Press "Enter" to skip to content

War Is Right, Lawful And In Our Interests: Howard

Last updated on February 7, 2024

Following the commencement of the United States-led war against Iraq, the Prime Minister, John Howard, delivered a televised Address to the Nation in which he claimed that that the war was right, lawful and in Australia’s national interests.

“We are determined to join other countries to deprive Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction,” Howard said.

  • Listen to Howard’s Address (9m)

Transcript of Prime Minister John Howard’s televised Address to the Nation.

HowardGood evening.

The Government has decided to commit Australian forces to action to disarm Iraq because we believe it is right, it is lawful and it’s in Australia’s national interest.

We are determined to join other countries to deprive Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, its chemical and biological weapons, which even in minute quantities are capable of causing death and destruction on a mammoth scale.

Iraq has been an aggressor in the past against its neighbours and even its own people. If Iraq is allowed to keep these weapons not only might she use them again but moreover other rogue countries will copy Iraq knowing that the world will do nothing to stop them.

And the more countries that have these weapons – countries run by despotic regimes – the greater becomes the likelihood that these weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists. If that happens can anyone doubt that the terrorists will use them whatever the cost might be?

The attacks on the 11th of September and in Bali showed that international terrorists have no regard for human life no matter what the nationality of their victims may be.

Iraq has long supported international terrorism. Saddam Hussein pays $25,000 to each family of Palestinian suicide bombers who wreak such murderous havoc in Israel. He has sheltered and sponsored many terrorist groups.

International terrorism knows no borders. We have learnt that to our cost. Australia and Australians anywhere in the world are as much targets as any other western country and its people.

Therefore the possession of chemical, biological, or even worse still, nuclear weapons by a terrorist network would be a direct undeniable and lethal threat to Australia and its people.

That is the reason above all others why I passionately believe that action must be taken to disarm Iraq. Not only will it take dangerous weapons from that country but it will send a clear signal to other rogue states and terrorists groups like Al Qaeda which clearly want such weapons that the world is prepared to take a stand.

There’s also another reason and that is our close security alliance with the United States. The Americans have helped us in the past and the United States is very important to Australia’s long-term security.

It is critical that we maintain the involvement of the United States in our own region where at present there are real concerns about the dangerous behaviour of North Korea.

The relationship between our two countries will grow more rather than less important as the years go by.

A key element of our close friendship with the United States and indeed with the British is our full and intimate sharing of intelligence material.

In the difficult fight against the new menace of international terrorism there is nothing more crucial than timely and accurate intelligence. This is a priceless component of our relationship with our two very close allies.

There is nothing comparable to be found in any other relationship – nothing more relevant indeed to the challenges of the contemporary world.

I know that some people are saying that what we have done makes it more likely that terrorists will attack Australia.

Australia has been a terrorist target at least since the 11th of September 2001.

Australia is a western country with western values. Nothing will or should change that. That is why we are a target.

Remember that bin Laden specifically targeted Australia because of our intervention to save the people of East Timor.

Does any Australian seriously suggest that if bin Laden’s warning had come before the East Timor action we should have caved in and changed our policy. That will never be the Australian way.

We believe that so far from our action in Iraq increasing the terrorist threat it will, by stopping the spread of chemical and biological weapons, make it less likely that a devastating terrorist attack will be carried out against Australia.

I want to assure all of you that the action we are taking is fully legal under international law. Back in the early 1990s resolutions were passed by the Security Council authorising military action against Iraq.

That action was only suspended on condition that Iraq gave up its weapons of mass destruction. Clearly we all know this has not happened. As a result the authority to take military action under those earlier resolutions has revived.

America’s critics both here and abroad have been both opportunistic and inconsistent. They know and admit that weapons inspectors only returned to Iraq because of the pressure of the American military build-up. Yet they have persistently criticised American policy.

Apparently they believe that a quarter of a million American, British and indeed Australian troops should stay in the desert doing nothing indefinitely. We all know that if the troops had been withdrawn Iraq would have immediately stopped its minimal co-operation with the inspectors.

Another point I’d make to you very strongly is that we’re not dealing here with a regime of ordinary brutality. There are many dictatorships in the world. But this is a dictatorship of a particularly horrific kind.

His is an appalling regime: its torture, its use of rape as an instrument of intimidation, the cruelty to children to extract confessions from parents. It is a terrible catalogue of inflicting human misery on a people who deserve much better.

This week, the Times of London detailed the use of a human shredding machine as a vehicle for putting to death critics of Saddam Hussein. This is the man, this is the apparatus of terror we are dealing with.

The removal of Saddam Hussein will lift this immense burden of terror from the Iraqi people.

Our argument is with Saddam Hussein’s regime. It is certainly not with Islam.

Australians of an Arab background or of the Islamic faith are a treasured part of our community. Over the weeks ahead and beyond we should all extend to them the hand of Australian mateship.

To those in the community who may not agree with me, please vent your anger against me and towards the government. Remember that our forces are on duty in the Gulf in our name and doing their job in the best traditions of Australia’s defence forces.

Can I say something that I know will find an echo from all of you whether or not you agree with the Government. And that is to say to the men and women of the Australian Defence Force in the Gulf – we admire you, we are thinking of you, we want all of you come to back home safe and sound. We care for and we anguish with your loved ones back here in Australia. Our prayers and our hopes are with all of you.

We now live in a world made very different by the scourge of international terrrorism.

This has been a very difficult decision for the Government but a decision which is good for Australia’s long term security and the cause of a safer world.

Good night.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Malcolm Farnsworth
© 1995-2024