Open letter to the Prime Minister Tony Abbott

The Hon. Tony Abbott, MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House

Dear Mr Abbott

It is 11 years since the Howard government invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq without a UN mandate and without proper evidence of weapons of mass destruction.  Nearly half a million people have died from war-related causes in Iraq since the invasion in 2003 yet there still hasn’t been a thorough inquiry into the process by which the Australian Government – of which you formed a part – made the decision to participate in that war.

Now the drums of war are rolling once again.

Your government’s assurances that Australia’s involvement in any further actions in either Iraq or Syria are rooted in humanitarianism lack credibility when the same logic underlies both terrorism and war on terror. ‘Super Hornets’ are stealth killing machines; they’re not designed to deliver bread, water or medication. They have the capacity to make innocent men, women and children account with their lives for the actions of governments or militant groups.

Given that your government is reluctant to seek open parliamentary debate about and approval for any further actions in either Iraq or Syria, and that the Australian public has not been graced with a detailed rational and truthful justification for any further Australian involvement, I seek responses to the following questions:

  • Chuck Hagel said in August 2014 that ‘President Obama has made it very clear what we’re doing there [Iraq] and why, and that is, first, to protect American interests and our people. It is to help our partners. It is to support the Iraqi security forces and help them defend themselves. It is to continue to do everything we can to see that an Iraqi government is formed, which is now being formed, that’s inclusive, that brings in all the various parts of Iraq in governing themselves. But in the end, it’s Iraq’s responsibility.’ Do we support those objectives? If so, how is further intervention in Australia’s national interest?
  • In 2006 the National Intelligence Estimate on ‘Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States’ reported that “the Iraq War has become the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists … and is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives.”  Do you agree with that assessment? If not, isn’t it clear that any Australian involvement in actions in Iraq or Syria will not only encourage the spread of radical Islam by providing a focal point for anti-Western sentiment, but increase the level of direct threat to Australia?
  • Syria’s foreign minister warned this week not to conduct airstrikes inside Syria against Islamic State militants without Damascus’ consent, saying any such attack would be considered aggressive. Has this been discussed with our American allies?
  • Are you aware of reports that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been radicalised at a US-run prison in Iraq before being released in 2004? Is that true?
  • Do you agree that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 created a vacuum for the establishment of the Islamic state?
  • Did the Western backed uprising against President Assad in Syria enable ISIS to develop the military experience being used in Iraq?

  • Do you agree with the assessment that Western support for the opposition in Syria destabilised Iraq?
  • Is it rational that the US – and by default Australia –  opposes ISIS in Iraq but supports it in Syria because of the desire to get rid of President Assad?
  • Is it true that the opposition in Syria is now dominated by ISIS?
  • Do you agree with the assessment that ISIS will not be stopped fundamentally by US airstrikes but rather through Kurdish, Iraqi and Syrian forces?
  • When you spoke publicly about the Yazidi situation and the need to intervene to stop a genocide, why didn’t you tell the Australian public that Kurdish fighters had already opened a land corridor to Sinjar Mountain and rescued thousands of people by the time USAID helicopters landed?
  • Are you concerned that American ally, Saudi Arabia, is “harbouring” sheikhs who are funding militant groups?
  • A WikiLeaks cable from 2005 reveals that Yasser Soliman, a member of the Council for Multicultural Australia argued that ‘the Government’s multicultural policies were in fact important elements in fighting extremism’. Do you agree that is still the case? If so, why doesn’t the government have a designated Multicultural Affairs Minister and why did your government axe the Building Multicultural Communities Program? Did your government measure the potential consequences before doing so?

Australia and Australians deserve more than selective information and inflammatory images accompanied by political spin before the country once again marches off to war on the coattails of the United States. If our involvement truly is justified your government should have no fear of open information, honest debate and individual conscience votes.  Answering my questions might be a useful start.

Yours faithfully

Kellie Tranter

Lawyer and human rights activist

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