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Fixing Australia

Australia is broken. Democracy has holes in it, cracks in it, and it needs fixing. Since the 2004 Federal election we know that our government is not going to fix it. I think we need to do that fixing, and this blog is a start of getting some ideas together.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The ongoing drama in Fallujah

Freedom at last

After the cowardly attack on Fallujah, an American soldier was captured on film and sound, shooting a wounded un-armed Iraqui resistance fighter in a mosque. Bound not to be an isolated incident but the inevitable result when cowards release the dogs of war.

Allan Nield
November 17 2004

Freedom at last for a hundred thousand,
Freed from pain and disease,
By coalition 'willing to kill',
Anyone that their soldiers please.

Coalition of the cowardly,
Who sent other's sons off to kill,
To murder and maim and shoot on sight,
Or be shot if they lacked the will.

A hundred thousand; man, woman and child,
Several cities of ours,
And your silence shields the killers,
As their soldiers trample the flowers.

The flowers of Iraq that never will bloom,
A hundred thousand blank stares,
Crushed at the rate of a hundred to one,
One of ours to a hundred of theirs.

You cannot run and you cannot hide,
From a million litres of blood,
That drenches the halls of Parliament,
When will you stop the flood?

How the Fallujah battle played in the media

website commentary
by Tony Kevin
15 November 2004

World media interest in the siege of Fallujah peaked the day the US attack started last Tuesday. It began to fade, as soon as it became clear this was not going to be a decisive "last battle" between the US Army and insurgents, but just another distressing chapter in the cycle of collateral civilian death and destruction that life in Iraq has become since the US invasion in March 2003.

The death of Yassir Arafat at 9.30 pm on Wednesday night overwhelmed the Fallujah story. Media interest in Arafat's imminent decease had been building for days. There ensued several days of intensive world reporting of his funeral rites, historical significance, and what may now lie ahead in Israel/Palestine. Effectively, the Fallujah battle story was marginalised.

Meanwhile in Fallujah, the main insurgent force (an expected 6000 fighters) melted away. A few hundred guerilla fighters continued to fight a rearguard action in the narrow alleys of Fallujah, using booby-traps and sniper fire against 10,000 US and 2000 (mostly Kurd) pro-Allawi soldiers. US forces responded with massive destruction of roads and suspect buildings by air and artillery strikes.

The media mainstream reported little about the horror of this ongoing battle for the 300,000 people of Fallujah - how it destroyed their streets, mosques, marketplaces, hospitals and schools, made 200,000 of them temporarily or permanently homeless, and killed, wounded or just plain terrified the unknown number (variously estimated between "a small number" and 100,000) of them thought still to be hiding from the combat in their homes and cellars, some of whom may by now be starving. No aid convoys have got into Fallujah for a week now - the city has been sealed off by the US military.

According to the latest ABC Australian news (15 November), the US military says 38 US soldiers have died in the week-long offensive to recapture the Iraqi city of Fallujah from rebels and 275 have been wounded. The US military says about 1,000 insurgents have been killed and 450 to 550 captured.

There is no US official figure for civilian casualties. Residents say many people have died. There have been reports of large numbers of bodies of women and children lying unburied in the streets, of hospitals invaded and forced to close or left without supplies, one specific incident of a young boy who bled to death in his father's arms at home after being hit by stray shrapnel - his father was afraid to leave the house and in any case there was no hospital to go to.

We only get fleeting glimpses of the scale of this ongoing suffering from television footage and the odd reported observation by embedded Western journalists with US forces. Their main reporting focus has been on the military battle as such, on its sights and sounds. But we read or hear a little ... the stench of rotting corpses, minarets and palm trees destroyed. However, the spectacle of overwhelming US military firepower methodically ripping a city of 300,000 people apart in pursuit of a few hundred diehard snipers, does not make for pleasant television. The Fallujah footage is mostly being sanitised, or simply dropped as too disturbing for viewers.

Very little news has come out in mainstream Western media about this battle as experienced by the Iraqi civilians or by the insurgents. Two honourable exceptions: The Guardian newspaper in the UK, and BBC News radio which ran some memorable telephone reports from Fadhil Badrani, an Iraqi eyewitness journalist who had stayed in the city. You can still catch these texts on Google News.

