Friday, August 6, 2010

John Winston Howard's Illegal Killing Spree

The way is now open for John Winston Howard and his war-time ministers to be prosecuted for war crimes for the invasion of Iraq.

From John Pilger

"On 15 June 2010, the International Criminal Court made the landmark decision of adding aggression to its list of war crimes to be prosecuted. This is defined as a "crime committed by a political or military leader which by its character, gravity, and scale constituted a manifest violation of the [United Nations] Charter." International lawyers described this as a "giant leap." Britain (& Australia) is a signatory to the Rome statute that created the court and is bound by its decisions."

Bush: Join 'coalition of willing'

Wednesday, November 20, 2002 Posted: 6:13 PM EST (2313 GMT)

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (CNN) --George W. Bush has said the United States will lead a coalition of the willing"

if the Iraqi president chooses not to give up his weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. president spoke on Wednesday during a joint news conference with Czech

President Vaclav Havel just ahead of a NATO summit in Prague that will bring seven former

Eastern bloc nations into the alliance.

"It's very important for our [NATO] nations as well as all free nations to work collectively to see to it

that Saddam Hussein disarms," Bush said. "However, should he choose not to disarm, the United States will

lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him and at that point in time, all our nations ... will be able to

choose whether or not they want to participate.

"According to Bush, if the will of the world is strong, the disarmament of Iraq can be achieved peacefully,

but was quick to add that Saddam must understand the true consequences of not giving up his weapons programs."

On Monday night 17th March 2003 George W Bush gave an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and his sons:

"Many nations, however, do have the resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world. The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours. In recent days, some governments in the Middle East have been doing their part. They have delivered public and private messages urging the dictator to leave Iraq so that disarmament can proceed peacefully.He has thus far refused.All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end. Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing."

"Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing."

There were 4 countries that made up the Coalition of the Willing; The USA, Great Britain, Australia and Poland.

In my opinion... John Winston Howard, as one member of the Coalition of the Willing, invaded Iraq before the deadline of 48 hours given by Bush was reached. Therefore any dubious legal justifications for the invasion were made "null and void" by this action which broke the very foundation on which the war was to be fought. The passing of 48 hours before any invasion will be contemplated by the Coalition of the Willing".

John Pilger has now brought to notice the following, where the members of the Coalition of the Willing, which includes Howard and his Ministers can now be impeached for war crimes.
All of these illegal actions of Howard are well documented and on public display in newspapers and on the internet.

"On 15 June 2010, the International Criminal Court made the landmark decision of adding aggression to its list of war crimes to be prosecuted. This is defined as a "crime committed by a political or military leader which by its character, gravity, and scale constituted a manifest violation of the [United Nations] Charter." International lawyers described this as a "giant leap." Britain (& Australia) is a signatory to the Rome statute that created the court and is bound by its decisions."

The Articles below by Tony Kevin
John Winston Howard should be tried for War Crimes. The way is now open for this stain that is on our international reputatiion to be removed.

"Secrets & Allies"
Feature story by Tony Kevin, "Sydney Morning Herald" January 17-18 2004, "Spectrum" magazine, page 8
s covert, pre-emptive role in the Iraq War tested the limits of what constitutes legal and honourable warfare and changed forever the nation's reputation as a military force.
Even now, military decorations to SAS members who fought in this secret war are being awarded anonymously.
Sometimes the biggest stories sit just under our noses: known through episodic reporting, but without the dots joined to show a clear analytical picture. This story - very important for Australia's national security - is one of those.

On the evening of March 18 (Iraq time) last year, an Australian SAS regiment went secretly into active pre-emptive combat inside Western Iraq. The regiment had been deployed in Iraq some unknown time beforehand, by helicopter and overland. It was ready to begin fighting in the first darkness hours after President Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to cede power or face invasion, delivered at 4am March 18, Iraq time. The SAS started to fight in Western Iraq that same evening - some 30-odd hours before the expiry of Bush's ultimatum. The first shots fired in the Iraq war were Australian.

