The Monthly Essays | July 2005
How a lovestruck teenager, an angry man and an ambitious baron made sure bad news was no news on the path to Iraq
On the road to the invasion of Iraq, and through the two and a half years of bloody chaos since Baghdad’s fall, almost every Australian news-paper owned by Rupert Murdoch has supported each twist and turn of the American, British and Australian policy line. Oddly enough, however, during 2002 the humble Hobart Mercury did not. Here is its quite characteristic, fiercely anti-war editorial of September 12*:
It would be wrong for the US pre-emptively to attack Iraq. It would be wrong for Australia to ride shotgun to any unilateral assault on the hated regime of Saddam Hussein … Australia must side with those nations urging President George W. Bush not to abandon the 50-year political doctrine which has underpinned the interests of the West … [A] blazing ember in the powder keg would be a dream scenario for the future rise of Islamic fascist fundamentalism. It would be Osama bin Laden’s dream come true – and Australia, and the world’s nightmare.
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Ed: *Written, incidentally by Lindsay Tuffin, fortuitously, briefly, in charge of the editorial joy-stick …
And here’s that editorial:
Finger off the trigger.
12 September 2002
(c) 2002 Davies Brothers Limited
It would be wrong for the US to pre-emptively attack Iraq. It would be wrong for Australia to ride shotgun to any unilateral US assault on the hated regime of Saddam Hussein.
The consequences of a pre-emptive strike are so unpredictable, so unknown that every avenue towards other solutions must be fully explored.
And the United Nations holds the key – despite its failure in the past four years to gain access to Iraq for its teams of weapons inspectors.
Australia must side with those nations urging President George W. Bush not to abandon the 50-year political doctrine which has underpinned the interests of the West.
In the case of Iraq this has been the policy of containment – backed by the threat of force; force carrying the ultimate sanction of the UN.
Prime Minister John Howard is now right to focus on putting the acid on the UN – it’s just a shame that he didn’t take control of the debate earlier.
A shame that he allowed Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to beat the drums of war so loudly that Australia’s wheat exports to Iraq were under threat.
Now, says the PM, the Security Council must act: “If the United Nations Security Council doesn’t rise to its responsibilities on this occasion it will badly weaken its credibility.” Iraq’s previous failure to comply with resolutions on weapons inspections was “also a failure of the UN to ensure compliance.”
He is right. It is time to ramp up the rhetoric in relation to the UN, not to beat the drums of war with Iraq.
Every avenue must be explored to ensure Iraq complies. And if there is concrete evidence that Iraq is building weapons of mass destruction, the case is overwhelmingly made.
If the US was to act unilaterally against Iraq – without fully exploring all avenues through the UN – it would light the touchpaper to a powderkeg.
The Middle East is too unpredictable. Who knows what conflagration would follow unilateral action.
Arab states that are still moderate and Western-friendly would be swept up into a jihad against the USA, with unpredictable collateral consequences for one its closest allies – Australia.
Tensions already are near boiling point thanks to the unresolved Israel-Palestinian conflict and a blazing ember in the powderkeg would be the dream scenario for the further rise of Islamic fascist fundamentalism.
It would be Osama bin Laden’s dream come true – and Australia, and the world’s, nightmare.