But that wasn’t the worst of dodgy ethics this week. Much more hypocritical was the Lib-Lab stoush over the suddenly “sensitive” issue of capital punishment.

Just what is it that motivates our leaders to stoop to trying to milk political capital out of words that advocate the simple Christian principle that no one, no matter who, by any means, at any time, under any judicial system, should be executed?

And what is it that makes a person who aspires to leadership mince his words over a policy that is in his political platform — a policy that should have bipartisan support anyway?

How dare these men make an issue of an opponent’s advocacy of a universal end to capital punishment? And how can a wannabe national leader be so gutless as to chastise one of his would-be ministers for espousing his own party’s policy?

All of these are the very same people who, while they argue that fellow citizens caught in foreign judicial nets should not be executed, are unwilling to protest when foreigners who have harmed Australians are condemned to death.

I suppose it all comes down to the tragic human trait that insists that the value of the life of one’s own kind (on a personal basis, a relative or friend; on a national basis, a fellow citizen) is far greater than that of one of another kind.  As a Westerner, I am acutely aware that I should believe that the value of a Caucasian’s life is so much greater than that of any other type of human. (Can you imagine the US atom-bombing Germans, especially blue-eyed blondes, if Hitler had proved difficult to dislodge?)

And why is it that our white government will send naval vessels to the rescue of white yachties who put themselves in peril yet will refuse permission to naval commanders to go to the aid of non-white refugees on sinking vessels?

This sad apartheid is not just an Australian thing. Day after day we have to listen to a loony, low-intellect, religious bigot masquerading as the leader of the world’s mightiest superpower talking about “defending American lives”, even if it means bombing out of existence scores of thousands of innocent, helpless, defenceless non-whites.

And it’s not just a white thing; it’s just that non-whites, militarily, are not usually so well armed to show the world the value they place on their own kind.

My first observation of this undesirable human affliction was Hiroshima and Nagasaki, events that could easily have been avoided by dropping an atomic bomb off Tokyo Bay and saying to the already beaten Japanese, “Look what we can do. Now have you had enough?”

But no, in 1945, a vengeful US leader knew that a big, murderous bang that would holus-bolus wipe out thousands of hated “Japs” would be a vote winner at home. So he ordered a bang bigger than humans had ever made before — and then, a few days later, another one. In two searing, blinding moments, more than 100,000 were dead.

Who knows how many non-Americans have died in the years since — by direct action or by CIA connivance — in the interests of preserving American lives? Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Koreans, Guatemalans, Chileans, Bolivians, Panamanians, Grenadans, Columbians, Africans of various states, Micronesians downwind of nuclear testing, Iraqis, Afghans . . . And how long will it be before those possibly not-quite-white and probably rabid fundamentalist Moslems in Iran will be incinerated in a rain of military might, all in the cause of protecting “my fellow Americans”?

Westerners, Americans in particular, seem to insist on a god-given right to get out there and kill, kill, kill, always crying “Democracy” as we charge.

And yet, a white politician, when he gets up and talks about lobbying to get capital punishment banned, is accused of “insensitivity” by political opponents and even by his own leader.

I have never forgotten what it was that caused me to abandon Christianity’s God. As serving British conscripts in Singapore in 1959, we were being talked to by a padre at an army barracks in Singapore. Padres in those days were non-combatant types whose job it was to give spiritual reassurance just in case we might have to make an early peace with our Maker. The padre prayed for our safety and deliverance from danger.

In those days I was a simple lad, fresh out from Blighty, whose Christian beliefs stemmed from a quiet but intensely devout mother and a non-hellfire Presbyterian minister. As the padre finished his prayer, I felt he had left out an important element of the Christian code: he had not prayed for our enemies. There was no satisfactory answer forthcoming other than that he didn’t feel he could beseech of his god the preservation of non-believers.

Since that day, my abhorrence of anyone, for any reason, taking the life of another has been constant.

I am deeply sorry for all those who lost friends or relatives in Bali five years ago, just as I am sorry for all those people of Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost friends and relatives, people who might have been alive today if George Bush had not found fellow Anglo support to embark upon his murderous, unwarranted killing sprees.

With the fifth anniversary of the Bali bombings near, now should not be regarded as an insensitive moment for us all to look into our hearts and tell ourselves that killing for any reason is no way to work towards peace and understanding.

But my hope is a vain one for a life form that, every minute of every day, is cavalierly doing its best to suffocate the life out of the celestial body that makes our existence possible.

Bob Hawkins

COME the annual awards for worst journalism, the headline gong must go to the writer of The Australian’s top of the front page effort on October 10: ‘Devoted Digger taken from his family by evil’. Forgive me for thinking it was some loyal Murdoch staffer doing his master’s bidding. It certainly wasn’t the work of a sub-editor dedicated to keeping comment out of the news pages.