, Pipes is being given credit for his earlier work, which, before Sept. 11, was considered too conservative for respectable academic circles.

In 1983, Pipes published a book detailing the role of Saudi Arabia in spreading Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Muslim world. Long swept under the rug to avoid conflict with the world's primary oil supplier, the issue was raised in congressional hearings in May.

Pipes' 1996 book, The Hidden Hand, details the Middle East's rampant conspiracy theories that blame all the region's problems on secret agents from the West. After Sept. 11, Americans were shocked to see poll after poll showing that many in the Islamic world insisted that Muslims had nothing to do with the suicide hijackings. In light of last September, reading The Hidden Hand section on the first World Trade Center bombing gives an eerie sense of deja vu:

"A New York court of law found a gang of six Middle Easterners guilty of bombing the World Trade Center in February 1993. For whom, Middle Easterners debated, did they work? One faction contended that ... 'their spiritual leader was a CIA agent' who served his master well by discrediting Islam. Another faction pointed to Israeli intelligence: The mother of prime culprit Muhammad Salama told a reporter: 'The Jews. This is from the Jews, who have done this and blamed my son.'"

Robert Kaplan, a contributing editor at the Atlantic Monthly who has written extensively on the Muslim world, says, "Dan Pipes has done much better than most. I give him great credit for focusing on the right areas in light of September 11th." Kaplan notes that only a decade ago, "the Islamic terrorist threat was seen by many to be exaggerated, [and] people who emphasized [it were viewed as] somehow reactionary."

On Sept. 12, 2001 an op-ed by Pipes ran in the Wall Street Journal. Pipes was on a must-read page, in a must-read issue of America's second-largest-circulation newspaper. Pipes used his prime literary real estate to explain, as the headline read, how "Mistakes Made the Catastrophe Possible."

Pipes singled out four mistakes by the government: viewing terrorist attacks as crimes, not acts of war; relying on electronic surveillance rather than human intelligence; not understanding what he called the "hate-America mentality"; and ignoring the terrorist infrastructure inside America.

Some of these mistakes were widely acknowledged immediately. But Pipes' claim that "the tactical blame falls on the U.S. government, which has grievously failed in its topmost duty to protect American citizens from harm," was originally viewed as unpatriotic. Only with the unearthing of the Phoenix memo this spring did Pipes' criticisms become part of mainstream discourse.

Pipes was initially cautious, only blaming al-Qaeda in late September, after the group became Washington's official suspect. Soon after, Pipes went public with his contention that the leadership of the American Muslim community is dominated by Osama bin Laden sympathizers.

Pipes published his essay "The Danger Within: Militant Islam in America" in the November 2001 issue of Commentary, the influential neoconservative journal. He wrote: "Whatever the majority of Muslim Americans may believe, most of the organized Muslim community" agrees with the goal of building an Islamic state in America. "To put it another way, the major Muslim organizations in this country are in the hands of extremists."

The most prominent of the groups that Pipes singled out as sharing this desire were the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Pipes says the essay was "unpublishable" before the attacks, "in the sense that it wouldn't be taken seriously. It was premature. I'd written it, and I was just waiting for something to happen that would make this look plausible in a way that it didn't before September."

Pipes might have followed in his father's footsteps as a Harvard professor and spent a year as a lecturer there, only to find himself passed over for tenure, he says, because of his conservative views. "My politics are at a variance with that which rules in Middle East studies," says Pipes. "As soon as there was an understanding of what my politics are, I was essentially persona non grata."

Pipes doesn't mince words. In a June appearance on Fox News Channel's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Pipes tells the host matter-of-factly, "In many ways, the Muslim world today is comparable to Nazi Germany in the extent to which one finds anti-Semitic themes found pervasively throughout the culture."

Pipes' guiding idea on the Middle East is that there are two competing factions within the Muslim faith: moderate Islam and what Pipes calls "Islamism."

"First of all, it's an ideology," says Pipes, describing Islamism. "It's a body of ideas that people are very devoted to." But militant Muslims, Pipes insists, are more dangerous than other fundamentalist religious groups. Every religion has its zealots, Pipes says, but "none of them have anything like the drive, the state support, the financial backing or the global ambitions of militant Islam." Unlike other religious fundamentalists who only seek to control their own backyards, Pipes argues, Islamists will not rest until they conquer the world. And America is their prime target because they see the United States as "the main obstacle standing between them and the achievement of their goals."

