Try Howard as a war criminal

Howard is unwilling to express any concern for the devastation of Iraq.
Monday, April 8, 2013

Sydney Stop the War Coalition released this statement on April 9.

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Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, John Howard has been invited by the conservative think-tank the Lowy Institute for International Policy to present his views.

It will be yet another “no regrets” speech. This is despite the horrifying evidence, over the last 10 years, of Iraq’s devastation by the Coalition of the Willing.

Howard and his allies George Bush and Tony Blair are war criminals. They should be called to the World Court in The Hague on charges of war crimes.

Howard, like Bush and Blair, is steadfastly unwilling to express any concern, let alone any apology, for the devastation of Iraq. Like them, he continues to assert that the West had the right to invade a sovereign country on the pretext that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

When it became obvious that this was a lie, Howard, Bush and Blair continued to justify the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, the displacement of millions, the destruction of the country’s infrastructure and economy by saying the removal of Saddam Hussein was worth the price.

These criminals and their supporters in Australia, notably former foreign affairs MP Alexander Downer and current foreign affairs MP Bob Carr, assert that the war was worth it because now Iraqis have democracy. Most Iraqis disagree.

Oil-rich Iraq now suffers from some of the region’s highest rates of unemployment and child malnutrition and debilitating problems with electric power, sewage systems and other public services. The United Nations Development Programme says that Iraq remains one of the most contaminated countries in the world with landmines and unexploded ordinance.

The world, including Australia, stood up against the Coalition’s invasion in 2003. One million Australians took to the streets in February 2003 to demand Howard stop his march to war. He scathingly dismissed us as “the mob”. We were right to say no, and everything which we feared about the invasion and occupation — “Operation Iraqi Freedom” — was, tragically, proved right.

Just Foreign Policy estimates that more than 1.5 million Iraqis have died since the invasion — the equivalent to the kind of natural disaster that would wipe out every person in Canberra, Newcastle, Wollongong, Hobart, Geelong and Darwin.

The Coalition of the Willing presided over an Iraqi genocide. It is one of the most bitter ironies of this century so far that a war carried out as part of the so-called “war on terrorism” turned out to be one of history’s worst acts of terror.

Naomi Klein says more than 30,000 bombs were dropped in the first six weeks, together with 20,000 precision-guided cruise missiles.

The war may officially be “over” — although not for those caught up in the epidemic of cancer and birth deformations resulting from depleted uranium and other toxins. Not for those who have lost their jobs and ability to earn, and can no longer provide for their families. Not for those returned soldiers suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and not for the families of those thousands of soldiers who will never return.

While Howard and his supporters continue to try and “justify” these atrocities, most of the media tamely report, rather than challenge, them.

The Gillard government is not likely to push for any serious inquiry into the Howard government’s decision to join in the invasion. Those who didn’t agree with the Iraq war have to continue to demand that Howard be brought to justice for his part in the crimes against the Iraqi people.

Likewise, we must demand the end of the war in Afghanistan and prevent either of the major parties in government from joining the next criminal war before it starts.

[There will be a peaceful protest outside the Lowy Institute-organised function at the InterContinental Hotel on April 9 at 5pm].