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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Gung-ho US troops

From yesterday's Australian:

"Australian and British military legal advisers frequently had to "red card" more trigger-happy US forces to limit civilian casualties during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to one of the Australian advisers."

It's a remarkable admission that has been ignored by the mainstream media. Colonel Mike Kelly, writing in the Australian Army Journal, "says the junior partners in the coalition forces succeeded in reducing civilian casualties and reinforcing the legitimacy of the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein."

How the "legitimacy" of the invasion was reinforced is anybody's guess.

Juan Cole comments:

"I think there is a problem here when professional and hard-fighting Australian and British troops routinely feel that the US military does things that are frankly illegal, and might drag them into illegality. And that this difference in attitude has political implications seems clear - the British and the Australians are chomping at the bit to get out of Iraq ASAP. It is clear that they have often felt in the past two years that American recklessness has put them needlessly at risk. Proud of their own community policing skills, when British forces were briefly moved up to Babil province (the "triangle of death"), they complained that they were going to a place that the Americans had already ruined and made dangerous. Whether it is a fair perception or not, it has consequences."

Then there are the statements by former Australian defence force chief General Peter Cosgrove that Australia should be out of Iraq by the end of 2006. "I think we've got to train the Iraqis as quickly as we can", he said, "and to a point where we take one of the focal points of terrorist motivation away, and that is foreign troops."

Cosgrove's words, while welcome, are too little, too late. Besides, if he was so concerned about Australian involvement in Iraq and the increased risk of a terrorist strike, he should have resigned years ago. Alas, he did not.

Australia should withdraw troops out of Iraq immediately. The argument that such a move would leave Iraq hostage to a violent future seems rather futile considering the current situation there. The Vietnam-era term, "We Had to Destroy the Village to Save It", is sadly prescient today for the pro-war supporters, the chicken hawks and anybody who fails to understand the lessons of occupation.


Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

Exactly. Cosgrove is suffering from the Robert McNamara/Malcolm Fraser disease - being outspoken after becoming politically irrelevant. What a midget.

Some will say it's better than nothing. And I agree. But it's still far short of what is necessary and, certainly, what someone who was in Cosgrove's position was capable of.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 11:53:00 am  
Blogger Mike Hunt said...

Cosgrove a midget? Are you suggesting the Chief of the Defence Force not follow orders from his civilian superiors and conduct his own foreign policy?

That sounds a bit like a military dictatorship to me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 12:35:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Dare I suggest that Cosgrove should have resigned if he had troubles with his orders or felt his actions would contribute to Australia being a greater terror target?
But, of course, as he stated on Enough Rope, he considers John Howard a good mate, and therefore felt his job came become morality.
The number of military leaders who work this way is legendary, not least the various generals in the Vietnam War.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 12:38:00 pm  
Blogger Ian Westmore said...

Juan Cole wrote:
"Besides, if he [General Cosgrove] was so concerned about Australian involvement in Iraq and the increased risk of a terrorist strike, he should have resigned years ago. Alas, he did not."

I don't know what misgiving, if any, General Cosgrove had at the time regarding the invasion of Iraq fueling terrorism, but he should have had very strong misgivings about the legality of such an invasion. Misgivings that he should have conveyed firstly to the Minister of Defence, and if they were unheeded to the Governor-General. If the G-G was unwilling to act, Cosgrove should have resigned.

Mike Hunt said...
"Are you suggesting the Chief of the Defence Force not follow orders from his civilian superiors and conduct his own foreign policy?."

If the orders from your "civilian superiors" require you to violate international law and leave you open to war crimes prosecution then yes, the Chief of Defence Force, and the other service chiefs, indeed the whole officer corp, have a duty to refuse them.

Our tame media has so far pretty much ignored this - new Matilda being a notable exception, so you may not be aware that their British counterparts refused to issue the final go ahead, delaying the invasion by 4-5 days while they sought assurance from the UK Attorney-General that the invasion was legal. They eventually got it, but we now know that those assurances were seriously flawed.

To quote the UK Chief of the General Staff, Gen Sir Mike Jackson "I spent a good deal of time recently in the Balkans making sure Milosevic was put behind bars. I have no intention of ending up in the next cell to him in the Hague."

If you watched the Dawn Service from Gallipoli earlier this year you may have noticed that the British Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Michael Walker was more than a little unsteady on his feet. Perhaps the above was why!

Of course for us the critical question is did Gen. Cosgrove, AM Huston and Vice Admiral Ritchie have similar concerns and did they act on them. The prolonged silence suggests not!

The following links provide more information:

Army chiefs feared Iraq war illegal just days before start

Revealed: the rush to war

New questions about the legality of the war

Thursday, August 11, 2005 3:48:00 pm  
Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

I was wholly opposed to the Iraq War, but am not so sure what should be done now. Antony, am I right in thinking that you suggest we pull out of Iraq because we have made such a mess there that we have become a target? That our presence alone causes violence to escalate?

I suppose I am just worried this might become another Somalia or Haiti or Rwanda. How do we know that withdrawl won't result in massacre of Kurds or some Shiite-Sunni war?

Thursday, August 11, 2005 4:48:00 pm  

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