29 March 2003

swamped by quagmires
I am going to start a pledge campaign. I will not use the word 'quagmire' with respect to the invasion of Iraq. I think the war plan is a lot less than it might be and its defects will cost Iraqi and allied lives. I am not at all sure that military defeat of the Saddam tyranny followed by a Mesopotamian raj is a realistic prospect. But I will not use that word.
operational pause in front of Baghdad


'U.S. Orders 4-6 Day Pause in Iraq Advance-Officers
Sat March 29, 2003 12:02 AM ET
CENTRAL IRAQ (Reuters) - U.S. commanders have ordered a pause of between four to six days in a northwards push toward Baghdad because of supply shortages and stiff Iraqi resistance, U.S. military officers said on Saturday.

They said the "operational pause," ordered on Friday, meant that advances would be put on hold while the military sorted out logistics problems with long supply lines from Kuwait.

The invasion force would continue to attack Iraqi forces ahead of them with heavy air strikes during the pause, softening them up ahead of any eventual attack on Baghdad, said the officers, declining to be named.

Use of gas-guzzling armored vehicles has been restricted to save fuel and food is also in short supply. In one frontline infantry unit, for instance, soldiers have had their rations cut to one meal packet a day from three.

Resistance from Iraqi militias fighting in towns along the advance lines has hampered the stretched supply convoys.'
northern Iraq
According to the Independent, the Kurdish peshmergas are now within 3 km of Kirkuk. The Ansar al-Islam pocket on the border between the Kurdish autonomy and Iran ahs been destroyed. Newsday quotes US Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as saying the Turks have agreed not to intervene in northern Iraq.

The consensus of most reportage is that the US military presence in the north is as much about stopping a Turkish/Kurdish (Turco-Kurdish?) confrontation than opening a new front. The coalition wants to use the Kurdish forces against the Saddam dictatorship, not having them involved in a standoff with Turkey.

I'm still working on a proper analysis of the way that the Bush administration's diplomatic failure with Turkey is shaping events.
I've just been reading War in Iraq - a week of war. I'd planned to comment on the growing chaos in northern Iraq (apart from the reporting chaos of CNN briefly deciding that Tikrit was a southern Iranian city) and the situation with Turkey and the Kurds.

I'm going to postpone that and think very hard for a few hours about the Russian analysis.

Perhaps we could all meditate on one Eric Bush, an English guy living in France who is changing his surname to Buisson because he does not want to share it with Bush.
The Prisoner
Dunya Mikhail
Translated by Salaam Yousif and Liz Winslow

She doesn't understand
what it means to be "guilty"
She waits at the prison's door
until she sees him
to tell him "Take care"
as she used to remind him
when he was going to school
when he was going to work
when he was coming on vacation
She doesn't understand
what they are uttering now
those who are behind the bar
with their uniform
as they decided that
he should be put there
with strangers of gloomy days
It never came to her mind
when she was saying lullabies
upon his bed
during those faraway nights
that he would be put
in this cold place
without moons or windows
She doesn't understand
The mother of the prisoner doesn't understand
why should she leave him
just because "the visit has finished"!

The Guardian
The Last Iraq
Fadhil al-Azzawi
Translated by Salaam Yousif

Every night I place this creature on my table
And pull its ears,
Till tears of joy come to its eyes.
Another cold winter, penetrated by airplanes
And soldiers sitting on the edge of a hillock,
Waiting for history
To rise up from the darkness of the marshes
With a gun in its hand,
To shoot angels
Training for the revolution.
Every night I put my hand on this country,
It slips away from my fingers,
Like a soldier running from the front.


Fadhi al-Azzawi was born in Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk. He was imprisoned in Baghdad. He lives now in Germany.

The Guardian
Is Blair spending too much time with Bush?
From the BBC:

A government minister has expressed regret over any hurt caused by Tony Blair's claim that two British soldiers were executed.

The prime minister's comments were apparently at odds with what the British Army had told relatives of Sapper Luke Allsopp, 24, and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, 36, both from a bomb disposal unit of the Royal Engineers.

Sapper Allsopp's family had reportedly expressed anger after Mr Blair used the two deaths as an example of the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram took the opportunity of a news briefing for journalists in London to express his "regret" for any distress caused.

One hopes that Blair merely made a mistake or was carried away by the rush of events. One hopes he finds a better way than a second-hand apology to try and help the families deal with the grief he has added to their burden.
How silly do we think the Shi'a are?
What's happened as we reach Day 8? Reinforcements are being despatched because there are too few boots on the ground. There has been no cakewalk. No explosion of joy. No cheering crowds. No quick victory. The assumptions behind this war plan have failed utterly. Game show videos at the Pentagon do not conceal the failure of these assumptions.

Southern Iraq, where the Shi'a majority should make the regime's support weakest, has seen some of the fiercest fighting.

Much has been made of the failure to support the Shi'a revolt in 1991. I guess it was inevitable that someone would try to explain it away. William Saletan's Slate article Shia Folly says the Shi'a were not betrayed in 1991 when the coalition failed to support their revolt against Saddam.

In view of that understanding, Bush had no business promising to send troops into Iraq to assist a Shiite uprising. And in fact, he didn't. Three weeks into the war, Bush observed, "There's another way for the bloodshed to stop, and that is for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside, and then comply with the United Nations resolutions." That was a fact and a suggestion, no less true or wise than an equivalent remark about the Cuban or Serbian people. But it wasn't a promise. We couldn't promise the Shiites we would enter Iraq, since we had already promised our coalition partners we wouldn't. (boldface mine)

Okay, so there was no implicit or explicit promise to the Shi'a in 1991 and they should read the small print next time. Next time is now and the small print has been posted all over the Western media. They've read the small print and they do not want Baghdad as a stepping stone to Tehran or Mecca.

Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, on 25 February said

(:Translated): The Iraqi people will surely resist this idea. I believe that the Iraqi people and the popular and national forces inside Iraq will not accept a military governor, because this is a violation of democracy.

I do not know if the ayatollah has read any of the psyops leaflets but clearly he has read the small print. Dropping millions of leaflets is not going to persuade the Shi'a or any other Iraqis to subject themselves to a US viceroy sipping coffee in his palace while happy native subjects polish his shoes - like a scene from a bad movie. And whichever military genius laid out the line of advance on Baghdad might have taken account that Najaf and Kerbala are holy cities with a status (for Shi'a) equal to Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

The political assumptions behind this war are wrong. Saletan should rename his article: 'Neocon Folly'.

28 March 2003

Krugman on Cheney
Paul Krugman comprehensively bags Cheney in the New York Times today. On the war? No, on his energy policy, although Krugman makes the point that in war as on energy the Bush administration suffers 'incestuous amplification.

