PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA
MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS: Iraq
NOTE: Since its posting here, the so-called Permalink for John Howard's speech keeps coming up as invalid. However, the text can be accessed by using Parliament's guided search option at: http://parlinfoweb.aph.gov.au/piweb/
Another option is to download Parliament's low rez .pdf of the proceedings for 22 June/06, and scroll to page 94 of Hansard (ie page 114 of the .pdf file)
Do you get the feeling that John Howard's latest version of events in Iraq was not intended for public scrutiny?
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia.
This speech was delivered to the Australian Parliament on June22/06 and attracted scant attention. It has not been posted on his official website. The original text is available online and can be downloaded as a .pdf. It is abridged here, to avoid causing narcolepsy, though his words have not been altered. Most of the claims made by Mr. Howard about Iraq are false. He has learnt little from our previous attempt to keep him informed of the tragic consequences of the invasion. Instead of weighing up the facts presented in that historic parody, John Howard’s Apology, his department panicked and pulled the plug. New information has come to light on that unlawful interference, which will be posted below when time permits. To John’s latest claims on the wonders of today’s Iraq, some commentary has been added, drawn from several sources. Taken as a whole, his new speech is a grandiose attempt to mislead members of Parliament and the Australian people. But there’s nothing unusual about that.
JH: It is important to note the progress that Iraq is making. Since January 2005, we have seen Iraq hold three national polls and draft a constitution. More than 15.5 million votes were recorded in elections in December last year, including approximately 12,000 recorded at polling booths across Australia. Last month, Prime Minister al-Maliki’s cabinet was approved by the National Assembly.
“It was apparent from the day of elections which political parties would come out on top. I’m not even going to bother listing the different types of election fraud witnessed all over Iraq - it’s a tedious subject and one we’ve been discussing for well over a month” – Baghdad Burning
JH: Despite a difficult security environment, Iraq’s economy is growing strongly, with the IMF estimating real GDP growth this year of 10.4 per cent.
Iraq’s broad economy has virtually collapsed and many factories and warehouses have been sacked and gutted. In the absence of security, neither Iraqis nor foreigners are interested in investing, while the no-bid Pentagon reconstruction contracts have achieved remarkably little.
JH: International assistance is also playing a critical role in accelerating the delivery of basic services.
Basic services have yet to be restored three years after the US invasion Oil and electricity production have yet to return to prewar levels. Some 60 percent of clean water produced in Iraq is lost to leakage and contamination. More than 75 percent of oil and gas restoration projects are incomplete, as are 50 percent of electrical and 40 percent of water and sanitation projects, according to the April report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
Now, nearly three years after this war, the buildings are still piles of debris. Electricity is terrible. Water is cut off for days at a time. Telephone lines come and go. Oil production isn’t even at pre-war levels… … Iraq falling into deeper debt… Engineers without jobs simply because they are not a part of this political party or that religious group… And the country still in shambles.
JH: Electricity generation capacity has increased by 30 per cent.
April/06, Electricity projects still incomplete: 277, with 58 not yet even started. Forty-two oil and gas projects aren't finished - and only 13 are.
Three years and the electricity is worse than ever. (March 18/2006).
The electricity came at 6 pm for only twenty minutes - as if to taunt us. The moment the lights flickered on, we were gathered in the kitchen and we could hear the neighborhood children began to hoot and holler with joy (June 2006) -
JH: Roughly a third of Iraq’s school buildings have been rehabilitated in the last three years and 36,000 new teachers have been trained.
School, college and work have been on again, off again affairs. It seems for every two days of work/school, there are five days of sitting at home waiting for the situation to improve…. The children have been at home this year more than they’ve been in school
JH: Iraq is experiencing significant growth in telephone and internet subscriptions.
The phone wasn’t working and the electrical situation hasn’t improved. We are at a point, however, where things like electricity, telephones and fuel seem like minor worries. Even complaining about them is a luxury Iraqis can’t afford these days.
JH: Vaccination programs for Iraqi children to ward off ailments such as measles, mumps, rubella and polio have expanded rapidly.
