[Marxism] Australia's Opposition Leader Says He Would Pull Troops Out of Iraq
walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 24 09:20:38 MST 2004
(Looks like "Spanish fever", which is
a sign of real political wisdom just
like "Vietnam Syndrome", is spreading.
This is good. Sure, he should have
called for immediate, unconditional
withdrawal, but this is quite good.
(Even the new US-backed president of
El Salvador isn't ready to say he
WON'T pull El Salvador out of Iraq!)
Australia's Opposition Leader Says
He Would Pull Troops Out of Iraq
By Susan Jones
CNSNews.com Morning Editor
March 24, 2004
Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Australia's opposition
leader, who is riding a wave of popularity in opinion
polls, says he will pull out the country's troops from Iraq
if he defeats Prime Minister John Howard in elections due
late this year.
Labor leader Mark Latham's comments drew a warning from the
government Wednesday about the dangers of signaling to
terrorists that their campaign is succeeding.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer noted that Latham's
position had shifted since the March 11 train bombings in
Madrid. Following that attack, Spain's pro-U.S. government
lost an election to a Socialist party whose leader
announced he would withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.
Downer said the Spanish Socialist decision "leads the
terrorists to conclude that terrorist attacks achieve
political results, and I don't think we should ever
transmit a message to terrorist organizations that they can
achieve political results."
Because of that concern, he said he hoped to persuade
Latham to change his mind, and so ensure bipartisan support
for Australia's role in Iraq.
Howard's government last year fended off significant
domestic opposition and sent ships, aircraft and 2,000
troops in support of the U.S. and British forces fighting
to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Support for the policy grew as the military campaign
Australia now has around 850 army, navy and air force
personnel in Iraq, as part of the post-war rebuilding
operation, and the government has not set a deadline on the
Previously, Labor policy had left open the possibility of
Australian troops remaining in Iraq under a U.N. mandate,
following the handover to an Iraqi administration at the
end of June.
But Latham said Tuesday that, should a Labor government be
in power by year's end, he would work to bring the troops
home by Christmas. No date has yet been set for the
election, but it's likely to be in September or October.
The policy shift comes at a time Latham and Labor are
riding high in the polls.
In a Newspoll survey, 42 percent of respondents picked
Latham as "preferred prime minister," just one point below
Howard at 43 percent.
It's the highest result for Latham since he became Labor
leader last December, and the highest for any Labor leader
since Howard first became prime minister in 1996.
The poll also gave Labor a 46-41 point lead over Howard's
Sixty-five percent of respondents in an accompanying poll
said they believed their country's role in Iraq had
increased the risk of terrorist attack against Australians.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has threatened Australia by
name in past years, in warnings that condemned Australia
for its role in East Timor - Canberra led a peacekeeping
mission that oversaw the territory's independence from
Muslim Indonesia - and more recently, for its support for
the war in Iraq.
Following the Madrid bombings, another message warning to
Australia, along with Japan, Britain, Italy, Norway and the
U.S. itself, came from a group purportedly linked to
al-Qaeda, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades.
Downer raised another concern about Latham's plan to pull
Australian troops out of Iraq, pointing out that some of
the personnel there were tasked with protecting civilians
working at Canberra's embassy in Baghdad.
"I don't want to see those Australians left unprotected in
Baghdad and I'd like Mr. Latham to stop and think about
that and perhaps consider the policy rather more
carefully," he told journalists Wednesday.
"I don't think this is a time in history where we should
just be jumping around in a populist way. I think this is a
time in history when we should be focusing very much on
persuading the public about what's in the national
In the view of the veteran Australian political
commentator, Paul Kelly, the legacy of recent events in
Spain is that political parties, both those in power and
those in opposition, "must decide whether to lead or merely
to follow public opinion."
Writing in The Australian daily, Kelly noted that Britain's
opposition Conservative Party leader had warned al-Qaeda
not to think it could manipulate Britain in the way it had
"Whatever my disagreements with Tony Blair, any government
that I lead will not flinch in its determination to win the
war against terror where it has to be fought," Kelly quoted
Conservative leader Michael Howard as saying.
