Iraq War 5 years on

The fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq has provided plenty of reflections on the consequences and correctness of that decision. The Easter long weekend is probably as good a time as any time to read back over some of what was said at the time of the invasion. One quote from around that period which is worth revisiting is that of former Prime Minister, John Howard, who was reported on 29 March 2003 as saying that ‘a war timetable of several months “sounds stretched to me”.

Many people over the years have drawn attention to the speech in the US Senate on March 19, 2003 by Senator Robert Byrd.

I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marvelled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength. But, today I weep for my country. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of pre-emption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

His speech to the US Senate was followed by one by Senator John McCain:

I respectfully disagree with the remarks of the Senator from West Virginia. I believe the President of the United States has done everything necessary and has exercised every option short of war, which has led us to the point we are today. I believe that, obviously, we will remove a threat to America’s national security because we will find there are still massive amounts of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Although Theodore Roosevelt is my hero and role model, I also, in many ways, am Wilsonian in the respect that America, this great nation of ours, will again contribute to the freedom and liberty of an oppressed people who otherwise never might enjoy those freedoms.

The speeches being made in the Australian Senate around the same time also make interesting reading.  On 18th, 19th and 20th March 2003, the Senate debated the matter, even though the decision had already been made and Australian troops were already on the ground in Iraq. A motion was eventually passed which, among other things, said that the Senate:

  • believes that in the absence of an agreed UN Security Council resolution authorising military action against Iraq, there is no basis for military action to disarm Iraq, including action involving the Australian Defence Force;
  • insists that there should be no commitment of Australian troops to a war in Iraq outside the authority of the UN;
  • concludes that Australian involvement in a war in Iraq without UN authorisation is not in Australia’s national interests nor in the interests of maintaining international peace and security;
  • condemns and opposes the decision of the Australian Cabinet and the President of the United States of America (Mr Bush) to commit troops to an imminent attack on Iraq.

(Click on this link for the full text of the motions and amendments moved and this link to see the final votes and what was passed). It was the first time in Australian history that our troops had been committed to war – let alone been part of starting one – without the support of the Australian Parliament.
Some speeches from that debate include:

speech by Senator Robert Hill – then Defence Minister and Leader of the government in the Senate, now Australia’s Ambassador to the United Nations:

This morning the Prime Minister announced that Australia has joined a coalition led by the United States which intends to disarm Iraq of its prohibited weapons of mass destruction. The government has now authorised our defence forces, which were predeployed in the gulf to acclimatise and contribute to the campaign to pressure Saddam Hussein into compliance, to take part in coalition operations.

This decision has been taken in a world environment changed forever by the events of 11 September 2001. The world faces new and previously unknown menaces. Old notions of aggression and responses to aggression do not necessarily fit our new circumstances. Yet one thing remains constant: the responsibility of governments to protect their citizens against possible future attacks, wherever they may come from.

speech by Senator John Faulkner – then Opposition Leader in the Senate, now Special Minister of State in the Labor government:

Australia should not be involved in this war. This war is wrong, and today is a black day for Australia. Yesterday, on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean, without the sanction of the United Nations, three nations made a decision to go to war against Iraq. Australia was not one of them. Mr Howard, in fact, was not invited to attend. Australia is being dragged to war by the decisions of others. This is a sad moment in our history. For the first time ever, we are ignoring the will of the international community and the United Nations. This is the first time that Australia has gone to war in such circumstances. We say, clearly and categorically, our troops should be brought home now. Mr Howard has dragged Australians into an avoidable war against their will and against the national interest.

The implications of this war will reverberate across the globe. It will make Australia less safe not more safe. Our natural inclination is for bipartisanship, so it takes an awful lot of provocation for us not to offer it. But the case for war has not been made. No credible link between Iraq and al-Qaeda has yet been established. It has not been established that Iraq’s weapons pose an immediate threat to Australia and our allies. We believe that it is morally wrong to go to war when a peaceful solution is possible. Many thousands of innocent people may be killed by this war, and these are human beings not `collateral damage’.

speech of mine as Leader of the Australian Democrats:

we have not one person amongst the coalition parties who is willing to stand up—stand up for Australia, stand up for the majority of the population and stand up against what many of them know is clearly wrong and clearly not in Australia’s interests. In a Newspoll today, 71 per cent of Australians indicated they are opposed to war without United Nations sanction. This would have to be the first time in history that a government has deployed our troops in the face of such massive public opposition.     …..

