29 Aug 2004, Comments (0)

A small porky

Author: Helen

I know other Aussie bloggers (just a small selection) have been all over the Howard porkypies issue. I’ve just got a little one to add which I haven’t noticed elsewhere.

On Monday 9 August, on PM, Catherine McGrath was interviewing JH on “…the claim by 43 retired Defence chiefs, diplomats and former senior bureaucrats that the Australian people were deceived over Iraq and that Australia has not become a safer place.” She played the following from JH in parliament:

CATHERINE MCGRATH: And John Howard said that even General Peter Gration, back in 2002, had written that he believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
JOHN HOWARD: I don’t criticise…
SPEAKER: Member for Blair.
JOHN HOWARD: …General Gration, for those remarks Mr Speaker. I merely point out that in November of last, of 2002…
SPEAKER: Member for Wills. Standing order of 55 applies equally to answers as to questions.
JOHN HOWARD: …General Gration himself said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction Mr Speaker and I think it’s instructive that a few months earlier, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs had said that it was an empirical fact, and you don’t get any tougher than that Mr Speaker.

My ears kind of pricked up at that, because I definitely thought I remembered that both Gen. Gration and Brigadier Adrian D’Hage unambiguously opposed the war in 2002-2003 and I had the definite impression that General Gration had never stated that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Why did I remember? Well, I was so pleased at the time that many senior military blokes, that is, people who could never be accused of being the “usual suspects” (you know, us basket-weaving, latte-sipping lefties and literary wankers), had come out against the war, I put a mental placeholder on the fact to use in future barbeque battles with my brother in law.

Furious googling has uncovered interviews and statements from General Gration like this, this and this but has failed to find any statement by him that Iraq posessed WMDs. Here’s what Gration thought of going to war before the WMD inspectors had completed their task, and without UN backing:

TONY JONES: Let’s go back to first principles then, if we can.
Under what circumstances do you think it would be OK to take military action of any kind to disarm Iraq?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: Well, I think first of all, we have got to let the present action run its course.
The inspectors have to go in.
We have got to see how Saddam reacts to them.
We have got to see how the US reacts to that, how the United Kingdom reacts to that.
And then depending on how that develops, Australia must then look to our own interests, not to the American interests, to our interests, to decide whether we would take part in any military action.
TONY JONES: Would you agree that Iraq is already in breach of a number of UN security resolutions?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: Yes, there’s no question it is.
But it’s not the only country in the world and I don’t think that in itself is grounds for going to war.
TONY JONES: The question is, though – could a case conceivably be made that if the UN doesn’t give a strong new resolution backing military power that the resolutions Iraq is already in breach of constitute enough of a reason to go to war to disarm Iraq at the very least?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: Well, not in my view, Tony, I don’t think it does.
TONY JONES: Let us look at this, if we can, from the American point of view.
Doesn’t it make sense to remove Saddam Hussein now while you have got the backing of the American people for military action against him before he gets his hands on a nuclear weapon?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: Tony, going back to what I said a few moments ago, that’s a pre-emptive action.
And I believe it is a very dangerous course indeed.
And if the world’s only military superpower sets the pattern that it’s OK in the global arena to undertake pre-emptive action, I think that’s a very retrograde and destabilising step.
What we are saying is that there’s no overt action against us, there’s no imminent threat, but we think one may develop and therefore let’s move now.
Now, that’s a very destabilising doctrine and I wouldn’t go along with it.
TONY JONES: So there is no way that you can construe the UN charter with its provisions for self-defence to say we’re going to stop this man getting a nuclear weapon before he uses it against us?
GENERAL PETER GRATION: No, I think that’s drawing a very long bow, and a dangerous one too.
TONY JONES: But you can see what’s happening here, can’t you?
President Bush now has domestic support for a war.
If he waits, that support will evaporate.
And it seems to be there is a momentum moving in that direction.
GENERAL PETER GRATION: I’m aware that that’s what is happening.
That’s one of the reasons I signed the letter.
I just think there is quite insufficient provocation at present to start a war which may involve tens of thousands of people being killed, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people being killed.
There just isn’t sufficient provocation.
And if you look at the objectives of the war, I don’t think they stand up.

I don’t think there’s any ambiguity here. If any rightwing blogger can find a statement by General Gration that he believed Irag posessed WMDs in 2002-2003, and that Australia joining the invasion was justified thereby, please send it on.

(Note on links):

For some reason, the link to www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/09/26/1032734279284.html , while looking 100% normal in the Movable Type editor, changes to “http://www.myspinach.org/blog/cgi-bin/www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/09/26/1032734279284.html” in the browser when you click the link. I’ll try to find out why that is, why the other practically identical links aren’t doing that, and how to fix it. Sorry. The link is working here… Weird!

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