26 November 2003

Threadbare basis to the homespun yarn that led us into Iraq

The reasons presented to Parliament on February 4 by Howard for joining the invasion were a smokescreen, an attempt to justify a policy determined for other reasons. I believe the Government had decided by July 2002 or possibly earlier to go to war beside the US, if it invaded.

Saddam's regime has been removed from power and that is welcome. There is some hope that the US might, if it stays the course in an election year, produce a soundly based, decent and quasi-democratic government in Iraq. But these were not the objectives advanced by our Government for going to war.

The main argument put to the public was to destroy Iraq's WMDs. Bush alleged that Saddam's WMDs posed a grave danger to the US. John Howard echoed these views, stating in Parliament on February 4 this year that 'Iraq has a useable chemical and biological weapons capability'. He added, 'Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons.'

When, after nearly four months of intensive search by a 1200-strong team led by the CIA weapons expert David Kay, no stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons had been found, the spin was that 'evidence of programs' and of 'intentions' to develop them had been found. Howard shifted ground by arguing that the important thing was that Saddam's brutal regime had been removed. He ignored his statement before the invasion that 'our policy is the disarmament of Iraq, not the removal of Saddam Hussein'. Howard said a few days before the invasion that if Saddam got rid of his WMDs he could remain in power. Now he maintains it would have been intolerable to allow Saddam to remain in power because he was a brutal dictator.

No connection between Saddam and September 11 has been established and the London Joint Intelligence Organisation assessment of last February that a war would lead to increased terrorism - not the decrease predicted by Howard - was selectively ignored.

I was amazed when Howard said in New York last May that it was time 'to move forward' on Iraq. There was no point, he said, in continuing to question the legitimacy of the invasion now that the conflict phase of the war had ended.

The legitimacy of an act of war is not a minor matter to be lightly put aside for domestic political convenience under the pretext that the conflict has ended, which is clearly not so.

The foreign policy establishment finally dares to say what the rest of us have been saying for some months now.

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