On 20 March 2003, American, British and Australian troops, led by US invaded Iraq, known as the “second gulf war”. The object of the invasion was to locate and destroy any weapons of mass destruction.
So how did Australia get involved in all this? Australia was invited to assist by the US, and it was compelled to comply with that sort of request, in return for US military protection of its own country. Why was this?
Australia is basically a large land mass with a small population and an even smaller defence force. Unfortunately, Australia would not be able to defend its shores against an invasion from anyone of its larger neighbours. And therefore, needed a more dominant military besides them in order to protect themselves.
Having historic ties with the US, meant they were the best ones to protect them and probably their only alternative. The price of that protection from the US however was the supply of Australian military hardware and personnel whenever the US asks for it.
This decision to support America was made by the then prime Minister, John Howard. He committed thousands of troops to the invasion, which is now ranked as one of the greatest failures of Australian foreign policy since WW2. He went into the war and led troops into the war based on a lie. But unlike the Prime Minister of UK, who had at least some decency to express some sorrow, Howard insisted he had no regrets about the war.
In a 572-page declassified internal report on the Iraq war obtained by Fairfax Media under the Freedom of information laws, a report was written by Dr Albert Palazzo. It concluded that Howard had only joined George W. Bush in invading Iraq for the sole purpose of strengthening Australia’s alliance with US.
The fact that Howard claimed they were enforcing UN resolutions and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism and even the claims after of rebuilding Iraq after the invasion were just beautified words to justify it all.
Australia was also one of the earliest nations to support the coalition effort of invading Iraq. Australia sent 3 warships to the Persian Gulf as part of the United Nations force. Australia also supplied a supply vessel, four medical teams, and a mine-clearance divers’ team, all of which were part of a protective screen around aircraft-carrier battle groups in the gulf, operating under US operational control.
However, most Australian voters were against the war, opinion polls backed this. They opposed it because of the human suffering which the war would bring, the fact that families would be torn apart and the agenda may not even be reached.
Moreover, others that opposed it did not think that the US and Bush had a strong enough reason to go to war. Iraq violating UN resolutions was not a valid case for war, since no nation has the authority under the UN charter to judge Iraq’s compliance to UN resolutions or to enforce them. Moreover, there was an argument that US was playing double standard games. This was because other nations such as Israel were also in beach of UN resolutions and had nuclear weapons but nothing was being done about it.
In conclusion, Australia played small a part in the war, however it had a lot of opposition and the then prime Minister John Howard decided to take things in his own hands and support Bush in order to have a strong ally in his corner. Fortunately for Australia, only 2 soldiers died in the war, as they were given low missions. However, the overall destruction from the war meant most Australians were not happy with the outcome.