The August 25 Australian reported that Prime Minister John Howard's government was resisting informal pressure from Washington to commit more troops to combat the growing guerrilla war being mounted by armed Iraqis resisting the US-led occupation of their country.
Currently, there are 300 Australian Defence Force personnel in Iraq, with another 700 engaged in support operations in the Persian Gulf. The 300 ADF personnel in Iraq are engaged in "non-combat" operations such as guarding the Australian embassy in Baghdad and acting as air-traffic controllers at Baghdad airport.
"I am not aware of any formal or informal request from the Americans", Howard told journalists when queried about the Australian's report.
Howard's claim of ignorance when asked about politically difficult issues has now become a familiar one — from the "children overboard" scandal to the latest denial of any knowledge about the secret Liberal Party slush fund organised by protege, Tony Abbot, to bankroll a civil suit against One Nation.
Foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer stated: "We made it clear to the Americans, when they asked us to participate in the coalition to liberate Iraq from the regime of Saddam Hussein, that we would be prepared to do that but we weren't going to keep troops in Iraq for a long period of time after the liberation."
However, neither Howard nor Downer ruled out reversing this position if Washington made a formal request to do so.
With US public support for the occupation waning, and as US casualties steadily mount, Washington is seeking to get as many other countries as possible to send troops in order be able to reduce the burden on war-weary US troops of policing a hostile Iraqi population.
Right up until the US launched its invasion of Iraq, Howard and Downer denied that they had received any request from Washington to commit Australian troops to a war against Iraq. However, as soon as the US publicly announced it was going to invade Iraq, the Howard government declared that it would participate.
With Washington now declaring Iraq the front line in its global "war on terror" (the cover name for its drive to secure US corporate domination of the world economy), it would be foolish to believe that the Howard government would not agree to send more troops if it was formally asked to.
The most pro-US voices in the Australian media are already urging Canberra to commit troops to colonial-style policing in Iraq. In its August 23-24 edition, News Corporation's Australian carried an article by the paper's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, in which he argued: "If everything the Howard government told us about the Iraq war and its importance to us is true, we should contribute military peacekeepers...
"An Australian peacekeeping contingent taking sole responsibility for a small corner of Iraq would be the greatest contribution we could make right now."
The ADF's participation in the US-led invasion of Iraq contributed nothing to the well-being of working people in Iraq or Australia. Nor does the continuing presence of ADF personnel there. To the contrary, its role in Iraq is to defend the interests of the tiny minority of super-rich families in Australia and the US seek to secure their untrammelled ability to plunder Iraq's natural resources, above all its petroleum reserves.
The interests of Australian working people are the same as those of Iraq — to end the criminal, imperial occupation of Iraq by getting all the invading troops withdrawn immediately, to let the Iraqi people run their national affairs without foreign interference and to have the social wealth we produce allocated to health care, education and other socially useful purposes, not war.
No more blood for oil! Bring the troops home now!
From Green Left Weekly, September 3, 2003.
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