Two decades on, history should condemn the real ‘butchers of Baghdad’

Mar 20, 2023
AUKUS is a trilateral defence alliance consisting of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Alliance from Australia, UK, USA

The warmongers in the Anglophone countries of Britain, the USA and Australia today cause great concern with their AUKUS treaty and the not very subtle stirring of frenzy against China. It was similar in 2003 except that Iraq was the country being demonised.

In 2003 rallies against the invasion of Iraq were held around Australia. Then as now, the executive government did not need to consult parliament before taking military action which was not endorsed by the United Nations. In the town where I live, Tom Uren and Patricia Brennan led a march and spoke against the war. Their speeches were inspirational.

The build-up to the war was aided and abetted by media hysteria similar to that widely condemned campaign being conducted by some Australian journalists today. The errors in the case against Saddam Hussein were many and were largely ignored. There were for example, no weapons of mass destruction. Many American military personnel believed that they were on the way to avenge the bombing of the twin towers in New York by Al Qaeda.

The leaders of the three rogue states planning the attack on Iraq failed to make any compelling argument for the invasion. When asked how they could justify the killing of thousands of innocent Iraqi children, they claimed that this was not their intention. They denied any moral equivalence between their crusading murder of Iraqis and the suffering inflicted by a dictator on his own people.

In desperation, some courageous Australians decided to put their lives on the line as human shields. Such conscientious objectors were criticised for giving comfort to the enemy and endangering the lives of our service personnel. Regardless of what exciting description the warmongers gave the campaign, it proved to be a one-sided rout. Apart from the deaths of those thousands of children, the new Iraq was built on the horror of public hangings, destruction of cultural artefacts and the arrival of carpetbaggers offering to rebuild the shattered country. Small wonder surely that Iraq has not recovered and still experiences sectarian conflict and remains impoverished, despite its fabled oil.

In the spirit of not forgetting the past so that we do not repeat our errors, we must remember that the invasion of Iraq was a bloody mistake. It was we who were the butchers of Baghdad. We should not be distracted by those apologists who will insist that such a view is all very well with the benefit of hindsight. This is a complete red herring. In 2003, opponents of the war including parliamentarians, strategic analysts, church people and ordinary Australians of intelligence and feeling had the benefit of foresight. The warmongers wilfully closed their minds to all logic and appeals to humanitarianism.

Perhaps Iraq is a long way from China geographically and ideologically. Nevertheless, the similarities between the resort to war in 2003 and the so called ‘defence’ preparations of 2023 are stark. China is being demonised. AUKUS leaders are congratulating themselves on their supposed even-handedness in the Pacific. Their assertions that arming us to the teeth and making a garrison of Australia are nothing more than necessary security are just as hollow as the claims that we had a responsibility to remove Saddam Hussein. It is the low key justification for spending billions of dollars on weapons which will impoverish us and commit us to living in a hostile environment totally needlessly.

While the government might reckon that the $400 billion spent will create tens of thousands of jobs, similar investment in other areas would do the same. If we spent that much on housing, on health, on education, on care for the aged and facilities for the disabled, in a few decades we would have excellent assets and a proud population. The submarines will leave those employed with very limited skills and leave us with obscene weapons of war which have no purpose other than to kill and which will achieve nothing but create suspicion and tension.

The honeymoon period for the Albanese Government is over. While it did free the Biloela family, its decisions on finances and the environment have been disappointing. We can be thankful they were stable enough to provide an electable alternative to their horrible predecessors, but something of the weasel style persists. When asked about Julian Assange for example, the prime minister told reporters that he had raised the issue with the US ‘administration’. The press conference did not question him further. With whom exactly did he speak about the cruel and unjust treatment of Assange? Let us not roll over and accept any assurance on goodwill here. Nor do statements about security and diplomatic niceties cut it.

It is time to put the Albanese Government on the spot. Let them drop the AUKUS pact which is based on myths about China. Let them stop the order for nuclear submarines and other death machines. Let them tell the USA to withdraw their bases from Australian soil. These might seem to be extraordinary steps but we are facing an emergency. Only such radical action can repair their quickly damaged credibility and integrity. We forget Iraq 2003 at our peril.

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