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Issue #1681      April 22, 2015

Iraq deployment – latest commitment to endless war

Three hundred Australian troops are now stationed in Iraq. They have joined forces from New Zealand, Canada and, of course, the US. The governments of the countries involved don’t like referring to the soldiers as “boots on the ground” and prefer to stress their present training role instead. It sounds familiar. Every modern commitment to long, drawn out and incredibly destructive conflict on the part of imperialist powers has begun with such manipulation of language and soothing of public opinion. Prime Minister Abbott had some additional, suitable cover for the announcement, which came in the lead up to the ultra-hyped ANZAC commemorations.

The PM said the commitment was not “risk free”. The security situation at the Taji base north of Baghdad is precarious, as is most of Iraq. The withdrawal of US troops four years ago was supposed to have been made possible by a marked improvement in the fighting capacity of the Iraqi army. US Colonel John Schwemmer has returned for his sixth deployment to Iraq and was shocked at the state of the Iraqi forces. “It’s pretty incredible,” he said. “I was kind of surprised. What training did they have after we left?”

The state of the military, the economy, social and other infrastructure in Iraq shouldn’t surprise anybody. The movement opposed to the war launched in 2003 rallied unprecedented numbers of people across the globe. Their warnings about the destruction and dismemberment of Iraq, the fanning of sectarian divisions, the growth of terrorism and the loss of a million Iraqi lives were all ignored. And they have all been proven tragically correct. They were mocked at the time.

Abbott will not rule out a support role for forces acting in Syria. Again Australians have been placed at the service of US geopolitical strategists determined to affect regime change in Syria and re-draw the map of the Middle East. ISIL, ISIS, Daesh or Islamic State (whatever the current name) plays an important propaganda role in justifying the latest troop commitments. It is not important enough for Defence Minister Kevin Andrews to recall its leader’s name in a recent interview on ABC TV’s 7:30 Report. The threat wasn’t considered serious enough for US ally Turkey to prevent large numbers from pouring over its borders to fight the legitimate government of Syria.

Long before the advent of IS, the plans of the US were for a long conflict that would deliver more compliant governments in the region. The plan wasn’t for a sovereign Iraq and Syria living in peace. It wasn’t for a resolution to the issues still causing tensions in the region, such as the deliberately forestalled statehood for Palestine. In fact, the US has moved to destroy the strongest advocates of a Palestinian state and the sovereignty of the countries of the Middle East. Plans to neutralise Iran’s influence continue despite talk of a diplomatic breakthrough.

The servility of Australia’s foreign policy was brought home recently by comments by commanders of US Marines arriving at their new base in Darwin. About 1,500 troops began arriving last week as part of the US’ “Pivot” to the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions. A confrontation with China is being prepared. The hospitality of the locals was commented on by US top brass. Lieutenant Colonel Eric Dougherty appreciates the hands off approach of Australian authorities, too.

“There’s things we can do here we cannot do back in the states,” Dougherty said. “[In the US] it’s very restricted; you have to worry about safety considerations like not shooting other units as you train. Here you don’t have those issues. It’s a blank slate.” “Blank slate” or “terra nullius”, the colonial attitude prevails. The need for an independent foreign policy and peaceful, mutually beneficial relations with our neighbours near and far has never been more clear or more urgent.

Next article – ANZAC Day and workers’ rights – Statement from CPA

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