Tom Switzer is a Research Associate at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney, and editor of Spectator Australia.
One can greatly admire Major General Molan, as I do, and still profoundly disagree with his views about the Iraq war and its aftermath. Australian forces played an honorable role in both the invasion and post-regime occupation of Iraq. The fact remains that our Diggers should never have been sent to Iraq.
True, Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant who defied several UN resolutions. But any threat he posed could have been contained, as indeed it had been since the 1991 Gulf War. For Saddam, far from being an ideological fanatic in cahoots with al Qaeda, was a cynical calculator whose overriding concern was to hold onto power and exercise it ruthlessly over the unfortunate people of Iraq, especially the Shia majority.
Jim suggests that the Iraqi people enjoy a better life today than under the Baathist dictatorship before 2003. That assessment conflicts sharply with that held by many Iraqis themselves. Take Kadom al-Jabouri, who became the face of the demise of Saddam (he was widely photographed with a sledgehammer demolishing the huge statue of the fallen dictator). Speaking to the UK Observer (a liberal pro-war paper) last week, he said:
I dreamed for five years of bringing down that statue, but what has followed has been a bitter disappointment. Then we had only dictator. Now we have hundreds. Nothing has changed for the better....Under Saddam, there was security. There was corruption, but nothing like this. Our lives were protected....Then came the killings, robberies and sectarian violence....And things seem to get worse all the time.
For a quirkier but nonetheless realist view, here's my column in The Age in Melbourne today.
Photo by Flickr user Ammar Abd Rabbo.