November 25, 2015

"All war is a mistake, all war" said our Governor General

Sir Peter Cosgrove, our current Governor General, was Chief of the Australian Defence Force in 2003 when the then-prime minister John Howard committed Australian troops to support the US invasion of Iraq.  Since he was an officer in the Australian Army who rose to become Head of the Army, I do not believe, for one minute, that he was not savvy enough to be able to astutely read between the lines of the political propaganda driving that invasion, nor do I believe he was a dull-eyed slouch when it came to critically examining and assessing intelligence reports and analyses.  And therefore feel that I must take issue with some of the  comments he reportedly made, a decade later,  in a 2013 ABC news report:

Ten years after the event, still limply trying to justify his decision to commit Australian troops to the Iraq invasion, he gave these "reasons":

[1] "...a horrible dictator eventually was removed..."

That was the reason to go to war?  Really? So how come we never went to war against any of the equally (if not more so) horrible dictators (like, for instance, the succession of despots and dictators who ran South Vietnam) whom America installed and supported whenever it suited U.S. global "interests".  Nor did we ever voice strong objections to such examples of breathtakingly hypocritical and mass murederous American foreign policy.  So, clearly, being a horrible dictator is only a crime punishable by death if you're not a "U.S. friendly" dictator.

[2] "I think we all understood after 9/11 that there'd been a profound change in what might be called the pervasive security aspirations of democratic countries, and Iraq was, if you like, a step along the way,"

Am I the only one who thinks that reads like a pile of dissembling obfuscation?  Al Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 atrocities - Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 !   Saddam Hussein, as a whole swag of the U.S. intelligence analysts, and even our own, tried to point out at the time, was not even talking with al Qaeda.

[3] The ABC reporter points out that General Cosgrove does not believe a "lie" about WMDs was used in order to supply a pretext for going to war: "A lie presupposes [that] people deliberately contrived to invent a reason for war, and that’s certainly not the Australian experience," the erstwhile General was reported as having said.

Well, how does the erstwhile General reconcile the fact that, prior to the deployment of our troops, grave doubts about the veracity of those "massaged" intelligence reports were being loudly expressed in very reputable quarters of the intelligence community, even in our own?   Andrew Wilkie even quit his career with the Office of National Assessments (ONA), one of our lead intelligence agencies, in protest at the lies being bought, apparently unquestioned, by the likes of General Cosgrove.  

Those lies have since been well and truly verified by a whole stack of first-person accounts including accounts by US, British, German, and Australian intelligence analysts. For the erstwhile General to claim, ten years later, that he still does not believe that the WMD circus was a huge beat-up to help provide George W. Bush with a fraudulent excuse to invade Iraq, beggars belief.  Unless, of course, one factors-in the idea that if General Cosgrove had permitted himself to courageously and unflinchingly stare the truth in the face at the time, he would virtually have felt an overwhelming moral duty to tell Prime Minister Howard something along the lines of "Call off your sycophantic support for America's planned illegal invasion of Iraq, or go find yourself a new General to prosecute your war, John!"  But he did no such thing.  I suppose he opted for the convenient excuse of "I am just following orders."   Will he also now absolve those hung for trying to get away with that very same excuse at the Nuremberg Trials?   I doubt it...

And of course, as history has shown, Prime Minister Abbott, Howard's successor in the ranks of conservative politics, handsomely rewarded General Cosgrove's loyalty (to the conservatives' political agenda) by promoting him to Governor General of Australia, and even recommending him for a knighthood.  (Was that Abbott's dog whistle to others that there are huge rewards for Army officers who display unflinching loyalty to their conservative political masters?)

In that 2013 ABC report General Cosgrove also said "All war is a mistake, all war..."  Apparently he had that epiphany well after he deliberately and willfully ignored strong and credible doubts, loudly expressed by members of the intelligence community (and even fellow Generals) at the time, in order to justify sending our troops into yet another American bloodbath which achieved only negative results and was arguably the main cause of the huge growth in al Qaeda's ranks in Iraq, and the rise of ISIL.

And reading between the lines of that ABC news report, I get the strong impression that General Cosgrove still blames everyone except himself for involving the men and women of the Australian Defence Force - many of whom have since committed suicide - in what was arguably a war crime.  

Nice one, General...  Will we ever get Generals with the moral fortitude of Andrew Wilkie? 

I live in hope...

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Gerry Binder
Vietnam veteran