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Mike Pezzullo and Giving War a Chance

Those madly titillated by conflict have become bolder of late in the corridors of the isolated Australian capital. In such spaces, insanity can be nurtured with a sickening attention to detail, much of it fictitious. One of the most powerful bureaucrats of the Australian Public Service has made a contribution to a war dance he regards as virtually unavoidable. Mike Pezzullo, Home Affairs Secretary, is keen to shed some blood in combating the China Menace if needed.

The outcome of this wish is always vicarious: others die so that bureaucrats may shuffle papers, consult minutes and scoff the scotch. This is then justified on the basis that sacrifices are necessary to defend that indefinable property called freedom.

The Secretary’s ANZAC Day message to his staff was stocked with the usual rhetorical trinkets of the barely closeted warmonger. “Today, as free nations again hear the beating drums and watch worryingly the militarisation of issues that we had, until recent years, thought unlikely to be catalysts for war, let us continue to search unceasingly for the chance for peace while bracing again, yet again, for the curse of war.”

War is never caused by these “free nations”; it is provoked by those nasty unfree ones who go around stirring trouble. Resorting to war “might well be folly, but the greater folly is to wish away the curse by refusing to give it thought and attention, as if in so doing, war might leave us be, forgetting us perhaps.”

In wishing to summon the dogs of war, Pezzullo drew upon a person who was, for all his faults, a formidable general who knew a thing or two about combat. US Army General Douglas MacArthur, in his address to the West Point Military academy in 1962, explained to cadets that “their mission was to train to fight and, when called upon, to win their nation’s wars – all is entrusted to others.” One imagines Pezzullo, flushed with pride in using lines best reserved for a military veteran rather than a fantasising civilian.

The bureaucrat’s poor use of history was much in evidence. Having pinched from MacArthur, he duly did the same to US President Dwight D. Eisenhower who, in 1953, “rallied his fellow Americans to the danger posed by the amassing of Soviet military power, and the new risks of military aggression.” (He forgets that the same president also warned of the paranoia and dangers associated with the Military-Industrial complex.) Eisenhower was a good egg, having taken to instilling in “free nations the conviction that as long as there persists tyranny’s threat to freedom they must remain armed, strong and ready for war, even as they lament the course of war.” The blood-readied formula for Pezzullo: “In a world of perpetual tension and dread, the drums of war beat – sometimes faintly and distantly, and at other times more loudly and ever closer.”

When MacArthur found himself relieved by US President Harry S. Truman, a statement of priorities was made. The General had been keen to expand the Korean conflict with the use of atomic weaponry, there being no credible substitute for victory. In fairness to him, Truman had also given him ideas, wishing to threaten the potential use of atomic-capable B-29s should the need arise. MacArthur saw that need, claiming that 30 to 50 tactical atomic bombs would have done the trick; Truman did not, preferring the bluff. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison might do well to consider a similar option regarding Pezzullo, who is making his far from negligible contribution to incitement.

In the context of Australian history, few military engagements have been necessary for existentially sound reasons. There have been no marauding armies of Huns, Mongols or Tartars to threaten the country, laying waste to villages and towns, and initiating hearty pogroms. (The same cannot be said for the Indigenous populace, doomed the moment European settlement became a sanguinary reality of massacre, disease and dispossession.)

A pity it is that a more mature constellation of thinkers have not impressed themselves in the field of Australian strategic thinking. Instead, Australian soldiers have been fighting and dying in a range of operations in profound ignorance of their geography and history. These recruits supply the needless cannon fodder for empires not their own, placating the officialdom of foreign capitals.

The Australia-China policy, and the insistence on placing Australia on the warpath, is a suicidal wish linked to Washington and based on an alliance that is dangerously unconditional and misplaced. Unfortunately for Australia’s military and defence establishment, all such alliances, however friendly, remain putatively conditional. Matters of strategy, resources, and realities, will intrude.

The fall of Singapore to the forces of Imperial Japan in February 1942 was one such jarring reality. The guarantees of security made by Britain to Australia, assumed since the late eighteenth century, were shredded by a stunningly bold campaign waged by soldiers who had been woefully underestimated. British naval power was blunted as Japanese prowess grew. The reassurances of the Empire were dashed by surrender. “This was a quintessential failure of an alliance,” wrote academic strategist Hugh White in 2017, “and of a strategic policy based on alliances.”

