Michael Darby

Observations on politics and poetry by Australian bush poet, Michael Darby.

Michael was born in Sydney in 1945 and is a former Australian Army Officer who has been writing and broadcasting on politics and economics since 1972.

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Monday, July 12, 2004

The professional haters who constitute the membership of the anti-Bush, anti-Howard, anti-Blair cabal have been wriggling with delight at the release of a US Senate Intelligence Committee report which points to the influence of flawed intelligence in the decision-making process which led to Coalition military operations in Iraq (and the liberation of that unhappy nation).

The Committee found that the threat of weapons of mass destruction was overstated. Intelligence analysts who underestimated the military capacity of Saddam Hussein before the invasion of Kuwait and who underestimated the offensive capacity of Al-Qaeda were demonstrably unwilling to make the same mistake again. No-one contributed more greatly to the over-estimation of Saddam Hussein's weaponry than Saddam Hussein himself, by his refusal to be honest with the United Nations and by his refusal to he honest even with his own commanders. Posturing as the leader of the anti-West Islamic world, Saddam Hussein revelled in the reputation he gained by pretending to wield a much bigger stick than he in fact possessed.

In its coverage of the US Senate Report, the ABC's AM Program on Saturday 10 July 2004 quoted Jay Rockefeller:

"And we in Congress would not have authorised that war. We would not have authorised that war with 75 votes if we knew what we know now. . . . . Our credibility is diminished, our standing in the world has never been lower, we have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world and that will grow. As a direct consequence our nation is more vulnerable today then ever before."

Here is what West Virginian Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller said on 10 October 2002:

"Saddam's existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose a very real threat to America, now. Saddam has used chemical weapons before, both against Iraq's enemies and his own people. He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East . . . . . .He could make those weapons available to many terrorist groups which have contact with his government, and those groups could bring those weapons into the U.S. and unleash a devastating attack against American citizens. . . . Some argue it would be totally irrational for Saddam Hussein to initiate an attack against the mainland United States, and they believe he would not do it. But if Saddam Hussein thought he could attack America through terrorist proxies and cover the trail back to Baghdad, he might think it not so irrational."

And Massachusetts Democrat Senator John F Kerry (now presidential candidate) said this on 23 January 2003:

"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons programs and disarm. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new."

The hypocrisy of the US Democrats is mirrored by that of the Australian Labor Party. The extensive audience of 2UE and Network broadcaster John Laws CBE heard the clear statement of March 2003 (as I recall) by then Opposition Leader Simon Crean: "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction". Mr Crean had access to the same intelligence material which was available to the Prime Minister. John Howard and Simon Crean each then reached a reasonable conclusion based on what the international intelligence community knew at the time.

Note that the Senate Report found no evidence that the US Administration did anything to encourage inaccurate intelligence assessments. Military intelligence is an inexact science, as those of us who have been in the trade well know.

In the midst of its general glee at the Senate Committee's criticism of the CIA, international media organisations have given scant attention to an important aspect of the Report, which has been highlighted in an 11 July 2004 article by Thomas Catan and Mark Huband in the Financial Times, which receives an approving link from the Niger Post of 11 July 2004. Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe wrote on the same subject.

TheTaipei Times of 11 July 2004 presents the story neatly:


Sunday, Jul 11, 2004, Page 7

A Senate report criticizing false CIA claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction at the same time provides support for an assertion the White House repudiated: that Iraq sought to buy uranium in Africa. White House officials said last year it was a mistake for President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union message last year, to refer to British reports that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's government tried to buy uranium. The White House said the evidence for that claim was too shaky to have been included in such an important speech, and CIA Director George Tenet took the blame for failing to have the reference removed.

A report released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee offers new details backing the claim. French and British intelligence separately told the US about possible Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Niger, the report said. The report from France is significant not only because Paris opposed the Iraq war but also because Niger is a former French colony and French companies control uranium production there.

