2 October 2014
Dear members, supporters, readers and well-wishers,
Welcome to the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry bulletin.
Once again a Prime Ministerial decision has committed us to entering international armed conflict under US guidance. The LNP Cabinet is set to finalise deployment of forces to Iraq at any moment, but foreign governments like the UK are undergoing substantial parliamentary debate markedly absent from Australia’s decision making process.
The Australian Prime Minister is yet to consider expanding its involvement into IS heartland in Syria, which would be legally dubious without Syrian government invitation or UN Security Council authorisation. But expansion into Syria will likely be necessary for the long term defeat of the Islamic State - if indeed it is possible to militarily defeat a jihadist organisation of a kind which history shows will respond to military setbacks and loss of its leaders by re-emerging in another, probably more virulent, form. It seems the Australian government will soon be in a tough position, entangled in a new and lengthy war with no easy escape.
In this edition:
We hope you enjoy reading.
- Australian Cabinet to sign off on military action in Iraq
- John Howard 'embarrassed' by 2003 Iraq War failed intelligence
- UK parliament votes and approves Iraq involvement
- Chilcot Iraq Inquiry will tell 'whole story' insists Heywood
- Parliament should have a voice and vote on going to war
Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry
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Australian Cabinet to sign off on military action in Iraq within days
Australian Cabinet is close to signing off on military action in Iraq with the legal framework for the mission likely to be settled within days, Julie Bishop has confirmed.
The foreign affairs minister said the government would be prepared to consider a separate future request to extend Australia’s involvement to Syria, but the current focus was on Iraq. Whilst the Cabinet have evidently been discussing legal implications of the deployment, parliament has not been formally consulted on the issue.
Tony Abbott told parliament that air strikes, to be carried out by six Super Hornets based outside Dubai, awaited final clearances from the Iraqi government and a further decision by his government.
Australia has deployed 600 Australian Defence Force (ADF) members to the Middle East in anticipation of an imminent decision to join US-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq. The deployment includes armed special forces members who would provide military advice to the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces.
Dr Mark Thomson, a senior analyst from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says the cost of sending a soldier to a country like the UAE will be about $670,000 a year, meaning the current deployment will cost Australia at least $400 million a year.
John Howard 'embarrassed' by 2003 Iraq War failed intelligence
Former prime minister John Howard confessed to feeling “embarrassed” when it was revealed that the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein did not possess any weapons capable of mass destruction, undermining support for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, to which he committed Australian troops.
"If I had been against sending troops they wouldn't have gone but I was in favour of them going and so were all the members of the National Security Committee," he told the Seven Network.
Mr Howard said he was "struck by the force of the language" in the US intelligence that judged Iraq did have WMD and a potential nuclear capacity but said it was wrong to claim the intelligence had been cooked up to justify the invasion. This admission to being persuaded by language rather than fact demonstrates the need to give parliamentarians formal power to legally debate, properly consider, and consent to deployment of armed forces into international conflict.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie responded: “What he should be is deeply ashamed that he lied to the Australian public 11.5 years ago, and took us into an unnecessary war, a war that has killed countless Iraqis and other people, which effectively destroyed that country and created the conditions for the rise of not just the Islamic State but other groups.”
“Look frankly I’m disappointed that the prosecutor at the international criminal court hasn’t thought to hold John Howard responsible for conspiracy to commit mass murder.”
"We wouldn't have to disband the Iraqi military which was done; we wouldn't have disbanded the Iraqi bureaucracy that was done – two key decisions not long after the invasion which helped create the anarchy that we are still dealing with," he said.
"If we are fair dinkum about actually helping Iraqis and creating the conditions that will make it harder for terrorists to thrive, we should be piling on the foreign aid.
UK parliament votes and approves Iraq involvement
Wall Street Journal reports:
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday secured parliamentary support for the U.K. to join U.S.-led airstrikes against the militant group Islamic State, the final political hurdle before launching military action.
In a special parliamentary session Friday in which MPs debated for seven hours, 524 lawmakers voted in favor of participating in airstrikes in Iraq against the militant group known as Islamic State, and 43 voted against. Expansion of the mission to Syria or the deployment of ground troops were not covered by the parliamentary vote.
Mr. Cameron said the goal of U.K. intervention would be to "see ISIL degraded and then destroyed as a serious terrorist force."
But, the prime minister, warned, this wouldn't happen quickly. "This is going to be a mission that will take not just months, but years," he said. "The hallmarks of this campaign will be patience and persistence, not shock and awe."
7 in 10 troops oppose boots on ground in Iraq
Pessimism about success of the Iraq missions is growing, with almost 60% saying the previous war was not very or not at all successful, up from 31% in 2013.
A large majority of the U.S. military’s rank and file are opposed to sending troops back to Iraq in combat roles, according to a new Military Times poll, even as the Pentagon commits to a broadening program of air strikes against Islamist extremists in the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
The poll of active-duty members also showed a sudden hike in negativity over the past year about the success of the army’s combat mission in Iraq, with a large number of troops now questioning what U.S. military operations in the country had achieved.
Just over 70% of the troops polled were opposed to the U.S. military sending a “substantial number of combat troops to Iraq to support the Iraqi security forces.”
Displeasure with the previous and current Iraq missions reflects a need for more thoughtful consideration of current and future military deployments, for the US and Australia, as well as the need for a more in-depth investigation into how the 2003 Iraq invasion can be avoided in the future.
Also from Time: US policy has been "a piecemeal approach that suggests an improvised mission, and one whose objectives and justifications have repeatedly shifted over the past six weeks."
Chilcot Iraq Inquiry will tell 'whole story' insists Heywood
Sir Jeremy Heywood, the UK's top civil servant, has told MPs that the Chilcot Inquiry on the 2003 Iraq invasion would be "more transparent" than people were expecting and would include material that would not normally be disclosed "in a million years".
When the Iraq inquiry was set up, Sir John Chilcot explained: “We will … be considering the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learnt.” The release of this report will likely shed new and interesting light on the decision making processes that led to Australia's involvement as well, and hopefully increase pressure on Canberra to conduct an in-depth inquiry into the matter.
However, the Chilcot Inquiry is still making requests for the release of government papers "on an almost daily basis", fuelling fears that it will not be completed before the next UK general election.
Parliament Should Have a Voice and Vote on Going to War
Campaign president Paul Barratt and former Prime Minster Malcolm Fraser responded to an article by Russell Trood and Anthony Bergin in the Australian that had argued against war powers reform. Their response is well worth a read. Campaign member Ramesh Thakur also argues 'Parliament Should have a Voice and Vote' in Australian Outlook.
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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 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.