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Same Story, Same Mistakes

So we are sending more troops to Iraq. The first question that comes to mind is: Why? PM Tony Abbott says “this is absolutely in the best interests of Australia,” which leads us to the next question: How?

Let us remember that our first foray into Iraq in 2003 was an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation, politically motivated and based on contrived intelligence. After hostilities supposedly ceased, we set about training a section of the Iraqi army that had been officially disbanded by the American administration.

We did this for nearly a decade to a point where in 2012 it was declared the Iraqi army was self-sufficient; it could now look after itself, restore law and order and protect its citizens.

So, hearing last year that this army we trained had fled in disarray, or as Abbott so rightly described, “melted like snow in summer,” when attacked by ISIL at Mosul in September 2014, surely we were entitled to ask, what did that training achieve?

armyHaving served in the Australian Army in the 1960s, I can attest to the quality of its training programme. It is precise and thorough. Today, unlike in my time, it is also high-tech. So what did our high-tech training techniques teach them over nearly 10 years?

The short answer is: it didn’t matter. What they taught ran a poor second to the incompetence and corruption endemic within the Iraqi military. Tony Abbott has told us that the additional 300 trainers, announced this week will be there for as long as they are needed.

That, I suspect, will be a much longer time than the two year expectation, with much the same result. What value will they be to an army that is considered by experts to be untrainable?

A sustained aerial bombardment of ISIL occupied areas by coalition forces was supposed to soften up the enemy sufficient enough for the Iraqis to defeat them. Yet every indication coming from journalists in situ suggests that it’s not working. ISIL still holds Mosul. It is still defying all multinational military efforts to dislodge it.

This suggests that the Iraqi army units charged with the task of completing the job on the ground are not capable of doing that. So who is? The coalition of the willing has spent in the order of $40 billion since 2003 training and equipping this untrainable rabble. What improvement will 300 additional trainers from Australia make now?

We already have 170 Special Forces personnel looking after security at Baghdad airport, as well as two hornets engaged in air strikes. There are similarities in this engagement with our experience in Vietnam. We sent advisors in first, then trainers, then ground forces.

vietnamWe were part of a multinational force led by the Americans. As the conflict became more difficult we increased our commitment. At one stage we had nearly 5000 personal in South Vietnam. The Americans had half a million.

The South Vietnamese army, like its government, was riddled with corruption and incompetence. In the end, they collapsed. The North Vietnamese were outnumbered, poorly supplied and lacked the fighting power, but they prevailed; they won because they were prepared to die for what they were fighting for; the South Vietnamese were not.

If this Middle East regional conflict is so strategically important, why is it that the larger neighboring Arab nations are not in there providing ground support, i.e., Saudi Arabia and Egypt? Why is it that that countries like Australia and New Zealand are involved when they have no reason to be there?

Tony Abbott has a fetish for three or four word slogans. This time it is the “apocalyptic death cult.” He says, “The aspirations of the “apocalyptic death cult” were not simply to capture and control a limited territory. It has “universal” aspirations.”

aidWell, yes of course it does. But right now this is a sectarian war and our involvement increases the risk of home grown terrorists inspired by what they read and hear both locally and overseas. Our best weapon to employ in this situation is humanitarian relief, not strike fighters or trainers.

No amount of pep-talking and sabre rattling will replace the provision of essential community needs they have been deprived of through corruption and mis-management. Nor will ever increasing commitments to train the untrainable.

One would have thought we learned that fifty years ago.


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  1. stephentardrew

    Tis the merry go round from hell. Don’t expect them to learn by reflection upon their past mistakes because they are loath to admit any failure of any kind. Howard still thinks he was a super hero. When will they ever learn? Well the way things are going one can safely say never. Death and disease seems to be the only thing that will change conservative radicalism nevertheless there is always God as some twisted paradoxical explanation for rampant irrationality.

    Fact is the coalition are the apocalyptic death cult of environmental destruction.

    So from one death cult to another welcome aboard.

    Think they will see the irony?

  2. Sue-Ellen Smith

    Excellent article and unfortunately very true

  3. Pingback: Same Story, Same Mistakes – » The Australian Independent Media Network – Written by JOHN KELLY | winstonclose

  4. mark delmege

    “Yes we Can’ and he did.

