Friday, April 18, 2003
Australia criticised for withdrawing from Iraq.
The early withdrawal is believed to be in defiance of US wishes that some soldiers be kept in place to maintain order.
"It's one thing to have a short, sharp, highly professional, highly effective contribution when it's really hot," Mr Howard told a Perth radio station. "It's another thing to have a very long commitment of a large number of regulars."
The alacrity of Australia's withdrawal stands in stark contrast to the government's enthusiasm to deploy forces.
The EU external affairs commissioner Chris Patten, in Australia for trade talks, launched a thinly veiled attack on the policy in a speech in Canberra.
"We've started something in Iraq which doesn't finish with the disappearence of the Republican Guard," he said. "The best response to those who have criticised the war would be to ensure that we played a part in creating something a great deal better."
Patten's right, of course, except Howard hasn't said anything about not playing that part. From the BBC:
"I don't think Australia should be in a situation where we have a large number of peacekeepers... simply because we have responsibilities of that kind going on in our region," Mr Howard said.
Australian forces are already involved in peacekeeping duties in the former Indonesian territory of East Timor as well as in other Asian hotspots.
But Mr Howard did say that Australia would provide "niche" areas of post-war support to Iraq, including military air traffic controllers and trained specialists to help in the search for weapons of mass destruction.
Which, to me, sounds like we will indeed be making a contribution to post-war Iraq. Anyway, we were small fry in this war; the American forces outnumbered us 150 to one all along. It was their goddamned war in the first place, let them do most of the cleaning up after it...