Australia continues to conduct its Iraq discussion with surreal detachment and in step with the White House
Last week, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki declared that Iraqi security forces could secure the country whenever their American supporters opted to leave.
“We say with confidence that we are capable, God willing, of taking full responsibility for the security file if the international forces withdraw in any time they wish,” Mr. Maliki said in a press conference.
In the same week, Nicholas Kristof referenced polls taken earlier in the year that reported 69% of Iraqis believe that the presence of foreign troops makes the security situation worse.
These two facts alone should provide a compelling enough argument for an exit from Iraq as soon as possible. After all, isn’t the Iraqi government supposed to be in charge with the Iraqi people? How come we know General Petraeus better than we know the Iraqi PM, President, Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers put together?
And what does Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer have to say?
On Sunday, the ABC (Australia) Insiders programme interviewed Downer who had recently returned from Iraq. In what is supposed to be an opportunity for sound bite free discussion of issues, he once again showed how appallingly infantile Australia’s public discussion of the Iraq War is.
The Foreign Minister was able to dismiss the intense bi partisan rebellion in the US Congress over Iraq by saying “I mean there's of course a lot of politics in Washington over all of this and here in Australia we can probably disregard some of the politics of politics, but on the ground the situation at the moment is a little better than its been.”
Made it sound like we were talking about a trivial spat in a local council.
The Foreign Minister has managed to remove himself from the ugly detail of a war that’s claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, more than 3600 US soldiers, undermined international anti terrorism efforts and reduced the standing of the US and Australia around the world. But in Australia he can get away with describing contemptuously Republican and Democrat efforts in Congress to end the war as “the politics of politics” – reminiscent of the Prime Minister’s extraordinary comments about Barack Obama earlier in the year.
Since the Coalition government is such a monolithic Howard driven beast, the FM has forgotten that debate is supposed to be part of the democratic process.
So what is Australia’s position on the big questions of the future of the Iraq conflict? Does Australia endorse the grand diplomacy strategy advocated by many to engage Iraq’s neighbours in the stabilising the country? What of the Iraq Study Group recommendations, which may now be again under consideration by the President and have the endorsement of Kevin Rudd. Does the Downer Ministry of Foreign Affairs simply shift with W in his own good time? What are the Foreign Minister’s views apart from vague recitals of White House propaganda? What is Australia’s position on the complex issues?
You hear the big issues of the Iraq War being debated daily in the US. Not so in Australia. It seems that Downer gets his Iraq analysis from the same guy that gives Dennis Shanahan his opinion poll analysis – “it’s all good despite the evidence”.