IRAQ 20 YEARS: Iraq Invasion, AUKUS Blasted in Rousing Sydney Rally

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.

Crowd at Marrickville Town Hall anti-war rally on Sunday. (FrontYard Films)

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. 

14 comments for “IRAQ 20 YEARS: Iraq Invasion, AUKUS Blasted in Rousing Sydney Rally

  1. Paula
    March 22, 2023 at 00:02

    Absolutely fasinating along with the Biden/Hunter corruption gaining ground. World wakeup seems inevitable. Certainly hope so.

  2. Eric Arthur Blair
    March 21, 2023 at 17:26

    Some probable events give us hope.
    The impending collapse of the US banking and finance Ponzi schemes will sharply focus US attention inwards, although there is also a risk it could be used as a trigger for the US to wage war, to distract their gormless population.
    Secondly the impending collapse of the German economy due to the US engineered curtailment of Russian cheap fuel and misbegotten sanctions against Russia may serve as an example to Australia and other foolish poodle states that blindly following the US agenda will lead to one’s own destruction.
    However I admit that sane behaviour is not exactly the “forte” of the collective west, more accurately characterised by violent and bigoted group madness and rank hypocrisy. That includes Japan, also governed by fascists, the ideological descendents of Japanese WW2 fascists and useful idiots of the USA.

  3. Kiwiantz62
    March 21, 2023 at 14:40

    NZ won’t be dumb enough to be dragged into this insane US Taiwan War project, we are Nuclear free, we don’t allow Nuclear armed or powered Vessels in our Waters, it’s a longstanding stance & a non starter so we are out! NZ will evidently join BRICS + as this is where the Future lies, not with the Bullying, coercive & Warmongering, murderous Mafia looting US Empire! If Australia is suicidal enough to be on the wrong side of History & go down with the US Empire, which is in obvious signs of collapse & will disappear off the World’s stage taking its Vassals like Australia with them, that’s their problem! And not that the US orchestrated Taiwan War is ever going to happen anyway because the US is totally bankrupt, its Financial & Banking system in collapse, discredited & in freefall, the USD is toilet paper & now the US is bogged down & trapped in Ukraine in a a bind, stuck, not in a Chinese finger trap but a Ukrainian one of their own making! Taiwan will be peacefully reintegrated into China without a shot being fired & the inept Americans left floundering like a beached Whale & Australia with it!

  4. robert e williamson jr
    March 21, 2023 at 11:01

    I’ve followed Col. Wilkerson for some time and I’ll take him at his word.

    It’s time to think PEACE.

    Thank CN

  5. Red Star
    March 21, 2023 at 07:08

    Good to see a Green politician showing some integrity, especially in the wake of the German Greens becoming a party of total war.

    Sad to say, the England & Wales Green Party have recently abandoned their opposition to NATO :

    Members of the Green Party of England and Wales have voted to abandon their longstanding position on NATO. Prior to the vote, the party’s policy stated that NATO is “not a sustainable mechanism for maintaining peace in the world”, and said that the Green Party “would take the UK out of NATO”.

    The vote took place at the Greens’ spring conference. In a major about turn, the newly written policy now reads: “NATO has an important role in ensuring the ability of its member states to respond to threats to their security”. It goes on to call for NATO to guarantee a no first use policy on nuclear weapons, commit to upholding human rights in NATO’s actions and to act “solely in defence of member states”.

    The change in the position on NATO was part of a wider rewrite of the party’s policies on peace, security and defence.

    By ditching their commitment to leaving NATO, the Greens in England and Wales now differ in their approach to the Greens in Scotland. The Scottish Green Party has retained its opposition to NATO.

    The English Greens were just about the only viable protest vote for most Brits with a conscience post-Corbyn, so it seems a little strange that they should choose to alienate a potentially large section of the electorally dispossessed. We’ve got plenty of pro-NATO, pro-war parties… we didn’t really need another.

  6. Robyn
    March 20, 2023 at 18:51

    Good to see Australia has one current politician (David Shoebridge, Greens) speaking the truth. The others are a total disgrace.

    Australians – if you’re against AUKUS, please write to your Federal MP. At best you’ll get a self-serving irrelevant response, but they count how many communications they get and whether they are ‘for’ or ‘against’.

    George Galloway has reshuffle of the letters AUKUS to USUKA pronounced You Sucker.

