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:
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:
- How will the basic needs of the Iraqi people – food, medicine, shelter, power, emergency reconstruction and protection/personal security – be met?
- Who will pay for humanitarian operations? What is the future of Oil-For-Food?
- The danger that Saddam Hussein will use chemical and biological weapons to create a diversionary, humanitarian catastrophe.
- 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)
Dr. 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.