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Iraq the other way up

John Rentoul

john howard 300x209 Iraq the other way upThe British debate on Iraq looks different turned upside down. John Howard, Australian former prime minister, has given an important speech about his decision to join George Bush and Tony Blair in military action, which led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue 10 years ago today.

It is important because the arguments are so similar to ours; just the personnel are different. I don’t suppose the conspiracy theorists will be affected by it: the nature of conspiracy theories is that they adapt to all new information.* But a reasonable person, reading the speech, ought to be struck by how a political system like ours reacted to the same facts of international affairs and came to the same conclusions.

The Australian government even received the same legal advice – that military action was lawful on the grounds of UN resolution 678 – which ought to give pause to those who think Lord Goldsmith’s advice was somehow contrived or capricious.

There is the “argument from alliances”, that Australia’s part in the invasion of Iraq alienated the country from China, just as ours was supposed to have damaged our relations with the rest of the European Union.

And this, about the relationship with America:

There were many who argued that we should stay out; we should say “no” to the Americans for a change; that the true measure of a good friend was a willingness to disagree when the circumstances called for it, and that in the case of Iraq we would hurt our country by backing the United States, and that in the long run declining to participate in the Coalition of the willing would be good for the alliance. That argument escaped me then, and it still does. In my view the circumstances we recall tonight necessitated a 100 per cent ally, not a 70 or 80 per cent one, particularly as no compelling national interest beckoned us in the opposite direction.

Then there were the inquiries afterwards, which established the same things as those here (and in America): that the intelligence was a pile of crock but no one lied; no one made stuff up; no one put pressure on anyone else to say things they didn’t think were true; no one thought Saddam had got rid of his entire weapons programme.

*I assume you know what we are up against, but here is a particularly vivid example, from a discussion in which I took part on HuffPost Live earlier today. These are people whose belief system requires there to have been simultaneous and identical conspiracies in the US, Britain and Australia.

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  • creggancowboy

    The Australians sold out East Timor in 1945 and 1975 so what? I see the Indy is bannin comments about an Uprising at Thatchers funeral. John? John? Oh dear he’s gone!

  • Kippers

    “The intelligence was a pile of crock”. Errrrr no, actually. Both Australian intelligence agencies gave assessments that were much more cautious than Howard claimed and Howard leaned heavily on American and British government statements to make his case in parliament.

  • Pacificweather

    It seems that that you cannot refer to a rising cockerel without a short stay in purgatory or moderation as it is euphemistically called on these pages.


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