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The Bulletin for Australians for War Powers Reform.
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CAMPAIGN UPDATE #24
VIEWS FROM THE CAMPAIGN 

5 February 2015


Dear members, supporters, readers and well-wishers,

As noted in previous recent Bulletins, our campaign has begun the transition to a renewed focus on driving the agenda on war powers reform in Australia.
  
As part of this, we have now adopted the name Australians for War Powers Reform as the official masthead of the campaign. As our supporters will know, this has grown out of the initial calls of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry to seek transparency on the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003 and the expectation that the outcome of any independent inquiry into the decision-making process would be a compelling case for transfer of the war powers to the Parliament. While the 2003 engagement remains the most outstanding and catastrophic example of why reform is needed, we have decided it is best to lead now with a strong and clear call for broad reform in our war powers. AWPR is therefore simply the lead project of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry, which still exists!
 
We will be bringing all our online media and social media under the banner of Australians for War Powers Reform and generating new materials and information to help lift the debate on war powers reform.

We hope you will help us to manage this transition by providing feedback, helping to promote the campaign and seeking opportunities for our campaign experts to speak at events across the country.
 
If you are in a position to, we welcome your donations also. Details of how you can donate are available on our website.
 
As always, we look forward to your feedback, which you can provide to us directly.
 
With thanks for your on-going support
Sue Wareham
 
Dr Sue Wareham OAM
Secretary, Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc) / Australians for War Powers Reform

PS: Your help to strengthen Australians for War Powers Reform, (the lead project of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry) is always appreciated. Please forward this Bulletin to friends, colleagues or relatives you think may be interested! 
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OPINION PIECE


This fortnight our Bulletin features an opinion piece from Andrew Farran ‘Iraq/Syria: Beware of the Boomerang (It May Come Back)’.
Andrew Farran was a diplomat in Pakistan and Afghanistan for a time in the 1960s. He is a founding member of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry. He has been an international lawyer and business consultant and was formerly with the Departments of External Affairs and Defence, and Law Faculty Monash University.

 

IRAQ / SYRIA: BEWARE OF THE BOOMERANG (IT MAY COME BACK)

By Andrew Farran
5 February 2015

 
We recall the once oft-repeated slogan ‘the downward thrust of Communism’ justifying the Vietnam War whereas that war was essentially an internal conflict over nationalism. Today a complex conflict in the heartland of the Middle East is being simplified as a ‘War against a Death Cult’ in which our role is to back a corrupt Iraq Government and save it from its own previous mistakes.
 
That, in itself, provides some grounds for misunderstanding the motives of a number of young Australian Muslims who, being of Syrian or Iraqi extraction, may have good reasons for having strong views about the nature of the present conflict.  
 
As there are no clear cut, UN sanctioned grounds for Australian military involvement in the area (apart from humanitarian considerations), by doing so we are in effect bringing the conflict home to a far greater degree than can be justified. If we are doing this for the US, whose motive may be to make amends for its previous misdirection in Iraq, then by any rational consideration of our national interest we are again on the wrong tram, going the wrong way. The region is in flux. But that is now their affair.
 
The conflicts in Syria and Iraq have deep roots, and many family and tribal issues have historical origins and wider connections which the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) is exploiting ruthlessly and opportunistically. As against that the idea that the Iraqi Government is pure, clean and law abiding is ridiculous. Apart from anything else it is intensely sectarian.
 
Yet Prime Minister Abbott would have it that we should pitch in almost blindly in its support because apart from US 'alliance' considerations (well beyond the relevant Pacific area) this further commitment could serve to redress previous mistakes. But those mistakes are now irredeemable. Abbott has acknowledged that this conflict is more about 'baddies' and 'baddies', rather than any 'goodies', so why are we being tied in now with a particular group of baddies? History is replete with examples of stupid politicians dragging their countries into unnecessary wars, which indiscriminately kill and maim countless of their subjects. If citizens and their parliamentarians are not constantly alert, this is bound to be repeated. For the present, the risk in Iraq is 'mission creep' from the current force deployment.
 
World geo-politics are undergoing fundamental change and the fallout is far from clear. Australia is lagging behind in an appreciation of those changes. Old stereotypes are fading. The mistakes we could make over the next generation could mark us adversely for future generations. We can do little in real terms to influence the changes (even by punching above our weight), but unless we understand them we could end up on the wrong side of history - as, for example, did Hungary throughout the 20th century. That could be us in this century.
 
Coming back to Iraq/Syria and ISIS, this is as toxic as it gets. It is proper for Abbott to condemn ISIS (and its degrading, brutal methods) but it does not follow that we should, regardless, be supporting any group that may be against it: specifically, in this case, a Shia dominated Iraq. There are many groups there with complex and often conflicting connections. The Kurds for instance are fighting ISIS, yet the Turkish Kurds are a proscribed terrorist organisation according to the Australian government. The Iran/Iraq dimension (essentially Shia) is integral to the conflict, as is US-leaning Saudi Arabia's support for ISIS and its Sunni factions. Then there is Assad’s Syria (mostly Shia), Turkey (Sunni) and Jordan (Sunni) - not to overlook the militarists in Sunni Egypt. All of the above are conflicted to some degree with regard to ISIS yet have very direct national interests at stake**. 
 
