A sitting senator, a former foreign minister, a retired diplomat and Colin Powell’s former chief of staff told an anti-war meeting in a Sydney town hall that Australians were being dragged without their consent into a U.S. war on China and it has to stop.
A week after Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese agreed in a meeting in San Diego with President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to spend A$368 billion to buy nuclear submarines from the two countries, anti-war activists met in a sweltering Sydney town hall on Sunday on the 20th anniversary of the start of the war against Iraq to hear why the submarine deal is a disaster for Australia that must be stopped.
Greens Party Senator David Shoebridge, former foreign minister Bob Carr, retired diplomat Alison Broinowski and Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkinson (via video hook-up from Virginia), told the rally that an aggressive United States was dragging Australia into an unnecessary conflict with its main trading partner, China, a country which posed no threat.
Albanese agreed to the deal with no oversight from Parliament and without the consent of the Australian people, the rally was told.
Below are videos of each speaker’s presentation in the order in which they were delivered with written excerpts of their speeches. (Apologies for the quality of the sound at certain points due to poor acoustics in the hall.)
Col. Larry Wilkinson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff (interviewed by journalist and Australia’s first national primetime news anchorwoman Mary Kostakidis).
We didn’t even hear those voices [opposing the invasion of Iraq before it was launched.]
They were not offered to us. And a lot of people don’t understand how cloistered a secretary of state or a secretary of defense or indeed a president is and surrounded by their lackeys, as it were, to keep them informed in a way that they wish them to be informed. And breaking out of that is difficult.
Now, Powell had an extensive network of people on the outside, as it were, and he consulted that network a lot of times. So we knew there was controversy over whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction. But even someone like Hans Blix [head of U.N. weapons inspections] admitted that there might be. And so did the entire apparatus surrounding 16 then-U.S. intelligence entities and France and Israel and Germany, whom we didn’t find out until late in the summer of that year, that they had been cherry picked, so to speak, by George Tenet, the director of Central Intelligence.
But it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to get to the truth. And people also forget, particularly in my country and I’m not making excuses here, but they forget that all the members of the United States Congress had accepted the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, which was pretty firm on weapons of mass destruction.
They all accepted it with one or two who let us know that they were doubtful about it. Of course, many of them became doubtful about it after they were proved no WMD. But that didn’t do any good at that particular time. They all accepted that National Intelligence Estimate and Powell’s presentation at the United Nations was based principally and primarily on that. So it was a difficult time for us to sort things out.
Powell tried and I’ll give you one concrete example. He grabbed me one day. First time he’d ever done that, he physically grabbed me and pushed me into a room off the spaces where we were working, closed the door, and he said, We’re alone in here right? And I said, Well, it is the C.I.A. boss. And he didn’t even smile.
He just began to talk to me in a very strong way, saying he wanted to pull all the business about torture, his phrase, out of his presentation. And what he meant was essentially the most powerful element for a domestic audience. Saddam Hussein’s connections with al Qaeda. Right after 9/11. I said, good, let’s do it. He looked rather surprised.
I think he thought I was going to object. I didn’t. I thought it stunk. I thought it was terrible stuff. It didn’t have any concreteness to it. It was all circumstantial. So we took it all out. Well, George Tenet and John McLaughlin, the two primary intelligence people there, discovered we’d done that. And we went back into rehearsal that afternoon.
And Tenet tells Powell, we’ve just learned this, almost a direct quote. I was sitting to Powell’s left. We’ve just learned from an interrogation of a high level al Qaeda operative of significant contacts between the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi secret police and al Qaeda, to include training al Qaeda operatives and how to use chemical and biological weapons. Powell turned to me and said, LW, put it back in. We later learned four or five months later that it was Sheikh al Libi, that he was tortured in Egypt when he revealed this information and that within weeks of the torture ceasing, he recanted and said he would have done anything to stop the torture.