    First stop was Gaza – flattened even before he took the oath. Check

    Next came Honduras. Right wing Coup Check

    Venezuela First Coup Fail

    Iran Sanctions check

    Sudan Oil war division of the country. Check

    Japan elected a government that wanted to close an important military base, so they sunk a South Korean sub during an anti sub exercise and blamed it on North Korea. Japan govt folds base remains Check

    Syria exists as part of the Axis of resistance with Hezbolla and Iran. Civil war instigated. Check

    Libya attempts to unite Africa under a new independent economic model. Send in Al Qaeda, smash country and Kill Gaddafi. Check

    Al Qaeda leak weapons and fighters left right and centre creating instability in Northern Africa and flood weapons and fighters to Syria. Allowing US domination of Africa and further mayhem in Syria Check

    Gaza war Two. Check

    Iraq denies SOFA, Maliki removed. Create ISIS. US forces re enter Iraq. Check

    Je suis Charlie terra terra terra Check

    Venezuela coup attempt two. Fail

    Afghanistan occupation continues Check

    Ukraine MH17 civil war US occupation Check

    Russia marginalised Check with Fail

    And over in little old Australia create terra terra terra justifying more troops to Iraq Check

    Yes they can and they did. Get the picture?

    Yeah I know the order is wrong and I’m sure I have missed a few (this took me 10 minutes – check)

  5. flohri1754

    In connection and support of this, I suggest anyone who has not read it, to read Tuchman’s classic THE MARCH OF FOLLY (1985) http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10302.The_March_of_Folly …… most especially the chapter on the history of the West’s involvement in Vietnam. In those 50 or 60 pages, she clearly lays out the mistakes and misinformation that not only the French and the Americans were working on in that area, but it would also extend to Australia’s involvement as well ….. If she were alive today, she could have come out with an updated edition highlighting the West’s missteps in Iraq since 2003 which so blatantly confirms the “March of Folly” thesis she presents.

  6. Loz

    Abbott will do anything to try and cement his position as PM. Doesn’t matter whether it is right or wrong. It is a waste of valuable resources and money and as the above article suggests there will be no positive outcome. But who cares it might get him another six months.

  7. Kerri

    Well said John Kelly. I commented to my daughter yesterday that when the Iraqi “Army” and I use the term loosely, abandons weapons and vehicles in the face of battle, where are the Australian accountants and budget trimmers? Why not just cut out the middle man and give the weapons and vehicles straight to Daesh?
    By “training” local “soldiers” we are in fact arming the radicals!
    Does it make us any different to Putin?

  8. stephentardrew


    Chomsky provides all the critiques necessary of every US intervention since the second world war. Just Google or have a look on You Tube. Sure you are aware of this however he is equally critical of all US military interventions. Edgar Snows Red China Today and Red Star Over China discuss US support of the corrupt governance of Chang Kai Shek whereby Chou en Lai attempted to ask for US aid while US secretary of state John Foster Dallas played the anti-communist card rather than negotiate with Mao and Chou. My how different things could have been.

    The US has lost all credibility when it comes to military intervention. They cannot win a war even with the injection of massive resources. The power of the military industrial complex is frightening. There always seems to be huge profit in war for the capitalist oligarchs win or lose.

  9. CMMC

    Search ‘western oil companies in iraq’ in Google Images. That will bring up some maps where you can see what the fighting is about.

    Ab – BOT is not programmed for geography, he can only flay his arms wildly, shouting ‘Warning, Warning, Death Cult, Warning…..’

    And if one ADF soldier is caught by Daesh and threatened with decapitation…..the LNP caucus will break out the champagne and tell the pollsters to get busy.

  10. Kyran

    In one of the many wash up reports of the Vietnam ‘police action’, I recall reading a quote (can’t remember the author, possibly Kissinger) stating the West went in with guns and money to convince the South Vietnamese, the Chinese went in with bowls of rice to convince the North Vietnamese.
    The Second World War was the last declared war, requiring debate by the involved parliaments and subsequent votes. Since then, western democracies have engaged in ‘police actions’ to avoid any extensive parliamentary scrutiny or debate. Mind you, since Beazley, the “lock step” approach of the two major party’s would preclude any intelligent debate.
    As Stephen points out, the power of the military industrial complex is frightening. Equally terrifying is the nexus between inflated defence force high command and the commercial beneficiaries of the defence contracts. Yet we call those we are ‘helping’ corrupt.
    The Iraqi government was fatally flawed at its creation by excluding from participation certain ethnic or secular parties. Until that is addressed, this conflict will produce only two outcomes, death of civilians and refugee’s.
    Thank you Mr Kelly. The incompetence of this government knows no bounds. Take care

  11. Jo Average

    “Why not just cut out the middle man and give the weapons and vehicles straight to Daesh?”

    that is exactly what we ( our allies and us ) do.

