Summary. Malcolm Fraser warned us that we no longer have an independent capacity to stay out of America’s wars.
This is one of Malcolm Fraser’s last comments on our dependence on the US. It was published in ‘How does Australia go to war’ in June 2015. See link. www.iraqwarinquiry.org.au
He was patron and supporter of the campaign for an Iraq war inquiry and Australians for War Powers Reform. John Menadue.
The way we went to war in 2003, as one of three members of the Coalition of the willing, with the United States and the United Kingdom, represented a betrayal of democratic standards and a betrayal of Australian values.
For whatever reason, it seems that the Prime Minister personally committed himself to President George W. Bush. Mr Howard was a strong leader and would have had no difficultly in persuading his government that participating in the war was necessary.
But it was not a just war. It was a war based on a lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the capacity to use them. There were many at the time who knew it to be a lie. From the very earliest moment of the Bush administration, the inner circle, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others, talked of invading Iraq and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. They were searching for a reason which they believed would gather international support. They suggested that if they could pin weapons of mass destruction on Saddam Hussein, that would provide the reason. They then set about searching for evidence, or fabricating evidence. Douglas Feith was appointed by Rumsfeld to cherry-pick evidence and information because the traditional American security agencies were not giving the Bush Administration the clear-cut advice they needed to support a decision already made.
Alert Australians were aware of the Administration’s lie. Many of them joined thousands protesting against the coming war, and were ignored. Australian intelligence organisations should equally have been aware of the lie, and aware that what was claimed about weapons of mass destruction was indeed, a fabrication. If they were, and if they said so, they too were ignored.
The Australian Government had another reason for wanting to join America in this particular war. The government believed the American relationship is so important to Australia, that we must follow America, whether it is in Australia’s interests or not, simply because the overriding interest is to please America in the hope that the United States will defend Australia.
I have written a book of course, destroying that notion (Dangerous Allies, 2014). The closeness of our relationship with the United States, certainly in relation to the Pacific, means that we no longer have an independent capacity to stay out of America’s wars under the policies that presently prevail in Australia. When those hard-hitting, three-service forces in Darwin are used to support a conflict in which America is involved, and when Pine Gap is used to target not only drones, but advanced American weapons systems, how can an Australian Prime Minister stand up in the Parliament and say Australia is going to pass this one by? The Prime Minister would not be believed. Australia could not stop America using those facilities. We have ceded Australian sovereignty, over matters of peace and war, to the United States. We have created a far more powerful linkage than ever existed in the days of Empire.
These reasons emphasise the need for three things. Our relationship with the United States must be changed. We must recapture Australian sovereignty and sense of strategic independence. We must never again allow the circumstances to exist in which one man has the capacity to commit Australia to war.
In many other democratic countries, including the United States, the basic authority to declare war or stay at peace rests with the Parliament. It is essential and urgent in Australia that the power to declare war or to stay at peace be transferred from the Prime Minister to the Australian Parliament.
The late Malcolm Fraser was Australian Prime Minister 1975-83.
Tomorrow, I will post the third article in this series ‘Is war in the American DNA?’