Kevin Rudd Claims The Iraq War "Is The Single Greatest Security Disaster That Australia Has Seen Since Vietnam"
Prime minister John Howard was clearly shocked when a reporter told him what opposition leader Kevin Rudd had said about him said about him yesterday morning :
"Mr Howard's strategy on Iraq is the greatest single failure of national security policy since Vietnam, and Mr Howard himself represents a national security risk for this country in the future.""Really?" Howard asked, as a split second of raw terror flashed across his face, followed by a flicker of bulging eyes and a visible flinch.
He couldn't believe it. How dare Rudd say accuse him, the prime minister, one of the closest BushCo allies in the 'War on Terror', of being a threat to national security.
The little bastard.
National security was Howard's territory, not Rudd's. As an issue to divide and conquer his political enemies, national security had been good to Howard. In fact, it had been brilliant. He had used 'National Security' as a security blanket, weapon of mass destruction and blast shield for years.
Now Rudd had claimed 'National Security' as his own by accusing the prime minister of acting in ways that threatened the country's safety, and future.
Rudd didn't retract the controversial claim. He refined it, and repeated it later in the day, with slight variations and greater emphasis :
“Mr Howard is looming as an increasing risk for Australia's long-term national security...Mr Howard can't say that he has learnt any lessons from the Iraq debacle. I think that represents for the future a risk for national security.It was a bold, savage and brilliant air strike on Howard, on the same morning that Newspoll revealed Rudd had overtaken the prime minister on virtually every key issue of our time, and had gained ground on Howard's all important 'National Security'.
“Mr Howard is presiding over the single greatest security disaster that Australia has seen since Vietnam.”
"Really?" Howard asked the reporter, the disbelief in his eyes so evident he looked like someone shaken awake from a deep, comfortable sleep.
Howard replied to Rudd's accusation with the first thing that popped into his head, and it was miserably hopeless. A mere splutter from the man who had, until only recently, had the most razor-sharp mind-mouth combination in Australian politics.
"I think he's getting a bit full of himself," Howard said.
What kicked off the most brutal exchange of insults seen so far in the unofficial federal election campaign was the announcement that John Howard was about to send 70 extra 'trainers' from the Australian Defence Force to Iraq.
Howard is widely seen as being subservient to the Bush administration over Iraq, and Australian troop deployments, and with US vice president Dick Cheney due here tomorrow, the prime minister had to get in quick to announce the extra troops so it didn't appear that he was caving in to Cheney's demands for more support from Australia in the Iraq War.
Rudd doesn't want to send more troops, or 'trainers', into Iraq. He wants them deployed neighbouring countries, like Jordan, where the Australian troops can more effectively, and safely, get Iraqi soldiers trained up and ready to take over the responsibility of security in their country.
Howard is clearly rattled, not only be the effectiveness of Rudd's attacks, but the steadily increasing public support his plans for the Iraq War and Australia's future are finding with the public.
Rudd's opposition now leads Howard's coalition by a stunning 54 to 46 per cent, according to the latest poll numbers. While Rudd is on the rise, Howard and his government are falling back on last year's numbers, and fast.
When it comes to who the Australian public want to lead the nation, Rudd now leads Howard by a whopping 10 per cent - 47% to 37%.
Rudd's personal approval rating has hit 68 per cent, a 21 year record for an opposition leader.
Rudd and Howard's bloody exchange over the future of Australia's involvement in the Iraq War came after Rudd changed his schedule to follow Howard to Western Australia, where he now shadows the prime minister.
Rudd promised Howard, in an interview two weeks ago, that he was going to "mess with his mind."
The strategy is clearly working.
John Howard not only has to restore confidence in Australian voters that he deserves to become prime minister again, he has to counter Rudd's increasingly effective attacks and rhetoric, and also shake off the growing infection of utter desperation clearly seeping from the pores of senior government ministers like Alexander Downer and Phillip Ruddock.
The arrival of Dick Cheney in Australia is extremely unlikely to boost Howard's numbers. If anything, being seen grinning it up with Cheney is going to foul Howard's numbers even more, and if Cheney makes one wrong move on how he discusses Australia's role in the Iraq War, the public will punish John Howard.
The Australian newspaper ran a bizarre headline yesterday for an editorial discussing the new poll numbers, that showed increasing confidence and belief in the Opposition :
'Rudd Enters Danger Zone.'
Clearly the more accurate headline would have been : 'Howard Enters Loser Zone.'
"John Howard Is In Strife. Real Strife"
Rudd Goes For Howard's Throat As The War Of Words Gets Bloody
Rudd Refuses To Reverse Pledge To Pull All 520 Australian Combat Troops Out Of Iraq
Blogocracy : Howard Is At Odds With The Great Majority Of The Australian People Over Iraq And David Hicks