Sunday, September 08, 2002

Sunday mornings are a current affairs junkie’s dream turn. From 0800 through to midday, it is possible to hoover coffee while surfing channel after channel of magazine style news shows. Bliss!

One of the success stories has been the ABC Insiders program, which gets through a surprising number of subjects in a short period, without getting too trivial. Very helpful too, their policy of putting the evil right winger journalist on the single armchair, the better to distinguish them in case their opinions are not sufficient.

This morning we had an excellent interview with one-time Prime Ministerial contender, and former Defence Minister Kim Beazley, about the looming war with Iraq.

Say what you want about Beazley’s surprising lack of impact on debate in Australia, there is no taking away from the man’s knowledge of defence and international diplomacy. At no time does he resort to the “slavishly following the Americans” drivel that so riddles his Party. As a former Defence Minister, It would be ludicrous for him to even try it, but it’s obvious that Beazley understands the position the US finds itself in.

Beazley’s only criticisms are reserved for mixed messages out of the US Administration:
I mean, basically over the course of the past 6 months the American administration has presented to the rest of the world divided council, and that as been extremely difficult for allies of the US

And his hopes for a coalition against Iraq:
So the fact that the American President is appearing there [the UN] may indicate that the US is going to involve itself multilaterally in anything it ultimately does about Iraq.

But Beazley’s comments have to be taken with regard to the rest of his interview, which will not please the more addled of his Party:
[Iraq] is a left over from the 1990-1991 Kuwait episode. The situation in Iraq effectively revolves around resolution-687 of the UN passed at that time by which Iraq agreed to have itself disarmed of weapons of mass destruction. Since that point in time despite a sanctions regime which has enjoyed only limited success, that resolution has not been forced, enforced

And then the theme is reinforced:
it is a challenge to the United Nations. The UN Security Council has had carriage of this resolution for a decade now. And since the inspectors were eliminated or moved out of Iraq in 1998 there has been a manifest failure to see it implemented. Now, if those like myself who believe that multilateral action here is what is required, not unilateral action, the challenge for us is to ensure that the United Nations is an effective body, and whilst ever Iraq is not upholding its agreement to resolution-687, then there is a challenge to the effectiveness of the United Nations.

So there’s the message: the UN has had the running on this for ten years, and has been a “manifest failure”, and the Resolution is still in place. Or if you like, “what have you done for me lately?”

And finally this last on an Australian commitment, almost as a throwaway:
So I would very strongly take the view that ground force commitments of that character ought not to be made.

Last time we took on Iraq, Beazley was in power, and decided the level of commitment. Bear in mind that Australia has had command of the naval blockade for some months now. By the looks of this, Beazley is ruling in a commitment of fighting ships, and whatever logistical support we can muster, up to but excluding ground troops.

30 day war, end to end.

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