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Category Archives: AIM Extra

NSW State architect rolls in his grave

By June Bullivant OAM

NSW State architect rolls in his grave – 200 years later his work faces destruction.

If Francis Greenway was alive today, he would be on the streets protesting about what the modern day State Architect is proposing to do to his work that has lasted for 200 years. Peter Poulet – the current State Architect –  is not a designer of grand old buildings, instead he likes modern art, “A well travelled artist” as this story in the Daily Telegraph tells us.

The question therefore has to be asked why a fellow that has no experience in design becomes the State Architect in charge of the ‘Architects Office’. Of course, the answer is a very simple one. You have a NSW Government that does not believe in saving our heritage and wants to sell it at any price. And that the original State Officer Francis Greenway remains relegated to a $10 note.

Francis Greenway (1777-1837), architect, was born at Mangotsfield, near Bristol, England, son of Francis Greenway and Ann, née Webb. The Greenways had been stonemasons, builders and architects in the west country for generations. Francis was in private practice as an architect in Bristol when in March 1812 he was found guilty of forging a document.

He was sentenced to death but the penalty was later changed to transportation for fourteen years. He arrived in Sydney in February 1814 in the transport General Hewitt, and was followed in July by his wife Mary, whom he had married about 1804, and three children in the Broxbornebury.

This is what the community is facing NSW from the State Government, no longer is heritage a precious commodity to be saved for the future use of the people, but a treasure to be sold. It is ironic then that poor old Francis is put on our currency, for that is what is happening.

Peter Poulet presides over the work of the heritage destroyers ‘Urban Growth’, which is the development arm of the State, but managed by young inexperienced people who think that a visit by the Premier or minister to announce a grand plan of destruction, is the best thing ever. Urban Growth have lodged a development application with the Baird Government appointed Administrator at Parramatta which will see the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct sliced into three to sell off to the highest bidder.

The office of the State Architect – whatcha has been a powerhouse for 200 years – has been dumbed down. It has now been reduced to an artist’s studio, not a design of grand buildings in sight, and the NSW community are fighting for their very life to stop the destruction of their heritage for the history and the future economy of NSW and Australia.

The problem with all of this is that when it is sold, when it is destroyed by high rise buildings, there will be nothing left that can bring tourist revenue to Parramatta. If the politicians – including Geoff Lee the local member – had an original thought that was sold by someone like Francis Greenway, they could see what a potential tourism site this could be: a desired destination of tourists from all over the world and it would boost the Parramatta economy for many years to come. But no, Mr Lee has been advised (wrongly) that he will get the site World Heritage Listed after the site has been destroyed.

Not so, Mr Lee, not so.

 

Urban Growth: NSW development application to subdivide and vandalise Australian history lodged

North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) have been alerted to the fact that the State Government’s Development Arm UGNSW last week lodged the first Development Application with City of Parramatta council for the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct: an ill-conceived proposal that will turn public land containing Australia’s oldest and most intact heritage buildings into a high density residential suburb of 3000+ units.

This precinct was placed under a total Greenban by the CFMEU and Jack Mundey in August 2015 after the community concerns went ignored by the State Member for Parramatta Dr Geoff Lee.

“Dr Lee is ignoring constituents who have been working tirelessly to save our indigenous and colonial heritage from being desecrated, while he is gleefully handing it over to Mr Baird to sell for private residential development,” said Suzette Meade, President of NPRAG

State Member for Parramatta Dr Geoff Lee continues to ignore the community who have been fighting against this inappropriate development for almost 2 years. All we hear is Mr Lee promoting Mike Baird’s mandate to sell every remaining piece of public land in Parramatta for residential or commercial development.

Before our local government was unceremoniously sacked and replaced by a State Government-appointed representative Ms Chadwick, the former Lord Mayor Paul Garrard of Parramatta City Council wrote to Planning Minister Rob Stokes demanding this totally inappropriate development be at least paused until the National Heritage Listing was finalised. Requesting further transparent consultation with the wider community and other interested stakeholders was carried out. This fell on deaf ears.

How can the future of this most precious site be under the autonomous control of a State Government appointed administrator who is absurdly making decisions on a development application that is being fast tracked by a State Government department who’s only mandate is to reach maximum residential density on public land.

This sort of undemocratic decision making process is something we would expect in North Korea but not here in Australia. It is a disgrace – a slap in the face to the Darug custodians of the land, the tens of thousands of women and girls from 1818 to 1974 whose lives were changed forever after being incarcerated within this precinct.

If the Greater Sydney Commission’s Lucy Turnbull is fair dinkum about making Parramatta Australia’s next great city then she will step in and stop this State Government proposal to vandalise Australia’s most significant precinct by dumping a new high density suburb here. Residents of Parramatta are calling on Lucy Turnbull to champion the peoples’ plan for the best and biggest arts and cultural precinct for NSW to be created in this world heritage worthy oasis on Parramatta River.

The residents of Parramatta demand that NO development application pertaining to the Cumberland Hospital site be accepted by City of Parramatta council. No land sold and not a sod turned until we have democratically-elected representatives returned to represent the community in the Local Government Elections in September 2017 – demanded Ms Meade.

Contact – Suzette Meade (0412 990 880) smeade@nprag.org

NORTH PARRAMATTA RESIDENTS ACTION GROUP www.nprag.org

 

There’s national pride in national precincts

By R D Wood

In 2011-12 alone, governments around Australia earned $5.5bn from gambling losses whereas $15bn ended up in ‘not-for-profit’ sports clubs and the private sector. A lot of that money came in some relationship to sport, be that at local sports clubs in NSW or through gambling on professional codes. In that same period they only spent $1.8bn on sports stadiums.[1] It is important to have hallowed grounds we can all enjoy, but the infrastructure money spent on sportgrounds needs to come from clean sources and at a time when the economy needs stimulation. The budget crisis facing Western Australia for example, could have been avoided if there was long-term planning for life after the construction phase of the mining boom. This is not even to discuss the value of mining in the first place let alone the corporate structure that underpins this. But I do think we do need a national flagship program that speaks to who we are as a people. That is why I favour a National Precinct for Indigenous Cultures in Darwin. This would be a place for storytelling, song, dance, material culture, and heritage as well as a football stadium that brings people together. It is a project that could be built when we need to stimulate the economy again.

Northern Australia, and Darwin in particular, will play an increasingly important role in Australia’s development in the future. What that development looks like depends on national planning and on the role of special interests. In the 2015 White Paper on Northern Australia titled ‘Our North, Our Future’ the authors write:

“Many previous efforts to develop the north have floundered through a lack of foresight and the absence of markets in our region for high value goods and services … the Commonwealth Government is putting in place the right policies, at the right time, to unlock the north’s vast potential.”

They go on to state that:

“It is not the Commonwealth Government’s role to direct, or be the principal financier of, development. Developing the north is a partnership between investors (local and international investors who provide capital and know-how) and governments (that create the right investment conditions).”

However, this is quickly followed by a list of investment commitments, which not only demonstrates the hypocrisy of the self-styled infrastructure Prime Minister Tony Abbott who signed off on this paper but also the unavoidable role of government in regional development.

But this bureaucratic and political vision for Northern Australia is mired in a twentieth century idea of the frontier. They see the North essentially as a resource rather than a complex place of natural and cultural significance. In that way, not only does the Commonwealth underestimate the value of the place as place, but they also significantly undermine its autonomy as something other than a place of extraction and exploitation. That Indigenous perspectives are marginalized in favour of mining and farming interest is a symptom of how the North remains a target of a colonial mentality.

By comparison, a National Precinct for Indigenous Cultures is the flagship project for our North. It leapfrogs the easy primary industry that the government has slated due to its special interests, and instead proposes value added economies that will be beneficial to a greater number of Territorians. It is democratic, strategic and imperative for Darwin as well as Australia, and builds on the fine work of art centres, the talent of footballers and the thriving music scene all in a place that is a true melting pot of culture.

Indeed, it appears a fait accompli that stadiums are infrastructure projects that are supported by the community. Museums on the other hand have been more contested. This was especially the case with the National Museum in Canberra, which had its detractors when it first opened. But this opposition was on account of the specific design rather than the concept and as such might not be seen as reason to avoid building important cultural institutions. In that regard, the two recent Smithsonian Museums that have been added to Washington DC Mall – the Museum of the Native American and the Museum of the African American Experience – have developed into financially profitable and internationally significant sites. There is no reason why Darwin cannot follow their example, or the example of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. When coupled with a world-class sports stadium, Darwin can become a magnet for Australians seeking a gateway to the top end as well as attracting the growing middle class of Asia. Indeed, it is this latter demographic that will help Australia develop in the coming century, either through buying our produce as the White Paper is keen to ensure or by visiting our shores.

[1] ‘Are we spending too much on stadiums?’ http://www.theroar.com.au/2012/01/07/are-we-spending-too-much-on-stadiums/

Skoda Stadium (Sydney Showgrounds) – $20 million
Metricon Stadium (Gold Coast) – $144 million
Sydney Cricket Ground – $186 million
Melbourne Cricket Ground (Southern Stand) – $55 million
Simonds Stadium (Geelong) – $29 million
Adelaide Oval – $570 million
Burswood Stadium (Perth) – $700 million
NIB Stadium (Perth) – $82.5 million
Bellerive OVal (Tas) – $21 million (applied for)
WIN Stadium (NSW) – $29.8 million
Penrith Stadium (NSW) – $5 million

See also: ‘AFL the big winner from decade of investment in sporting infrastructure’ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-27/kennett-correct-on-afl-investment/4983476

 

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 41)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? All this, and more, has been investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

The Iraq Inquiry Report showed quite clearly that two friends may differ on certain points and yet maintain a solid relationship. The United Kingdom and the United States disagreed at several moments of recent history: Suez, Vietnam, the Malvinas/Falklands, Grenada, Bosnia, the Arab/Israeli crisis, and the long ‘troubles’ of the six Irish counties occupied by the United Kingdom, without any crack in their partnership.

Of course, Howard twice referred to Australian ‘national interest’. Would that describe the Australian Wheat Board scandal of violating the United Nations embargo on Saddam Hussein by joining him in that kind of corruption the consequences of which have not yet been resolved?

Not all Australians are ignorant, or indifferent.

A few days before Howard’s lecture, a vapid former Foreign Affairs Minister Downer, explained “Why the Iraq war was right.” He spoke of Saddam Hussein as “The world’s most brutal dictator … who had run a corrupt, kleptocratic, sectarian, self indulgent regime in Baghdad.” True, of course, but was not Saddam Hussein good enough to run the racket associated with AWB ? And was not Downer overseeing that corrupt practice ?

Howard’s interview with Tony Jones of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation took place on 7 July 2016 in the wake of the Iraq Inquiry Report.

Questioned over the statement in the Report that the United Kingdom “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted” and keeping in mind that that statement “does have big implications … for [Howard] who advised both Blair and Bush, and for Australia”, Howard replied: “What Chilcot says was that the decision to go into Iraq was based on flawed intelligence. Well, that’s a conclusion based on facts that became available after the decision was taken.” [Emphasis added].

When Howard was advising Blair had there been no reference to the so-called Downing Street Memo of 23 July 2002 – seven months and a half before the invasion – which memorandum gathered the opinion of Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, who conveyed the unease with which the intelligence community was watching its qualified judgments on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction presented as hard facts in various dossiers ? Those ‘hard facts’ were collected in the paper: Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government, a document published by the British government on 24 September 2002. At the meeting of 23 July 2002 Dearlove told the Blair ministers that in the United States “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Was Howard relying on that propaganda to inform himself on the facts ? And how could he be credible now?

As a matter of fact, the decision to go to war had been made almost one year before July 2002, and agreed to by Bush and Blair at their meeting in Texas in April 2002. Now Howard knew absolutely nothing about it.

How was it that Howard had counselled Bush that a resolution authorising military action was essential to legitimise the invasion, as well as to win public support, and yet all that became unimportant in March 2003? And why were not the threatened veto by French and Russians, as well as the negative opinion of the Germans, sufficient to dissuade Howard, Blair and Bush?

Here is Tony Jones: “28th January, 2003, you and Tony Blair agreed, according to the Report, that you should pencil in a deadline beyond which, even without a second resolution, they should take a decision to go to war. Do you recall saying that ?”

Howard shilly-shallied.

Tony Jones: “It’s in the report.”

John Howard: “Yeah, look, I’m not gonna argue over that. Look, I’m not arguing that by January and February Tony Blair and George Bush and myself and others were very pessimistic about getting another Security Council resolution explicitly authorising military action, although it had been my belief for a long time and had been Bush’s belief and in the final result it was also the belief of Lord Goldsmith, the British Attorney-General, that a case existed under the existing resolutions to take military operations. But, we’re talking …” [Emphasis added].

First: Bush did not care about a second resolution. He had wanted war since 2001. And that, too, is in the Report. And counsellor and enabler Howard knew about it.

Second: For the better part of two years Lord Goldsmith, QC had held and documented the view that the war would have been illegal, and it was only after his return from Washington and having spoke with American legal officers that he changed his mind and thus wrote to the House of Commons.

Tony Jones: “So let me go back to the report. On 13th February, 2003, you have a breakfast meeting with Tony Blair. Did you tell him that Blix was optimistic?”

John Howard: “I would have reported what Blix told me and I would have certainly reported that, but I would have also had my views about bursts of optimism from Hans Blix in the past. And, I mean, Hans Blix was a – he was a genuine employer and servant of the UN and a weapons – understand all of that. But I …”

Tony Jones: “Who proved to be correct, incidentally, in his view that there were no weapons.”

