THOUGHTS ON THE COMING WAR IN IRAQ
It may be only a matter of days until Australia is at war.
I believe future generations will hold all of us accountable for how we
acted at this time.
I am only an ordinary Australian. This website is the only platform I have
to make my opinions known.
I am not an unconditional pacifist. There are some situations in which,
in my opinion, war may be justified. For example:
Australia is under attack.
While not under attack, Australia is threatened, and needs to take pre-emptive
An ally of Australia, whom we have pledged to defend, is under attack.
A nation is acting in a way that is so reprehensible that the world community
has asked all of its members to contribute to a military response.
In the present crisis over Iraq, Iraq has not attacked Australia. Iraq has
not threatened Australia. Iraq has not attacked any ally of Australia. The United Nations has not asked Australia to contribute
to a military attack against Iraq. Therefore there is no need for Australia to go to war against Iraq.
On the 15th of February, like millions of people around the world on that
weekend, I marched in protest against this war. Now, I admit that I found the speeches boring and repetitive. I also admit
that I marched off to the side of the crowd because I found the endless chanting of inane slogans annoying. But I felt it
was important for me to be there, wearing my medals.
After the protest marches, some critics asked why there were no posters criticizing
Saddam Hussein. A silly question really, but it was asked. The simple answer is that I took part in an Australian demonstration,
protesting against an Australian prime minister who wants to send young Australians to a war that is not legally or morally
justified, against a country that has not attacked or threatened Australia. Why on earth would there be posters of the president
Another criticism of the protests suggested that they encouraged the Saddam regime.
If you pare this argument back to its basic ingredients, it says "do not do what is morally right, because it encourages evil".
That argument is so completely lacking in logic that it only insults the intelligence of those who use it.
My experience as a Vietnam veteran has left me convinced that Australia should
never send military personnel into any conflict while there is any doubt at all about the moral and legal justification for
I served with the Australian Army in Vietnam in 1967-68. While I served proudly
and willingly, I was aware that there was a growing level of dissent against Australia's involvement in Vietnam. It is not
fair to the men and women who do the hard and dirty work in any war to have the people back home arguing about whether what
they are doing is morally or legally wrong.
The Australian government has no excuse this time. It knows in advance that
a majority of Australians believe it is wrong for Australia to enter this war. It knows that it will repeat the mistakes of
the Vietnam era if it goes ahead with its war plans.
There is a significant and unprecedented risk for Australia in its planned
war against Iraq. In all of Australia's previous involvement in wars around the world, we have always been able to blame somebody
else for starting the war. We could always say, "the Germans started it", or "the communists started it". In 1991 we could
say that Iraq started it by invading Kuwait. In East Timor we could say the militias started it and the United Nations needed
our help. Last year we could say the Taliban started it by aiding and sheltering terrorists.
This time there is no doubt whatsoever, that if we join the United States
in an invasion of Iraq, we enter this war as the aggressors. We throw away all of our past history in which we have been on
the side of those who fight against aggression, and for the first time we become an aggressor nation ourselves. Make no mistake,
the present government risks taking Australia down a road we have never traveled.
Today, the 13th of March, 2003, Prime Minister Howard gave an address to
the National Press Club at Parliament House. This was supposed to be the occasion when the Prime Minister outlined for the
Australian people the case for our involvement in a war with Iraq. He provided no evidence that Iraq is a threat to Australia
or any other country. He gave no evidence of any connection between Iraq and terrorism. When asked by a journalist if he could
name even one credible person outside his own government who supported his stand on Iraq, the Prime Minister could not name
Mr. Howard could not cite any intelligence advice he has received that suggests Iraq
is a threat to Australia or any other country. On the other hand, thanks to an intelligence officer who resigned yesterday,
we know that the Australian government has received intelligence advice that Australia's involvement in this war is a dumb
idea (his word), and that Iraq is no threat to Australia, the United States, Britain, or any other country. The only circumstance
in which Iraq could be a threat is if it is attacked.
In his speech Mr. Howard stated that Iraq is ruled by a brutal dictatorship. He did
not say how that gives Australia any entitlement to attack the Iraqi people. He also failed to explain the connection between
a brutal dictatorship in Iraq and his own government's policy of sending refugees back to Iraq.
Several countries are ruled by brutal dictatorships. We support some, and we oppose
some. That is how it has always been. During the Cold War we supported some abominable regimes. The fact that we do not like
the regime that governs another country has never given us the right to invade that country.
There is a brutal dictatorship running Zimbabwe right now. Have we sent our military
forces into Zimbabwe? No, we sent our cricket team. It seems that, to rid Zimbabwe of its brutal dictatorship, we are not
prepared to risk the loss of four points in the cricket World Cup, yet to rid Iraq of its brutal dictatorship we are prepared
to risk Australian lives. With that kind of logic on their side, the Australian government can only continue to lose credibility.
In his speech, Mr. Howard used some colourful language to emphasize the brutality of
Saddam Hussein and his regime. He mentioned, for example, eye-gouging as an interrogation technique. By using these words
in his address to the nation, Mr. Howard appeared to be giving them a certain amount of prime ministerial gravitas.
He gave the impression that he was sharing information not available to other Australians, perhaps from some secret intelligence
report, and that this must be some of the new information we had been led to expect from this important speech.
ABC Television's Media Watch programme has already revealed that, far from quoting
secret intelligence reports not available to the Australian public, Mr. Howard was in fact lifting, without attribution, whole
segments of text from a book by Kenneth Pollack, called The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.
I will go further than Media Watch. I want to know why, if he was so impressed
with Pollack's book, Mr. Howard quoted it so selectively. Why did he not add that Pollack deems it highly unlikely that there
is any connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida, or that he finds it highly unlikely that Saddam Hussein had any connection
with either of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre? Why did he not add that Pollack finds it unlikely that Saddam
is contemplating providing weapons of mass destruction to terrorists? Why did he not inform us that Pollack regards it as
essential that the US and its allies occupy Iraq for five years or more after the invasion? Why did Mr. Howard fail to inform
us that Pollack was unhappy with the sub-title of his book, "The Case for Invading Iraq"? The sub-title was chosen for him
by his publishers. Pollack himself thinks a more suitable sub-title would be "the case for rebuilding Afghanistan, destroying
Al-Qaida, setting Israel and Palestine on the road to peace and then, a year or two down the road after some diplomacy, invading
I have no problem with Mr. Howard quoting the words of Kenneth Pollack, provided that
he does so honestly. He also needs to inform the Australian public what makes him think Kenneth Pollack is such an important
writer that his words can be used as a justification to spill Australian blood in Iraq.
For a different perspective on one element of the debate on Iraq, click
on the following link and read my Socratic Dialogue, "George, Son of George".