John Menadue. Who triggered the disaster in Iraq?

Aug 18, 2014

George Bush and his neocons must bear the principal responsibility for the disaster which is continuing to unfold in Iraq. In Australian terms, the most guilty partners are without doubt the Howard Government and News Corporation.

The Howard Government’s decision to support the invasion of Iraq in 2002 was loudly supported by Tony Abbott. He said the invasion ‘was to liberate other people, to advance everyone’s interest and to uphold universal values that the coalition of the willing went to war in Iraq. If it’s possible to engage in an altruistic war, this was it.’

The consequences of the war for Iraq have been almost unimaginable. Hundreds and thousands of Iraqis have died and been driven out of their homes. Genocide and ethnic cleansing is now widespread.

We spent over $2 b on the Iraq war which the head of the AFP said made us less safe.

We knew little and cared little about the history of Iraq and its people. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, but he kept the clash between Shia and Sunni under some control. Christians and other minorities were tolerated. Islamic extremists did not get a foothold in Iraq. After Saddam was deposed and killed, Al-Queda grew in strength, which has now morphed into the murderous IS.  It is as if the heavens have really fallen in. Christians, minorities and moderate Sunni are being murdered.

It is time John Howard and Tony Abbott really confessed that they made a terrible mistake in joining the coalition of the willing. They relied on dodgy intelligence information that was manipulated to support a previously determined political decision to invade Iraq. Our intelligence agencies, particularly the Defence Intelligence Organisation, were highly sceptical about alleged biological and chemical weapons.

The best service we could have given to our US allies was to warn them against the course that they had determined to pursue.

And there was News Corporation raucously calling for support for the war and doubting the patriotism of the war’s critics. The campaign by News Corporation in support of the Iraq war was as unscrupulous and dishonest as its campaign now in support of sceptics on climate change.

In 2003, Rupert Murdoch said ‘We can’t back down now, where you hand over the whole of the Middle East to Saddam … I think Bush is acting very morally, very correctly … The greatest thing to come of this to the world economy … would be $US20 a barrel for oil.’ The next year, Rupert Murdoch told ABC Radio ‘There is tremendous progress in Iraq. All the kids are back at school, 10% more than when Saddam Hussein was there. There is 100% more fresh water … Most of Iraq is doing extremely well.’

The Australian in an editorial mocked the critics of the war whom it described as ‘the coalition of the whining’. Greg Sheridan, the Foreign Editor of the Australian described George Bush as ‘a really modern Winston Churchill’. Three months after the invasion of Iraq, Sheridan still thought ‘weapons of mass destruction doubts are ludicrous’.

Tony Abbott is now telling us of the appalling humanitarian plight of so many in Iraq. Yet he with John Howard and Rupert Murdoch, must bear a heavy responsibility for what has transpired.

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