One answer is that Mr. Cheney made sure that his task force included only like-minded men: as far as we can tell, he didn't consult with anyone except energy executives. So the task force was subject to what military types call "incestuous amplification," defined by Jane's Defense Weekly as "a condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation."

Today's papers are full of reports about incestuous amplification in the Pentagon as the reason for the failed strategy that is costing coalition and Iraqi lives. Perhaps if Bush, Cheney or Wolfowitz had served in the various wars they have supported they might have taken the making of this war as more than an exercise in spin.

Perhaps if the Australian government had a higher war aim than maintaining the US alliance at all costs we might be able to take their support for the troops as more than an exercise in spin.
the strange history of the ASIO bill II
On 13 December 2002 the prime minister said:

And what I say to the Labor Party is, the nation needs a stronger ASIO bill, you remain silent in the face of what the New South Wales Labor Government has done and if this bill does not go through and we are not able to clothe our intelligence agencies with this additional authority over the summer months it will be on the head of the Australian Labor Party and on nobody else's head.

Parliament first sat after that on 4 February 2003.

The ASIO bill was reintroduced on 20 March

On 13 December failure to pass the bill was a threat to the lives of Australians and any death would be on the heads of the ALP. That argument, extreme, vicious and vacuous as it was, stood from 13 December, the last sitting day last year until 4 February. If the bill was desperately urgent on 13 December why was it not reintroduced until 20 March? On who's head would the blame have fallen during the more than a month that this allegedly vital bill was neglected? Who left the intelligence agencies naked between 4 February and 20 March? And why bring it back at this precise time when there are rumours of a double dissolution in April?
Howard, war, politics, priorities
Howard has been interviewed on Larry King Live


You were invited Mr Prime Minister to be at Camp David tonight with Mr Bush and Prime Minister Blair. You declined, why?


It's not that I didn't want to talk to them, and as it happened we talked over the phone. But I felt that right at the moment the best thing for me to do was to be in Australia, bearing in mind that it only takes six and a half hours to go from London to Washington, it takes about 24 hours to go from Canberra to Washington and I took a raincheck on the invitation and I'll no doubt have the opportunity again of talking face to face. But we have had a lot of discussions, the President and I, and we have a very important commitment, we have special forces, we have a squadron of hornets, we have Naval personnel, mine clearance experts. For a country our size, our contribution is very significant and we are very committed to the objectives of the military campaign.


No causalities, but you have lost an, I understand, an Australian journalist, cameraman Paul Moran was killed by a car bomb. Is that correct?


Yes, he was killed by a car bomb, and it's almost certainly the case that it was the work of a suicide bomber of an organisation associated with al-Qaeda that has, at the very least, been accommodated by elements of the Iraqi regime. But it was another demonstration of the wilful behaviour of international terrorists and how they target people without any regard for human life, including their own.

The organisation in question is Ansar al-Islam. According to Human Rights Watch Ansar is linked to al-Qa'ida. Ansar was formed shortly before 9 September 2001. It operates in Iraqi Kurdistan - a region not controlled by the Saddam dictatorship since the Kurdish safe haven was connected. There have been intermittent clashes betwen Ansar and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan for years. The only power with the ability to deal with Ansar since establishment of the safe havens was the Anglo-American alliance. The PUK has claimed that Ansar is supported by Saddam.

Paul Moran's murder at the hand of an Ansar suicide bomber was tragic and awful. Spinning the PUK claim into a certainty to support an al-Qa'ida/Saddam linkage is repellent. The failure to attend the Washington summit is discussed in the posts on The strange history of the ASIO bill.

the strange history of the ASIO bill
Really, there's no choice but to post the whole article.

Brown pricks, PM deflates
By�Alan Ramsey
December 14 2002

It was Bob Brown who did it. He might well be the most impractical political leader in the business. But he sticks. Likewise his party, the Greens. They do not roll over on a policy decision. Usually that decision is as principled as it can be impolitic and implausible. The Greens live in the forests, with all the other elves and goblins. But you have to admire their resolution and their values. And increasing numbers of voters, sick to death of debauched major party behaviour and slick, prostituted political values, look to the Greens as the conscience of political life.

So what was it Brown did?

He made a speech. Parliament had been up all night, locked in a contest of wills with John Howard. The Senate sat for 25 hours straight, from 9.30am Thursday to 10.30am Friday. The last time anything like that happened was during the second Senate debate on the Telstra sale a few years ago. This time it was the new ASIO powers bill.

Now there aren't going to be any new powers. Twice the Senate sent the ASIO bill back to the House, insisting the Government accept its amendments, the great majority of them Labor's. Twice Labor, the Democrats and the Greens combined to frustrate the Government's insistent demands there be no amendments. The second time, at 10.30 yesterday morning, the Government folded.

Howard killed the bill - at least for now.

The Prime Minister decided if he couldn't have his ASIO bill, he wouldn't have any bill at all. If ASIO couldn't have the unfettered right to pick up, on special warrant, people as young as 14, anywhere, any time, detain them in secret, tell nobody, question them for as long as a week, charged with nothing, suspected of nothing, with no legal right of silence under threat of five years' jail, guilty of nothing except maybe - maybe - having information they didn't even realise they possessed, then ASIO would have no new powers at all. John Howard took his bill and went home for Christmas.

Yes, but what about Bob Brown?

The ASIO legislation has been before Parliament most of this year. The companion legislation, a package of five security bills, deals with actual acts of terrorism and suspected terrorists. This package went through the Parliament some time ago after extensive amendment by the Government itself and by the Senate opposition parties. But the ASIO bill - the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002 - has been jammed by controversy all year. The Government wouldn't give ground. Neither would the Senate.

The crunch came this week. The Senate adopted 35 amendments, 34 of them Labor's. The Government stridently opposed them all. The Greens and the Democrats voted with Labor for the amendments. And the key changes? 1) That the proposed new ASIO investigative powers automatically lapse after three years unless Parliament re-endorses the legislation; 2) That nobody under the age of 18 be subject to the legislation; 3) That denial of the right to silence be accompanied by specific civil rights protections, including protection against self-incrimination in any future charge; 4) That detention be only for the purpose of questioning and not for the purpose of detention without charge; 5) That a single detention period, under a single warrant, last no longer than a total of 20 hours of questioning, broken into three periods of four hours, eight hours and eight hours; 6) That questioning be carried out only in the presence of a "prescribed authority", ie, a judge or retired judge; 7) That any person detained under investigative warrant have the right to immediate legal representation of his or her own choice, and 8) no person can be subject to more than one session of 20 hours of questioning in a seven-day period, and only after seven days can a second warrant be sought to continue questioning. In the meantime, no person already subject to 20 hours of questioning can be held in continuous detention.

