The lack of depth and highly partisan nature of Australia's Iraq discussion reflects poorly on our media and our democracy
Last week I watched the PBS Iraq war documentary, “The Dark Side”. With a particular focus on Vice President Cheney, the programme looked in detail at the use of the attacks of September 11 to build the case for the disastrous war in Iraq. It was amazing viewing, especially in light of the seniority and credibility of those in the defense and intelligence establishments who chose to speak out about their experiences and in some cases contributions to the Iraq war debacle and the lies upon which it was built.
Bob Woodward’s book State Of Denial is similarly remarkable in its detail and its sources. The picture of deceit, arrogance and incompetence Woodward paints is astonishing. What is also incredible is the depth of the sources. These are not partisan Democrats, New York Times liberals or any of the usual bogeymen. They are mostly senior Defense (including former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld) and Intelligence personnel or White House insiders. Their credentials are impeccable.
There are now dozens of serious films and books on the Bush administration’s deceit and incompetence in Iraq. The electoral consequences of this outpouring and introspection by both those associated with the war and its opponents took its toll in November’s congressional elections. State Of Denial must have helped put the final nails in Donald Rumsfeld’s coffin also.
Diverse views on the Iraq conflict coexist in the Republican Party, the Democrat Party, the US right and the liberal left.
Australia is a key member of the alliance that elected to wage war in Iraq. So where are the books and documentaries about the incompetence and deceit that led us into the war? Where are the senior military and defence officials that feel sick with their involvement? Where are the senior members of the Liberal government who think it’s time there was some honesty in the discussion of why Australian soldiers were sent to Iraq four years ago?
Australians have been opposed to the Iraq War from the outset. If our politicians are able to take cover from the absence of Australian combat casualties, they should be forced to account for Iraq’s downward spiral into violence, hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, the creation of an al Qaeda hothouse, an emboldened Iran and a rallying call for terrorists the world over.
Both the United States and the United Kingdom have endured painful introspection over the Iraq war and especially the decisions that led to the conflict. Australia’s debate has been far less far reaching. Australia is weaker for the low quality of our Iraq debate and less likely to learn the painful lessons that Americans and Britons are now all too conscious of. Australia’s media has a lot to answer for.
Brian Toohey seems alone as an Australian journalist who has sought to unravel the inside story of the Howard government’s short cuts to war. His most recent piece in the AFR March 17 – “Howard’s choice: when to recall troops” and a similar piece this time last year, stand out.
For a glimpse of the The Dark Side documentary, click here