John Howard may believe his government’s commitment to bringing democracy to Iraq earns him a seat at the top table, but the figures on Australia’s contribution show conclusively that the PM has not put his troops where his mouth is.

Here’s how Australia stacks up militarily against the US and UK in terms of commitment and sacrifice:


United States United Kingdom Australia
Population 301,158,898 60,609,153 20,755,112
Total active troops 1,412,000 201,060 51,447
Troops in Iraq 140,000 7,100 1,400
Troops in Iraq as a % of population 0.0465 0.0112 0.0067
Iraq deployment as % of total troops 9.92% 3.53% 2.72 %
Troop deaths in Iraq as % of deployment 2.23% (3122) 1.86%


In order to match the US commitment in percentage terms, Australia would need to commit a further 3,704 troops to Iraq, an increase of 264%. To match the British commitment, an increase of 416 troops is required.

If Australians had died in Iraq at the same rate as Americans, 208 would be dead. If Australians had died as often as Britons, 45 Australians would have been killed. In terms of overall commitment, Australia now ranks fourth behind the US, UK and South Korea. In March 2004, Australia was eighth behind countries like Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

The moral support Howard has given Bush while the US troops have been doing the heavy lifting is well and truly on the public record. But the figures cast doubt on claims that the Australian government has met its obligations in a military sense. Politically-speaking, Howard has been protected from the awkward issue of soldiers returning in coffins.

Before Mr Howard generously offered Senator Obama advice on the Democrat’s prospective Iraq policy, perhaps the Australian PM should have spent a little more time doing his sums.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey