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Issue #1739      July 13, 2016


War crimes come home

The release of the British Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war has brought the role played by the government of John Howard involving Australia in the “coalition of the willing” in that murderous and criminal conflict back into the spotlight.

Instead of being asked puerile questions about Malcolm Turnbull’s election tactics John Howard should be brought before an international tribunal, along with then US President George W Bush and British PM Tony Blair, to answer charges in relation to crimes against humanity. The upshot of the Iraq war is an estimated million and more deaths of innocent Iraqis and the resultant deaths and traumas of Australian and other coalition military personnel and their families.

The ongoing death and destruction in the Middle East and the rise of terrorist organisations such as ISIS are part of the legacy of that conflict begun in March 2003 based on the lie of weapons of mass destruction and the arrogant rejection of the mass demonstrations and clear public opposition to the war (see “Iraq and beyond” and “Redrawing the map”).

As the current war preparations, with the US military build-up in Australia’s north testifies, the subservient commitment to the US-Australian alliance by successive Australian governments, both Liberal and Labor, means a continued commitment to criminal, US-led wars.

In February 2003, Mike Salvaris, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, (Melbourne) warned: “Australia’s participation in an armed invasion of Iraq without explicit UN Security Council authority will be illegal under international and Australian law. It will render the Prime Minister and his government liable to be prosecuted as war criminals, and expose our servicemen and women to the same action.

“Australia is signatory to the UN Charter and the Australian government is constitutionally bound to obey it. The main purpose and effect of the Charter is to outlaw war and the use of force, except in narrow and explicitly prescribed circumstances: when a country is acting in individual or collective self-defence against an actual or imminent armed attack; and when the UN Security Council has authorised the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

“Neither of these circumstances now exists. Iraq has not attacked Australia or any other State and is not immediately threatening to do so. UN Security Council resolution 1441, requiring [Iraqi president] Saddam Hussein to cooperate with weapons inspections, does not include any automatic authorisation for force against Iraq in the event of a breach of the resolution, either by the UNSC or any Member State.”

He noted: “Australia is now also a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“This means that Australians participating in an illegal war in which many civilians are killed and excessive violence is used may be tried and imprisoned by the Court for crimes against humanity, war crimes, the crime of aggression or even genocide.

“The Court’s statute specifically applies to Heads of State, Ministers and bureaucrats, as well as military officers merely obeying orders. The extent or nature of any crimes that may be committed by Australians will of course depend on the course of the war itself and the role actually played by Australia.

“It seems likely that the impending war will be largely based on bombing, including the deliberate bombing of civilian infrastructure (water, power, transport etc), which caused massive civilian suffering during and after the last Gulf War. Close fighting in cities is also likely. Nuclear weapons may be used.”

He continued:

“The moral and logical fallacies of the US and Australian governments’ case for war are obvious enough, whether the supposed justifications are the prevention of terrorism, upholding the UN, promoting democracy, regime change or reducing weapons of mass destruction. On many of these issues the US itself has very dirty hands.”

“… However, until recently, arguments about the legality of the war seemed to have taken a back seat.

“Over the past 50 years, the international legal and human rights system has been built up slowly and painfully, through many failures, and occasional success. It is now facing one of its greatest tests.

“To succeed, it must be shown to be as tough on the most powerful and assured transgressors as it is upon outcast and despised members of the international community: exactly the same principle of equality that applies to national legal systems.

“Australia was one of the key builders of this system, but our record recently has not been a proud one. Will it take Australian war crimes trials to wake us up?”

In February 2003 John Howard declared he would not be moved. “My charge as Prime Minister is to make whatever decisions are in the interest of this country,” he said, at the same time railing about Saddam Hussein being a dictator.

He rejected the reports of the weapons inspectors, who, after three months in Iraq had found not a skerrick of evidence that Iraq possessed any weapons of mass destruction.

He rejected the opposition to war coming from the governments representing the majority of the people of the world.

He dismissed the fact that the world’s people simply did not believe the succession of lies coming from Tony Blair, George Bush and himself in an attempt to whip up support for war.

Howard and his warmongering cohorts were lying.

Their war plans had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein’s record. It had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. It had nothing to do with the allegation that Iraq could provide terrorist groups with weapons of mass destruction.

Their arguments were diversions to cover up the truth: that the US war drive was motivated by the dire need of the US corporations to control the oil resources of the whole of the Middle East and, thereby, control the economic and political life of all other countries.

It was about US world hegemony and Howard was totally in support of that.

As one placard at the mass demonstrations against the war read: “If Johnny comes marching home, he will come with blood on his hands”.

Next article – Editorial – No Mandate

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