It was a crucial coalition objective to protect Israel against potential missile attack during the countdown to invasion, when Saddam might (as in 1991) have tried to use Israel as a hostage. The lion's share of this task had been assigned to Australia's 1st SAS Regiment, which had been in the Middle East since January, secretly preparing for this operation.

For months before that, the SAS had taken part in planning at US Central Command in Florida for early key roles in the coalition invasion of Iraq, according to a report in The Bulletin shortly after the war started. The US had seen in Afghanistan how effective the SAS was behind enemy lines, bringing a range of skills in covertly infiltrating and remaining hidden for long periods in enemy territory, that were now almost obsolete in their own special forces.

Pre-deployment of the Perth-based SAS regiment to the Middle East was announced on January 23. The Department of Defence media release noted: "The Government has decided to forward deploy lead elements of a Special Forces Task Group to the Middle East to allow the ADF adequate time to prepare for operations should military action against Iraq become necessary. The Task Group includes a Special Air Service squadron from Perth, capable of providing long range small group reconnaissance and surveillance capability. SAS elements can also conduct limited direct-action offensive operations."

This SAS squadron flew out from Perth on January 24 and then disappeared from view. Just days before the war, on March 14, the Herald and The Age reported that 150 SAS troops had been assigned "to locate threats to coalition forces involving weapons of mass destruction and to neutralise the impact on troops if the attacks occur". The truth - that our SAS was being prepared for key covert action roles inside Western Iraq to protect Israel from possible missile attack - remained hidden.

The next day, both newspapers further reported that Australia's 2000-strong troop deployment was probably spread across more than 2000 kilometres of the Middle East and included "a small contingent of the SAS in Jordan". Defence Minister Robert Hill deemed "offensive" any suggestions that Australian troops might have already joined the British and Americans in making incursions by land into "enemy territory".

But we know now that there were two separate and distinct SAS groups by this time pre-emptively deployed inside Iraq. In Western Iraq, SAS advance elements were in place, ready to engage the enemy as soon as the order was given. This group's task was to search out and destroy missile sites and related communications infrastructure that Saddam Hussein might use to threaten Israel.

Separately, some 600 kilometres inside Iraq, another SAS group was concealed just west of Baghdad. This group's task was covertly to monitor traffic on key highways out of Baghdad, to warn of any missiles transported into Western Iraq to threaten Israel.

We know now that there were no intermediate range missiles armed with WMD (nuclear, chemical or biological) that might have threatened Israel - indeed no missiles of any kind were reported found - but at the time this was not certain.
The timing of these secret SAS operations - especially the fighting in Western Iraq - as compared with the public statements from Washington and Canberra, is crucial to this story. Bush's words on March 17 [Washington time] were: "Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing."
About the same hour as Bush's announcement, John Howard [on March 18] in Canberra that Australian forces already deployed in the Gulf region were ready to take part in "any US-led coalition operation that may take place in the future". Howard declined to answer questions on the timetable for Australian action, saying that this was "an operational matter".

Asked when Bush's ultimatum would end, Howard replied: "Having now taken the decision to commit Australian forces to the coalition for possible future action, I am not going to speculate about when that might occur; that is an operational thing".

While neither Bush nor Howard lied in a strict technical sense about what Australia's SAS would do over the next 48 hours, most of their listeners would have understood their words to mean that coalition attacks would not start until the 48-hour ultimatum expired. Bush was careful not to mount the aerial "decapitation strike" on Saddam in Baghdad - the first declared US military action in the war - until 90 minutes after the ultimatum had expired on March 20.

The ultimatum having just expired, Howard announced that Australian combat operations had begun. He said he would not speak about Special Forces operations. He said: "Today marks the first indication of our active involvement". He assured: "Our forces will operate in accordance with the laws of war to which we are bound by our accession to various treaties and conventions, and I am sure they will act, as they always do, in an honourable and legal fashion".

On March 21, The Age reported that: "It is believed that SAS members have been sent into Iraq, either by helicopter or long-range patrol vehicles. They will try to direct attacks on missile sites and find chemical or biological weapons".

