The first casualty

President's perspective

The Howard government's pro-war position means that the need for citizens to maintain a vigilant, critical stance in relation to our media cannot be overstated. The most recent report to the UN Security Council on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction gives no credibility whatsoever to the war case, while a resolution supporting military action in the Security Council seems less likely either to attract the necessary number of votes or to escape a veto. In view of this, the Walk Against the War Coalition, the group that three weeks ago brought 300,000 people into the streets of Sydney, believes that Australian participation in military action would be illegal and has called for the nation's troops to be brought home.

As Phyllis Bennis concludes in her article on the Evatt website this month, "Nothing that Powell said [in his presentation to the UN] should alter the position that we should reject a war on spec". Key aspects of the Powell case were refuted by Hans Blix, and the more recent reports by Blix and Mohammed El Baradei of the IAEA at no point suggest that military action against Iraq is desirable. Blix has made it clear that such action would be a failure of the UN system. As in the previous report, Blix and El Baradei point to discrepancies, shortcomings and issues requiring resolution, but also to progress. Blix noted that, in witnessing the destruction of the El Samoud missiles, 'we are not watching the breaking of toothpicks - lethal weapons are being destroyed'.

Germany, France, Russia and China have made it perfectly clear that they see no need for military action against Iraq. French foreign minister, Dominque de Villepin, has summed up the position of the Australians who marched three weeks ago in their hundreds of thousands - and of the millions who marched worldwide - when he said: "Why choose division when our unity and resolve are leading Iraq to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction? France will not let a resolution pass that authorises the automatic use of force."

Our immediate attention must be on mobilising the anger that Australians feel toward unilateral military action; while at the same time hoping that the members of the Security Council can reject the attempt to bully and buy their vote. As Tariq Ali says in his article on the site this month, there is now a clear risk that, "[i]f the Security Council allows the invasion and occupation of Iraq either by a second resolution or by accepting that the first was sufficient to justify war as a last resort, then the UN, too, will die."