The Howard government played a key role in promoting the lies used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq and committed Australian military forces in defiance of international law.
Wilkie told journalists on Thursday: “Every time it [the Howard government] said that Iraq had a massive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and it was cooperating with Al Qaeda, it knew that that was not the case—that it was either clearly not the case, or at best for them, it was ambiguous.
“They took us to war on a lie. No wonder John Howard and Tony Blair and George W. Bush do stand accused of war crimes. I’d like them to see an international court. I would like them defend their position and try to prove their innocence because, all of those people who do accuse them of war crimes I think make a pretty compelling case.”
Wilkie continued: “The terror threat that we face in this country right now is a direct result of the decision by the Australian government under John Howard in 2003 to join in that invasion. Frankly, there are a number of political leaders who in my opinion have blood on their hands. The Bali bombing of 2005 would not have occurred if we hadn’t have joined in in the invasion of Iraq. The Lindt Cafe siege would not have occurred if we hadn’t helped create the circumstances for the rise of Islamic State.”
Wilkie is in a unique position to know the claim that the decision to invade Iraq was made on the “best available intelligence” was false. In 2003, he was working as a top level officer in the Office of National Assessments (ONA), a branch of Australian intelligence that reports directly to the prime minister and cabinet national security committee. On March 9, 2003, he publicly resigned from the ONA and denounced the preparations for war.
Wilkie, based on the intelligence he was privy to—the same intelligence that was available to the Bush, Blair and Howard governments—stated at the time: “Iraq does not pose a security threat to the US, or to the UK or to Australia… Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction [WMD] program is, I believe, genuinely contained… As far as I’m aware there was no hard evidence and there is still no hard evidence that there is any active cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda.”
Wilkie concluded an interview he gave to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on March 9, 2003 by saying: “I don’t believe I could stand by any longer and take no action as this coalition marches to war. I think the interests of the thousands of people, perhaps tens of thousands of people or even more who could be injured, displaced or killed in a war, I think their interests are more important.”
Thirteen years later, the consequences of the illegal Iraq invasion include the death of over one million Iraqis, millions more wounded and traumatised, the devastation of what was once a modern society and ongoing ethno-sectarian carnage. The endless wars waged by US imperialism and its allies, including Australia, have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Afghanistan, northwest Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Syria and created the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.
Wilkie’s call for war crimes trials have not been taken up by any section of the political establishment or the media. Instead, in an interview on the ABC’s “Lateline” program, Howard, who is living in comfortable retirement, was allowed to avoid questions over the criminality of his government’s decision to invade Iraq by blaming “flawed” intelligence advice.