War widow Kellie Merritt renews campaign for Iraq war inquiry after death of husband Paul Pardoel

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Kellie Merritt will make her first public appearance since the death of her husband, Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, in the Iraq war. Photo: Jay Cronan

War widow Kellie Merritt will make a personal appearance in Canberra to renew her criticism of the Iraq war in which her husband was killed and to support calls for an inquiry into John Howard’s decision to commit Australia to that conflict.

Her  husband, Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, was killed in the crash of a Royal Air Force Hercules in Iraq in 2005 and is buried at Woden cemetery.

“This talk will be the first time that I’ve spoken personally and publicly in the context of bringing about an Iraq inquiry,” Ms Merritt said on Sunday.

 Kellie Merritt. Photo: Jay Cronan.
Kellie Merritt. Photo: Jay Cronan.

“It’s a bit of a coming out for me – it’ll be 10 years that Paul died, in January next year.

“It’s taken a long time for me to make sense of his loss and find something constructive and meaningful.”

Ms Merritt says questions about the purpose and objectives of the Iraq war are uncomfortable for her.

Kellie Merritt and her husband Paul Pardoel, who was killed in Iraq in 2005.

“I end up with the conclusion that we invaded Iraq for no reason, that the fall-back reason has backfired (especially for the Iraqi people) and that my husband did not die for any tangible purpose,” she will say at a symposium on Tuesday at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

“This leads me to question the nature of the contract between the military and our government.

“Conventional democratic wisdom holds that it is disastrous for the military to second guess our democratically elected government’s decisions.

“This makes it all the more important that our government exercises its decision-making processes with caution, transparency and a sense of accountability.”

Ms Merritt hopes her speech will serve as an incentive for peace.

“So this presumably means I am a pacifist – it is hardly surprising, my kids have grown up without their father, due to war,” she says.

“I am under no illusions about my contribution to this discussion … My currency, I suppose, is to serve as an up-close and intimate diagram of personal loss – the reminder that speaking about war in euphemistic language, or with bravado, or with optimism, is the domain of the naive and the foolhardy.

 Kellie Merritt and her husband Paul Pardoel, who was killed in Iraq in 2005.
Kellie Merritt and her husband Paul Pardoel, who was killed in Iraq in 2005.

“I worry that the notion of the grieving widow is almost a romantic one … But when the ceremonies were all over, I still did not have a husband and my kids did not have a father.”

Ms Merritt says it should not be unpatriotic or unreasonable to question whether the Iraq war served a purpose, or whether its objectives were met.

“We went to war in Iraq in 2003 for a primary reason – the presence of weapons of mass destruction – which was spurious at the time,” she says.

“In sober hindsight a few years later it went from spurious to laughable. But we had the safety net of a secondary reason – we can’t be going too far wrong by getting rid of Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime and installing democracy.

“The naivety of this notion, 12 years on, now seems equally laughable.

“To advocate parliamentary approval before committing to a foreign war and to support some scrutiny of a past engagement hardly seems hysterical or impulsive.”

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