By March 22, Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove was reporting in great detail on SAS fighting inside Iraq, without saying when or where these various engagements had taken place.

There was an agreed prior US-Australian public information protocol, I surmise, that allied preemptive military operations during the ultimatum period should be kept secret for as long as possible.

However, unconfirmed rumours had began circulating among the media even before the war formally began on March 20 that the first Australian shots had preceded the expiry of the ultimatum. Such rumours were not confirmed until a detailed ADF briefing on May 9 by Colonel John Mansell, which revealed what the SAS had done in those 30-odd hours of undeclared pre-emptive Australian combat.

The SAS covert observation operation near Baghdad remained hidden and did not engage Iraqi forces. The SAS actions against military sites in Western Iraq, however, were violent, intense and successful. With the advantages of secrecy and surprise, there were no Australian casualties in either operation. Iraqi military casualties in Western Iraq are undeclared but would seem, reading between the lines of Mansell's briefing ("high-tempo shock activity", "heavy contact with the enemy"), to have been heavy - running at least into hundreds.

That force comprised about 75 SAS elite soldiers, and it "defeated or destroyed thousands of enemy forces and secured Iraq's Western desert," according to a report in Sydney's Daily Telegraph last month [December 11 2003]. It is clear that the SAS enjoyed the advantages of surprise and superior weaponry, though this is not to underestimate the valour and military skill of the Australian troops involved.

Mansell's briefing suggests that the SAS forces entered Iraq only after Howard "committed Australia to operations" on March 18. Asked what time it happened, Mansell replied: "The first period of darkness after the government announced that Australia would be - commit to operations in support of the US against Iraq ... Whilst we do believe it was one of the first incidents, ground incidents, we can't actually confirm whether it was the very first firefight to occur.''

The above words can only mean that for our SAS, the shooting war in Iraq began on the evening of March 18 - in the first hours of darkness after Howard's "commitment to operations" that morning in Canberra. But much of the public record reporting indicates that at least part of the SAS secret deployment in Iraq happened days or even weeks before then.

SAS soldiers spent 42 days behind enemy lines in the Iraq war, according to the same Daily Telegraph report. As the official duration of the war was only 20 days (March 20 - April 9), this indicates that at least some of our SAS troops were behind enemy lines and preparing for combat up to three weeks before the war formally began.

During the war itself, the "150-strong SAS regiment" had made a strong contribution to the swift allied military victory, it was reported in late April. "Within an hour of crossing into Iraq, the regiment was engaged in its first firefight. Two more major battles quickly followed. The SAS may specialise in reconnaissance and stealth, but this war saw them take on a new dimension. Rather than call in air strikes or other forces to deal with an identified enemy, the SAS often took on that task themselves. The targets were suspected sites for weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missiles that could fire them. Using rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns mounted on long-range patrol vehicles or shoulder-mounted Javelin anti-tank missiles, they destroyed many in the first days of the conflict," according to The Age and the Herald. [April 25]

Until this story and the Mansell briefing two weeks later, these large-scale pre-emptive military attacks by Australia's SAS in Western Iraq had gone almost unreported by the international media. Perhaps these two briefed articles were intended to remind Washington of Australia's important military contribution? Certainly the Mansell briefing at Defence headquarters in Canberra was no inadvertent leak - it must have had high-level political clearance.

Finally, on May 10, the story was firmly out there: "Australian troops fought the first battles of the Iraq War, killing and capturing Iraqi soldiers a day before US President George Bush declared the invasion had begun," The Age reported.

The story was soon picked up in The Jerusalem Post in a story in late May, by Australian academic Colin Rubinstein, which also warmly recalled Australian military support for Jewish communities in Palestine in World War 1 and World War 2. Rubinstein was firm on the importance for Israel's security of the hitherto secret SAS fighting: "More than anything else it was the Australians who had made it impossible for Saddam to fire Scud missiles at Israel as he had in 1991".

