Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I'm Tony, I'm From Australia & I'm Here to Help

According to rambammed (2014) Sydney Morning Herald journalist, David Wroe, PM Tony Abbott used "conspicuously strong language to slam the post-2003 handling of Iraq led by the US administration of George Bush and Dick Cheney, and supported by former prime minister John Howard, Mr Abbott's political mentor." (Abbott blasts Iraq's post-war 'chaos', 6/1/15).

These are Abbott's words, cited by Wroe in his report:

"Iraq is a country which has suffered a very great deal. First, decades of tyranny under Saddam Hussein. Then, the chaos and confusion that followed the American-led invasion. Most recently, the tumult, the dark age, which has descended upon northern Iraq as a result of the the Da'esh death cult. But Australia will do what we can to help."

To begin with the highlighted sentence. The problem here is Abbott's use of the passive voice. It obscures the direct connection between the American-led invasion and the "chaos and confusion" that followed it. It suggests that, well, war is war, and that, to use an expression beloved of Abbott, 'shit happens'. There is no recognition in Abbott's words that the "chaos and confusion" was in fact meant to happen, was, in fact, the actual goal of the invasion.

As I've pointed out in many posts over the years, the whole point of the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq was to destroy it as a functioning nation and break it into mutually hostile, sectarian statelets (a process bluntly described by neocon warmonger Michael Ledeen as 'cauldronization') on behalf of Israel. (See, for example, my posts Absent-Minded Professors Inadvertently Set Iraq Ablaze (22/12/08), Revolted (3/12/09), Neocons: No Beautiful Dreamers (19/6/14) & 30 US Neocons Screw 13 Million+ Arabs for Israel (4/11/14))

Abbott's take on the 2003 invasion is, in fact, a misrepresentation, and entirely in keeping with his 2009 characterisation of it as an altruistic war of liberation. (See my 17/6/14 post Iraq According to Abbott: 2003-2014.) (Notice too, how Abbott omits all mention of the horrendous suffering inflicted on Iraqis by draconian sanctions imposed on the country following the first Gulf War of 1990-91.)

Unsurprisingly, the rest of Abbott's words - on Saddam and on Islamic State  - also misrepresent Iraqi history.

To take the former first, I've written many times before on the theme of Iraq under Saddam vs Iraq under the US boot, tendering testimony after testimony to the effect that life under Saddam was heaven compared to the hell which followed his overthrow. Just click on the 'Saddam' label below if you wish to read any of them. Here's another. The speaker, Scottish civil engineer Chris Walker, worked in Iraq in the 1980s:

"The majority of Iraqis had a very good life under Saddam by any normal standards, including our own. That he himself was an absolute bastard there is no doubt and the large minority of Iraqis who suffered under him suffered terribly. Those who opposed him at a political level often paid with their lives, as they have done in Iraq since time began... Saddam's position and that of the Baath was that in order to have a secularist Iraq he had to have a policy of brutal repression, not least of those we might now call Islamists, especially but not exclusively Shia religionists. However, those religious people who did not challenge his political hegemony such as the Christians of Iraq were left largely to their own devices. The Christians of Baghdad represented the largest Christian community in the Middle East. If you looked across the skyline of Baghdad you could see as many Christian symbols as Islamic.

"Even with the austerities of war (with Iran), for an Iraqi living his daily life was good. Medical services were the best in the region and free. Education was also free and to Western standards. Utilities were very good, especially water. Standard of living generally would be at the level of an Eastern European country at the same time (ie 1980s) and alcohol freely available at corner shops. They even manufactured their own beer (Ferido). Middle-class people enjoyed a life-style as good as blue collar workers here. Her daily life was different from that of his, inasmuch as religious mores kicked in. But if she was from a non-religious background, at least in emphasis, these differences were small. She could drive, shop and conduct her daily life in a normal way... Although 50% of all marriages were mixed - Sunni and Shi'ite - there is no doubt that Sunnis were the ones who enjoyed the more privileged existence, and while middle class Shia did exist in numbers, middle-class tended to connote Sunni middle-class. The poorest tended to be overwhelmingly Shia... I have tried to convey some sense of light and shade here. It is a million miles away from the Baghdad/Iraq of today and from that represented here [in the UK] before the war. But the Land of the Two Rivers has been destroyed as 'freedom and democracy' have been introduced by philistines."  (You'll find the full interview with Chris Walker (An interview with Chris Walker) at

Finally, notice how the "Da'esh death cult" and its "dark age" (the American aggression and occupation presumably being something of a 'light age'), simply "descended upon" Iraq, meteor-like, seemingly out of the blue. Not so. The hard truth is as follows:

"IS must be understood as the worst of the succession of US military campaigns since the 9/11 era - the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. The US war in Iraq was primarily responsible for creating the conditions for foreign Islamic extremists to flourish in that country. Furthermore, the groups that coalesced ultimately around IS learned how to create 'adaptive organisations' from a decade of fighting US troops, as then Defence Intelligence Director Michael Flynn has observed. And finally, the US made IS the formidable military force that it is today by turning over billions of dollars of equipment to a corrupt and incompetent Iraqi army that has now collapsed and turned over much of its weaponry to the jihadi terrorists." (The real politics behind the US war on IS, Gareth Porter,, 2/1/15)

Far from being strong, slamming words, Abbott's speech is, as you'd expect from a supporter of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, a complete evasion of the truth.

1 comment:

Grappler said...

The comments in SMH have him nailed. He was part of that decision to support the US in Iraq. Many people predicted remarkably well the current situation in the run-up to the *Coalition* war on Iraq. They were ignored then as the continue to be ignored now by Western governments. Those who advised in favour of war are still advising.

This war might have been US led but it also significantly involved Australia. Howard took Australia into that war with, as far as I recall, essentially no debate. The heart searching in the UK, as well as the machinations of Blair to persuade his cabinet colleagues and parliament to join the US, were not necessary in Australia. Why?

This part of the quote from the Chris Walker interview is interesting:
"Although 50% of all marriages were mixed - Sunni and Shi'ite - there is no doubt that Sunnis were the ones who enjoyed the more privileged existence, and while middle class Shia did exist in numbers, middle-class tended to connote Sunni middle-class. The poorest tended to be overwhelmingly Shia"
Replace "Sunni" by "White" and "Shia" by "Black" and you have the current situation in the NE region of the US, except that far less than 50% of marriages are mixed.