Although Latham's Australian Labor Party is a longstanding
ally of Britain's Labor, their stances on Iraq have been
diametrically opposed, even as the Howard and Blair
governments - one conservative and one center-left - have
became natural allies over Iraq.
That tension between the two Labor parties has been
demonstrated by the fact that Latham has strongly attacked
President Bush over Iraq, but has avoided similarly
criticizing Blair - an apparent contradiction frequently
commented on by Australian government figures.
Peter Brookes, a senior fellow for national security
affairs at the Heritage Foundation, said this week it was
not surprising that al-Qaeda would try to create and
exploit differences in the anti-terror coalition.
"Unfortunately, they created some on 3/11 [the day of the
Madrid bombings]," he said.
"In the tough days ahead, the civilized world must buck up
and face this challenge. Terrorism will be beaten - but
side trips to appeasement are a sure way to delay our
victory and increase the costs."
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT
Troops withdrawal could be election wedge Reporter: Greg
TONY JONES: Spurning pleas by the Government to reconsider
his position Mark Latham is strengthening Labor's
determination to pull Australia's remaining troops out of
The Opposition leader not only wants to have the 850
Australians home by Christmas, he's also indicating that he
wouldn't agree to any request by an Iraqi Government for
the troops to stay.
Adding contrast to the choice voters are likely to be
offered on the matter, the Prime Minister says no end date
can be placed on this country's responsibilities to the
people of Iraq.
>From Canberra, Greg Jennett reports.
GREG JENNETT: The appearance, whereabouts and thoughts of
Osama bin Laden are secrets America would kill for.
Sydney Liberal MP Ross Cameron presumes to know all three.
ROSS CAMERON, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY: Today in the
mountains of west Pakistan, Osama bin Laden is stroking his
beard and celebrating the advent of Mark Latham.
GREG JENNETT: He wouldn't elaborate, but his point was
clear -- that Mark Latham's promise to pull troops out of
Iraq within three months of a Labor election win would
split Western allies and encourage terrorists.
The PM doesn't use Ross Cameron's language but echoes his
JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: He's locked a Labor government
into bringing the troops home by December.
Now, not only is that unhelpful, Mr Speaker, to the people
of the Iraq, but it does send a very bad signal to the
ALEXANDER DOWNER, FOREIGN MINISTER: I don't think this is a
time in history where we should just be jumping around in a
GREG JENNETT: The Foreign Minister has written to Mark
Latham urging him to think again.
The Opposition Leader's position is hardening.
Only last week Labor was leaving the timing of troop
withdrawals open -- a decision to be made after the
transfer of authority from the occupying nations to an
interim Iraqi Government due mid-year.
KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESMAN: And so
that's the point at which we will analyse as a party our
posture on whether or not there is any future role for an
Australian troop presence.
GREG JENNETT: Now Labor says Australia's obligations are
over the moment power is transferred to Iraq and requests
to stay on would not be agreed to.
MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: No, we decide where our
troops are positioned and Labor's committed to the fact.
We've met our international responsibilities.
At that point, and our priority is always the defence of
JOHN HOWARD: He's talking about withdrawing after we've
fulfilled our obligations as if our obligations are
fulfilled when the handover takes place.
That's not the case.
GREG JENNETT: The PM says there can be no arbitrary
deadline for the 850 Australian military personnel and
won't even contemplate a date for their possible return.
JOHN HOWARD: Nobody at the moment has any way of knowing
precisely when those responsibilities will end.
GREG JENNETT: Why then, asks Labor, did Mr Howard suggest
his own deadline last year?
REPORTER: Do you see it as months or years before the war
JOHN HOWARD: Well I certainly don't see it as years, no.
GREG JENNETT: There's still plenty of uncertainty
surrounding Mark Latham's timetable -- which elements of
the Australian forces would come out and who'd stay to
protect diplomats and other civilians?
Mark Latham can at least know what to expect from
Spanish PM-elect Zapatero got calls from the Bush
Administration and Democratic candidate John Kerry when he
announced plans to withdraw troops.
It seems neither man in the White House would take kindly
to being abandoned by allies.
Greg Jennett, Lateline.
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