John Howard has told a right-wing US thinktank that Australia joined the attack on Iraq because the US was its security guarantor, and that Aboriginal people will only ever be “fulfilled” if they become part of mainstream Australia.
Howard has given a series of interviews to the online program Uncommon Knowledge, hosted by former Republican speechwriter Peter Robinson for the conservative Hoover Institute in association with The National Review, one of the homes of US neo-conservatism. The interviews are being released this week under the title The Aussie Way with John Howard.
In the first interview on the Iraq War, Howard makes it clear that the primary reason his Government agreed to participate in the attack on Iraq was because of the need to keep retain a strong relationship with the United States.
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Asked why participation in the attack was in Australia’s national interest, Howard immediately replied: “It is always in Australia’s national interest to work closely with the United States because ultimately the United States is our security guarantor,” before going on to say the attack on Saddam Hussein removed a “potential facilitator of future terrorist activity.”
The Howard Government ignored evidence that National Party-connected wheat monopoly AWB was paying bribes to Saddam’s regime, providing nearly $300m to potentially fund Iraqi military and terrorist activity. Howard did not mention the actual pretext for the attack, Iraq’s purported possession of weapons of mass destruction, or the claim of then-Defence Minister Brendan Nelson that securing oil supplies was also a reason for Australia participating in an illegal attack that has so far led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the undermining of NATO’s attempts to stabilise Afghanistan.
Howard also brushed off criticism of his claims that al-Qaeda would support Barack Obama, saying “we had a stoush, but that’s all right” and that Obama had changed his approach to withdrawal from Iraq since his campaign.
In his second interview, on multiculturalism, Howard praised assimilation and again rejected negative views of Australian history:
Now, of course, the indigenous people were not well-treated, of course, but equally there were benefits of western civilization that were brought to the country which are enormous and the way to deal with helping the indigenous people of Australia is to make them part of the mainstream community whilst always recognising that they do occupy a special place in our history. They were the first Australians and they are entitled to preserve their identity as such.
But they can only ever be fulfilled if I can put it that way by becoming part of the mainstream of our community.
Crikey asked the office of Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister Tony Abbott to comment on Mr Howard’s remarks but they were unable to respond before deadline.