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ALP Claims US Confirms Howard Has Committed Australia To War

January 30, 2003

This is the text of a media statement by the ALP's Shadow Minister for Defence, Senator Chris Evans.

Comments from the US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, confirm what everyone knows, that John Howard has committed Australia to a war with Iraq.

When asked in an interview on the ABC's 7:30 Report if he would be surprised if Australia withdrew its support for the US if the UN did not back military action, Paul Wolfowitz stated:

"I think the very strong statements the Prime Minister made today make it very clear where Australia stands…

"I think Australia's solidarity with us is an important piece of trying to achieve a peaceful resolution here, and if it comes to the use of force to make it as humane and effective as possible.

This stands in contrast to many statements from John Howard denying that the Government has decided whether it will take part in a US-led war, in the event that the Security Council does not authorise military action.

The Prime Minister's denials are clearly false.

It would not be responsible for any Government that has forward deployed significant components of its defence force to be undecided at this late stage about whether they should remain if a war, which Howard says is "very likely" to occur, commences.

On 19 June 2002 the Defence Minister, Robert Hill, proclaimed his support for the new US policy of first strike.

By September 2002 over forty senior defence personnel had been stationed at US command central headquarters, Qatar, and more in the US base in Tampa, Florida.

On 10 January 2003 the Prime Minister announced the forward deployment of the HMAS Kanimbla, lead elements of a Special Forces Task Group, P-3C Orion warplanes, a Sea King helicopter, Army landing craft, air defence attachment and an explosives ordnance team.

They join another two Australian frigates already in the Gulf, and 14 F/A-18 Hornets.

On 22 January the Defence Minister announced that the ADF had been told to prepare for deployment troops from the Incident Response Regiment, troop-lift helicopters, C-130 aircraft and elements of the 4RAR Commando Unit.

Robert Hill has admitted that Australia has been intimately involved with the US in planing and preparing for a war.

John Howard is attempting to deceive the Australian public that no decision has been made.

The evidence shows otherwise.

Significant parts of our defence force and senior defence personnel have been amassing in the Middle East since the middle of 2002.

The only decision that John Howard has to make is when he will come clean and admit that Australia is committed to joining a war with Iraq.

John Howard, joint doorstop with George Bush (13 June 2002)

"I said to the Congress yesterday that America had no better friend anywhere in the world than Australia.

Australia is a firm and faithful friend, and we are in there with you in the fight against terror. It still has a long way to go, and I think it's very important that the people don't imagine that the fight is anywhere near complete. And there will be a lot of commitment on our part, and we do respect and admire the contribution that you're making as the leader of the world's response."

George Bush, joint doorstop with John Howard (13 June 2002)

"Yes, I told the Prime Minister there are no war plans on my desk. I haven't changed my opinion about Saddam Hussein, however. He is -- this is a person who gassed his own people, and possesses weapons of mass destruction. And so as I told the American people, and I told John, we'll use all tools at our disposal to deal with him. And, of course, before there is any action -- military action, I would closely consult with our close friend."

John Howard, when asked about a possible war with Iraq (2 August 2002)

"Well I haven't as Prime Minister we haven't received any request. We haven't made up our mind because it's a hypothetical issue. But it is something that is obviously engaging us, it's engaging our American allies and part of the national interest involved in this is the shared commitment we have with the United States to a set of values around the world and it's always important to keep that in mind."

Robert Hill, when asked about Australia's contact with the US (10 September 2002)

"I am kept informed in effect on a daily basis from a very high level with the Administration [about military plans]. That's the political connection. We also have a very significant presence in the US military command which assists us to be kept well informed of the US military expectations and plans and the like. So, I think we are very well appraised of the US thinking really on a day to day basis."

10 September 2002

John Howard, when asked why Australia joined the US and UK in deploying forces to the Gulf (28 January 2003)

"We have a close relationship with the United States and I don't make any apology. It's not the dominant reason, it's not the major reason but it's an important consideration in this whole issue. Australia has a long standing association with the United States and whenever these issues are under consideration the nature of that relationship should be factored in…"

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