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Australian PM rebuffs arguments for Iraq war

Latest update : 2008-06-02

The day after Australian troops began leaving Iraq, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told parliament that the arguments for the war were wrong and that Washington "abused intelligence". The White House denies Rudd's accusation.

All the arguments Australia used to justify sending troops to fight in Iraq proved to be wrong, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told parliament Monday as he fulfilled an election vow to bring them home.
  
Rudd, who ousted long-term conservative leader John Howard last November, was fiercely critical of the process that took Australia into the war.
  
Howard had presented four reasons for joining the US-led invasion in March 2003, Rudd said as a 550-strong Australian combat force began pulling out of the shattered country.
  
He then clinically listed, and dismissed, each of the arguments.
  
"Have further terrorist attacks been prevented? No, they have not been, as the victims of the Madrid train bombing will attest," he said.
  
"Has any evidence of a link between weapons of mass destruction and the former Iraqi regime and terrorists been found? No.
  
"Have the actions of rogue states like Iran been moderated? No... Iran's nuclear ambitions remain a fundamental challenge.
  
"After five years, has the humanitarian crisis in Iraq been removed? No it has not."
  
Rudd said he was particularly concerned about how the decision to go to war had been made, citing "the abuse of intelligence information," a charge rejected by the White House, which said "the entire world" agreed on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
  
Rudd said there had been a "failure to disclose to the Australian people the qualified nature of the intelligence -- for example, the pre-war warning that an attack on Iraq would increase the terrorist threat, not decrease it."
  
He also dismissed Howard's argument that Australia's alliance with the United States meant it had to participate in the invasion.
  
The alliance was important but did not mean automatic compliance with all aspects of US foreign policy, Rudd said, charging that the decision to invade without UN approval had set a dangerous precedent.
  
Howard, one of Bush's staunchest supporters in the so-called "coalition of the willing" which stormed into Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein's regime, earlier defended his decision to contribute troops.
  
"I firmly believe it was the right thing to have done," Howard said, while acknowledging the cost of the war had been "very, very heavy and much greater than anybody would have liked."
  
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino later Monday told reporters in Washington: "We acted on the intelligence that we had, and that the entire world had."
  
Before his election defeat, Howard had been Bush's last major partner in a coalition that once included prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Spain's Jose Maria Aznar and Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski -- all now out of office.
  
Opinion polls showed that most Australians opposed its involvement in Iraq, and Bush dubbed Howard a "man of steel" for his commitment despite the war's unpopularity among voters.
  
No Australian troops died in combat in Iraq, and two officers complained in an official army journal last month that they were "scorned" by soldiers from other countries because they were given low-risk missions.
  
Rudd pointed out that estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths ranged widely from 50,000 to half a million.
  
Speaking a day after Australia's combat force began leaving its base at Tallil, 300 kilometres (185 miles) south of Baghdad, he promised assistance for reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
  
Australia will still have about 800 military personnel in and around the country, including a 110-strong security detachment in Baghdad and personnel for aircraft and a warship based outside Iraq.
  
Rudd has pledged Canberra will also maintain a force of about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, where they are fighting supporters of the Taliban government ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001.

Date created : 2008-06-02

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