Cracks within

Statistically insignificant they may be, but the resignations of a few politicians and diplomats in the US, UK and Australia puncture more holes in the dubious claims of the warmongers

Why I had to leave the cabinet


March 19, 2003

I have resigned from the cabinet because I believe that a fundamental principle of Labour’s foreign policy has been violated. If we believe in an international community based on binding rules and institutions, we cannot simply set them aside when they produce results that are inconvenient to us.

I cannot defend a war with neither international agreement nor domestic support. I applaud the determined efforts of the prime minister and foreign secretary to secure a second resolution. Now that those attempts have ended in failure, we cannot pretend that getting a second resolution was of no importance.

In recent days, France has been at the receiving end of the most vitriolic criticism. However, it is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany is opposed to us. Russia is opposed to us. Indeed, at no time have we signed up even the minimum majority to carry a second resolution. We delude ourselves about the degree of international hostility to military action if we imagine that it is all the fault of President Chirac.

The harsh reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading member. Not NATO. Not the EU. And now not the Security Council.

To end up in such diplomatic isolation is a serious reverse. Only a year ago we and the US were part of a coalition against terrorism which was wider and more diverse than I would previously have thought possible. History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition.

Britain is not a superpower. Our interests are best protected, not by unilateral action, but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules. Yet, tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened. The European Union is divided. The Security Council is in stalemate. Those are heavy casualties of war without a single shot yet being fired.

The threshold for war should always be high. None of us can predict the death toll of civilians in the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq. But the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at the very least in the thousands. Iraq’s military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war. Ironically, it is only because Iraq’s military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate invasion. And some claim his forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the basis that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a serious threat. Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of that term — namely, a credible device capable of being delivered against strategic city targets. It probably does still have biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions. But it has had them since the Eighties when the US sold Saddam the anthrax agents and the then British government built his chemical and munitions factories.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years and which we helped to create? And why is it necessary to resort to war this week while Saddam’s ambition to complete his weapons programme is frustrated by the presence of UN inspectors?

I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to disarm, and our patience is exhausted. Yet, it is over 30 years since Resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply. What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops to action in Iraq.

I believe the prevailing mood of the British public is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator. But they are not persuaded he is a clear and present danger to Britain. They want the inspections to be given a chance. And they are suspicious that they are being pushed hurriedly into conflict by a US administration with an agenda of its own. Above all, they are uneasy at Britain taking part in a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies. It has been a favourite theme of commentators that the House of Commons has lost its central role in British politics. Nothing could better demonstrate that they are wrong than for Parliament to stop the commitment of British troops to a war that has neither international authority nor domestic support.

(The Guardian, UK)
(The writer is a former British foreign secretary and till March 17 was the leader 
of the House of Commons)

Anti-war official rocks Australian govt.


March 12, 2003

CANBERRA:The Australian government has been stunned by the resignation of one of its senior intelligence analysts who argues that, based on US and other intelligence information he has seen, there is currently no justification for a war on Iraq.

"I’m convinced a war against Iraq at this time would be wrong. For a start, Iraq does not pose a security threat to the US, or to the UK or Australia, or to any other country, at this point in time," former Office of National Assessments intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie said, announcing his resignation late on Wednesday evening.

"I just don’t believe that a war at this time would be worth the risk,’’ he said.

A critical factor behind Wilkie’s resignation was claims made by US secretary of state Colin Powell to the UN Security Council purporting that a link exists between Al Qaeda and Iraq. "As far as I’m aware there was no hard evidence and there is still no hard evidence that there is any active co-operation between Iraq and Al Qaeda,’’ Wilkie told Australia Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) television.

Three years ago, Wilkie, a 41-year-old career military officer, was seconded to the Office of National Assessments, which prepares briefings for the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from a wide range of intelligence sources.

Wilkie has worked on global terrorism and transnational issues including Afghanistan and the likely humanitarian consequences of a war on Iraq.

Wilkie describes his resignation as the "biggest decision I think I’ve ever made in my life’’ but felt compelled to act by what he thought is the prospect of a high risk of humanitarian crisis from any US-led attack on Iraq.

"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 or even more, 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,’’ he said.

