The Guardian August 7, 2002

Oppose Australian support for US "pre-emptive" strike plans
Write to Downer

The Australian Section of the Women's International League for Peace and 
Freedom (WILPF) has sent to Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer .The 
letter opposes the Australian Government's support for the Bush 
Administration's plans for a "pre-emptive" military strike against Iraq. 
The matter is urgent, and individual readers and groups are urged to write 
to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, voicing their opposition and calling 
on the Government to reconsider its position.

"We believe that the more letters the Minister receives, the less likely it 
is that the Howard Government will be able to get away with imposing their 
very bad decision on the Australian people  and the peoples of Iraq" said 
Cathie Picone, for the Australian Section of WILPF.

"Even if people have only a little time, a short letter can add weight to 
the growing numbers of people who wish to voice opposition to this ill-
conceived posture on the part of the Australian Government."

Below is the text of a letter which readers may find useful in drafting a 
letter to the Foreign Affairs Minister.

We write following strong statements from Mr Howard and yourself of support 
for the US Government's position in relation to a possible military strike 
against Iraq.

We noted that, on his most recent visit to the US, Prime Minister Howard 
emerged from talks with members of the Bush Administration announcing his 
understanding of the US doctrine of "pre-emptive strikes" and committing 
Australia to support for a possible US military strike against Iraq.

We were alarmed that Mr Howard was apparently prepared to commit Australian 
troops to such military action ahead of any debate within Australia's 
Parliament and ahead of indications of any support within the Australian 
community for such a policy.

We are disturbed that such important elements of our foreign policy are 
apparently being formulated on an ad hoc basis, in the heat of the moment 
following talks with members of the Bush Administration.

We refer also to your own statement that "a policy of appeasement [towards 
Iraq] is a policy that's going to allow Saddam Hussein to develop weapons 
of mass destruction".

With respect, Minister, it is premature in the extreme to be speaking at 
this stage of "a policy of appeasement".

Such language would be appropriate only if Iraq had already demonstrated a 
degree of belligerence such as a threat to invade or to use weapons of mass 
destruction against another state, or against ethnic minorities within 

Scott Ritter, former UNSCOM weapons inspector has recently said that the 
time frame since UNSCOM exited Baghdad would not have allowed the Iraqi 
regime sufficient time to rearm to the extent claimed by the Bush 

Even the Chair of the US Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Joseph 
Biden, has recently stated that "the Bush Administration has yet to reveal 
evidence to justify an attack on Iraq".

To be speaking at this stage of "a policy of appeasement" before any such 
threat has been proven places us  alongside the Bush Administration  as 
one of the belligerent parties.

Indeed, we believe that to use such language is itself a provocative and 
alarmist act.

While Colin Powell may have described his talks of 11/7/02 with you as an 
"easy discussion", others in the international community may be left with 
questions following Australia's alacrity to agree so readily with the US 
posture on a "pre-emptive strike" against Iraq.

By hastening to announce Australian support for the US positioning for 
strikes against Iraq, we run the risk of diminishing our reputation and 
influence within the international community.

We note with regret that some (both domestically and internationally) have 
already begun to talk of "obsequiousness" on our part towards the US.

We must also raise with you the question of the strategic impact of 
attracting to ourselves such notoriety within the international community 
following our immoderate haste to support the Bush Administration on this 

It is clear that Mr Howard's and your own statements have not gone 
unnoticed within the Arab world.

In the light of Iraq's threatened retaliation (to cut by half their imports 
of Australian wheat), it would be fair to assume that Australia's unseemly 
haste in supporting the US position has not gone unnoticed by members of 
the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We respectfully urge a greater degree of moderation in public statements on 
this matter and for decisions such as these to be taken to the Parliament.

Decisions such as these ought not to be made by members of the Executive 
without reference to our broader democratic institutions.

It is important that, on any decision to commit Australian troops to 
military strikes against Iraq  or indeed against any other nation state, 
the Australian Parliament should be fully informed and consulted.

Anything less leaves your Government open to the charge of eroding the very 
democracy that the putative strikes are purportedly designed to defend.

And finally, we draw to your attention the exemplary statement of the newly 
appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams who, while still 
Archbishop of Wales, said that military action against Iraq could only be 
supported if such action were sanctioned by the United Nations.

We can only concur with the Archbishop and respectfully urge that the 
Australian Government should also adopt a similar stance.

We thank you for your kind attention and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely
Mary Ziesak and Elena Marchetti
Joint National Coordinators WILPF

Copies of the letter were also sent to Kevin Rudd, Natasha Stott Despoja 
and Bob Brown.

Parliament House CANBERRA ACT 2600.

NOTE: There is a petition to US President Bush which readers can sign on 
and forward to others at:

Back to index page