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The Bulletin for Australians for War Powers Reform.
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CAMPAIGN UPDATE #27


Dear members, supporters, readers and well-wishers,
 
Welcome to the War Powers Reform Bulletin. In this edition we look at the growing concerns about
  • mission creep as more Australian troops are deployed to Iraq,
  • the impacts of PTSD, and
  • news from the US on the conviction of Blackwater guards who killed Iraqi civilians in 2007.
Australians for War Powers Reform will continue to generate dialogue in pursuit of changing the way the prime minister can send troops to war. Please help us to share these items using our social media pages, blog and website. If you can make a donation towards our work, it will be greatly appreciated.
 
With thanks
Australians for War Powers Reform
 

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AUSTRALIAN TROOPS TO IRAQ THIS WEEK 

The further deployment of troops to Iraq announced this week has raised again the question of how far, and under what plans, Australia is going with the current conflict in Iraq, and whether we will extend into Syria.

The new deployment was flagged by Prime Minister Abbott around a month ago, and sees
330 additional Australian troops committed on a two year mission to assist in training Iraqi soldiers. The  mission will be reviewed in 12 months. The troops will be based at the Taji military base, approximately 50km north of Baghdad. We understand they are on diplomatic passports.

The Prime Minister, in making this announcement stated,

"It is, as I stress, a capacity training mission not a training mission, but Iraq is a dangerous place. It is a dangerous place and I can't tell you that this is risk-free."
(read more)
MISSION CREEP 

The Australian Greens leader, Christine Milne, released a statement of concern about the new deployment and the mission creep in what the Greens believe is an ‘unwinnable’ war.  Christine Milne noted,

"The Prime Minister said initially that there would be no boots on the ground. We've seen mission creep from day one…. The Prime Minister says he will review the deployment after 12 months but against what criteria? What will constitute success or failure, what will determine whether we stay or come home?”
(read the full statement here)

In an interview with Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast on Wednesday 15 April, New Zealand Minister for Defence Gerry Brownlee responded to questions about mission creep by stating, “Mission creep is something that anyone opposed to any mission will always pull out at the last minute as a supposed trump card for not starting in the first place.” (listen to the full interview) New Zealand is sending 100 troops.

However, across party lines, the question of mission creep remains an important one. When the Prime Minister announced the original mission in Iraq back in September 2014, he stated,
We are not deploying combat troops but contributing to international efforts to prevent the humanitarian crisis from deepening.”
(read more)

Initially, Australia sent a contribution of eight F/A18 fighter jets, one E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (surveillance) aircraft; and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker and Transport (refueller) aircraft along with 200 special forces soldiers, and 400 military support staff to the US-led mission in September 2014. This additional contribution of 330 troops for a two-year mission comes with no clear exit strategy.

PM Abbott has also refused to rule out extending the ‘mission’ to Syria, with Australian refuellers and radar planes already assisting bombing missions in Syria.
(read more)

Any expansion of the engagement will surely test the resolve of the Opposition. As reported previously in the War Reform Bulletin, in late September 2014 ALP Leader of Opposition, Bill Shorten, announced his four key principles for Labor’s support for ‘Australia’s contribution to the international humanitarian mission to Iraq’. These included the statements, “we have indicated that we do not support the deployment of ground combat units to directly engage in fighting ISIL”  and “Australian operations should be confined to the territory of Iraq” (read again the full speech in audio, video and Hansard transcript on AustralianPolitics.com.)
 
And on the question of whether Australia’s engagement in the current conflict in Iraq is a mission (as the Prime Minister carefully terms it) or a war, this from ABC factcheck might be of interest: “Mr Abbott's claim that Australia's commitment in Iraq is best described as a mission rather than as a war’ is incorrect.” (read more)
KEVIN ANDREWS' FAILURE TO NAME THE LEADER OF ISLAMIC STATE 

As the Minister for Defence was announcing this new deployment of troops to Iraq, he made what many are decrying as an
appalling gaffe. When interviewed by Leigh Sales on ABC TV’s 7.30 program on the day of the announcement, he failed to name the leader of Islamic State. Under repeated questioning, he repeatedly deflected the question, leading Sales to state:

“Minister, you're responsible for putting Australian men and women in harm's way in the cause of this mission. I'm surprised that you can't tell me the name of Islamic State's leader. The US State Department has a $10 million bounty on his head.”

To view the whole interview or read the transcript please
see here. (The questioning on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi starts around 6.25 minutes into the interview)

As David Wroe states in the Age:

“If our government believes the Islamic State is a sufficiently threatening organisation that it is prepared to send Australian troops across the globe to help fight it, the prime decision-makers should have the essential facts about the terror group so readily at their fingertips that they do not have mental blanks. The Defence Minister should be able to name the leader of the group with which Australia is at war, plain and simple.”
POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AND RETURNED SERVICE PERSONNEL 

The media have increasingly run accounts of issues with PTSD lately, especially as stories from the First World War fill our screens. Recently Defence chiefs acknowledged that numbers of cases of PTSD among veterans and returned personnel from recent wars were ‘likely to rise’, with new studies finding ‘8.3 percent of military personnel suffering the disorder compared with 5.2 percent of the wider community.’
(read more)

The Medical Journal of Australia published an article from Professor Alexander McFarlane, of the University of Adelaide, and Professor David Forbes, of the University of Melbourne’s Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health titled, The journey from moral inferiority to post-traumatic stress disorder’. The article maps the journey of recognition of PTSD in the medical and defence communities and calls for more research into PTSD. (read more)

Professor McFarlane is heading a University of Adelaide research through a Mental Health & Wellbeing Transition Study and another Impact of Combat Study.
 
The studies will evaluate the mental health of people who have left the defence force since 2010, as well as looking at serving personnel and reservists. (read more )
NEWS FROM THE US: BLACKWATER GUARDS CONVICTED 

In 2007, during the Iraq war, a number of private American security guards working for the private security firm Blackwater (now called
Academi and based in northern Virginia) fired into Nisour Square in Bagdad on 16 September, 2007. Last October they were convicted of killing at least 17 Iraqi civilians. This week four of the guards were sentenced.

The judge, Royce C. Lamberth, sentenced one to life in prison and gave 30-year sentences to the three others. (
Read more on the case here.)

The Nisour Square incident along with the massacre of civilians at Haditha and the notorious abuses at Abu Ghraib prison continue to draw international condemnation. Iraq Body Count estimated that between 2003-2011 there were close to 120,000 civilian casualties in Iraq.
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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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