Don't forget about Iraq

Saturday, October 14, 2006

In the first eight days of October, 30 coalition troops and close to 300 Iraqi civilians and security forces were killed. Iraq has become such a shameful example of Western arrogance that such figures barely warrant a mention on our television screens or in newspapers.

Four years ago, at the UN General Assembly, the then US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, dramatically produced a vial of white powder and said that Saddam Hussein had tons of anthrax just like it, and that the US knew this for certain. British PM Tony Blair then produced his infamous "15-minute dossier" in which he warned that Hussein's troops could deploy biological, chemical and, maybe, nuclear warheads in 15 minutes. PM John Howard preached that Hussein was an imminent threat to the region, that he and his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction were waiting to strike and that he needed to be stopped.

These were the justifications for war against Iraq.

Each and every Australian was lied to, plain and simple. Yet, four years on, it seems that we accept that the government lied. Can our consciences be bought with promises of tax cuts and wage increases? Has our fight for justice and truth been anaesthetised by a diet of Big Brother, Dancing with the Stars and Hello magazine?

This war has no legal basis: many nations that initially took part have now withdrawn their troops. Australia remains, along with Estonia, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Slovakia and El Salvador, willing to sell its conscience for a price.

You don't need to be a political scientist to understand why some poor nations may want to align themselves with the world's most powerful economic and military power. But perhaps Howard can explain exactly what he sold the Australian people's integrity for.

Through false promises, outright lies and by appealing to basic selfishness, the Howard government has managed to manufacture consent — or perhaps a state of apathy — towards the daily slaughter in Iraq. Each and every one of us who remains silent is complicit in this immoral and unjustified war.

The coalition troops in Iraq, whether from the US, Britain or Australia, are an illegal occupying force. The United Nations Charter enshrines the right to legitimate resistance to such a force. As such, military action against such troops is justified.

If the occupation troops are indeed wanted in Iraq, they would not travel in armoured columns, they would not live behind heavily fortified bases and they would not be targeted every single day by Iraqis demanding they leave.

Today, more Iraqis die each day than they ever did under Hussein. Today, most Iraqis have no electricity yet Baghdad's "Green Zone" is a 24-hour construction site for the largest US embassy in the world. Today, Iraqis who live in the world's fifth largest oil reserve line up for six hours for fuel while coalition tanks and Humvees never seem to stop.

Some 2500 years ago Plato observed, "The greatest oppressor always first appears in the guise of protector". It seems some truths are eternal.

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