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In the wake of the Chilcot Report


In our view there are three key lessons for Australia in the outcome of this very thorough inquiry.
 
The first is that Australia needs to conduct an equivalent inquiry. The Chilcot Report has laid out a detailed account of how the UK came to undertake, for the first time since the Second World War, “an invasion and occupation of a sovereign State” – a matter Chilcot correctly describes as a decision of the utmost gravity. The people of the UK, and the international community, now know who said what, to whom, and when, what went on inside the British Government, what advice it was receiving from its officials, its military and its intelligence agencies, its interactions with other governments, what matters it took into account in its decision-making, and the quality of its planning. It is now in a position to consider not only the actions of individuals but also the systemic issues that precipitated the disaster in Iraq, the lessons to be learned, and the measures to avoid similar disasters in the future.
 
The Australian public has no such knowledge. We need it to expose both how we came to be involved in the Iraq war, and the system that allowed our involvement.
 
The second lesson is that leaving the power to take Australia to war effectively in the hands of one person, the Prime Minister, is far too fragile a basis upon which to rest the gravest decision a nation can take – the decision not only to put young members of the ADF in harm’s way but also to visit death and destruction upon the leaders, soldiers, citizens and infrastructure of another country.


 
A third lesson is that the Australian Government would do well to pay more attention to its own intelligence agencies. Although John Howard has defended his actions by resort to claimed flaws in the intelligence available to him, neither of the inquiries established by his Government to inquire into the performance of the Australian agencies supports that defence. The December 2003 report of the Australian Joint Parliamentary Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD chaired by government MP David Jull found that:
 
The case made by the government was that Iraq possessed WMD in large quantities and posed a grave and unacceptable threat to the region and the world, particularly as there was a danger that Iraq’s WMD might be passed to terrorist organisations. This is not the picture that emerges from an examination of all the assessments provided to the Committee by Australia’s two analytical agencies.
 
The inquiry led by former DFAT Secretary Philip Flood found that the evidence for Iraqi WMD was ‘thin, ambiguous and incomplete’ – hardly a sound basis on which to commit the nation to armed conflict.

We clearly need to reform the way we go to war. The essential ingredients of a sound system for committing the ADF to international armed conflict, consistent with our Constitutional practice, are, in sequence: Parliamentary deliberations, supported by the tabling of independent legal advice and by intelligence and military briefings to a security-cleared cross-party Parliamentary Committee; an affirmative vote in both houses of Parliament; and authorisation by the Governor-General.  In addition, formal advice from the government’s military advisers on the likely impact of military action on civilian populations, together with comparable advice from humanitarian and aid agencies, should be considered at every step, with a requirement for plans to address these impacts.  This lesson is particularly stark given the humanitarian catastrophe that unfolded after the invasion of Iraq, predictions of which were accurately made by humanitarian agencies (including in Australia) before the invasion but virtually ignored.

Australians for War Powers Reform is in the process of writing to the new Parliament, seeking support for the reforms we propose.
Please sign this petition: Establish a Royal Commission into the Iraq War
"A Royal Commission is necessary to restore public confidence in our decision making processes should we ever be in the situation again where we need to use force to protect our interests." - Robert Forsythe, petition initiator.
Life After Chilcot
Alison Broinowski

Pressure over the Chilcot Report is mounting for Tony Blair but with the ICC's powers increasing, storm clouds may also be gathering over Bush and Howard.

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Chilcot: the costs of war and silence
Sue Wareham

To justify a war after the event, as former PMs Blair and Howard have attempted to do, those who led the charge need to be able to look into the eyes of every maimed or orphaned child, every grieving parent, every family whose house is a heap of rubble, every breadwinner who can no longer work, and assure them that it was all worth it, there was no other way.  A refusal to even acknowledge the extent of human suffering simply compounds the lies and blinkered vision of 2003.

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Faulty Intelligence or a War Pre-Ordained?
Paul Barratt

In releasing his momentous report on 6 July Sir John Chilcot stated that the judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – WMD – were presented with a certainty that was not justified.

Read more.
Iraq, Chilcot, and questions for Australia
Ramesh Thakur

The eagerly awaited Chilcot Report into Britain and the 2003 Iraq war has finally been published. For Australians there are three key takeaways.

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Drones and Chilcot: Lessons Australia Needs to Learn Quickly
Bernadette Anvia

It’s been a little over two weeks since the explosive Chilcot Report was published, confirming what many – except perhaps the instigators themselves – already knew to be true: that the 2003 Iraq invasion was a complete and unequivocal disaster, costing the US and its Coalition of the Willing too much money, and the state of Iraq too much blood.

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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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