Tue, Jun 03, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Rudd makes good on campaign vow, brings troops home

‘INTELLIGENCE ABUSE’ The Australian prime minister said that the four arguments put forward by John Howard to enter the Iraq War were not valid

AFP , SYDNEY

Australia’s arguments for sending troops to war in Iraq have proved to be wrong, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told parliament yesterday as he fulfilled an election pledge to bring them home.

Rudd, who ousted conservative leader John Howard last November, was fiercely critical of the process that took Australia into the war.

Howard had presented four reasons for going to war, Rudd said, before listing and dismissing them one by one.

“Have further terrorist attacks been prevented? No, they have not been, as the victims of the Madrid train bombing will attest,” he said.

“Has any evidence of a link between weapons of mass destruction and the former Iraqi regime and terrorists been found? No.

“Have the actions of rogue states like Iran been moderated? No ... Iran’s nuclear ambitions remain a fundamental challenge.

“After five years, has the humanitarian crisis in Iraq been removed? No it has not,” he said.

Rudd said he was particularly concerned about how the decision to go to war had been made, citing “the abuse of intelligence information.”

He said there had been a “failure to disclose to the Australian people the qualified nature of the intelligence — for example, the pre-war warning that an attack on Iraq would increase the terrorist threat, not decrease it.”

Rudd also dismissed Howard’s argument that Australia’s alliance with the US “mandated our military participation in the invasion.”

The alliance was also important to his Labor government but it did not mean automatic compliance with all aspects of US foreign policy, he said.

Rudd was speaking a day after Australia’s 550-strong combat force began leaving its base at Tallil, some 300km south of Baghdad, fulfilling a pledge he had made ahead of the election.

Howard, one of Bush’s staunchest supporters in the “coalition of the willing” that invaded Iraq in March 2003, earlier defended his decision to contribute troops.

“I firmly believe it was the right thing to have done,” he said, while acknowledging that the cost of the war had been “very, very heavy and much greater than anybody would have liked.”

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