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The Bulletin for Australians for War Powers Reform.
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Welcome to the War Powers Reform Bulletin #46


Uncertainty fuels anxiety. As Americans elect a new president, uncertainty prevails and anxiety is likely to continue after the January inauguration into the life of the new administration. If a new president acts on the Reagan-style promise to ‘make America great again’, intensified military operations in the Middle East and South China Sea are the most likely results. Australia will be pressed to step up our involvement as well.

These prospects make it more urgent than ever for Australia to consider how governments deploy our troops to war, and to hold a long-overdue inquiry into our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, for which Sir John Chilcot’s report of July 2016 provides a model. Only Australian politicians can order such an inquiry, and only they can legislate to change the war powers so that further violations of international law, and further disastrous errors arising from the current ‘captain’s pick’ process are prevented in the future. Replacing it with a debate and a vote in the Parliament would not only strengthen the Australian democratic process, it would encourage individual Members and Senators to be personally responsible to their electors for wars and their outcomes.

For those reasons, AWPR has concentrated on presenting the facts to Federal politicians of all parties and seeking their views. We are renewing our efforts with Members and Senators in the new Parliament. Responses from the crossbench and the minor parties have been encouraging, with the Greens putting up a bill for war powers reform to be considered in 2017. At a week-long gathering of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) marking the 50th anniversary of the Pine Gap base, Senator Scott Ludlam called for investigation and possible prosecution of the Australian leaders who committed troops to the invasion of Iraq. Not surprisingly, we are still confronted with resistance from leading members of the Coalition and the ALP, but some individuals are privately expressing interest. We have more meetings planned for November with Senators and MPs.

On 21 November, Michael Smith is expected to arrive in Canberra after walking for nearly a month from Chewton, Victoria carrying a draft of legislation to change the war powers. If this is successful, a future deployment of troops would require approval of both houses, a report to parliamentarians providing details of the reasons for it, its authorisation, its scope and legality. The predicted impacts on civilians should also be set out, and the provisions made for the necessary humanitarian relief. Parliament would also have to be regularly updated on reasons for continuing the deployment. Staying with whoever invites him on the way, Mr Smith hopes his 600 km walk will attract media and political attention to his proposal. AWPR President Paul Barratt spoke with him just before he set out, and is looking forward to meeting him in Canberra.

Alison Broinowski
Vice-President
Does the UK need a 'War Powers Act'?

Political support for legislation to change the war powers is growing in the UK, following the revelations of the Chilcot inquiry. The Lords are considering an Armed Forces Deployment Bill that would confirm in law what has been a convention since 2003, the requirement for a Parliamentary debate and a vote before a government dispatches military forces. This would set an influential precedent for similar legislation in Australia.

But in both countries, proposals could be put forward for exemptions, including for drone strikes, embedded troops and arming rebels. To achieve its purpose, the new law would need to cover 'mission creep' by which an originally humanitarian intervention changes to sending teams of advisers, then Special Forces, then bombing raids, troops on the ground, and regime change.

Read this article by Andrew Noakes.
Australians for War Powers Reform: Annual General Meeting coming up
All AWPR members are invited to the AGM on the 22nd November in Canberra. It will be followed by a planning session. 
If you are interested in attending, please write to info@warpowersreform.org.au.
If you are not a member and would like to be one, you can join up here.
AWPR welcomes parliamentary war powers bill
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam introduced a bill into the Senate to reform the way in which Australia can be sent to war. We look forward to the discussion it will open up.
Media release here.
ABC's Between the Lines: Iraq Inquiry?
AWPR's Alison Broinowski talks with Tom Switzer on why Australia hasn't had a report into our involvement in the Iraq War, and the case for war powers reform.
Listen here.
We must get out of Syria
Andrew Farran
Richard Woolcott has stated with clear reasons why we should get out of the Middle East conflict which threatens to broaden and involve us in an expanded war that is not in our interests. One wonders how any times these points need to be made to the government before it acknowledges the folly of its situation in Iraq/Syria... Read on.
Learning from Chilcot: reform and the 'grinding' Defence bureaucracy
Stephen Lovegrove
Chilcot offers a deeply forensic account of the way in which civilian, military and intelligence services worked together, and with the political leaders of the day, to deliver a major overseas intervention... Read on.
Greens Senator: investigate those who led us into the Iraq war
After describing the Australian Prime Minister’s office as one of “jointly operated outposts of the United States Government” Senator Ludlam told a public forum about the Pine Gap spy base in Alice Springs.
Read on.
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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