White, far more sensible than Pezzullo on this score, speaks of the Singapore disaster as a telling lesson for Australian strategists. It was a failure that revealed “an inability to recognise and accept fundamental shifts in the distribution of wealth and power which were transforming both the globe and the regional strategic orders, and undercutting Britain’s place in them.”

The parallels with the US are all too clear. From 1996 to the mid-2000s, bipartisan politics seemed to accept that Australian security could well be left in the broad, clasping hands of Washington. But be wary of the shifting patterns of power, warns White, for “America is weaker economically, diplomatically and military than it has been since World War Two, and yet we rely on it more.”

Another factor also lubricates such slavish refusals to accept the changed order of things. Ignorance is the less than golden raw material that precedes misconceptions. In time, these misconceptions become policy platforms. The Australian Public Service (APS) is sorely lacking in much expertise that might sharpen a coherent focus towards the Indo-Pacific. In 2019, an “independent review” of the APS characteristically tooted that, “The ongoing shift in global economic weight to Asia presents tremendous opportunities for Australia, along with risks and significant challenges.”

Tritely, the review, titled Public Service Our Future, notes that the APS needed to “deepen its experience in, and knowledge of, Asia.” Those behind making policy required “a more sophisticated understanding of the region, as well as Asian language proficiency.”

For almost a decade now, there has been much chatter about needing to beef up the stock of knowledge of that most complex of continents. The 2012 Asian Century White Paper was almost banal in stating that Australia was essentially flying blind in the region; there was a pressing need to “broaden and deepen our understanding of Asian cultures and language, to become more Asia literate.” But the APS review found something quite different: “Coordinated and sustained action to deepen Asia-relevant capabilities was not taken then, and it remains a skills gap across the APS.” Pezzullo’s barking remarks suggest that illiteracy regarding Asia has become intellectually fashionable and monumentally dangerous.


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  1. Phil Pryor

    Benito Fascistico-Pezzullo was shown smiling, this morning, in a file shot in an article that attempted to dressup, shine, clean, paint the basic filth and stupidity of his goings on for rotten masters, particularly, Peter Duckwit-Futton. Pezzullo was laundered, cleaned, ironed and pressed in an attempt to humanise ignorant aggressive policy on behalf of others. You could have a pet skunk and give it a sweet nickname, e g, Scomo, all to soften the contemplation. It will stink, be unsafe, untrustworthy, unclean. But there is a wide spectrum of conservative outlook, with plenty of the Attila, Cromwell, Adolf, Donald Dickhead-Swelling, Pol Chamber Pot, etc, and they tend to like murdering, thieving, hoarding, occupying, enslaving, gloating and boasting. Never trust a conservative and watch your back, front, wallet and wife. And, your nation, dignity, integrity…

  2. Neilw

    What if we refuse to “fight” and put Pezullo on trial? This turd has been in power too long

  3. ajogrady

    There would be know talk of war if the politicians and arms dealers had to lead the bayonet charges.

  4. Kathryn

    Here we go again! Whenever the LNP start to STINK IN THE POLLS, the frigging LNP start looking around for a DISTRACTIONARY WAR to get Australia involved in! Now we have the war mongering bastards in the Morrison regime DEFUNDING our lives into oblivion whilst it pours BILLIONS into the pockets of billionaires and into our army!

    A WAR WITH THE MASSIVE ARMED FORCES OF CHINA IS A WAR WE CANNOT HOPE TO WIN!!!! Morrison and the LNP are going to TEAR THIS NATION APART and, with the assistance of the morons on Channel 9 and Sky News, are DETERMINED to, once again, commit Australian lives to a useless war that will obliterate so many lives, cost us COUNTLESS BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OVER DECADES and one which will not end well for Australia!

    This is yet ANOTHER LNP-driven war, like Korea, Vietnam and the tragic genocide in Iraq/Syria, that the LNP will USE to divert attention away from their own stratospheric ineptitude, waste, self-serving corruption and callous inhumanity! It is beyond BELIEF how depraved these war mongering, right-wing extremists in the worst, most corrupt government in our history really are! They will STOOP TO ANY LEVEL – even war – to maintain their obscene, blood-soaked grip on power.

    What is WORSE is that in October 2015, the Chinese-owned Landbridge Group won the bid for a lease of Port Darwin from the then Country Liberal-controlled Northern Territory Government who granted the company a 99-year lease for A$506 million. Picking a fight with China is BEYOND irrational, it is frigging SUICIDAL!

