Feb 142007

"One of the key points it made was that a premature withdrawal would be a disaster," – Alexander Downer
ABC News Online

Here’s a serious question from the Bannerman. Does anyone honestly pay any attention to what ’Dolly’ Downer has to say on any issue which originates from the mouth of his fearless leader? Take the above selective quote, supposedly originating from the Baker-Hamilton report on what is purported in the media lately as the primary recommendation of a staged withdrawal from Iraq by U.S. military forces.

Bannerman has news for those of you yet to finish – or even start for that matter – reading the report. It says no such thing. The report does indeed state that:

Because of the importance of Iraq, the potential for catastrophe, and the role and commitments of the United States in initiating events that have led to the current situation, we believe it would be wrong for the United States to abandon the country through a precipitate withdrawal of troops and support. A premature American departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions, leading to a number of the adverse consequences outlined above. The near-term results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy. Al Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return.
When read as a whole and in context with the 79 recommendations made by the Iraq Study Group, staging a withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq is clearly NOT mentioned in any of the recommendations as an option to be considered in any way, shape or form. Bannerman trusts that ’Dolly’ and Rudd, as well as Howard, Nelson and indeed any other individual planning to speak on the matter, rhetorically or authoritatively, at least has the integrity of character to have actually read the Baker-Hamilton report in toto. Thankfully, none of the representatives of Australia’s major political parties has spoken in terms of staged withdrawals without at the least referring to the Baker-Hamilton report in the same breath. This tactic of Downer’s, alluding to Rudd having suggested that a precipitate withdrawal is mooted as Labor party policy is plainly disingenuous. Bannerman noticed on Monday evening, Nelson attempting the same tack. At least Howard appears, to date, not to have suggested the same thing. At least not in so many words.
The Baker-Hamilton report deals with a great many issues, concentrating primarily on what it terms as a New Diplomatic Offensive as the primary way forward.

The United States must build a new international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region. In order to foster such consensus, the United States should embark on a robust diplomatic effort to establish an international support structure intended to stabilize Iraq and ease tensions in other countries in the region. This support structure should include every country that has an interest in averting a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq’s neighbors—Iran and Syria among them. Despite the well-known differences between many of these countries, they all share an interest in avoiding the horrific consequences that would flow from a chaotic Iraq, particularly a humanitarian catastrophe and regional destabilization.
A reinvigorated diplomatic effort is required because it is clear that the Iraqi government cannot succeed in governing, defending, and sustaining itself by relying on U.S. military and economic support alone. Nor can the Iraqi government succeed by relying only on U.S. military support in conjunction with Iraqi military and police capabilities. Some states have been
withholding commitments they could make to support Iraq’s stabilization and reconstruction. Some states have been actively undermining stability in Iraq. To achieve a political solution within Iraq, a broader international support structure is needed.
Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism—are inextricably linked. In addition to supporting stability in Iraq, a comprehensive diplomatic
offensive—the New Diplomatic Offensive—should address these key regional issues. By doing so, it would help marginalize extremists and terrorists, promote U.S. values and interests, and improve America’s global image. Under the diplomatic offensive, we propose regional and international initiatives and steps to assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones. Achieving these milestones will require at least the acquiescence of Iraq’s neighbors, and theiractive and timely cooperation would be highly desirable. The diplomatic offensive would extend beyond the primarily economic “Compact for Iraq” by also emphasizing political, diplomatic, and security issues. At the same time, it would be
coordinated with the goals of the Compact for Iraq. The diplomatic offensive would also be broader and more far-reaching than the “Gulf Plus Two” efforts currently being conducted, and those efforts should be folded into and become part of the diplomatic offensive.
States included within the diplomatic offensive can play a major role in reinforcing national reconciliation efforts between Iraqi Sunnis and Shia. Such reinforcement would contribute substantially to legitimizing of the political process in Iraq. Iraq’s leaders may not be able to come together unless they receive the necessary signals and support from abroad. This backing will not materialize of its own accord, and must be encouraged urgently by the United States.