John Howard: “Well, there were lot of people in the intelligence agencies of Britain and America and Australia who didn’t agree with that and if you ask me do I agree with – take the word of the intelligence agencies rather than Hans Blix, I’ll take the view of the intelligence agencies.”

And that is so, no matter how ‘doctored’ their information is or how un-intelligent those agencies may be! In the case of Australian agencies, the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessments, an examination of their findings by Philip James Flood AO, a distinguished former Australian diplomat and a former senior public servant, as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, described the evidence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction as ‘thin, ambiguous, and incomplete’ in his Report of the inquiry into Australian intelligence agencies (Canberra, 20 July 2004).

The Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessments had concluded that:

  1. the threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was less than it had been a decade earlier, in 1991;
  2. under sanctions which prevailed at the time, Iraq’s military capability remained limited and the country’s infrastructure was still in decline;
  3. the nuclear programme was unlikely to be far advanced. Iraq was unlikely to have obtained fissile material;
  4. Iraq had no ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States;
  5. there was no known chemical weapons production;
  6. there was no specific evidence of resumed biological weapons production;
  7. there was no known biological weapons testing or evaluation since 1991;
  8. there was no known Iraq offensive weapons research since 1991;
  9. Iraq does not have nuclear weapons;
  10. there was no evidence that chemical weapon warheads for missiles had been developed; and
  11. no intelligence had accurately pointed to the location of weapons of mass destruction.

Then something extraordinary happened during the interview.

Tony Jones prefaced: “We’re now trying to put ourselves in your shoes, in other words, to find out what really happened.” and then asked: “Did you at the breakfast meeting [of 13 February 2003] also make the case that a second resolution was not needed for legal reasons? You’ve just mentioned that.”

John Howard: “Well the legal advice we had was that there were sufficient [sic] and that was the legal advice [which, of course, was dated 12 March 2003] that we tabled in Parliament [on 18 March 2003].”

Tony Jones: “And you told this to Tony Blair, but as it turns out, you were way ahead of him at the time because he didn’t know or think that at the time.”

John Howard: “Well, I don’t know what he thought and I’m not claiming I was way ahead or way behind him. I’m just … I’m telling you that we got legal advice, which I tabled in the Parliament, saying that sufficient authority existed under previous resolutions to take the action that we did.”

Tony Jones: “Tony Blair, at that breakfast meeting, was surprised to hear that and said, ‘No, they need the second resolution.’ ”

Here there is a serious problem of times. The serious problem is: how could a legal ‘advice’ dated 12 March have been submitted to Blair on 13 February 2003?

Before coming to the end of the interview, John Winston Howard gave himself an opportunity to emulate the idol from whom he was named. He interrupted Jones and said: “and then I’m talking from my own experience and it’s directly relevant to your question and because it was an operation conducted in conjunction with the United States. The United States is a hugely important ally for Australia and we should never lightly dismiss the value of that alliance. That doesn’t mean to say you give a blank cheque or you give a tick to everything the Americans want to do. You treat each operation on its merits and that’s what I have done.”

It was for Lord Alexander of Weedon, Q.C. to remind the audience of his lecture on 14 October 2003. He said that it would be advisable for any [British] prime minister to follow “the long-standing Atlanticist view succinctly expressed by Sir Winston Churchill in the last week of his premiership: ‘We must never get out of step with the Americans – never!’ ”

Lord Alexander also thought, and said quite clearly, that Lord Goldsmith, QC’s turn-around of 17 March 2003 – one of the grounds of Howard decision to go to war – was “risible”, and so was the “quaint concept of the ‘revival’ of Resolution 678”.

Ascertaining the truth about Australia’s intervention in Iraq cannot be left to interested, self-justifying tricksters and their associates.

Correctly Andrew Wilkie MP said: “Until we have an effective inquiry into the invasion of Iraq … then people like John Howard and Alexander Downer and others won’t be properly scrutinised and held to account”. Along with that, the inquiry should examine to whom the so-called war powers belong: a cabal of ministers, the Cabinet, Parliament?

The inquiry could be entrusted to Parliament, or a joint committee thereof; it could be assigned to a Commission – the so-called Royal Commission with commissioners appointed by Parliament to guarantee independence, to protect submissions and evidence presented and guarantee the immunity of witnesses. The Commission should have the amplest powers to call for witnesses and experts, who would communicate by solemn declaration, or oath if preferred, to call for documents by way of summons and request for the production of those documents.

The last words should be left, as admonition, to a very much missed historian departed years ago. They go like this: if one does not know history, it is just like being born yesterday. And if one is like being born yesterday, then any leader can say anything – in the case of Iraq – with impunity.

– Conclusion –

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

➡️ Part 40

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 40)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

In Australia there remain – rare, given the ‘climate’ – men of conscience. One of them is Andrew Damien Wilkie, presently the independent federal member for Denison, Tasmania. He had been an army officer and an intelligence analyst in the Office of National Assessments. He resigned both appointments saying that: Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction program is very disjointed and contained by the regime that’s been in place since the last Gulf War. And there is no hard intelligence linking the Iraqi regime to al-Qaeda in any substantial or worrisome way”.

He would go on: “The unwarranted invasion of a sovereign state for fraudulent reasons was ultimately not an option for me. This was not a matter of choosing between two rights. No, this was a matter of right and wrong. I resigned about a week before the invasion and went to the media.

There could be little doubt that starting a war in Iraq would result in a humanitarian disaster with a great many people killed, injured and dislocated.”

The war started in earnest in March 2003, but for him – as he wrote: “the Iraq War started the year before when I was a senior analyst in the Office of National Assessments, Australia’s top intelligence agency which is responsible for providing advice to the Federal Government on other countries, as well as transnational and thematic issues. Working there I had long kept an eye on Iraq as a source of asylum seekers to Australia but, in 2002, as a former army lieutenant colonel, I was ordered to turn my mind to the impending war.”

Prime Minister John Howard suggested – with feigned generosity – that Wilkie was ‘irrational’ – from such a mouth, a charitable word for ‘mad’. ‘Idealist’ – in pub language.

Recently Wilkie clarified his views as follows: “Until the politicians who dishonestly got us into this mess are held to account we are bound to repeat their mistakes.

This is also why I remain outspoken about the need for the Australian Parliament in future to decide when we go to war, so long of course as time permits for such consideration.

This is already the case in most other developed nations, including the US, UK, France and Germany.

The Chilcot Inquiry … helps to prove that Australia’s joining in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and subsequent combat involvement in that country, is our nation’s biggest ever foreign and security blunder.

Sometimes my critics say I should not dwell on these matters, but national and global issues are exactly what the Australian Parliament is responsible for. [Emphasis added]. National security policy is, after all, as much about putting limits on the exercise of power as it is about the unrestrained exercise of such power. There are questions to be addressed about the politicisation of the nation’s security services.”

Wilkie gave an example:

“For instance the Australian Federal Police still refuses to resolve the 2003 leak to Herald Sun journalist Andrew Bolt of the report I prepared in 2002 about the possible consequences of going to war in Iraq. This ham-fisted bid by the Government to discredit me appears to be a serious criminal matter because the assessment was classified Top Secret Codeword, which means that some of the information it contained, and some of the sources of intelligence it relied upon, were especially sensitive. [Emphasis added].

Unauthorised disclosure and publication of classified material are issues covered under the Crimes Act.

The [Chilcot Inquiry] also adds weight to the argument that John Howard and others should front an international tribunal where they could respond to war crimes accusations. And the inquiry vindicates the millions of people who marched in protest against the impending war in February 2003, including here in Hobart.”

It is hard to say whether these are popular views. The press is in the hands of two cartels – one quite larger than the other, and that is Murdoch’s stable. It is there that the opinion was authoritatively expressed, on the onset of the invasion, that “As we approach war with Iraq, it’s becoming obvious that George W. Bush is really a modern Winston Churchill.”

This apparently sycophantic folly could find comfort in the already mentioned article by Professor Phillip Sands, QC ‘A very British deceit.’ Writing in August 2010, when the Chilcot Committee had already been well on its work, and when expectations were not great, cynics might have considered the possibility that the Committee would produce the fifth in a series of British whitewash reports relating to the war. Three inquiries had already dealt with secret intelligence and one with the ‘suicide’ of Dr. David Kelly, an Iraq weapons inspector.

So Professor Sands wrote: “The carefully chosen composition of the five-members panel did not lead to a quickening of public interest. One member, the historian Sir Martin Gilbert, had previously suggested that Tony Blair and George W. Bush might eventually bear comparison with Winston Churchill and FDR.”

It is a case of ubi maior, minor cessat, where the weak gives way to the strong. (minor) capitulates before the strong (major).

One wonders how such music sounded to the uneducated ear of John Winston Howard.

Not much can be read in the Chilcot Report about Howard’s character. Obviously he had an opportunity to counsel both Bush and Blair on several occasions. What he might have said to a simpleton like Bush earned him the moniker of a ‘man of steel.’ The Texan might not have cared much for unctuosity, and not much of that might have been offered by the cunning patsy from Down Under, who undoubtedly has more respect for the gobsmacking atmosphere of St. James Palace. Howard might have preferred the description as a ‘tough guy’ offered by Blair’s spin doctor.

In the end Blair expressed some degree of regret. Nothing of the sort came from Howard. He just resorted to the demeaning tactic of blaming the unintelligent intelligence.

In the end, it is possible to conclude that three reckless adventurers resolved to invade a debilitated Iraq because they thought it would be easy.

If Blair’s capacity to believe what suited him seems boundless, Howard’s use of his position was even more cynical.

On 4 February 2003 Howard told Parliament: “The Australian Government knows that Iraq still has chemical and biological weapons and that Iraq wants to develop nuclear weapons.” He also said: “Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons-uranium has been sought from Africa that has no civil nuclear application in Iraq; . . .”

It was left to his Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer to write in The Sydney Morning Herald of 18 June 2003 that “. . . an intelligence claim about Iraq’s effort to acquire uranium from Africa proved to be erroneous”. Howard had made the claim.

On 9 February 2003, asked by a journalist in Washington whether in his talks “tomorrow, especially at the Pentagon, do you expect to lock in a possible role for Australia if, further down the track we do decide to join a coalition of the willing ?” Howard hesitated a moment and then replied: “Look, there have been contingency discussions going on between the American and the Australian military and it’s always important in these situations to leave those sorts of things to the militaries of the two countries”.

Telling the truth was left to President Bush, the following day 10 February 2003, in the Oval Office and in the presence of Howard. In reply to a journalist: “Could you tell us whether you count Australia as part of the coalition of the willing?”, Bush said: “Yes, I do”.

Six days before Howard had told Parliament that the government had not and would not make a final decision to commit to war “unless and until it is satisfied that all achievable options for a peaceful resolution have been explored.” By that time Australian troops had already been deployed to the Middle East.

Out of Parliament, Howard returned to the matter of the invasion on two occasions: the already mentioned lecture at the Lowy Institute of Sydney on 9 April 2013: ‘Iraq 2003: a retrospective’ on the tenth anniversary of the aggression, and an interview with Tony Jones of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on 7 July 2016.

To give him a credit he does not deserve, Howard could be placed with the restored Bourbons. This morose class had ‘learned nothing and forgotten nothing’ – as Talleyrand observed. Though the Talleyrand quote may proffer a reason for their repeating mistakes of the past over and over, in this case a more accurate reference is to Einstein’s definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

Some points from the Lowy lecture bear re-examination: “My Government never saw the obtaining of a fresh [Security Council] resolution as a necessary legal pre-requisite to action the removal of Saddam. It was always our view that Resolution 678, dating back to 1990 provided sufficient legal grounds for the action ultimately taken. That was reflected in the formal legal advice tendered to the Government, and subsequently tabled in Parliament.[8]”

Footnote [8] refers to the ‘Memorandum of advice to the Commonwealth Government on the use of force against Iraq, tabled by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives, 18 March 2003, which had been prepared by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and DFAT, 12 March 2003. [Emphasis added].

Not quite so! The ‘advice’ – not even a legal opinion – was signed by two middle level public servants. And it can be said that by 2003 not many had survived of the type of ‘public servants’ who by accepted definition used to advise ‘without fear or favour’. Almost all had been ‘privatised’ in the new climate of neo-conservatism.

Whether by accident or design, the two signatories of the ‘advice’ had ignored Art. 2 (3) and (4) of the United Nations Charter. They had made no reference to the fact that all fourteen members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office legal team had advised the Blair government that Iraq could not be attacked without a specific authorisation from the Security Council, because no such authorisation could be subsumed in Resolution 1441.

The two signatories had not related the whole story of Lord Goldsmith, QC’s constant view for two years up to 7 March 2003. What Lord Goldsmith, QC was writing might have not been what Blair wanted to read. And this is, presumably, why Lord Goldsmith, QC was sent to Washington to hear Bush’s legal advisers. And, on return, to use only 337 words to change his mind and invent the ‘revival’ in 2003 of Resolution 678 which dealt with ceasefire after the first Iraq war.

In the lecture Howard said:

“The Clinton administration thought that 678 gave blanket legal coverage for all the military action it took to enforce the terms of that resolution.”

That might have been so, but in 1998 ! And, anyway, by that time President Clinton was already under pressure from Cheney’s oilmen and the strategists of the Project for the New American Century.

Howard went on:

“Another criticism was that joining the Americans and the British in Iraq would permanently damage us in the eyes of the Muslim world, and in particular Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country of all.” Well, is that not true?

