4 Mar 2017

The Iraq War and why the hell we were in it.

Well lately I haven't posted too much and one of the reasons is the barrage of badness from the current US administration is so in-your-face it sucks up the air of talking about the Right-wing menace. It's really a case of "look at that" and if that doesn't stun you with its wrongness then nothing I say is going to move you.

But this came down the wire about a week ago, mostly ignored, and speaks to something I've always known...

On Australia's involvement in the invasion of Iraq:

"....a 572-page, declassified internal report on the Iraq War obtained by Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws. Written between 2008 and 2011 by Dr Albert Palazzo from Defence’s Directorate of Army Research and Analysis, it is by far the most comprehensive assessment of our involvement in the war. Originally classified “Secret”, it was finally released last week after more than 500 redactions.
The report concludes that Howard joined US president George W. Bush in invading Iraq solely to strengthen Australia’s alliance with the US."

And the rest was all bullshit. Saddam could have been doing nothing but holding a canary hostage and we would have done our bit because we are so deeply embedded in the US war capability our participation is near automatic. The rest is spin to the Australian people and pondering on what to contribute that would satisfy the Americans but not get us in over our head:

"The (Australian) SAS were well-known to the Americans from Afghanistan and would be keenly welcomed, but other options including tanks were weighed and thrown out... Howard was stuck between keeping Washington happy and the unpopularity of the war at home. An AC Nielsen poll in January 2003 found just 6 per cent of voters supported joining the invasion without UN backing."

The Australian public wanted none of this crap, they hadn't been fooled. They knew it answered nothing to do with 9/11. They knew it was folly and demonstrated in the hundreds of thousands to demand we stay out. But that was never going to happen.

"Saddam Hussein and his depraved sons still had six hours and 41 minutes to meet US President Bush’s ultimatum to leave Iraq when Australian SAS soldiers slipped through a breach in the mud berm along the Jordanian border and entered Hussein’s country."

THERE. That's it. That's the tidbit that all commercial media chooses to ignore. Australian special forces were already in and lighting up the Iraqi war machine before the war officially began. They HAD to be, so the war would start on time.

"When they set foot into Iraq ahead of the March 20 deadline, their mission was to find and seize the Scud missile sites from which the coalition feared Saddam might launch weapons of mass destruction at Israel to drag it into the conflict and provoke a backlash from other Arab countries...  whether the Australians wanted it or not they were being drawn into the US goal of regime change, rendering Howard’s insistence that Australia was only participating in the disarming of the regime academic. A post-war briefing “illustrated the extent to which Australian objectives had become aligned with those of the United States despite government claims to the contrary”.  "

The US forces have a staggering depth of manpower. Australia does not.
Opposition to involvement would grow deafening in Australia were we to suffer mass casualties, the SAS were running out of appropriate tasks and the American forces, now seeing a stream of flag-draped coffins flowing home, were losing patience with Australian reluctance to get dirty.
It was a problem for the Howard government - we were there to be there, NOT to get serious numbers of our people killed. But in the end we got to give only as much as we wanted, and Howard emerged politically undamaged, with the alliance with the US honoured.

The author of the report, written six years ago concludes that "the war’s only strategic winners are Iran and China”.

But we were lucky. The Australian body count for appeasing Bush was low.

No sensible Australian dreams for a second that appeasing Trump could be done so cheaply.


I wrote this post quickly because I knew what I wanted to say but for the benefit of non-Australian readers (I doubt six people in the world ever come here) I thought I should clarify:
This is just about the invasion.

We're still in the region along with the US. Our warbirds bomb the shit out of stuff every day.

I'm criticizing the Australian government of the day because at that moment back in 2003 we had the choice of asserting ourselves but they (the conservatives of course) did the most expedient thing possible and then covered themselves in glory for it. We (or rather they) punched below our moral weight and I never want to see that again.


  1. On the trip from her place to ours yesterday for her visit with us, my daughter’s and my conversation was almost entirely about the very subject of Trump and the manner in which so many blindly supported him simply because of fear-driven hate and the song he was playing to those who in turn hate and fear.

