The Bulletin for Australians for War Powers Reform.
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18 February 2015

Dear members, supporters, readers and well-wishers,
Welcome to the War Powers Reform Bulletin! We aim to bring you the most interesting news and views about the campaign for war powers reform and maintain a watching brief on the current military activities in Iraq and the Middle East.
In this edition we focus on civilian deaths in war, link to the speech by Paul Barrett to the recent Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) event, and share a few of the best pieces we have found around the web recently.
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Australians for War Powers Reform

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The mounting toll of civilian deaths in the violence in Iraq has reignited discussion and debate on the issue of civilian deaths in war. Exclusively for the AWPR Bulletin and CIWI Blog, Dr Sue Wareham writes:
In late 2002, US journalist Helen Thomas strongly opposed the impending invasion of Iraq.  Unlike many of her colleagues, whom she regarded as having a groupthink or “herd mentality”, she asked tough questions, considered by the herd as unpatriotic, at presidential press conferences.  On one occasion in exasperation she asked White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer, “Ari, why does the president want to kill thousands of people?”  The reply came: “Why are you saying that, Helen?   They have a dictator!  They have no say in their country!”
The notion that people unfortunate enough to be born under the rule of a dictator therefore deserve to be bombed as well doesn’t get many marks for logic.  But hardly anything from that time did.   Move on 12 or so years, and the paucity of considered debate and robust argument in matters related to Iraq, along with lack of transparency, has not improved.
One of the most important pieces of information in our current war in Iraq is not even blessed with the pretence that it matters enough to be monitored: the civilian losses. …

(Read the full article here…)
The ICRC points out:
According to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, civilians and all persons not taking part in combat may under no circumstances be the object of attack and must be spared and protected. In fact, however, this principle has been undermined, because the civilian population, particularly since the Second World War, has suffered most of the consequences of armed violence. (read more…)
New Zealand academics Tom Gregory and Alex Edney-Browne recently wrote an article in The Conversation The politics of (not) counting: why war on terror’s civilian toll matters. In it they argue that there is a
...growing body of literature from inside the US military that stresses the importance of tracking civilian casualties on strategic rather than moral grounds. …
…Avoiding civilian casualties was not simply a matter of adhering to international law, but an essential part of winning the war.  
(read more…)
The non-government organisation Iraq Body Count continues to try to keep track of the casualties in the current conflicts, with recent estimates for the year already reaching well into the hundreds. As reported in previous Bulletins, the rates of deaths from violence in the region are escalating, with the year-on-year toll doubling in recent times
Paul Barratt


On Tuesday 10 February CIWI/AWPR President Paul Barratt spoke at an AIIA event in Sydney. His speech (now online in full) focused on three key issues:
  1. How Australia goes to war. This has changed over the century and a bit since Federation.
  2. The risks to which the current system exposes us.
  3. His proposed solution, and why the arguments against that solution don’t in his view stand up to scrutiny.
    (read the full speech more…)
Paul’s speech was reported in the Saturday Paper on 14 February, with Hamish McDonald noting:
… perhaps it’s a good time for our politicians to adopt an idea that’s been kicking around for a couple of years: taking war powers away from the prime minister and giving them to parliament. (read more…)


Will America Declare the War It's Already Fighting? | by Russell Berman, The Atlantic, 11 Feb 2015
A good clear readable exposition by someone who knows the region, and has been following it for a long time, of just what a mess Australia now finds itself in again in Iraq, and how unlikely it is (a) that we'll succeed, whatever that means, or (b) that it will end, ever.
Five Reasons Congress Should Reject Obama’s ISIS War | by Peter Certo, CounterPunch, 12 Feb 2015
Certo outlines five key arguments against the draft resolution presented to US Congress designed to “authorize the ongoing U.S.-led military intervention against the Islamic State, or ISIS.” It points to a lack of geographic limitations, ‘curiously porous language’ and again, concerns that better strategies are being overlooked while not offering hope to stopping ISIS.
Finally, Someone Pays for Iraq War Lies—Brian Williams | Leslie Savan, The Nation, 12 Feb 2015
A look at the recent suspension of NBC Anchorman Brian Williams for lying about his experiences in the Iraq war as an embedded journalist, and the complicity of the lies generated in the press over the course of the war. It is an amusing and thought-provoking look at the important issues of embedded journalism and the on-going implications of that strategy.

12 years on...

Republished with permission of Ron Tanberg, with thanks.
Originally published on 21 March 2003 in Fairfax Press. 



On February 15, 2003 citizens in over 800 cities across the globe took part in protests against the impending war on Iraq. In Australia, hundreds of thousands of people in cities and towns across the nation stood up against the war. There are countless articles, cartoons and analysis from the time, all added to by a documentary film We Are Many released last year by Amir Amirani about the global protests. With extraordinary footage and a wide range of interviewees, it is said to be a powerful look at a moment many here and globally participated in. Check out the official trailer here.
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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