I hope that nobody thinks that all of John Howard's former colleagues
oppose him on Iraq. Others can speak for themselves and I hope they will.
But at least I know one who will definitely not go along with the
latest burst of un-reasoned, anti-war tear jerking: me. And I know one who
believes that Howard's position is absolutely right, no matter what you
might read from Malcolm Fraser, John Hewson, John Valder, Peter Baume and
Fred Chaney: me.
Let me tell you why. In the first place, I got to know Howard well
during the dark days of Opposition in the 1980s. It is then that you find
out what really makes a politician tick. I'm not going to write a
hagiography of him and I had my disagreements with him on policy but I
will tell you this about him because he is now being abused both
personally and unfairly. I learned that he is interested in one thing: the
welfare and best interests of ordinary Australian men and women.
Because he is so much part of the mainstream of Australian life, he is
against war, deeply and personally. His family has suffered from it and
the last thing he wants to impose on anyone else's family is the tragedy
of war. Any attempt to paint him as some sort of warmonger is offensive
and baseless. So he is entitled to be irate when others claim to have some
sort of monopoly over the cause of peace and how to get there.
Second, he is in particular opposed to the looming war with Iraq -
looming only because of Iraq's own intransigent conduct. He knows there
may be a loss of Australian lives, that there will almost certainly be
injuries and that the military engagement will definitely be at enormous
cost. A politician as astute as Howard would not drag the country into an
unpopular conflict and all that it involves unless he were absolutely
convinced that the long-term interests of the country and its people
demand it. They do.
Third, his critics keep up the cry that the UN must have a role. I
agree. And so does Howard. After all, we have used our influence to have
the UN involved and to keep them there, so long as they get results or
look as if they are getting them. But what if the UN will not or cannot
Critics such as Fraser say there can then be no military action as it
would not be taken with the approval of the Security Council. Now, coming
from someone who had no qualms about sending young men to Vietnam and even
less about now saying it was all a mistake, that's a bit rich.
Moreover, the argument that he and the rest of the doves give in
support of this view is so bizarre that it should influence no one. They
say that if we take military action without the approval of the Security
Council it would mean it had been "snubbed and denigrated".
But it is apparently all right for Iraq to snub and denigrate the UN,
ignore its resolutions for the past 12 years, attack some of its
neighbours, threaten others, poison its own citizens and break every known
rule of international law. If the UN allows Iraq to snub and denigrate it
and if it takes no action to force Iraq to disarm, the UN may as well go
out of business. But that is no reason why the rest of us should pay any
sort of price for the UN's inaction.
This is really what is at the root of the anti-war movement and the
increasingly anti-Howard tone it is adopting. For he will clearly not go
along with the nonsense that Australia cannot take part in military
action, even with its allies, unless it is under the banner of the UN.
This is contrary to law and contrary to fact and Howard is right to reject
Finally, a few thoughts of my own, to show that Howard is really a
First, the real war is with Islamic extremism and that war has already
been declared, not by us, but on us. There may be no smoking gun to link
Iraq with the one branch of terrorism known as al Qa'ida, but Iraq and its
hideous Ba'athist Party are, beyond any doubt, in the thick of fomenting
violent revolution on a much wider scale and always have been. Hussein's
regime must therefore be disarmed if we want any chance of winning the war
being waged against us. If we get a bonus that Iraq's oil will no longer
be under the control of a maniac, then well and good.
Second, and let's not be coy about it, the Arab states know that all of
this is true and will breathe a giant sigh of relief when the Iraqi
dictator is finally dispatched.
Third, the so-called peace movement is really just anti-Americanism in
another form. But in reality, now is a time, if ever there were one, for
standing beside our ally.
Liberal Party and other peaceniks would therefore be making a bigger
contribution to peace and security if they showed the same courage as
Howard, rather than giving more reading material for the Baghdad butcher
to gloat over.