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 Sunday, October 15, 2006

Former Australian Army Chief Now Admits: "I was WRONG on Iraq"

  Read full article by Ian McPhedran

FORMER Defence chief General Peter Cosgrove says the Iraq war has boosted global terrorism.

General Cosgrove has apologised to Federal Police boss Mick Keelty for criticising Mr Keelty's view that the Iraq war inspired terrorist attacks in Spain.

Just days before the launch of his autobiography, My Story, General Cosgrove told the Sunday Herald Sun his comments criticising Mr Keelty were made just days after the event.

"At that time, I just felt that call could not be made," he said. "Things have moved on. I have got no reason to argue the weighty assessments that I am seeing.

"If people say there has been an energising of the jihadist movement through the protracted war in Iraq -- well, that's pretty obvious."

General Cosgrove was accused of playing politics, while senior government figures such as Foreign Minister Alexander Downer even questioned the Federal Police Commissioner's patriotism.

In his book, General Cosgrove says he was right to make his remarks "at the time", but describes Mr Keelty as an "outstanding Australian".

He said he was offended by claims he was "wheeled out" by the government to support its position.

General Cosgrove urges the Government not to repeat the "mistake" of Vietnam, where he won a Military Cross as a platoon commander.

He writes of his sadness that 500 Australians and 50,000 Americans died in Vietnam: "And we left. And we lost. We mustn't do that with our men and women."

"My Story" is published by Harper Collins. It will be launched by Mr Howard on Friday.

Lack of Confidence of the Iraqi Prime Minister

In the five months since Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki became Iraq's leader, the parliament and his ministries have formed hundreds of committees to address problems on everything from how to disarm militias to whether tainted meat caused a group of police officers to fall ill last week.

No one knows precisely how many committees have been formed - one estimate puts the number at 400. Yet only one committee has brought its findings to the parliament.

That lack of action is eroding Iraqi citizens' and U.S. officials' confidence that Maliki's government will be able to address the problems that plague this country, a development that would leave the U.S. with virtually no policy alternative.

U.S. strategy in Iraq currently revolves around the idea that given enough time and the proper security environment, Maliki's government will take control of the country and calm the sectarian tensions that threaten to dismember it.

Yet since Iraq's first permanent government was elected, security has eroded by nearly every measure, despite the U.S. training of more than 300,000 Iraqi police and soldiers. When the government came into power, 65 bodies on average were appearing on Iraq's streets a day; today, 100 are killed daily.

Now there's a growing chorus that Maliki's government is unlikely to ever come to terms with the country's problems, a complaint reflected in Iraqi Web logs, newspaper columns, and, U.S. civilian and military officials say, in private conversations.

"I think Maliki is trying to convince the American people that he is serious about fixing things, and he is not serious," said Saad Assim al Janabi, a former member of government loyal to Ayad Allawi, whom the United States appointed interim prime minister of Iraq in 2004. "Maliki believes he is a Shiite Muslim first and that he belongs to the Dawa Party (a mostly Shiite party). We need someone to say he belongs to all of Iraq." Read here for more

Controversy in UK on Iraq

General Sir Richard Dannatt, new head of the army, knew what he was doing when he lit the touchpaper during an interview with a concerned mother. Mark Townsend and Ned Temko examine what happened next .

The assumption was that Sarah Sands, feature writer for the Daily Mail, would produce a gentle profile of Sir Richard Dannatt. The interview went well.

Towards the end of their 90-minute chat the general seemed only too keen to drag the conversation into uncharted territory. It was the journalistic equivalent of gelignite.

Dannatt had seen first hand how Iraq was draining the spirit of his men. He had listened to troops who wondered how many more of their peers would die in a conflict that seemed to be getting worse by the day.

The truth is that the 55-year-old general, described by colleagues as a cautious, cerebral character, knew what he was doing when he shattered the rule of silence that had concealed the concerns of his predecessors.

The general would tell Sands that British troops should be brought home 'soon' from Iraq and that their presence was 'exacerbating' tensions.

Not only that, but he, in effect, accused the Prime Minister of being 'naive' in thinking they could install a liberal democracy in Iraq.

Within hours of her dramatic story appearing in print, Browne rang Dannatt to demand if his comments were accurately replicated.

They were.

Tony Blair was in trouble.

At 11.58pm Downing Street was forced to issue a statement saying that British troops were supported by the democratically elected Iraqi government.

Across the Atlantic, the White House was in a state of apoplexy.

Before the day was out, what had begun as a soft newspaper spread on a soldier had created a transatlantic rumpus.

The most public chasm between the military and government in recent memory had once again entangled Blair in that most caustic of subjects: Iraq.

Dannatt suggested Iraq might ultimately 'break' his beloved British army. 'I want an army in five years' time,' he said quietly to the nation.

The Pentagon seemed baffled and bruised in equal measure.

Days before, US military chiefs had suggested that current troop levels in Iraq would have to remain for the best part of a decade.

By now, the public controversy had made its way to Washington.

Challenged by a reporter at his White House briefing, George Bush's spokesman claimed that Dannatt had been taken out of context.

'He was misquoted?' prompted a journalist.

'Yes, that's what he says,' retorted the president's aide.

Dannatt issued a statement reminding anyone who needed reminding that he was no politician. 'I'm a soldier - we don't do surrender. We will remain in southern Iraq until the job is done.'

It was too little too late.

Those soft edges would become razor sharp, leaving Blair little option but to claim last Friday that he agreed with 'every' word Dannatt had told Radio 4 in his interview.

That meant that the Prime Minister actually believed the presence of British troops was exacerbating the violence in parts of Iraq; that the army risked being broken by the conflict and that the whole debate over withdrawal was not really news.

A poll on an army website asking users whether Dannatt's comments were right or wrong offers corroboration.

By midday yesterday, 97 per cent believed their general was right or practically right with his assessment.

No one deemed him wrong.

The tone of the entries ranged widely, but the message was unmistakable.

'Thank God - some genuine leadership based on reality,' said one about their leader.

Another added: 'It's about time someone with a high rank told him [Blair] a few home truths.'

And another: 'It's great that a senior soldier of this army has finally found the balls to speak out at the highest level about this issue.'

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