More here


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Tuesday, April 08, 2003


(Excerpt from an article by Charles Krauthammer)

We've had unintended wars. We've had phony wars. We've had a Soccer War (Honduras-El Salvador, 1969). But not since the War of Jenkins' Ear -- sparked by Spanish mistreatment of British seamen, including one Capt. Robert Jenkins, whose display to the House of Commons of his severed ear launched a war on the Spanish nasties in October 1739 -- have we had anything quite as, well, idiosyncratic as the War of Parsley Point.

What else to call the conflict over Perejil (Spanish for parsley), a God-forsaken rocky island the size of a soccer field a few hundred yards off the Moroccan coast that technically belongs to Spain and that Morocco seized July 11, 2002 by force: a dozen soldiers, two tents and a flag?

After Morocco's non-accidental ``invasion'' of Perejil, everybody got into the act . The European Union declared ``its full solidarity with Spain." NATO, which could not even use this worthless rock for target practice, weighed in on Spain's side, too. The Arab League predictably lined up with its fellow Arabs, declaring Perejil ``a Moroccan island."

This comedy holds some serious lessons. Europe berates the United States for holding on to primitive notions of sovereignty at a time when the sophisticated Europeans are yielding sovereignty to Brussels, adopting the euro, wallowing in Kyoto and, most recently, genuflecting to the newly established International Criminal Court. Yet here they are lining up in lock step to defend Spanish sovereignty over a piece of worthless rock that only dubiously belongs to Spain, by supposed attachment to the other dubiously claimed Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, that in turn are little more than colonial anachronisms on the coast of North Africa. This same Europe heaps scorn on the United States for defending an infinitely more serious sovereign claim--to democratic legal jurisdiction over its own citizens and soldiers--rather than yielding it to the arbitrariness of the new criminal court.

Even more important, however, is that the War of Parsley Point reminds us of the corrosive irredentism for Islamic lands long ago taken by the sword and then lost to the sword. We forget Islam's astonishing early successes. From a standing start in the early seventh century, it conquered Arabia, North Africa and Spain within 100 years. Muslims have not forgotten. The later loss of Spain, to say nothing of European colonialism in the Arab world (including what remains of Spanish sovereignty in Morocco), still burns. After all, how did Ayman Zawahiri, bin Laden's deputy, begin that first post-Sept. 11 celebratory videotape? By invoking the loss of ``Andalusia"--southern Iberia, lost to the Christian infidel the year Columbus sailed the Atlantic. For many in the Islamic world, it happened yesterday.

Much of the conflict in the world today--the Philippines, Kashmir, Chechnya, the West Bank, Sudan, Nigeria, and now on this ridiculous little rock in the Mediterranean--represents the Islamic world, once expanding, long contracting, pushing out once again to reclaim its place in the sun.

As Samuel Huntington has written, the borders of Islam are bloody.


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Monday, April 07, 2003


By Eddie Cross in Zimbabwe

I was disappointed by the Barcelona conference on Aids, which seemed to be dominated by debate on possible cures and treatment and cost thereof. Once the disease is present, there is no cure – all we can do at great expense, is to prolong life and improve what quality of life an infected person can have while waiting for the inevitable. It seems to me that the debate needs to be extended to cover the broader issues, which will deny the disease the fertile ground in which it thrives. Someone wrote to me and described present HIV/Aids programs as "throwing tennis balls at an avalanche" and I must say I had to agree with that perspective.

The key to an effective war on HIV/Aids would seem to me to lie in the following programmes – many of which seem to have no connection but taken together will undermine the social and economic conditions which have made Africa the Aids continent.

We should start with education – we must target the girl child in our educational programmes while at the same time extending the period during which children in poor countries are able to go to school and the quality of education they receive whilst at school. We need global consensus on the standard of education we are going to give every child on earth as a basic human right. Poor countries should be required to pay what they can afford towards such programs and the rest of the cost – whatever that might be, should be met by the global community. There should be no debate about this – just about the modalities. Who, what where? Teachers across the globe should be considered elite, as they were a century ago, because they, as much as parents, are role models and mentors for the next generation.