“In Australia, there was a parliamentary inquiry, as well as the Flood Inquiry which canvassed the pre-war intelligence. In its submission to the former, “ONA said in a report of 31 January 2003 that there is a wealth of intelligence on Saddam’s WMDs activities, but it paints a circumstantial picture that is conclusive overall rather than resting on a single piece of irrefutable evidence.” [Footnote [10] Commonwealth of Australia (2003), Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD].

The Defence Intelligence Organisation said in its submission to the same inquiry “Iraq probably retained a WMD capability – even if that capability had been degraded over time. DIO also assessed that Iraq maintained both an intent and capability to recommence a wider program should circumstances permit it to do so”. [Footnote [11] Ibid.].

The Flood Inquiry found “no evidence of politicisation of the assessments on Iraq either overt or perceived” or that “any analyst or manager was the subject of either direct or implied pressure to come to a particular judgement on Iraq for policy reasons or to bolster the case for war.” [Footnote [12] Flood, Phillip (2004), “Inquiry into Australia’s Intelligence Agencies”, p 28].

Flood further said that “assessments reflected reasonably the available evidence and used intelligence sources with appropriate caution.” Flood said that the obverse conclusion that Iraq had no WMDs “would have been a much more difficult conclusion to substantiate.” [Footnote [13] Ibid.].

Neither inquiry gave a skerrick of support to the proposition that members of my Government had manufactured convenient intelligence or strong-armed the agencies into saying things they did not believe.”

There is no evidence that government had manufactured the intelligence or abused the intelligence officers, but an inquiry would establish that most definitively.

Then Howard said:

“Although the legal justification for the action taken against Iraq was based on her cumulative non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and a properly grounded belief that Saddam possessed WMDs, a powerful element in our decision to join the Americans was, of course, the depth and character of our relationship with the US. Australia had invoked ANZUS in the days following 9/11. We had readily joined the Coalition in Afghanistan; Australia had suffered the brutality of Islamic terrorism in Bali. There was a sense then that a common way of life was under threat.” The words in Italics just demonstrate the many assumptions, generalisations, myths and mis-truths which cannot seriously explain a decision to commit to war.

Towards the end, Howard declared his attitude not to the United States but to the Bush Administration: “At that time, and in those circumstances, and given our shared history and values, I judged that, ultimately, it was in our national interest to stand beside the Americans.

There were many who argued that we should stay out; we should say “no” to the Americans for a change; that the true measure of a good friend was a willingness to disagree when the circumstances called for it, and that in the case of Iraq we would hurt our country by backing the United States, and that in the long run declining to participate in the Coalition of the willing would be good for the alliance. That argument escaped me then, and it still does. In my view the circumstances we recall tonight necessitated a 100 per cent ally, not a 70 or 80 per cent one, particularly as no compelling national interest beckoned us in the opposite direction.”

Continuing and concluding tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 39

2016: the Top 5

A good indication that 2017 has started off as our busiest yet is that we are a few days late in publishing our annual Top 5 posts of the previous year.

We apologise for this tardiness, but we certainly have been busy!

In previous years Tony Abbott has always found a spot in the Top 5, but in 2016 it appeared that Tony was no longer newsworthy. In his place stepped ‘ordinary’ people. Oh, and a bloke called Donald Trump.

Anyway, what were The AIMN’s five most popular posts in 2016?

(The Top 5 is based on the number of views only. It does not take into account the number of comments or the post’s popularity with other online media sites such as Facebook or Twitter).

Number One . . . Is everybody happy now?, by The AIM Network.

Excerpt:

By now everybody in Australia knows who Duncan Storrar is. Until a week ago he was just an Australian battler who had faced more challenges in his life than most … until he asked a simple question on the ABC’s QandA program. A question that could have been asked by one of a million people, but it was he who had the guts to ask it, and it threw him headlong into the national spotlight.

He has been lauded as a hero of millions for doing so, but sadly, he has also been punished mercilessly. Mercilessly by a media giant who considers that it is themselves who decide how the Australian public will think and decide on what opinions they will hold. The LNP narrative was supposed to be “average” Australians get tax cuts, “small” business get tax cuts and that it’s Mr and Ms Average who hold multiple negatively geared properties. And if you don’t fit into how the Libs want “average” perceived, then you are a leaner, a no-hoper, a sponge on the public purse. Mr Storrar gave us all a reminder of what “average” in Australia is likely to be – a struggler who has to scrape to find enough money to take his daughters to the pictures, not someone who has a negatively geared property tucked away for their 1 year old baby.

And then something even worse happened (as far as the Murdoch media was concerned), the public rallied in support of Mr Storrar. Rip him up and tear him down as he has destroyed the narrative.

And the media attacks on Duncan have been appalling. We’ve all seen it. How could you not have?

Number Two . . . James Mathison takes it up to Andrew Bolt, by The AIM Network.

Excerpt:

Last week Andrew Bolt interviewed James Mathison – an independent candidate for the seat of Warringah which is currently held by Tony Abbott.

Because nobody watches Andrew Bolt the interview slipped under the radar, and we may never have known it ever existed if not for one of our readers stumbling across it on Facebook.

It may be the only interview you’ll ever watch in which Andrew Bolt takes part.

And it is definitely worth watching.

… he displays a few qualities at least that most of our politicians don’t possess when tackled by the media: he knew what he was talking about (in both policy and facts) and his answers weren’t a jumble of waffle. And best of all . . . he served it back to Andrew Bolt.

Number Three . . . The Weasel’s incomplete guide to the 2016 Senate, by The Weasel.

Excerpt:

Who exactly are all these jokers? And how am I supposed to figure out who they are among all the acronyms?  The Weasel provides a quick run-down of the players in multiple electorates…

The Senate
There are 76 senators; 12 from each state and two each from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

While the House of Representatives is where policy is tabled, The Senate is where is gets checked off and approved.  Senators have a longer term at six years, and can have a large effect on what policy gets passed.  This is why so many smaller parties aim for Senate seats.  Be careful of what parties call themselves; almost all the parties with ‘liberal’ or ‘democratic’ in their name are generally neither.

Number Four . . . Let them eat toast, by Jennifer Wilson.

Excerpt:

By now, you’ve probably all heard the tale of Duncan Storrar, the man on $20,000 a year who asked assistant treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer on QandA why people much wealthier than him are getting tax breaks and he isn’t …

Let us not pay attention to the entirely legitimate question Duncan asked, a question many millions of us would dearly love to have answered by Treasurer Scott Morrison or, if we have no other choice, Kelly (let them eat toast) O’Dwyer. Let us instead go through the questioner’s trash cans in a mammoth effort to discredit and invalidate the perfectly legitimate question he is perfectly entitled to ask from his seat in the QandA audience upon which he is entirely entitled to settle his bum, even if he only earns $20,000 a year, because last time I looked, asking questions didn’t have a means test attached to it.

Number Five . . . Dear America, please don’t make Donald Trump your president, by Roswell.

Despite (just) being Number 5 for 2016 this post could arguably be considered among The AIMN’s most popular posts of all time. After it was published on The AIMN it was picked up by a couple of American sites where on one of which, we were told by the owners, it received 330,000 views in its first two hours.

Excerpt:

Dangerous, powerful men – supported by an obliging media – can easily change any nation. If they can change an easy going, laid back nation like Australia one can only shudder what they might do to a nation that has been on edge since the terrible events of 9/11.

You’ve been lucky not having a leader anything like Abbott: One that has made us frightened of shadows; of having us fear anyone with a long beard, a tanned skin, or a different religion. Of making us afraid that these people, at best, will take our jobs and security. At worst, slit our throats.

He turned us into a nation of nervous, frightened, angry vigilantes. Vigilantes who have set fire to homes belonging to people who speak Arabic; who threatened to kill people just because their skin was dark; who wanted people expelled from this country simply because they spoke a different language; who assaulted people in the streets because they wore a scarf around their head. No questions asked. Anyone who looked ‘different’ was a threat to our national security and had to be dealt with. Attacks on these people have become more daring, more devastating, and more frequent as each week passes.

It hasn’t helped us or ‘saved’ us one little bit, because to put it simply, the threat wasn’t there in the first place. If anything, payback might be on the horizon. Or worse still, blowback.

All great articles, but we could happily add another 500 to the list from all of our authors.

 

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 39)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

Five years ago Dr. Jenny Grounds and Dr. Sue Wareham made a heartfelt appeal for an inquiry. They were writing on behalf of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (Australia), of which they were president and vice-president, respectively. They concluded: “If we are to learn anything from this disaster, we must establish how it unfolded and the role, if any, played by the ample warnings that accurately predicted its full horror.” They advocated for nuclear disarmament and peace, condemned the war, and advocated for an inquiry on Australian intervention in Iraq.

A ‘real Australian’ might have shouted: ‘Do-gooders’!

At about the same time, Dr. Alison Broinowski, who had already written extensively against the war, that she branded a humanitarian, legal, political and strategic disaster, edited a booklet promoting a call for an Australian inquiry, and succeeded in gathering around herself a solid group of specialists in the subject.

The reaction might have been one more shout: ‘Intellectual’!

Professor Ben Saul, an international law expert at the University of Sydney, had long called for a wide-ranging inquiry along the lines of the Chilcot Inquiry. He renewed his request in 2012.

Observing that, [t]he contrast to Britain’s collective soul-searching could not be more stark than in Australia.” he melancholically concluded: “Here, the Iraq war has long been forgotten. Since the withdrawal of Australian troops, there is an unspoken bipartisan agreement to bury the inconvenient past. There are no calls for an inquiry. [Emphasis added].

As one Australian journalist said to me, Iraq is no longer a story.

But, “Political amnesia is not good for our democracy or the rule of law. Australia should follow Britain’s lead in establishing a broad inquiry into Australia’s invasion of Iraq. Democracies bear a special duty to uphold the international rule of law, to lead by example in a world where our best defence against security threats is to strengthen – not tear down – the multilateral system. Repressive countries are already doing enough to weaken the UN and international law.

An Australian inquiry should examine the decision-making that led us to war, including the intelligence assessments, political and strategic calculations, and legal arguments. A particular focus should be whether any Australian government officials committed the international crime of aggression – that is, waging an illegal war against peace. It may be recalled that after the Nuremberg trials, we executed Nazi war leaders for the crime of aggression.

An inquiry is also an opportunity to look forward, to improve our decision-making about future wars. For instance, when waging war is an executive prerogative as in Australia, with no role for Parliament, there is precious little to hold back a government bent on the war path. This can be our salvation when the nation is faced by a supreme emergency threatening its shores.

In the long sweep of history, I have no doubt that our children will scratch their heads and wonder why we attacked Iraq. They may well be puzzled about why there was no reckoning for those who took us there, and no justice for the innocent dead. I hope it gives them pause before mounting their own cavalier escapades to smash foreign governments and kill their peoples.”

This was just too much for indifferent Australians. And the cry went up: ‘Academic’!

‘Do-gooders, intellectual, academic’ are common terms of abuse by a populace which prefers to be ‘comfortable and relaxed’ as a ‘practical’ pettifogger offered and largely delivered for eleven years.

An item of news arrived, to disturb such indifference, on 11 July 2016, a few days after the release of the Chilcot Report: a new group – Chilcot Oz – had formed in South Australia during the weekend to advocate for a full inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war. Responsible for the initiative were the ‘usual group of university students’, no doubt assisted by ‘the usual suspects’.

In the wake of the Iraq Inquiry Report, Paul McGough – one of the last reflecting journalists to be read in Australia – wrote a piece on the Chilcot Report: The mind-boggling incompetence of Bush, Blair and Howard laid bare. It is not the kind of performance one has become accustomed from the choirboys of the Murdoch’s stable.

“The three buccaneers” he said, “took leave of their senses in invading Iraq – George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard”.

Well, no sudden action or reaction there: a long, premeditated connivance and the servile, unquestioning friendship with George Bush could most likely better describe the process.

First, Bush. “An ignorant person”, soberly but precisely and with the brevity which belongs to a final sentence impossible of appeal, said Thomas Buergenthal, a former judge at the International Court of Justice and now Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at The George Washington University Law School. He specified: “[Bush is] an ignorant person who wanted to show his mother he could do things his father couldn’t.” He also thought that Vice President Dick Cheney should – and eventually would – stand trial for war crimes. Judge Buergenthal fingered Dick Cheney and his Task Force. The Energy Task Force – officially the National Energy Policy Development Group – had been set up by President Bush in 2001, during his second week in office, and Dick Cheney had been named chairman. The Force’s stated objective was “to develop a national energy policy designed to help the private sector, and, as necessary and appropriate.” State and local governments would be called to promote dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound production and distribution of energy for the future. One can envision Cheney with all his maps, redrawing the borders of Middle Eastern countries, dividing up Iraq’s oil riches among ‘western’ oil companies. It is possible to see how that was one motive – perhaps the motive – for waging an unjustified and illegal war of aggression. Saddam Hussein’s decision to trade oil in other than American dollars was also a crucial factor. Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz had long time before joined in a camarilla which had established the think-tank Project for the New American Century. In 1997, in that combine, they wrote an open letter to President Bill Clinton calling for regime change in Iraq. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were three of the ten out of twenty five original founders of the Project who went on to serve in the G. W. Bush Administration. On the other side of the Atlantic, the just elected British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was comfortable with a longstanding policy of containment, which was considered successful. Hussein was vile, but international sanctions had crippled him. The C.I.A. agreed.

One will recall the famous love declaration that Bush received from Blair on 28 July 2002, when the decision to go to war was more than a year old, as far as Bush is concerned, and no less than several months as far as Blair’s position.