    Why does the LNP like to use war as a distraction? Because they know that in times of upheaval and war, most Murdoch-manipulated, gormless Australians will vote conservatively! Sadly, it ALWAYS takes a right-wing LNP government to get us INTO a war and a left-wing LABOR government to get us out of it!

    One thing is CERTAIN, you will NEVER find a yellow-bellied, cowardly member of the LNP – or any of their children – on the FRONT LINE of the wars that THEY create for political expediency!

  5. Pete Petrass

    Pezullo is just a scumbag, lieberal loving public servant. It is certainly NOT for mere public servants to be making such public statements. He needs to crawl back in his little hole and STFU.

  6. Henry Rodrigues

    This turd Pezzullo is a stalking horse for the LNP bastards. He’s not an elected rep, he doesn’t have to gain the support of voters, all he needs to do is stir up trouble, then let the LNP arseholes beat their chests and proclaim themselves brave patriots. He’ll be rewarded with some lucrative contracts when he retires or maybe appointed ambassador to the Vatican or some such position. Typical self serving corrupt public servant under a corrupt conservative government.

  7. Baby Jewels

    Out of one war into another. Keeps the plebs frightened and continuing to vote for them. Great ruse by the LNP – too bad if it ends badly.

  8. Bradley

    Henry, Pezzullo got the job because he walks the talk, he’s what ex KGB agent Yuri Bezmenov termed a ‘useful idiot’. MSM, as spokes-shills for the global elites, use comments from influential people when it fits their agenda. In this case it seems to be a prepping the plebs for another useless war. So, who would the globalists want to win? Slave-cities-R-China or unruly Westerners who charge too much for their labour?

    I have no faith in our govts or media, and given the fact that the Uni of North Carolina (a collaborative favourite of DARPA*) was working with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (overseen by CCP) on a gain of function coronavirus since 2016 I have to ask the question – Is China and US Military joined at the hip at a level above public scrutiny? Their co-ordination, along with all NATO countries and Russia, is clearly evident when one looks at global stratospheric spraying programs, aka chemtrails. There is no way that program could happen cross-border without permissions.

    DARPA* eg. ‘Gene Drive System’ to lower rodent populations
    Cool, gene therapy to lower the population. Vaccines to the rescue. Is there nothing vaccines can’t do?

  9. wam

    When cash is no object and political problems about, just make cash splash announcement after announcement.
    Wedge the shit out of labor and release the loonies to put the boot in.
    Go Scummo your miracle awaits.

  10. John Iser (the NSW one)

    Trying to get my head around why anyone would think it’s a good idea to start a war with our biggest trading partner. It would devastate our economy. Think CoViD-19, the GFC, the 80s and 90s recessions and the oil price shocks of the 70s – combined.

    My suspicion is that it’s someone (or -ones) talking it up for some perceived benefit to themselves and/or their ‘mates’, without any intention of actually letting it happen. Here are a couple of scenarios:

    Maybe it’s Pezzullo trying to scare us with a view to our letting his department acquire more powers to view our emails, tap our phones etc. Because we’re on a war footing, dontcha know.
    The war in Afghanistan is winding down, so maybe it’s the arms manufacturers trying to keep their businesses profitable by inventing a new enemy. Not that there’s going to be a war, they’ll say, but “just in case”…

    Speaking of Afghanistan: if the Americans and their allies couldn’t get the better of an insurgency (i.e. not the official government armed forces) in the second-poorest country in Asia – how do they think they will go against the PLA?

  11. Andrew J. Smith

    Could you imagine if a senior person from any other government department, agency or QUANGO dared utter anything as contentious in public promoting a course of action, without a Minister’s or government’s approval?

    They would be accused of and smeared for crossing the line, arrogance and disloyalty to Australia….

    We have seen what happens across issues or portfolios with media and/or govt. led demonisation, denigration and sabotaging of any person’s public service career and even the agency….

    If I was Morrison or Dutton, I would be concerned that Pezzullo has moved into or impinged upon their territory or responsibilities, doing the tough speaking and warmongering.

    However, he seems to have their back, and importantly from legacy media too, for a military tough image based on fear, for the LNP leading up to the next election (tho’ not helped by Dutton cancelling medals for soldiers who served in Afghanistan)

  12. Leo. Wright

    This monster, and his gruesome type,
    remind me of the soul-stealing creature
    in Stephen Kings’ novel: “needful things”‘,

    ” Ahh, The human, always so willing to Sacrifice the other “

  13. Lawrence Roberts

    In defence of Mike Puzzullo: there was a very pink full moon that night.

