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 …

Media release: long-overdue Chilcot report due on Wednesday in UK, calls for similar process in Australia

Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR) will this week welcome the release of Sir John Chilcot’s long-delayed report on Britain’s involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  The report will examine the way decisions were made, the actions taken, and the lessons to be learned.

Six years in preparation, it is based on interviews with more than 150 witnesses, some of whose statements were reduced to ‘gists’. Some of the 150 000 documents it uses had to be declassified, and others were restrained by ‘national security’ concerns.

Information already available indicates that Chilcot will reveal that Tony Blair’s decision for …

The silence is deafening

We learn belatedly that Prime Minister Abbott tried to persuade the Army to send to the MH17 crash site in Ukraine, were more like 3000, a full brigade!

In this long election campaign, the major parties are debating anything and everything that will affect votes. Everything, that is, except refugees, foreign policy, and – as if it is a minor matter – the war. Australians who haven’t been paying attention may well be unaware that we have military in Afghanistan (still), Iraq (again), and Syria. In spite of retired generals Peter Leahy and Peter Gration repeatedly questioning the strategy and …

The unasked or unanswered questions of this election

It is a democratic principle that debate is essential to good policy. Dispute has a refining effect on ideas.  Moreover, one of the purposes of an election campaign is to allow the public to understand where our government or potential government is taking us and what it will cost. There was a time when foreign and defence policy were central to the pre-election debates in Australia.  This was a time when party differences led discussion and, in the process, illuminated the issues for the electorate. Such scrutiny forced governments to be alert to public opinion regarding what they did and …