Many, many experts in the Australian community—former defence chiefs, former heads of the defence department, former military chiefs with immense experience, former diplomats, members of the defence community, members of the security community and members of the veterans community—have displayed widespread opposition and condemnation of the approach and policy of this government. Today former Australian ambassador to the United Nations, our last ambassador to the Security Council, Richard Woolcott, called this war `a tragic culmination of a flawed policy’, `a deception of the Australian people’ and `an unnecessary military involvement’. He said “this is the worst and most damaging foreign policy decision in half a century or more. It is gross deceit to say this war is in Australia’s national interest. Clearly it is not.”

speech by Bob Brown as Leader of the Australian Greens:

 We live in a difficult and trying world. The potential for destruction is unprecedented. But until we have leadership that is prepared to make this a fairer world, we cannot expect it to become a more settled world. Until we have leadership that will put butter before guns, we are in a more dangerous and less happy world. If we are going to export democracy and liberty we should exercise it at home. It is no good having democratic leaders at home who are dictators abroad. We live on a globalising planet; we live in an age of globalisation. That does not just mean economic globalisation. In fact, it means economic globalisation least of all. This is globalisation of human history, human advancement and the search for security and happiness in the future. You do not get that by the invention of—and spending of money on—more and more weapons of mass destruction, when there are so many people in need on this planet. Today, the Prime Minister has made an egregious mistake out of his own hubris.

Slate has published a series of essays to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, asking a number of writers who originally supported the war to answer the question, “How Did I Get Iraq Wrong?”

A couple of essays I found most interesting were by Timothy Noah, entitled “Wrong Question. How did Mary McGrory and Barack Obama get Iraq right?

Five years after this terrible war began, it remains true that respectable mainstream discussion about its lessons is nearly exclusively confined to people who supported the war, even though that same mainstream acknowledges, for the most part, that the war was a mistake. That’s true of Slate’s symposium, and it was true of a similar symposium that appeared March 16 on the New York Times’ op-ed pages. The people who opposed U.S. entry into the Iraq war, it would appear, are insufficiently “serious” to explain why they were right.

and by Christopher Hitchens, entitled “How Did I Get Iraq Wrong? I Didn’t.”

when I wrote the essays that go to make up A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq, I was expressing an impatience with those who thought that hostilities had not really “begun” until George W. Bush gave a certain order in the spring of 2003.
Anyone with even a glancing acquaintance with Iraq would have to know that a heavy U.S. involvement in the affairs of that country began no later than 1968, with the role played by the CIA in the coup that ultimately brought Saddam Hussein’s wing of the Baath Party to power. Not much more than a decade later, we come across persuasive evidence that the United States at the very least acquiesced in the Iraqi invasion of Iran, a decision that helped inflict moral and material damage of an order to dwarf anything that has occurred in either country recently.   ……..

The past years have seen us both shamed and threatened by the implications of the Berkeleyan attitude, from Burma to Rwanda to Darfur. Had we decided to attempt the right thing in those cases (you will notice that I say “attempt” rather than “do,” which cannot be known in advance), we could as glibly have been accused of embarking on “a war of choice.” But the thing to remember about Iraq is that all or most choice had already been forfeited. We were already deeply involved in the life-and-death struggle of that country, and March 2003 happens to mark the only time that we ever decided to intervene, after a protracted and open public debate, on the right side and for the right reasons. This must, and still does, count for something.

Hans Blix, head of the UN inspections team in Iraq in the lead up to the war, has a piece in The Guardian

Finally, click on this link to read a blog by a young Iraqi woman known as Riverbend, who started recording some of her experiences on her back in August 2003. Reading through some of the entries she wrote over the years, right up until her family finally fled into Syria as refugees in 2007 helps remind us that this isn’t just a political dispute, it is something that has very real human consequences for many many people.

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  1. Ah yes, but the deluded Australian has decided to publish silly old papers about ONE Australian supposedly ordered killed by Saddam Hussein in 1993 as a means of supporting the murder of over 1 million human beings, the making of 4.5 million refugees and the utter destruction and starvation of the population.

    It seems no-one has told them Saddam was lynched.

    I marched in every rally for years, I was with over 100,000 people in February 2003 to stop the madness and let us never forget this – the first ever suicide bomb anywhere in Iraq killed Paul Moran 5 years ago today.

  2. My state of mind hasnt changed from the other blogsubject site.And visiting,last night I noticed Dick Cheney doesnt care what his critics think.Nearly every American soldier may care now,what others think about them,which probably means American soldiers care more than Cheney,I hope they care enough not to be part of Cheney s propaganda.And if he doesnt care about that,they could pick up their pay and head homeward.