This report brought the story international attention and was doubtless read carefully in national security agencies throughout the Middle East, as well as among influential readers of The Jerusalem Post in Washington. For better or worse, it leaves Australia in an international spotlight as a seriously committed, militarily formidable, and from an Arab point of view, hostile player in Middle Eastern strategic considerations - with all the diplomatic and national security pluses and minuses for Australia that go with this perception. This must have been foreseen in Canberra.

The story, seen in this broader diplomatic and national security context, breaks important new public ground. It confirms three things:

First, that Australia was a highly valued element in US war planning in Western Iraq from the beginning. Howard misled the Australian public for approximately nine months before March 18 [2003] in saying that no Australian decision had been made to fight in Iraq, when in fact the decision had been firmly taken that if the US invaded Iraq, Australia would take part in those operations.

Second, a ruthless determination on the part of the Australian government to engage in secret, preemptive warfare, at a time when "the enemy" had been led to understand that war had not yet begun, that went right to the limit of the rules of legal and honourable warfare - many would argue, beyond the limit - in the interests of securing surprise and thereby military success. In this context, Donald Rumsfeld's reported effusive telephoned thanks to Robert Hill on March 22 for the SAS's military role ("he said he thinks they are just amazing") are understandable.

Third, the high national security risks that the Australian Government was prepared to run in this war, in terms of generating perceptions of Australia's international role as a strong US ally in war. Howard wanted Australia to be seen, not just regionally but also globally, as a brave and militarily effective ally ready to do the hard yards in any aspect of the war on terror as it was defined in Washington.

For whatever reason, the pre-emptive war-fighting role of our SAS was confirmed by the Australian Government on May 9. Maybe there was a perceived need to head off feared US demands for ADF peacekeeping contributions in Iraq. Maybe this was an effort to generate political goodwill in key Washington constituencies for tough current negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement. Maybe there was irritation at the deafening ignorance of the Washington media about Australia's role in the war ?

This is still a sensitive subject. Even now, military decorations to SAS members who fought in this secret war are being awarded anonymously. Is there perhaps some discomfort within the ADF as to whether this secret pre-emptive attack was legal and honourable under the rules of war ? Is there a fear of possible liability of individuals to charges in the International Criminal Court ? Or is it simply a desire to protect the identities of serving SAS personnel who may in future be tasked to engage in further such covert war operations?

This is a fascinating and instructive story of the deliberate assertion by Australia of an up-front military role, as a US combat ally that now offers its courage, professional skills, and full interoperability in covert expeditionary warfare anywhere in the world.

The Howard Government has clearly made a strategic choice. Whatever the costs might be to Australia's international reputation or national security interests in respect of other countries, this was a national security transaction that the Australian Government wanted military professionals the world over to know about, even though the Australian public is still only dimly aware of it.

The whole episode clearly needs more public scrutiny at professional military and at national security strategic levels. Is this the style of war-fighting that the ADF wants to engage in, and to be known for, from now on ?

Tony Kevin is a former Australian ambassador to Cambodia and Poland. He is a visiting fellow in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra.

IRAQ: Ex-diplomat reveals Australia's illegal killing spree
4 February 2004

On January 17, former diplomat Tony Kevin revealed that Australian SAS forces in Iraq had engaged in a “turkey shoot” against Iraqi troops — 30 hours before US President George Bush's declaration of war. Green Left Weekly’s Nick Everett spoke to Kevin about the implications of Australia’s role in this covert war.

Kevin explained that he was first alerted to the SAS operation by the award of “declarations”: “Commander of Operation Falconer Maurie McMahon has received an overt award for his role as commander. But all of the other men — and perhaps women — who received declarations received them anonymously.”

“This is very unusual. You don't normally award military honours to soldiers when you are not prepared to say when and where the act of bravery took place. The people of the SAS are pretty angry about this. They are not politicians. They don't understand why.”

Kevin told GLW that “for some 30 hours between March 18 and 20, the SAS was in military action inside Iraq”.

Based on information he obtained from Department of Defence briefing papers, Kevin observed that “two units with approximately 75 men in each” had entered Iraq some time before Bush's 48-hour ultimatum on March 18 that demanded Saddam Hussein stand down.

