More on the “gutless or brainless” debate

14 Feb

According to tonight’s ABC News, the following occurred today in the House of Representatives.

Mr Rudd has again questioned Mr Howard’s courage.

“Prime Minister given that another 100 Iraqi civilians will die today adding to the 61,000 who have died so far following this failed invasion in Iraq, when will the Prime Minister have the courage and the decency to admit that he has got this war radically wrong from day one?” he said.

Mr Howard told Parliament he will keep defending the decision to go to war. “My answer is no it was not wrong and I stand by that decision and I will continue to be accountable in the bar of public opinion in Australia I have never hidden from the responsibility that I took,” he said.

I have been trawling my archives (no longer on line) and have to mention a rather perceptive woman, Doreen Miller.

Replay of a Diary-X entry for March 14, 2003

Obviously, some links here may no longer work.

Yesterday our Prime Minister, John Howard, presented his most systematic case so far for supporting the Bush position on war with Iraq. I was intrigued by the following American response that I found through Google News this morning.

“Open letter to Australian Prime Minister John Howard”
Date: Thursday, March 13, 2003 @ 13:04:35 EST

By Doreen Miller Columnist (United States)
( – Permanent Mission of Australia
To the United Nations
150 East 42nd Street
33rd Floor
New York City, NY 10017

Dear Prime Minister John Howard,
I am writing in question of your support of George Bush’s rush to war against Iraq. In view of the facts, it is clear that Saddam is not the imminent threat that the U.S. makes him out to be and that would justify going to war.

  • Fact: The CIA has been unable to establish links of any kind between 9-11 and Iraq, despite Bush’s desperate and continual attempts to implicate Saddam in those attacks.
  • Fact: Much of the “evidence” Colin Powell presented to the U.N. Security Council was plagiarized from a 12 year-old paper written by a grad student. So-called iron-clad proof used dialogue and script that was edited, contorted, taken out of context, and interpreted by U.S. leaders to bolster U.S. arguments for war.
  • Fact: U.N. inspectors have stated that the “intelligence” of “highly credible sources” the U.S. has given them concerning the whereabouts of Iraq’s so-called weapons of mass destruction and its chemical and biological factories has proven to be nothing but “garbage, garbage, garbage.”
  • Fact: Saddam Hussein has not made any threats against any other country in over 12 years. Neither is he amassing his troops on any border threatening to attack any other country.
  • Fact: Twelve years of severe economic sanctions, stringent former and renewed weapons inspections and disarmament procedures, and nearly daily bombing runs by the U.S. in the northern and southern no-fly zones have served to make Iraq’s military defenses even weaker today than they were in the short-lived Gulf war.
  • Fact: Iraq is beginning to destroy many of its prized, long-range missiles and is allowing the unsupervised interrogation of its scientists in compliance with U.N. demands.
  • Fact: A war against Iraq would kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, completely destroy Iraq’s infrastructure, and put millions more Iraqis at severe risk of death by starvation and disease.
  • Fact: The majority of the world is against the U.S. going to war against Iraq.
  • Fact: A great many people around the world believe that a U.S. military invasion of Iraq would ignite a powder keg of vengeful terrorist acts against the U.S. and its allies, and serve to make the world a much more dangerous and violent place.
  • Fact: Poll after poll in 180 nations around the world have deemed George W. Bush the most dangerous man on the planet.
  • Fact: Millions around the world joined together on February 15 to voice their protest against this immoral and unjustified war. Two U.S. diplomats with long records of dedicated service to their country have recently resigned in a show of disgust for Bush’s war plans against Iraq. Former President Carter is also speaking out against this very ill-advised plan for war. Many U.S. military officers, including veterans of Desert Storm, have signed and sent a letter to the president protesting this war.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush refuses to listen to any of these voices of reason, brushing them off as insignificant “focus groups.” He even dismisses the Pope himself who declared this war would be an immoral and unjustified use of military force.

It is obvious to many folks around the world that the present administration in the U.S. has an ulterior motive in attacking Iraq that has nothing to do with eliminating weapons of mass destruction or “bringing democracy” to the Middle East. Many are convinced that the present U.S. administration’s blind rush for war is simply part of a greater imperialistic plan for total control and world dominance, as clearly outlined in Bush’s 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States. Growing numbers of people are aware that our leaders think nothing of manufacturing “proof” and distorting the truth to achieve their geopolitical

Increasingly, dissent against the war here in the U.S. is being denied its voice, with anti-war demonstrators now prohibited from protesting outside the White House and more recently those in New York having been relegated to limited, cordoned-off areas totally inadequate to accommodate the numbers of people who wished to join in exercising their First Amendment rights. Locally, a pro-peace veterans group has been denied permission to participate in a St. Patrick’s Day parade on the streets here in Boston, even though other veterans groups will be marching. A lawyer was recently arrested and led away in handcuffs for wearing a “Give Peace a Chance” T-shirt in a public mall. Is this pseudo-democracy really the type of country you wish to align yourself with?