We are also starting to hear from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society about the humanitarian plight of the civilian people trapped in the city and sheltering in villages around it, and about Red Cross/Red Crescent aid convoys not being allowed yet into the sealed-off city. Again, Google has these up-to-date stories.

It will be some days or even weeks before there are any reliable observer estimates of the numbers of non-combatants killed or wounded in Fallujah since the attack began last Monday. This was a peaceful city - a major centre of Sunni population and culture - 20 months ago, when the US invaded Iraq. Now it is an empty and ruined desolation.

The US speaks of a determination to inject massive funds for reconstruction before next year's proposed elections, to try to win back Sunni hearts and minds. But surely that is a futile hope. What has been done here this past week cannot be undone.

Was it militarily or politically necessary for the US to attack this city in such massive and lethal force? Kofi Annan did not think so. Much of the world did not think so. According to editorials in the Canberra Times and Sydney Morning Herald early last week, no discernible military purpose could be seen, beyond a show of force and exemplary punishment of a city that was sheltering Sunni insurgents.

The US Commander-in-Chief, General Richard Myers has now admitted that the Sunni insurgent soldiers have simply regrouped and launched new operations in other cities, eg Mosul, Samarra.

Were the gains in Fallujah commensurate and proportionate to the destruction?

Greg Sheridan is in no doubt that they were ("Fallujah had to be fought", Sunday Telegraph, 14 November, 2004):

"Thus the American operation, in which Australia is cooperating intimately, to train and equip Iraqi forces, is critical. None of this can occur if the terrorist forces are allowed to roam free, murdering and kidnapping at will and taking whole cities hostage. Thus the necessity of the Fallujah operation. It is tough, terrible street-by-street fighting. The coalition forces are doing everything they can to avoid civilian casualties, but undoubtedly some civilians are suffering grievously. But there can be no doubt who bears the moral guilt for this situation. It is the terrorists..."

To access well-argued, factually backed alternative views of the significance of Fallujah, I have gone to the Internet. Here are some sites and articles that impress me as offering responsible compilations of international media reporting, and commentary: - hear their online audio military commentator Fred Kaplan. - read "Four Times Fallujah Equals?" by Tom Engelhardt and Mark LeVine. - read "'Success' in Fallujah?"

Perhaps Fallujah will remain a ruined and sniper-haunted battleground, like the ruins of the Chechen capital Grozny. US military spokesmen now speak of a 30-day "mopping-up" period; they say the "main battle" is almost over. But it depends on the insurgents whether they will want to keep some sort of battle going in Fallujah. Clearly, they can do so if they wish.

There is still dispute as to how much of the ruined city the US Army actually occupies and controls - as distinct from US armored vehicles being able to drive down ruined main streets. Is it 70%? Or 30%? In any case, there seems no prospect of any kind of normal civic life returning to Fallujah soon.

When I commented last Tuesday 9 November in the Sydney Morning Herald

[see ]

that I feared Fallujah would be a US war crime as measured by the definitions of the Geneva Conventions and the International Criminal Court Statute, I was sadly accurate in my expectation of the kind of battle it would be.

Fallujah is now part of the ongoing civilian horror of Iraq. But its name will come particularly to represent and symbolise that horror, as more data emerges on what happened to the people of this city last week.

Though the US attack on Fallujah faded last week as a story in mainstream world news, in dissenting and antiwar internet sites it has just kept growing.

The siege of Fallujah seemed last Monday to be the break-out issue that might put the Iraq war back into mainstream consciousness. Its drama and enormity threatened to revive mass antiwar demonstrations. That may still happen, if people search out the news of what has happened here. Australian Iraqis understand this, and the rest of us should too.

Tony Kevin
15 November 2004


In Mourning for Margaret Hassan and for the dead of Fallujah

Media Release
by Tony Kevin
17 November 2004

I never knew Margaret Hassan. But her decency shines through every photograph I have ever seen of her. Her Iraqi husband's love and admiration for her was manifest. I grieve for her, her family and her friends.

She was the kind of rare person the world cannot afford to lose: the bridge-builders between cultures and religions, the people who live to break down barriers, the people who believe life is about helping others less lucky than ourselves.

I have known many people like Margaret Hassan in Cambodia: brave Australians who worked to help the Cambodian people, in the dangerous years when the Khmer Rouge were kidnapping and murdering Cambodians and aid workers alike. I know at first hand the courage and integrity of such people.

