14 January 2004

So, why did we kick out Saddam?

It may have been different had the military campaign been prolonged or if Australian troops had been arriving home in body bags. But as it is, Hussein is gone, Australia's commitment in Iraq is substantially limited and many like the idea of Howard endearing Australia to the US.

But this, too, is a simplistic notion, given that Howard's support is geared to a particular US administration; should a Democrat be elected later this year, things could become very different. And it is surprising the number of times commentators in the US, when discussing international support for the war, ignore our role - Britain and Spain get mentioned, but not Australia.

As for the free trade agreement with the US, its benefits will only become clear after the fine print is settled.

Does any of this make any difference? What matters is what the future holds for the people of Iraq. The means justified the end. But if that's the case, if it was all about removing Hussein for the benefit of the people of Iraq, it would have been nice if that case was properly made, to the exclusion of all this nonsense about WMD and the like.

Everyone knows that if Howard had put the case to parliament that the enterprise of Iraq was designed to remove Saddam Hussein whether or not he possessed WMDs the motion would have failed. Indeed Howard explicitly recognised this before the war.

An equally important point is that there was no need for Howard to put any case before the parliament because the extraordinary weakness of the Australian parliament and the extraordinary strength of the Australian prime ministership.

I'd happily live under the House of Windsor or the House of Jerilderie forever if it meant vesting the warmaking power where it belongs, in parliament. Or if parliament had to approve treaties like the FTA with the US. Or if we had a bill of rights.

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