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12 November 2014

Dear members, supporters, readers and well-wishers,

Welcome to the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry bulletin, released this week in the wake of the 96th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Lest we forget. 

As pointed out by Dr Alison Broinowski, for nearly four months, we heard repeatedly that Australia had been invited to send aircraft and special forces to Iraq, but details about it have been scarce.

Some of this looked briefly like it may become clearer, with reports this week that the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had talks with US President Obama in the sidelines of the APEC Summit which led to reports that 200 Australian troops have now arrived in Iraq. Increased troop numbers may also be on the cards, according to reports, though growing concerns over a lack of clear detail continues to plague the commitments. There are growing concerns over mission creep and analogies are being drawn with the build-up from 'advisers' and special forces to regular troop commitments which took place in the Vietnam War and the second Iraq War.

In addition, in recent weeks The Guardian published its own analysis of records of the Iraq war that were released into the public arena by the Wikileaks Iraq war logs. It is a valuable resource, on which you can read more below.

Through it all, the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry asks the question; what, rather than warfare, should Australia be doing in this time? Clearly, with ¾ Australians indicating they believe Parliament should make the decision to go to war (rather than simply the Executive or Prime Minister), a reform of our war powers seems necessary. We look for other views on this broader question, finding food for thought in a range of articles listed below.

We look forward to your feedback which you can provide to us directly.

Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry

PS. Your help to strengthen the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry and our project, Australians for War Powers Reform, is always appreciated. Please forward this Bulletin to friends, colleagues or relatives you think may be interested! Sign up to the mailing list here if you have been forwarded this email, or post this link to Facebook or Twitter to encourage others to sign up themselves.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: views on how to take action without committing to warfare.

'Neither war nor doing nothing': In a thought-provoking two-part blog, Jan Oberg, co-founder of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in Lund, Sweden outlines a pro-peace perspective on the present war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He notes:

“What the pro- and anti-war people have in common is a focus on war as such. We need to move that focus and ask: What are the alternatives to war and militarist pseudo solutions?”

Oberg offers his thoughts here (part A and part B), explaining that the posts offer:

“First some principles to stimulate another discourse, another way of thinking that is not militarist – and then some concrete proposals – 27 in all for your deliberation, discussion with friends and perhaps to share through your social and other media.”

In another revealing insight, Jonathan Powell outlines his views on How to Talk with Terrorists”. Powell might know something about talking to ‘terrorists’*, having been chief of staff to Tony Blair 1997-2007. He writes:

“I am an unlikely peacenik. I grew up in a military family, and I was involved in the decisions on all of Tony Blair’s wars. I do not think that war is always wrong: sometimes it is necessary to stop a dictator, prevent massive human-rights abuses, or expel an invader. But I have also seen that in the modern world, civil wars are the greatest threat to humanitarian security. If you want to fight starvation, the spread of disease, and mass rape – or to help suffering children, whether child soldiers or the victims of war – then the most important thing you can do is to help end armed conflicts, which is why I have decided to dedicate the rest of my life to that goal.”

* He notes importantly, “I use the word ‘terrorist’ here for the sake of simplicity, but it isn’t a particularly useful term to define a group – terror is a tactic employed by governments, groups, and individuals.”  Read more…

Tony Windsor in the Saturday Paper argued that “No debate before war is undemocratic”. In calling for parliamentary and civil society debate on going to war, Windsor observes:

“The call to arms to defend minority groups from genocide by the IS at the request of the Iraqi government when the Iraqis themselves have perpetrated genocide against the same minority group confuses people about the motives of some of the participants and the possible long-term implications. It also highlights the role of the UN in circumstances such as these and the need for a more definitive action plan when citizens in any country are butchered by armed forces.”  Read more…

In an article in Eureka Street, Tony Kevin explores the new foreign policy tactics of the current government in Abbott's foreign policy flops.

FURTHER NEWS on the troops now deployed in Iraq

While there remains little sign of official media releases or formal government comment on reports this week of 200 Australian troops now being present in Iraq, President Obama has spoken publicly about already needing to reconfigure the fledgling US-led mission in Iraq, stating that further "advise and assist" trainers are required across the theatre of war. He noted:

"As we are setting that up, I am having conversations with Australia and other coalition partners that are already committed to putting trainers in to see how they can supplement and work with us in this overall effort." (read more…)

Early reports of the confirmation of troops on the ground can be heard on ABC Radio National Breakfast program from 11 November. (listen now here…

A PERSPECTIVE FROM KELLIE MERRITT on the need for an inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War

Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry member Kellie Merritt, the widow of Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel who was killed in the crash of a Royal Air Force Hercules in Iraq in 2005, addressed a public forum in Canberra in early November to speak out publicly for the first time in favour of bringing about an Iraq inquiry. In a thoughtful article in the Canberra Times in the lead up to the forum, Kellie reminded us that:

"We went to war in Iraq in 2003 for a primary reason – the presence of weapons of mass destruction – which was spurious at the time," she says. "In sober hindsight a few years later it went from spurious to laughable. But we had the safety net of a secondary reason – we can't be going too far wrong by getting rid of Saddam Hussein's murderous regime and installing democracy. The naivety of this notion, 12 years on, now seems equally laughable. To advocate parliamentary approval before committing to a foreign war and to support some scrutiny of a past engagement hardly seems hysterical or impulsive." more…


There is a wealth of news out in the world and this online tool may be a help to though who value multiple perspectives. The Global Newspaper Map geotags and translates just about every daily newspaper globally. Click here, and have a play!  

And don’t forget to follow us for up to the minute news on our social media pages:

THE GUARDIAN ANALYSIS of deaths in Iraq between 2004-2009

The Guardian news services have used data journalism to analyse and break down some 391,000 records of the Iraq war released by the Wikileaks Iraq War logs. From the available data, and with careful analysis, the Guardian has created its own map and data entry for every death due to war in Iraq over a five-year period, 2004-2009. It is sobering reading, which reveals:

The database records 109,032 deaths in total for the period, with the following death counts:
  • 66,081 civilians

  • 23,984 insurgents and

  • 15,196 Iraqi security forces ....
    read more…

To view the full map, please click here.

And a warning: this content may be upsetting to some viewers.

ANALYSIS BY DR BROINOWSKI of the delays in achieving a Status of Forces (SOF) Agreement in the current conflict

This week, as news from the APEC Summit indicates that Australia has stepped closer to troops being deployed ‘on the ground’ in Iraq after negotiations with US President Obama, CIWI member Dr Alison Broinowski has noted in an opinion piece in the Canberra Times on 7 November:

“For months, Australia has been gearing up for another war in Iraq. But when, apart from some RAAF participation in bombing raids, is it going to happen? Where are the SAS troops who were sent in September and what are they doing? We now learn from Vice-Admiral David Johnston that the commandos will fly into Baghdad within a week. If it was so urgent to attack militants in Iraq, why the long delay?” more…

¾ OF AUSTRALIANS AGREE…a reminder of our recent polling

On 29 October, Australians for War Powers Reform released new public polling that asked Australians the question:

It is not currently required that Parliament be consulted before Australian troops are sent into armed conflict abroad. Do you believe Parliament’s approval of such decisions should be required?

The results showed that 3 out of 4 Australians believe that, unless there is immediate danger to Australia, Parliament should be required to approve a decision to send Australian troops into armed conflict abroad. And nearly 1 in 3 believe that Parliament should be required to approve that decision even when there is immediate danger to Australia.

The full results can be downloaded from our website.
The views expressed in this bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc). Readers should note that the Campaign for an Iraq war Inquiry (Inc) seeks a diversity of views and opinions in order to identify common ground.
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