The director general of the Office of National Assessments, Kim Jones, sought to downplay the significance of Wilkie’s resignation. "The officer concerned was a member of our transnational issues branch. He normally worked on illegal immigration issues. The transnational issues branch does not deal with issues related to Iraq,’’ Jones said, reading from a statement.

Speaking to journalists in Jakarta late Wednesday evening, minister of foreign affairs Alexander Downer, also sought to dismiss Wilkie’s resignation. "Mr Wilkie has come to the view that he doesn’t support the Australian government’s policy, and I think in those circumstances he’s done the honourable thing and resigned.’’

As one of the few ex-military officers that work at the Office of National Assessments, Wilkie was identified as one of the people who would work in the national intelligence watch office if a war in Iraq eventuated. In preparation for that role he had access to all intelligence information flowing into the agency on the topic.

Only hours before Wilkie’s resignation, Prime Minister John Howard sought to justify Australia’s support for the US war on Iraq on the basis of countering groups like Al Qaeda.

"To me, the ultimate nightmare of the modern world is that chemical and biological weapons will get into the hands of terrorists, and believe me, they will use them. They will not care about the cost (of what) they do to the countries against, or the peoples against which they are used,’’ Howard said in Sydney.

Wilkie believes that a war on Iraq may well turn out to be counter-productive. "In fact, a war is the exact course of action most likely to cause Saddam to do exactly what we’re trying to prevent. I believe it’s the course of action that is most likely to cause him to lash out recklessly, to use weapons of mass destruction and to possibly play a terrorism card,’’ he said.

Wilkie hopes that his actions will force Howard to rethink its unquestioning support for a unilateral strike against Iraq. "If my action today and over the next couple of days, can make the Australian government rethink its position, and maybe take a more sensible approach to developing its policy on Iraq, I think it’s been worthwhile,’’ he said.

In the wake of mass rallies in mid-February in which well over half a million citizens publicly demonstrated against the war, Wilkie’s resignation has demonstrated the depth of concern amongst the normally conservative ranks of the intelligence and foreign affairs establishment.

Former Office of National Assessments analyst and now the head of the Global Terrorism Center at Monash University, David Wright Neville, believes there is great concern about Howard’s policy in intelligence and military circles.

’’Speaking to former colleagues, former contacts both in the Office of National Assessments and other elements of the intelligence community, (there) are widespread concerns that are similar to Andrew’s about the direction in which the government is taking us,’’ he said.

With opposition to Australia’s deployment of 2,000 personnel to the Middle East growing, opposition political parties and the peace movement sense that Howard is now becoming electorally very vulnerable.

An opinion poll commissioned by the public relations company that works for the Labour Party and released on Wednesday revealed that 59 per cent of Australians oppose a unilateral attack on Iraq. However, a UN-endorsed attack was supported by 64 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed.

According to opposition foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, Wilkie’s resignation ‘’torpedoes the credibility’’ of Howard. (Courtesy: IPS)

Second US diplomat resigns

March 10, 2003

A veteran US diplomat resigned today in protest over US policy toward Iraq, becoming the second career foreign service officer to do so in the past month.

John Brown, who joined the State Department in 1981, said he resigned because he could not support Washington’s Iraq policy, which he said was fomenting a massive rise in anti-US sentiment around the world.

In a resignation letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Brown said he agreed with J Brady Kiesling, a diplomat at the US embassy in Athens who quit in February over President George W Bush’s apparent intent on fighting Iraq.

"I am joining my colleague John Brady Kiesling in submitting my resignation from the Foreign Service — effective immediately — because I cannot in good conscience support President Bush’s war plans against Iraq," he said.

"Throughout the globe the United States is becoming associated with the unjustified use of force," Brown said in the letter, a copy of which he sent to AFP.

"The president’s disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century," he said.

"I joined the Foreign Service because I love our country," Brown said. "Respectfully, Mr Secretary, I am now bringing this calling to a close, with a heavy heart but for the same reason that I embraced it."

Two senior State Department officials confirmed that Powell had received the letter from Brown, who had served at the US embassies in London, Prague, Krakow, Kiev, Belgrade and Moscow before being assigned to be a diplomat-in-residence at Georgetown University in Washington. n

(Wire Services) (

Archived from Communalism Combat, March 2003 Year 9  No. 85, Cover Story 11



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