Monday, June 23, 2008

Last Australian Combat Troops Arrive Home, Mission Completed

John Howard On The Iraq War : The First Six Months

So the Iraq War is over now for Australian combat troops, officially anyway, with the last troops arriving home to warm welcomes from friends and family over the weekend :

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has today seen the completion of his pledge to bring home all of Australia's combat troops from Iraq, with the final contingent of soldiers flying into Brisbane.

Families and friends waited nervously at Brisbane airport for the first glimpse of loved ones they had not seen for more than six months.

Hugs and tears greeted the 80 members of the Seventh Brigade after their plane touched down...

They are the last soldiers from the Overwatch Battle Group to return home from southern Iraq and their Commander, Brigadier Steven Day, says they accomplished their mission.

"There is a deep sense of pride in what they have done. They have toiled hard for the last six or seven months and southern Iraq is a better place for what they have done," he said.

Well Done and Welcome Home.

The Australian Defence Force strategists who purposely kept Australian combat troops from spending too much time patrolling with under-trained, terrified, and sometimes dangerously incompetent American forces should be thanked. (While stationed in Jordan in the days before the war officially began, Australian troops witnessed young, inexperienced Americans almost blowing a British Chinook helicopter out of the sky. The Americans thought the Chinook was Iraqi. Iraq, of course, has never owned or used Chinook helicopters. The Brits landed their helicopter near the Americans, got out and punched crap out of them.)

Likewise, those ADFers who demanded Australian troops spend as little time as possible in Iraqi provinces fatally contaminated by depleted uranium dust should be thanked.

It will be many years before some of the most important government and ADF documents and reports on the lead-up to the Iraq War, and its opening months, are declassified, and it will only be then that we will learn the full truth of war where it concerned Australian combat troops.

That most Australians know so little of what their troops did and experienced in the Iraq War is a damn shame, and hopefully something that will be rectified in the next few years as more stories of their frontline experiences are made public through books, documentaries and movies.

That most Australians know so little about John Howard's total commitment to the 'War on Terror', including the Iraq War, within days of the September 11, 2001 attacks, is an abheration of our nation's history. That Howard repeatedly lied to all Australians that he had not committed Australian troops to the Iraq War as late as mid-March is, or should be, criminal.

Following is a recap of Howard quotes on the invasion and occupation of Iraq from January to June, 2003. Note the constantly shifting 'reasons for war' and the blindly optimistic belief that there would be no major resistance from Iraqi civilians, which directly contradicted key intelligence briefings Howard received on what would happen once the invasion begun.

As a point of reference, being information Howard was clearly made aware of, the first car bombs aimed at American troops exploded with hours of the start of the war, and the very first American vehicles to enter Baghdad were not met with a shower of chocolates and flowers but machine gun fire from men, women and children shooting from hundreds of open windows and rooftops. The Iraqi resistance began the moment the war did, as Australian generals well knew it would.

John Howard :
"....our goal is to make certain that the weapons that Iraq now has, chemical and biological and a capacity to develop nuclear weapons, are taken from Iraq. I don't believe the world can turn its back on that - January 23, 2003

"..if as a consequence of that military action the current regime disappears, that circumstances in Iraq could well be a lot better, I’m certain they will be a lot better and that in a relatively short period of time the situation could stabilise in the way that it did in Afghanistan." - February 7. 2003

"Iraq must be disarmed. We cannot afford to allow a rogue state like Iraq to retain chemical and biological weapons. Others will do likewise. North Korea will not be disciplined by the world community if Iraq is not disciplined." - March 14, 2003
Howard had been told repeatedly, by March 14, 2003, that Iraq's WMD capabilities were next to useless and/or non-existent.
"I have no doubt at all in my mind, and many would agree with me, that the Iraqi people will suffer less if Saddam Hussein is removed." - March 17, 2003

"I think you’ve also got to remember that the suffering of the Iraqi people will be a lot less once this regime has gone..." - March 19, 2003

"I want the Iraqi regime disarmed, I want Iraq disarmed. The question of what happens to Saddam Hussein to me is incidental. The aim is the disarmament of Iraq."- March 19, 2003

"...we don’t have any quarrel with the ordinary people of Iraq, we don’t want to inflict any avoidable pain injury or death on them. We do have a big quarrel with the regime because it’s the regime that has defied the world in relation to its chemical and biological weapons. We mustn’t lose sight of what this is all about." - March 20, 2003

"....on the scale of suffering I have believed for a long time that the people of Iraq will suffer less if he’s gone than if he’s left there." - March 21, 2003

" is a very tyrannical regime and once it’s gone the people of Iraq will I’m sure have a much better life." - April 2, 2003

"...if Iraq had disarmed and fully cooperated, then I don’t think people would have been arguing on its own for regime change." - April 2, 2003

"...getting rid of the regime and thereby ensuring that Iraq does not retain chemical and biological weapons or a capacity to develop them in the future, that is the goal....I would say victory once the regime is gone." - April 6, 2003

"...we won't be making a significant peacekeeping contribution. I would expect that as our military involvement winds down, and I'm not announcing that it's about to wind down, let me emphasise, but at some point obviously it will begin to wind down." - April 10, 2003
The scale of resistance by Iraqi civilians to the invasion and occupation was already clear by April 10, 2003. Howard knew that. By April 10, Howard had already told the Australian military leaders and commanders that he had committed Australian troops to staying in Iraq for the long haul.
"Of course there were (civilian casualties from 'Shock & Awe'). But you have to put that in the balance against the tens upon tens of thousands who have died in different ways as a result of this regime." April 13, 2003
Conservative estimates of Iraqi deaths as a direct result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq reach more than 100,000. More generous estimates put the death toll at close to one million. The majority of deaths in Iraq were, and are still, not officially recorded by the US military, or the US and Iraq governments. The Iraq War resulted in some 4 million Iraqis becoming refugees.
"It was inevitable that when you topple a tyrannical regime and you took the lid off, it was inevitable there was going to be a period of some upheaval..." April 16, 2003

" was a remarkable military victory, and a great tribute to the American military leadership." May 2, 2003

"...can I Mr President congratulate you on the leadership that you gave to the world, at times under very great criticism, at times facing very great obstruction...I think what was achieved in Iraq was quite extraordinary from a military point of view. I think the military textbooks will be replete with the experiences of Operation Iraqi Freedom for many years to come..." May 3, 2003
A few more recaps of the Iraq War and Australia's role in it to follow in the next week.