Friday 24 January 2003

Little support for war on Iraq as troops depart

Although, according to the latest opinion polls, only 6% of Australians support sending troops to join an invasion of Iraq without United Nations approval, yesterday families and friends farewelled 350 members of the Australian Defence Force who have been ordered to join US and British forces outside Iraq. Many more are scheduled to follow.

An A.C. Nielsen poll commissioned for the publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers and a Newspoll conducted for SBS World News yielded similar results: around 60% support Australian involvement as part of a UN approved force while 30% are opposed to war with Iraq with or without UN sanction. Interestingly an Ipsos-Reid poll for The Globe and Mail indicated that a similar proportion of Canadians (64%) “believe Canada should provide military assistance for any military action against Iraq only if the United Nations—and not just the U.S.—decides it is necessary.”

Although I don’t believe in poll-driven government, I hate the fact that our armed forces are being committed to a cause for which there is so little support. It’s gratifying that so many Australians see through the Bush administration’s empty rhetoric about the dangers posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, with 42% seeing North Korea as a greater threat to world peace (compared to 46% for Iraq). One wonders how Australians might have answered the poll question to which 36% of Canadians replied that they “regarded the Bush Administration as the greatest single threat to world peace, ahead of Iraq, North Korea or the al-Qaeda terrorist network.” Must one be blind or merely dull-witted not to see the differing US attitudes to Iraq and North Korea in terms of the presence or lack of oil?

Prime Minister John Howard’s promise that there “would be no commitment to war before parliament resumed” on February 4 must be weighed against the minisule chance of the troops being recalled now that they have been committed, given the Bush administration’s clear determination to attack Iraq regardless of any decisions made by the UN.

Opposition Leader Simon Crean—whom I’ve always regarded as a colorless Labor party apparatchik whose only skill lies in being all things to all voters—miraculously discovered some political courage and made an apparently well-received speech to the departing personnel in which he criticized the military commitment:

“I don’t support the deployment of our troops in these circumstances. I do support our troops and always will, and that distinction is fundamentally important,” Mr Crean told the troops on the HMAS Kanimbla.

“The men and women of our fighting forces in a democracy are expected unquestionably to follow the orders of the government of the day.

“You don’t have a choice and my argument is with the Government, not you.”

It came as a relief that Mr Crean implicitly mapped out the boundaries under which anti-war protests should be conducted. Writing in the Your Say section of the Sydney Morning Herald, Jason Briggs was more direct:

Whatever the course of public opinion takes, on the issue of ADF personnel being deployed to Iraq, or Australian involvement in a military action against Iraq. One thing needs to be kept in mind at all times and this certainly applies to the growing number, of anti war protestors. DO NOT SPIT ON, THROW PAINT AT, VERBALLY ABUSE, ASSAULT OR CONDUCT ANY ACTIVITY THAT HUMILATES, INTIMIDATES OR PERSECUTES RETURNED SERVICE MEN [and] WOMEN. Just as Anti-war protestors did during the Vietnam conflict.

I’ve already written about my ambivalence towards our involvement in the Vietnam war:

Out of curiosity I went to an anti-war rally but the protestors were contemptible compared to my comrades in the regiment and the professional soldiers who’d trained us. Despite my belief that the war was unjust and futile, I found it impossible to discard the loyalty I felt towards the Australians fighting against the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong, with whom I now also identified.

I hope as the anti-war protests build, that those opposed to the war realize—as those who protested against the Vietnam war did not—that in a democracy the armed forces are under civilian control and are obliged to follow the orders of the legally elected government. Many protestors would also do well to remember that this is the same ADF—with the same traditions and military doctrine—upon whom they bestowed a rapturous welcome upon the return of the troops from assisting in the liberation of East Timor and its move towards independence, a commitment that happened to meet with their approval.

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The poll I'd like to see, Jonathon, that you never will, is what percentage of American service men and women do NOT want to participate in a war that makes little or no sense to them.

Maybe they joined the army because they saw a cool commercial on TV (, guys climbing mountains and driving tanks and painting their faces and other fun stuff you get to do on the weekends. Or maybe it was a way to get through college.

How many men and women don't want to be there either but just deal with it because they can't exactly say "no."

Posted by RKB on 25 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

d-Oh! The URL should be just -- with a randomly featured young, hip, cool, attractive "army of one."

Don't forget to check out the game, too, to lay the foundation for future marketing campaigns (Think you're good at the game, let's see if you're man enough to try the real thing): .

Posted by RKB on 25 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Dear Troops,
hello my name is sara linderman wanted to write to you and give you my blessings and hope. Im only 13 and i think that you guys are my heros I wish you the best of luck keep doing what your doing and the outcome will be great ! Dont worry about anything just do your line of duty your familys are here with us waiting for you safe returen
P.S- YOur The Best!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by sara linderman on 21 March 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I notice that leads to

Posted by John Bentham on 24 March 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I understand the concerns about going into the conflict in Iraq. However, the fact is the conflict is going on. What needs to happen is to show support for Americans, British Troops, Australian Troops and all others involved and pray for their safety! Nothing will be accomplished by continuing to fight the fact. Those that wish to debate human rights please feel free to interview someone currently living in Iraq, or has recently left, and then tell me how you feel about the Saddam regime then. I find it strange the many can jump on the bandwagon and complain about human rights in other countries (hatred towards women , extreme poverity with the leader of a country having 90% of the wealth, Olympic athletes beaten and killed because they did not win, etc.) yet so many are against creating an opportunity for this to no longer exist in Iraq. Why is that?


U.S. Navy Veteran


Posted by Greg L on 24 March 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Hi my name is Lori. I wanted to tel all the troops out there to hang in there and that I know that you can do it. I feel so sorry that you are away from you familes but this is what most of you wanted to do, to fight (and win). There is a lot of stuff on tv that has Saddam saying we are going to loose but I know we are going to fght and win. Thank you!!!

Posted by Lori B. on 26 March 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I just want to say that I support all our troops in Iraq. God Bless you all and I wish you a safe return!

Posted by Kaitlin Crunk on 3 April 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I realy was looking for a way to support our soldiers in Iraq. I'm a 'flambing 'liberal, but I support them in what they are attempting to do. Freedom rules!

Bush bungled the other way , call that diplocemy. I support our troops as well as the British troops who provided us with critical help in a time of dire need. You didn't allow correstions in spelling, eg diplomacy et al.
Your shortcoming, not mine. Reply, anyway. I need this as much as you do.


I'm a 'dyed in the wool' pacifest. After all I have said, I can't believe war and the loss of HUMAN lives, theirs and ours, (they are one and the same) is the best way to accomplish peace.

I'm almost afraid to send this because, for the first time in my history, and I'm almost 58, I'm afraid I'm being monitered in the USA (I'm concerned about freedom and rights) but, I must practice what I believe I have this day, April 5, 2003,

A 60's Child


God help you, future Americans. I love you. I love diplomacy as the highest standard in a true democratic world among other things, but couldn,t correct it. I hope you can. Good luck

Mispelled words, I couldn't correct ( call me anal:

realy meaning really
'flambing 'liberal meaning flaming (not sure)
diplocemy: diplomacy...important, but mispelled
I even spelled 'corrections' wrong. No wonder you can't tolerate Americans. However, we too found a freedom. Thanks.


Posted by JudybForrester on 7 April 2003 (Comment Permalink)

[Removed (spam)]

Posted by ndge on 13 October 2003 (Comment Permalink)

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Posted by alol on 15 October 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour