A call for an Australian inquiry into the Iraq war

What led to Australia invading Iraq in 2003? The Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry is calling for an independent inquiry into the reasons behind Australia’s participation in the invasion and a review of the war powers of the government, to draw out what lessons can be learned for the future.

The case for an inquiry is set out in detail in our booklet, Why Did We Go to War in Iraq? A call for an Australian inquiry.

The campaign consists of Australians from diverse backgrounds who are concerned that there has been little informed public discussion of the lessons to be learned from the decisions that took us to war in 2003.

How did Australian armed forces come to be involved in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and why? What were the decision-making processes that led to that commitment? Were those processes adequate in terms of our system of government as we understand it and for the future?

Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC


Polling Australia – October 2014

Australians say parliament must be decide when we go to war

Three out of four Australians believe the Federal Parliament – not the Prime Minister or executive – should be responsible for making the final decision about whether Australia goes to war unless the country is in immediate danger.

poll conducted by Roy Morgan on behalf of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry and in released October 2014 bears out the fact that Australia’s major political parties are completely out of step with the voters on the question of Parliamentary involvement in authorising deployment of the Australian Defence Force into armed conflict abroad.

When asked whether they believe the Parliament should be required to approve decisions to commit Australian troops to war, three out of four Australians surveyed responded that, unless there is immediate danger to Australia, Parliament should be required to approve a decision to send Australian troops into armed conflict abroad.

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2014 Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq

In the lead-up to the eleventh anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq on Thursday March 20, the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry has written to Federal parliamentarians expressing concern that there has not been an inquiry into how the Australian government decided to commit our armed forces in that war.

The campaign is urging the government to create an independent Australian inquiry to investigate the process whereby Australia became involved in the Iraq war. The campaign is also encouraging politicians to consider how that decision-making process should be changed in future.

Full text of the letter sent to parliamentarians:

Dear Parliamentarian,

I am writing to you to express my concern that, eleven years after Australia participated in the invasion of Iraq, there has still been no comprehensive inquiry into the process by which the Government of the day made the decision that Australia would be a participant in the war.

Given the gravity of any decision to commit the Australian defence force to international armed conflict, the Australian people are entitled to know how that decision was made, and what evidence informed the decision. Like any world class defence force, the Australian Defence Force is assiduous in reviewing the conduct of every campaign in which it is involved, to identify and document the lessons learned, and incorporate them into the development of future doctrine. Surely the Australian Government owes to those it puts in harm’s way to evaluate the quality of the processes by which it decides to put them in harm’s way.

In the civilian domain, we are accustomed to holding inquiries after natural disasters and man-made accidents. We rigorously debate and scrutinise government administration and expenditure, how prepared we were to deal effectively with problems and how well our command and control systems worked. We carefully investigate the causes of deaths and injuries. All of this is designed so we can learn from experience and avoid future mistakes and losses. The Iraq war should be treated no differently.

Britain’s inquiry into the Iraq war, conducted by Sir John Chilcot, plans to report its findings soon. This means that while Britons will have the chance to learn from past decisions, Australians will still be deprived of a comprehensive account of our involvement in Iraq.

An independent inquiry into the decision making process which led to Australia’s involvement in Iraq would also allow for a public discussion of the appropriateness of Australia’s current ‘war powers’, which concentrate power in the executive branch. This could provide a framework for reforming how the decision is made to go to war.

The experience of Parliamentary and Congressional debate in Britain and the United States last year over the question of whether to intervene in Syria demonstrated the benefits of parliamentary involvement in decisions to commit to armed international conflict. By allowing for greater public debate, the involvement of parliament permitted better evidence to be obtained, and cooler heads to prevail. This experience has demonstrated the value of moving the ‘war powers’ from the executive to the Parliament, ensuring a better deliberative process and greater accountability.

The Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry hopes to see not only an independent inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq War, but also a commitment from Australia’s elected representatives to reforming the ‘war powers’.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Barratt
Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry

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