    Iraqi Army Allegedly Downs A US Helicopter For Providing Weapons To ISIS: Report

    U.S. Trained ISIS at Secret Jordan Base

    Is Barack Obama Actually Trying To Help the Islamic State (ISIS) Take Over Syria?

    etc etc etc

    al-cia-duh and IS or ISIS or ISIL or daesh or whatever – are all contrived bogeymen set up in order for us to have a reason to keep perpetuating the endless warmongering and murder as described by mark delmege above.

  12. gangey1959

    Another great article John.
    How do we stop our rent-an-idiot signing the TPP? The thought scares the shit out of me.
    And when he does, is there anything that can be done to get back out of it ?
    The thought of being more of an american puppet than we already are is just frightening.
    We are still shaking off the british chains.

  13. Kaye Lee

    I would like to see a cost-benefit analysis done on Abbott’s spending on military hardware and deployment of troops. This is costing us billions when we are being asked to take cuts to health, education, welfare, foreign aid. As John so rightly points out, investing in humanitarian aid would be far more productive than bombing the crap out of them again.

  14. Roswell

    Oh how Tony must wish the Vietnam War was still raging. Or the Boer War, perhaps. Any war really. As long as it’s a war to get publicity/photo ops/votes.

    In my opinion he’s read the public mood wrong if he thinks we’ll back troop deployment.

  15. Bilal

    The more flags the more desperate Abbott appears. When will he start wrapping himself in the flag like Pauline or the Cronulla thugs? Putting our troops in harms way when countries in the region have not done so, screams “look at me, look at me!” to our imperial masters and the Tea Party “Liberal” members who think we are still in the days of white British empire. Shorten’s “me too” suggests things will not change while this two party system remains dominant. At least the Greens are speaking up for Australia.

  16. stephentardrew


    “Does it make us any different to Putin?”

    Well no in fact it makes us a damn sight worse and that is the hypocrisy about Russia. Russia has had two recent interventions simply because the EU and NATO have breached the agreement on border countries. Georgia and Ukraine with the complex issue of Sevastopol the only southern port available for Russia to access the Mediterranean. I am neither a supporter of the US or Russia but how about counting the continual wars and arms deals done by the US throughout the world including supporting despots like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and on it goes.

    So Russia has two territorial conflicts and is accused of starting World War Three when the US has been in war mode nearly continuously from the second world war to now. Who has five hundred bases spread throughout the world? Certainly not Russia. Most of the US conflicts have been unjust supporting undemocratic dictatorships and military coups.

    So Abbott is ridding on the back of US hegemony while abusing Russia when in comparison Russia is a mere war minnow compared to the US. The CIA enticed Russia into Afghanistan through arming the Mujahideen yet Russia is the evil one.

    The public is as dumb as the media that informs them.

    Abbott “I gotta big bangy gun” is an infantile fool hoping another war will save him..

    It’s naive to hope the public could work it out for themselves.

    The US is the most violent interventionist country in the world.

  17. Kerri

    Thanks Jo Average and stephentardrew! Jo that was my point but thanks for the articles and stephen the american economy would collapse if there were no “wars” to be fought. The transparent practice of arming both sides and encouraging them to blast the shit out of their country to create a site for “rebuilding” which coincidentally falls to US companies with links to members of the US Government escapes many who dont look deep enough. For Abbott and co. to want to emulate that most corrupt and heartless country where the top 1% continue to feather their already obscenely luxurious nests needs to be a constant reminder of why they should be ousted forever!

  18. Jexpat

    “…our involvement increases the risk of home grown terrorists inspired by what they read and hear both locally and overseas.”

    That some jaded political observers might say, is the point.

  19. Annie B

    An excellent article John Kelly.

    Questioning the wisdom and validity of going into a country to train an untrainable army. Obviously there is no wisdom to that. While the Middle East do have some very nice people living there, it remains that their politics and laws are based on barbaric customs – to this day. No amount of charging around by the West, interfering and showing off their allied muscle power, will change the way things are in the Middle East. …. It is what it is. And it won’t change in our life time. …. what a shocking waste of manpower, men ( who may be killed – it happened last time ) and money.