This complexity of interests is illustrated by the nature of the US-led Coalition against ISIS. While numerically the coalition can boast of an impressive number of participants - some 62 altogether - the number that has allowed any significant military involvement is relatively small, principally the US itself and several other NATO members, in addition to Australia.***  As none are willing to commit ground forces, both the objective and the means fall well short of what could in the outcome allow for 'success'. If the countries with a direct interest in the outcome are so ambivalent about it, where is the Australian national interest in raising the level of its participation, including now talk of re-introducing ground forces? 
 
We might also question, given the conflicting interests, whether our involvement is provoking local Muslim elements whose family and traditional tribal interests are affected when our national interests are not? While in no sense condoning extremist views or actions of any kind, it does not follow that every Australian Muslim who may be drawn to go over there does so with evil intent. We expect that immigrants should forget their home politics when they settle here and not bring those conflicts back to Australia. We have said as much previously to the Greeks and Serbs in our community, and indeed to others going back in time.
 
But the Australian military has not been directly engaged in the internal (territorial) conflicts in Greece or the Balkans whose issues by and large have not been imported into Australia. In the case of Syria and Iraq, however, we may well be bringing that conflict closer to home than it should be.
 
--------------
 
**   See Chatham House - 'The World Today' (Dec 2014-Jan 2015): "Who is hiding behind Islamic State" at p.34; together with item on Sir Mark Sykes of Sykes/Picot fame (p.37). These can be accessed from the Chatham House website
 
***  The US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) now counts 62 countries among its members, according to a list published by the US State Department. Twenty of the partners, which include two non-states in the form of the European Union and Arab League, are providing air support or other military equipment. Others are supplying logistical or humanitarian aid (The London 'Telegraph', Jan 31, 2015)
 

Editors note:
Other recent pieces from Andrew Farran:

BACKGROUND IN BRIEF


In this concise article, Dr Alison Broinowski paints a comparative picture of how a number of democracies around the world make the vital decision of how Australia goes to war.
Dr Bronoiwski is a founding member of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry. She is a former Australian diplomat,and has written and edited eleven books about the interface between Australia and Asia and Australia’s role in world affairs. She is a Research Affiliate at ANU and a Council member of the University of Adelaide. Her last overseas assignment was in the Australian Mission to the UN in 1989-90.

 

HOW DO OTHER DEMOCRACIES DECIDE GO TO WAR?

By Dr Alison Broinowski
5 February 2015
 

The Australian Constitution − at S 51 (vi) – in effect gives unilateral ‘war powers’ to the Prime Minister. The Defence Act (amended 1975, new S 8) gives the Minister for Defence ‘the general control and administration of the Defence Force’, a provision used to send Australian forces to Iraq in 2003. This combination of statute law and ‘Royal prerogative’ makes an Australian prime minister more like an autocratic despot in a dictatorial country than the leader of a democratic, independent state.
 
CANADA, NEW ZEALAND, SOUTH AFRICA
 
Australia is not alone. In Canada and New Zealand the royal prerogatives persist, and both countries’ Constitutions require no parliamentary approval for declaring war or deploying troops to war zones.  In South Africa, the Constitution provides the President with the power to declare war − at S 201 (2) – and to declare a state of emergency (S 203) on the advice of the Cabinet member responsible for defence (S 202). In both situations the President must inform Parliament, but does not need to obtain its approval.
 
IRELAND 
 
In respect of war powers, as in other Constitutional matters, Ireland provides a useful example for Australia to consider. Ireland, unlike Australia, has an All Party Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution which actively considers the war powers. The Irish Constitution states, ‘War shall not be declared and the State shall not participate in any war save with the assent of Dáil Éireann’ (S 3.1). This has been amended to include other operations such as peace-keeping.
 
OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES 
 
A survey in 2010 of 25 European democracies identified the parliaments of the UK, Cyprus, France and Greece as having ‘very weak’ war powers. (Democratic Audit UK) A clear majority,15 countries, have either ‘very strong’ or ‘strong’ parliamentary war powers.  Those classified as ‘very strong’ are Austria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia: countries with post-WWII or post Cold War Constitutions, or with minimal military forces. In Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden, parliamentary war powers were defined as ‘strong’.
 
UNITED KINGDOM 
 
In Britain, whose Constitution is not written, uncertainty prevails and no standard process exists.  Statutorily, the armed forces are accountable to Parliament and each year, Parliament must vote for or against the level of defence expenditure; and every five years, it must renew the legal basis for the existence of the armed forces and the UK’s system of military law, through the passage of an Armed Forces Bill. Royal Prerogative on the other hand covers the deployment of troops and the issuing of orders to engage in hostilities, and British Ministers exercise that prerogative in a manner similar to those in Commonwealth countries, with the Executive being free to act without the approval of Parliament.