Thereafter follows the 79 separate recommendations which all centre on this diplomatic offensive. The report is damning of the Bush administration’s efforts thus far, of the initial instigation of the war, the lack of planning, strategy and end-of-game exit. The report openly admits that the damage is done and cannot be undone through military means. It insists that for Iraq to succeed as a member of the global community, the Iraqi government and ONLY the Iraqi government operating as a combined interest entity can ensure that place. The report goes on to graphically point out that while-ever the United States creates an impression that it’s military forces will always be available to provide security, the Iraqi government is unlikely to come together as a cohesive, competent prudential force. Baker-Hamilton do not wax encouragingly about the Iraqi army, the sectarian divides, internal governmental corruption and numerous other aspects of Iraqi culture which are all combining to present a nation-state on the very verge of collapse into abject failure and anarchy.
Bannerman notes that despite the ardent promotion of the report by it’s creators, none of the recommendations have been acted upon to date. Instead, the Bush administration is vowed and declared to succeed in it’s currently failing strategy of forcible military oversight. It has not made any diplomatic overtures overtly to Syria or Iran as recommended, nor has it made any attempts to promote a diplomatic coalition of concerned nations which could assist in obtaining the co-operation of those countries. In short, the Bush administration has blatantly ignored the report and its recommendations. To the mind of the Bannerman, the United States is rapidly becoming, under the Bush regime, an isolationist state, ignoring global opinion as well as that of its own internal advisors. Not only is such a direction inanely stupid, it is highly dangerous. Dangerous both to the prestige position of the United States of America as the world’s sole remaining superpower, which the Australian government pretends it holds as a most important consideration, and to the future of the failing Iraqi state. The report is quite succinct on one issue. Military means will not bring an end to the Iraqi problem.
Which brings Bannerman back to the current stoush in Australian political circles. The argument put forward by Howard in his attack on Barack Obama is essentially correct. That he waded into American domestic politics is unwarranted and unwanted, both to the Americans and to us here at home. His tactics are plain. To draw out Labor and attempt to play, once again, the security card. It’s not working. In fact, it’s backfiring. Rudd’s tactic of challenging the PM to a televised debate on the issue, each other’s stance on Iraq, withdrawal, etcetera, is, as Howard stated this morning, predictable. Why? Because as he admitted himself, he’s done the same thing during his own opposition tenure. What it would prove though, is the flawed argument Howard and his minions want to push forward. That Labor promotes a precipitate withdrawal strategy for our troops in Iraq. This is not the fact, and never has been under Rudd. This is why Howard has rejected the Rudd tactic, not because it’s politically predictable. If Howard was in the least serious about debating Rudd, in the Parliament as he stated ought to be the case, he’d have accepted the challenge from Rudd this morning in the House. He declined. He declined because he knew to take on Rudd, in the place he, Howard, suggested would show him up for the wedge player he is and has always been.
In short, there is no substance to this debate over Iraq – to leave or not to leave. To rat on the ally or not rat on the ally. Both proponents fall back on the Baker-Hamilton report. Both for differing reasons, but both because they know the report doesn’t clearly state what each claims it does. Each knows the other knows and waits for the other to make a slip in public. The argument is futile. What is of importance to Australians is the question of just how much longer are we to play bosom buddy to the United States for political expediency? If the Baker-Hamilton report is so important, and Bannerman believes that it’s recommendations are vital if the Iraq situation is to be recovered one way or another, then why is the Australian government not urging, fostering, promoting, even demanding that the Bush administration take more notice of the report and instigate it’s recommendations? The answer is quite plain. Because the Australian government is not the ally of America it ought to be. A real friend tells the truth, be it hurtful or kind. Australia under the Howardian regime is a mere lapdog to conservative American opinion. Australia, under the Howard government, does as it’s told by it’s American masters. That is why our military will not be coming home anytime soon. That is why the Ministerial utterances of Downer, Nelson et al are pointless, meaningless sycophancy.
So…..who does pay attention to what these people say?

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