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The Bulletin for Australians for War Powers Reform.
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CAMPAIGN UPDATE #26

 

18 March 2015


Dear members, supporters, readers and well-wishers,
 

Welcome to the War Powers Reform Bulletin. This week as the world marks the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we reflect back on what led to that war, how Australia came to be so embroiled in it and ask what we should learn from it. With the events in the Middle East rapidly unfolding, we also look at the expansion of troops from Australia and new troop engagement from New Zealand.
 
In this edition while we focus on the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq we also turn our minds to how we can learn the essential lessons of those past events to strengthen and make more accountable our actions into the future. The new AWPR briefing papers are a contribution towards building that narrative within the Australian community. Read more on these below.
 
With thanks
Australians for War Powers Reform
 
 

PS: Your help to strengthen Australians for War Powers Reform (the lead project of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry) is always appreciated.
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LOOKING BACK AT 2003

reproduced with permission from Ron Tandberg.
Australian political cartoonist Ron Tandberg summed up the feeling of many when the cartoon above was published a day after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Claims that the invasion was justified as a response to ‘weapons of mass destruction’ was always viewed with skepticism and distrust. The ‘shock and awe’ tactics deployed by the US military were unprecedented. Immediately there were reports of civilian casualties, and these grew at alarming rates over the weeks, then months, then years of the war in Iraq. Groups such as MedACT in the UK produced preemptive reports of the expected ‘collateral damage’ from any invasion, estimates of which proved to be largely predictive.

The failure to obtain a mandate for military action in the United Nations for the actions in Iraq was undermining of not only confidence in the military actions but also a broader turning from the rules of international law. While then PM John Howard stated that there was  ‘a sound legal basis’ in the decisions of the UN Security Council in the past, New Zealand PM Helen Clark and many others countered this saying Bush, Blair and Howard would have to

"stretch back through a string of UN resolutions to construct a legal edifice for what is happening," and added, "I think they will fail to convince most international lawyers. I think the lawyers will argue about this until kingdom come." Read more…
 
And despite the millions of people in cities across the globe taking to the streets in protests at this war, leaders in the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ were undaunted, with then Prime Minister John Howard stating that

‘The government strongly believes that the decision it has taken is right, it is legal, it is directed towards the protection of the Australian national interest and I ask the Australian community to support it.’ Read more…
 
The now independent Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie MP resigned from his position as a senior intelligence officer in the immediate lead up to the invasion, stating:

‘A war at this time is just not worth the risk. I think there is too great a risk of a military or humanitarian disaster and I think there's a real risk that a war now will further inflame popular anti-western opinion in the Middle East and push Saddam closer towards al-Qaeda, and push us all just that little bit closer to the so-called clash of civilisations that we've so far managed to stay well clear of.’ Read more…
 
Even now, the ramifications of that war are with us in daily politics. At the start of March Senator Scott Ludlam of the Australian Greens submitted the Defence Legislation Amendment (Parliamentary Approval of Overseas Service) Bill 2015 for a Second Reading. This Bill, listed for 30 years as of this year, seeks to involve Parliament in the decision to deploy the Australian Defence Forces, and Senator Ludlam’s accompanying remarks outline the very real lessons learned from the 2003 start to the war on Iraq. Read his statement in full here…

AWPR MEDIA BRIEFINGS | March 2015


Released in the lead up to the 12th anniversary of the war on Iraq this month, the new media briefing kit from Australians for War Powers Reform offers seven papers on issues of importance when considering the question of reforming Australia’s war powers.
 
You can download printable PDF documents directly from our website (simply click on any of the papers below and follow the links) or you can order a full set of the briefing papers sent directly to your email: just send us a message here asking for them and providing your email address.
 
The media briefing kit includes:
 
1 | WAR POWERS REFORM: why it’s needed and why now
This paper argues that under present arrangements, committing the Australian Defence Force to international armed conflict (currently the prerogative of the Executive) is far too easy for such a grave and far-reaching matter.
…read on
 
2 | AUSTRALIA’S PROCESS FOR GOING TO WAR
This paper examines some of the important sources of advice that Parliament could use in a democratised process of deciding for or against ADF deployments.
…read on
 
3 | HOW OTHER DEMOCRACIES DECIDE TO COMMIT TROOPS
A brief examination of how a range of other democracies make the decision to commit troops to overseas conflict.
…read on
 
4 | GOING TO WAR IN 1914
In this Centenary year, much is made of the marking of the First World War, but this paper also examines how Australia was drawn into the war back in 1914 and what the consequences for Australia were.
…read on
 
5 | A CENTURY OF GOING TO WAR: decision-making in Australia
This paper examines a century of political decision-making in Australia that has led us into wars from the First and Second World Wars through to the current conflicts in the Middle East.
…read on
 
6 | FOREIGN AND DEFENCE POLICY: is our parliament not to be trusted?
This paper examines the historical development of the notion that Parliament cannot be trusted with matters of foreign and defence policy.
…read on
 
7 | THE HUMAN AND ECONOMIC COSTS OF WAR
A brief summary of some of the human and economic costs of recent wars in which Australia has taken part – including deaths, physical and psychological injuries, displacement and economic impacts.
…read on

THE NEW COMMITMENT OF TROOPS


In the wake of the official announcement in early March that Australia would be sending more troops to Iraq, AWPR expressed serious concern at the lack of clearly articulated goals that will be met by the deployments.  AWPR President and former Defence Department head Paul Barratt said,

"Step by step Australia is being drawn into a vicious sectarian war of enormous complexity, with no apparent strategy, no likelihood of influencing the strategy (if any) of our major ally, and no indication of what success might look like.”
Read the AWPR media release…
 
Tony Walker wrote in his column in the Australian Financial Review on 6 March warning of the risk of politicians losing control of events with our troops on the ground. He quoted Paul Barratt warning of mission creep and noted the campaign for an inquiry into the Iraq war.  Read more...
 
In addition, AWPR members Andrew Farran and Alison Broinowski posted articles on the blog, exploring some of the issues this raises.

• Creepy Mission | by Alison Broinowski, 4 March, 2015
“So to no-one’s surprise, the Prime Minister says we are now in the ‘next phase’ of the fight against whatever it’s called. ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh, you name it, has recently become a ‘death cult which is reaching out to us here in this country’. … What interest has Australia (or New Zealand) in fighting Iraq War III?”  Read more…

• Describing ISIL as a “Death Cult” is a ploy to dumb us down | by Andrew Farran, 5 March, 2015
“Prime Minister Abbott’s constant reference to ISIL as a 'Death Cult' is a gross over-simplification of a complex conflict in the Arab world. It is intended to exploit the gullibility of a great many Australians who take little interest in and have little understanding of that part of the world as they do not see it as affecting their personal interests, let alone that of the nation.”  Read more…
 
 
Australians for War Powers Reform will continue to generate dialogue in the interest of furthering the issues of war powers reform. Please help us to share these pieces and other work via our social media pages, blog and website. And if you can make a donation towards the work, it will be greatly appreciated and will be put to good effect.
 
 
The views expressed in this Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Australians for War Powers Reform or the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc).
Readers should note that both Australians for War Powers Reform and the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc) seek a diversity of views and opinions in order to identify common ground.
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