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Mr President, here is why we opposed the Iraq war and pre-emptive defence

By 41 Labor Members - posted Thursday, 23 October 2003

Dear President Bush,

The friendship between our countries is longstanding and deeply felt. We have a great deal in common, particularly our commitment to democracy. We retain our commitment to the ANZUS alliance.

That's why we feel it's important for you to understand why so many Australians opposed the war on Iraq.


Australians have a history of support for international efforts to stop the spread of weapons including weapons of mass destruction and landmines. Weapons inspectors should have been given the time they asked for to peacefully disarm Iraq. No evidence of a massive weapons building program nor capability has emerged since the war. Australia, the US and Britain went to war because of a "clear and present danger" which just did not exist.

The ALP firmly believes that international conflict should, wherever possible, be dealt with peacefully and through international co-operation under the auspices of the United Nations. When all attempts for a peaceful resolution have been exhausted, United Nations sanction is vital if force is to be used.

What is to prevent other countries from following the example of our attack on Iraq, and arguing the right to preventative self-defence? Why shouldn't North and South Korea attack each other using the template we developed in Iraq? Or India and Pakistan?

The precedent we have set is a very dangerous one, and there is every indication that the world will become less safe, not more, because of our actions. Certainly the British Joint Intelligence Committee believes the risk of terrorism will increase due to the war with Iraq.

Our own government knew of this increased risk before the war and refused to tell the Australian people.

Many Australians have continuing concerns about what will happen in Iraq now. Civil unrest continues. The death toll for Iraqis and US, UK and allied troops mounts. The bombing of the United Nations headquarters shocked the world, and it seems that instead of eradicating terrorism in Iraq the country has become a terrorist magnet.


The United States must now redouble its efforts to enlist the help of the world community to bring peace and rebuild Iraq, and then withdraw as soon as practicable. Iraqis must regain control of their destinies and their resources as soon as possible.

While many of us didn't support the war on Iraq, all Australians welcome the end of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime.

Our hope for Iraq is that there will be a strong, stable, democratic government which represents all the people of Iraq, including the ethnic and religious minorities.

Our hope is that the people of Iraq will have control over the rich resources of their country and be able to use those resources for their collective benefit. Our hope for the world is that this mistake will lead us to renew our commitment to the United Nations and its processes for promoting and maintaining global peace.

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This article was first published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 23 October 2003.

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About the Author

The 41 Labor Members are: Dick Adams, Anthony Albanese, Anna Burke, Ann Corcoran, Laurie Ferguson, Jennie George, Steve Gibbons, Sharon Grierson, Alan Griffin, Jill Hall, Kelly Hoare, Julia Irwin, Harry Jenkins, Duncan Kerr, Mark Latham, Carmen Lawrence, Kirsten Livermore, Jann McFarlane, Leo McLeay, Bob McMullan, Daryl Melham, Michelle O'Byrne, Brendan O'Connor, Gavin O'Connor, Tanya Plibersek, Harry Quick, Lindsay Tanner, Maria Vamvakinou. Senators Nick Bolkus, George Campbell, Peter Cook, Trish Crossin, Kay Denman, John Faulkner, Linda Kirk, Kate Lundy, Jan McLucas, Gavin Marshall, Claire Moore, Ruth Webber, Penny Wong.

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