John Menadue. Here we go again – more mission creep in Iraq.

We seem unable to learn from the history of past centuries and decades as we plan to send another 300 Australian troops to Iraq to train forces fighting IS.

To show his patriotic fervour Tony Abbott needed eight Australian flags as a backdrop for his announcement yesterday. I don’t recall seeing a Prime Minister wrapped in so many flags!

For centuries foreigners like the Greeks, Romans and British, thought that they could subdue Iraq to their wishes. In the process, the fragile country of Iraq has been subject to imperialism, resource exploitation, despotism and religious rivalry. The most recent calamity inflicted on the long-suffering Iraqi people was at the hands of George W Bush, supported by Tony Blair and John Howard. We were told that the invasion of Iraq was to expand freedom and democracy in Iraq and free that poor country from Saddam Hussein. Not so frequently mentioned was access to the fifth largest oil deposit in the world as Rupert Murdoch told us.

The result has been catastrophe for the Iraqi people and almost everyone except the US companies who gorged themselves on military contracts.

In opposing IS we chose to forget that the Saudi government and wealthy Saudis, along with the wealthy in the Emirates, have been funding IS.  They did the same for Al Qaeda.

The result of all the most recent foreign intervention has been seen most recently in Mosul where the brutal advance of IS has ended 1,600 years of Christian worship in the province.  Saddam Hussein was a monster but at least he kept the IS ‘death cult’ caged. Do George Bush and John Howard and Tony Abbott feel responsible for the consequences of earlier actions in invading Iraq?

Have we forgotten Vietnam and all the other disastrous wars that we have got involved in at the request of the US?  Invariably these wars start with humanitarian aid, then advisers, then logistic support and all the way from there to full-scale military involvement in causes we don’t understand. In Vietnam and later in Iraq and Afghanistan our role steadily expanded with disastrous consequences for everyone concerned.

Having withdrawn from Iraq, we are now back again. First it was humanitarian air drops. Then it was arms to elements of the Kurdish Workers’ Party in Northern Iraq, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation. Our mission creep then moved to sending 200 Special Forces to help train the Iraqi army. Then we sent 600 RAAF personnel and aircraft to operate out of the Gulf. Now we are planning to send another 300 Australian trainers. And there is probably more to come.  Prime Minister Abbott refused yesterday to rule out further military commitments. ‘I’m not going to be too prescriptive’ he said. If all that is not mission creep, I don’t know what is.

The recent attempts to save Iraq by sending more trainers go back to 2003. Since then there have been enormous contributions of blood and money from many countries – the US, Iran, Israel, Rumania, NATO, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand, and many others including ourselves. In all, the US alone has spent between $US20 billion and $US28 billion to train the Iraqi army. But last year the Iraqi army which we thought we had trained threw its arms away and surrendered to the IS in northern Iraq. Our training of the Iraqi army has been an abject failure every step of the way. This is despite the fact that we were told ad nauseam about the enormous progress that was being made in training the army. In fact it was a failure on such a scale that it is very difficult to admit.

At its most basic level this is a sectarian war between Shia and Sunnis. Foreign fighters make it worse.

Foreign interests have brought disaster to the Iraqi people for centuries. The history lesson is quite clear that foreigners and particularly westerners cannot solve Iraq’s problems. We invariably make them worse. Only the Iraqis and their neighbours can solve the problem of IS.

Our intervention over the last decade in Iraq has also made us more prone to domestic terrorism. Once again Tony Abbott won’t acknowledge the obvious that our foreign intervention is counterproductive not only in Iraq but it increases the risk of more terrorism in Australia.

Sadly the ALP, once again allows itself to be wedged

In The Guardian yesterday Tom Switzer a long-time supporter of Tony Abbott said ‘It pains me to say it but Abbott has learned nothing about Iraq. He’s taken the Islamic State’s bait.

See link to article below.

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2 Responses to John Menadue. Here we go again – more mission creep in Iraq.

  1. tasi timor says:

    Not so fast. This is more than just alliance maintenance. Our three biggest wheat customers are Indon, Iraq, Iran in that order. In 2013 we sold 1.6 million tonnes to Iraq, last sale 50,000t last Dec, another sale last month postponed. IS has captured Iraq Grain Board silos in northern Iraq and sent the wheat for milling in Syria. One presumes the Iraqi army, Shia militias and IS are all being fed by WA wheat. CBH in Perth is complaining that they need approval from DFAT whenever they want to ship to Iran, because of the sanctions. The US dominates the Iran wheat marker, despite sanctions. One can also understand why, with an imminent rapprochement between the US and Iran, Ms Bishop would want to visit Tehran. Cui Bono. Graphic of Iraqi wheat silos controlled by IS.

  2. Stephen FitzGerald says:

    Agree absolutely, John. And how disturbing is the position of the ALP! Not wedged, I think, as Tom Switzer writes, but willing. They are as wedded to the US and its foreign policies, particularly in Iraq but also in Asia, as the Coalition. At the time of Vietnam at least we had an Opposition which didn’t fear to oppose, and led with ideas. Now we have an Opposition which has no independent analysis of the issues, no critique, possibly no ideas. John McCarthy has said we are regarded internationally as a ‘US Satrap’. Satraps do as they’re told. This is a dangerous space for Australia to be in.

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