The Senate passed the amended ASIO bill, finally, at 4.33pm two days ago. It had first come before Parliament on March 21. And when at last it got through the Senate nine months later, heavily amended, the combined support of 12 hardy souls - the Greens, the Democrats and One Nation's Len Harris (Qld) - voted no, they wanted no truck of any kind with "police state" legislation. They'd supported all Labor's amendments to water down the bill. But then, to make their attitude crystal clear, they voted against the bill as a whole. Thus, ironically, the Government was left to vote with Labor to get its bill through in its highly modified form. It was a far cry from the legislation the Government had first come up with nine months earlier, under which children as young as 10 would have been strip searched and detained indefinitely.

And Bob Brown, what?

The House bounced the bill straight back to the Senate overnight. The Government made two concessions, reluctantly. One was to adopt Labor's three-year sunset clause lapsing the legislation. But it wouldn't budge on the new detention powers. And neither would the Senate be stood over.

The Liberals' Ian Campbell read out a long list of the amendments the House was refusing to accept. But the Government's bloody-mindedness did no more than incite some of the best speeches of the months of debate. Labor's Senate leader, John Faulkner, was resolute in not buckling to the Government's threats and blame game.

Then Bob Brown spoke. John Howard had just gone on early morning radio to damn the Senate for what he professed was the Senate's threat to Australian lives. Brown was appalled. He went after Howard with a baseball bat. Part of what he said: "When the Prime Minister damned the safety of Australians, he reached a new low in debate. What is uncovered here, coming from the Prime Minister's office, is a new political correctness which says, if you don't agree with the Prime Minister of this country, you're some way on the side of those who are anti-Australian or would create terror here. This is no way to facilitate a debate in a great Parliament like this.

"There is no doubt this is a very, very complex and difficult piece of legislation which demands resolution. It demands resolution today. Therefore it demands both sides listen to each other. We have the Senate leader [Defence Minister Robert Hill] saying he has been horrified by the de facto government that the Labor Party presents itself to be. In fact, what he's saying is that this Parliament does not have a role in scrutinising legislation from the executive. This idea that anything the Prime Minister puts forward in these increasingly tense and dangerous days cannot be countermanded, even by the elected Parliament of Australia, is a very dangerous mistake ...

"When legislation is brought into this Parliament by the Executive and Parliament determines there should be amendments, then the Government should listen. And when the Prime Minister and the Government won't brook amendments, then it is democracy itself that is being questioned by the Prime Minister.

"The Greens have said this is draconian legislation which we oppose. We have nevertheless, with the Democrats, supported the Labor amendments. That is proper process. Even Labor says it has come up with a tough 'compulsory, coercive, questioning regime' for ASIO to deal with terrorism. And whatever else the Government might say, that regime gives ASIO unprecedented power to take people off the street, to question them, in the first instance without legal representation, without other people knowing where they are, effectively held secretly, their usual rights taken away, and these are people not suspected of terrorism, or knowledge of terrorism, or potential involvement in terrorism. These are innocents that ASIO suspects may have information ...

"It is incumbent on the Prime Minister, if he believes there should be greater powers given to ASIO, to accept what the negotiations with the Labor Party have given him. I'm talking here about bringing this out of the Prime Minister's realm of his ownership of democracy in this country and having him accept that this is a Parliament working in the national interest. How dare he or his ministers say that the workings of this Senate is to damn the safety of Australians. How dare he say that about representatives in this place. That is the new political correctness trying to silence critics. And the Prime Minister is now in the dock on that.

"I've watched in this Senate for 18 months as the Labor Party sided up with the Government on Tampa, on legislation to bring in the army against peaceful protests before the Olympics, on a series of laws which have eaten into civil liberties and political rights in this country. But we've seen something different here today. The Labor Party has said, 'We are going to stand for something different, and we do recognise this is a difficult decision between our political rights, our democracy, on the one hand and the threat of terrorism on the other hand.' And the Prime Minister and his Government feels that in that situation where an Opposition is, for once, acting as an Opposition, as a real Opposition, they can't accept it.

"Well, they're going to have to accept that this is a democracy where the Parliament ultimately makes the decision. And if the Prime Minister walks away from that, be it on his head. It is his responsibility that where he believes there must be strong laws, he opts instead for no laws."

And that is exactly what Howard did. He behaved like an arrogant booby more interested in exploiting a political outcome where he can blame Labor than a legislative outcome to meet a threat he insists is real. And the Green Brown nailed him exquisitely.

He did not miss Labor, either.

Sydney Morning Herald

More to come...
Howard, war, politics, priorities
Prime Minister Howard was invited to the Washington coalition summit. He did not attend. There was a 20-minute phone call from Washington. Obviously Blair and Bush were deeply impressed by said phone call and it is mere oversight that they do not mention it in their communiqu�.

Australia gets one mention, on a level with Poland. It would be unkind to suggest that partisan advantage moved the prime minister to stay at home rather than join the summit. It would be equally unkind to suggest a prime minister whose first priority is supporting the troops might have questions and suggestions about the failure of Shock and Awe, the immediate future of this campaign or the tasking of Australian SAS squadrons in Iraq.

Of course it would be unkind to talk about the super-urgent ASIO bill. Remember that one? The bill whose rejection by the Senate last December was a grave threat to national security? More on the topic later...
The president's real goal in Iraq
This article has been around for a while (since long before I migrated to the blogosphere) but it's worthwhile linking it again. The gist is:

The official story on Iraq has never made sense. The connection that the Bush administration has tried to draw between Iraq and al-Qaida has always seemed contrived and artificial. In fact, it was hard to believe that smart people in the Bush administration would start a major war based on such flimsy evidence.


This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the "American imperialists" that our enemies always claimed we were.

The PNAC blueprint of empire can be downloaded.

Note the date Bookman wrote his article - 29 September 02 - long before the war aims started morphing from weapons of mass destruction to regime change to violation of Resolution 1441 to violation of Resolutions 678 and 687 to democratization of the Middle East.
Wilfrid Owen

Move him into the sun--
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it awoke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds--
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved,--still warm,--too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
--O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?
Courtesy of the excellent DailyKos, a terrifying article by Josh Marshal.

27 March 2003

Amnesty International on POWs
Amnesty has called for all parties to the conflict to adhere to Geneva Convention standards in the treatment of POWs.