    @ stephentardrew ……… Your comments often hit nails on heads – dead centre. Several in particular today, made me sit up and take notice, big time. I have never before read a description of this government as ‘conservative radicals’ … a very astute description of this rabble that we must see out of power. … ” radical ” being the operative word. That’s EXACTLY what they are – radical, extremist, fundamentalist nut jobs. …

    ~ ~

    As far as your comment “Does it make us any different to Putin?”
    Well no in fact it makes us a damn sight worse and that is the hypocrisy about Russia.”
    is concerned …. my first gut reaction on reading Kerris’ comment was …. we are in fact, much worse than Putin. …. and you go on to explain why. … An excellent and concise summary there.

    ~ ~
    The public ( except perhaps us here ) … accepts what the media tells them, because the media knows exactly which buttons to push to get the most reaction. ” Oooooh .. did you read, hear, see … a, b, c,” …. the garbage is passed on by word of mouth, discussed perhaps, and becomes a reality in the minds of the public – to a large degree. …. It might not be consciously recalled later, but the bell has been rung and cannot be unrung. Thus, the public can be relatively easily swayed or persuaded.

    ~ ~

    YES …. “The US is the most violent interventionist country in the world.” …. never a truer observation made. …. I have to wonder how Obamas’ obvious extreme dislike of Israel, will pan out in the long run. … Could be the undoing of that war-mongering lot in America.

  20. Sir ScotchMistery

    @Loz particularly the main resources wasted are air and breath. I’ve stopped feeling bad about him bring here and have designed a new t-shirt with Brandis the traitor we got and Snowden the traitor we need.

  21. Michael Taylor

    DanDark, I’m planning on writing a post about that article you linked to.

  22. Pingback: Same Story, Same Mistakes | THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN

  23. John Hermann

    ” One would have thought we learned that fifty years ago ”

    Abbott and the other brainless rabble who make up his front bench have learned nothing from history. They are incapable of learning from history. These Bozos are driven by blind ideology, together with an unwavering commitment to locking Australia into serving as the puppet and satellite of a bunch of crazies who have taken control of the white house.

  24. CMMC

    Ab – BOT keeps flaying arms wildly, ‘Warning, Warning, Death Cult. Danger, Will Robinson!’.

  25. Sir Ossis

    What would America do if Australia just said no to more Iraq nonsense?

    Media assault and change of government ala 1975? Are we completely powerless?

  26. DanDark

  27. mark delmege

    darrel… Barrel bombs maybe but it was the Saudi’s and their rebels who used the chemical weapons. It was the Ukranian military who used cluster bombs and other nasties bombing civilians month after month. It was the Western Aligned states who crushed Libya killing tens of thousands and who armed trained and coordinated the rebels in Syria who enforced a war that killed hundreds of thousands. War certainly is a nasty business and those who start them the ultimate criminals.

  28. Harquebus

    I don’t think that there has ever been a time when Australia was not governed by fools. We will probably be training the very people who would turn against us.

    “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.”

  29. mark delmege

    Harquebus Agreed on that. ISIS is as much an ideology of resistance in some ways like Pol Pot and even Nth Korea. It seems when countries have been driven into the dirt – smashed defeated and ruined and the subject of wholesale slaughter these sorts of ideologies are born. Understandable up to a point.

  30. mark delmege


    …March 04, 2015

    U.S., Qatar Plan To Rebrand AlQaeda Into “Moderate” Rebels

    The CIA supported and equipped “moderate” rebels in Syria are loosing out against al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. The last “moderate” group active in north Syria, Harakat Hazzm, had to give up its headquarter -including a ware house full of U.S. weapons- to Jabhat al Nusra and dissolved….

  31. DanDark

    Michael that article was written by a smart bloke Dr Kampmark, and that’s a great idea to elaborate further on his article, I am sure you will nail it 🙂
    My son goes to RMIT in Melbourne and I am so glad to learn this smart well learned man lectures at RMIT, we need more lectures like him in our Universities.

  32. oldfart

    I have always felt that when politicians decide to undertake armed incursions on foreign soil, it should be mandatory that one of their offspring should be on the first plane/boat/ landing craft that lands in that foreign place as part of the combative contingent. Somehow I think there would be less fighting

  33. mark delmege

    Origins of ISIS

    very good summary – US weapons plus, and he didn’t mention this, Saudi and Qatar ideology plus Turkey who aided and abetted. (More recently even the establishment press the NYT has admitted they were wrong on Chemical weapon use in Syria)

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