As Essential Research’s polling today shows, Australians are deeply wary of the government’s so-far limited intervention in Iraq, and outright hostile to the idea of any US-led return to war.
They are right to be so. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was the greatest historical error of recent decades, a catastrophic bungle that has so far cost hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars while only making Iraq, Afghanistan, the wider region and the Western countries responsible for it less safe.
Those responsible for this stupendous disaster — George W. Bush and Tony Blair, loyal vassal state leaders like John Howard, and the security officials who aided and abetted them — have never been called to account for their actions. Now their successors, faced with the difficult choice of what to do about Islamic State militants — a grouping that has directly resulted from the Iraqi civil war we created and the Syrian civil war next door — are sliding back into Iraq, first with humanitarian aid and airstrikes, then with arms supplies, and now “military advisers”, all the time with the insistence there will be no “boots on the ground”, even as the Western presence in the region increases.
Further, at no stage has the Australian government or the Labor Party adequately justified its enthusiastic acceptance of a return to Iraq and what relationship, if any, it has to Australia’s national interest. Nor have the major parties had the decency to pursue a proper parliamentary debate on the subject. Parliamentary debate of our return to Iraq was first stymied, then confined to supportive statements from Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten, with any critical discussion by Andrew Wilkie or the Greens dispatched to the parliamentary purgatory of the Federation Chamber.
Such tactics to stifle criticism of the return to Iraq will do nothing to strengthen voters’ support for this misbegotten venture, or enhance voters’ trust in politicians who appear eager to further exacerbate one of recent history’s greatest mistakes, with only tabloid hysteria over terrorism as their excuse.