I also grieve equally for the dead of Fallujah. The battle of Fallujah, now grinding to an ugly close after eight horrific days, showed conclusively that 10,000 US soldiers were sent into war with orders to suppress and destroy a city of 300,000 ordinary Iraqi people.

Thus the US-led military attack on Fallujah was a war crime, in that it was an attack on an undefended civilian city, for no legitimate and commensurate military purpose. The very fact of this attack - even if it had been conducted by honourable means - violated the laws of war.

In fact, the attack on Fallujah was not conducted by honourable means, but by particularly cruel and internationally illegal means. Weapons that have indiscriminate and uncontrollable effects on civilians, and particularly inhumane weapons - huge 4000 kg bombs, cluster bombs, phosphorus weapons that melt human flesh, city-block destroying missiles - were used freely. Wounded soldiers were shot dead on the ground in cold blood. Unarmed men trying to leave the city with their wives and children under a white flag were turned back into the burning city. Hospitals were invaded, closed down and their patients ordered out into the streets. Red Cross food and medical aid convoys were refused entry. People were shot dead trying to swim to safety across rivers. Whole streets of houses were flattened in pursuit of a single sniper.

So now we know the answer to the question the armchair strategists have been asking - how will the US Army conduct war in heavily-populated Iraqi cities? Answer - in exactly the same way as if there were no people there at all - by a ruthless military elimination of anyone that moves, and of every building that might shelter anyone that moves.

The horrors of this attack on the people of Fallujah, when the truth is known, will equal or surpass the horrors of the Wehrmacht's destruction of Warsaw in 1944, or the Russian Army's destruction of the Chechen capital, Grozny. This is as bad as it gets.

The US is thus manifestly at war on the people of Iraq, because it is determined to control the oil resources of the Muslim Middle East, and because control of the Iraqi oil heartland - if necessary by naked force - is seen as pivotal to that strategy.

Fallujah shows finally that this war is not about bringing democracy to the Iraqi people - that figleaf is now finally swept away. Both the Shia and the Sunni Iraqi people desperately want to exercise real democracy in their own country, but it is being denied to them by Washington - and Washington's puppet leader Allawi is as cruel as was the former US puppet leader Saddam Hussein.

The fact that Allawi sanctioned the US attack on the people of Fallujah showed he is nothing more than a US figurehead - a man ready to betray the very lives of his own people.

There is one important symmetry, and one important asymmetry, in the deaths of Margaret Hassan and the deaths of who knows how many people in Fallujah this past week.

Both sets of killings are acts of barbarism and savagery - that is the undeniable symmetry.

The asymmetry - that the men who died taking up arms against the US invaders in Fallujah were defending their homes and their personal honour in their home city Fallujah. But the US soldiers who killed them killed under orders, as part of an invasion force sent in to suppress the city. To say - as Amnesty has naively and unhelpfully said - that there were "atrocities on both sides" in Fallujah, misses this essential point of difference.
We will hear many words of grief for Margaret Hassan in coming days. We will read a lot of moralising about the bestiality and cowardice of those who killed her.

I wish it could be balanced by some words to honour people like the Fallujah father who watched his young boy bleed to death in his arms in their home, after being hit by a piece of US shrapnel - a son whose life could have been saved if there were a working hospital to take him to, and if it had been possible to get there without being shot dead in the street by US troops. For Margaret Hassan, that boy's life would have been worth as much as or more than her own life. But who mourns for him?

I wish it could be balanced by some words of respect for the brave and hopelessly outgunned men who died as soldiers defending their homes in Fallujah against overwhelming firepower and troop numbers, but who are routinely reviled now in the media as worthless and treacherous enemies.

There are important policy consequences from the deaths of Margaret Hassan and the nameless dead of Fallujah this week, if only our politicians had the wit and moral courage to see them and act on them.

Australia should no longer have any presence - military, diplomatic, aid or commercial - in Iraq, until the US occupation ends and the puppet Allawi regime is replaced by a genuinely Iraqi government.

Because the Allawi Government has forfeited any legitimacy by sanctioning the US attack on its own people in Fallujah, it follows that there is no reason for any Australian diplomatic mission to be accredited to this government. What has happened in Fallujah this week calls for the suspension of all Australian Embassy operations in Iraq, and the withdrawal of all Australian-based staff from Baghdad.

