February 19, 2004

Public Reply to Mr. Alexander Downer, Australian Foreign Minister

Dear Mr Downer,

As an ordinary Australian citizen, I take exception to almost every single aspect of the article that you published in yesterday’s Australian newspaper (“Iraq truth under siege”, February 19, 2004). For the good of our nation, I would like to invoke a right of reply to this litany of lies.

WHEN you accuse someone of dishonesty, you need to be scrupulously honest yourself.

What would you and other members of the Howard Government know about honesty? You guys brought us the Children Overboard affair, the “No GST, ever” promise and a pre-packaged war on Iraq, based on claims of non-existent WMDs, in which Australian SAS troops were on the ground spilling first blood before war was even declared.

The critics ignore, twist and manipulate the information available to whatever extent is necessary to make their offensive allegations seem plausible. In short, they "sex up".

If that’s what “sexing up” is, Blair Bush and Howard have been doing it in spades for well over a year. If that’s what “sexing up” is, those who criticize the findings of the UK’s Hutton Report are totally vindicated.

These critics (whose preferred position would have left Saddam Hussein in power) …

Totally disgraceful rubbish. This is a divisive lie that you warmongering politicians continually trot out. Most critics of the war were happy to see Saddam removed. We were not happy that it was done illegally, in our names, by governments who are supposedly democratic and supposedly committed to the Geneva Convention and the UN. The majority of war critics would have supported UN action against Saddam, provided the Weapons Inspections had proved it necessary and the Security Council approved it.

In fact, the Government has always made it clear that the legal justification for the war was to enforce Iraqi compliance with a series of UN Security Council resolutions relating to the elimination of Iraq's WMD programs.

This is utter hypocrisy. How can you say that you defied the UN in order to enforce compliance with the UN? Your fellow warmongers have openly criticized the UN and called for its replacement, so to use this as a justification for the invasion sounds quite desperate. Let’s remember that the UN never ruled out military action against Saddam, it just said the inspections needed more time. The warmongers said there was no more time, because WMDs posed an “imminent” risk. Remember?

Throughout the long debate leading up to the war, however, the Government made it clear that the Iraqi regime was barbarous, inhumane and treacherous. We highlighted its mass murders, its sponsorship of terrorism and its use of chemical weapons against its own people.

Yes, you sent out anti-terrorism fridge magnets and ran ads telling us to be scared, but not too scared. You glorified in the imagery of war and painted yourselves as our valiant protectors. But in fact you were actually increasing the dangers to all Australians, inflaming both Islamic fundamentalist and anti-Islamic sentiments around the world, and basically ignoring the real terrorists while helping George “Sugar Daddy” Bush make an oil-grab and build a new base for US militarism in the Middle East. And by the way, the US sold Saddam those “chemical weapons” he used on his own people while Reagan was in power, then he invited Donny Rumsfeld to Baghdad for a quiet coffee.

We said regime change could not be a legal basis for war …

Yet now the warmongers use “regime change” as a post-facto vindication for their war. I can get quotes if you like.

We said that eliminating Iraq's WMD programs was a critical step in the enforcement of global anti-proliferation objectives.

Not much of a critical step, as it turns out. There were no Iraq WMD programs up and running and only scattered evidence of Saddam’s intent to one day resurrect those programs, if the continued pressure of UN sanctions and inspections ever allowed it. So “enforcing global anti-proliferation objectives” could better have been achieved by confronting North Korea, Iran or even Pakistan.

[Opposition Foreign Minister Phil] Rudd … calls, pre-emptively, for another inquiry. How sincere is it to call for a new inquiry when the existing one is incomplete?

How sincere is it to have a report widely leaked to the press and yet not release it to the public, especially when the PM and others have had it sitting on their desks for weeks? Besides, the available information has changed dramatically since the first enquiry was set up, which is why the British and US governments have been forced to announce new enquiries. The Australian government should do likewise, and it should be a Royal Commission to ensure there is no political cronyism or absurd limitations.

The Government stands by its arguments and its record for sharing intelligence assessments honestly with the public.

Does it also stand by the discredited US and British intelligence, which it accepted without independent verification? Would the government be prepared to take Australia to war again solely on the basis of unverifiable US and UK intelligence?

We do not seek to hide from the fact that we made some references to stockpiles and that, so far, none has been found.

