26 September 2003

Howard in retreat on Iraq arsenal - www.smh.com.au

When Mr Howard committed troops to war in March he said Iraq had 'begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard, sarin, cyclosarin and VX'.

Five months before the war, when Australia was already helping the US plan an invasion, he said: 'There is no doubt on the evidence, on the intelligence material available to us, that not only does Iraq possess chemical and biological weapons, but Iraq also has not abandoned her nuclear aspirations.'

During the war, the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said: 'I certainly think the chemical, and probably biological, weapons exist. I don't think there's any doubt about that.'

Mr Howard yesterday said he had received credible intelligence on Iraq's 'WMD capability'.

'The intelligence we had at the time about their capability was very credible and very strong and I don't retreat one iota from the decision that we took [to go to war].'

When Howard was confronted with the State Department's questioning of the Iraq war his explanation was that it was only one line in a 66-page report. The ONA director-general threw himself on his sword and said that no-one told the prime minister.

When Howard was confronted with the Nigerien yellowcake fraud his explanation was that no-one told the Prime Minister.

When Howard was confronted with the 14 February JIC report his explanation was that it 'went into the mix' but was not specifically drawn to his attention. No-one has yet told us who it was that had not told the prime minister.

Now we have the ISG draft turning up all over Washington and still, no-one has told the prime minister.

Really, with his failure to keep himself informed on a question of war and peace is it not time the prime minister polished up his management skills? I'm sure there are some basic TAFE courses he could enroll for.

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