Joseph Wilson, a retired US diplomat the CIA sent to investigate the Niger story, also found evidence of Iraqi contacts with Nigerian officials, the report said. Wilson told the committee that Niger's former prime minister Ibrahim Mayaki reported meeting with Iraqi officials in 1999. Mayaki said a businessman helped set up the meeting, saying the Iraqis were interested in "expanding commercial relations" with Niger -- which Mayaki interpreted as an overture to buy uranium, Wilson said.

All of that information came to Washington long before an Italian journalist gave US officials copies of documents purporting to show an agreement from Niger to sell uranium to Baghdad. Those documents have been determined to be forgeries.

The issue is not whether Saddam Hussein succeeded in obtaining uranium from Niger. He tried. And we should be in no doubt that the dictator's malign intent to cause maximum damage to the United States and its allies was ended only by his fall. All Australians should be proud of Australia's contribution to that fall. And we should all be proud of the leadership displayed in this difficult time by our Prime Minister, John Howard.

In his 11 July 2004 article in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, Jack Kelly wrote:

"Iraq got a bunch of uranium from somewhere. In another story largely ignored by major media, The Associated Press reported last week that "in a secret operation, the United States last month removed from Iraq nearly two tons of uranium and hundreds of highly radioactive items that could have been used in a so-called dirty bomb."

On July 6 Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham disclosed the operation, which was completed June 23. He described it as a "major achievement" in efforts to "keep potentially dangerous nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists."

The uranium discovered was "low enrichment" (less than 20 percent U-235 isotope) and hence unsuitable for making atomic bombs. For that, centrifuges are necessary. Khidir Hamza, who headed Iraq's nuclear program prior to his defection in 1994, said Iraq had obtained centrifuges from German sources. An attempt to smuggle in centrifuge components in 2002 was thwarted, several sources said.

Also ignored by the major media were reports that components of Iraqi missile systems -- some of them radioactive -- have been turning up in European scrap metal yards, and the discovery in Iraq late in June by Polish troops of "16 or 17" artillery shells that tested positive for the nerve agent sarin. Terrorists were trying to buy the shells for $5,000 each, Polish officials said.

Opposition Leader Latham has committed Australia to assisting Iraq by providing "non-combatant" assistance while persisting with his undertaking to remove all Australian military personnel from the theatre by Christmas 2004. Australian military personnel are trained to live and work in a dangerous environment, and the absence of casualties among Australians in Iraq demonstrates that the standard of such training is excellent. For the sake of pursing its anti-Howard, anti-Bush, anti-Blair agenda the Labor Party would repatriate all those who are trained to deal with a hostile environment and replace them with civilians who would depend for their security on the military forces of other nations. To the Opposition Leader and his cronies, Australian civilians are dispensable.

In an attempt to mollify our US Allies, Opposition Latham has brought back to the Front Bench as Defence Spokesman the man he displaced from the Opposition Leadership, Kim Beazley. Notorious for committing Australia to build political rather than military submarines, Kim Beazley's defence credentials are shaky. Following is another example of why Beazley has little to offer.

Beazley Blunder of the Week (4/11/01 Senator the Hon Richard Alston MP)

After promising for two weeks that all post offices around Australia would get broadband internet access, Labor's dead-of-night admission that it was all a 'mistake' shows Mr Beazley cannot be trusted to keep his election promises. This embarrassing backflip is designed to save the hide of Simon Crean who falsely claimed on Thursday night that Labor had never promised to provide broadband internet services 'universally' in post offices, when Labor's own policies promised exactly that.

However, Labor's admission of 'a mistake' does absolutely nothing to overcome the $294 million costings black hole in Labor's postal policy.

The simple truth is Labor cannot be trusted with the defence of Australia and the management of our relationships with our allies.

Written in a private capacity as a personal opinion, not representing any organisation

Michael Darby
PO Box 401
Manly 1655
Phone 0413 348 843