Blair was offering: “I will be with you, whatever.” hoping, perhaps, for a favourite place at the decision table. It was a “mawkish opening line [which] reveals a man more smitten by power and the lure of a yes-man man role at Washington’s table than any European confabs.” As The Age editorialised on 8 July 2016, “This was sycophancy and stupidity, a betrayal of Britain’s true national interest”. Bush rewarded such lover’s loyalty by treating it with contempt: the English were given no role in the Coalition Provisional Authority which initially ran post-invasion Iraq.   Blair became no more than a ‘Washington’s poodle.’ In the end, Bush-the-vulgarian showed what he believed of Blair: that he had no cojones. Here comes Dubya Bush the polyglot!

President Bush’s response to the release of the Chilcot Report went no further than having declared by a spokesperson that “the President continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.”

How is it, one might well ask, that the United States, a nation which according to George W. Bush “has always been guided by a moral compass,” has not conducted its own Iraq inquiry? While there is plenty of evidence which shows Bush’s dominant position among the reckless adventurers, one should return to the so-called Manning Memo detailing a two-hour meeting between Bush and Blair on 31 January 2003. That memorandum makes clear that Bush intended to invade Iraq regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction were found, and set the date – 10 March – “to begin the bombing.” Even more damning is the revelation of his plan to provoke Saddam Hussein into initiating conflict by disguising a United States surveillance plane as belonging to the United Nations in hopes that the Iraqi leader would shoot it down. Similar adventure had been entered into before: the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The memorandum shows Bush also entertained the possibility of an outright assassination. That, too, had been done before: Mosaddegh.

Amongst the papers collected by the Chilcot Inquiry there is a 1 October 2001 memorandum to Bush which confirms Blair’s knowledge of a pending U.S. invasion of Iraq. Blair assures Bush that while “we need to deal with Saddam … I am sure we can devise a strategy for [him to be] deliverable at a later date.” Two months and three days later, in another memorandum, Bush is told by Blair that “any link to 11 September and [Al Qaeda] is at best very tenuous … so we need a strategy for regime change that builds over time.” To ‘soften-up’ Iraq, Blair counsels Bush: “we should mount covert operations.” Blair was apparently unaware that the C.I.A. had convened a “covert Iraqi Operations Group” a month before the 9/11 attack.

An imbecile like Bush did not need Blair’s flair to device how to solve a ‘problem like Saddam Hussein.’

As Dr. Broinowski noted, “The peculiar personality of Blair, the Catholic convert, who surprised a U.S. authority on Saddam Hussein by asking “Isn’t he evil ?” hovers over Chilcot’s report. Hidden from view is his friend George W. Bush, whose replies to Blair’s 29 personal notes in the months before the war were not released for publication by Washington.”

Caroline Patricia Lucas, the first Green member of Parliament and now co-leader of that party spoke for many in the United Kingdom when she said that Tony Blair is a ‘war criminal’ and he should be punished because he took the United Kingdom into an illegal conflict. Ms. Lucas said that everything in the Chilcot Report implies that Iraq ‘was an illegal war’ and said the former prime minister must now be held to account.

On the same day Blair was apologising, with grovelling voice, for the mistakes in the planning and process of the war, but he stood by the key decision to invade.  Blair insisted he had never lied, imploring: “Please stop saying I was lying, or I had some kind of dishonest or underhand motive”.

Addressing protesters in Westminster after the findings were published online, Ms. Lucas said: “It confirms that Tony Blair lied when he took this country to war on a false prospectus.

It lays bare for us to see that he made commitments to George Bush six months before he stood up in Parliament saying Saddam Hussein could still avoid war.

That was not true and we will hold him to account.

  • He lied by setting standards for the weapons inspectors which he knew would be impossible for those weapons inspectors to meet.
  • He lied by pulling those weapons inspectors out of Iraq before he knew they had been able to finish the job that had been set for them.
  • He lied when he said the threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction was growing when he knew they was no evidence to make that case.

We have been right to be holding Blair to account.”

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Paul Philip Flynn said that the Iraq Inquiry Report amounted to an ‘utter condemnation’ of Blair’s terrible decision to commit British troops to the U.S.-led invasion. Perhaps, there was no desire to go beyond those words: the Conservatives en masse, and a large number of the Labour members had voted for the war.

Labour had been hopelessly divided. Against the government motion for war, 139 Labour MPs submitted an amendment saying there was no moral case for war against Iraq and voted against the government’s line. Fifteen Tory MPs also defied their leadership by voting against the government’s policy.

All 53 Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the government – in line with their leadership. The final result had been: for 412 MPs, against 149, with a majority of 263.

On the release of the Report the former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said that, given its importance, he would make provision for two full days of debate the following week.

Early in July 2016 there were rumours, even plans, of a cross-party group of MPs putting a resolution to Parliament holding Blair in contempt for his conduct in the run-up to the war.

Dusting off an old procedure for ‘impeachment’ – used the last time in 1806 – Blair could be prosecuted; alternatively, a provision dating back to the nineteenth century could have been activated charging Blair for ‘misconduct in public office.’

Two weeks later the vast majority of the 650 MPs responded with a big “So what ?” as they absented themselves from the debate. On the first day only 40 to 50 MPs bothered to show up, with sometimes as few as 15 or 20 MPs present for the second day. In the course of the entire two days only about 50 MPs spoke.

Not until the end of the second day the front bench members of both parties were even obliged to speak in order to make ‘wind-up speeches.’ Neither the new Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May nor the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn participated. The media took the same approach. No national newspaper, including The Guardian, produced a full report of the two-day debate. With the exceptions of MPs from the Scottish National Party and a few others, who made vague calls for Blair to be called to account, the debate consisted largely of MPs defending the actions of the Labour government and the Tory opposition, who had supported them in voting for war.

When 81-year-old Labour MP Paul Flynn spoke in the Business of the House session which preceded day two, he said: “Chilcot has given its verdict. It is a thunderous verdict of guilty not just for one man but for this House, the previous Government, the Opposition and three Select Committees. We are guilty, and are judged guilty, of commanding our valiant troops to fight a vain, avoidable war…”

In response, other Labour MPs present walked out in protest.

* * * * *

The major points of the Iraq Inquiry Report place a heavy responsibility on Blair as prime minister:

  • Blair wrote to Bush in July 2002: “I will be with you, whatever.”
  • Blair ‘overestimated’ his ability to influence American decisions.
  • Throughout the Report there is a devastating criticism of Blair’s personal position which sidelined the Cabinet.
  • The US.-U.K. special relationship ‘does not require unconditional support where [British] interests or judgements differ.’
  • Blair ignored warnings that going to war could heighten the risk of terror attacks on the United Kingdom.
  • The possible consequences of the invasion were ‘under-estimated.’ Planning for after Saddam’s overthrow was ‘wholly inadequate.’
  • No special ‘hindsight’ was required to have identified the risks of regional instability.
  • The policy on Iraq was made on the basis of ‘flawed intelligence and assessments.’
  • The ‘intelligence’ might have based a key claim about Iraq’s chemical weapons capability on the Hollywood film The rock.
  • No proof was found that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction: a dossier to the contrary was presented ‘with a certainty which was not justified.’
  • Saddam Hussein posed ‘no imminent threat’ at the time of the invasion.
  • Blair repeatedly misled the Parliament and the media about the threat of the weapons of mass destruction he claimed Saddam Hussein had.
  • Blair publicly distorted the advice he was given in order to make the case for war.
  • The Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s decision that there was a legal basis for invasion, having spoken and written for two years that intervention would have been illegal, was taken in a way which was ‘far from satisfactory.’
  • The United Kingdom’s decision to act without gaining a second U.N. Resolution ‘undermined the Security Council’s authority.’
  • The invasion of Iraq was not a ‘last resort’ and Blair chose military action before ‘peaceful options had been exhausted.’
  • Soldiers had shoddy equipment and poorly-protected patrol vehicles.
  • The Ministry of Defence was slow to respond to threat of improvised explosive devices.
  • British troops were reduced to doing deals with local militias to stop targeting them.

Chilton said that his Report ‘is an account of an intervention which went badly wrong, with consequences to this day.’

It is absolutely astonishing that, on his resignation from Parliament, Blair should be appointed as Special Envoy by the Quartet on the Middle East – made up of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia – albeit if only involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He held that office until 27 May 2015. He now runs a consultancy business and has set up various foundations in his own name, including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 38

➡️ Part 40

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 38)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

Part Two of the Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind prepared by the International Law Commission in 1996 contains the following:

Article 16. Crime of aggression

“An individual who, as leader or organizer, actively participates in or orders the planning, preparation, initiation or waging of aggression committed by a State shall be responsible for a crime of aggression.”

The following notes attached to the Commentary are of assistance. “(1) The characterization of aggression as a crime against the peace and security of mankind contained in article 16 of the Code is drawn from the relevant provision of the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal as interpreted and applied by the Nürnberg Tribunal. Article 16 addresses several important aspects of the crime of aggression for the purpose of individual criminal responsibility. The phrase “An individual … shall be responsible for a crime of aggression” is used to indicate that the scope of the article is limited to the crime of aggression for the purpose of individual criminal responsibility. Thus, the article does not address the question of the definition of aggression by a State which is beyond the scope of the Code.

(2) The perpetrators of an act of aggression are to be found only in the categories of individuals who have the necessary authority or power to be in a position potentially to play a decisive role in committing aggression. These are the individuals whom article 16 designates as “leaders” or “organizers”, an expression that was taken from the Charter of the Nurnberg Tribunal. These terms must be understood in the broad sense, that is to say, as referring, in addition to the members of a Government, to persons occupying high-level posts in the military, the diplomatic corps, political parties and industry, as recognized by the Nürnberg Tribunal, which stated that: “Hitler could not make aggressive war by himself. He had to have the cooperation of statesmen, military leaders, diplomats and businessmen”. [Reference omitted].

(3) The mere material fact of participating in an act of aggression is, however, not enough to establish the guilt of a leader or organizer. Such participation must have been intentional and have taken place knowingly as part of a plan or policy of aggression. [Emphasis added]. In this connection, the Nürnberg Tribunal stated, in analysing the conduct of some of the accused, that:

When they, with knowledge of his aims, gave him their cooperation, they made themselves parties to the plan he had initiated. They are not to be deemed innocent because Hitler made use of them, if they knew what they were doing. [Reference omitted].

(4) Article 16 refers to “aggression committed by a State”. An individual, as leader or organizer, participates in that aggression. It is this participation that the article defines as a crime against the peace and security of mankind. In other words, it reaffirms the criminal responsibility of the participants in a crime of aggression. Individual responsibility for such a crime is intrinsically and inextricably linked to the commission of aggression by a State. [Emphasis added] The rule of international law which prohibits aggression applies to the conduct of a State in relation to another State. Therefore, only a State is capable of committing aggression by violating this rule of international law which prohibits such conduct. At the same time, a State is an abstract entity which is incapable of acting on its own. A State can commit aggression only with the active participation of the individuals who have the necessary authority or power to plan, prepare, initiate or wage aggression. [Emphasis added] The Nürnberg Tribunal clearly recognized the reality of the role of States and individuals in stating that:

Crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced. [Reference omitted]. Thus, the violation by a State of the rule of international law prohibiting aggression gives rise to the criminal responsibility of the individuals who played a decisive role in planning, preparing, initiating or waging aggression. [Emphasis added]. The words “aggression committed by a State” clearly indicate that such a violation of the law by a State is a sine qua non condition for the possible attribution to an individual of responsibility for a crime of aggression. Nonetheless, the scope of the article is limited to participation in a crime of aggression for the purpose of individual criminal responsibility. It therefore does not relate to the rule of international law which prohibits aggression by a State.

(5) The action of a State entails individual responsibility for a crime of aggression only if the conduct of the State is a sufficiently serious violation of the prohibition contained in Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations. In this regard, the competent court may have to consider two closely related issues, namely, whether the conduct of the State constitutes a violation of Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter and whether such conduct constitutes a sufficiently serious violation of an international obligation to qualify as aggression entailing individual criminal responsibility. The Charter and the Judgment of the Nürnberg Tribunal are the main sources of authority with regard to individual criminal responsibility for acts of aggression.

(6) Several phases of aggression are listed in article 16. These are: the order to commit aggression, and, subsequently, the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of the resulting operations. These different phases are not watertight. Participation in a single phase of aggression is enough to give rise to criminal responsibility.

(Text adopted by the International Law Commission at its forty-eighth session, in 1996, and submitted to the General Assembly as a part of the Commission’s report covering the work of that session (at para. 50). The report, which also contains commentaries on the draft articles, appears in Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1996, vol. II, Part Two. Copyright © United Nations 2005, Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind).

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists the crime of aggression as one of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, and provides that the crime falls within the jurisdiction of the Court. The Rome Statute was signed by Australia on 9 December 1998, ratified on 1 July 2002, and came into force between 28 June and 26 September 2002, by operation of the International Criminal Court Act [No. 41 of] 2002 of the Parliament of Australia.

However, Article 5.2 of the Rome Statute states that “The Court shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted in accordance with articles 121 and 123 defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime. Such a provision shall be consistent with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations”.

The Assembly of States Parties of the Rome Statute adopted the following definition at the Review Conference which took place from 31 May to 11 June 2010 in Kampala, Uganda.

