I saw Order in the House on ABC last night. Here is one of the lowlights:
Senator CHRIS EVANS (2.03 p.m.)—My question is directed to Senator Minchin, representing the Prime Minister. Can the minister confirm reports that former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld called for a change of strategy in Iraq two days before he resigned? Didn’t Mr Rumsfeld tell President Bush that the US strategy in Iraq ‘is not working well enough’ and that it was time for a major adjustment to US policy, including the possible withdrawal of American troops? Doesn’t this admission follow President Bush’s statement on 11 October: ‘Don’t do what you are doing if it is not working—change’? Will the government, like Donald Rumsfeld, finally concede that its rhetoric about ‘staying the course’ in Iraq is unsustainable and that the growing civil war makes it more urgent than ever to develop a new strategy and goals for the exit of our troops?
Senator MINCHIN—I have seen press reports referring to assertions that Mr Rumsfeld, the former defence secretary of the United States, had sent a memo to the White House expressing some views about the course of the campaign in Iraq. We note them with interest. Obviously, the US, in the context of the Baker led review of its position with respect to Iraq, is considering its position. Just as Mr Rudd himself was always of the view that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, it is well known that the government, on that basis, was prepared to join with the coalition of the willing, in effect doing the job of the UN itself in seeking to ensure the end of the Saddam Hussein regime, after its period of barbarity against its own people and its refusal to comply with UN sanctions. Indeed, in the widespread view, shared by the new Leader of the Opposition, Mr Rudd, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, we did join with the United States, albeit in a modest fashion, in seeking to remove the Hussein regime.
It is a fact that, since the removal of that regime, bringing peace, order and good government to the people of Iraq has been extremely difficult with the terrorism that has been waged against both the coalition forces and the new government of Iraq and its military forces. Of course the US, with obviously the most massive commitment of all to the cause in Iraq, is reconsidering its position, presumably on a daily basis, in consultation with the government of Iraq, as to what is the best course of action that should be followed.
I noted last week that the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Iraq had met and discussed the situation. The Prime Minister of Iraq indicated his desire to retain coalition forces in Iraq at least until the Iraqi security forces are able to ensure the security of the people of Iraq. He gave an indication as to when he thought it would be possible for the Iraqi forces to assume full responsibility. Obviously, from our point of view—while I stress that our commitment is relatively modest compared to the commitment of the United States forces—our forces are doing a great job assisting the people of Iraq to bring about peace, order and good government in their country.
We are committed to remaining in Iraq while we believe that (a) we are welcome there at the invitation of the government of Iraq and while they profess the need for our modest forces to remain and (b) we are making a contribution. We continue to believe that we are making a contribution, particularly with the training of Iraqi security forces to assist them in ensuring that they can take full responsibility for the security of the country. Of course, it is indeed the case that the Prime Minister of Iraq has that objective. What we will not do, which apparently is the Labor policy—although we wait to see if Mr Rudd brings any new dimension to this—is simply exit. The worst thing we could possibly do would be to walk away from the people of Iraq, and it would be handing the terrorists and thugs a massive victory.
That passes for an intelligent and reasoned response, Senator Minchin? Read the rest of this entry »