The release of the Chilcot Inquiry in the United Kingdom is a vivid reminder that those responsible for Australia’s participation in the Iraq War have never been properly held to account.

That war and the subsequent occupation has cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, in addition to the thousands of US and allied personnel killed during the occupation and the waste of what will in the long run total perhaps US$4 trillion, for the achievement of complete destabilisation of the region, the rise of Islamic State, the dominance of the theocratic butchers of Iran over Iraq and a massive increase in the terrorist threat to Western countries.

The only inquiries held in Australia have examined the role played by intelligence agencies — a 2004 inquiry by the precursor to the current Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security into intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, which had very limited access to the documents provided to the government by the intelligence community, and an inquiry by public service veteran Philip Flood into intelligence agencies.

At no stage have the roles of then-prime minister John Howard and his foreign minister, Alexander Downer, been scrutinised. In particular, what commitments Howard and Downer made to the the Bush administration and the Blair government over Australia’s role, and what those two men, and their cabinet, knew about what is now on record as the deliberate lies by the Bush administration about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs.

Coalition governments continue to involve Australia in military interventions in the Middle East that make us less safe from the threat of terrorism, with no accountability. It is time that Howard and Downer and their colleagues were subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as Tony Blair and his cronies. It’s time for a royal commission into the decision to join the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Peter Fray

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