No matter how worthy their aid or humanitarian purpose, no Australian aid agency has any proper business to be in Iraq at this time. For two reasons at least; the security risks are unacceptably high - if Margaret Hassan can be executed by insurgents, no Westerner is safe in Iraq. And there is no way useful aid or reconstruction work can be done while the whole country is rising up against, or passively resisting, the US occupation. Australia's reputation in the Islamic world can only suffer if we maintain a diplomatic or aid presence in Iraq in present circumstances.

Similarly with Australian commercial activities in Iraq: the same personal security and wider policy arguments apply, calling for immediate withdrawal.

And of course there should be no Australian military presence in Iraq either - either in war-fighting, war-planning, security guarding or training roles. (One very small piece of good news I read from Fallujah last week - that the same Iraqi soldiers and police trained by the Australians over the past year were reported to be abandoning their weapons and throwing away their uniforms, refusing to take part in killing their fellow Iraqis in Fallujah. Only Kurdish brigades fought in Fallujah with the US - no Shia, no Sunni. I do not regard this as cowardice - simply as an ethical choice made by the Iraqi soldiers and police concerned).

I wish Australians were all gone from Iraq by Christmas. I wish they were all gone tomorrow. I fear Australians will die in Iraq, as Margaret Hassan has died. But that is not the only reason I want my fellow Australians out of Iraq. We just should not be there now.

This commentary will certainly be attacked by critics as disloyal, and as giving comfort to a ruthless enemy who is trying to kill our soldiers in Iraq. But if the enemy has now become the whole Iraqi people, surely the time has come to admit we should not be in Iraq at all, until the illegal US-led occupation is ended and peace is restored to that suffering country.

Here are some recent thoughts by Keysar Trad, an honourable Australian Muslim community leader whom I am proud to acknowledge as a friend. As I mourn for Margaret Hassan, I support his views:

"This war [on Fallujah] is wiping out a city. Its cost will haunt humanity from now to eternity."

"The US cannot succeed in Iraq by replacing one dictator with another who is at the very least, equally brutal".
"The US-appointed interim Iraqi government's endorsement and participation in the bombing of Fallujah, brands it as a betrayer of its nation and people."

"There is a solution to the quagmire in Iraq. It starts with a full withdrawal of foreign troops, and then an appeal to the neighbours of Iraq, who share their culture and traditions, to work together with the Iraqi people to restore order to that great nation. This has worked with Lebanon. It can work again with Iraq."

"As free and fair-minded Australians, we don't need to blindly acquiesce in coalition atrocities in Iraq. We have our conscience and our tradition of fairness and justice. This is the Australian ethos, and each and every Australian expects this ethos to be upheld."

Tony Kevin
17 November 2004


Margaret Hassan's suspected execution will be seen as 'proof' of evil

November 17, 2004
The Star, Zouth Africa
By Robert Fisk

Beirut - Who killed Margaret Hassan?

After the grief, the astonishment, heartbreak, anger and fury over the apparent murder of such a good and saintly woman, that is the question her friends - and, quite possibly, the Iraqi insurgents - will be asking.

This Anglo-Irish woman held an Iraqi passport. She had lived in Iraq for 30 years, she had dedicated her life to the welfare of Iraqis in need.

She hated the United Nations sanctions and opposed the Anglo-American invasion.

So who killed Margaret Hassan?

Of course, those of us who knew her will reflect on the appalling implications of the videotape (sent to Al Jazeera yesterday and apparently showing her execution).

Her husband believes it is evidence of her death.

If Margaret Hassan can be kidnapped and murdered, how much further can we fall into the Iraqi pit?

There are no barriers, no frontiers of immorality left. What price is innocence now worth in the anarchy that we have brought to Iraq? The answer is simple: nothing.

I remember Margaret arguing with doctors and truck drivers over a lorry-load of medicines for Iraq's children's cancer wards in 1998. She smiled, cajoled and pleaded to get these leukaemia drugs to Basra and Mosul.

She would not have wished to be called an angel - Margaret didn't like clichés. Even now I want to write "doesn't like clichés". Are we really permitted to say that she is dead?

For the bureaucrats and the Western leaders who today will express their outrage and sorrow at her reported death, she had nothing but scorn.

Yes, she knew the risks. Margaret Hassan was well aware that many Iraqi women had been kidnapped, raped, ransomed or murdered by the Baghdad mafia.

Because she is a Western woman - the first to be abducted and apparently murdered - we forget how many Iraqi women have already suffered this terrible fate; largely unreported in a world which counts dead American soldiers but ignores the fatalities among those with darker skins and browner eyes and a different religion, whom we claimed to have liberated.

And now let's remember the other, earlier videos. Margaret Hassan crying. Margaret Hassan fainting, Margaret Hassan having water thrown over her face to revive her, Margaret Hassan crying again, pleading for the withdrawal of the Black Watch regiment from the Euphrates River.

In the background of these appalling pictures, there were none of the usual Islamic banners. There were none of the usual armed and hooded men. There were no Qur'anic recitations.

And when it percolated through to Fallujah and Ramadi that the mere act of kidnapping Hassan was close to heresy, the combined resistance groups of Fallujah - and the message genuinely came from them - demanded her release.

So, incredibly, did Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda man whom the Americans falsely claimed was leading the Iraqi insurrection, but who has definitely been involved in the kidnappings and beheadings.

Other abducted women were freed when their captors recognised their innocence.

But not Margaret Hassan, even though she spoke fluent Arabic and could explain her work to her captors in their own language.

If anyone doubted the murderous nature of the insurgents, what better way to prove their viciousness than to produce evidence of Margaret Hassan's murder?

What more ruthless way could there be of demonstrating to the world that the US and Interim Prime Minister Iyad Alawi's tinpot army were fighting "evil" in Fallujah and the other Iraqi cities?


The FALLUJAH Protest Rally

20 November 2004, 1200 noon
Martin Place, Sydney
Speech by Tony Kevin


I believe the US Army's attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah, as planned and as executed, was a major war crime - both in terms of its strategic intention - to attack and destroy a city whose only crime was that it was passively resisting the authority of the American-installed interim Iraqi government led by Iyad Allawi - and in terms of its military methods, which grossly violated the Geneva Conventions: the rules of warfare negotiated over centuries. It was a barbaric and shameful attack on a defenceless civilian city.

The three governments of the allied coalition in Iraq - US, Britain and Australia - are in public denial over the nature of the destruction of Fallujah at the hands of the US Army. Western mainstream media, who were embedded with the invading army, tried initially to sanitise the story, to present it as an honourable military battle. But the pictures on television tell their own story - of a destroyed city, destroyed as totally as was Grozny in Chechnya a few years ago. Of 300,000 people left homeless. And of who knows how many civilian dead.

US writer Jonathan Schell, in a forthcoming article in Nation magazine - already on-line on "The battle for minds, forget the hearts", argues that the attack on Fallujah was planned and executed for one big reason: to inculcate fear. He cites two US political commentators close to Washington who admit that, unlike in Vietnam, the US military is not even bothering in Iraq "to reach hearts and minds".

Their only concern in Fallujah was to send a brutally simple deterrent message to Iraqis - resist US power, and we will destroy you utterly. We destroyed this city, to show you what we can do everywhere in Iraq if you resist us.

Jim Hoagland's article in The Washington Post, "Fighting for Minds in Fallujah" said "the immediate objective is to dissuade Sunni townspeople from joining, supporting or tolerating the insurrection" and "the price they will pay for doing so is being illustrated graphically in the streets of Fallujah."

Mark Bowden in the Los Angeles Times took up the same theme. He said "ordinary people" can be won over by fear: by the spectacle of the subjugated city, which "works as a demonstration of will and power." describes how the US Army left Fallujah as "the Carthaginian solution". Rome finally defeated its sworn enemy the Carthaginian state, by razing the capital Carthage to the ground and sowing the land with salt so that nothing would ever grow there again. And that is the term applies to what happened in Fallujah in these past 12 days.

It is hard for me to find the words to express the horror of this. Such extreme deterrent destruction of a large city for the alleged actions of a small number of insurgents has not been the conduct of any civilised modern state. It is conduct we associate with ancient cruel times, with the Mongol invasions, or with some ruthless Chinese emperor two thousand years ago. In World War Two the Nazis did terrible things in towns and cities that resisted them: Guernica in Spain, Oradour in France, Lidice in Czechosvlovakia, Warsaw in Poland. Fallujah takes us straight back to these Nazi atrocities.