Serious allegations of human rights violations do not stop with the Guant�namo detainees. US soldiers are reported to have mistreated people detained during the military conflict in Afghanistan. Villagers taken into custody in 2002 alleged that they were tied up, blindfolded, hooded, kicked, punched, and subject to other ill-treatment. As far as Amnesty International is aware, no appropriate investigation has been carried out into the allegations by the US authorities.(10)

In a letter to President Bush on 10 March 2003, Amnesty International called for a full, impartial inquiry into allegations of torture and ill-treatment by US personnel against alleged al-Qa'ida and Taleban detainees held in the US Air Base in Bagram, Afghanistan. Autopsies revealed that two prisoners who died in the Bagram detention facility in December 2002 had sustained "blunt force injuries". It has also been alleged that detainees have been subjected to "stress and duress" techniques, including hooding, prolonged standing in uncomfortable positions, sleep deprivation and 24 hour illumination. The ICRC has reportedly not been granted access to the section of the Bagram facility where this treatment has allegedly taken place.

Just as Bush was struck by lightning on the road to Baghdad and suddenly understood that chemical weapons are a bad thing, we can only hope he soon grasps that human rights are universal and apply to the US as well as Iraq. Any other position just makes human rights more tools for spin.
coalition of the thrilling
The TV coverage is disgusting. This is a war, not a special effects movie. The blood is real. When the camera moves on the extras do not get up and dust themselves off, they are still dead.

Other people will be able to put together more sophisticated analyses than I can on why TV chooses an illusory experience of being there over the causes and solutions of this war. The torrent of images displaces thought and makes it easier to sell this war.

Presumably the journalists who appear on these programs (they cannot be described as making them) know something about the conflict. Presumably they know that the weapons of mass destruction were purchased with US approval, were used with US approval and were defended against international scrutiny with US help.

What kind of denial of conscience is needed for them to participate in this charade of blood?
legality of war II
The whole article would be too didactic, even for me.

This attempt to invent a 'continuing authorisation' for war against Iraq is unconvincing. It is also disingenuous. For example, the coalition's interpretation of resolution 1441 conveniently ignores the fact - once again a matter of public record - that the US put up an initial version of that resolution, authorising the use of force if Iraq did not adequately comply with its terms, but withdrew the draft when it became clear that the proposal did not command the council?s support.

Likewise, the US and UK ambassadors to the UN said to the Security Council on November 8, 2002 that resolution 1441 contained ?no hidden trigger for war?. How it could now be seriously suggested that resolution 1441 implicitly authorises force is beyond comprehension.

As for the 1990 and 1991 resolutions, the coalition is effectively saying: ?We much prefer what the Security Council said about the first Gulf War and we?ll pretend that it applies to unforeseen events 13 years later.? This is as ludicrous as if the US President had learnt that the necessary resolution authorising this war was not going to pass both houses of Congress, but had pressed ahead undaunted, calling on congressional resolutions endorsing the 1991 war.

Chris Maxwell is a barrister in Melbourne. Hilary Charlesworth is professor and director at the Centre for International and Public Law at the Australian National University in Canberra. This article originally appeared in The Australian.

The Sydney Morning Herald also has an opinion by Gavan Griffith QC, former solicitor-general of the Commonwealth.

I cannot characterize the advice as an opinion. The short paragraphs 14 to 18 of the brief seven page advice read as weak best arguments for the use of force. Para 34 of SCR 678, cited in para 18, denies the continued authority of that resolution to support present action by individual states, as does the entire SCR 1441.

The final sentence of the advice concluding that the authority of SCR 678 to use force "would only be negated by a Security Council Resolution requiring Member States to refrain from using force against Iraq" is a fanciful proposition, an Alice in Wonderland inversion of meaning of plain words in the resolutions themselves. It is unsupportable. The authors are making it up.

It is significant that the authors of this Advice, on the important issue of giving legal sanction to war, do not even entitle it as 'Opinion'. Its brevity and lack of force is exceeded only by the one-page 'Opinion' of the United Kingdom's Attorney-General tabled in the United Kingdom Parliament, that makes the completely untenable assertion that "all resolution 1441 requires is a report to and discussion by the Security Council of Iraq's failures, but not to express further decisions to authorize force".
shocking and awful typo
The Melbourne Age has a link to the Friedman article. Sadly, they've called it: 'The sex keys to winning in Iraq'. At first I assumed the Pentagon geniuses had managed to produce an even sillier war plan than Shock and Awe but then I realised it's just a typo.
20 March 2003

The Hon Simon Crean MP
Leader of the Opposition
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Mr Crean

You have asked us to provide our opinion on the legality under international law of the use of force by Australia against Iraq in the absence of a further Security Council resolution.

We conclude that military force can only be used against Iraq where:
it has been authorised by a further Security Council resolution; or
there is evidence to suggest that Iraq is planning an imminent attack on Australia, or on another State requesting Australia's aid, such that the use of force by Australia would be an act of individual or collective self-defence.

There is also the possibility under international law that force might be used under the emerging principle of humanitarian intervention.

On current information, none of the above grounds is satisfied. As a consequence, the use of force by Australia against Iraq would breach international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

Charter of the United Nations
Australia has been a party to the Charter of the United Nations since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. According to the cardinal principle of pacta sunt servanda, the provisions of the United Nations Charter are binding upon Australia, and must be performed in good faith. Moreover, the Charter has the status of a higher law in the international legal order. Article 103 of the Charter provides that Member States' obligations under the Charter shall prevail over other international obligations.

Australia's obligations under the Charter must be considered in light of the object and purpose of the Charter. The Preamble sets out the object of the establishment of the United Nations as being to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind', with an overriding aim of ensuring that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest'. Based on the experience of two world wars, the drafters of the Charter established a world order based on two interrelated underlying principles: first, to bring about the resolution of international disputes by peaceful means and, second, recognition that the use of force would only be justified as a last resort in the interest of the international community, and not individual States.

Under the legal framework established by the United Nations Charter, the use of force is prohibited by Article 2(4). This is a cardinal principle of law, which has attained the status of jus cogens (Nicaragua Case (Merits) (1986) ICJ Reports 3, para 190). The prohibition is subject to two exceptions: (a) Security Council authorisation under Chapter VII of the Charter; and (b) self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter.

Although the Charter was intended to be a comprehensive statement of the law relating to the use of force, it is well-recognised that international law must remain flexible to respond to new threats. Accordingly, we also consider below whether the use of force might be justified under a third possible (although not yet universally accepted) exception not mentioned in the Charter relating to (c) humanitarian intervention.

(a) Security Council authorisation

Under Chapter VII of the Charter, the Security Council is charged with responsibility to determine what action should be taken in response to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression. Article 42 states that should the Security Council consider that [non-forcible] measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security'. The Security Council has, for example, authorised Member States to use force in Korea in 1950, against Iraq in 1990 and 1991, in Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda and Bosnia in the early 1990s and in Afghanistan in 2001.

The practice of the Security Council indicates that the authorisation to use force is made by express words, usually in terms of an authorisation to use all necessary means' to combat the threat or breach of the peace. This was the language used in Security Council resolutions authorising force in Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia and to liberate Kuwait. Security resolution 1368 in relation to Afghanistan used the term all necessary steps.

