During a speech in Canberra last night, John Howard said Iraqis need patience and resolve, not a timetable or retreat.
Of all the issues available to John Howard, in the run-up to this years Federal Election, he has chosen to fall back upon his only remaining safe ground. Security. Actually, not exactly security. Fear and loathing. Fear and loathing of those nasty ’terrorists’, that ethereal bogey-man which apparently threatens every aspect of our daily lives. Apparently, according to Howard, if Australia withdraws from Iraq, in order to re-position in Afghanistan – a stance which Howard refuses to expand upon by the way – our society will suddenly fall under the shadow of the mythical and mystical ’terrorist’.
Why does he do this? Principly because he feels some vague form of allegiance to the United States, specifically George Bush. At the rate of success of the latter’s experience in Iraq, a foreign presence in Iraq will still be evident in ten years time while the civil war rages around it. Howard has no withdrawal strategy because he hasn’t been given one. He stubbornly resolves to ’stand by the ally’ because he’s not been given instructions to the contrary. Is this leadership or is this obeisance? He claims remaining in Iraq is in Australia’s national interest, yet never clarifies just how that interest is benefited. Sounds good, though………doesn’t it?
Time’s up, John Howard, in more respects than merely Iraq. The real concern is the unfinished, abandoned task in Afghanistan. If there is an aggressive cause in Australia’s national interest, Afghanistan is surely it. There are others in the same region, but the only validity rests with Afghanistan right now. Withdrawal of 1,400 Australian military trainers and their protective cohort won’t make any impact on the escalating civil war in Iraq. Withdrawal will, however, place political pressure on Iraq’s political heads who simply aren’t doing what is essential if that nation is to resolve it’s internal issues. While America and her coalition remain, they never will.
However Iraq eventually resolves, Australia’s national interests are much, much closer to home. Maintaining a miniscule presence in an unpopular theatre for political expediency certainly isn’t. The tide turned a long time ago, John Howard. You’ve been swept a long way downstream from the capital of public opinion and the current is growing stronger with every stroke you make in a futile bid to swim against it. The river mouth is fast approaching. The predators outside the mouth are a-waiting. Swim to the shore and go, or resist and drown. Either way, your time is ended.