Australia needs an inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

7th July 2016

Australia needs an inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

Australia urgently needs war powers reform, so that the decision to go to war is no longer the prerogative of the prime minister.

The UK Chilcot Inquiry into the invasion of Iraq raises many issues that Australia needs to address. It highlights Tony Blair’s decision to invade before the peaceful options had been exhausted, presenting intelligence information  “with a certainty that was not justified”.  This was a disastrous choice, and the consequences were predicted.

In November 2002, at Parliament House, MAPW (Australia)  launched the report “Collateral Damage: the health and environmental costs of war on Iraq”, published by our UK affiliate Medact.  This report warned:

“The threatened war on Iraq could have disastrous short, medium and long-term consequences not only for the Iraqi population and its neighbours, but also further afield.”  This was partly because Iraqi infrastructure was already so degraded by the 1991 war and the most comprehensive economic sanctions in history.  The report referred to the possibilities of civil war, regional destabilisation and further terrorist attacks.

The 2015 report “Body Count” by Physicians for Social Responsibility found that approximately one million Iraqi civilians died, due to conflict, displacement and the destruction of their health system. A generation of children remain unvaccinated and ill-educated as a result of the flight of the middle class and subsequent breakdown of society. The resulting destabilisation contributed to the rise of ISIS and the spreading conflict in neighbouring countries.  Last month the UN reports an unprecedented number of refugees worldwide and internally displaced people - 65.3 million at last count.

MAPW calls for an inquiry into John Howard’s decision to join the invasion. “A review of the political processes used when Australia goes to war and the military campaign is urgently needed” said Dr Beavis. “Putting military and civilian lives at risk is serious business, and without analysis we will never learn from our mistakes.  Blindly following our allies is not good enough.”

Any decision to deploy troops into overseas conflict zones should no longer be a “captain’s call”, but require parliamentary debate and approval and its legality supported by  independent legal advice. All military campaigns should be subject to detailed strategic review after the event. 

For Comment:

Dr Margaret Beavis 0401 99 56 99

President MAPW


Dr Sue Wareham 0407 924 152

Vice president MAPW