Of the matrix of Security Council resolutions adopted in relation to Iraq since the invasion of Kuwait, three resolutions are relevant as to whether the Security Council has authorised the use of force in Iraq proposed by the coalition of the willing':
Security Council resolution 678 (1990);
Security Council resolution 687 (1991); and
Security Council resolution 1441 (2002).
The full text of these resolutions can be found at http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions.html.

(i) Security Council resolution 678

Security Council resolution 678 authorised the use of force against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait. The express terms of the resolution authorise Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area'. The context of the resolution, and the specific language of the authorisation, clearly tie the use of force to the liberation of Kuwait. This resolution does not authorise the use of force against Iraq to address the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. To interpret the language of resolution 678 as authorising the use of force in the present circumstances would set a dangerous precedent. It would suggest that authorisations by the Security Council can be regarded as blank cheques' to use force against a State even a decade or more later without further action by the Security Council. The idea of a blank cheque' is inconsistent with the legal framework established by the Charter of the United Nations.

(ii) Security Council resolution 687

Security Council resolution 687 brought an end to the forceful measures against Iraq authorised by the Security Council. In express terms, it amends previous Security Council resolutions to bring about a formal cease-fire'.

It has been argued that the ceasefire declared by resolution 687 was conditional upon Iraq's fulfillment of the conditions required of it in that resolution. This view is based upon the fact that resolution 687 included specific instructions to Iraq to unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of all chemical and biological weapons' and to unconditionally agree not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable materials'.

However, the terms of the resolution do not make the cease-fire following the Gulf War conditional upon Iraq's disarmament. The resolution instead states that the formal ceasefire will take effect upon official notification by Iraq to the Secretary-General and to the Security Council of its acceptance of the provisions above'. The crux of resolution 687 was the transformation of the temporary cessation of hostilities into a permanent ceasefire upon Iraq's acceptance of, and not compliance in perpetuity with, its terms.

The resolution then leaves it to the Security Council to take such further steps as may be required for the implementation of the present resolution'. No State or coalition of States acting outside the authorisation of the Council retains the right to use force, even to punish Iraq for breaches of the resolution or to compel its compliance.

Further weight is given to this interpretation by the fact that the resolution expressly maintains the right to use force to guarantee the inviolability of the [boundary between Iraq and Kuwait]', and then only by the Security Council and not by individual States. The Council expressly reserved to itself the right to use force in the event Iraq failed to respect the inviolability of the Kuwait border, but not in the event Iraq failed to disarm. It would be illogical for resolution 687 to require Security Council action to authorise force against threatened boundary violations, yet dispense with such action if Iraq violated another provision of the resolution (see further Jules Lobel and Michael Ratner, Bypassing the Security Council: Ambiguous Authorisations to Use Force, Cease-Fires and the Iraqi Inspection Regime', American Journal of International Law, January 1999, ).

(iii) Security Council resolution 1441

Security Council resolution 1441 does not authorise military action against Iraq. The resolution contains no automatic trigger enabling any single State or group of States to use force against Iraq in the event of a material breach' of Iraq's obligation to disarm. The procedure, clearly described in paragraphs 4, 11 and 12 of the resolution, is that, in the event of a material breach being reported to the Security Council, the Security Council will convene immediately' to consider the situation. Based upon the plain meaning of the text of the resolution as well as upon the past practice of the Security Council, the reminder' in the final paragraph of the resolution that Iraq will face serious consequences' if it fails to comply is not sufficient to authorise the use of force against Iraq.

The background to the adoption of resolution 1441 adds further support to the view that it does not authorise military action. The draft resolution originally submitted by the United Kingdom and the United States, which in the event of a further material breach of Iraq's obligations would have authorised Member States to use all necessary means to restore international peace and security in the area', was unacceptable to other members of the Security Council; in particular France and Russia, either of which could have vetoed the draft's adoption as permanent members of the Security Council,.

Statements made on behalf of several Security Council members immediately after the adoption of resolution 1441 confirm that it does not authorise military action (see UN Doc. S/PV.4644). The representative of Mexico stated that the use of force is valid only as a last resort, with prior explicit authorization required from the Security Council'. The representative of Ireland said that it is for the Council to decide on any ensuing action'. The representative of Syria said that [t]he resolution should not be interpreted, through certain paragraphs, as authorizing any State to use force. It reaffirms the central role of the Security Council in addressing all phases of the Iraqi issue.' The representative of China said that [t]he text no longer includes automaticity for authorizing the use of force'. The United Kingdom said There is no automaticity' in this resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required in paragraph 12. We would expect the Security Council then to meet its responsibilities.'

It should be noted that the United States took a different view. Its representative said [i]f the Security Council fails to act decisively in the event of further Iraqi violations, this resolution does not constrain any Member State from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq or to enforce relevant United Nations resolutions and protect world peace and security'.

Ultimately, in deciding on the appropriate interpretation of an international legal instrument, it is well established that the correct approach is to read the instrument in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to its terms in their context and in the light of the instrument's object and purpose (see Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). The plain meaning of the text of resolution 1441 is that it is left to the Security Council to decide how to respond to any material breaches by Iraq notified to it.

It is clear that nothing in the language of resolution 1441 authorises States to unilaterally take military action against Iraq.

(b) Self-defence

Article 51 of the Charter provides that States may use force in the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security'. The inherent right of self-defence in the event of an armed attack has been held to extend to the right of States to use force in the event of a threat of an armed attack. States need not await the armed attack before they are entitled to act to defend themselves. However, reliance on self-defence is only justified in these circumstances where there is a necessity of self-defence, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation' (The Caroline (exchange of diplomatic notes between Great Britain and the United States, 1842), 2 Moore's Digest of International Law 409, 412 (1906)). The limitations of necessity, immediacy and proportionality are inextricably tied to the principle of self-defence under international law.

In the absence of evidence that Iraq has current plans to attack, or to assist a terrorist attack on a State, there is no justification for resort to the doctrine of self-defence.

(c) Possible Exception: Humanitarian Intervention'

By its very nature, international law is of necessity in a constant state of development in response to the emergence of new weapons, new actors and new threats, usually in hindsight.

A key example of circumstances in which a re-invention of the law may be justified came with the recent conflict in the former Yugoslavia, where States found themselves in a situation in which the existing international legal regime was inadequate. In the face of widespread and ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Kosovar Albanians by Bosnian Serb forces, the international legal community found itself unable to act. Self-defence was clearly not available, as the only State able to exercise this right was the State perpetrating the genocide. The Security Council was deadlocked by the threatened veto of China and Russia. This threat was based not on the objection by these States to relief for the Kosovar Albanians, but on considerations on the implications of this precedent for China and Russia. In these circumstances, the NATO forces launched military strikes in the absence of Security Council authorisation. The action, in hindsight, has been deemed to be legitimate by the international community, and the international legal order was not damaged. Rather, it has led to the development of an emerging principle of international law, albeit not yet universally accepted, of humanitarian intervention'.