The military men who planned and executed this attack must have had utter contempt for the lives of the civilians they would so casually kill in Fallujah. It is as if the people of Fallujah simply were not there - the battlefield was effectively defined as empty of humanity except the declared "enemy" - who turned out to be nothing more than a few hundred brave but pathetically outgunned militiamen. For this, a city of 300,000 people was destroyed. And anyone found dead was counted as an enemy combatant.

We are seeing a lot now of an incident as captured in TV footage, of a US soldier shooting a wounded Iraqi combatant on the ground in cold blood. This incident is a useful diversion, a minor incident in a much bigger horror. The soldier concerned will be scapegoated, as junior torturers were scapegoated in Abu Ghraib.

The real story of the Fallujah military operation is being shunned by mainstream media because it is too disturbing Such as: the deliberate effort over many weeks to clear the city of women and children by frightening them into leaving, and the refusal to allow men of military age to leave the city under white flag with their families. All of those men later found killed in the city could be claimed as enemy combatants. The policy of shooting to kill any unarmed people who were trying to flee the city, for example as they tried to swim rivers. The deliberate occupation and closure of hospitals so that the wounded would have nowhere to go, and there would be no photographic record of casualties. The use of massive indiscriminate weapons like 2000 kg bombs in city streets, and particularly cruel weapons like cluster bombs that spray deadly shrapnel in all directions, and phosphorus bullets that melt human flesh. The razing of entire city blocks in pursuit of a single sniper. The blocking of Red Cross food and medical supplies aid convoys after the battle. The refusal to provide water to civilians. The reported use of captured Iraqi civilians as human shields, forced to sit on top of US armoured vehicles.

All of this is documented on multiple internet sites around the world, from eyewitness reports now coming out of Fallujah. We will hear a lot more in coming days.

This is why the International Red Cross, the Iraqi Red Cross, and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, seeing that their discreet diplomacy is having no effect on the US command, are now finally protesting vigorously in public.

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, yesterday expressed deep concern about the plight of civilians in Fallujah. She called on the US-led forces to probe and prosecute deliberate killings of wounded people and civilians, and to take every possible precaution to protect residents. She demanded that all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law be investigated. She said:

"Those responsible for breaches - including deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons and the use of human shields - must be brought to justice, be they members of the Multinational Force or insurgents."

She was "particularly worried" about poor access for delivery of humanitarian aid and the lack of information about casualties.

For me as an Australian, the most shaming thing about this week was Defence Minister Robert Hill's casual admission in the Senate on Thursday, that Australian troops may have been involved in the planning and execution of the attack on Fallujah.

In reply to a question from Senator Kerry Nettle, Hill said he was not aware of exact numbers but believed a small number of troops may have been assigned to Australia's allies in the battle. He said "Australians certainly had some personnel within the multinational force headquarters, and it's reasonable to assume therefore some role in relation to planning or incidental support of the operations," He said "There may well have been a small number of Australian forces who were assigned to forces of our allies."

In making those statements, Hill admits that Australian soldiers serving in Iraq may be implicated in the war crime that is Fallujah. I don't know how Hill, or Defence Secretary Smith, or Defence Force Commander General Cosgrove, or Army Commander Leahy, can honourably remain in their jobs after the past 12 days in Fallujah. The honourable thing would be to set up an enquiry into the Australian role in Fallujah, and take leave from their posts until it is over.

Failing that, these may all be guilty commanders, because they may have authorised Australian military participation in the planning and execution of a major war crime.

Most of our Australian media are still keen to shelter our public from the full horror of Fallujah. They want us to go on believing that we and our US and British allies are trying humanely to make Iraq safe for democracy, and that the "unrest" in Iraq is only being caused by a few fanatical insurgents helped by Al Qaeda terrorists. They don't want us to know that this is a broad-based national liberation struggle that is growing as the number of martyred insurgent fighters keeps growing. Just as it was in Vietnam.

Yet that truth is everywhere, so readily accessible on so many alternative news websites:

For example, Alexander Cockburn's webmagazine Counterpunch, Slate magazine,,,

One only has to Google in the words "Fallujah, civilian casualties, Red Cross". Up come dozens of website entries.

