Friday, October 01, 2004


Poland—not Australia—on his mind

Bush made a strange omission during the debate about our allies in the invasion of Iraq. Aside from the American ground forces, Britain contributed 45,000, Australia 2,000 and Poland 200. Australia also sent naval forces.

From the CNN debate transcript:

Bush: My opponent says we didn't have any allies in this war.

What's he say to Tony Blair? What's he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland?

You can't expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq.

Kerry: .... [W]hen we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the United States. That's not a grand coalition. We can do better.

BUSH: Well, actually, he forgot Poland. And now there's 30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops in Iraq.

Well, actually, Bush forgot Australia. Was this just a lapse in Bush's memory? After all, four countries is a lot for him to remember in one sitting. Or had Australia's prime minister John Howard urged that Australia's contribution be minimized lest it give further prominence to the issue during the current electoral campaign in Australia? Nah, Bush is just dumb.

Australia's newspaper The Age noticed

Australia's role in Iraq rated a single passing mention in the US presidential debate, with Democratic challenger John Kerry saying Bush had failed to put together "a grand coalition" to fight the war.

The issue is in any case alive in the Australian campaign. According to the AP,

In a speech Wednesday, Mr. Latham repeated his pledge to withdraw troops and accused Mr. Howard of supporting a U.S. foreign policy "mistake" by sending troops there in the first place.

Mr. Howard hit back on Thursday by saying a pullout now would be a victory for terrorism.

"It will be a terrible defeat for the West [if] everybody cut and ran," he told Sky News.

"It would be a huge victory for the terrorists in Iraq, if we were to cut and run, if the Americans were to cut and run, if the British were to cut and run," he added. "It's difficult, it's nasty, you're dealing with inhuman, brutal people whose lack of moral code is beyond our comprehension."

Mr. Howard has condemned other coalition members – Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic – for deciding to pull their soldiers out of Iraq.

Mr. Howard's decision to join the Iraq invasion triggered huge peace protests in major cities across Australia last year – the largest such demonstrations since Canberra sent troops to support U.S. military action in Vietnam.

But not a single Australian soldier has been killed serving in Iraq,1 and protest has now largely dried up.

All polls show Labor and Mr. Howard's conservative coalition government running virtually even before the elections. Those who said Australia's support for the war was a mistake narrowly outnumbered those who endorsed it, 48 percent to 45 percent, The Associated Press-commissioned poll found. It had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

I doubt that Bush's omission of Australia from his list of coalition partners will raise an eyebrow in the U.S., but it will get some play in the Australian media, certainly to Howard's embarrassment.


1 One of the reasons not a single Australian soldier has been killed is that of the 850 troops currently deployed, all but 250 of them are not actually in Iraq. [back]

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