Undermining Australia

Posted: Sep 24, 2004 12:00 AM

  WASHINGTON -- Of all our allies in the world, which is the only one to have joined the United States in the foxhole in every war in the last 100 years? Not Britain, not Canada, certainly not France. The answer is Australia. 

Australia not only shares a community of values with the United States. It understands that its safety rests ultimately on a stable international structure that, in turn, rests not on parchment treaties but on the power and credibility of the United States. Which is why Australia is with us today in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

     Australian Prime Minister John Howard has taken great risks and much political heat for his support of America. There is a national election in Australia on Oct. 9 and the race is neck and neck between Howard and Labor Party leader Mark Latham. Latham has pledged to withdraw from Iraq.

     This is a critical election not only for Australia, but also for the United States. Think of the effect on America, its front-line soldiers and its coalition partners if one of its closest allies turns tail and runs.

     The terrorists are well aware of this potential effect. Everyone knows about the train bombing in Madrid that successfully brought down a pro-American government and led to Spain's precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. But few here noticed that this month's car bombing in Jakarta was designed to have precisely the same effect.

     Where was the bomb set off? At the Australian embassy. When was it set off? Just weeks before the Australian election and just three days before the only televised debate between Howard and Latham.

     The terrorists' objective is to intimidate all countries allied with America. Make them bleed and tell them this is the price they pay for being a U.S. ally. The implication is obvious: Abandon America and buy your safety.

     That is what the terrorists are saying. Why is the Kerry campaign saying the same thing? ``John Kerry's campaign has warned Australians that the Howard government's support for the U.S. in Iraq has made them a bigger target for international terrorists.'' So reports The Australian (Sept. 18).

     Americans Overseas for Kerry is the Kerry operation for winning the crucial votes of Americans living abroad (remember the Florida recount?), including more than 100,000 who live in Australia. Its leader was interviewed Sept. 16 by The Australian's Washington correspondent, Roy Eccleston. Asked if she believed the terrorist threat to Australians was now greater because of the support for President Bush, she replied: ``I would have to say that,'' noting that ``the most recent attack was on the Australian embassy in Jakarta.''

     She said this of her country (and of the war that Australia is helping us with in Iraq): ``We are endangering the Australians now by this wanton disregard for international law and multilateral channels.'' Mark Latham could not have said it better. Nor could Jemaah Islamiah, the al Qaeda affiliate that killed 11 people in the Jakarta bombing.

     This Kerry spokesman, undermining a key ally on the eve of a critical election, is no rogue political operative. She is the head of Americans Overseas for Kerry -- Diana Kerry, sister to John. 

      She is, of course, merely echoing her brother, who, at a time when American allies have shown great political courage in facing down both terrorists and domestic opposition for their assistance to the United States in Iraq, calls these allies the ``coalition of the coerced and the bribed.''

     This snide and reckless put-down not only undermines our best friends abroad. It demonstrates the cynicism of Kerry's promise to broaden our coalition in Iraq. If this is how Kerry repays America's closest allies -- ridiculing the likes of Tony Blair and John Howard -- who does he think is going to step up tomorrow to be America's friend? 

     The only thing that distinguishes Kerry's Iraq proposals from Bush's is his promise to deploy his unique, near-mystical ability to bring in new allies to fight and pay for the war in Iraq -- to ``make Iraq the world's responsibility'' and get others to ``share the burden,'' as he said this week at New York University.

Yet even Richard Holbrooke, a top Kerry foreign policy adviser, admits that the president of France is not going to call up President Kerry and say, ``How many divisions should I send to Iraq?''

     Nor will anyone else. Kerry abuses America's closest friends while courting those, like Germany and France, that have deliberately undermined America before, during and after the war. What lessons are leaders abroad to draw from this when President Kerry asks them -- pretty please in his most mellifluous French -- to put themselves on the line for the United States?