Parliament split on going to war: Remember 2003?

As calls increase for reform of the flawed process by which Australian troops can be sent to war, and in particular for parliamentary debate and vote before ADF deployments to armed conflict, some standard arguments against such decision-making by parliament continue to be offered. They remain unconvincing. The latest articulation of these arguments was made on 30 June 2017 by Dr Anthony Bergin during his lecture entitled “Parliament and national security: Challenges and opportunities,” in the Senate Occasional Lecture Series.

Pleasingly, Dr Bergin acknowledged that parliamentarians are under-utilised in matters of national security, and he contributed useful ideas, especially …

The importance of monitoring civilian losses

In late 2002, US journalist Helen Thomas strongly opposed the impending invasion of Iraq. Unlike many of her colleagues, whom she regarded as having a groupthink or “herd mentality”, she asked tough questions, considered by the herd as unpatriotic, at presidential press conferences. On one occasion in exasperation she asked White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer,

“Ari, why does the president want to kill thousands of people?”  The reply came: “Why are you saying that, Helen?   They have a dictator! They have no say in their country!”

The notion that people unfortunate enough to be born under the rule of a …

Price of Iraq war too great to repeat

Photo: Jason South

At the Nuremberg Tribunals in 1946, the crime of aggression was judged to be not only an international crime but ”the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”.

Nearly six decades later, on March 18, 2003, then Coalition prime minister John Howard announced the commitment of Australian Defence Force troops to the invasion of Iraq.

The invasion was not authorised by the United Nations Security Council, and nor was it an act of self-defence for Australia. The majority of international lawyers believe it …

For democracy’s sake, let’s talk about our war in Iraq

An inquiry would help us avoid repeating mistakes made 10 years ago.

Natasha Stott-Despoja addresses an anti-war demonstration in Swanston street on February 14, 2003. Photo: Shannon Morris

The largest anti-war demonstrations in Australian history began 10 years ago today – February 14, 2003.

Millions of people protested worldwide, in about 800 cities – including in Australia, Britain, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Syria, India, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and even McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

In Melbourne more than 100,000 people protested. They clogged Swanston Street for more than three hours, stretching all the …