Doctors in Baghdad's hospitals still cite dirty water as one of the major killers of infants… The city's hospitals place medically troubled newborns two to an incubator, when incubators work at all… A reconstruction contract for the building of 142 primary health centers across Iraq is running out of money, after two years and roughly $200 million, with no more than 20 clinics now expected to be completed. Coming with little public warning, the 86 percent shortfall of completions dismayed the World Health Organization' …."That's not good. That's shocking…"
JH: We have witnessed important progress in the judicial system. All provincial courts are operational. More than 700 judges have been trained.
Because of the way the United States set things up after the invasion, contractors are immune from prosecution by Iraqis. And even when firms are prosecuted, the millions of dollars in fines go to the US Treasury, not the Iraqi people. It amounts to two invasions. First the bombs. Then the banks. This is robbery, not reconstruction.
Imagine your 14-year-old sister or your 14-year-old daughter. Imagine her being gang-raped by a group of psychopaths and then the girl was killed and her body burned to cover up the rape. Finally, her parents and her five-year-old sister were also killed. Hail the American heroes... Raise your heads high supporters of the 'liberation' - your troops have made you proud today. I don't believe the troops should be tried in American courts. I believe they should be handed over to the people in the area and only then will justice be properly served. And our ass of a PM, Nouri Al-Maliki, is requesting an 'independent investigation', ensconced safely in his American guarded compound because it wasn't his daughter or sister who was raped… His family is abroad safe from the hands of furious Iraqis and psychotic American troops.
It fills me with rage to hear about it and read about it. The pity I once had for foreign troops in Iraq is gone. It's been eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths in Haditha and the latest news of rapes and killings. I look at them in their armored vehicles and to be honest- I can't bring myself to care whether they are 19 or 39. I can't bring myself to care if they make it back home alive. I can't bring myself to care anymore about the wife or parents or children they left behind. I can't bring myself to care because it's difficult to see beyond the horrors. I look at them and wonder just how many innocents they killed and how many more they'll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will they rape?
JH: We have seen a flowering of free speech and a free press in Iraq, including 54 commercial television stations, 114 radio stations and 268 independent newspapers and magazines.
This claim is difficult to verify. One current news media guide lists 8 newspapers, 2 agencies, 1 website, one radio, 1 local TV -
JH: To see the Iraqi people striving to reclaim civil society in the cradle of civilisation, sometimes at great cost and against great odds, is a humbling experience for those of us privileged enough to live in a free and democratic society.
The security situation has gone from bad to worse. The country feels like it’s on the brink of chaos once more - but a pre-planned, pre-fabricated chaos being led by religious militias and zealots.
JH: The courage of the Iraqi people serves as a constant reminder of why the international community must maintain its support for Iraq’s democratic transition and development.
Ownership of Iraq's once prosperous economy, including her extensive oil fields, was transferred from the Iraqi people to U.S. corporations.
For the past 20 years, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad and Donald Rumsfeld … have been explicit that the U.S needed to gain increased access to the region's oil … not just that we needed a new leader, but we needed a new political and economic structure in Iraq, and be in that country to ensure the structure gets put into place. Halliburton, Chevron, Bechtel, Lockheed Martin have profited tremendously from this process already. The U.S. value of Iraqi oil, imported Iraqi oil, has increased by 86% between 2003 and 2004. Those profits have gone to Exxon, Chevron and Marathon.
It has been three years and all Iraq has become is a ''free-fraud zone.''
JH: The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi earlier this month has strengthened the hand and the resolve of all who want to see a peaceful and stable Iraq emerge from the grip of violence.
So 'Zarqawi' is finally dead. … Was he truly the huge terror the Americans made him out to be? The timing is extremely suspicious: just when people were getting really fed up with the useless Iraqi government, Zarqawi is killed and Maliki is hailed the victorious leader of the occupied world! (And no, Iraqis aren't celebrating in the streets). "A new day for Iraqis" is the current theme of the Iraqi puppet government and the Americans. Like it was "A New Day for Iraqis" on April 9, 2003 . And it was "A New Day for Iraqis" when they killed Oday and Qusay. Another "New Day for Iraqis" when they caught Saddam. More "New Day" when they drafted the constitution… I'm beginning to think it's like one of those questions they give you on IQ tests: If 'New' is equal to 'More' and 'Day' is equal to 'Suffering', what does "New Day for Iraqis" mean?
How do I feel? He was an American creation - he came along with them - they don't need him anymore, apparently. His influence was greatly exaggerated but he was the justification for every single family they killed through military strikes and troops. It was WMD at first, then it was Saddam, then it was Zarqawi. Who will it be now? Who will be the new excuse for killing and detaining Iraqis? "They don't need him anymore," our elderly neighbor waved the news away like he was shooing flies, "They have fifty Zarqawis in government.
JH: But Iraq remains an active battleground in the global fight against terrorism. It also faces major challenges in terms of sectarian and criminal violence.
More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first half of this year.
JH: We will also continue the program of reconstruction assistance. This has so far delivered many valuable improvements to services and infrastructure in critical areas such as transport, health, veterinary and agricultural services and utilities.
A contract aimed at building 142 new health centers across Iraq only produced 8 of the centers - not the 20 as first reported - before the program ran out of money. The US company, Parsons of Pasadena, was paid $186,000,000 …"with little progress made.” Of this, 22% of the money went to provide for security, leaving $145 million, less the 'administrative overhead', of $29 million. That’s a budget of $116 million to build 8 health centers, or $14.5 million a center. Here's what that $14.5 million a center got the good people of Kirkuk:
JH: Let me be very clear: Australia will not be hostage to a particular timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. We will only leave when the job has been finished. … this is not the time to leave the Iraqi people to their own devices; in other words, to cut and run.
Why don't the Americans just go home? They've done enough damage and we hear talk of how things will fall apart in Iraq if they 'cut and run', but the fact is that they aren't doing anything right now. How much worse can it get? People are being killed in the streets and in their own homes- what's being done about it? Nothing. It's convenient for them- Iraqis can kill each other and they can sit by and watch the bloodshed - unless they want to join in with murder and rape.
JH: Iraq is an active battleground in the international fight against terrorism. To leave Iraq prematurely would not only destabilise the Middle East; it would also provide comfort and strength to extremists all around the world.
The Geneva Conventions are very specific about what an occupying power should do. It must provide basic security and services. It cannot change the laws or the political structure of the country it occupies. The Bush administration did exactly the opposite -- changed all the fundamental economic and political laws and utterly failed to provide for the security and the basic needs of the Iraqi people.
JH: If the going is tough—we tough it out. This is not a time to walk away. This is a time for the courage to see it through.
Before, we’d get refugees in Baghdad and surrounding areas… Now, Baghdadis themselves are looking for ways out of the city… out of the country. The typical Iraqi dream has become to find some safe haven abroad.
JH: Helping Iraq to achieve stability and democracy is in Australia’s national interest. And it is part of Australia accepting its global responsibilities.
Three years later and the nightmares of bombings and of shock and awe have evolved into another sort of nightmare. The difference between now and then was that three years ago, we were still worrying about material things- possessions, houses, cars, electricity, water, fuel… It’s difficult to define what worries us most now. Even the most cynical war critics couldn't imagine the country being this bad three years after the war... Allah yistur min il rab3a (God protect us from the fourth year).
[Because of Iraq], Chevron has seen its most profitable years in its entire 125-year history over the last two years.
22/July/06: Iraqis are terrified in a way that I have never seen before, since I first visited Baghdad in 1978. Sectarian massacres happen almost daily. The UN says 6,000 civilians were slaughtered in May and June, but this month has been far worse. In many districts it has become difficult to buy bread because Sunni assassins have killed all the bakers who are traditionally Shia…. I never expected the occupation of Iraq by the US and Britain [and Australia] to end happily. But I did not foresee the present catastrophe. Baghdad has survived the Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War, UN sanctions, more bombing and, finally, a savage guerrilla war. Now the city is finally splitting apart, and - most surprising of all - this disaster scarcely gets a mention on the news as the world watches the destruction of Beirut so many miles away ….
JH: This is not the time to walk away.
NEXT STOP VENEZUELA?
“We gleefully blow up an oil platform off the Venezuelan coast.”