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The 'intelligence failures' are a ploy to discredit the Allies' great work in Iraq

By Rob Shilkin - posted Friday, 20 June 2003


Iraq has been free for a little over two months. Saddam and his sadistic regime have been confined to the dustbin of history.

Potential menaces to the world order, from Iran to North Korea, are on notice that the West will not tolerate the proliferation of tyranny, or the sponsorship of terror.

Using the impetus gained from Iraq, the US is attempting to push the Israeli-Palestinian situation towards a temporary detente. The winds of change in the Middle East are gradually and painfully starting to blow.

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Yet the members of Australia's anti-war brigade still refuse to accept that this has all happened. Ever since the fall of Baghdad, they have been bitterly carping from the sidelines. The current furore over Iraq's "missing" weapons of mass-destruction is the latest effort from among their ranks.

This particular issue has been dressed up as a debate on flawed intelligence reports. But no one could sensibly assert that the West fabricated Saddam's WMD ambitions. Even war opponent, Richard Butler accepts that as recently as 1999 (before expelling the UN weapons inspectors) Saddam had a weapons of mass-destruction program. He also allegedly used chemical weapons on his own people in the late 1980s.

The issue is really whether Saddam, faced with the inevitability of the end of his regime, decided to destroy or hide his weapons. This is a moot issue for three reasons.

First, so what if Saddam trashed his stash at the last minute? Would the anti-war set seek to return him to power? Perhaps they would demand that the US issue a formal apology and reconstruct his statues and torture chambers.

Second, even if he disposed of his weapons, did the Allies go to war under false pretences as Robert Manne and others assert? Of course not - we went to depose a vicious tyrant who had openly threatened his region and the West, before he could fulfill his chemical, biological and nuclear ambitions, or assist others to achieve theirs.

Third, despite suggestions to the contrary by the anti-war set, these alleged intelligence "failures" will not make it more difficult for the West to take action against rogue states in the future. The war in Iraq succeeded despite immense pressure from the Old Europeans, Russians, Chinese, the UN Secretary General and leftist parties worldwide. The past two years have shown that the US and its allies are capable of leading the West into taking necessary action against terrorists and rogue nations in spite of the widespread opposition and intransigence of these groups.

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In light of these three factors, the current debate is a meaningless sideshow.

Why then, has this debate taken such prominence? In truth, it is being raised by the war's opponents, solely to paint the US and its Allies as being war-hungry aggressors. It is another attempt to discredit the Allies' success in Iraq. Such attempts have become painfully repetitive since the war began, as the following list attests.

Initially, when the war was not over in two weeks, the battle "not going according to plan"- the Allies had underestimated the strength of Iraq's defences. That line lasted for about a week.

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About the Author

Rob Shilkin is a lawyer at Clayton Utz in Sydney. His Op-Ed pieces on international affairs have been published in Australian newspapers and magazines.

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