    You already know my disappointment in her choice, but she is now voicing her own disappointment in the choice as well. She made that choice solely based upon some acquaintances with whom her husband works. Some VERY hateful and xenophobic people. Oddly enough, some of which aren’t even U.S. citizens, yet spew the same U.S. exceptionalism as the rednecks of this nation.

    I told her; “rhetoric is what all politicians use to get votes and that, if used correctly, rhetoric, in and of itself, is a vital form of communications. But; in this case, the rhetoric not only defied what America is suppose to embody, it defies what all humanity should embody, and regardless of where you come from, or who you are, you have to make decisions for all of life based upon your own never-ending efforts to seek truth and reality, and; NEVER should you accept just one person’s words for truth.

    I told her some rhetoric should be questioned and virtually ALL of trump’s rhetoric should have been completely ignored, or at the very least, taken for the bullshit it was. But; it was not and now we have an extreme tyrannic autocrat in the WH.

    I also pointed out to her how so very easily it would have been to just look at Trump’s background and the correct decision would have been both automatic and immediate.

    We have ushered into American politics an age of tyranny and autocracy, the likes of which this nation hasn’t had to deal with (outside Hitler and other tyrants in other nations) since its inception.

    A man who issues xenophobic executive orders like he’s writing notes on post-it pads; a man whose interpretation of democracy and freedom is measured in dollars and cents; who sees the poor and downtrodden INCLUDING VETERANS WHO FOUGHT TO PROTECT HIS COWARDLY LIFE, as scum, which, at best should be ignored, and preferably be allowed to die to save the billionaires of the nation lots of money.

    A man who has so little regard for other human beings, it’s hard to imagine he’s even a member of the human species.

    A comment she made, made me very proud; “I learned a lot by my mistake; not to listen to people with extreme views, based on unsupported beliefs and I learned to listen to others, but my own thoughts and my own understanding are the only things on which I should base important decisions.”

    I can only hope many more Americans feel the same. For they have certainly swallowed a huge bowl of bullshit from a man who doesn't even know the difference between lies and truth.

    1. Bob, when you told me your daughter had voted for Trump, I said I was glad she had at least used her vote.

      I wasn't just being polite. I thought ‘at least she is taking the journey’.
      I bet A LOT of people are taking the journey.

      I know people even here in Australia who think Trump is alright, or at least not that bad, “that he is doing what he said he was going to do” - and that this somehow translates into honesty.
      The answer to that is of course that what he said he was going to do was/is fucking insane, and some people originally ran pro-Trump with the notion that this wasn’t the literal truth of what he was going to do.
      Remember that? “Oh of course he didn’t mean what he said literally, he was just talking symbolically”.
      No. He meant every word. Every batshit crazy, vile, simpleton word.

      Now your daughter sounds like she has kicked the rock over and seen the snake...
      She’s one of life’s winners. She’ll be fine.

      But a lot of other people feel too deeply validated by Trump’s ‘win’ and aren’t going to budge.
      They’re the ones who gather in ragged dozens to side by a road and wave little flags.

      They are irrationally and personally invested – to their core - in the false promises of making America great again by hyper-military spending, protectionism, tax cuts for rich people and wiping out the layer of services that modern sophisticated nations NEED to remain modern sophisticated nations.
      Those people are the ones who are going to bite the wrong end of a shotgun and blow their own heads off when humpty dumpty falls down. Or do worse...

      They can’t take the journey. I was talking about this sort of voter over on Green Eagle the other day and someone commented that they know people who have never been outside their own county, let alone their home state. They’ve never made any kind of journey in their lives. How are they going to get from “make America great again” to “sorry, this man is a facile con-artist with no conscience and Putin’s jockstrap for a bowtie” ?

    2. "they know people who have never been outside their own county, let alone their home state. They’ve never made any kind of journey in their lives"

      As sad as it is, those people don't feel the need to understand anything at all, outside their red, white and blue bubble of ignorance and hegemony.