  3. W.H.O. did not specify the exact number of people murdered in Iraq, and the estimates will differ depending on who is talking. On a TV program today I heard that Iraq has no resources for counting bodies, thus no Census can be conducted. One million killed may sound terrible for war supporters so some people may feel more comfortable with 200.000. Never in history of any country over 4 million people were running away in panic from their homeland and seeking refuge elsewhere in such a short period of time. There is no justification for this war conducted by Christian coalition.

    An ancient pagan named Cicero once stated that unjustified peace is still better than any justified war.

    I have just read a very strange article:

  4. Craig, I don’t care who you believe mate. Not one Iraqi should have been killed because of us.

    The British study was fairly comprehensive and came up with over 1 million.

    Do not forget our last major adventure with the deranged and delusional US cost 3 million Vietnamese lives and then another 3 million Cambodians.

    I think you need to remember something useful Craig.

    In Australia every year about 133,000 people die and that is in a country with decent food, water, medical care and no war of any kind.
    That means that in the last 5 years alone 655,000 Australian’s have died.

    Why on earth is over 1 million Iraqis in a war zone beyond the point of believability?

    Little clean water, depleted uranium, bombs, little clean food, disease, 1 million is on the low side I would have thought.

    Then try and imagine all of Melbourne gone. Just gone, vanished to somewhere else.

    Because that his the number of displaced Iraqis.

    4.5 million and growing daily.

  5. Funny that people die? Is it to be presumed that the 650,000 Austaliasn that have died were the resutls of war or did sonme just happen to die – funny thing is that people die, some even get born each year to.

    So that analogy interesting as it is has no legs.

    However many that may or may not have died as a result of the war is not the point nor whose calcuations to belive is largely immaterial – many have died and that is sad and any people dying any where around the world as a result of conflicts is an unfortunate by product of the human race

  6. Marilyn,

    That number you provide, the entire population “of Melbourne”, is a farce. You can invent any figures you like from “comprehensive” studies, and then exaggerate them tenfold, screaming to the rafters with hyperboles.

    But most senisble people won’t believe it.

    The UN World Health organisation estimate is far more credible than those who peddle an aganda.

    And what an unethical agenda it is: Hoping, praying, pushing those figures up & up because it ohhh so looks good to have more Iraqi dead in order to prove a point.

    The WHO study is yet to be disproved.

    That “comprehensive” British study, by the Lancet, has been discredited so many times, by statisticians from both Harvard and Stanford, it is no longer submitted for peer review.

    -The surveyors only used about 47 clusters.

    -The surveyors REFUSE to release the full accounting to auditing. Some transparency.

    -Recently George Soros was revealed to be responsible for partial funding of the “survey”. Soros, a viscerial Bush-hater and anti-war opponent. Some “independent” report. It has no credibility.

    I’m flabergasted how quickly, Marilyn, you have suddenly disowned a UN figure when it doesn’t suit you.

    As for killing Iraqis, had we followed YOUR path, there would still be more of this:

    No doubt, your words of comfort would be oh so calming to a grieving mother at this museum.

    But hey, it would have been out of the news, so your dearth of compassion for Saddam’s torture victims would never have been exposed.

    Talk about injustice.

  7. Craig;

    If you believe or support the UN (and their corporte bakcers) then your a lost cause.


  8. Tony,

    You are correct.

    The UN is useless. It refused to back the overthrow of the 20th Century’s most vicious dictator.

    Even scenes from Iraq like this did not stir them ito action:

    Worse, now that it’s after the fact and we know the full extent of his hideous dugeons, people like Marilyn still stand behind their original stance.

  9. In defence of the UN, it is only as strong as the countries that are in it and what they are willing to do.

    It seems that there are many blind critics and supporters of the UN who both think it has enormous powers to do anything to both right the world’s evil and to impose itself on your national government and make it do things against its will.

    Both of them are equally misguided. The UN only really has powers when the component governments agree – and as long as the Security Council doesn’t veto it.

    btw, Craig. I take it you suggest that Saddam Hussein was the 20th Century’s most vicious dictator? I’m sure there could be some competition there.

  10. Craig, after Abu Ghraib how can you bother to talk such prattle? 4.5 million Iraqis have been made homeless, about the population of Melbourne.

    Now grow up you stupid child.

  11. The UN doesn’t work all that well, because all of the member countries have “Me Syndrome” when it suits them.

    But has anyone noticed that Kevin Rudd has found a bit of guts and told George Bush that we’re getting out?

    His intestinal fortitude has really annoyed Vice-President Rice. The look on her face could kill.