Since Iraq War II, the convention has developed that the House of Commons should debate conflict decisions before troops are committed abroad, except when an emergency makes this impossible. The Government acknowledged this convention in March 2011, and Foreign Secretary William Hague committed them to bring forward a resolution setting out Parliament’s role in conflict decisions, as an interim step towards legislation. In spite of a Committee of the House of Commons calling repeatedly on the Government to act, this has not happened. The Constitutional Committee of the House of Lords recommended that a Parliamentary Convention should replace the Royal Prerogative; that the Government should seek Parliamentary approval of a commitment of troops to war in advance, or if urgency made that impossible, then within seven days, together with an indication of the deployment’s objectives, its legal basis, likely duration and size; and that the Government should keep Parliament informed of the progress of such deployments and, if their nature or objectives alter significantly, should seek a renewal of the Parliament’s approval.
 
UNITED STATES  
 
The situation of the United States is complex, and the subject of much expert commentary. In brief, the Constitution grants to Congress the power to declare war, to raise and support armies, and to provide and maintain a navy (Article I, section 8, clause 11). The President is made the Commander in Chief of the armed forces (Article II, section 2, clause 1). The War Powers Resolution 1973 (also known as the War Powers Act) provides for the President to consult, report and terminate deployment of armed forces with the approval of Congress. Doubt has been advanced about the legality of the Act, and in 2008 the National War Powers Commission recommended a new War Powers Consultation Act, to repeal the 1973 Resolution and require that the President consult with a newly-formed joint congressional committee before ordering the deployment of U.S. armed forces into ‘significant armed conflict’ or, under certain circumstances, within three days of deployment. The statute would also create a mechanism to ensure that both houses of Congress vote on the particular military action within thirty days of the deployment. The proposed law, however, would still give enormous latitude to a President, who would not need consent to go to war, and makes it difficult for a Congress to stop him. Presidents have avoided the issue by conducting military operations without a declaration of war. Where Presidents have appeared to violate the War Powers Act, as in the bombing of Kosovo, the United States Courts have not consistently upheld Congressional powers. The Administration has not received congressional approval for the current US operation in Iraq.
 
JAPAN 
 
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution prohibits war as a means to settle international disputes involving the state. The Constitution came into effect on May 3, 1947, following World War II. In it, the state formally renounces the sovereign right of belligerency and aims at an international peace based on justice and order. Article 9 states that, to accomplish these aims, armed forces with war potential will not be maintained, although Japan maintains de facto armed forces, referred to as the Japan Self-Defence Forces. Right-wing politicians, who have argued for many years that Japan should become a ‘normal’ country, sent Japanese troops on peacekeeping missions, and sought to change the Constitution. In July 2014, with the support of the United States, the LDP Abe government approved a reinterpretation which gave more powers to the Self-Defence Forces, allowing them to defend Japan’s allies in the event of war being declared upon them. China and South Korea expressed concern and disapproval. This change is considered illegitimate by some Japanese parties and Japanese citizens because of the manner in which the prime minister circumvented Japan's constitutional amendment procedure.
 
AUSTRALIA 
 
The Constitution allows the Parliament to legislate to ensure that any decision to declare war or commit troops would require parliamentary approval. Attempts were made in 1985 and 2003 (by Australian Democrats) and 2008 and 2014 (by Australian Greens) to introduce such legislation, but they lacked the support of both major parties. The executive’s decision to declare war and deploy forces overseas has always been taken before parliament has debated the issue, rendering a vote inutile.
Selected options for parliamentary scrutiny of war powers in other democracies cover a wide range. The ‘strongest’ examples include constitutional or legislated requirements for prior parliamentary debate and approval or any deployment of force, including in PKOs. In other countries, exceptions are made for certain circumstances including emergencies, but requirements include the capacity of parliaments to debate and withdraw approval of a military deployment. In the ‘weakest’ examples, as in Australia, parliament has no defined role at all.
 
Editors note:
Another recent piece from Dr Bronoiwski:

PAUL BARRATT SPEAKING EVENT:

10 FEBRUARY 2015

 
Paul Barratt is speaking at a forum for the Australian Institute of International Affairs next week on the issue of war powers reform.
 
SYDNEY: AIIA FORUM: Tuesday 10 February 2015 @ 6pm
 
HERE WE GO AGAIN: TONY ABBOTT’S IRAQ ADVENTURE
 
Paul Barratt will address this AIIA forum exploring the extent to which the “rapid shifts of Australian policy reflected equally rapid shifts in US policy. Was Tony Abbott deliberately taking the Australian public a slice at a time, getting us used to each step before creating new ‘facts on the ground’, or was he himself struggling to keep up with the play, and always finding himself unable to say ‘No’? Either way, it is a very poor way to conduct the business of one of the oldest continuing democracies on the planet.” Read more.
 
Register for the event here.
 
Entry:  
Members $15.00   Senior/student members $10.00
Non-members $25.00  Student non-members $15.00 
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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