Forget mediscare- here is a scare campaign Australians should be really angry about.
I am certainly angry because I was one the ones who bought it.
The Chilcot report is a pretty damning assessment of the pretence behind the Iraq War. Having spent seven years examining evidence, the author is in as good a position as just about anyone to make judgements about our involvement in this conflict. And those judgements are scathing of the political leaders who overstated the threat to justify their war.
As he focuses on Britain’s involvement in the war, much of Chilcot’s criticism is directed foremost against Tony Blair, but neither George Bush nor John Howard and their administrations escape criticism. The report’s findings included that Iraq posed little threat and that the possibility of WMD was exaggerated. The disastrous likely consequences of the invasion were also anticipated, but they were ignored and withheld from public discussion. The tragic state of politics in the Middle East is in part the legacy of these three leaders.
Contrast Howard and the LNP's manipulation of the situation with the integrity of Andrew Wilkie, who gave up his high-paid job with the ONA because he wouldn’t back his government’s untruths. This in itself makes a lie of any claims by Howard that he wasn’t fully aware of the scale of exaggeration being employed to justify the ‘Coalition of the Willing.’
My respect for the soldiers who fought in Iraq is in no way diminished by the report’s findings. Their courage and sacrifice is worthy of only our admiration and any use of these findings to denigrate those who put their lives on the line for their country would be an act of extreme pettiness and misdirected rage.
Another finding of the Chilcot report is in relation to the mistaken belief that we must support every military conflict America joins to preserve our alliance with the US. Our relationship with the US will continue for as long as it suits American interests (and no longer). Other nations who did not support the war faced no long term adversity in their bilateral relationships. Howard’s unnecessary fawning (remember his cringe-worthy suggestion Australia could be a ‘Deputy Sheriff’) used soldiers’ lives as political bargaining chips.
Whether you see it as slavish devotion to US foreign policy objectives, or you take a more cynical interpretation that governments believe our involvement in foreign conflicts serves their political purposes, our governments are too ready to risk the lives of servicemen for political or symbolic purposes. We as voters can’t be forgiving about that, especially when we are deceived. Soldiers take an oath to serve and protect their country, not to be treated as expendable political capital. Only last year Tony Abbott was reportedly seeking to deploy Australian soldiers to Eastern Ukraine!
I would like to think this paradigm is shifting slowly though. It was encouraging earlier this year, when Australia was asked to supply more soldiers to fight in the Middle East. Quite commendably, new defence minister, Marise Payne, refused the request, only to face much self-serving public criticism from, former defence minister, Kevin Andrews.
Some of the outrage over Iraq may have waned because so much time has passed and so much more has happened, but I don’t think we should let Howard, Blair and Bush get away with this so easily. They deceived their parliaments and their countries to prosecute a war they were advised would have the terrible consequences we face today.