Unlike the UK and the USA, the issue of Iraq has slipped fairly low in the political debate in Australia, apart from the link to the ongoing AWB ‘wheat overboard’ scandal. One could speculate as to why this disparity between the 3 key members of the original ‘Coalition of the Willing’ exists, but the difficulties in Iraq continue regardless.

In the UK, a medical Doctor and air force officer, Malcolm Kendall-Smith, has been jailed and fined by a military court for refusing to obey an order and return to active duty in Iraq. This may seem to be a minor thing, but it addresses major issues around the crucial matter of when a soldier should or shouldn’t refuse to obey an order. There is a very good reflection about the situation on this post at the Barista site.

In the USA, there have been a growing number of calls from retired Generals for the sacking of the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, over his handling of the war and (in particular) its aftermath. The attacks have had sufficient political impact that the “Defense Department has issued a memorandum to a group of former military commanders and civilian analysts that offers a direct challenge to the criticisms.”

Meanwhile, in Iraq itself, the question remains about just how serious the situation is. Speculation is rife that the country may be on the verge of disintegrating, Yugoslavia style, into separate entities. The New York Times writes of the “Echoes of Bosnia in the Iraqi divide”.

The Guardian in the UK calls Iraq “Ungoverned and ungovernable

However, in regard to the question of whether Iraq is really in a state of civil war, as some suggest, Anwar Rizvi suggests on the Open Democracy site that the situation varies enormously depending on which part of the country you are in and, despite the sectarian and insurgent violence, insecurity and fear, it does not really match what has occurred “in recent years in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Liberia and Rwanda.”

In almost all these places, the common denominator has been a battle for territory between rival factions led by publicly identifiable figures with clearly stated, albeit occasionally dubious, aims. This is certainly not the case in Iraq. There are no pitched battles for territory and no known figureheads rallying the masses to a well-defined cause. The only known name that crops up regularly is that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and no one is quite sure if he is dead, alive or simply a nom de guerre for someone else entirely. What is happening is a concerted effort by a group or groups of highly-organised insurgents to cause maximum death and destruction. Their sole aim seems to be to strike fear into the hearts of all Iraqis and totally derail the rebuilding process, both political and physical, in this war-shattered country. Their remarkable success in this endeavour so far is clearly aided by the political vacuum that has accompanied the long delay in forming a new government.

It’s not a great prognosis, but not a civil war. However, whether the presence of western troops helps or hinders the current situation is a question that Anwar Rizvi doesn’t address.

For an indication of what Australians think, this article from the Sydney Morning Herald reports that 65 per cent of Australians “want our troops to be withdrawn from Iraq either immediately or, at the latest, when their mission providing security for the Japanese humanitarian mission ends in May“. The Defence Minister however, has said Australian troops will remain in Iraq “well into 2007”.

Please like & share:


  1. I dont have a problem with the chap opposing the war as such. However an army is not and cannot be a democracy.
    Unless he has been ordered to have direct involvement in a “war crime” his case seems pretty weak.
    He should have resigned his commsion and accepted a dishonourable discharge if he felt that strongly. As is it looks more like a stunt.

  2. An army is supposed to defend democracy, in Oz, U.S. and U.K. anyway – according to the theory. That is the purpose of it’s authoritarian structure, to make sure democracy can be defended as best it can. The essence here is discipline, not power. Even generals must be disciplined, otherwise they would not have become generals, theoretically. The lack of democracy in the army is no justification at all to disreguard the law and human rights in Iraq, the U.S.A. or anywhere else. The illegal invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of a sovereign, though not democratic, government cannot be justified legally, nor in terms of saving lives or human rights violations. All such indicators have deteriorated rapidly since Iraq was “liberated” and continue to get worse. And what is this democracy thing? the right to tick a piece of paper every three years while a gaggle of tyrants rule over you?

