Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Reader ripostes: Howard, Ware and Iraq

Reader ripostes: Howard, Ware and Iraq
Published 11 Apr 2013 

Below, Mona Scheuermann responds to Michael Ware. But first, Ashley Murtha:

Some important qualifications should be made regarding Sam Roggeveen's mention of Canada as a country that opposed the Iraq War, ostensibly referenced as it is a middle-power that enjoys close relations with the US and thus may offer some insight of how the US would have received a hypothetical refusal of support from Australia.

Canada is linked with the US geographically, economically, and culturally to such an extent that it underscores a 'familial' relationship between the two transcending the vagaries of ordinary diplomacy — akin to relations between Australia and New Zealand. Geopolitically, Canada's US security umbrella is guaranteed by the fact that the US would never accept a foreign power projecting military force upon the continent of North America, regardless of any political animosity that may arise between Canada and the US themselves. Therefore Canada is in a unique position to take such liberties in its relationship with the US without fear of compromising its military security, a luxury that Australia cannot afford.


On the other hand, the animosity between the US and 'Old Europe' doesn't provide a telling picture of how a hypothetical Australian refusal of support would have been received either, as the symbolic importance of France and Germany's refusal to back the war exaggerated the diplomatic fallout. Rather, the US would have have likely reacted to an Australian protest with indifference, which is precisely what we are afraid of in the event we need to call on them for military assistance.

Mona Scheuermann:

I was in Japan on the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, still arguing with myself about whether, having watched Tiananmen Square in real time and sworn that I never would set foot in China, I should give up my principles and, so many years later, go. And then I had an epiphany; how could I hold onto this moral high ground: how many more  people had we killed in Iraq, and how much horror had we inflicted? And I do feel guilt, for at the very beginning, for a very short time, I was convinced about the argument to push in.

Of course Michael Ware's analysis is correct. We should not have started the whole mess, but to do it without any game plan, any knowledge of the society? There are times when the word 'obscenity' is not even nearly adequate. But I can give him words (not that he ever needs someone else's) for what he points out here and in other places about the war and the warriors and those who send and discard the victims.

Having described a gas attack, Wilfred Owen ends 'Dulce et Decorum Est' with these stanzas:

In all my dreams before my helpless sight

He [the friend who had not managed his gas mask in time] plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes wilting in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs

Bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori. (It is sweet and fitting to die for your country);

Or, to quote Bush jr: 'Mission Accomplished'.

You may also be interested in