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Wilkie Resignation « Previous | |Next »
March 12, 2003

The argument of Andrew Wilkie, the former Intellligence officer at Office of National Assessments, goes to the heart of the issue. His arguments confirm the position of this weblog that, as Australia's national interest is not threatened by the Iraqi regime, we have no reason to go to war. It is a US war led by the White House.

Wilkie says that 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; that he could see no evidence that there was a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq; and that war with Iraq increases the risk of the Iraqi regime lashing out recklessly and using weapons of mass destruction and to possibly play a terrorism card.

Wilkie's judgement is that it is a foolish war that could lead to disaster, and that we have good reason to fear the consequences of this war. His reasons would be based on the high-level intelligence assessments which provide the information base for policy formulation by the federal government. It is a judgement based on the view that Saddam Hussein has, and is concealing, weapons of mass destruction to some degree.

Wilkie's argument is a critical response to the arguments used by the Howard Government for why it should go to war with or without UN approval. This raises the question: does the Howard Government have the evidence to justify their position? Or did they make a political decision and then hunt around for the evidence to justify it?

My judgement is the latter was what happened. My reasons? First, The Howard Government has never provided convincing evidence; the evidence that it has used is interptretation of the work of others eg., the inspectors reports to the UN. Secondly, Wilkie confirms the view of a leaked high-level British intelligence report that leaked to the BBC about a month ago they had no evidence of a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. And lastly, the purpose of war constantly changes: from regime change; from it being a part of the war against terror; and then rolling out Western democracy from Iraq through the Arab world.

What we have is a political decision based on the acceptance of American hegemony, pre-emptive strike, preventing China from equalling the US in military power rejection of UN contraints of US power to further national self-interest. The war is being driven by the White House not by the evidence gathered by the US, UK and Australian intelligence community. What evidence there is is being used by the politicians to justify a political agenda.

Wilkie's argument strengthens the case that the threat Iraq does present to the region can be contained. This was the view of the head of the CIA, George Tenet, who told Congress last year that Iraq can be stopped from using its weapons of mass destruction without needing to attack it.

Not that you wil not see the Howard Government ministers respond to Wilkie's arguments. They will dismiss Wilkie as a person of little relevance. They are more concerned with putting out the bushfires and managing the politics than engaging in public debate. All John Howard does is say that he has taken the pro war stance because it is right. Why right?

"We have taken the stance we have because we believe very much that it is right. I don't want this country to live in a world in which rogue states like Iraq are able to retain chemical and biological weapons and continue to aspire to the development of nuclear weapons."

Neither do we John. But that does not address the containment versus war options. For the PM containment is displaced because the choice is either appeasement of Sadam Hussein or disarming Iraq through war. Instead of engaging the PM is just selling a message. Nothing more. Tony Blair, in contrast, is engaging in a public debate with his fellow citizens.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:06 AM | | Comments (5)


I agree that invading Iraq *could* be a foolish war, in that it achieves nothing other than fostering further terrorism. Despite this, I believe that this is a risk we have to live with, and take. And I don't think that Australia's relative bellicosity on this issue makes us more of a target; the main concern of Islamo-fascist suicide agents is to take with them the maximum number of Westerners - period. Civilian vs military, hard-line Australia vs moderate New Zealand - these distinctions are not even on the AQ radar.

Of course, there's almost no evidence of a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. AQ is the epitome of a postmodern global corporation. If it was logistically anchored within any one nation, then its global wings would be severely clipped (think South Korea: similarly psyschopathic, but confined by geography to threatening the West by long-range hardware only).

Finally, re Wilkie, there's a life-goes-on post on his dramatic exit from ONA at http://p& (scoll down to 11 March).

Hi Paul,
many Australians have a life after the public service or academia I suspect.

that does mean that we are reduced to living our private lives with our private opinions.

We are also citizens in a liberal democracy. Citizens are concerned with public things that matter and we enter into ongoing public conversations about those things that matter to us and the nation.

Andrew Wilkie was doing just that --he choose to speak through the media. They picked him up because they reckoned that he had something to say that would further the public debate.

You and I speak publicly through our weblogs and we are mostly ignored by the mainstream media.

Such is life.

AQ are, as Paul says, a kind of postmodern entity but this is not through choice. They would relish the idea of control of an actual state and are always on the lookout. They even have a history of some success, in Sudan and Afghanastan. This is one of the key reasons why a war with Iraq is dangerous in that it may undermine completely already shakey states, making them vulnerable to AQ who, I think, are undoubtedly the biggest threat in the world at the moment. Even Pakistan is at risk.

Rogue states like Iraq are problematic, but the real worry is failed states. Al Qaeda will gladly swap their postmodern status for a stake in a real, flesh-and-blood state.

Tim wrote: “Al Qaeda will gladly swap their postmodern status for a stake in a real, flesh-and-blood state”.

The relationship of Al Qaeda and a state could non-technically be compared to that of a flea to an unkempt dog – with the state being the powerless host. Al Qaeda lacks the necessary governmental apparatus to set up even the most repressive of dictatorship.
Thus, Af’stan under the Taliban lacked any effective border (customs and immigration) controls, which lead to the strange sight of new, hi-tech TVs being smuggled on the backs of donkeys at 20,000, from Af’stan (where there was minimal demand for TVs at the time) into Pakistan.

Likewise, the highly-dispersed, underground structure of Al Qaeda does not permit the essential tool of social control for a repressive regime (such as Iraq) – secret police. Despite first appearances, Al Qaeda is not some kind of roaming dictatorship-in-exile – if Al Qaeda were a government, they would necessarily be an unpopular oligarchy: “party” membership is clearly quite selective.

Finally, Al Qaeda most pointedly lacks any state-running capacities in the area of Treasury. Like the most pampered of Gen X’rs in the West, Al Qaeda are charoity cases living on credit cards (literally or figuratively) that are generously, dutifully and regularly topped up.

Well, most of this is true, but so what? They could settle for effective control of a state that had most of this stuff in place. This was briefly the case with Sudan. But don't take my word for it: read the experts. I'd suggest Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon's book Age of Scred Terror. Former NSC employees, they set the case out quite compellingly.