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and Australians for War Powers Reform.

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CAMPAIGN UPDATE 
8 January 2015


Dear members, supporters, readers and well-wishers,

Welcome to 2015. Already the year is promising to be busy, with Prime Minister Abbott's surprise visit to Iraq and the Middle East kicking off the year. More on that and other news from Iraq and beyond below, as well as some key dates and conferences of interest for 2015. 

As always, 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! 
 
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PM ABBOTT’S VISIT TO IRAQ


Tony Abbott made his first visit to Iraq as Prime Minister this week, visiting troops and meeting with the Iraqi PM, Haider al-Albadi. The PM’s visit was unannounced and no media were invited to accompany him, leading to criticisms around transparency, including from the Acting Opposition Leader Tony Burke who labelled the ‘secretive approach’ as ‘not in the national interest’.

“This government, from the moment they came in, have adopted a culture of secrecy and I don’t think it’s helpful, I don’t think it’s smart and I don’t think it’s fair to the Australian people.” Read more…:

Mr Abbott was described as using ‘conspicuously strong language’ in relation to the 2003 war, stating,

"Iraq is a country which has suffered a very great deal. First, decades of tyranny under Saddam Hussein. Then, the chaos and confusion that followed the American-led invasion. Most recently, the tumult, the dark age, which has descended upon northern Iraq as a result of the Da'esh death cult. But Australia will do what we can to help." Read more…

There are distinct echoes of long used propaganda messaging from previous wars in the Prime Minister’s claim that,

"We are here, in the Middle East, to stop the fight coming to Australia.
…Australians back home are safer because all of this is designed to defeat the Daesh death cult, which has declared war on the world, including [on] us in Australia."
Read more…


Far from Australians being safer at home as a result of the military activities in Northern Iraq, or our participation in them, evidence suggests the opposite.  The Islamic State, in its September call to its supporters to carry out acts of terror against its enemies, specifically mentioned Australia as one of the countries fighting the IS in Iraq and urged attacks on Australians. The Government has raised the threat level in its 'National Terrorism Public Alert System' in September from medium (where it had been since 2001) to high, meaning that a terrorist attack is regarded as 'likely'.  It is incumbent on Government to explain the apparent contradiction inherent in its most recent assertion that we are more secure as a result of Australian military actions in Iraq.

‘MISSION CREEP’?


One of the chief concerns in this visit was the rising suspicion of a developing ‘mission creep’. The Oxford Dictionary defines mission creep as ‘a gradual shift in objectives during the course of a military campaign, often resulting in an unplanned long-term commitment’.

Reports of Mr Abbott refusing to rule out troops on the ground in Iraq fed this, with Fairfax Media claiming to have evidence that ‘Australian special forces soldiers in Iraq have begun operating "outside the wire" by accompanying local troops beyond Baghdad.’

However there are few other clear details, other than Mr Abbott committing to

“…continuing to talk to the Iraqis, to the Americans, to our partners here in the Gulf about what we can usefully do as a nation and as a coalition partner to make the world a safer place and to make Australia a safer country.” Read more…

The concerns about mission creep however also reminded many of the ‘4 key principles for Labor's full support’ as announced by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in September, and as reported in the CIWI Bulletin #20. In this, the ALP clearly indicated no support for deployment of ground combat units to directly engage in fighting ISIL.

In an editorial in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper on 7 January, the editor states,

“War is a moving target, but whatever decisions are made the Australian people must be told what is being done in their name and why.  …Mr Abbott must realise that transparency is paramount in carrying the Australian people with him in sending air crews and special forces into Iraq. He must not get ahead of himself.” Read more…

With US-led strikes escalating (with 29 confirmed strikes on New Year’s Eve and a further 23 on New Year's day across Syria and Iraq), the questions on how the commitment in Iraq and the region will develop in coming months seem to be only growing.
 

NEW AID COMMITMENT TO IRAQ


On the visit Mr Abbott also reportedly committed an additional $5 million of Australian humanitarian aid to Iraq through the World Food Program, which the Sydney Morning Herald notes brings Australia’s humanitarian assistance to $22 million to the country since June 2014. While welcome, this is an interesting commitment given the widely criticised $8 billion aid cuts announced pre-Christmas by the Abbott government.  

CIVILIAN DEATHS IN IRAQ IN 2014


The US military have been investigating claims around civilian deaths from airstrikes in Syria and Iraq between August and December last year. As outlined by the ICRC, international law is clear on civilian targeting in conflict. According to the New York Times,

“Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters during a news conference that investigators with the United States Central Command had begun looking into whether coalition airstrikes, which have targeted Islamic State fighters, equipment and oil depots, may have inadvertently hit civilians.”
Read more...
 
While figures differ and responsibility is questioned, everyone agrees that the number of civilian deaths in Iraq in 2014 was shocking. Violence in Iraq reportedly killed somewhere between 15,000 - 17,000 civilians and security personnel in 2014, according to both government and non-government figures issued recently, making it one of the deadliest years since the American-led invasion in 2003. The death toll was more than double the 6,522 people killed in the previous year.
Read more...

KEY DATES


There are a few key dates* that supporters may be interested in noting for the first half of 2015.

* The campaign does not necessarily endorse any of the following events. They are provided as information only.

January

WAR, APOCALYPSE AND PEACE: IN THE LIGHT OF THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF GALLIPOLI

The 5th Annual Conference of the Australian Girard Seminar 2015
sponsored by: Australian Girard Seminar
30th-31st January 2015
website
 

February

2015 CONFERENCE – FIGHTING AGAINST WAR: PEACE ACTIVISM IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

14th Biennial Labour History Conference
sponsored by: Swinburne University, University of Melbourne, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, NTEU
Queen’s College, University of Melbourne, 11-13 February 2015.
website 
 

March 

20 March 2015:

12th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in 2003
 

GALLIPOLI 1915: A CENTURY ON

hosted by: the Australian War Memorial and the Australian National University
Llewellyn Hall, Australian National University, Canberra
18-20 March 2015
website
 

April

25 April 2015:

Centenary anniversary of the Gallipolli landings
 

WILPF CENTENNIAL CONGRESS: 100 YEARS OF PEACEMAKING

When: April 22 – 25, 2015
Where: Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands
website

 

WILPF 2015 CONFERENCE: UNITING A GLOBAL MOVEMENT OF WOMEN’S POWER TO STOP WAR

When: April 27 – 29, 2015
Where: World Forum, The Hague, Netherlands
website
 

May

7 May 2015:

UK General election (parliament dissolves on 30 March ahead of the election)
Chilcot Inquiry may be released before or after the election…we will need to keep a look out!
 

June

THE DIFFERENCE THAT GENDER MAKES TO INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY

INTERNATIONAL FEMINIST JOURNAL OF POLITICS CONFERENCE 2015
sponsored by: University of Queensland, Monash University, Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Thu 18 Jun - Fri 19 Jun @Uni of Queensland
website

 

2015 Parliamentary Sittings:

www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Sitting_Calendar
 

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

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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