I went to bed contemplating the words of Daniel Ellsberg on Lateline appealing to those in the defence establishment to come out and tell the truth about the military disaster in Iraq.

I woke this morning to the BBC reporting that the head of the British Army believed the presence of UK armed forces in Iraq “exacerbates the security problems”. It seemed that the wish of the famous whistleblower from the Pentagon had been granted.

No-one will be more pleased than Labor leader Kim Beazley. Pulling Australian troops out of Iraq is a rare example of the Opposition daring to take a different line on foreign policy to Bush booster John Howard. Yesterday Mr Beazley put the case for quitting Iraq strongly in a door stop interview:

The Labor Party has always said this about Iraq: It will not make Australia safer and it has not made Australia safer. Because of the Government’s mistakes in Iraq, we are a less safe country than we would have been otherwise … Now we will withdraw the Australian forces now operating in Southern Iraq, on our election to Office … They should never have been there and they should come out now. And by keeping them there and by putting them there, John Howard made our nation less safe.

It could have been Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the UK General Staff, talking. Sir Richard, who took on his role in August, was quoted as saying that the British should “get out some time soon”. Planning for what happened after the initial successful war military offensive was “poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning”.

Sir Richard had these other strident criticisms of the Iraq war policy to make in an interview with The Daily Mail:

I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them… We are in a Muslim country and Muslims’ views of foreigners in their country are quite clear. As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren’t invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time… Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance.

In his Lateline interview Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers helped change public attitudes to the Vietnam War, claimed the Iraq was based on lies and those who knew the truth should come out and publicly expose them.

People in the know “have a choice”, he said. “They have a responsibility. If they choose to be silent as the public is lied to, they’re responsible for that and for all the deaths that follow. They’re fully complicit in the wrongful war and Iraq was a wrongful war and indeed Vietnam was a wrongful war and we share — we don’t have only on ourselves — but we share the responsibility of those deaths to a very great extent”.

Peter Fray

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