And we put arguably the most powerful element for the domestic audience, at least in the back end of the presentation about Saddam’s connections with Al Qaida. It was totally false.
As to [Powell’s] resigning, it would have made no difference. Condi Rice would have become secretary of state. There would have been a week in the press and that would have been it. And Powell would have been a footnote to history and we would have gone on to war. Now, it would have been a lot more comfortable for me because I would have rather been a footnote to history than complicit the way I was, both about U.S. foreign policy more generally and the way you just said, that when we want to go to war with someone, we invented a reason.
On US Empire
We have been embarked on that imperial route, our security and foreign policy today is to secure the imperial writ. It’s to make sure the United States has no challengers in the world. If you read the National Security Strategy we put out in George W. Bush’s administration, you will see that we say no one will challenge us and we’re perfectly prepared to use military power to stop that challenge from coming.
And many of the neoconservatives who crafted much of this strategy will tell you that if they see someone in the world who even vaguely looks like they might challenge our power locally, regionally or internationally, we’re going to take them out. And usually we’re going to use military power to do that. Now that Imperium is coming to some screeching halt in some ways right now, because we can’t field the forces that we need to enforce it.
And by that, I mean the all volunteer force concept is falling apart. We can’t find young people to serve in the military. That’s the end of it. Very difficult times right now for the Army in particular, but for the other services, too. So what do we do? We look for surrogates in the world to help us and the latest surrogate, of course, is Zelensky and Ukraine, where we are bleeding Ukrainians in order to maintain American hegemony over Europe, in part in order to make our defense contractors incredibly wealthy.
They already were, but they’re getting even more obscenely wealthy. And to keep the war going and to build a new Cold War environment, not just with Russia, which is quite adequately done now, thank you very much. All to the elimination of the last vestige of nuclear arms control in the world. A very dangerous situation, but also with China and in the process foreseeing an axis to develop between China and Russia.
So this is a business of the United States not understanding the changes in the world, not wanting to understand the changes, not wanting those changes and therefore fighting it. And it’s going to bring all of its allies that it can into that fight. And Taiwan is the battleground in many respects. The fact that we have taken what was strategic ambiguity and had worked for more than 40 years, that is to say we recognize it was only China, and China agreed, that because we did that, they would not use force to reunify with Taiwan.
And that’s the simplicity of that agreement. We have now put it out as strategic clarity. We will defend Taiwan. And by the way, we’ll bring the Kiwis and the Aussies and the Japanese and the Koreans and anybody else that wants into that fight kicking and screaming if necessary. That’s our strategy. Now. It is ultimately a disaster in the making because any war with China, whether it be over Taiwan, in the South China Sea, over the Philippines, whatever it might be, any war that devolved into a real shooting war would be a nuclear war by the human race.
I had a lot of respect for Australia and New Zealand. Now it looks as if it’s more like being a lackey. And so I think [Paul] Keating is right when he says this is not a position Australia should be in. And let’s just face it for a moment.
China, as I understand it, and as the statistics show me, is the number one trading partner for Australia. China is the number one trading partner for a lot of other countries in the world. So why would one want to alienate the number one trading partner and why would Australia think that China was intent on coming down and wreaking havoc in its country?
And now we want Australia to help us smack them. Well, for Australia, that’s stupid. Basically what Australia should do is operate on its own self interest, like every other country in the world, cooperating where cooperation helps, like climate change and nuclear weapons and getting them back under control again economically and financially, perhaps, maybe corporate wise, market wise.
But in terms of sealing off the Pacific as a U.S. fiefdom with its slaves coming along beside it, that’s not the way we should be operating. And I would think Australia would want to help get the United States as much as possible out of this stature, out of this security and foreign policy that demands bombs, bullets and bayonets rather than words and diplomacy.
Bob Carr, former Australian foreign minister.
America’s role is to see that no power can challenge its primacy in the world. And that was the spirit that drove the invasion of Iraq after America’s win over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Neoconservatives formed the doctrine to guarantee that America would never be challenged and any nation that sought to would be reduced to rubble.
