Thursday, February 02, 2006

The elusive ‘real story’ about Iraq

The USA is “angry” with Australia. Here’s a selection of the screaming headlines from the major dailies:

The Australian: Angry US slams Iraq bribe denials
Sydney Morning Herald: US demands answers on wheat rorts
The Age: We want the real story, US tells Australia

It seems Senator Norm Coleman, chairman of the US Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, has asked Australia’s former ambassador to the US, Mr Michael Thawley, to explain why he “unequivocally dismissed” allegations of Australian Wheat Board kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The Age’s headline is perhaps the most intriguing, embroidering a factual “please explain” as a dramatic demand for “the real story”.

Yes intriguing, because the concept of national governments coming clean with each other on the matter of Iraq (just for example) suggests an irresistible thought experiment.

Imagine, for example, that the Australian Government demanded “the real story” of why the US government in mid-2001 unequivocally asserted that Saddam’s Iraq had been disarmed of WMD, only to contradict themselves less than a year later by unequivocally asserting that Iraq was awash with WMD. The demand could be couched diplomatically as a “please explain” how you had earlier got it so right, and then went on to get it so wrong.

Of course, this little thought experiment has at least one seriously flawed assumption. It assumes that the Australian Government may be even the slightest bit interested in “the real story” behind the multifarious debacle that was and is the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The narrowness of our Australian Government’s interests regarding Iraq is being laid bare in the Cole inquiry hearings as I post this.


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