“One was just west of Baghdad monitoring the highways for possible movements of Iraqi missiles. That group remained covert and did not engage in fighting. The second group of 75 men, however, was in the area of suspected missile sites in western Iraq, just east of the Jordanian border and that group was in active and high-level military combat.”

“They were heavily armed with high technology weaponry and they used it in ambush type situations. They took out a lot of Iraqi casualties. There were no casualties whatsoever among the SAS.”

Kevin described the attack by SAS troops as a “turkey shoot”.

“On March 17 in Washington, which was the morning of March 18 in Canberra, Bush said he gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to stand down from power. Now any reasonable person would understand the meaning of that to be that military action would not commence until after that 48 hours. Indeed, the US took great care to take no declared military action during that 48 hours. The first declared action of the war took place 1.5 hours after the end of the 48 hours, on March 20 Iraq time, when the attempt was made to kill Saddam Hussein in the 'decapitation' bombing raid.”

Immediately after Bush's ultimatum, Howard made a statement in Canberra “choosing his words very carefully”, explained Kevin. “He said that he was committing Australian military forces to the coalition for “possible future military action’ and he said that our forces were ready to take part in any military action that may take place in the future.”

But while the media interpreted his statement to suggest that the SAS was ready to engage in military action only after it had been declared, the SAS was in fact mounting an ambush operation against Iraqi troops. Howard maintained the fiction throughout this ultimatum period.

According to Kevin, “two days later — on March 20 — Howard made a second statement at Parliament House announcing `today marks the first indication of our active involvement’ and he pledged that Australian forces will operate in accordance with the laws of war.”

But an Australian Defence Force briefing on May 9 by Colonel John Mansell revealed more details. Mansell stated that the SAS had been fighting on the first night — hours after Howard had committed Australia to operations in Iraq. An article in the Jerusalem Post by Australian writer Colin Rubenstein confirms that the SAS was “actually fighting for about 30 hours in the period of that ultimatum”, explained Kevin.

“This was going out all guns blazing at different levels of weaponry — they talk about three levels of weaponry to kill at three different ranges. This is deliberate mass-killing war”, said Kevin.

In a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald on January 20, defence minister Robert Hill conceded that SAS forces were in action before March 20, stating “the government's decision to commit the Australian Defence Force to Coalition operations in Iraq was announced on March 18 and from that time the Defence Force was under operational command”.

But Hill's assertions belie the reality that this information had been carefully disguised to an Australian public largely opposed to Australian involvement, says Kevin.

Kevin told GLW that “[Australian SAS] troops were ordered to go into war in a situation where the enemy — or the putative enemy — did not know he was at war. That is treacherous, that is immoral”, asserted Kevin. “We should not be asking our soldiers to do those things. Basically we were asking those men to behave as outlaws.”

This covert action, according to Kevin, “was a huge risk to those men, quite apart from the hundreds of Iraqis they killed or wounded. Had they been captured they would have been war criminals. They could have been up before the International Criminal Court, to which Australia subscribes”.

Reflecting on why the federal government chose to engage Australian troops in a covert operation, Kevin explained “I think PM John Howard was very keen to demonstrate absolute loyalty to the US alliance. Australia is signaling that we are prepared to fight for the US in the 'war against terror' anywhere in the world. We have shown this in the way we are prepared to make ourselves a diplomatic hostage over North Korea... We have shown it in Afghanistan [and] we have shown it now in Iraq”.

“It may have a little bit to do with the forthcoming bilateral trade agreement negotiations”, he added.

On the Australian government's current commitment to the occupation, Kevin noted that “one of the clever things that PM John Howard did was have an exit strategy”.

“There are heavy casualties being taken by all occupation troops — not just Americans, but British and Polish and Spanish — Australia saved itself from all of that. Howard, by this act of conspicuous bravery and political risk taking at the beginning gave himself an out. He could say to the Americans we have done our bit and we don't what to have anything to do with the occupation”, said Kevin.

