This has gotta be big. [and it is: see updates below]
Newly released documents from the Cole Enquiry show that thirteen months before the Iraq War began, the Australian Ambassador to the UN told Trevor Flugge, a disgraced former chairman of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), that the war was "inevitable". He even predicted, with uncanny accuracy, how and when the invasion would take place.
The Ambassador also said "the Australian Government would support and participate in such action", even though PM John Howard has repeatedly claimed that he remained committed to a peaceful resolution until early 2003, a full year later.
[Background: the AWB paid Saddam Hussein millions of dollars in bribes and was the single biggest transgressor of the UN oil-for-food sanctions program. The Cole Enquiry was established to investigate the bribery, and it's results are now due.]
From The Sydney Morning Herald:
ONE year before the invasion of Iraq, Australia's then ambassador to the United Nations, John Dauth, confidentially told AWB's former chairman, Trevor Flugge, that the Howard Government would participate in military action with the US to overthrow Saddam Hussein, new AWB documents reveal.It has already been shown that Trevor Flugge was well aware of the AWB's kickbacks to Saddam. He flew into Baghdad in the early weeks of the war with over $1 million in cash. Here's a photo of him in Iraq:
Details of the extraordinary conversation undercut previous statements by the Prime Minister that Australia had not agreed to join the war in Iraq before the UN debate in late 2002 and early 2003.
The conversation between Mr Dauth and Mr Flugge took place in early 2002 - 13 months before the war - and the details are contained in confidential AWB board minutes that were released without fanfare yesterday by the Cole inquiry.
The minutes record Mr Flugge telling the board on February 27, 2002, that Mr Dauth confided in him "he believed that US military action to depose Saddam Hussein was inevitable and that at this time the Australian Government would support and participate in such action".
With astonishing accuracy, Mr Dauth also predicted that the Iraqi regime's offer to invite UN weapons inspectors to return would be "likely to stave off US action for 12 to 18 months but that some military action was inevitable". The ambassador also told Mr Flugge the operation in Iraq would operationally be similar to that in Afghanistan, with "heavy use of air support followed by deployment of ground troops".
Mr Dauth promised Mr Flugge he would ensure AWB had "as much warning as would be possible" of the action but that it was likely even the Australian Government would not know the timing.
This latest revelation makes the Australian government's already shaky claims of innocence even more preposterous. They knew about the kickbacks to Saddam, and they were committed to the war plans.
Dauth's conversation with Flugge took place just prior to the UK meetings which were later disclosed in the Downing Street Memos. By this stage, the fix was already in and "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". A global pattern of complicity is clearly being established here. It is fanciful to imagine that Australia, whose SAS troops were first on the ground in Iraq, was not closely involved.
UPDATE: With the Cole Report due tomorrow, the AWB is suddenly facing a new shareholder class action:
A US lawsuit claiming up to $US1 billion ($A1.29 billion) in damages from AWB is on hold, but a shareholder class action against the disgraced wheat exporter is set to be filed in Australia within a month.I suspect the US government will ultimately decide whether Howard and Downer get away with this AWB scam or not. It sucks that super-subsidized farmers in the US of A might end up taking ANYBODY to the cleaners for broaching fair trading policies, given their own record. But a fair cop is a fair cop, right?
The US legal process seems to be in synch with ongoing investigations by Democrat Senators (hence the delay) and is sure to shine a very embarrassing light on Howard’s dirty little AWB secrets. Good luck to them. Unfortunately for Johnny the Brown-Nosed Bush Lover, the Dems are mighty pissed at him. And the Dems are In Da House!
Howard has always reminded me of a snivelling little runt who sucked up to the playground bullies and eventually ended up in charge of the toughest gang (once the others had all matured, graduated and moved on). He then sucked up to the biggest bully of them all, George Dubya Bush. They went and kicked Saddam’s ass just to show how tough they were! Yee ha! But there is no honour among theives, as Howard is about to find out.
I am looking forward to watching that trembling, saliva-soaked bottom lip jutting out six inches from the non-existent chin as his eyes start tearing up behind the bifocals and he blabbers yet more excuses about why it wasn’t his fault, nobody could have known, nobody told him… Then I think it will be time to take him out to the back sheds for a bit.
UPDATE 2: A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman says the comments were clearly personal judgements by the UN ambassador.
If I were an ambassador to the UN and I told the chairman of a major national exporting body that a pre-emptive, illegal war was “inevitable” a full 12 months before it happened, I would want to know exactly what I was talking about.
If I further promised that “”the Australian Government would support and participate in such action”, I would realise that I was putting my job and my personal reputation on the line.
If, having made such bold predictions, subsequent events proved me right, all the way down to the timing and the dynamics of the opening salvos, I would consider myself a fucking genius on a par with Nostradamus.
But if circumstances proved my comments to be dead in line with the revelations of the Downing Street Memos, I would quickly forget about what a genius I used to think I was.
UPDATE 3: Time for some global attention. David Swanson has christened them The Melbourne Minutes:
Where have we heard that word "inevitable" before? Oh, yeah: the Downing Street Minutes: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." ...A here are few good questions from Katz at John Qiggin's blog:
The past six years of near zero Congressional oversight in Washington is one reason Americans' knowledge of the planning of the Iraq War comes largely from foreign sources. But, if members of the Australian government were passing word around, I shudder to think how many people in the right circles in Washington, D.C., knew the score but kept their mouths shut and are keeping them shut to this very day. It's clear that members of the U.S. corporate media elite were in the know. In fact, if you ask them to condescend to notice this Australian news, they'll almost certainly tell you it's "old news," that they knew it all four years ago. They did, but they didn't tell the rest of us.
Now, here we are years later, still killing and dying in Iraq, and proposing to attack Iran on the basis of lies almost identical to those used to justify the initial attack on Iraq.
Thus the question rises as to the nature of Dauth’s conversations with AWB.Update 4: Kevin Rudd calls it the worst corruption scandal Australia's history and warns that our "long-term foreign policy reputation is at stake":
1. Who initiated the contact?
2. Was Dauth a party to invasion planning?
3. If so, did his political masters authorise Dauth to divulge certain information?
4. What information was he authorised to divulge, and to whom?
5. When was this AWB Board Minute known to the Counsel Assisting the Cole Commission?
6. If it was known before the end of the hearings, why wasn’t Dauth required to testify to the Cole Commission?
"The government got 35 sets of warnings over a five-year period that the AWB was up to no good and the government, at a minimum, is guilty of negligence and not responding to any one of those warnings."Hear, hear.