About 80 protesters made their voices heard from outside Sydney's Intercontinental hotel as the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard gave his “no regrets” on Iraq speech, hosted by conservative think-tank the Lowy Institute on April 9.
The protest was organised by Stop the War Coalition and a network of concerned groups and individuals.
The venue for this invitation-only event was changed at the last minute due to concerns about the protest, and to allow Howard to slip in a back door. But if he did not hear speaker after speaker reminding him of his crimes against humanity, it would heard the chanting — “Bullshit! Come off it! You lied for corporate profits!”
“Howard is a war criminal, and he must be brought to justice for his role in taking Australia to war in Iraq”, Professor Stuart Rees told the crowd.
Donna Mulhearn, a “human shield” during the 2003 war and eyewitness to the Fallujah massacre of 2004, described the ongoing suffering in Iraq today.
“I felt much disillusionment and despair from the tired Iraqi people, as well as little pockets of hope in various places”, she said referring to her most recent trip — her fifth — to Iraq.
“Ten years on, children continue to die of cancer and babies are still being born with birth deformities in Fallujah. All are linked to the toxic legacy of the depleted uranium weapons — the ‘Agent Orange’ of today.”
Greens City of Sydney councillor Irene Doutney, Maritime Workers Union NSW branch leader Paul McAleer and Nick Deane from the Marrickville peace group also condemned Howard’s decision to ignore the majority of Australians, international law and the United Nations to partner with the Coalition of the Willing and launch a war.
Howard used his speech to criticise some of the tactical decisions made by the US-run coalition provisional authority in Iraq, under Paul Bremmer. But he was adamant that he did the right thing by going to war.
The recently deceased former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also came in for deserved derision. The protest co-chairs Helen Patterson and Josh Lees emphasized that Thatcher had been pushing Howard, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush to go to war on Iraq.
In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal in July 2002 she demanded that they not “go wobbly”.
“Saddam must go...It is clear to anyone willing to face reality that the only reason Saddam took the risk of refusing to submit his activities to UN inspectors was that he is exerting every muscle to build [weapons of mass destruction].”
In his speech to the Lowy Institute, Howard repeated this lie, arguing that it was legitimate for the West to attack because: “Americans thought their country would be attacked by terrorists again, and soon.”
He made no mention of the United Nations weapons’ inspector Hans Blix who had repeatedly said his team had found no weapons of mass destruction, and that Iraq was cooperating with UN Security Council Resolution 1441.