Executive decisions to go to war: 1885

In January 1885, the acting premier of New South Wales, Mr W. B. Dalley, without apparent parliamentary approval or debate, sent 500 infantry and two batteries of colonial artillery to Khartoum to teach the Mahdi a lesson for ordering the murder of General Gordon. In the context of our own indignation at Howard’s decision to send forces to Iraq in 2003, it is worth noting that even before we became a nation, similar actions stirred indignation in some pre-federation breasts: in this case the thunderous reaction of Sir Henry Parkes in a letter to the SMH on 19 February 1885 …

Meet Michael Smith: long distance walker for war powers reform

A group of supporters gathered at the top of the Parliament House lawns on Wednesday 23rd November to welcome Michael Smith, who had walked there from Chewton, near Castlemaine in Victoria; 650kms in one month. The purpose of his journey was to deliver draft war powers reform legislation to the Australian parliament. Michael is a journalist, has worked in the Kennett and Howard Governments, and is a singer and musical event manager.

It was dull and drizzly weather but Michael was fit and energetic after the trek. He had had no support crew, no media team, no tent, but simply …

Open letter to PM Turnbull: RAAF Operations in Syria and related matters

Dear Mr Turnbull,

RAAF Operations in Syria and related matters.

I refer to the recent operation around Deir al-Zor military airport in Eastern Syria, in which between 62 and 83 Syrian soldiers who had been fighting IS militants were reported to have been killed by Coalition-led air strikes. The Department of Defence has acknowledged that Australian aircraft were among a number of international aircraft taking part in this Coalition operation.

I refer also to my letters of 1 March 2016 and 29 April 2016 regarding the authorisation of the use of military force and the deployment of Special Forces.

Australians …

We must get out of Syria

The war in Syria is extraordinarily complex. It really began in 2011 with the failures of the so-called Arab Spring.

Now the core conflict is between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and the rebel groups which oppose him. Both sides have split into several militias, which have attracted foreign fighters, including a number of Australians.

Another important aspect of the conflict involves the ethnic Kurdish minority, which is trying to carve out a de-facto Kurdish state. This has some backing from the United States, because it sees the Kurds as allies in the struggle against jihadi groups. This in …

The Syrian Air Strike ‘Mistake’: Australia Loyally Pleads Guilty

On Saturday 18 September 2016 four ‘coalition’ aircraft carried out strikes on Syrian government forces encircled by ISIS fighters near Deir-ez-Zor airport.  The strikes killed more than 80 Syrian government soldiers, and wounded more than another hundred.

The strikes not only killed and wounded Syrian Army soldiers.  Three T-72 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun and several mortars were also destroyed.

The Americans claimed it was a “mistake.”  Judging by the behaviour of the American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, any contrition on their part could best be described as imperfect.

It is highly unlikely that the …

Media Release: AWPR welcomes parliamentary war powers bill

Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR) welcomes the Bill introduced to parliament today to reform the way in which Australians can be sent to war.  The issue of who should decide when the country goes to war has been of great concern to many Australians, especially since PM Howard made the disastrous decision that we would join the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a decision that implicates Australia in the ongoing humanitarian and political mess in the Middle East. Our involvement in the war has also exposed Australians to significantly greater risk of terrorist attack.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam’s introduction of …

Letter to the new Parliament

Dear (Parliamentarian),

Report of The Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot Report)

Congratulations on your election to the 45th Federal Parliament.

I write in connection with the Report of The Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot Report), which was released on 6 July 2016. A one-page summary of the Report is enclosed.

In our view there are three key lessons for Australia in the outcome of this very thorough inquiry.

The first is that Australia needs to conduct an equivalent inquiry. The Chilcot Report has laid out a detailed account of how the UK came to undertake, for the first time since the Second World War, …

Key findings of the Chilcot Report

The Chilcot Report into the circumstances under which the UK became a party to the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 was released on July 6.  It was prepared by Sir John Chilcot, took seven years to complete and ran to 12 volumes.

The following are just some of the key findings, and each is directly relevant to Australia:

1.     The evidence of Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction was at best tenuous.  The claims of several persons and incidents such as the alleged purchase of yellow cake from Niger were simply fabrications.  Contrary evidence was either …

The Case for an Australian Iraq War Inquiry is Compelling

James O’Neill

The release of the Chilcot Report into the circumstances under which the United Kingdom took part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 has raised fresh questions of how Australia came to join the unfortunately named “coalition of the willing.”

Initial reactions to the Chilcot Report came from John Howard, Australian Prime Minister at the time of the formal announcement of the decision to become part of that coalition.  Howard essentially argued that it was the “right” decision, taken on the basis of the best available intelligence at that time.

The current Foreign Minister Julie Bishop …

Media release: UK’s Chilcot Report released – Australia needs similar process

A former Defence Department head has called for an independent inquiry to investigate Australia’s decision to join the Iraq War, following the release today of the damning Chilcot report in Britain.

President of Australians for War Powers Reform, Paul Barratt AO, said that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was and is almost universally seen as illegal and a disaster for all concerned, and yet has not been subjected to a Chilcot-type inquiry in Australia.   “Such an inquiry here is long overdue,” Mr Barratt said.

“Following the 2003 invasion Iraq has descended in chaos. It is a failed state facing a …