The news that PM Howard will be sending 70 more "trainers" to Iraq is a gauntlet down-throwing exercise. Equally well Mr Rudd's declaration that the Labor party's position is now the opposite, and that no more troops should go to Iraq is no surprise. The 70 trainers are a drop in the bucket in the scheme of things, but the amount of heat that this discussion generates indicates one unfortunate feature and that is that this is not about Iraq but about votes and the posturing is about creating a sense of political difference rather than about solving the problem. In realityt they could do this by saying "I say black" and the other could then say "White!" and the same dynamics would be playing out.
It is sad to say that this opportunism, rather than problem solving, will only be resolved when something truly awful happens. When 10 Australians are killed and their bodies brought home in coffins, the debate will be galvanised in an astonishing way that we should be smart enough to envision before it actually takes place.
Each day the Jim Lehrer Newshour from American public broadcasting play back photos in silence of American soldiers killed in Iraq. They do this in silence and it is deeply moving.
As their names, ranks, places of origin and ages flash by it is the ages that impact.
Marine Joseph Cruz-22, Corporal Terry Blenh-25, Captain Mark Harris-28, Private Louis Ouinh-19 (not their real names)...and so it goes on.
Last week Senator Kate Ellis asked ...Why do we persist in sending our finest and our best to theatres of war?
There is a sad, sad answer: It is the political game that old men play with our children.
I want better from both of our parties and our leaders. But I don't hold out much hope.