Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 09:12 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 09:12 | SYDNEY

The Iraq war: Calling all Australian policy-makers


Allan Gyngell

9 April 2008 16:28

The Australian television premiere last night of the excellent PBS documentary Bush’s War and Raoul’s post from Washington are reminders to Australians of how much more we know about the processes and ideas that took the US into war in Iraq than we know about how Australia got there. So far as I know, not a single participant in the Australian policy-making process has given us a first-hand account of the internal debate in government (if, indeed, there was one) which led to Australian participation. 

Some short accounts by journalists, including Paul Kelly in his Lowy Institute Paper, 'Howard’s Decade',  and Greg Sheridan in  'The Partnership', draw on largely off-the-record accounts by some players, but there is nothing forensic. What was the nature of the internal political and bureaucratic debate in Australia? Were there important differences between agencies? What advice was given to government?

This is important not for reasons of prurient interest but so that Australians can understand and weigh the processes by which the country sends its troops into war. I’ll grant you that the economic incentive to Australian policy makers to spill the beans are much less strong than in the US (see the Clinton family’s $40 million book income) but I hope someone encourages John Howard, Alexander Downer and all the rest to talk about how it was done. And if they or any others out there who were part of it all want to get it off their chests, we’re happy to provide a platform at the Lowy Institute. Meanwhile, it’s all a reminder of how much more open and transparent Washington is than Canberra.