That’s what struck me as I saw the rhetoric being played out in the Australian Parliament on the news just now.
The Foreign Minister has strongly condemned the federal Opposition over its promise to remove Australian troops from Iraq.
The Labor leader, Kim Beazley, says if he wins the election, he would immediately talk to the United States about how quickly Australian forces could be replaced in Iraq.
The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, told Parliament it is a weak and gutless policy.
“The leader of the Opposition’s proposition is that this great country would pullout its forces and ask others to do the job for us,” he said.
“[He] would go to our allies, the Americans, and the morally bankrupt way the leader of the Opposition proposes, and say to the Americans ‘find someone else to do this job we are too weak to continue with it’.”
The Opposition has hit back at Mr Downer.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd calls the Iraq war the single greatest foreign policy disaster since the Vietnam War.
He has questioned how Mr Downer can claim to be proud of the Government’s role in Iraq.
“Mr Downer therefore, I presume, is proud of the fact that 50,000 Iraqi civilians lie dead since the invasion of March 2003, Mr Downer is proud of the fact that 100 Iraqi civilians are killed each day in Iraq, he’s proud of the fact that this has involved the expenditure of $1.9 billion of Australian taxpayers funding without any exit strategy in sight,” Mr Rudd said.
But what if it was all, all wrong, Mister Downer? Where is the virtue in hiding from that, if that is the truth? How much truth was told to us, and perhaps even more scary, to you, back then between 2002 and 2003 when you and Howard followed Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush into this mess? Tonight’s PBS documentary on SBS could prove very interesting indeed. But we knew then, didn’t we? Have a look at the links I had on my Geocities site, put up between 2002 and 2003 and last revised in 2004, but mostly still working.
Do read the rest of this, to me, very important post. It is not just a rant, but rather a plea for more honesty than we have been given so far.
Go to Geocities for even more links from a few years back, but here is a sample of the list:
- Informed Comment – Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion by Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Excellent.
- *** Madeleine Albright reflects on George W Bush’s “War on Terror” and Iraq. Constructive and critical. Perhaps a glimpse of what might have been under a more temperate leader; Albright accepts Bush’s sincerity but argues, convincingly, that he has created serious problems for himself and the world. From Foreign Affairs October 2003.
- ABC (Australia) in depth coverage of the Iraq crisis. Ongoing news and commentary.
- Canada Got it Right on Iraq by Paul Heinbecker. Paul Heinbecker is director of the Laurier Centre for Global Relations, Governance and Policy at Wilfrid Laurier University and senior research fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, both in Waterloo, Ont. He was Canadian permanent representative and ambassador to the United Nations until January, 2004. Not every one of our friends agrees with Mister Bush or Mister Howard after all.
- The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (founded in 1910) is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing cooperation among nations and promoting active international engagement by the United States.
- A Fair Go in an Age of Terror — Countering the Terrorist Threat to Human Rights and the Australian Identity by Frank Brennan SJ AO: Jesuit Seminar Series 2004 Sydney, 16 March 2004. Moral, logical, clear-sighted. A Bush and Howard antidote.
- Beyond War: What kind of America?: “This special web-only issue of YES! is a place for you to get answers to your questions about the war in Iraq and the new Bush Doctrine, to consider alternatives to war, to hear the prayers, poems and words of wisdom from other Americans and to link up with others to make your views known.” Excellent.
- UNDERSTANDING THE U.S.-IRAQ CRISIS: A Primer, By Phyllis Bennis: A publication of the Institute for Policy Studies, January 2003. Sections:I. The U.S. Rush to War / II. The World’s Response, the UN & International Law / III. The Consequences of War: Iraq and Beyond / IV. The History of U.S.-Iraq Relations / V. Alternatives to War / Resource Guide.
- The British Government Dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction and Saddam Hussein. Better known now as “the dodgy dossier” (PDF file.) Apparently owed a lot to neo-conman A. Chalabi. Not even Tony Blair accepts its findings on WMD any longer…
- Foreign Policy in Focus. Excellent American Foreign Policy Think-tank critical of the current paradigm
- The Memory Hole
- Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
- American Dreamers. With the the U.S. presidential order to invade Iraq perhaps just days away, Four Corners looks behind the oft-stated reasons for war – Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, America’s oil ambitions – to profile a tight knit group of Washington hawks. ABC-TV Australia, “Four Corners” full transcript 10 March 2003
Downer’s emotional ranting today is understandable at a human level, but increasingly he and those of like mind look like people out on a limb just reaching for the saw. The crash won’t be pretty.
