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a bad hand? « Previous | |Next »
February 13, 2007

It's about an election isn't it. The trans-Pacific stoush between John Howard and US presidential candidate Barack Obama over comments by the latter about the US withdrawing from Iraq in this speech looks to be a desperate attempt to play the wedge to keep the Iraq issue alive as an election issue. Howard' strategy with his ‘helping al-Quaida’ smear is designed to retain the core conservative support around national security at a time when Iraq is increasingly being seen as an unpopular war in Australia.

politicsofIraqA.jpg
Bill Leak

But Howard looks defensive, sounds shrill and acts rattled. Howard has in effect launched a broadbrush attack against the Democratic Party, which has control of the Congress thanks to the popular vote against the Bush administration and its Iraq war a few months ago. The Democrats may very well have control of the White House in two years' time. So it's not about the Australia US Alliance--it's about an alliance with the Republicans. No doubt Howard will turn the attack onto the ALP in the near future.

I cannot see how Howard's partisan attack is about defending Australia's broader national interest. Howard has studiously avoided even the slightest hint of criticism of US foreign policy even the torture side of things. Howard's argument, that withdrawal of allied forces from Iraq by March 2008 as advocated by Senator Obama would be a victory for al-Qaeda, ignores that the insurgency is homegrown and primarily run by Sunnis, fighting to retain their power in Shi'ite Iraq and the American occupation. This quite different from the war on terror. US military officials say that it is the Shi'ite militias, particularly the Sadrist Mehdi Army that are the greatest security threat in Iraq".

Howard's other argument, that 'If America is defeated in Iraq, the consequences for the West will be catastrophic", universalizes a specific situation: a civil war in Iraq between Shiite and Sunni. Many Sunni areas in Baghdad are virtual "no go" areas in the capital that are "off-limits" for American and even Iraqi soldiers. The response to the US clear, hold, and build" stratregy in Baghdad by the guerrillas is to melt into the population and awaited new opportunities to attack the military occupation. The effect of the US strategy is demolished buildings, deserted neighborhoods, and sectarian torture on both sides.

Howard and Downer speak about destabilising and destroying Iraq in the future tense as though they are oblivious to the daily carnage from the civil war going on there.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:29 AM |