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Coalition of the Willing shrinks again -

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ELEANOR HALL: The US-led invasion of Iraq caused deep rifts within the international community,
many of which are still being patched over.

France, China and Russia were opposed to the war. But the US President was determined to push
ahead, and set about recruiting countries, including Australia, to his Coalition of the Willing.

But questions persist about just how willing many of these coalition members were, and what sort of
a contribution they actually made.

Barbara Miller has our report.

BARBARA MILLER: It was March 2003. And the war in Iraq was just a few days old.

France, China and Russia were the most vocal in their opposition to action having been taken
without the passing of another United Nations resolution.

President George W. Bush was keen to show that his chosen course of action did have widespread
support.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Word from Secretary Powell who briefed us on the ever-growing Coalition of the
Willing, nations who support our deep desire of peace and freedom. Over 40 nations now support our
efforts, we're grateful for their determination, we appreciate their vision and we welcome their
support.

BARBARA MILLER: A few days later again and a White House press release from 27 March, 2003, lists
49 countries, which the White House says have publicly committed to supporting the coalition.

The statement continues.

EXCERPT FROM WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT: The population of coalition countries is approximately 1.23
billion people. Every major race, religion, ethnicity in the world is represented. The coalition
includes nations from every continent on the globe.

BARBARA MILLER: In reality, though, just a few countries were on the frontline.

RON HUISKEN: The coalition that actually invaded Iraq, in fact, consisted of three countries. The
Americans, the British and ourselves.

BARBARA MILLER: Ron Huisken is a Senior Fellow in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the
Australian National University.

RON HUISKEN: The only other country at the time that was politically fully on side, if you work in
a declared way, with the invasion, was probably the Poles, and even then, the Polish Government was
taking that position contrary to sort of public opinion. It's pretty much the case both in the UK
and in Australia as well.

BARBARA MILLER: These other countries listed then, they were simply voicing support, were they?

RON HUISKEN: Well, it's a complex business. The United States is a very powerful and very
influential country. They did need, for their own reasons obviously, to demonstrate the path that
they had chosen to take viz-a-vis Iraq was something that allies and friends endorsed.

But when you pick it apart and you look at those 49 countries mentioned in the White House press
release, the overwhelming majority would be quite token to deployments of a handful of people, or
even one or two occasionally in some obscure role somewhere. Those who carried any kind of combat
mission, that is, who took responsibility for some however small piece of real estate in Iraq, was
always very small, certainly less than 10.

BARBARA MILLER: The gap between countries' contributions in Iraq, led to much mocking of the
coalition concept.

A columnist with salon.com, referring to US offers of aid to countries who supported the war, wrote
about 'The Coalition of the Billing'.

The film-maker Michael Moore dubbed it 'The Coalition of the Coerced, Bribed and Intimidated'. And
John Pilger described it as an Anglo-American force.

Now, many countries, like Australia, are gradually pulling out of Iraq, or scaling back their
involvement.

In its latest Iraq Status Report, issued last week, the US State Department lists 24 countries as
currently supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom by contributing personnel. That list includes Tonga,
Mongolia and El Salvador.

But Ron Huisken says it would be wrong to dismiss many countries' participation in Iraq as a mere
gesture.

RON HUISKEN: Any government that commits troops to a place which is so arbitrarily violent as Iraq,
you know, governments have lost their nets(phonetic), lost lives, you can't trivialise that. But in
terms of sort of meaningful combat power of what the military or some people like to call the
"heavy lifting", yes, it's always been a very narrow band of countries that have prepared to take
that on.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Ron Huisken, from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the ANU, ending
the report by Barbara Miller.