This month’s Diplomat Magazine, an excellent Australian foreign policy forum, is not available online, unfortunately, but only costs $7.95 at the newsagent. (The site is, however, a great gateway to much else of value.) In the paper edition you must read:
- “Reverse takeover” by Jonathon Pearlman. “After a pounding from Israel, Hezbollah looks as strong as ever, and ready for a domestic fight.”
- “Coming on strong” by Norman Hermant. “Regardless of what happens in November’s US mid-term Congrssional elections, the Washington terorrism behemoth is rolling on – to Iran.”
- “Brown’s war” by David Mapham: “Gordon Brown’s war on terrorism will target Africa, global poverty and embrace multilateralism as a part of the solution.”
We have been badly and unwisely led. That of course is merely my opinion, but the most terrifying thing about it is that it may well also be a fact. Now go to The Dark Side on PBS. It is playing on SBS as I write, and it is absolutely convincing.
Interviewer: Were you worried about resources being transferred because of the [buildup] of Iraq? Did that happen? How did that happen?
Michael Scheur (“…chief of the CIA’s Bin Laden Desk from 1995 to 1999 and headed an internal CIA investigation into alleged intelligence linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda – a connection his team found to be unproven”): Yeah. Well, certainly by the spring of 2002, the number of people coming into the bin Laden unit had slowed, because they were being diverted to work on Iraq. Also, some of the Arab linguists we had working on bin Laden were diverted to Iraq, and this is just six months, seven months after 9/11.
But in a bigger sense, this is another example of thinking state threats are more serious than transnational threats, because from the formation of the unit that went against Osama bin Laden, it was always short-staffed, even up until Goss’ confirmation hearings, when the Senate asked him why enough people weren’t being given to the bin Laden unit. So that’s nine years into the process of chasing bin Laden, and the unit was still undermanned.
… It was a foregoing conclusion that war was coming with Iraq and that resources were going to have to be spent away from Al Qaeda towards supporting the effort in Iraq.
And the effect of that in terms of the Al Qaeda war?
It certainly made it more difficult, at least. One of the things about terrorism is that because it’s not concentrated in one nation-state, support from headquarters to the people in the field is very much more important than traditionally has been the case, because what happens in terrorism in a country — say, Yemen — may have antecedents in 15 or 16 countries around the world, and the people who are operating in Yemen are not going to be able to know those things. It’s the responsibility of the headquarters unit to be able to integrate all the information pertinent to that one little event in Yemen.
When you drain experienced people away from working on terrorism and move them over to work on Iraq, you put people in place who are brand-new, inexperienced and unable to provide the kind of support that’s necessary to the field, to the operators in the field. So Iraq was not only a physical drain in terms of money and people, but an expertise drain that we could ill afford at that time.
So in effect, we’re not fighting the war on terror.
Haven’t begun to fight the war on terror. First of all, we can’t discuss it amongst ourselves in this country because it’s not politically correct to do so. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush decided that we’re being attacked because they hate freedoms and liberties and elections and gender equality. As long as we’re pursuing it from that side, we don’t understand the enemy’s motivation.
We also like to say that they are people who are gangsters and criminals and on the lunatic fringe of the Muslim world, which makes a halfhearted effort to arrest them one man at a time justifiable. Both of those things are wrong.
We’re being attacked because of what we do in the world, and we’re being attacked by a great and rising percentage of the Islamic world. If we don’t come to grips with that, we lose. We haven’t yet. I think the efforts we’re making now on the war against terrorism 10 years from now are going to look infinitesimal because of the spread of Islamic anti-Americanism. When we look back 10 years from now, we will find that the fuel that fed that fire is a four-letter word called Iraq. …
Mister Howard, Mister Downer: please explain. Convincingly. In detail. Point by point. Honestly.
Update December 2006
Download the Iraq Study Group Report.