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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4892


Senator BROWN (5:15 PM) —I take note of the Prime Minister's letter and its failure to inform the Senate of the reasons Australia should be floating on the coat-tails of the White House towards the invasion of Iraq. Let none of us be beguiled by what is going on and by the statements of ministers, including the Prime Minister, of recent days that they can divulge no game plan for the attack on Iraq because there has been no request from the United States. How silly do they think the Australian people are?

We see nightly on television the process of American armaments going to Qatar and other places in the Middle East—armed service personnel, aircraft, rockets; the full works. We also see Australian senior Defence personnel being presented with the minister on television for discussions about what are called `contingencies'. What is happening here is the readiness process for an invasion of Iraq whether or not the United Nations gives its approval—and it will be approval under great pressure from the United States if that occurs. We are going to war because John Howard does not have the nous to be an independent Prime Minister. He does not lead an independent government; he does not see Australia as an independent nation. It is about time he woke up to himself. It is certainly about time he woke up to the rapidly growing public opinion in this country, which is very much against the direction in which he is taking the country.

How could we be in a situation where it is now being decided by the White House that we go to war? The answer to that is that it is the result of the attack on the twin towers and then the loss of contact with Osama bin Laden and his leadership of Al-Qaeda. Maybe he was vaporised in one of those bomb attacks on the caves in Afghanistan, or maybe he was not, but in the absence of Osama bin Laden and in the face of the American President's determination to find a target of evil, the focus was then turned on Saddam Hussein as a substitute for Osama bin Laden although even our Prime Minister said there is no hard evidence to link Saddam Hussein with the twin towers attack. And it was notable that Tony Blair offered no such new evidence last night either.

Why is President Bush in this frame of mind? If you look at his record, you get a clue. It is a record of tunnel vision and immaturity from the American President. He told a group of people in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before the attack on the twin towers:

When I was coming up it was a dangerous world and we knew exactly who the they were. It was us versus them and it was clear who them was. Today, we're not so sure who the they are, but we know they're there.

That was quoted in the Guardian Weekly in January last year. This is an extraordinary reference to the fact that, when he was growing up, the communist Soviet Union was there and they were seen as the nidus of evil. After that, he was not so sure but he knew somebody was out there.

After the attack on the twin towers, that evil was given face in the form of Osama bin Laden. But, as I said, he then went off the agenda. In that circumstance—and I will refer to 60 Minutes two weeks ago—when asked by the American interviewer:

But you have won the war before you find Osama bin Laden dead or alive?

President Bush said:

If he were dead there's somebody else to replace him and we would find that person.

We have here a very narrow-minded fundamentalist in the President of the United States who has this immature view that `we are good and they are bad'. In some way or other, to enhance the view that the United States, as he sees it, is good and somebody else is bad, you have to chase that bad to vindicate that very narrow, and ultimately dangerous, point of view—that we are good and they are bad.

What amazes me is that John Howard— and Tony Blair, extraordinarily enough— have not got the wit or wisdom to see that this is a president who has an obsession with the evil as a counterpoint to the good he sees in the United States. There are psychological interpretations to be made about that. But there is one thing I would say to President Bush: all of us have in us the great capacity for good and the great capacity for evil, and we should know that. Not to understand that is dangerous, particularly when you have power.

We now have dangerous adventurism by President Bush. If Saddam Hussein were to somehow pack up his bags and fly to another Arab country and leave Iraq and its oil to the intentions of the American multinationals to get a slice of the oil fields of Iraq, another face of evil would then have to be invented for this president—and it would indeed be invented. There is no obvious end point to the very narrow and simplistic viewpoint that President Bush has. It needs other statespeople, people with more worldly wisdom, to contain it, to put a hand on its shoulder, and that is what John Howard is failing to do. He does not have the wisdom to be able to say, `Here is a President I can influence for the better. Here is a President who needs some restraint.' Instead of that, he is reduced to being one of what President Bush calls the `sum of the friends' he will invade Iraq with regardless of what the United Nations does.

From the feedback that I am getting from Australians, including not a few long-term Liberal voters, I can tell you that there is a very strong feeling against Australia being involved in such an invasion of Iraq. The revelations by Tony Blair last night totally failed the build-up, the hype and the expectation that here was going to be a dossier which revealed that Saddam Hussein is ready to attack with the armaments and arsenal at his disposal. It did nothing of the sort. I agree with John Howard on one point: much of what was in Tony Blair's dossier was recycled information, and the rest of it was based on supposition, or at least unidentified sources. We are in a very dangerous situation here. As somebody said to me just yesterday: have they not thought it through? If we attack Iraq and inflame the rest of the Arabic or Muslim world, there are going to be decades of repercussions. Mr Galloway, the Labor MP in Britain, has pointed out that it will lead to a tenfold increase in the amount of terrorism around the world. That is what the Prime Minister is unnecessarily exposing this country to.

Certainly, we have to put a cap on Saddam Hussein, but nothing that has been revealed by Mr Blair or Mr Howard—or Mr Bush, for that matter—in the last few weeks changes the profile that Saddam Hussein had pre September 11 last year. There was no action then. There should be action now, but it certainly should not be a US unilaterally decided invasion of Iraq with Australia following suit, putting the lives of Australians on the line, along with potentially thousands of Iraqi lives. This is the wrong way to go. The Greens are absolutely opposed to war at the behest of John Howard and President Bush. We stand firmly on that point. We will continue to advocate that and to support the growing numbers of people in the Australian community who feel the same and who feel that they are being let down by Prime Minister Howard and his government on this mightily important issue, which is going to draw Australia into an unnecessary war. (Time expired)