Copy of letter lodged at Prime Minister's web site 20 May 2004
Dear Prime Minister
In you speech [on 19 May] you opened with a joke which has no life beyond Melbourne football and is gratuitously offensive to people struggling to survive in Iraq. You said:
"...Carlton has now entered a rebuilding phase. If that be the case, then CD, RG and BA would have all been mildly encouraged.
"Iraq is caught in a complex and crucial contest of values and ideals."
That is simply not funny, when discussing a vigorous strategic offensive to which you committed this country and which has changed Iraq from a badly governed country into an ungovernable country.
You then said:
"It is a contest between the majority of Iraqis who want to establish a viable democracy and a violent and determined minority who want to install a new dictator or a Taliban–style regime in Iraq."
This is a flawed and narrow perspective. You are, as has been the case throughout, isolating the local, key issues from the broader perspective of which this is a part. As the President of Egypt recenlty observed, terrorism arises from disadvantage. You give no sign of recognising that the problem of terrorism is one which will remain for so long as there is an insensitivity of the wealthy and massive consumers on the planet for the plight of the poor. This again may sound wet and simplistic to you, but it is a superior moral framework for addressing the whole array of intercultural, political and economic issues than is your 'war on terrorism' which has the intellectual sopphistication of a campaign against the scourge of thumbsucking by a Herodian hunt to lop off first born thumbs.
"It is a contest of will – as the terrorists and insurgents try to use fear and intimidation to drive the forces that support the democratisation of Iraq – the coalition forces - out of Iraq."
Well, it's certainly headed that way, but whose fault is this? It has all the prospect of horror for people in Iraq as was the case for the people in the middle ground in El Salvador in the 1980s, as the right and the left tore away the middle ground and all social decency. For much of this you have to accept responsibility. Don't consider problems dealing with prisoners in Iraq as anomalous. First, you should have known that war is an inexact instrument, that the choice by statesmen of war as an instrument inevitably leads to war, as Clausewitz observed a very long time ago, driving out policy and pursuing its own ends. And also, let's not forget that a lot of the US military is drawn from those sectors of society that also feed the world's largest prison system, where two million are in gaol and rape and horror are routine and unremarked.
"Ultimately, it is a contest of conviction – whether the free world is prepared to protect and encourage democratic values. Those values Australians cherish – tolerance, opportunity, security and respect for one’s neighbours."
This is a fraudulent logical short circuit. You make a poor ally to the Unites States. Having spent some time in government with responsibility for nurturing the alliance relationship, I know that there are other ways to be an ally. The analogy for your conduct of blind support for US policy in the present instance is the child who follows the raging offended patriarch into violent retribution for offense, rage directed at targets of opportunity, rage and passion based on notions of unchallengability. You are entering the Nazi soldier's defence, of doing your duty.
You have no right to claim ownership of 'those values' above, when you have done so much to jeopardise them and in fact you in so many ways oppose tolerance and learn little about the sensitivities and moral integrity of other countries. As I indicated in writing to you in early 2003 to say that this war would not work, the situation resembles World War I more than Vietnam, with the absence of non-military strategic thought, the expectation of early victory, the progressive consumption of more and more resources, the resort to entrapping alliance, the castigation of opposing thought, the militarisation of the nation, the terrible horror that the adopted strategy is fatally flawed, leads only to exhaustion, will pull down the world economy.
This is your legacy, Prime Minister. You will, sometime, have to say sorry.