Article.8 bis is now part of the Statute. It reads as follows:
  1. “For the purpose of this Statute, “crime of aggression” means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.
  2. For the purpose of paragraph 1, “act of aggression” means the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations. Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall, in accordance with United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, qualify as an act of aggression:

(a) The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof;

(b) Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State;

(c) The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State;

(d) An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State;

(e) The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement;

(f) The action of a State in allowing its territory, which it has placed at the disposal of another State, to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State;

(g) The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein.”

The Court may exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, however, the relative amendments to the Statute stipulate additional conditions. The amendments must have been ratified or accepted by at least thirty States Parties, and in addition States Parties must “activate” the Court’s jurisdiction through an additional decision to be taken on or after 1 January 2017 by a two thirds majority. On 26 June 2016 Palestine ratified the amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression.

By this ratification, Palestine deposited the thirtieth instrument which opened the possibility of giving jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court to try the crime of aggression.

Two points should be made:

1) the provision of Art. 8 bis cannot be enforced retroactively, and

2) more importantly, it is clear that the United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974 is held in great consideration in defining an act of aggression.

The preceding information about the increased jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is given for completeness.

In fact, by the International Criminal Court (Consequential Amendments) Act [No. 42 of] 2002, an Act to amend the Criminal Code Act 1995 and certain other Acts in consequence of the enactment of the International Criminal Court Act [No. 41 of] 2002, and for other purposes, the provisions of Arts. 6 – Genocide, 7 – Crimes against humanity, 8 – War crimes, of the Rome Statute have been ‘imported’ into the Australian Criminal Code 1995 by the addition to Chapter 8 on Offences against humanity and related offences of Division 268 – Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against the administration of the justice of the International Criminal Court.

The Division contains nine Subdivisions, from A to J.

There is a kind of ‘parallel jurisdiction’, if that is the proper expression. That was tested in at least one case, promoted by a small, activist Sydney organisation.

Conscious of the importance of exhausting the domestic jurisdiction, had it been necessary to go to the International Criminal Court, by respecting ad litteram Art. 17 of the Rome Statute, on 16 March 2012 the organisation submitted a complaint to the Australian Federal Police against former Prime Minister John Winston Howard, “for his decision to send Australian Forces to invade and wage war against Iraq”, and accusing him of violation of the provisions of Division 268, as ‘receiving’ Arts. 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute. The complaint, supported by twenty six annexes, had been prepared by a distinguished Sydney Senior Counsel. On 3 May 2012 the A.F.P. communicated that “the information … supplied [did] not disclose an offence against Division 268”. Once re-examined by another Senior Counsel, and found already sufficiently well argued and documented, the complaint was submitted on 9 May 2013 to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, who on 18 June 2013 informed the complainant that he had “considered … [and decided] “not ]to] initiate a prosecution … based on the material [submitted] because the “material [was] not a brief of evidence, containing admissible evidence against Mr. Howard”.

On 3 September 2013 the complaint was e-mailed to the International Criminal Court and a hard copy left Sydney on 4 September 2013, by air mail letter registered, number RP007553525AU, with return receipt. The receipt was not returned. Attempts at communicating with the Information and Evidence Unit of the I.C.C. Office of the Prosecutor in The Hague produced no reply.

Of course, any renewed attempt to prosecute in Australia would require consent of the Attorney-General.

Others have been more successful with the Court: on 19 May 2014 a lady from Western Australia was able to lodge and have accepted for consideration by the Prosecutor a complaint against Prime Minister Abbott and some of his ministers responsible for the execrable ill-treatment of intended refugees who had arrived to Australia by boat to seek refuge, presumably under Art. 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without satisfying the bureaucratic process. They have been languishing: men, women and children – some of them for more than three years – in some hellish places hired by Australia in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. The scandal has been known for years at the United Nations.

On 22 October 2014 Andrew Wilkie, the Independent Member of Parliament from Tasmania, assisted by a lawyer, wrote to the I.C.C. Prosecutor, inviting her to initiate a proprio motu an investigation of the activity of Prime Minister Abbott and all the nineteen members of his Cabinet, some assistant ministers and two generals involved at the ‘militarised’ border in the same ill-treatment of would be refugees-by-boat.

On 8 July 2015 the Refugee Action Collective of Victoria filed a communiqué for the Office of the  I.C.C. Prosecutor. It contains a notice of  intention to request the I.C.C. to investigate and act against the Prime Minister of Australia, the past and present Immigration and Border Protection ministers and the Attorney-General.

This submission charged violation of international law, of the 1951 U.N. Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and of Art. 7 of the I.C.C. Statute.

The submission also makes reference to Art. 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as proclaiming: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. It points out how “The Australian government also ignores the standards of human rights as set in the Rome Statute, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

The submission, clearly articulated along eleven points, and well documented, charges and, with a view to aiding the investigation and possible prosecution, relies heavily on the concept of judicial notice. Judicial Notice is defined by the Australian Law Reform Commission Report 102, February 2006, Section 144, as: “common knowledge [which] covers facts, both local and general knowledge, which are so widely recognized that requiring proof of them would be a superfluous exercise.” And further “while matters of common knowledge falling within s. 144 need not be proved formally, parties to a proceeding are not precluded from leading formal evidence of such matters”.

The complainants add for good measure that they “are aware that the [I.C.C.] has the choice of either a narrow or broad interpretation of the concept of judicial notice, and they urge the court to apply the latter, given that much of what is alleged is common knowledge in Australia and is much resented by both humane and expert opinions”.

Refugee Action Collective charged that the Australian governments have repeatedly brushed off a number of extremely damning reports – both domestic and international – which emphasise the brutality of the offshore detention system. These include: the 2015 ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment’, submitted to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council by Juan E. Méndez, the 2015 ‘Review into recent allegations relating to the conditions and circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru’ – otherwise known as the ‘Moss Report’ – commissioned by former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, and the 2014 report ‘Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2010’ by Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission. Such reports have amply condemned the Australian Government for its cruel and unlawful detention of children, women and men who have committed no crime.

Tightly written and cogently argued, the submission is signed by a distinguished retired academic and countersigned by dozens of organisations.

It could not be ignored, and might – just might – proceed. Success can only be hoped, but habent sua sidera lites = disputes have their own stars.

Tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 37

➡️ Part 39

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 37)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

In 1950 the Nuremberg Tribunal defined crimes against peace in Principle VI, specifically Principle VI(a), submitted to the United Nations General Assembly, as:

(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

The relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations mentioned in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court article 5.2 were framed to include the Nuremberg Principles. The specific principle is Principle VI.a: Crimes against peace, which was based on the provisions of the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, which was issued in 1945 and formed the basis for the post second world war ‘war crime trials’. The U. N. Charter’s provisions based on the Nuremberg Principle VI.a are:

CHAPTER I: PURPOSES AND PRINCIPLES
Article 1

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

  1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
  2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
Article 2

The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

  1. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
CHAPTER VI: PACIFIC SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES
Article 33
  1. The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.
  2. The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means.
CHAPTER VII: ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION
Article 39

The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.

The discussions on definition of aggression began at the United Nations in 1950, following the outbreak of the Korean war. As the ‘western’ governments, headed by Washington, were in favour of defining the governments of North Korea and the People’s Republic of China as aggressor states, the Soviet government proposed to formulate a new U.N. resolution defining aggression and based on the 1933 Convention for the Definition of Aggression were signed in London on 3 July 1933.

As a result, on 17 November 1950, the General Assembly passed Resolution 378, which referred the issue to be defined by the International Law Commission. The Commission deliberated over this issue in its 1951 session and due to large disagreements among its members, decided “that the only practical course was to aim at a general and abstract definition (of aggression).” However, a tentative definition of aggression was adopted by the Commission on 4 June 1951. It stated: “Aggression is the use of force by a State or Government against another State or Government, in any manner, whatever the weapons used and whether openly or otherwise, for any reason or for any purpose other than individual or collective self-defence or in pursuance of a decision or recommendation by a competent organ of the United Nations.”

On 14 December 1974 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 3314, which defined the crime of aggression. This definition is not binding as such under international law, though it may reflect customary international law.

The definition makes a distinction between aggression – which “gives rise to international responsibility” – and war of aggression – which is “a crime against international peace.” Acts of aggression are defined as armed invasions or attacks, bombardments, blockades, armed violations of territory, permitting other states to use one’s own territory to perpetrate acts of aggression and the employment of armed irregulars or mercenaries to carry out acts of aggression. A war of aggression is a series of acts committed with a sustained intent. The definition’s distinction between an act of aggression and a war of aggression makes it clear that not every act of aggression would constitute a crime against peace; only war of aggression does. States would nonetheless be held responsible for acts of aggression.

The definition is not binding on the Security Council. The United Nations Charter empowers the General Assembly to make recommendations to the United Nations Security Council but the Assembly may not dictate to the Council. The resolution accompanying the definition states that it is intended to provide guidance to the Security Council to aid it “in determining, in accordance with the Charter, the existence of an act of aggression.” The Security Council may apply or disregard this guidance as it sees fit. Legal commentators argue that the definition of aggression has had “no visible impact” on the deliberations of the Security Council.

All this premised, what follows is the adopted definition of aggression:

Article 1

Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this Definition. [Note omitted]

Article 2

The First use of armed force by a State in contravention of the Charter shall constitute prima facie evidence of an act of aggression although the Security Council may, in conformity with the Charter, conclude that a determination that an act of aggression has been committed would not be justified in the light of other relevant circumstances, including the fact that the acts concerned or their consequences are not of sufficient gravity.

Article 3

Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of article 2, qualify as an act of aggression:

(a) The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof,

(b) Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State;

(c) The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State;

(d) An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State;

(e) The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement;

(f) The action of a State in allowing its temtory, which it has placed at the disposal of another State, to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State;

(g) The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein.

Article 4

The acts enumerated above are not exhaustive and the Security Council may determine that other acts constitute aggression under the provisions of the Charter.

Article 5
  1. No consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise, may serve as a justification for aggression.
  2. A war of aggression is a crime against international peace. Aggression gives rise to international responsibility.
  3. No territorial acquisition or special advantage resulting from aggression is or shall be recognized as lawful.
Article 6

Nothing in this Definition shall be construed as in any way enlarging or diminishing the scope of the Charter, including its provisions concerning cases in which the use of force is lawful.

Article 7

Nothing in this Definition, and in particular article 3, could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom and independence, as derived from the Charter, of peoples forcibly deprived of that right and referred to in the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination: nor the right of these peoples to struggle to that end and to seek and receive support, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and in conformity with the above-mentioned Declaration.

Article 8

In their interpretation and application the above provisions are interrelated and each provision should be construed in the context of the other provisions.” (A/RES/29/3314 – Definition of Aggression, UN Documents).

Tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 36

➡️ Part 38

 

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 36)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

It is now facile to assert that without the further resolution authorising the use of force, now abandoned, SCR 678 has revived (or may be regarded as continuing) as authority for the use of force at the whim of Australia as a self-appointed member of the “Coalition of the Willing”. The question “Willing for What?” has its answer: Willing to act in breach of plain obligations of international law and comity between nations.”

Dr. Griffith continued: “I cannot characterize the advice as an opinion. The short paragraphs 14 to 18 of the brief seven page advice read as weak best arguments for the use of force. Para 34 of SCR 678, cited in para 18, denies the continued authority of that resolution to support present action by individual states, as does the entire SCR 1441.

The final sentence of the advice concluding that the authority of SCR 678 to use force “would only be negated by a Security Council Resolution requiring Member States to refrain from using force against Iraq” is a fanciful proposition, an Alice in Wonderland inversion of meaning of plain words in the resolutions themselves. It is unsupportable. The authors are making it up.” [Emphasis added].

It is significant that the authors of this Advice, on the important issue of giving legal sanction to war, do not even entitle it as ‘Opinion’. Its brevity and lack of force is exceeded only by the one-page ‘Opinion of the United Kingdom’s Attorney-General tabled in the United Kingdom Parliament, that makes the completely untenable assertion that “all resolution 1441 requires is a report to and discussion by the Security Council of Iraq’s failures, but not to express further decisions to authorize force.”

To this end the Australian and United Kingdom legal advices are entirely untenable. They are arrant nonsense. They furnish no threads for military clothes. It is difficult to comprehend that the fanciful assertions (they are not arguments) of the two advices have been invoked by Australia and the United Kingdom to support an invasion of another state. It does not appear from his published remarks that President Bush made any such attempt to clothe American action with the authority of the Security Council. This has the advantage of making the unilateral basis of his country’s actions plain.”

Dr. Griffith lamented that “the Memorandum of Advice [was] not subscribed by Henry Burmester QC, former head of the Office of International Law and now Chief General Counsel of the Attorney-General’s Department and the most senior and experienced international lawyer in Commonwealth service. Nor by Professor James Crawford SC, Professor of International Law at Cambridge, who commonly advises and appears for the Government in International law matters. I could suggest none available to the Commonwealth better qualified to give disinterested and expert advice.”

In fact Professor Crawford had already expressed his opinion, along with fifteen other experts in international law; see: ’War would be illegal’, in letters to The Guardian, 7 March 2003, already mentioned in the part of this essay titled ‘Was the war legal?’

In closing Dr. Griffith declared himself “at a loss that this important matter of legal support has not been supported at this highest expert level readily available to the Government. Instead, the Government has been content to table a mere ‘memorandum’ of assertion, signed off at the departmental level of First Assistant Secretaries.”

This was particularly striking in that the ‘memorandum’ ignored “the authority of the opinion by 43 Australian international lawyers as to the plain breach of international obligations by Australia absent a further Security Council”.

