Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, August 16, 2004

Now 43 Iraqi Australians have written to the press with a reply to the Duffers' Declaration on lying about Iraq.

You recall the duffers said the invasion by the coalition was a " destructive, especially for Iraq". Here's what their antipodean relatives say:

We are extremely grateful to the Australian military forces for helping to liberate our former beloved country from the indescribable suffering imposed by the brutal Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein.

The Australians are doing a splendid job over there and we hope the statement by the first group of 43 does not undermine their morale. We are particularly grateful to the Australians for
their superb management of the airport in Baghdad; also for their magnificent efforts at the facilities for training the new Iraqi army in Kirkuk and Mosul.

These Iraqis may be new to the country, but the can read its politics more clearly than most media commentators:
We respect the rights of the 43 former senior figures to freely express their views in their statement to the Australian people last Monday. However, many of us have certain doubts about the timing of their statement since it appears to be politically motivated as there is an election to be held very soon.


Mike Scrafton, a defence official seconded to the office of the then Minister of Defence, Peter Reith, has published his version of his telephone conversations with the Prime Minister just before John Howard made his 'children overboard' statement in November 2001.

Scrafton says he killed the story before Howard went public with it. Howard denies that.
[Howard's spokesman] said Mr Howard did not agree with Mr Scrafton's comments on the dating of the photographs of the incident or the fact that that no one in Defence believed the children overboard claim was true.

He said Mr Scrafton made no subsequent reference to his concerns in other discussions with Defence officials.

End of story, apart from wishful thinking from the Opposition and the media.

Why does Scrafton go public now?

I don't think you need to be born in Iraq to guess the answer.

Scrafton is prepared to break his obligations of confidentiality in order to support the other duffers.
"The issue they raise is the issue of truth in government and the Government has been clever in deflecting the argument," he said.
Strange that those briefing for the duffers over the past week have been running away from the 'government lies' angle, and claiming their complaint was really about something else entirely.
First, that Australia's military operations should not encompass the attempt to seize and hold territory, subdue or control the population of other nations (unlike Iraq). Second, that Australia's resort to military force must be legitimised either in terms of self-defence or by an explicit UN Security Council resolution (unlike Iraq) or as part of a UN peace-keeping operation. And third, that Australia must be careful of the deployment of military forces in the pursuit of unattainable political objectives.

You can't be too fussy about your weapons in an election campaign.