      I still have family that live like that and to listen to them, and this might sound a bit crass but, it is an embarrassment. To think I was living in the same household, or state as these people drives me insane. It's like I'm "Meathead" and the rest of the family are Archie Bunker mini-me's. Nothing of a logical matter can or will ever get through their 10 inch thick block wall of exceptionalistic xenophobia wherein all things U.S. are good and right and they are living proof that the U.S. was created by their gods.

      They are so filled with their hegemonic self gratification it's like listening to an arsonist after creating a wildfire that consumes everything in its path; then, in utter absence of reality, blames the destruction on the firefighters for not stopping the fire earlier.

      They'll scream and cry that "every person has the right to think as they wish", and to some degree that's true, but when their ignorance is manifest in decisions that effect the entire world in a seriously negative manner, I say; "the hell you do."

      I agree that she at least voted and I REALLY am relieved that she woke up, all be it a bit too late, but at one point in the conversation I told her, as an adult, she has a responsibility, and not just to herself, to make good decisions at certain points in her life; that decision-making, when it effects others, especially the entire damned planet, is as serious as a heart attack and she's not allowed the freedom to be lazy and believe bullshit; be it bullshit from people like Trump, or bullshit from the redneck morons like her in-laws and some of their friends who insist(ed) that Trump is the right choice - the same ones who, due to their jobs, think they have the government classification they do because of their "insight" of the goings on in the world.

      I think she most certainly learned that incredibly valuable lesson the hard way and it's rubbed in her face on a daily basis with Trump's mental illness and autocratic rule, so she won't be forgetting it for a very long time.

      I showed her this article about how the Turnip gave DHS a directive to intentionally separate children from their parents as they attempt to cross the border illegally, imprison the parents and put the children in the custody of Health and Human Services.

      What can be considered more despicably cruel and inhumane beyond that action is on a very, very short list and it's the result of the lazy, ignorant, irresponsibility of those who voted for the newest scourge on the world's population since the discovery of ebola who created this. Yet; even those one would expect to drop their support instantaneously for the pig - the mothers of all persuasion, continue to support this humanity.

      I'm somewhat certain she'll do her own research next time.

    3. Oh, and of course, Trump hasn't given us so much as a clue as to how we're going to pay the millions it costs to imprison the parents and turn the children over to HHS, a government bureaucracy in the US notorious for losing children in the system, only to find them years later, serving as sex slaves.

    4. If he continues and these policies continue there will eventually be a scandal of that level of perversity.

  2. Nice post, Magpie. I seem to remember seeing at the time the notion that Howard was only in it to suck up to Bush. Hopefully, since Trump has already starting off dissing your country, you won't have a repeat. That said, I didn't realize you were still there. So, I suppose it's moot.

    1. Thanks Kevin. Yeah Howard looked like he was sucking up to Bush. And that didn’t go over well here.
      Funny thing is Howard is not a fool, nor is he reckless, nor is he a full-on Right wing ideologue, he’s just old school conservative. In his position what he did probably seemed the path of least risk. That’s what I mean by “expedient”.

      Not to let him off the hook, but in his mind he might have calculated that if we were more assertive we would also have been asked to do more... and our military is small, it’s not scaled for expeditionary activity, that’s why we do special forces and precision bombing as our part of US-allied activity, it’s the best fit to limited manpower.

      But Australia is important to the US in intelligence as well. We have, or share, Pine Gap, and we are one of the ‘five eyes’ – USA, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia.
      We spy on each other’s citizens and then share that info to get around laws prohibiting espionage against one’s own citizens.
      We also have trusted ally status to the definition that if the US president or other senior member of the government needed safe haven outside the USA we are one of the countries cleared to provide it.
      These things go on regardless of what personality-deranged idiot is POTUS and in theory at least for him to do something that would cause us to say ‘piss off’ would have to be so bad that you yourselves would be removing him from office. In theory.

