Crowdfunding FOI

Australia is the second largest contributor to the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria.

We commenced carrying out airstrikes in Syria in September in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution. The Australian public still has not been provided with any evidence upon which this decision was based. All we know is that our Government claims that it is “in Syria to exercise collective self-defence of Iraq”.

As hundreds of thousands of Syrians flee their country and flood the borders of Europe our Government’s claims that our operations ‘are not directed against Syria or the Syrian people’ ring a little hollow.

The impact of US-led airstrikes on civilians remains largely unknown. We do know that as of this month there have been nearly 2,000 airstrikes in Syria. We also know from a report in August that at least 459 innocent civilians, including more than 100 children, have been killed in Iraq and Syria.

Following the horrendous Paris attacks the drums of war beat ever more loudly for a military escalation against IS in Syria. But as the bombs are dropped and the missiles fired on Syria we must remember that there are still civilians there.

Well before the Paris attacks I lodged a Freedom of Information request from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade calling for copies of all cables, documents, briefs, advices, talking points and correspondence to and from the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop MP, in relation to the Government’s decision to participate in the aerial bombing of Syria.

Australians are entitled to know the true basis of the Government’s decision to involve us in this military action.  And, after all, don’t we owe it to the Syrian people to remain sceptical about our Government’s actions in their country?

Prime Minister Turnbull recently conceded that “If the great powers [we can only assume he means the United States and Russia] can have a common purpose so what is happening in Syria is not a proxy war then there is a greater prospect of there being a political settlement on the ground.”

This is the first time that a political leader has alluded to the fact that the issues facing Syria are not as noble or simplistic as has been portrayed over the past several years. Yet Prime Minister Turnbull’s unfiltered comment did not pique the curiosity of the media and the opportunity was lost to ask the Prime Minister exactly what he meant.

Perhaps the documents produced in relation to this Freedom of Information request may provide some answers, although one can never guarantee that they won’t come with the all too common brutal redactions. But we need to find out.

In ‘The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire’ Robert Naiman, Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy’ writes:

‘Roebuck [chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Damascus] thus argued that the US should try to destabilise the Syrian government by coordinating more closely with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to fan sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia…. So, while the sectarian character of the civil war in Syria is now publicly bemoaned in the West, it seems fair to say that in 2006 the US government foreign policy apparatus believed that promoting sectarianism in Syria was a good idea, which would foster “US interests” by destabilising the Syrian Government.’

In the absence of primary source material all that our independent legal experts and commentators have to fill the evidentiary gaps for our involvement in foreign military incursions is inference and supposition. Information that shows what’s really happening exposes the motives and actions of people in power to the scrutiny of public opinion.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed on 13 November 2015 that documents relevant to my request exist but I need your help to raise the money required to cover the costs and charges.

Some may consider the transparency of my request rather unusual in an age of cut-throat journalism but I’m quietly confident that publicly announcing my intention to  seek information in relation to our aerial bombing of a sovereign nation will not lead to my being scooped by the Murdoch press.

Please help me to try and shed some light on why our Government felt that violence was the only option in Syria. Donations large or small are most welcome and appreciated.

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