Those law experts had signed a letter declaring that “the initiation of a war against Iraq by the self-styled ‘coalition of the willing’ would be a fundamental violation of international law” which could “involve committing both war crimes and crimes against humanity”. They warned that Australian military personnel and government officials faced the threat of being hauled before the International Criminal Court if they took part. (Coalition of the willing? Make that war criminals, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 February 2003).

Finally, Dr. Griffith indicated his preference for “the opinion by Robinder Singh QC of Matrix Chambers, London, to be found at web site publicinterestlawyers,” which is reasoned and compelling argument for the lack of support provided by the aged SCR 678.” (G. Griffith, QC, ‘Notes on the legal justification for the invasion of Iraq and Security Council Resolutions 678 and 1441’, published in (M. Kingston, This war is illegal: Howard’s last top law man, The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 March 2003).

Dr. Griffith’s opinion, particularly as supported by English and Australian specialists in international law, appears totally persuasive. The opinion of Lord Alexander of Weedon, QC, chairman of the English Bar Council, has already been considered at length. Distinguished members of the legal community in the United Kingdom have concluded without ambiguity that the war was unlawful. This view was set out with clarity and force by Lord Bingham, the former Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and finally Senior Law Lord, in his book The rule of law, Penguin, London 2011, see in particular pp.122-127.

This will be the starting point for the examination under the present international law of Australia’s invasion of Iraq. For years a group of determined Australians has been calling for the establishment of an Inquiry into Iraq war – presumably in the form of a Royal Commission. The history of such commissions, at least in Australia, is not encouraging to the discovery of the truth and subsequent action onto it. Usually such commissions are appointed by government, and that means limited powers, preservation of certain privileged interests, and in most cases lack of action of the offered recommendations. Such commissions and their fate are one further confirmation of the duplicity, sickness and philistinism of The System. Governments ignore, a new generation comes, the old and the new ignoramuses go to sleep – such is deliberately calculated in what passes for democracy in and about an indifferent populace.

This does not exclude an examination under domestic legislation of what is plainly an act of aggression.

Australia is a founding member of the United Nations. It was an active participant at the 1945 San Francisco Conference, during which the U.N. Charter was negotiated, and was there represented by the Minister for External Affairs Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt, QC KStJ, ‘Doc’ Evatt, who played a significant role in drafting the Charter.

It is the view of successive governments that ever since Australian foreign policy has been informed – at least in theory – by the underlying principles and purposes of the United Nations: to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, and to achieve global cooperation.

In 1945 the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal defined crimes against peace as follows: “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of the foregoing;” war crimes or crimes against humanity. (Constitution of the International Military Tribunal, Art. 6 (a), I. CONSTITUTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL, The Avalon Project, Yale Law School).

At the International Conference on Military Trials, held in London on 23 July 1945, for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, judicial and economic leadership of Nazi Germany who had planned and committed war crimes, Mr. Justice Robert H. Jackson of the United States declared: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoke against us.” (The Avalon Project: International Conference on Military Trials …, Minutes of Conference Session of July 23, 1945).

On 21 November 1945 the same R. H. Jackson, now as Chief Counsel for the United States and prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, in his Opening Statement before the International Military Tribunal said: “We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to our task that this Trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity’s aspirations to do justice.” (Robert H. Jackson: Opening Statement Nuremberg Trials, 1945).

On 21 November 1947, one year after the end of the first Nuremberg trial, held by the Allied forces after the second world war for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, judicial and economic leadership of Nazi Germany who had planned and committed war crimes, the United Nations passed General Assembly Resolution 177 in order to codify what became known as ‘Nuremberg Principles.’  The original language reads:

“177 (II). Formulation of the principles recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the judgment of the Tribunal.

The General Assembly decides to entrust the formulation of the principles of international law recognized in the charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the judgment of the Tribunal to the International Law Commission, the members of which will, in accordance with resolution 174 (II), be elected at the next session of the General Assembly, and direct the Commission to:

(a) Formulate the principles of international law recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the judgment of the Tribunal and,

(b) Prepare a draft code of offences against the peace and security of mankind, indicating clearly the place to be accorded to the principles mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) above.”

In order to fulfil this mandate, the International Law Commission – which had been set up under U.N. Resolution 174 – codified seven principles and adopted them on 29 July 1950.

They are:

“Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal.

Principle I

Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.

Principle II

The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Principle III

The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

Principle IV

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Principle V

Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial on the facts and law.

Principle VI

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace: (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i). [Emphasis added].

(b) War crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

(c) Crimes against humanity:

Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Principle VII

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.” [Emphasis added]. (Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal 1950. Text adopted by the International Law Commission at its second session, in 1950 and submitted to the General Assembly as a part of the Commission’s report covering the work of that session. The report, which also contains commentaries on the principles, appears in Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1950, vol. II, para. 97. Copyright © United Nations 2005. Principles of International Law recognized in the Charter …).

When read together, the first three principles say: Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment. The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law. The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law. In a civilised country, the ministers of the Howard government of 2003 should be concerned.

Tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 35

➡️ Part 37

2017: Day 1

 

We never know what a new year holds, but 2017 might be a bit different. If it continues the way 2016 ended – in the world of politics, that is – we may be wishing that 2018 comes quickly.

But we’ll worry about that the other 364 days. Not today. It’s Day 1. The first day of a new year should be one of hope and optimism, not despair.

Day 1 is when we come together and make our plans on how we are going to fix all the wrongs in the world; how we are going to make it a better place than it was only yesterday; how our footprints through the new year will be etched in the sands we travel; and how we will go one step further than the year we just left.

And we will do all this together.

But first, we begin by offering our best wishes for good health and good fortune for the New Year. To everyone who is part of The AIMN, we extend these to you. Thank you too for your support and friendship during 2016.

2017 … it’s time!

 

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 35)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

Now to more serious matters: the legality of Australia’s intervention in Iraq.

Paragraph 3 of the document reproduced in Part 34 reads:

“Howard said that the Iraq issue was one of morality and not just legality. However, he agreed to table immediately in Parliament the text of the legal advice that had been provided to the Australian Government from DFAT and the Attorney-General’s Department. He said it was consistent with the advice given to the British Government by Lord Goldsmith (FCO telnos 116 and 117 to Washington), that we fed in to his office his morning and which he also tabled.”

So, the Iraq issue was not just one of legality. In the hands of the Howard government it became an exercise of fixing the law around the policy – surely a perversion of the legal process and, in the end, of any respect for morality.

DFAT and the Attorney-General Department had been asked: “ … whether, in the current circumstances, any deployment of Australian forces to Iraq and subsequent military action by those forces would be consistent with Australia’s obligations under international law. The short answer is ‘yes’. Existing United Nations Security Council resolutions provide authority for the use of force directed towards disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and restoring international peace and security in the area. This existing authority for the use of force would only be negated in current circumstances if the Security Council were to pass a resolution that required Member States to refrain from the use of force against Iraq.

  1. Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the Security Council adopted Resolution 678 (1990) (‘SCR 678’). Operative paragraph 2 of SCR 678 provides as follows:

“Authorises Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements, as set forth in paragraph 1 above, the above-mentioned resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area.”

  1. Operative paragraph 3 of SCR 678 provides:

“Requests all States to provide appropriate support for the actions undertaken in pursuance of paragraph 2 above.”

  1. SCR 678 and the other resolutions of the Security Council mentioned below were adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter. Acting pursuant to the authority given in SCR 678, armed action was taken against Iraq in 1991.
  2. Following that action, the UN adopted SCR 687 (1991) on 3 April 1991. Operative paragraph 1 of that Resolution provides:

“Affirms all thirteen resolutions noted above, except as expressly changed below to achieve the goals of the present resolution, including a formal cease-fire.”

The resolutions affirmed included SCR 678.

  1. SCR 687 required Iraq to ‘unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of all chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents … all ballistic missiles with a range greater than one hundred and fifty kilometres…’. It also required Iraq to yield the chemical and biological weapons to a Special Commission and to destroy the missiles under the supervision of the Commission.
  2. Paragraphs 33 and 34 of SCR 687 provides:

“33. Declares that, upon official notification by Iraq to the Secretary-General and to the Security Council of its acceptance of the above provisions, a formal cease-fire is effective between Iraq and Kuwait and the Member States co-operating with Kuwait in accordance with resolution 678 (1990);

  1. Decides to remain seized of the matter and to take such further steps as may be required for the implementation of the present resolution and to secure peace and security in the region.”
  2. Between the adoption of SCR 687 and the present day, the Security Council has found that Iraq has failed to comply with its obligations under SCR 687. (Endnote 2.) This culminated in the adoption by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter of SCR 1441 (2002) on 2 November 2002. In its preamble, this resolution recalled that SCR 678 authorised Member States to use all necessary means to uphold and implement SCR 660 and all relevant resolutions subsequent to SCR 660 and to restore international peace and security to the area. It also recalled that SCR 687 ‘imposed obligations on Iraq as a necessary step for the achievement of its stated objective of restoring international peace and security in the area’. Furthermore, the preamble provides:

“Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a cease-fire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein.”

  1. The operative paragraphs of SCR 1441 include:

“1. Decides that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 (1991), in particular through Iraq’s failure to cooperate with United Nations inspectors and the IAEA, and to complete the actions required under paragraphs 8 to 13 of resolution 687 (1991).

“2. Decides, while acknowledging paragraph 1 above, to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council … “4. Decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and co-operate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below. … “12. Decides to convene immediately upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 above, in order to consider the situation and need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council Resolutions in order to secure international peace and security.

“13. Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations.

“14. Decides to remain seized of the matter’.

  1. Since that Resolution was adopted, Dr Blix, the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC has briefed the Security Council on a number of occasions. In his briefing on 7 March 2003, Dr Blix was positive about advances in Iraqi co-operation. However, he noted that co-operation ‘cannot be said to constitute “immediate” co-operation. Nor do they [initiatives] necessarily cover all areas of relevance’. The claimed destruction of all WMD remains unverified. There is no doubt that Iraq remains in breach of its obligations under Security Council resolutions. SCR 1441 confirms a continuing breach of SCR 687 and other relevant resolutions. Dr Blix’s conclusions confirm the failure to comply with and co-operate fully and immediately in the implementation of SCR 1441.
  2. A further draft Security Council resolution was tabled by the US, UK and Spain on 24 February 2003. A UK/US draft amended Resolution was tabled on 7 March 2003.

Reasons

  1. In our view, Iraq’s past and continuing material breaches of SCR 687 have negated the basis for the ‘formal cease-fire’. Iraq, by its conduct subsequent to the adoption of SCR 687, has demonstrated that it did not and does not ‘accept’ the terms of SCR 687. Consequently, the cease-fire is not effective and the authorisation for the use of force in SCR 678 is reactivated.
  2. We do not believe that the authorisation contained in SCR 678 has expired (endnote 3) or that, coupled with SCR 687, it was confined to the limited purpose of ensuring Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait. Nor do we believe that the Security Council has either expressly or impliedly withdrawn the authority for the use of force in SCR 678 in all circumstances.
  3. Operative paragraph 2 of SCR 678 set out above itself contains no limitations in terms of time. Nor is the purpose for which the authority to use force was given confined to restoration of the sovereignty and independence of Kuwait. The authority to use force also was to uphold and implement ‘all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security to the area’. That purpose holds as good today as it did in 1990. There is no finite time under the Charter in which the authority given in a Security Council resolution expires. Nor is there any indication in resolutions subsequent to SCR 678 that the authority for the use of force contained in that resolution has expired. Indeed, subsequent resolutions indicate to the contrary. (Endnote 4.)

17 Given the existing authority for the use of force, suggestions that there is a legal requirement for a further resolution are misplaced. Also, suggestions that the use of force in Iraq in the absence of a further Security Council Resolution would be ‘unilateral’ are wrong.

  1. It has been suggested (endnote 5) that a number of relevant UN Security Council Resolutions refer to further action being taken by the UN Security Council, thus precluding UN Member States themselves from taking further action. In this respect, reference has been made to operative paragraph 34 of SCR 678 that states, in part, that the Security Council may ‘take such further steps as may be required for the implementation of the present resolution and to secure peace and security in the region’. In our view, this does not remove the authority given to Member States in SCR 678.
  2. As at the date of this advice, the Security Council is considering a further draft resolution tabled by the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain. The content of that resolution is not settled. However, failure to adopt that resolution would not, in our view, negate the existing authority to use force. As noted above, in current circumstances that authority would only be negated by a Security Council resolution requiring Member States to refrain from using force against Iraq.

Bill Campbell QC First Assistant Secretary Office of International Law Attorney-General’s Department

Chris Moraitis Senior Legal Adviser Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

12 March 2003” [Endnotes omitted].

(The Memorandum of Advice on the Use of Force Against Iraq, provided by the Attorney General’s Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, March 18, 2003. The government’s legal advice on using force, The Sydney Morning Herald,19 March 2003).

It is a position that John Howard confirmed while delivering a lecture to the Lowy Institute of Sydney on 9 April 2013: ‘Iraq 2003: a retrospective’.

“My Government never saw the obtaining of a fresh SC resolution as a necessary legal pre-requisite to action the removal of Saddam. It was always our view that Resolution 678, dating back to 1990 provided sufficient legal grounds for the action ultimately taken. That was reflected in the formal legal advice tendered to the Government, and subsequently tabled in Parliament. [Footnote no. 8. Memorandum of advice to the Commonwealth Government in the use of force against Iraq. Tabled by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives, 18 March 2003. Prepared by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and FAT, 12 March 2003]. By contrast there was great political value, especially for the British Government, fighting much internal British Labour Party resistance, if an explicit authorisation for military action were obtained. To have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, for a new resolution added weight to the moral and political case being built for a military operation.

