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One year on - Iraq war was still wrong, but Australian troops should not come home yet.



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One year on - Iraq war was still wrong, but Australian troops should not come home yet

Australia's participation in the war against Iraq incurred a moral and legal obligation that has not yet been completed, the Australian Democrats said today - the anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.

"The Democrats strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq and Australia’s participation. However now that has occurred, Australia has an obligation to try to assist maintaining security in the transition to a democratically elected Iraqi Government," said Senator Andrew Bartlett, leader of the Australian Democrats.

"There is much criticism to be made of US and Australian policy, both before, during and since the end of the war. But simply calling for everybody to go home now will not lead to the development of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Iraq.

"The war was wrong, but the question has to be 'what is in the best interests of the Iraqi people now?'

"The capture of Saddam Hussein has not meant the end of violence against the Iraqi people. Around 10,000 innocent Iraqi citizens have been killed as a result of the coalition invasion and thousands more are injured. Several hundred allied soldiers are dead.

"One year on, Iraqis live with erratic electricity, security problems, water shortages and are still occupied by a foreign power.

"The Democrats call for strong humanitarian, social and economic programs to help the Iraqis rebuild their nation. Continued military presence should be under United Nations supervision to provide legitimacy to the Iraqi Governing Council, and lead to a democratic Iraqi government.

"The fact remains that until the situation is more secure the UN will not return.

"The more than 800 Australian troops in Iraq are not involved in offensive actions. They are involved in training a new Iraqi military, patrolling Iraqi waters, providing air traffic control services at Baghdad International Airport, and light armoured vehicles and explosive ordnance troops escort Australian Government personnel.

"It should be recognised that during the war Australian troops upheld higher standards in the rules of engagement than other allied forces.

"Australians were also part of the fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that proved the Government was wrong in its stated reasons for going to war.

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"The argument on which Prime Minister Howard based Australian support for the invasion of Iraq crumbled long ago. The recent Parliamentary inquiry into IRAQ WMD evidence found the Defence Intelligence Organisation was advising the Government it was unlikely Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," Senator Bartlett said.

"The Democrats reiterate our objection to Mr Howard’s decision to send Australian men and women to war against the wishes of the Australian people, the Senate, the majority of nations world-wide, the United Nations Security Council, and on the basis of lies and distortions.

"The Democrats have legislation in the Parliament that would take the power to go to war out of the hands of the Prime Minister and a subservient cabinet and place it with both houses of parliament.

"Regime change could have been achieved without going to war," Senator Bartlett said.

"Because Australia participated in the invasion, we are now part of an occupying force and we have an obligation under international law to help stabilise Iraq and restore order and governance.

"Australia broke international law by participating in this illegal action, we should not break it again by bailing out and ignoring our responsibilities," concluded Senator Bartlett.

Jill Manning Office of the Leader of the Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett Phone: (02) 6277 3645