    But even outside of the warzone, David Hicks and Mamdu Habib, not to mention the many others being imprisoned for years without trial. Justice, accountability and transperency in government and the courts is, according to the rhetoric, supposed to be amongst the pillars of democracy.
    A good soldier will have taken an oath in good faith to serve their country. This is a contract between the soldier and their government to uphold democracy, even if it means losing life. This is the seriousness and commitment of a good soldier. A good soldier really should be disturbed if their government is not keeping their end of the bargain, especially if it is still demanding that the soldier be prepared to lay down their life.

    From media reports, it seems this very disillusionment is the reason that David Hicks is in gaol, who may have proudly served in the Australian army, if their was something to be proud about. Instead he turned his back on the hollowness of our “democracy” and it’s capacity to cause death and destruction around the world, even without the military, and in the context of entrenched poverty and injustice at home. This dissillusionment with the myth of democracy is why David Hicks is in gaol, as it is the reason for Australia having the highest youth suicide rate in the world. Our myths are hollow. “Democracy” is no more real in Iraq than Santa-Claus.
    Most of the U.S.A. troops in America are poor with no job prospects, no health insurance and desparate. They are willing to risk their lives because it puts a meal on their families table at home. This is fighting for your family, not your country.

    British democracy and U.S. democracy both developed as movements for political independance and human rights for citizens. Rules and regulations were made to look after these principles. But that is not what the rules and regulations, and armies, are doing today in the English speaking alliance – USA, UK and Oz. It is only New Zealand and Canada who still have anything left of the ideals of independance and human rights, which itself was imposed on indigenous democracy there too anyway. Is democracy the spirit of freedom trying to manifest in an orderly manner, or is democracy the thing used to crush that spirit. A soldier would have to seriously ask themself that question in this day and age.

  3. Yes, I noticed the difference in media coverage when I was in the US. Every day more US soldiers and Iraqi civilians are dying. Here on SBS you can watch the News Hour – SIXTEEN soldiers were shown in silence in one evening last I watched. Some of them are so young! And that’s without showing all the Iraqi faces.

    One day the war criminals that lead us will be put on trial. The fact that Australia was involved in propping up the regime and undermining the sanctions all that time via AWB, Tigris et al makes it all the more sickening to behold this senseless slaughter. Yes, there was a better way to deal with Hussein – thanks in no small part to the incompetence of our own government that way was never given a chance.

    May their grandchildren curse their names.

  4. Oh, and as for the generals – as if ‘more troops on the ground’ would make a difference. These people live in a world of their own. I agree that they should have resigned when it would have mattered. Anyone who follows the orders of Commander Cookoo-Bananas is no better than a pumpkin themselves.

  5. whats that i here is it not the ghosts of vietnam .i seam to remember a lib govt following the u.s. into that to. dose not look like they learnt anything from that.

  6. And I like Bush’s rationale for proposing an invasion of Iran – “I’ve got nothing to lose and the presidents that follow me won’t want to do it”. That’s a great reason for committing future generations to war.

    As for why Australia is softly softly – I think history underestimates how mercanary Australia can be in its own interests. Settler societies (especially ones that have not been destroyed by war) and much better at quarantining news they don’t like from their lives. In this case, despite the rhetoric, I think most people knew we were doing it as a straight-forward transaction with America (we go into Iraq, you protect us from future attack) and we have a very limited engagement.

    But probably most importantly, the government (including the gutless backbench and Labor) have offered not a single skerrick of doubt (ala the UK) – protest movements (especially in Australia) need a bit of a bit of officialdom to hang their legitimacy on, and while the government freakishly holds it together there’s not much Australia’s humanist universalists can do. Did any of that make sense?

  7. Quote:
    Meanwhile, in Iraq itself, the question remains about just how serious the situation is. Speculation is rife that the country may be on the verge of disintegrating, Yugoslavia style, into separate entities. The New York Times writes of the “Echoes of Bosnia in the Iraqi divide”.

    The conspiracy theorist in me thinks this may be a deliberate ‘divide and conquer’ policy…

  8. “Most of the U.S.A. troops in America are poor with no job prospects, no health insurance and desparate.”

    This simply is not true. In fact, many of the US troops are reservists, who have jobs they’ve left to go to Iraq. Their jobs will be held for them when they return.

Comments are closed.