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The Bulletin for Australians for War Powers Reform.
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Welcome to the War Powers Reform Bulletin #36


Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR) shares the worldwide horror at the recent terrorist incidents in Paris. Hopefully all those involved in perpetrating these crimes will be brought to justice, and we note the progress made by the French police and security agencies in that regard.

Beyond that, it is to be hoped that France and the wider global community will avoid the impulse to hit back blindly, as the US did after 9/11. We doubt that the pounding of Raqqa by French military aircraft will contribute much to an overall solution of either the Daesh/ISIS problem or the wider problems of Syria.

While the French reaction is understandable it has been observed many times that we cannot slaughter our way to victory and there is a serious risk that intensified military action will do more harm than good.

We note that both President Obama and Prime Minister Turnbull appear to have got that message and appear to be turning their minds seriously to the central question of what is required to bring peace to Syria, rather than talking about something akin to a new round of “Whack-a-Mole”. In our view Australian diplomacy should be directed to encouraging all of the key players to sit down and agree on how they can work together to resolve Syria’s problems in a manner that will stand the test of time.

This will require recognition that Russia and Iran are key players in this story, and a willingness to engage with them bilaterally as a contribution to the multilateral goal. President Putin has said that France is to be treated as an ally, but how is the rest of the Western world going to relate to President Putin? In that regard, Australia might have laid a better foundation for its own capacity to work with the Russians if it had observed some basic diplomatic courtesies such as a prompt expression of condolences when over 200 people perished in a Russian airliner, apparently at the hands of our common enemy.

As part of the national discussion about how to deal with the Daesh/ISIS problem, there has been discussion of what more if anything Australia should do militarily.

We would hope that when the Government has resolved that question within the National Security Committee of Cabinet, it will bring a resolution to the Parliament for debate in both Houses, so that all of our elected representatives have an opportunity to understand and contribute to what is proposed, and any ADF force elements that are committed to the task have the advantage of knowing where the Parliament stands in relation to their deployment. That would be consistent with the more mature approach to national security matters that we have observed in recent times.

- Paul Barratt
Getting our message across
 
On 23 October AWPR convened a closed-door workshop in Canberra to discuss the practicalities of how best to bring about the involvement of Parliament in decisions to deploy the ADF into armed international conflict. Participants in the workshop included senior military, legal and public policy figures. A summary of the outcome is at www.warpowersreform.org.au.
 
We are now commencing a round of consultations with Parliamentarians on the outcome of the workshop. The purpose of these consultations is not only to brief the Parliamentarians on our work, but to obtain their perspectives and their advice on how best to progress the matter. We are seeking consultations across the political spectrum including with a number of key independents.
Beyond the Hysteria of Vengeance: to defeat ISIS, end the 'War on Terror'.
The hysteria of vengeance has once again grasped hold of the West. Almost instantly, the West’s veneer of civilization has been peeled away, leaving in its place, a renewed commitment to barbarity and retribution against the monsters known as ISIS...
Read on.
- Paul Gottinger
Mindless terrorists? The truth about Isis is much worse...
They deal in chaos, but they work from a script. The failure to understand that is costing us dearly.
Read on.
- Scott Atran.
Debate over War Powers alive and well in UK
 
As background to the war powers issue, the London Daily Telegraph (2.11.15) reported denials by Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, that his Ministers had been instructed in 2003 to “burn” the initial legal opinion of the former British Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, over the legality of the Iraq invasion - an opinion substituted a few days later by a fresh opinion justifying the war “under existing (UN) resolutions”.
 
The report implied from its sources that as the date for the invasion was “already in the diary”  there could be no going back. Mr Blair has himself  denied that he personally issued any such instruction to “burn” the first opinion.
 
Presumably the truth will out when the long-awaited report of the Sir John Chilcot Inquiry on the Iraq War is issued, now firmly expected to be in June or July next year.
 
Meanwhile debate has been raging over the Cameron Government’s plans to extend its bombing in Iraq to Syrian areas controlled by ISIS, and whether Parliament should be consulted first, in line with the precedent set in 2013 when the Government lost the vote in the Commons over responding to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its own people. 
 
The Guardian newspaper (4.11.15), and the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, have argued that apart from the fact that bombing will not advance a solution to the Iraq/Syrian and wider regional conflicts, the Prerogative ‘war power’ is already vested in the Parliament, subject to Executive overrides for direct national defence and, probably, humanitarian emergencies. [The Commons Committee also took the view that Britain’s diplomatic authority in multilateral negotiations towards a ceasefire would be compromised by its status as a combatant.]
 
The issue today has mutated somewhat since the recent tragic terrorist bombings in Paris which illustrates that the context in which war powers are exercised is all important. Prior to this the view was that the situation in Syria did not represent a direct military threat to Britain and therefore war-like action in that regard was neither urgent, nor appropriate, without referral to Parliament. Now perceptions have changed, the politics have changed, and those who take the view that Britain is now directly and immediately threatened by ISIS believe the Government’s Executive Authority is a sufficient legal basis and its exercise for the purpose is justified. They accept that the Government should nonetheless make a referral to Parliament ex post facto.
 
Should this be the case it would be more difficult to make out that the Prerogative War Power had left the Executive. The issue would then be the processes within the Executive leading to a legally based authorisation. However at the time of writing Mr Cameron remained determined to secure a Parliamentary vote and its approval (if his reasons are sound).

- Andrew Farran
 
France triggers EU 'mutual defence clause' - but what is it?
Following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, France has decided to invoke Article 42(7) of the EU Treaty – establishing that EU countries must provide “aid and assistance” to a fellow member state that suffers an armed aggression.
Read on.
- Vincenzo Scarpetta
On the 20th of November the United Nations Security Council called on all countries that can do so to take the war on terrorism to Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq and destroy its safe haven.

This decision supports a move back from dubious coalitions of the willing, designed to alienate and exclude certain parties, to a proper use of the UNSC peacekeeping powers and safeguards.
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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