And that’s the focus of the U.S. policy today, to respond to the challenges that China represents to American dominance, leadership and primacy. In 2017, I noticed a shift in what was being said by Prime Minister [Malcolm] Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about China.
There is a tradition in Australian diplomacy that goes back to maybe six prime ministers from 1949 to 1966. On two occasions, Prime Minister Robert Menzies visited Washington and was asked to take a stand on Taiwan. One was Eisenhower. President Eisenhower was saying we fear there might be a war.
The longest serving Liberal Prime minister went to Washington and advised against it and said Australia would not be involved.
When President Kennedy invited Australia to lead a community of nations that included Taiwan, Menzies said, we won’t lead the new community of nations in Asia to support Taiwan.
Why not return to that decision? We’re not going to be committed to an entirely unnecessary war over sovereignty in Taiwan.
Alison Broinowski, former Australian diplomat.
Twenty years ago we all marched. Did they take any notice? Never again.
We are here to recall one of Australia’s worst days.
The day when we started a war of aggression. We joined a small coalition to invade Iraq. We left that country in physical, social and economic ruin. No Australian government has inquired into why we did it. We could do it again.
We don’t want another expeditionary war. A war against China would be catastrophic and we would lose it with or without the United States or Japan. We have allowed the United States unfettered use of our territory for military installations and for nuclear capable B-52 bombers aimed at China and making Australia a target.
Provocatively, Australia will buy five nuclear powered submarines, Tomahawk cruise missiles and battle tanks, not for our defense, but to deter China.
We are standing here to demand accountability from the executive government to the Parliament, by reforming the power of the executive to send Australian forces to an aggressive war on the decision of a prime minister alone.
And by reforming the convention that the executive doesn’t require reporting the reasons for our wars and their outcomes, and by requiring that the grounds for a war be spelled out clearly and in totality to a Parliament.
We are standing here to call on those who run our bipartisan foreign and defense policies to do three things: one, cancel the AUKUS agreement and observe our nuclear nonproliferation obligations; … two, restate our commitment to international law and treaties that prohibit the threat or use of force against other countries; and three, we need to advise our allies that Australia will not join a U.S. coalition for war against China.
David Shoebridge, a federal senator from the Greens Party.
The was no democratic oversight, no asking of the Australian people, no permission from Parliament, and all based on the lie [of a Chinese threat] delivered to us by our U.S. overlords.
How is it that even the small amount of information we’re now getting only came out after the handshake, after the deal was signed? That’s not democracy.
We’re now at the 20th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq and we must learn from what happened. We owe that to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who lost their lives as a direct result of the violence. The over one million Iraqis that are still displaced as refugees, and you have a government that still can’t provide their basic materiel needs for basic security, all from a war of aggression that our government took part in based on a lie.
Unless this deal is reversed, Prime Minister [Anthony] Albanese will go down in history as the prime minister who drove us towards a war we never chose. At least he’ll go down in history provided there’s someone around to actually write the history because … this war might well escalate into a global catastrophe.
It is a lie to claim that these nuclear submarines are about defending Australia. They are about projecting lethal force into the South China Sea. They are designed specifically to threaten China. It is increasing regional tensions and furthering a regional arms race.
Australia’s international posture is largely driven by the Australian Defence Forces and the global weapons manufacturers. We will not be able to deploy any of these nuclear submarines without the express prior permission of the United States. And we have the defense minister saying this is about our sovereignty. It is laughable. It is utterly damaging to our national interests. We are literally becoming a self-funded, sub-unit of the United States military.
War is not inevitable and we need to resist it more now than ever. And we need to build a peace movement and link together the millions of Australians who do not want to go to war.
The New York Times ultimately apologized for its warmongering in the lead up to the Iraq invasion. We need an urgent reminder of that lesson. We don’t want another apology.