The question is therefore whether the present circumstances involving Iraq might justify the further development of this aspect of international law. The current United States led coalition has sought from time to time to argue that the situation of the Iraqis is analogous to that of the Kosovar Albanians, thereby seeking to rely on the Kosovo precedent as a justification for any military strike. In the face of Iraq's violations of human rights, it has been argued that action is a moral imperative. However, by itself the undoubted suffering of the Iraqi people does not equate to a legal justification. Built into the principle of humanitarian intervention are five fundamental criteria which must be met before military force is justified in the absence of Security Council authorisation:

Urgency of the action: is there time to address the situation by means other than the resort to force?
Inefficacy of Security Council: is the Security Council unreasonably deadlocked such that it is unable to act to address the situation?
Proportionality: will the collective harm inflicted by a resort to force be a proportionate response to the harm it seeks to address?
Acceptability: does a majority of the international community accept that force is an appropriate response?
Objectivity: is the decision to use force based on an objective belief that it is for the benefit of the international community?

At the present time, these criteria have not been met. In particular, on the information available, and for the following reasons, it seems unlikely criteria (1), (2) or (4) are satisfied.

First, the threat has not been described as imminent. It does not appear that there is a compelling need for the use of force instead of a peaceful alternative.

Second, the Security Council is not unreasonably deadlocked. The apparent reluctance on the part of a majority of the Security Council not to authorise force is based on their individual assessment that force in the present circumstances would not be justified. Moreover, certain States have expressed a desire to act to address the situation through other measures.

Third, a majority of the international community does not appear to accept that the use of force would be justified. At the date of writing, the United States has identified 29 out of 191 States in the international community that would support the use of force, including Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan. We have not included Japan (although it was in the United States' list) because Japan has only indicated its support as a post-conflict member' of the coalition.

Australia will breach international law and the Charter of the United Nations if it engages in military action in Iraq as part of a United States led coalition. The use of force has not been authorised by a Security Council resolution, nor can it be seen as an act of self-defence. Even if international law does come to recognise a humanitarian basis for the use of force, it appears unlikely on present information that the use of force against Iraq could satisfy the required legal criteria.

Yours sincerely

Professor George Williams Devika Hovell
Director, International Law Project

Gilbert & Tobin Centre of Public Law

26 March 2003

learning nothing and forgetting nothing
Once upon a time US national security types decided they had to stabilise the Middle East, so they forced the shah back into Iran and propped him up for some decades and ignored his dreadful human rights record. When the shah (inevitably) fell Saddam was found as counterbalance to the Islamic regime who took over in Iraq. And then the US started supplying Saddam with weapons of mass destruction so he could win the Iran/Iraq war.

High on the Bush administration's list of justifications for war against Iraq are President Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons, nuclear and biological programs, and his contacts with international terrorists. What U.S. officials rarely acknowledge is that these offenses date back to a period when Hussein was seen in Washington as a valued ally.

Among the people instrumental in tilting U.S. policy toward Baghdad during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war was Donald H. Rumsfeld, now defense secretary, whose December 1983 meeting with Hussein as a special presidential envoy paved the way for normalization of U.S.-Iraqi relations. Declassified documents show that Rumsfeld traveled to Baghdad at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an "almost daily" basis in defiance of international conventions.

The story of U.S. involvement with Saddam Hussein in the years before his 1990 attack on Kuwait -- which included large-scale intelligence sharing, supply of cluster bombs through a Chilean front company, and facilitating Iraq's acquisition of chemical and biological precursors -- is a topical example of the underside of U.S. foreign policy. It is a world in which deals can be struck with dictators, human rights violations sometimes overlooked, and accommodations made with arms proliferators, all on the principle that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Throughout the 1980s, Hussein's Iraq was the sworn enemy of Iran, then still in the throes of an Islamic revolution. U.S. officials saw Baghdad as a bulwark against militant Shiite extremism and the fall of pro-American states such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and even Jordan -- a Middle East version of the "domino theory" in Southeast Asia. That was enough to turn Hussein into a strategic partner and for U.S. diplomats in Baghdad to routinely refer to Iraqi forces as "the good guys," in contrast to the Iranians, who were depicted as "the bad guys."

A review of thousands of declassified government documents and interviews with former policymakers shows that U.S. intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in shoring up Iraqi defenses against the "human wave" attacks by suicidal Iranian troops. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague.

If Saddam's record on WMD was the real reason for this war the White House would need to invade itself before Iraq.

Now Saddam is to deposed and replaced. The US says they plan to make Iraq a democracy. I doubt it. Any elected successor government would almost certainly be a Shi'ite and would have policies on israel and on Iraq's oil that the US would find unacceptable. So what are they really looking for? I predict General X who will be identical with Saddam in most respects except his incompetence at public relations.

But while the US media divide their time between learning nothing about the Arab world and forgetting nothing of the self-serving pap the Bush administration has fed them the Arab street is taking a different view.

For 280 million Arabs, the symbolic effect of the tanks in the country is as devastating as a lethal sandstorm. But Saddam Hussein seems to be one step ahead. It doesn't matter that Iraqi TV was silenced by a showering of Tomahawks (although domestic broadcasts, as well as the international signal, have been restored). Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV will be on hand to record the ultimate image that Saddam knows is capable of igniting the Arab world into an ocean of fire: an American tank in the streets of Baghdad juxtaposed with an American tank in the streets of Gaza.

To date, an estimated 5,200 Iraqis have crossed the Jordanian-Iraqi border, going back "to defend their homeland" as they invariably put it. In already one week of a war that was marketed by the Pentagon as "clean" and "quick" and which is revealing itself to be bloody and protracted, not a single Iraqi refugee has crossed the al-Karama border point into eastern Jordan.

Rumsfeld's pursuit of rapid dominance is supposed to include control of information. Sadly for him too many people know that he shook Saddam's hand in the 80s when Saddam was still a faithful US proxy. The real message of this war seems to be that US proxies should stay loyal to their overlord.
out of the loop
One thing argued in favour of the war against Iraq was the loss of prestige Bush would suffer if he backed down. Apparently no-one considered the loss of prestige if Bush abandoned the UN and the structure of international law in favour of might makes right. Worse no-one considered the loss of life, let alone prestige, if the invasion went off course. That has not yet happened, but shock and awe is beginning to look a lot like the old bomber dream.