Then we must ensure that our educational systems teach not just the three R’s but give our children knowledge and skills that will prepare the next generation for life in a competitive and complex world. Good education is not just about reading and writing, its about right and wrong, moral absolutes and justice in society. It’s about philosophy and social mores as well as interpersonal relations and health and hygiene. Its about religion and faith and about being in control of your own life and being responsible for the lives of others. Poorly paid, uneducated and unmotivated teachers cannot maintain such a system. Educators need to be remunerated well, decently housed and able to command respect from their community.

Secondly, we must mount a real effort to ensure that no child exits our school system ignorant of their sexuality and the threat of HIV/Aids. They must not be permitted to think that there is anything called "safe sex" outside of a monogamous relationship within marriage. They must understand that even "protected sex" is a form of Russian roulette. Family planning education must be stepped up and incorporated into all forms of community health and education services. All national leaders should be obliged to be become involved in the fight for public understanding and the media must be fully engaged in the struggle.

Our strategies for the urban areas must be fully integrated to pursue a strategy of "whole family" settlement and support. Housing programs should have as a clear objective a home for every family – irrespective of their economic or social standing. This means we must take a long hard look at urban housing. Mass transit systems must accommodate workers and others daily commuting needs. Affordable strategies for transport must be a high priority. Minimum wage regulations must be aligned to the poverty datum line for different industries – the policy of fostering employment on the basis of sub economic wages should be completely abandoned with the support of both Unions and Employers.

Both basic health and education services in urban and rural areas should be virtually free. The present situation where such services are more expensive in urban areas should be corrected to permit families to raise their children where their parents live on a "whole family" basis. All forms of migratory labour should be abandoned and every effort made to stop the flow of illegal emigrants to other countries by encouraging them to stay at home and enabling them to find gainful employment or other forms of support for them and their families.

In the health services field, every Zimbabwean should have access, within walking distance, of a primary health care clinic which is able to provide a full range of basic health care services at no cost. These clinics should be community owned and managed but financed by Central Government. They should have a full range of drugs to treat common ailments and should be able to provide a complete range of anti and post natal services to women. The clinics should be able to provide HIV/Aids screening using provincial laboratory services and infected mothers should be given appropriate medication to inhibit mother to child transmission. Public health services should be provided as an outreach programme by all primary health care clinics.

All primary health care centres should be used as referral centres with regard to district and provincial hospitals, which would only deal with cases that could not be dealt with, by the primary health care centres. All Zimbabweans in both the urban and rural areas should have access to some form of medical aid – at the lower income levels to be subsidised by the state but self-financing above certain income levels. These schemes would all be privately managed and owned by the membership of the societies themselves. Hospital services would be paid for by these medical aid schemes – all of which would be contributory.

In the rural areas, people are totally poverty stricken. Our rural population is amongst the poorest in the world, people generally living well below the threshold of US$1 per day. Unless we tackle this problem we will never be able to solve the ancillary problems that are created be these conditions of poverty in rural areas.

At the root of rural poverty is the issue of security over resources. Our rural population has land – much of it potentially productive, but without security over this asset, these resources will never yield its potential. Fundamental to this task therefore is to provide all farmers with secure, negotiable, forms of tenure. Zanu PF has abrogated international agreements and our own constitution in its drive to dispossess white farmers and in so doing has completely destroyed the security of tenure that commercial farmers used to have over their land. This security was the foundation on which a highly productive system of commercial agriculture was built over the past 100 years.

No matter what Zanu PF says today, this is untenable and a new government, respecting the rule of law and the constitutional rights of its citizens must restore tenure rights to owners who wish to continue farming. There is no debate about that in responsible circles. Any other perspective is simply untenable and there is no point in believing otherwise. What also has to happen is that these same rights have to be extended in some form to all farmers holding land rights in rural areas – resettled farmers, farmers in the communal areas and farmers in the commercial farming districts.