In this age of potential, mutually assured, widespread destruction of humanity through the use of weapons of mass destruction, including weapons used by the U.S. containing radioactive depleted uranium with a half-life of 4.5 billion years, war as an instrument of conflict resolution in the modern era has indeed made itself obsolete. Bush’s overly reiterated call for “preemptive” war is nothing but a palatable cover for the use of flagrant, military aggression allegedly “justified” by trumped-up fears of what-ifs and other nebulous, hyper- paranoid suspicions in an effort to control and dominate select, resource-rich countries around the world.

I urge you to reconsider your misinformed and misguided support of Bush’s war against Iraq and to join such countries as Germany, France, Russia and China in seeking alternative, peaceful, diplomatic solutions for the crisis in Iraq and for international conflicts in general. The fate of the Iraqi people and ultimately of the world hangs on the decisions of strong, incorruptible leaders with a vision of peaceful co-existence achieved through the use of non-violent diplomacy in resolving injustices and differences. I entreat you to join the ranks of those promoting peace.

Doreen Miller

[Doreen Miller lived, studied, worked and traveled abroad for several years, and is currently a Senior Lecturer and educator of international students. She dedicates part of her time to serving the elderly and Alzheimer patients. Mother, musician and poet, she pursues an avid interest in Buddhist and Eastern philosophy. She advocates human rights, social justice, fair trade, and environmental protection. Doreen lives in the United States.]

Doreen Miller encourages your comments: is an international news and opinion publication. encourages its material to be reproduced, reprinted, or broadcast provided that any such reproduction identifies the original source, Internet web links to are appreciated.

Well, some of that is dated, admittedly, and Yellow Times seems to have gone, while much water has gone down the Euphrates since then, but it’s fair to say Doreen, even if some of what she says strikes me now, as it did then, as simplistic, stacks up better in 2007 than George and John.

Another perceptive woman back then, less simplistic than Doreen, was Phyllis Bennis whose UNDERSTANDING THE U.S.-IRAQ CRISIS: A Primer was published online in January 2003. It makes interesting reading today. So does Bridges, Bombs, or Bluster by Madeleine K. Albright, Foreign Affairs September/October 2003.

For years, Arab populations have received a distorted message from Washington: that the United States stands for democracy, freedom, and human rights everywhere except in the Middle East and for everyone except the Arabs. The time has come to erase that perception and the reality that too often lies behind it. Democracy will not end terrorism in the Arab world, but neither will it nourish it, as despotism does. Bin Laden’s appeal is based on what he symbolizes: defiance. In fact, he offers nothing except death and destruction, and Muslim majorities will reject this if they are offered real alternatives.

Indeed, democratization is the most intriguing part of the administration’s gamble in Iraq. The creation of a stable and united Iraqi democracy would be a tremendous accomplishment, with beneficial repercussions in other Arab societies. But was invading Iraq the right way to start building democratic momentum in the Arab world? The answer will depend on how divided Iraq remains, and how dicey the security situation becomes. U.S. soldiers will have a hard time democratizing Iraq if they are forced to remain behind walls and inside tanks. And U.S. officials will lack credibility preaching the virtues of freedom if they feel compelled to censor broadcasts, search houses, ban political parties, and repeatedly reject Iraqi demands for more complete self-rule. The Bush administration was determined to retain for itself the authority to supervise every aspect of Iraq’s postwar transition. History will judge whether that was a wise decision, but I am reminded in this context of one of “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” the Pentagon chief’s guide for wise public policy: “It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.”


It strikes me that the one who ought to be on the back foot now is John Howard. Maintaining that he made the right choices for Australia back in 2003 is becoming more and more a fantasy trip.

There is a serious debate about what to do next, and it is one we have been relaxed and comfortabled and simultaneously terrorised into avoiding. Father knows best after all. Just for interest, and coming closer to the present, read The Way Out of War: A blueprint for leaving Iraq now by George S. McGovern and William R. Polk (October 2006).

Staying in Iraq is not an option. Many Americans who were among the most eager to invade Iraq now urge that we find a way out. These Americans include not only civilian “strategists” and other “hawks” but also senior military commanders and, perhaps most fervently, combat soldiers. Even some of those Iraqis regarded by our senior officials as the most pro-American are determined now to see American military personnel leave their country. Polls show that as few as 2 percent of Iraqis consider Americans to be liberators. This is the reality of the situation in Iraq. We must acknowledge the Iraqis’ right to ask us to leave, and we should set a firm date by which to do so.

We suggest that phased withdrawal should begin on or before December 31, 2006, with the promise to make every effort to complete it by June 30, 2007.

Withdrawal is not only a political imperative but a strategic requirement…

All this has nothing to do with Howard’s or Rudd’s “ticker” or lack of it.

It has everything to do with having a sensible debate on the mess that is Iraq.

NOTE that I have written about elections today on Journalspace.

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One response to “More on the “gutless or brainless” debate

  1. Oscarandre

    February 14, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    It was so calculating and cynical for Howard to reintroduce his “ticker” remark under another guise (as he did previously with Beazley). I dread we will have a nother Tampa fiasco close to the election and watch this awful man slip once more into the leadership of this country.

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