At the time of writing CENTCOM says that we really and truly have taken Umm Qasr this time, honest. The Basra rising came and went and no doubt soon will come again. The Iraqi 51st Division (which allegedly surrendered on Day 1) seems to have unsurrendered and counterattacked on Day 4. I am not sure if Nasiriya has been taken again today or even if it has been taken for the first time several times today. What I do know is that both coalition divisions now approaching Baghdad have been on the move for 5 days and that takes a toll on any force. What everyone also knows is that reinforcements are being moved to Iraq from the US.

With the Pentagon now rushing thousands of troops from Texas to the Persian Gulf, a number of seasoned Gulf War ground commanders said yesterday that the U.S. invasion force moving rapidly to Baghdad is too small and should have included at least one additional heavy Army division.

"In my judgment, there should have been a minimum of two heavy divisions and an armored cavalry regiment on the ground -- that's how our doctrine reads," said retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who commanded the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the 1991 Gulf War.

This campaign, if it runs to its conclusion, will end in Saddam's destruction. Whether the Bush administration has the resolve and political resources to stay that course is becoming an open question. A lot of warfighting theory centres on the OODA loop. The only sign of a collapsing decisional cycle that I can see is the one happening in CENTCOM's inner councils. And that is terrible for the coalition's soldiers and worse for the Iraqi people.
read it and weep
After a week hunting the blogosphere and elsewhere for a rational Iraqi strategy I finally found Jihad in Mesopotamia

George W Bush personalized this war. Saddam played along, taking it to the battleground of the world, and especially Arab public opinion. Saddam has seized on his unique chance to be seen in many parts of the world, even though he might be detested, to be fighting a neocolonialist war, and to be seen in the Arab world as the only leader with enough courage to stand up to the superpower. Carefully calibrating his latest speech, drawing from a wealth of poetic resources in the Arabic language, and tapping on deep Arab and Muslim resentment against the United States, Saddam is also increasingly sounding like Osama bin Laden - who ironically despised the Iraqi leader as an infidel.

Saddam's guerrilla tactics have already proved to be somewhat effective. What for the Pentagon is a breakdown of central control is in fact the result of Saddam dividing Iraq into four largely autonomous military zones. The regime can count on support among three different forces: the Republican and Special Republican Guards; the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam (Saddam's Men of Sacrifice), which has a total strength reportedly between 30,000 and 40,000 troops; and the complex alliances with Bedouin tribes, clans and sub-clans. The Guards, with two divisions already being bombed to oblivion on the outskirts of Baghdad, will be instrumental in the fierce, looming battle of Baghdad. The very mobile Fedayeen are resisting in the southern cities of Umm Qasr, Basra and Nasiriyah. And the tribes will be fighting in central Mesopotamia and the north to defend Arab honor, pride and most of all their own privileges, fully guaranteed as they are by the Ba'ath Party. Saddam is placing all his bets on an extremely brutal and much protracted war that will turn him into a Muslim hero with even wider appeal than bin Laden.

I was astonished when the coalition reached Nasiriya and Saddam did not order the bridges blown. They've been thinking the same thing over at the Daily Kos. The top answer is a plan to flood the central Iraq plain in a repeat of Saddam's tactics in the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam's history of hydraulic despotism is outlined at Scienceblog.

25 March 2003

Basra II
The ABC is reporting that the British will not now enter Basra, the US Marines have broken through at Nasiriya and Umm Qasar has still not been cleared of pockets of resistance. The Red Cross has called for urgent access to the Basra power station to avert a disaster. Until the coalition either withdraws or takes Basra the water and power situation in that city will remain shocking and awful.
The BBC has announced that the British now regard Basra as a military objective for humanitarian reasons. Basra crystallises almost every ethical challenge about the shock and awe strategy.

1. leaving continuing centres of resistance behind your line of advance causes a humanitarian crisis in any large urban area;

2. after Bush the Father called for and then failed to support a Shi'ite uprising in 1991 they (like the Kurds) doubt what Bush the Son is now promising;

3. the fighting around Basra has destroyed essential infrastructure and if it is not repaired immediately there will be, according to the UN and the Red Cross a humanitarian disaster.

The Saddam dictatorship is not acting shocked or awed. There is no sign of a cakewalk and no sign of an explosion of joy.
off with their heads!
The book Shock and Awe: achieving rapid dominance is online. It makes interesting reading. The folkloric touches got me completely:

The fifth example is named after the Chinese philosopher-warrior, Sun Tzu. The "Sun Tzu" example is based on selective, instant decapitation of military or societal targets to achieve Shock and Awe. This discrete or precise nature of applying force differentiates this from Hiroshima and Massive Destruction examples. Sun Tzu was brought before Ho Lu, the King of Wu, who had read all of Sun Tzu's thirteen chapters on war and proposed a test of Sun's military skills. Ho asked if the rules applied to women. When the answer was yes, the king challenged Sun Tzu to turn the royal concubines into a marching troop. The concubines merely laughed at Sun Tzu until he had the head cut off the head concubine. The ladies still could not bring themselves to take the master's orders seriously. So, Sun Tzu had the head cut off a second concubine. From that point on, so the story goes, the ladies learned to march with the precision of a drill team.

The objectives of this example are to achieve Shock and Awe and hence compliance or capitulation through very selective, utterly brutal and ruthless, and rapid application of force to intimidate. The fundamental values or lives are the principal targets and the aim is to convince the majority that resistance is futile by targeting and harming the few. Both society and the military are the targets. In a sense, Sun Tzu attempts to achieve Hiroshima levels of Shock and Awe but through far more selective and informed targeting. Decapitation is merely one instrument. This model can easily fall outside the cultural heritage and values of the U.S. for it to be useful without major refinement. Shutting down an adversary's ability to "see" or to communicate is another variant but without many historical examples to show useful wartime applications.

The rest of the book is less funny and I guess the entire volume is dreary reading if you're tied up in a firefight on the Nasiriya road or withdrawing under fire from Basra. A citizen of Basra trying to make it through the day without water or power might find shock and awe even less attractive.
gone to the blogs
Read John Quiggan's piece on wishful thinking.

One of the most striking features of the war so far has been the fact that, on a wide range of issues, Iraqi official statements have been a more reliable source of information than those of the US and allied governments. Within the first day or so of the invasion, US sources on the spot in Southern Iraq were claiming the capture of towns like Nasiriya and Umm Qasr, the surrender of entire Iraqi divisions and predicting the imminent fall of Basra. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials in Baghdad were denying all this and claiming that their forces were fighting on. Even for someone as skeptical of US official pronouncements as me, it did not seem difficult to tell who had the facts on their side and who was merely blustering.

But as it has turned out, the Iraqis were right on all these counts, while the US was wrong. The Iraqi claims may have been just lucky guesses but it seems more likely that their communications have not been disrupted to the extent that the US has claimed.