  3. We spy on each other’s citizens and then share that info to get around laws prohibiting espionage against one’s own citizens.

    I saw an article awhile back that the intelligence folks in Israel were reluctant to share info with their cohorts in the US because of Trump's ties to Russia and the fear it would get passed along to the Iranians from the Russians. Don't know how much truth there is in that or anything else nowadays. Hopefully we are coming closer to removing him not that Pence is any prize. Can't believe Republicans up for re-election want to run in 2018 with the conspiracist in chief hanging around their necks.

    1. I've always been concerned the Republicans will hang Trump out to be the focus of all negativity but then enact the same vile agenda anyway.

  4. Prior to the 'Preemptive Invasion', I wrote my congressman, briefly explaining the WMD hoax (had been an Army chemical officer with knowledge of the infrastructure required), as well as Iraq being
    one of the more stable and secular Mideast countries. True, an
    ugly dictatorship; but there are many of those and it was not a
    cause. The reply was the usual patriotic 'defending our shores'
    nonsense. That said, it seemed clear at the time that our allies
    were rightly concerned; Blair also caught between a rock and a hard place. We suspected at the time (in hindsight confirmed by books
    like 'Black Flag-The Rise of ISIS' and 'Hubris') that VP Dick Cheney
    (the book 'The Vulcans') and his neocon flunkies in the administration, manipulated not only President Bush, Powell and Rice,
    but their own intelligence operation. When the CIA was unable to
    come up with any real reason for war, Cheney simply made up stuff,
    even to the extent of 'outing' a CIA agent. IMO, that war lies at
    the feet of that scheming weasel politician. Thus began the GOP
    process of manipulating facts, frightening voters and dark machinations (like the despicable harassment of H. Clinton for years) leading to the election of an unfit personality as president.
    We will have to live with that until the implosion. As regards
    Australia, I have always wondered at the use of their fine military by none other than the 'Great' Churchill in both World Wars; throwing them in harm's way in preposterous military schemes. In particular in WWII when their homeland was in dire danger. How
    do Aussies fell about that rather sordid history?

    1. G’day BB,

      To answer your question...

      Traditionally, Australia’s visions of war are lonely slogs through mosquito infested jungles, or across the sands of North Africa, and standing the chance of being invaded.
      We don’t have those old newsreel visions of power: fleets of aircraft carriers and turning the sky black with aircraft.
      Australia’s memories of war are just grim and lonely, wherein the simple kindness of comrades was the most precious thing in a hellish world, which is partly why in this country the ethos of mateship is so paramount.

      My mother grew up on a naval base as her father was a career navy man (eventually Provost Marshal of Sydney). She remembers ANZAC day parades as being very quiet, solemn and sad gatherings to mourn a bunch of youths who got blown to hell in Turkey of all places for an indifferent Empire. In more recent times however ANZAC day has turned into a proxy appreciation day for the servicemen who still serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Curtin had to argue with Churchill, with Roosevelt backing Churchill, to pull 9th division, Australia’s own soldiers, out of the Middle-east and back to defend Australia. Historians can argue the details but at the end of the day Churchill was prepared to let Australia fall if it hastened the defeat of Hitler by an hour.
      Churchill had fought in colonial wars himself and faraway places were filled with faraway people doing things far away from him. Australia was the ends of the earth.
      I admire his personal courage and his leadership of Britain herself but to an Australian he is another NAME with whom we had to struggle to emerge from that war un-raped. To the extent they think of Churchill at all, most Australians have that balance of views.

      But it’s the coming years that concern me.
      Shortly after Trump had his interesting phone call with Turnbull, which was probably overblown in reports... our foreign minister, Julie Bishop, happened to be meeting her Chinese counterpart.
      He kissed her. Warmly. On both cheeks. An unprecedented gesture.
      They know, we know.
      We’re between a 4000 year-old civilisation and a pussy-grabbing reality show dickhead. And it’s been said by China: ‘some day you might have to make a choice’.