  12. If we invaded Iraq for Saddam Hussein’s horrific behaviour,why haven’t we invaded Zimbabwe? I find the selective irate behaviour an absolute farce.We’ve been involved in the invasion of a sovereign nation on a lie.Many of us knew it was a lie,not only that,but in the past, the US had plenty of opportunities to vote in the UN to sanction Suddam Hussein’s appalling actions & they either did all they could from preventing these motions from being voiced, or voted against. When Saddam was of no further use,and it suited the crazies in the White House, they roped him in with 9/11?Taliban to win over the american people!The hypocrisy makes me sick!Now we’ve participated in the death of over a million people,with 4 million displaced, 500,000 of them children.

    George Bush Snr encouraged the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam during the first gulf war,only to leave them to the vicious retribution of Saddam when he changed his mind.It’s ironic,that I believe the people he was finally hanged for murdering were these people.

    We were going to sell uranium to India which isn’t a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty,but will at least support either the US or Israel when/if they bomb Iran for alleged enrichment of uranium,which they’re entitled to do to the grade required for a nuclear reactor. Iran is a member of the NPT,Israel isn’t!The inspectors have never been to China,Russia,US,Britain or Israel,all of whom have nuclear weapons. As I said,the hypocrisy is nauseating!The crap put forward in the media is breathtaking. Am I one of the few who’ve observed,that the US doesn’t take on any country that can fight back. Look at the different treatment of Nth Korea? I recall the response of Bush Administration,when 2OIC in Pakistan was found to have given nuclear knowledge & materials to other countries.It wouldn’t have had anything to do with the fact, that Pres Mushareff & Pakistan’s airspace was vital to the invasion of Afghanistan would it? Nah!Of course not!

  13. I thought it would have been far simpler just to send in some mercenaries to kill Saddam Hussein and his lookalike clones – if he was considered to be the main problem.

    That would have delivered a significant message with minimal loss of life. People said it couldn’t be done, but I still think it could have been most successful.

    Then some people didn’t even want Saddam Hussein hanged!

    I told a few people that I thought George Bush was only sending in his cannon fodder for the oil. Some people told me I was wrong – one even yelled!

    Plenty of egg has been worn on certain faces since then.

    Now the quest to control oil continues, regardless of the carnage and displacement of people.

    People cannot be blamed for expecting the UN to do more.

  14. Lorikeet: re: “… kill Saddam Hussein …”

    You endorse assassination, but not (as I read other posts), war, so once again you display an ambivalent heart.

    Not a cardinal sin to be sure, but consistency & credibility are often partners…..just my thought.

    Having said that, and to yet side with some of your arguments, I do think that the “selective irate behaviour” referred to by Nauseated Naomi Cartledge #13 is indicative of the “spin” behind war-mongerers.

    Naomi Cartledge: I’m confused here. Are the (presumably UN) inspectors supposed to go to China, Russia, US, Britain to search for …. nuclear weapons??? Ummm, I think we know … “they’ve already got one”. Sickeningly, they only get to go to less desirable locations in the course of their work.

  15. GZG#15-It’s the hypocrisy I was alluding to?Who keeps tabs on what they have,countries they share nuclear materials/information with?Why wasn’t Pakistan taken to the UN when the chief nuclear person was found to give nuclear materials etc to other countries?Iran,Nth Korea?What about Isreal & India?France also has weapons.US only takes on countries they can bomb to bits?Typical of a bully!
    As for assassinating Saddam Hussein.Robert Boer,Cia operative in Middle East for yrs said on a documentary,that to do that would have put him on a serious charge with the death penalty if found guilty-that was under Clinton?I don’t believe in capital punishment anyway.State sponsored murder in my view.Saddam was executed with undue haste,and on a somewhat lesser charge,that did not involve ‘sensitive’ information the US wouldn’t like in the public domain,certainly not while they were occupiers of Iraq.So they killed him!Problem solved!
    As for the OIL question.Watch Afghanistan to Iraq-Connecting the dots with OIL.Bush’s term for the invasion was Operation Iraqi Liberation=OIL!Or go to about the bullying of Iraqi oil workers/govt to agree to US/British big oil companies demand of major revenues to them for the next 35 yrs – they’ll steal billions of dollars that should belong to the people of Iraq.They should be cleaning up their mess,& allowing the people ALL the monies from oil for their future-not Shell or ??
    Why do we have an Embassy & Diplomats in a country we’re supposed to be at war with?Did we in WW2 or Vietnam?Doesn’t anyone think this is strange?Doesn’t the fact that ANZ plus other ‘businesses’ being there rather strange too?Doesn’t this point to ‘other interests’ than “freedom & democracy” to this “young democracy” YUK!Biggest US Embassy in the world’s in Iraq $600 million?Permanent military bases,complete with stop signs & streets etc?Ahem!Of course we don’t hear about any of this even on ABC or SBS, only on the Internet or alternate newsmedia!

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