Over the weekend I tried to keep a running tally of the number of times Nasiriya fell to the coalition but I soon lost count. Ditto the number of times the 'pockets of resistance' were eliminated in Umm Qasar.

People are dying, on both sides, because the coalition's leadership choose to believe their own propaganda.
Beat! Beat! Drums!
Walt Whitman

Beat! beat! drums! - blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows-through doors-burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet - no happiness must he have

now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field

or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums - so shrill

you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums! - blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities - over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers

must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers' bargains by day - no brokers or speculators

-would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case

before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums - you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums!-blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley-stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid-mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie

awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums - so loud you bugles blow
war issues
Iraq: Issues on the Eve of War is worth reading. A couple of points jump out immediately. According to their map all the military action on the southern front has been in Shi'a areas where Saddam's support is lowest. The US is planning to co-opt members of the regime into their transitional government. The level of hatred in the Arab street can only rise as a result of this war.

24 March 2003

About prisoners of war
Ripping international law apart has consequences. Most international law obligations are reciprocal. Although Iraq has now announced it will observe the convention, the impetus to ignore the convention came from the Bush administration, not Iraq.

Article 5 of the Convention provides:

The present Convention shall apply to the persons referred to in Article 4 from the time they fall into the power of the enemy and until their final release and repatriation.

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

No competent tribunal has ever determined the status of the Gunatanamo prisoners. A mere declaration by Bush does not satisfy Article 5. Even apartheid South Africa, during Nelson Mandela's long imprisonment, did not deny him a lawyer or all access to family.

Australians can be proud that, for once, the Howard government is not aping every diplomatic bungle committed by the Bush administration.

Australian Department of Defence Media Mail List

Identifying prisoners of war

Department of Defence is aware that some news organisations have shown images of prisoners of war (POWs) in the course of covering the events of the conflict in Iraq.

Media organisations should be aware of Article 13 of the Geneva Convention III, which states that POWs must at all times be "protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity."

Article 27 of the Geneva Convention IV has the same provisions for civilian detainees and civilian internees. This includes restrictions of photographing and filming POWs, civilian detainees and civilian internees.

Defence requests media organisations "pixilate" the faces of both Coalition and Iraqi prisoners of war.

The Australian Defence Force will treat all captives humanely and will comply with the laws of armed conflict to which Australia is bound as was demonstrated recently with POWs aboard HMAS Kanimbla.

Any stills or vision taken by ADF Public Affairs personnel in the MEAO goes through a rigorous clearance process prior to its release to ensure compliance with the conventions.

Any vision that is deemed inappropriate for release is retained for evidentiary and or historical purposes, at the appropriate classification.

Defence requests the assistance of the media organisations in ensuring that Australia meets its obligations under the conventions.

For further details please contact:

Defence Media Liaison

Andy Anderson 02 6265 2913 0419 621 753
Gone to the blogs
Bookmark The Agonist. He is doing a magnificent job trying to stay current on the war and to filter the special effects coverage of the conventional media into something that can be understood.
Bitter earnest
At the outset of the US Civil Way Mary Chesnut wrote:

Woe to those who began this war," she warned, "if they were not in bitter earnest.

Are Rumsfeld and Bush in bitter earnest? Their campaign is not working as they said it would. the Iraqi regime is not collapsing. The coalition is losing lives. The supine media which allowed Bush to get away with deceit after deceit is only now writing about the failing strategy.

U.S. casualties that were suffered in the process are bound to provoke criticism of the gamble that U.S. commanders are taking, predicted Peter Feaver, a Duke University expert in national security. "Certainly, you will have no trouble finding quotes from retired Army officers saying that the war plan has been too risky," he said. But, he added, in his own opinion "the really important thing about the plan is that it has put mission accomplishment ahead of force protection."

Military experts predicted that the resistance in the south was so disorganized and relatively small-scale that it would die out quickly. "Nothing surprising," said retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson, who has played the role of the Iraqi commander in several U.S. military war games of an invasion. In those games, played to probe U.S. war plans for weaknesses, he said, "We came up with much worse." He noted that the Iraqi attacks were sporadic and small in nature, temporarily stopping small U.S. units but hardly affecting the broad advance toward Baghdad. Getting to the capital quickly is a key U.S. objective.

The promoters of this war (some of whom proclaimed it a cakewalk) are accountable for their military methods as well as the immorality of the war itself.

The supply line is vulnerable.

But Iraqi attacks on the long lines of the U.S. advance, stretching fully 200 miles up from Kuwait, cost the lives of several U.S. soldiers -- U.S. commanders confirmed up to nine dead -- and spelled captivity for at least five others, apparently from a maintenance unit chasing along in the rear.

U.S. military officials said force commanders would now be exercising greater caution. Bush's new warning not to expect a rapid victory struck a grim chord.


Military analysts said the entire operation was now entering a crucial phase which could show whether Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's gamble on lighter but sharper armies would pay off or prove to be too great a risk.

"The next 72 hours could show whether we've overplayed our hand," said MSNBC television analyst Dan Goure, noting that the northern front Washington had originally hoped to open from Turkey did not exist, due to Ankara's refusal to allow it.

Going light has turned into a Napoleon strategy. The coalition is penetrating deeper and deeper into hostile territory. The line of supply stretches longer and longer. Centres of continuing resistance stand near the flanks of that supply line. A humanitarian disaster is emerging in Basra, now without water for many hours. The promised mass surrenders to be achieved by shock and awe are not happening. This strategy did not succeed for Napoleon in Moscow. I am not sure it will succeed in Iraq.

Bush' inability to open a northern front flows directly from diplomatic failure. Now that he has agreed to a Turkish entry into northern Iraq he may achieve the unique distinction of setting off ethnic war in the country before his alleged project of liberation is even complete. Iraq has now announced it will observe the Geneva convention, but it was Bush who opened the door in the Geneva convention when he decided it did not run to Guantanamo.

We are beginning to see articles about high expectations

In public, the president and his aides had never predicted the war would be short or effortless. But neither did they stress the likelihood of tough combat. Instead, during the five-month diplomatic battle to win international support for military action, they emphasized that the outcome would not be in doubt.

Some military officers warned privately before the war that public expectations were set too high, but their caution collided with the optimism of advocates of the new-style psychological warfare -- sometimes dubbed "shock and awe" -- that was supposed to buckle Hussein's regime.

Bush worked a mild caveat into his televised statement on the first night of the war: "A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict," he said.

I believe the main reason Bush and his ilk did not prepare their peoples for the dangers of this war was not psyops. It was a simple wish to evade responsibility, to make this war more salable, it was spin. Spin can win elections. Spin cannot save lives. Spin cannot win wars.

Woe to those who began this war, if they were not in bitter earnest.