  7. shmutzoid
    March 20, 2023 at 18:46

    Somehow, some way, the veil of ignorance cultivated by an unrelenting propagandistic MSM MUST be broken through by a critical mass of people strong enough to shake political structures. ………. The US is in a death spiral, with only several lackey countries along for the ride, as preparation for war with China are well underway. The US quest for unquestioned global dominance AT ANY EXPENSE is seem more clearly by a majority in the world. ………. In the US, it’s alternate reality, all the time. The degree of disorientation renders a public too confused to see what’s what.

    Finally, any anti-war’ movement of integrity MUST be bound up with an anti-capitalist stance.

    • Bill Todd
      March 21, 2023 at 08:30

      “Finally, any anti-war’ movement of integrity MUST be bound up with an anti-capitalist stance.”

      That kind of knee-jerk ideology is a good way to keep yourself on the fringes.

      • shmutzoid
        March 21, 2023 at 13:25

        What you say is “knee-jerk ideology” is simply the truth of the matter. … If only ‘systemic wars’ rolled off the tongue as easily as ‘systemic racism’, we might think more clearly about militarism and its role in a global capitalist system. These imperialistic wars are for resources, markets and economic advantage. …….Railing against THIS war or THAT war IS less principled than recognizing and striving to end the underlying cause of war, in general. ……….And, besides, what passes for antiwar activism these days is ALREADY on the fringe!
        …….Unless and until humanity reorganizes and transitions to a global eco-socialist form of governance, wars will continue. …Yes, I’m sure it feels quite virtuous to have that “feel good” day being in an antiwar march. …… It’s a lot sexier than contemplating the organization of society and its relationship to war.
        ………. Be it take decades or centuries (if there’s still a livable planet) the capitalist system must come to an end. The world’s resources, including all scientific knowledge, must be shared globally in a humane, equitable, rational and scientific manner. The days of concepts of ‘global hegemony’ must come to an end. ……..
        ……… some very good writing about this can be found at

        • Bill Todd
          March 22, 2023 at 15:53

          Knee-jerk ideology is a convenient way for lazy minds to avoid having to deal with differing opinions on matters they may consider to be ancillary to the main topic.

          “And, besides, what passes for antiwar activism these days is ALREADY on the fringe!”

          Not so much if you include those who don’t care for your exclusive ideological viewpoint. That only relegates you to the fringe of a fringe (but perhaps that’s more comfortable for you even though it does compromise overall effectiveness).

          “some very good writing about this can be found at”

          I’m sure you think so, but my acquaintance with it does not seriously impress me (though I will confess that it’s nowhere nearly as unimpressive as Israeli hasbara rants).

    • Selina Sweet
      March 21, 2023 at 10:31

      Right on shmutzoid!

    • Scared Person
      March 22, 2023 at 02:22

      Have you considered that the anti-war stance is close to majority right now, but is not allowed to be portrayed as such?
      It may even be a majority.
      How would we know?

      The corporate narrative indicates that anti-war perspectives are outliers, but what if we aren’t?
      How would we know?

      We “think” we are a small group, but what if we aren’t really?
      What if we are the majority even, and the media and gov refuse to admit as much? How would we know?

      Lots of love. Capitalism is going to kill us if we can’t stop it.

      “Everybody knows that the dice are loaded, everybody know that the game is rigged” – Leonard Cohen.

    • Scared Person
      March 22, 2023 at 03:06

      Apologies, I ought to have said: how would “we” know… if our views are actually in the majority.
      How would “we” know?
      Would honest polling be published? Would such polling even be done if it is known that the results would be bad for the MIC and the present gov and the one before it?

      • shmutzoid
        March 22, 2023 at 11:26

        As time goes on there’s less and less connection between what the people want and what the political class does. Poll or no poll, studies have shown how little legislative action – locally, statewide and federal- is enacted to actually better some aspect of life for regular folks. ……..And, polls HAVE shown how unpopular militarism is with US voters. It doesn’t seem to have any affect on policy. ————— The MILLIONS who took to the streets around the world protesting the imminent invasion of Iraq made no difference. Twenty years later, the public is only more propagandized, lied to and cultivated to be more apathetic.
        ………….it would take much more than one-day marches here and there to have any impact on US militarism/policy.

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