By Darryl Mason
In a long, glowing tribute to John Howard, 'the most influential foreign affairs commentator in Australia', Greg Sheridan, decides the debacle and horror of the Iraq War is hardly mentioning. Well, not beyond a weighty 42 words worth of whitewashing.
Regardless of how Sheridan tries to spin it, in two or three decades, Howard's involvement in the Iraq War will be one of the three key reasons why his name will be mentioned in the history books, along with his, reportedly, platonic man-love affair with President George W. Bush.
Historians care little for "the economy" in the long term, they always write at length about the controversies and dramas, the wars and conflicts and the big historical events that divide and unite the nations that prime ministers and presidents lead.
Howard's larger national and international legacy is not "the economy". It is the Iraq War. Without Howard's shameless appeals to President Bush, from early 2002, if not earlier, that Australia was right behind the Iraq War, Bush would have had one less key member of the Coalition of the Willing, which was thin enough to begin with, outside of the involvement of the UK and Spain.
The Iraq War has occupied five years of Howard's 11.5 year reign, almost half of the total years Howard served as prime minister, if you consider the Iraq War began for Australian when it sent in special forces troops in late 2002.
The lead-up to the Iraq War saw the largest gatherings of people opposing a government policy in the nation's history. And it some of the most foul and odious columns ever written by Australian opinionists, in a disturbingly co-ordinated effort to try and dampen down the overwhelming opposition to the coming invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Many so-called journalists, including Sheridan, followed Howard's psy-op line that if you opposed the war you were giving "aid and comfort" to Saddam Hussein. Tell that to the many thousands of Australian war veterans who marched and spoke out in early 2003 against the brutal violence and mass civilian slaughters they knew, from experience, were coming to the people of Iraq.
Before the Iraq War began, Australian, British and American intelligence agents broke protocol, and cover, to warn Howard directly against backing the extremely dodgy 'Saddam Has Nukes And Lots Of WMDs' NeoCon fakery, most of which was built around the claims of the infamous 'Curveball', who turned out to be nothing more than a desperate Iraqi who was being paid to tell NeoCons what they wanted to hear, so they could use it to try and sell their war to the people.
None of it worked to convince even a thin minority of Australians that the Iraq War was necessary. Regardless of the mass opposition from the people, Howard sent his nation to war, knowing full well the NeoCon-packaged WMD intelligence was pure crap.
So here's how Greg Sheridan, supposedly one of our most respected and highly regarded foreign affairs journalist, sums up Howard and Iraq :
This is whitewashing at its best, and most shameless.
Howard made the right call on the information available, and it took incredible guts to do it. There were certainly no lies involved - every responsible authority was convinced Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction - and Howard will be vindicated by history.
The lies from Howard about the Iraq War were many, and Sheridan knows this.
Here's but one of the many bold and outrageous lies from Howard on Iraq : He told us he had not committed Australian forces to war in Iraq, literally 48 hours before the 'Shock And Awe' bombings of Baghdad began. But Howard knew, as Greg Sheridan knew, that Australian special forces had been working away in Iraq's west for months, and many Australian troops had been told in October and September, 2002, that they were going to Iraq to fight a war, and that they were prepare for war, and that they were prepare their families for that fact.
That Sheridan would even think he could float such an absurd paragraph in a major newspaper and that people would believe him is just bizarre.
Perhaps Sheridan is so mortified by what has happened to the people of Iraq, in a war that he relentlessly promoted through the last half of 2002, and right through 2003, that he really wants to believe his own twaddle. Maybe he has to. Perhaps it is easier then to sleep soundly at night, and not think of the millions of innocent people, mostly young people, killed or maimed or driven from their homes.
And don't think for a moment that Sheridan was some of sort of apologist, or PR flack for Howard. God, no. Sheridan himself admits he was "savagely critical" of Howard during the former prime minister's 30 year long political career. How many times was Sheridan "savagely critical"?
I'll let Sheridan reveal the vast extent of his savage criticism for himself :
"Twice in Howard's career, I have been savagely critical of him."
Sheridan was relentless in holding Howard to account for his foreign policy decisions and disasters, and you would expect nothing less from 'the most influential foreign affairs commentator in Australia'.
How did Howard stand all that pressure and scrutiny from Greg Sheridan?
It must have been tough.
Janet Albrechtsen : I Don't Even Mention The Word "Iraq" In My Howard Whitewash
September 2007 : Greg Sheridan's Shameless Anti-Democracy, Anti-Free Speech Propaganda
February 2007 : Sheridan Helps Dick Cheney Make His Case For War On Iran
Sheridan Predicts "Outside Chance" Victory For Liberals In 2010, With Tony Abbott In Charge