You do not hide from it? Then why don’t you take responsibility for your mistake and resign? Or perhaps, if Baghdad airport is ever secure, the CIA will be able to fly some WMD into Iraq? That would fix the problem, especially if they can do it before the elections.

This is an issue that warrants sensible debate. But that debate should be honest, recognising that the stockpile argument is only one part of the story.

True. Even if WMDs are found, the war was still illegal and those who instigated it should still face an international court. George W. Bush vetoed US involvement in the International Criminal Court about the same time he abandoned Kyoto and the Geneva Convention, but I’m sure we can get it back on track.

As for David Kay's claim (which you quoted) that Iraq had “a stockpile of scientists and technology and actual equipment for producing (WMDs)” and that terrorists “would have acquired it," that is just speculation. Besides, in a “free” Iraq, what is to stop these scientists from helping terrorists? And who is to say that any useful technology was not looted or sold off in the security vacuum that followed the invasion?

The critics choose to forget that the international community, including those countries that opposed the war, was unified in its view about Iraq's capabilities…

Well, no that is not true. The countries that opposed the war said “Let’s wait and see what the UN inspectors find.” That is not the same as “Attack now! Defcon 4!”

Labor also said Iraq possessed WMDs.

Those who believed their governments claims of Iraqs WMDs did not have access to the caveats and qualifiers in the intelligence material that Bush, Blair and Howard saw (and chose to ignore). If they believed in Saddam’s WMDs and terrorist links, it is because people like you misled them.

But, of course, if the international community knew early last year what it knows now about Saddam's WMD programs, there would have been less debate in the Security Council about the appropriate action.

Damn right. They would have said the inspections are working, the sanctions are working, there is no reason to attack Iraq and create even more misery for its citizens. And if Bush had supported the International Criminal Court, they might have decided that was the best way to deal with Saddam and his like.

Kay's report shows that removing Saddam was the only way the international community could be assured that he would no longer threaten anyone with WMDs.

Sorry? Did I miss something here? How did we come to that conclusion, Alex? George Orwell must be doing back-flips in his graves these days. Kay’s report shows no such thing. It shows that the UN had already effectively stopped Saddam from threatening anyone with WMDs.

Far from unstuck, the WMD case is proven.

Proven, yes, but in the negative. Now it is time for those who were wrong to admit it, take responsibility for launching an illegal pre-emptive invasion, and hand themselves over to an international criminal court. Instead, they play for time and peddle confusion, pasting together a mish-mash defence of opinions and speculation, just like this rubbish.

Through their determined action, Australia and its coalition partners permanently removed the threat of Saddam's WMD capabilities and aspirations.

One more time, in case you missed it – Saddam had no WMDs! And how do you remove the threat of an aspiration? Through their actions, Bush, Blair and Howard have in fact destroyed the moral legitimacy of international conventions and treaties that have maintained world peace since WWII.

This action is already providing a global security dividend in Iraq, in Libya, in Iran and in North Korea.

In fact, the Libyan breakthrough was the result of years of quiet diplomacy, not the threat of a pre-emptive invasion by already over-stretched US military forces. And Iran and North Korea continue actively pursuing nuclear programs. Even so, there is no hard evidence associating these activities with terrorism, which – we are told – is supposed to be the real enemy here. Or is possession of a nuclear “deterrent” now considered “terrorism”? If so, let’s invade India, China, France and Russia. Or are they OK, because they are not Arabs? It seems the real definition of a “terrorist” today is anyone who is not on the Kirribilli, Number Ten and White House Guest Lists.

While our critics continue to disingenuously push accusations of dishonesty, they underestimate the intelligence of the public. Australians see through phoney debates and appreciate the honest exposition of the reasons behind difficult decisions.

It is not disingenuous to accuse a pack of serial liars of dishonesty, particularly when they continually refuse to apologize or accept responsibility for their mistakes, and even moreso when they continue to put our lives in danger. Would the Bali bombing have occurred if Australia had not jumped to Bush’s attack command? Probably not. Countries like Canada and New Zealand, who opposed the war, are not the targets that we now are, even though a majority of Australians opposed the war. Australians are not stupid. We do see through these phoney debates. And we will continue calling for justice until our voices are heard.

Yours sincerely,

(an Australian citizen)


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