Thursday, July 05, 2007

Howard admits to killing Iraqis for oil security

July 5, 2007: Despite the denials of 2003, the Howard Government has now admitted that oil security is indeed a major factor in Australia's perpetual military involvement in Iraq. Defence Minister Brendan Nelson says oil was a factor in Australia's contribution to the extremely unpopular war. He said "energy security" in the Middle East would be crucial to the nation's future. Dr Nelson said defence was about protecting the economy.

Dr Nelson also said it was important to support the "prestige" of the US and UK...

"The entire (Middle East) region is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world. Australians and all of us need to think well what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq?" said Dr Nelson.

In a major speech outlining the Government's defence priorities, Mr Howard said Australian troops need to stay in Iraq to ensure a continued supply of oil, as well as to assist the United States.

In 2003, as Australia followed the US invasion into Iraq, Mr Howard told Australians it was because Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction".

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said the conflict had killed 600,000 Iraqis while pushing their country into civil war, jeopardising global oil supplies and strengthening Iran's threat to Iraq. Mr Rudd said: "When Mr Howard was asked back in 2003 whether this war had anything to do with oil, Mr Howard said in no way did it have anything to do with oil. This Government simply makes it up as it goes along on Iraq."

As a "magnet, inspiration and training ground for international jihadists", the Iraq war has boosted Australia up the ranks of countries targeted by terrorism, Mr Rudd said. It had been a mistake to send troops into Iraq, he said.

"Australia's involvement in the Iraq war continues to make Australia a greater terrorism target than we'd otherwise be. The uncomfortable fact for Australia is that we have now become a greater terrorist target as a consequence of our military involvement in Iraq, a fact acknowledged by many experts in the field," said Mr Rudd.

Greens Leader Bob Brown said the Prime Minister's belated admission that the invasion of Iraq is linked to 'the major stake of energy dependency' underlines his dishonesty in 2003. "Saddam Hussein's oil, not weapons of mass destruction, was in the Bush-Blair-Howard mindset in this monumental mistake which has cost a
reported 67,000 civilian lives (the Lancet estimates 655,000 deaths)," Senator Brown said.

"It has boosted global terrorism and undermined Australia's homeland security. Mr Howard has put oil corporations' interests ahead of Australians domestic security," Senator Brown said.

Democrats leader Senator Lyn Allison said the government had been denying the link between oil and the war for years. "After years of denials the Howard government has finally conceded that oil and powerful mates were behind sending Australian troops to a bloody war in Iraq," she said. "This has been a despicable fraud. Countless lives have been lost and a society torn apart based on lies. And yet the prime minister's repeated refrain is 'trust me'. How can we believe anything this man says about anything?"

"The reality is money and oil and powerful mates were always key reasons for going into Iraq despite ruses about weapons of mass destruction. Now he says the international terror threat is one reason for staying the course but that terror threat would not have been so great had it not been for catastrophic policy decisions like the ones the Howard Government has made," said Senator Allison.

Meanwhile a new report suggests that Australia is not directly threatened by terror. A national security review has found Australia faces no direct conventional threat but ought to be ready anyway for unforeseen events. The review, Australia’s National Security: A Defence Update 2007, was released today by prime minister John Howard at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Global Forces 2007 conference.

An increase of 47 percent in the Defence budget since the Howard government came to power has provided the Australian Defence Forces with a greatly enhanced military capability. Howard, who has committed Australia's military to a $43bn build-up, said Canberra had buried the "self-defeating" idea that Australia's military should be based on home defence.

Australia has about 1,500 troops in and around Iraq.

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