EVENT VIDEO: Critics of the 2003 invasion of Iraq see it as a humanitarian, legal, political and strategic disaster. It removed Saddam Hussein from power, but it left a trail of death and destruction and millions of refugees. It has arguably undermined the role of international law and emboldened militant actors in the region.
To this day, Australia’s role in the war raises serious questions of government honesty and accountability. If we do not learn lessons from this episode, we are at grave risk of engaging in other wars in the future. For example, we may again, at the whim of the prime minister of the day, and with no parliamentary debate, be drawn into another war in the Middle East over Iran or Syria, into a dispute over ownership of islands in the North or South China Seas, or over Taiwan. Some, but not all, of these possibilities may be covered by existing treaty obligations, which are also very much the subject of contemporary discussion.
Both the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have initiated official inquiries into their own involvement in the Iraq war; Australia has not. Nearly a decade after the war began, it is time, according to a group of former soldiers, diplomats and academics, that we did so. The group, led by former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, formally announced their intention to push for such an inquiry at Parliament House Canberra on 16 August 2012. It calls for a review of the war powers of the government, to draw out what lessons can be learned for the future.
All of Australia’s wars have been fought on foreign soil. It seems likely that this may also be the case in future. To discuss this thorny issue AIIA NSW presented two eminent speakers who strongly believe we should review the war powers of the government.
Our two speakers are Paul Barratt AO, a former secretary of defence, of primary industries and energy, and deputy secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Dr Sue Wareham OAM, vice president of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (Australia), and member of the management committee in Australia of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.