The information is everywhere - yet our media barely notices it. We see footage of a blasted flattened field that was once a city, while the reporter solemnly tells us, "This was a classroom where people were being taught to make bombs". It is as if they do not see what their own cameras are showing us.

And there is so much to read in the liberal international print media too: in The Guardian, in The Independent, even in the London Times which recently ran a piece by Editor Simon Jenkins whose very title tells the story: "A wrecked nation, a desert, a ghost town. And this will be called victory".

So what do we do about it? Those of us who care about honour and decency in Australian governance?

We demand that our government disconnect utterly from Iraq while this cruel and criminal military occupation, under the figleaf of the brutal Allawi interim government, continues. That means - no Australian diplomatic presence. No Australian aid presence. No Australian commercial presence. And most important of all - no Australian military presence.

And that means now - not by Christmas, but now. There is absolutely no reason of honour or national interest for us to be there. The honourable thing is to withdraw now.

And we should then have a proper independent judicial inquiry to establish the exact facts of our military role in Iraq since the invasion began on 18 March 2003. Our people - the families and friends of our servicemen and women who served in Iraq - need to know exactly what they were called on to do, during this war and occupation. They need to know - we need to know - whether the laws of honourable military conduct, as Australia has always understood them, were violated in Iraq.

We have to get out, and then we will need an honest accounting for what we did in Iraq. This is what I will continue to strive for.

Tony Kevin
20 November 2004


Open letter to the ALP: Troops out now!

With the Iraq war escalating, Stop the War Coalition in Sydney is urgently seeking sign-ons to this open letter below which will be given to Mark Latham in Sydney on Monday, November 22, at the Leichhardt Town Hall where he will be addressing a community forum.

Please forward on, and apologies for cross postings. You can return the sign-ons to this email, or to stwcoalition(at)

Open letter to the Australian Labor Party:

Troops out now!

John Howard's Liberal-National Coalition government sent Australian troops to join the illegal US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. Until recently, Labor's policy was to bring the troops home by Christmas. But after the election, and to the dismay of many, the ALP leadership seems to be retreating from this policy arguing, among other things, that it isn't practical.

Abandoning the troops home call would signal a retreat from the biggest moral and political issue of our time.

We, the undersigned call on the ALP not to junk its "troops out" policy.

Mark Latham's call for the troops to be brought home came soon after the Spanish people had voted overwhelmingly against their pro-war president. If the ALP leadership had decided to campaign against the war in the last election, it too would have been rewarded - as was the Greens' Andrew Wilkie who ran a strong anti-war campaign in Bennelong, NSW.

Public opinion was on side, and it gave inspiration to the peace movement. Finally, it seemed, the ALP had brought its policy into line with the views of the majority - that Australia has no business in an unjust and illegal war in Iraq.

Calls for more humanitarian assistance mean nothing when little can be done while a full-scale war of occupation continues.

Some 100,000 Iraqis are now presumed dead in this war - one hundred times the number of coalition troop losses. More than half were women and children killed in air strikes, according to a report in the respected medical journal The Lancet. And the current Coalition assault on Iraqi cities and towns to "eradicate" the resistance in the lead-up to the Iraqi elections scheduled for January is likely to massively increase that figure.

Farnaz Fassihi, an American journalist born in Iran who writes from Baghdad for The Wall Street Journal, describes the war as a "disaster". "The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and can't be put back into a bottle", she said in October.

This is why the occupying troops must leave. They are not liberating Iraqis - they are killing them, indiscriminately. The departure of the relatively small number of Australian troops will send a powerful political signal - that the war in Iraq cannot end through military occupation.

As the former weapons' inspector Scott Ritter put it "...100,000 dead Iraqi civilians in the prosecution of an illegal and unjust war not only condemns us, it adds credibility to those who oppose us".

Iraqis have the right to decide how to run their own country, and the majority wants the occupying forces to leave.

We call on the ALP not to back away from its pre-election pledge, and to campaign actively to bring the Australian troops home from Iraq.

Signed: Ian Cohen, Greens MLC, NSW; Rachel Siewert, Greens Senator-elect WA; Greens Senator Kerry Nettle; Randwick Botany Greens; Lee Rhiannon, Greens MLC, NSW; Socialist Alliance.


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