  14. James Lawrie

    It’s odd that people should quote MacArthur of all people seeing as how he tried to engineer a war with China by attempting to sacrifice a US destroyer and its entire crew to create a cassus belli before his commands could be overridden and he himself sacked. MacArthur was sacked for doing exactly what he told those West Point cadets what they should not do, and with the preponderance of ex-servicemen in the LNP and Australia’s unhealthy worshipping of war simplistic narratives we could easily end up with soldier-politicians drumming up business.

  15. GL

    Pezullo is just another loud chest thumping armchair warrior who would lock himself in a bunker (or most likely flee to another country) if there was a war. And like most of his kind they seem to have a penchant for quoting Douglas “Just hit ’em with a few A-Bombs” MacArthur.

  16. John OCallaghan

    What Kathryn said!…….

  17. guest

    No, no, no! We have it all wrong. As Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor, tells all the”informed” readers at The Australian, Pezzullo did not mention Beijing; Pezzullo was aiming for peace. “The sentence which got Pezzullo into trouble was this: ‘In a world of perpetual tension and dread, the drums of war beat – sometimes faintly and at other times more loudly and ever closely.’ These words, elevated in tone though they are, reflect the conclusion of anyone with more than an IQ above room temperature, who gives the matter any thought. They could apply it to Russia in Ukraine, North Korean missile launching, Iranian threats to Israel. That everyone concludes they refer to Beijing is a reflection of Beijing, not on Pezzullo.” Pezzullo was thinking about peace, as ‘senior national’ figures do. National border security “Over the whole life of the conservative government since 2013,” says Sheridan, “the establishment and security of border security for Australia has been the single greatest and most important policy achievement, and it has most closely involved Morrison, Pazzullo and Dutton.” You see how ungrateful we are that we have been protected from those marauding refugees sailing in boats. And how it is not Beijing whom we must be fearing. No, it is Russia, Korea and Iran – beating their war drums far away. If we are afraid of Beijing, it is not Pezzullo’s fault, it must be our IQs – or even Beijing itself. Anyone but the conservative Coalition – or some such thing. How could we get it so wrong?

  18. Canguro

    Another concise and well-targeted essay from Binoy Kampmark; AIMN is fortunate to have essayists of this calibre to keep its readers informed.

    In regards to the incipient short-termism perspective of Pezzullo and his political ‘masters’ ( I wonder, who’s pulling whose strings, the puppeteer or the puppet?), I’d like to add the following:

    Australia is a country absent of tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, major earthquakes and famines but prone to hurricanes, droughts, floods and fires. These recurrent events have shaped the Australian experience since time immemorial, for many thousands of years prior to the colonisation by the British in the 18th century given the extraordinary depth of time that the indigenous Aboriginals have inhabited the land, and they continue to do so to this day.

    That being so, it’s a reasonable observation that the physical spaces of the continent derive their significance by virtue of the people that inhabit those spaces and their experiences of those spaces.

    But the qualitative nature of those impositions of significance changed inexorably, and not necessarily for the better, following colonisation and the imposition of a western Judaeo-Christian culture across the land.

    Events, behaviour, thought and language, these inescapable elements everywhere shape landscape and culture and attitude. Travel this country today and you will find in almost every town a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the First World War. At that time, the country’s population was less than 5 million, of which nearly 420,000 men enlisted, more than 60,000 were killed, and around 156,000 men were maimed and wounded, gassed, taken prisoner, or maddened.

    It was as though a pall of death, the blackest of shrouds, had been stretched across the fabric of the land, ensnaring all, ensuring that the suffering would be maximised, as if Nature herself was speaking, saying ‘See, you humans, this is what happens when you take your eye off the ball, when you don’t pay attention, when you don’t listen, when you behave as if you know’.

    How many countless thousands of grieving mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings and indeed children wondered for what, just explain for what damned purpose it was necessary to send nearly half a million men into war for the resultant costs?

    Less than 25 years later, nearly a million Australians signed up for what was carelessly referred to as ‘duty’ in the Second World War: nearly 30,000 were killed, 23,000 wounded, and 30,000 captured as prisoners of war.