Once this is achieved, these new farmers must be given the kind of operating environment that will enable them to exploit their resources productively and to their own benefit. The potential is huge. We have a million hectares of potential irrigated land, if this was settled in small holder fashion, centered on development nodes, with packing sheds, cotton gins and sugar factories, we could have up to 100 000 farmers – all earning in excess of Z$1 million per annum. We could grow 500 000 tonnes of cotton a year, 250 000 tonnes of tobacco, 100 000 tonnes of coffee and a similar quantity of tea. We could put 250 000 hectares under small scale forestry and supply forest products to the world on a sustainable basis. Feeding ourselves is not difficult – Zimbabwean farmers have held the world record for maize production several times. In fact our main problem under these circumstances would be markets in a global system dominated by subsidised food from Europe and the USA.

All of this would be self sustaining and viable. It would create prosperity in rural areas and with the rural population receiving the good quality social services outlined above; their quality of life would improve out of all recognition. The need to move to a shantytown in South Africa and make a living by crime and other means would be eliminated. We would then have the reverse problem – of people coming into Zimbabwe, because conditions here are so much better.

A pipe dream? Not at all. We have been working with teams of specialists in all these areas for two years and the MDC has detailed and credible policies in all these areas. What we lack as a country is leaders of vision and the opportunity to turn the disastrous policies of Zanu PF on their head so that the people of this country can be liberated to exhibit their potential. Everything I have outlined above is achievable in a relatively short time, if we have the vision, the opportunity and the will to do it. Nepad may be a vehicle for drawing in the resources that will be required, but the main effort is ours – foreigners, no matter how well motivated cannot do for us what we are not prepared to do for ourselves.

We can beat the HIV/Aids epidemic – Uganda and Senegal have shown the way. But we cannot while we have a government that is hell bent on impoverishing and destroying any sense of security of its people. We need new leaders, new policies – we need CHANGE.


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Sunday, April 06, 2003


From John McRobert of Brisbane

Dear Michael

Congratulations on your work in helping courageous people such as Eddie Cross carry the torch of freedom in their troubled countries, but please convey the message to him that he should stop worrying about the resources of this planet.

Certainly we should use them in a manner as to minimise or eliminate pollution, but the resources of this planet are as infinite as the mind. As our old friend Viv Forbes once said, 'No matter how much we mine, the world still weighs the same'. I once calculated that the rate at which we mine coal here in Australia compared to the known reserves was comparable to attempting to bail out Sydney Harbour with a bucket. And still we find more reserves and still technology is developing to minimise the waste from mining previously mined reserves. Only yesterday a new process was announced which could combine low concentration waste methane from coal mines with reject coal to generate electricity. There is enough reject coal in Queensland to 'ensure we would not have to burn any high quality coal for 100 years'. We have literally thousands of years of supply of all fossil fuels in solid, liquid or gas form, but new and more efficient ways of heating and transport will supersede their use long before mankind makes any significant dent in the planetary inventory. Burn hydrogen and the exhaust gas is water vapour (that's a greenhouse gas by the way - but plants love greenhouses). And we can't ignore the 'N' word. One recent commentary reports 'the potential nuclear energy resource is so large it is virtually unlimited when measured in terms of today's energy demands'.

The economic cut-off grade of copper mined in the Cloncurry field in the 1800s was 40%. Grades below 2% can now be economically utilised. Grades much lower than that will be economic with future technology, and that will allow access to more reserves. And so it is with all minerals. Waste should also be concentrated on disposal and this will become a future resource.

Draw yourself a cross section of the Earth's crust and consider a tectonic plate of 40 km, then draw the deepest mines at 2 to 3 km to appreciate how little we scratch around on the surface. Our children will find new and more efficient ways to access the abundant resources. We and they have to, to defend ourselves against the ultimate polluter, Nature. One volcanic eruption in 1815, Mt Tambora in Indonesia, put so much garbage into the atmosphere in one belch that the sun was dimmed and blocked around the world - 1816 was 'the year without a summer'. That 80 cubic kilometres of natural pollution was far greater than the recent Mt Pinatubo (2 - 3 cubic kilometre) eruption which still managed to lower the average temperature around the world by about 1 degree C.

The hot air generated by Kyoto and Jo'berg, and Chicken Little politics of ignorant fear and panic are the most immediate threat to the survival of the species.


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