While acknowledging the Australian government remains committed to the occupation, Kevin observed that the Australian government has sought to keep Australian troops “out of harms way” to minimise the potentially damaging political cost of any Australian casualties.

From: John Howard’s War: Australia’s Military Involvement in Iraq
Derek Woolner
(a shorter two-part version of this paper appeared in Dissent, Issue 29
(Autumn/Winter 2009), pp. 57–60, 64, and Issue 30 (Spring 2009) respectively)
(8161 words)

On 20 March 2003 members of the ADF were deployed to participate in the invasion of Iraq, the first time since its involvement in the Vietnam War that the Royal Australian Navy (RAN),

Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) had been deployed as part of the same military campaign. Thirty hours before Howard told parliament that hostilities were about to commence, units of the Special Air Services Regiment (SASR) had already entered Iraq and launched what was probably the first attack of the war. The SASR was there to stop the war going haywire; to find and destroy SCUD missiles before they could be launched at Israel, whose retaliation might have spread violence across the Middle East. No intact missiles were found; the attack was against recruits returning from rifle practice and, despite the individual gallantry of its members, the SASR’s activities were to have no strategic significance—the script for the Coalition’s war against Iraq was already forming within its first few hours.

Below is the recorded activity of just one of the Australian SAS soldiers in Iraq BEFORE the time of the ultimatum set by George Bush to Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq within 48 hours had expired.
Well done Trooper X. We can't give out you name, because what you did was illegal and if it had happened in Australia you would be behind bars!




For acts of gallantry in action in hazardous circumstances in Iraq while on Operation FALCONER

Trooper X’s patrol was tasked with clearing an Iraqi installation, to prevent it being used for the command and control of Iraqi theatre ballistic missiles. Trooper X was the machine gunner in the exposed .50 Calibre mounting ring in his patrol vehicle. During the action, an enemy special operations force of two vehicles and up to 20 heavily armed personnel engaged the SAS patrol. Whilst in contact with numerically superior enemy forces, Trooper X’s actions in destroying the enemy vehicles gave the Australian force the freedom of movement to complete the mission.

In a hazardous situation and under fire, Trooper X immediately engaged and destroyed the first enemy vehicle with his Javelin missile system. Having limited the enemy’s ability to manoeuvre, the patrol assaulted forward and Trooper X engaged a further Iraqi position located to the south with his machine gun. Trooper X re-engaged the enemy with his machine gun, demonstrating great composure.

Trooper X then re-engaged and destroyed the second enemy vehicle with the Javelin, dispersing nearby enemy soldiers who were setting up a mortar position. Subsequently, as the patrol closed on the enemy position, Trooper X engaged a mortar tube with his sniper rifle, hitting the tube with his first round and causing the weapon to explode. At this stage individual enemy started to surrender, creating a situation where surrendering soldiers were intermingled with other enemy who were still engaging the SAS patrol. Trooper X then judiciously placed well aimed shots within close proximity of the enemy that were still engaging from concealed positions, forcing them to surrender.

Throughout this engagement, Trooper X demonstrated skills and composure of the highest standard. He acted with very little direction and his decisions and subsequent actions had significant impacts on the outcome of the engagement. His actions in destroying the enemy vehicles gave the Australian assaulting forces freedom of movement and put the Iraqi forces under immediate pressure. Fort he entire engagement, Trooper X was subject to enemy fire passing close overhead. He readily accepted the personal danger and disregarded his own safety while acquiring the enemy vehicles with the Javelin. His conduct whilst in a hazardous situation in contact with numerically superior enemy forces was most gallant and led to the success of the action.

Trooper X’s acts of gallantry played a crucial role in gaining the initiative for his patrol and defeating an aggressive enemy force. His actions contributed significantly to the Coalition’s strategic success in denying Iraq the use of their theatre ballistic missiles. His performance brings great credit to the SAS Regiment, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.

It is likely that other awards will be presented to members of the ADF for their contribution to Operation Falconer at a later date.

Kevin urged the anti-war movement to remain vigilant. “Expose the truth and bring the guilty to account”, he told GLW.
Posted by John Wield Adams