A speech given to the Australian Federal Parliament by Anthony Albanese MP, on March 19th, 2007 – the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
March 19th was the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, which began a war that the Prime Minister said would last for months, not years. The war has come at a massive humanitarian cost. More than 23,000 US troops have been injured and more than 3,200 killed, along with more than 100 British personnel. Of course the statistics on Iraqi casualties are devastating. There is no official tally kept of Iraqi civilian deaths or injuries; however, it is estimated that at least 60,000 civilians have been killed during the war and occupation in Iraq. This is in addition to the approximately 12,000 Iraqi police who have lost their lives, according to a recently released congressional research service report.
The Pentagon’s quarterly report to Congress measuring stability and security in Iraq for March 2007 shows that the number of sectarian murders and incidents between January 2006 and January 2007 had risen and, overall, the level of violence in Iraq has continued to rise. Tragically, four years after it began, the war in Iraq is not measured by days of peace but by the days that are most bloody. July 2006 has the terrible designation of being the deadliest month in Iraq with 3,438 civilian deaths. This tragedy in economic terms has meant that Australia has expended approximately $1.603 billion. In the US, according to the congressional budget office, the current cost of the Iraq war stands at around $200 million per day. That is $6 billion per month with a total bill being estimated at around $US400 billion.
In reality the financial cost of the war is, of course, much higher when you take into account the costs of replacing military equipment, casualties and future impact. A suite of countries from the coalition, such as Spain, New Zealand, Portugal, the Netherlands, Japan and Italy, have pulled out. The UK has announced it is planning to reduce significantly the size of its contingent by the end of 2007. Yet the Prime Minister does not want to know.
This is the biggest single foreign policy failure since the Vietnam War. The Prime Minister has no exit strategy. He talks about a new sense of hope in Iraq, but hope is not a strategy; it is a sentiment. He uses slogans like ‘cut and run’ and ‘standing by our mates’ but platitudes and slogans are not going to make a strategy in Iraq. Our troops are honourably doing what is asked of them, often in considerable danger. Our troops have our respect and admiration for the job they are doing.
We in the Labor Party are proud of troops but we are not proud of our government. Iraq is a civil war. It requires a political solution to bring peace to the warring parties. It is time John Howard articulated an exit strategy and told the Australian people when our troops will be coming home.