The Clinton administration thought that 678 gave blanket legal coverage for all the military action it took to enforce the terms of that resolution. There was wide acceptance of that view, including in Australia. When Australia agreed, at President Clinton’s request, to send Special Forces to the Gulf in 1998 to support “Operation Desert Thunder” by the Americans and the British against Saddam’s WMD capacity as well as other strategic assets of the regime, because of another round of defiance by Iraq of UN resolutions, the Opposition readily concurred. Kim Beazley accompanied me to Campbell Barracks to farewell the men. We were as one on the correctness of their mission.” (Iraq 2003: a retrospective, Lowy Institute, 9 April 2003).

Howard may derive comfort from the fact that the Leader of the Opposition “readily concurred.” But that does not make it right.

Dr. Gavan Griffith, AO QC, Commonwealth Solicitor General between 1984 and 1997, the immediate predecessor of the 1998-2008 Solicitor General David Michael John Bennett AC QC, said so. He though that it was Alice in Wonderland nonsense. John Winston Howard may be a good Anglican, but he talks and behaves like a countryside Jesuit: his ends invariably justify the means.

Here is how Dr. Griffith opened his notes: “The tabled joint ‘Memorandum of Advice’ of the First Assistant Secretary, Office of International Law, Attorney-General’s Department and the Senior Legal Adviser, DFAT, has insufficient substance to bear the weight of the Prime Minister’s reliance to justify the invasion of Iraq by Australian defence forces.

This Advice invokes the authority of Security Council Resolution (SCR) 678 of 15 July 1991 to justify the unilateral use of force by Australia. It is plain that the authority of para 3 for the use of force of that 12 year old resolution expired with the Gulf War and successive resolutions of the Security Council leading to SCR 1441 of 2 November 2002. [Emphasis added].

Continued Tuesday: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 34

➡️ Part 36

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 34)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the United Nations had imposed a financial and trade embargo on Iraq. It was intended to weaken the Iraqi economy so that Saddam could not build up weapons for further wars. What it did weaken was the health of Iraqi children: it is estimated that about 150 children were starving to death every day because of the embargo. Throughout the 1990s Australian ships, aircraft and troops helped enforce the sanctions which caused widespread starvation in Iraq, leading to an estimated two million deaths. After 1996, once these sanctions were modified to permit profitable ‘Oil-for-food’ deals, the Howard government was among the first in line to collaborate with the Saddam Hussein government, through the AWB, even as it prepared to go to war against Iraq. U.N. Security Council Resolution 661 prevented all states and their nationals from making funds available to Iraq. These sanctions were widely effective, leading to food shortages and international condemnation as the humanitarian crisis became clear.

In response to this, the Oil-for-Food programme was begun. It allowed Iraq to sell oil to the rest of the world, provided the returns from this were kept in a U.N. bank account. This money could then be used by Iraq, with U.N. oversight, to purchase a strict list of humanitarian supplies.

The Oil-for-Food programme however in itself faced criticism, with many alleging that it was too expensive to administer and liable to abuse. The programme was discontinued on the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Since 1948 an Australian statutory authority established in 1939 had been supplying Iraq with wheat. During the Oil-for-Food programme it became the single, largest supplier of humanitarian goods to Iraq. The authority was Australian Wheat Board – AWB. It was a veritable monopoly to control and prevent competition among wheat growers by purchasing and selling at a single price.

Beginning at mid-1999 officials of the cartel were informed that they would have to pay US$12 for each imported tonne, the resulting sum to be passed onto as ‘trucking fee’ to a Jordanian company called Alia. The odd thing was that Alia had no trucks. AWB accepted the condition, increased contract prices and began to send fraudulent information to the Office of the United Nations charged with supervising the enforcement of the sanctions. Under the sanctions regime third parties were prohibited from engaging with the Iraq government unless they had Security Council approval. By having the party exporting goods – the ‘humanitarian’ supplier – to be the one to pay Alia, the Iraqi government was able to disguise the operation. Naturally, that U.N. Office expected that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade certify that the contracts were not in breach of the sanctions. The Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs was the Hon. Alexander John Gosse Downer, AC, with the co-operation of the Minister for Trade and Investment who was the Hon. Mark Anthony James Vaile AO – also Deputy Prime Minister. They both complied with numerous requests.

The ‘arrangement’ for paying extra money – by all definitions a bribe – went on for two years. The rate was increased, first by up to 50 per cent, until just before the invasion, when it was between US$45 and US$56 per metric tonne. The Australian government was duty bound not to make any payment to Iraq. The bribes also breached the O.E.C.D Convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions, the Anti-Bribery Convention of 1997.

Under Australian law, all shipments to Iraq were banned unless the Foreign Minister – that is Downer – was “satisfied that permitting the exportation will not infringe the international obligations of Australia.” The contracts were never checked even though an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had rung an alarm bell as to possible breaches of sanctions. Satisfaction was continuously guaranteed – in “the national interest”? During a period of about four years AWB ‘passed on’ to Iraq something like AU$290 million.

In April 2001 an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade attached to the United Nations in New York sent a cable informing that AWB had been asked by Iraq to pay ‘port fees’ of US50 cents per tonne as ‘port fees’ and alerting that that was in breach of the U.N. sanctions. The addressees of the cable, Howard, Downer and Vaile would later declare that they had not seen the cable; senior ‘public servants’ in several other departments of the Howard government were instructed to comply.

Howard would later insist that the cable did not actually prove that the government knew illicit payments were being made. In fact, Howard and his ministers had no intention of doing anything which could jeopardise lucrative Australian wheat sales to Iraq: again, “the national interest”?

‘The national interest’ – that is the fixing of the market – was the Howard government’s paramount consideration in joining the Iraq war: securing the commercial, diplomatic and strategic interests of the Australian corporate élite which controlled it. And that could be done, first and foremost, by lining up closely with the United States. It meant taking advantage of the Operation Iraqi Freedom and in the process getting as close as possible to oil rights, construction contracts and agricultural markets. But the United States had similar undeclared interests, and more clout! When they got to Baghdad their XTF-75, Iraq Survey Group and similar organisations got down to work with a view – amongst others – to retrieve and preserve valuable contracts and commercial opportunities. The phony contracts guaranteeing the bribes fell into the hand of the pullulating American organisations.

Documents unearthed in the Iraqi ministries after the invasion had confirmed in detail the bribes paid to the Iraqi government and disguised as “trucking fees”, “port charges”, “after sales service fees” and “surcharges.”

In late May 2003 the Minister for Trade and Investment, Mark Vaile went to the United States at the head of a delegation of executives from ten major Australian construction, engineering, and oil and gas companies for talks with American officials and corporate executives.

Senior executives of the companies: Australian Power and Water, B.H.P., Clough Engineering, Multiplex, Santos, Woodside Petroleum and others, held discussions with American firms awarded reconstruction contracts from USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.

There could be agreement on many fields, but the Howard government could not resist the pressure from Australian farming groups to ensure that the valuable Iraqi market was not lost to the United States. Before the first Gulf war, the United States exported almost one million tonnes of wheat annually to Iraq, but these shipments were cut off under the sanctions imposed on Baghdad. Australian growers then took advantage of the 1996 Oil-for-Food programme to recapture two-thirds of the Iraqi market, worth AU$839 million to Australia in 2002.

Behind the high-sounding words of ‘liberating Iraq’ and ‘exporting democracy’ the reality was brought to light with the establishment of the Coalition Provisional Authority. When words came to action, the American Administration nominated Daniel Gordon Amstutz, a government official and grain-trading industry senior executive of Cargill Corporation, the largest grain exporter in the world, and former president of the North American Grain Export Association, to lead the Authority’s agricultural section.

The Howard government nominated two senior AWB executives, chairman Trevor Flugge and senior executive Michael Long. They had both been compromised in the bribes paid to the Iraqi government. Their view of ‘the national interest’ was to guarantee contracts worth more than US$250 million which had been signed by AWB before the invasion and to keep AWB’s position in the Iraqi wheat market.

The last two contracts that AWB signed before the invasion contained the biggest bribe of all, worth a total of about US$73 million on the basis of US$45.50 per metric tonne for “trucking fees” and another ten percent “surcharge” of the whole value of the contract. In part, these contracts were designed to divert a further US$8.8 million from the U.N.-held funds, to be delivered to Tigris Petroleum, a company linked to B.H.P. and headed by “a thoroughly disreputable man with no commercial morality”. (‘Tigris oil chief a ‘disreputable man’, The Age, 28 November 2006). The company had sent wheat shipments to Iraq in breach of U.N. sanctions in 1995, seeking to secure oil drilling concessions.

In September 2003 a report by the U.S. Defence Contract Audit Agency cited evidence that “illicit surcharges/kickbacks were standard practice for oil-for-food contracts.” The report named Australia and estimated “overpricing” in one AWB contract at nearly US$15 million. The American wheat lobby then launched a letter-writing campaign to President Bush and other politicians, charging that “AWB reaped an additional US$56 million gold mine at the expense of the Iraqi people, on top of their already excessive prices.”

Nevertheless, with the help of the Howard government and its representatives in Baghdad, the AWB managed to salvage its contracts.

In 2004 Iraqi daily Al Mada published a list of 270 persons and entities who were given oil vouchers for helping Saddam Hussein. The report alleged clear violation of the agreements of the Oil-for-Food programme established fourteen years earlier and ending the year before.

In response to this, the United Nations launched an independent inquiry into the programme, headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Its terms of enquiry were “to collect and examine information relating to the administration and management of the Oil-for-Food Programme … including entities that have entered into contracts with the United Nations or with Iraq under the Programme”.

The final report was released on 27 October 2005. It accused almost half of the companies operating in Iraq during the time of the Oil-for-Food programme to have paid either bribes or illegal surcharges to secure Iraqi business. In special reference to AWB, it stated that “little doubt remains that AWB made large numbers of payments to Alia, and these payments in turn were channelled to the Iraqi regime”. The report said that AWB had covered 90 per cent of the Iraqi market before its practices were questioned in 2005, had sold 6.8 tonnes of wheat to Iraq for US$2.3 billion and had paid US$221.7 million – AU$290 million – in trucking fees. In response to the U.N. Report, on 31 October 2005 the Howard government appointed a Royal Commission into the allegations, headed by the Hon. Terence Cole, QC, a former Judge of Appeal of the New South Wales Supreme Court. The Commission was given terms limited exclusively to AWB. The Commission called to the stand many prominent members of the Government, including Howard, the first Australian prime minister to face a judicial inquiry in more than twenty years. Testimony and documents presented to the Inquiry revealed that in nearly twenty occasions AWB executives had informed government ministers and/or their advisors about the payments. Silence!

Once completed, the Cole Inquiry reported to the Attorney-General on 24 November 2006 and the Attorney tabled the report into the company’s role in the scandal on 27 November 2006. The Inquiry found that, at the insistence of the Iraq government of Saddam Hussein, the AWB agreed to pay “transportation fees” of around AU$290 million. Cole’s findings agreed with the U.N. Report in finding this money was paid, often indirectly, to a Jordanian transportation company, Alia, which kept a small percentage of the fees, and paid the remainder onto the Iraqi government. This breached the sanctions placed on the Iraqi regime. The Cole Inquiry concluded that from mid-1999, AWB had knowingly entered into an arrangement which involved paying bribes to the Iraqi government, in order to retain its business. It cleared the government ministers and bureaucrats from wrongdoing. However, it recommended criminal prosecutions be begun against former AWB executives.

The Inquiry recommended that twelve people be investigated for possible criminal and corporations offences over the scandal. It planned this to occur through a “joint task force comprising the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, A.S.I.C.”. (D. Marr and M. Wilkinson ‘Deceit by the truckload‘, The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 2006).

The greatest international scam, the biggest corruption of its kind in Australia’s history resulted in international condemnation and litigation. The United States successfully pursued criminal charges against several citizens and others in its borders, but the Australian criminal investigation into AWB was eventually dropped. Civil charges, however, were initially successful.

On 11 July 2006 North American farmers claimed US$1billion in damages from AWB before a court in Washington DC, alleging that the Australian wheat exporter used bribery and other corrupt activities to corner grain markets. The growers claimed that AWB used the same practices to secure grain sales in other markets in Asia and other countries in the Middle East. The lawsuit was dismissed in March 2007.

In August 2009 the Australian Federal Police dropped the investigation into any criminal actions undertaken by AWB and others in this matter. The reason seemed to be that the chance of obtaining a conviction was limited and “not in the public interest”.

A civil case was brought by shareholders of AWB, and was settled out of court for AU$39.5 million in February 2010. Nobody really knows why.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission proceeded with several civil cases against six former directors and officers of AWB. Some of them were discontinued on condition that the parties would bear their own costs. A.S.I.C. decided to discontinue the proceedings after forming the view that it was “no longer in the public interest” to pursue its claims. A.S.I.C.’s proceedings against Trevor Flugge, the former Chairman of AWB, and Peter Geary, the former Group General Manager Trading of AWB, were still ongoing early this year.

And what of three cabalistas protecting the racket? Trade’s Vaile now successfully represents foreign business; vapid Downer has been ‘sent home’ as His Excellency The Honourable Alexander Downer, AC, as Australian High Commissioner to the Court of St. James, more closely to consort with ‘the Hanover’, ‘the Hun’, ‘Charlie’, Andy – all of ‘The Firm’; schemer Howard remains to oraculate as Holy Man of the ‘natural party of government’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 2006).

Tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 33

➡️ Part 35

 

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 33)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

In mid-April 2003 the United States invited the United Kingdom and Australia to participate in the setting up of an Iraq Survey Group.

The Iraq Survey Group was to be a fact-finding mission, mainly interested in weapons, ostensibly sent by the multinational force, but in fact directly responsible to Donald Rumsfeld. It was to find the weapons of mass destruction alleged to be possessed by Iraq and which had been the main apparent reason for the invasion, but also to seek for evidence of ‘war crimes’ and ‘terrorism’. The Group consisted of a 1,400-member international team organised by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency to hunt for the alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological agents, and any supporting research programmes and infrastructure which could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Its final report, commonly referred to as the Duelfer Report, acknowledged that only small stockpiles of chemical and biological agents which might have been used for the weapons were found, the numbers being inadequate to pose a militarily significant threat. para. 91-95, at 443-444.

And now a little exercise for the reader: please, open The Iraq Inquiry and go to the Report and choose Evidence, search the website under Australia, click and the first two entries will be:

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/231498/2003-03-18-telegram-34-canberra-to-fco-london-iraq-australia-commits.pdf#search=australia

and

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/235986/2003-01-18-minute-miller-to-ps-secretary-of-state-dfid-uk-us-australia-talks-in-washington-22-january.pdf

The latter document, dated 18 January 2003 is interesting: it points to a meeting to be had in Washington amongst UK-US-Australia on 22 January 2003, following up to the first of UK/US talks on the subject held on November 2002. Introduced by a high functionary of the Department of International Development, with copy to Secretary of Foreign Affairs Straw, it attaches a paper which deals with a number of issues, and was produced by the Middle East Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 15 January 2003.

They are to be dealt with as at the ‘day-after’, meaning by that “that military action will have taken place to enforce Iraq’s compliance with its UN Security Council’s obligations and that Saddam Hussein’s regime will have been removed from power (see UK paper on ‘Scenarios for the future of Iraq post Saddam’).”

The points touched by the four page paper are:

1) security “to facilitate humanitarian operations and to provide the foundation for a normal society to flourish and self-sufficient development to begin.” That required: dismantling the secret security agencies; providing “legitimate and transparent law and order and the necessary civil structures”; preventing “internecine violence.”

2) relief and reconstruction, keeping in mind that “over 60 per cent of Iraqi population depend for their food on Oil-For-Food.” And the main humanitarian issues were:

  1. How will the basic needs of the Iraqi people – food, medicine, shelter, power, emergency reconstruction and protection/personal security – be met?
  2. Who will pay for humanitarian operations? What is the future of Oil-For-Food?
  3. The danger that Saddam Hussein will use chemical and biological weapons to create a diversionary, humanitarian catastrophe.
  4. There will be a need to move quickly from relief towards reconstruction and to generate local Iraqi economic activity.

3) political aspects. “We want to replace Saddam Hussein with something much better. How big should our level of ambition be in promoting political reform? To what extent should we commit ourselves publicly to this?”

The paper went on to present issues such as Kurdish and Shia aspirations, the matter of international legitimacy and the problems of an interim administration under U.N. auspices. Some of these issues had already been discussed in the U.K. paper: ‘Interim administration for Iraq: what, who and how’ of October 2002. For instance: “to what extent should we root out Ba’ath party elements?” a question already considered in another U.K. paper: “Interim administration in Iraq” of 12 December 2002. The interim administration would have “to set in hand a process to allow new political structures to emerge.”

4) economics matters. “One of the keys to [economic reconstruction and reform] will be ensuring that Iraq’s oil revenues are maintained consistent with the effect on the global oil market, particularly with reference to contracts signed by Saddam Hussein with foreign companies. “The UK preference would be to suspend/lift sanctions shortly after the installation of the interim administration, while maintaining a broad and rigorous arms embargo on Iraq.” And would promoting economic reform from a centrally controlled, military-industrial economy lead to an open, free market one – to the I.M.F. and World Bank?

5) One final concern was for the environment in case Saddam Hussein “sabotage the oil industry, rather than let it fall into the enemies’ hands. Are we prepared for putting out oil fires, as in Kuwait? [Saddam Hussein] may deliberately spill oil into the great rivers of Iraq or into the Gulf. Do we have an environmental clean-up plan?”

The aggression on Iraq, premeditated as early 2002 – at least, was intended to transform the country into a client state, but with different masters – quite likely Vice President Cheney’s oilmen.

The first document to appear as Evidence is reproduced hereafter:

Some observations seem in order here.

1) Commander-in-Chief Bush “telephone Prime Minister Howard shortly after 0.600 local time on 18 March” and made “the formal request for Australia to participate in any military intervention in Iraq.”

2) The preceding document is dated 18/03/2003 at 06:00 and was sent out to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to posts in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, India, Canada, Japan, UKMILREP CENTCOM and Wellington.

3) After President’s Bush call, “Howard immediately called a further meeting of full Cabinet.

4) at the end of which he announced in a live television broadcast that a decision had been taken to commit Australia troops to any US-led coalition to disarm Iraq.”

The decision – in the words of Howard – was “legal [and] it was directed towards the protection of Australian national interest.”

5) Only at 2.03 p.m. Howard began his announcement to Parliament of “the Government’s decision to commit Australian Defence Force elements in the region to the international coalition of military forces prepared to enforce Iraq’s compliance with its international obligations under successive resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, with a view to restoring international peace and security in the Middle East region.” (Australia, Hansard, House of Representatives, p. 12505, 18 March 2003).

6) The preceding document is written (see point 2) as if it were a record of what happened during the afternoon of 18 Mach and the following day.

The time sequence is really as follows: call from President Bush, telecast to the people, information to Parliament.

As for debate, what followed was a mockery, truly worthy of the pantomime which passes for ‘parliamentary democracy’ in a Governor-Generalate imitation of the ramshackle Westminster System.

Prime Minister Howard said in the document, maintained in Parliament and ever since, as in the 9 April 2013 speech to the Lowy Institute of Sydney, that ”the Iraq issue was one of morality and not just of legality.”

The issue of legality will be dealt with further on.

On the importance of morality in relation to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the following episode may be a clear indication of how much Howard and his ministerial cabal should be heard.

Tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 32

➡️ Part 34

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 32)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

A joint press conference was had on 13 February 2003 by Prime Ministers Blair and Howard.

As the Iraq Inquiry Report records:

“320. Mr Blair told Mr John Howard that the inspectors’ reports of 28 February should be the final reports to the Security Council.

  1. A BBC poll published on 13 February found that 60 percent of people questioned thought that the UK and US Governments had failed to prove their case that Iraq had WMD, and 45 percent said that the UK should play no part in a war on Iraq, whatever the UN decided. Fewer than 10 percent said that they would back a war with Iraq without a second resolution. [BBC News, 13 February 2003, Blair puts ‘moral’ case for war]
  2. Mr Blair and Mr Howard discussed Dr Blix’s forthcoming report and the prospects for a second resolution in a breakfast meeting on 13 February. [Letter Lloyd to Owen, 13 February 2003, ‘Prime Minister’s Breakfast with John Howard’].
  3. Sir David Manning advised that there would be a need to challenge Dr Blix’s likely assessment that there had been some movement on process and some movement on interviews; and to focus in public “on the underlying message that there was no fundamental change in attitude, and the key questions remained unanswered”. International opinion should not be allowed “to be distracted by nuances about process”.
  4. Other points which Mr Blair and Mr Howard discussed included: • Dr Blix was writing his report on the presumption that there would be more time and it was implicit in his approach that there would be more time. • Concern that the report would be critical of Secretary Powell’s presentation to the UN on 5 February. • Russia and China were likely to abstain in a vote on a second resolution and France and Germany might put forward a rival text.
  5. Mr Blair told Mr Howard that: “… people in the UK were suspicious that the US were eager to use force and did not want the inspections to work. They could accept the need for war, but not for war now. If Blix came up with a firm report that could change. The report on the 28th [of February] should be the final report. The US needed in parallel to ensure the support of the Security Council.”
  6. In response to Mr Howard’s assessment that a second resolution was not needed for legal reasons, Mr Powell said that UK lawyers were studying the issue. Mr Blair said it was needed for political reasons.
  7. In the subsequent press conference, Mr Blair stated that the discussion had been “dominated” by Iraq. [Australian Government – Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 13 February 2003, Joint Press Conference with Prime Minister, Tony Blair]

He and Prime Minister Howard had agreed that Iraq needed to disarm and resolution 1441 had to be upheld.

  1. Prime Minister Howard praised Mr Blair’s “strong and principled stance” and his “strong and effective leadership” and stated that he believed: “… very strongly that if the whole world speaking through the United Nations Security Council said with one clear voice to Iraq that it had to disarm then that would more than anything else be likely to bring forth the faint hope of a peaceful solution.”
  2. In reply to a question, Mr Howard stated that the problem was not time, it was Iraq’s attitude.
  3. Mr Blair was asked whether Iraq’s ballistic missiles were enough to justify military action; and whether the news overnight of a North Korean threat that its missiles could hit US targets anywhere in the world “presented a more urgent and larger threat to international stability”. He replied that the judgement on Iraq had to be “made in the round” in the context of resolution 1441. In relation to the need to confront the threat from North Korea, albeit “by different means”, Mr Blair emphasised that the United Nations would be “tremendously weakened and undermined” if it showed “weakness and uncertainty over Iraq”. That was “the key issue”. paras. 320-329, at 236-237

By the time the Security Council met on 7 March 2003 there were deep divisions within it on the way ahead on Iraq. Following President Bush’s agreement to support a second resolution to help Mr. Blair, Mr. Blair and Mr. Straw continued during February and early March 2003 to develop the position that Saddam Hussein was not co-operating as required by resolution 1441 (2002) and, if that situation continued, a second resolution should be adopted stating that Iraq had failed to take the final opportunity offered by the Security Council.

On 6 February Mr. Blair said that the United Kingdom would consider military action without a further resolution only if the inspectors reported that they could not do their work and a resolution was vetoed unreasonably. The United Kingdom would not take military action without a majority in the Security Council. Mr. Blair’s proposals, on 19 February, for a side statement defining tough tests for Iraq’s co‑operation and a deadline of 14 March for a vote by the Security Council, were not agreed by the United States. The initial draft of a U.S., U.K. and Spanish resolution tabled on 24 February, which simply invited the Security Council to decide that Iraq had failed to take the final opportunity offered by resolution 1441, failed to attract support.

Throughout February, the divisions in the Security Council widened. France, Germany and Russia set out their common position on 10 and 24 February. Their joint memorandum of 24 February called for a programme of continued and reinforced inspections with a clear timeline and a military build-up to exert maximum pressure on Iraq to disarm.

The reports to the Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency signalled increasing indications of Iraqi co-operation. On 7 March Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the I.A.E.A., reported that there was no indication that Iraq had resumed nuclear activities and that he should be able to provide the Security Council with an assessment of Iraq’s activities in the near future. Dr. Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, UNMOVIC, reported to the Security Council on 7 March that there had been an acceleration of initiatives from Iraq and, while they did not constitute immediate co-operation, they were welcome. UNMOVIC would be proposing a work programme for the Security Council’s approval, based on key tasks for Iraq to address. It would take months to verify sites and items, analyse documents, interview relevant personnel and draw conclusions.

A revised draft U.S., U.K. and Spanish resolution, tabled after the reports by Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei on 7 March and proposing a deadline of 17 March for Iraq to demonstrate full co-operation, also failed to attract support. China, France and Russia stated that they did not favour a resolution authorising the use of force and that the Security Council should maintain its efforts to find a peaceful solution. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, U.K. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, advised that a ‘side statement’ with defined benchmarks for Iraqi co-operation could be needed to secure support from Mexico and Chile. Mr. Blair told President Bush that he would need a majority of nine votes in the Security Council for Parliamentary approval for U.K. military action.

Development of United Kingdom’s strategy and options between 8 March and the start of military action overnight on 19/20 March is the subject of Section 3.8.

The second resolution was difficult to draft. Russia had made it difficult. France was also realising that there were major problems with invading Iraq, and suspected that the United States, the United Kingdom and Australian troops intended to stay there indefinitely. Chile also had problems.

Unperturbed, Australia committed troops on 18 March, even before other countries had decided that invasion should take place. Clearly, the proposed but unaccepted deadline of 17 March had little if any meaning for Prime Minister Howard. No time was given to Iraq to consider. President Bush had a 6.00 a.m. telephonic conversation with Howard on 18 March. That afternoon Howard made his statement to the Australian Parliament.

Section 4.4 is devoted to the search for weapons of mass destruction.

During and immediately after the invasion of Iraq, the search for such weapons was the responsibility of Exploitation Task Force-75, XTF-75, a U.S.-led military unit, with small U.K. and even smaller Australian contingents. [T. Vandal et al., The strategic implications of sensitive site exploitation, National Defense University, National War College, Washington D.C. 2003].

XTF-75 was deployed to carry out ‘sensitive site exploitation’, a military term for the exploitation of “personnel, documents, electronic files, and material captured at the site, while neutralizing the site or any of its contents.”

Officials had begun to consider the U.K. contribution to such ‘exploitation’ in early February 2003.

The Australian contingent was so small – whether by accident or deliberate decision – that it might have become unimportant to the working of the Force. The Force was in almost total control of the United States. What interested the Americans was Australian intelligence expertise. It seems that the U.S. was mainly interested in documentation, rather than actual weapons.

Tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 31

➡️ Part 33