    In the space of a bit over thirty years, political decisions in this country resulted in the deaths of close to 100,000, around 180,000 wounded, along with many thousands of POW’s, many of whom died in captivity. These were appalling outcomes for a nascent so-called civilized society.

    ‘Civilized’, an adjective in use from the era of Middle English, c.1150 to c.1470, entered our language via Old French from the Latin civilis, from civis ‘citizen’. Civil, also an adjective, has among its meanings the concepts of relation to ordinary citizens, as distinct from military or ecclesiastical, and of being courteous and polite. Civilize (or civilise), a verb, carries the sense of bringing a society to an advanced stage of social development, and of politeness and good-manners.

    Where was the expression of civilized behaviour during the first catastrophe, when nearly ten million combatants and ten million civilians lost their lives, or the second, less than 25 years later, when another twenty to twenty-five million combatants were killed, along with an estimated fifty to fifty-five million civilians, non-combatants?

    The Second World War, apart from these seventy-five or more million unnecessary deaths, also generated around twenty-eight million casualties, survivors, people who would continue to relive and remember and suffer the consequences of being unwitting or unwilling cannon-fodder for other people’s wars.

    And of course, since WWII, we’ve had almost constant combat across various theatres on various continents. but not Australia or North America… engendering, perhaps, this sense that wars happen ‘in other places,’ notwithstanding the false notion that we need to be involved in others’ conflicts, and not recognising either, our implicit culpability in fostering these conflicts by virtue of alliance with the warmongerers.

    The entire process is pathological, from the outset of the constructed argument for involvement to the outcomes; death, destruction, suffering non pariel and endless, degradation of individuals and nationhood, and as evident currently, war criminality and the ‘best of the best’ exposed as ruthless and criminal murderers of innocents.

    And as is almost always the case, the Pezzullos of the world, or their Australian forebears, folk like Billy Hughes and Harold Holt and Pig-Iron Bob, the Dick Cheneys, the George Bushes, the Morrisons, the Johnsons or Thatchers or their European equivalents, commit the young men foolish enough to enlist for a ‘bit of action’ and gulled by the propaganda into an active theatre of conflict and blood is shed and those who survive the horror, while publicly lauded as heroes, spend their remaining days in torment and suffering.

    It was always thus.

    There’s nothing heroic about war. It’s a stain on the human psyche. It destroys individuals, families, societies and civilizations. It’s a gross dereliction of the finer possibilities of being a human being. A politician (or bureaucrat) who commits young men to war is a person who has chosen, in their unconscious stupidity, to shoulder a burden of agonising karma for eternity.

    My father was a Japanese POW on the Burma Railroad. Like the thousands of other survivors, his life was ruined. Did the politicians responsible for his fate ever consider the outcome for these men, really, seriously, appropriately? I doubt it. They live in a fool’s paradise, unaware of the reality of these situations or outcomes.

    And on another matter, the Chinese have no wish to, or intention to, act aggressively towards other nations. They will never initiate military action against a western nation. Taiwan is another matter altogether, given its historical background, and given the power struggle for control of the main political game in mainland China through the mid-twentieth century, and the subsequent looting of the Chinese treasury by Chiang Kai-shek’s people on their flight from the mainland to sanctuary in Formosa. Western nations should butt out, it’s none of their business.

  19. Consume Less

    This war rhetoric is disgusting, disgraceful and a blight on humanity. Just sickening !!

  20. Ban Chen

    Canguro, I agree with most your post but question the “Chinese have no wish to, or intention to, act aggressively towards other nations. They will never initiate military action against a western nation”.

    The excepts below from a 2003 speech by Gen Chi Haotian doesn’t fill me with confidence about your theory. As Japan was nuked twice by US, no country has a monopoly on destroying civil populations.

    The Secret Speech of General Chi Haotian

    “The United States is the most successful country in the world today. Only after we have learned all of its useful experiences can we replace it in the future. . . To resolve the issue of America we must be able to transcend conventions and restrictions. . . Only by using special means to “clean up” America will we be able to lead the Chinese people there.“

    Make of that what you will.

  21. Terence Mills

    The ASIO Director General when asked responded that the ‘terrorist threat level remained “probable”.

    He would always say that as there are only so many choices in the English language. The others are possible or unlikely, improbable, and so on.

    So, I wouldn’t get too carried away with the word probable it’s a suitably cautious assessment.

  22. Michael Taylor

    Straight out of the John Howard playbook, Terrence.

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