News National Iraq led to Bali bombing and Lindt siege: Wilkie
Updated:

Iraq led to Bali bombing and Lindt siege: Wilkie

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
Andrew Wilkie has submitted a series of claims to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Photo: Supplied Photo: Supplied
Share
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

The Bali bombings and the Lindt cafe siege would never have happened if Australia hadn’t joined the 2003 invasion of Iraq, says former intelligence analyst and now Tasmania independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

Mr Wilkie said the Iraq invasion had “turbo-charged” terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State and both Mr Howard and former foreign minister Alexander Downer should be held to account, Mr Wilkie said, renewing his call for a third and broader Australian inquiry into the war.

“Frankly, there are a number of political leaders who in my opinion have blood on their hands. The Bali bombing of 2005 would not have occurred if we haven’t have joined in the invasion of Iraq,” he said.

“The Lindt Cafe siege would not have occurred if we hadn’t helped create the circumstances for the rise of Islamic State.”

• ‘I’d do it all again’: Blair on Iraq invasion
• Fatal US police shooting sparks outrage

Mr Wilkie maintained there was no imminent threat from Hussein and peaceful options had not been exhausted. He resigned from the Office of National Assessments in protest over the government’s decision to join in the Iraq war.

The Howard government backed the 2003 US-led war on Iraq based on the best information available and took full responsibility for its decision, says Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

John Howard with former US president George Bush. Photo: Getty.
John Howard with former US president George Bush. Photo: Getty.

A seven-year UK inquiry into the invasion and unsuccessful search for weapons of mass destruction found the threat posed by dictator Saddam Hussein was overplayed, intelligence was flawed and the legal basis for the war was unsatisfactory.

While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is yet to comment, Ms Bishop said the decision was based on the best information available at the time.

“I was in the party room. I recall very well the information that was presented to us,” she told Seven Network on Thursday.

Overnight in London, former UK prime minister Tony Blair denied he had given former US president George Bush a “blank cheque for war”.

But he expressed his “profound regret” and apologised to the families of UK soldiers who had died.

Asked if former prime minister John Howard should apologise to the Australian people, Ms Bishop said it was a matter for him.

“The Australian government – both Labor and Liberal – the Australian parliament would take responsibility,” she said.

“I recall very well at the time Kevin Rudd [who was then Labor’s foreign affairs spokesman] urging us to continue to support the United States. So it was a bipartisan position up to a point in relation to Iraq.”

A March 2003 diplomatic cable sent by the British Embassy in Canberra to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office outlines the UK view of the Australian parliamentary debate at the time.

It records how Mr Bush called Mr Howard on March 18 to make the formal request for an Australian role in a future military intervention in Iraq.

Mr Howard convened a cabinet meeting ahead of a live national television broadcast announcing Australia’s decision to commit troops.

He also agreed to table in parliament the text of legal advice given to the government.

Mr Howard described the advice as being “consistent” with that given to the UK government which – the cable said – the embassy had “fed in to his office this morning and which he also tabled”.

Labor, led by Simon Crean, condemned the coalition government’s decision arguing “that involvement would spawn terrorism and greatly increase the risk of terrorist attacks on Australian soil”, the cable said.

The Bali bombing in October, 2002. Photo: AAP.
The Bali bombing in October, 2002. Photo: AAP.

Australia later asked Iraqi diplomats in Australia to leave the country.

Former intelligence analyst and now Tasmania independent MP Andrew Wilkie said it was clear there was no imminent threat from Hussein and peaceful options had not been exhausted.

The Iraq invasion had “turbo-charged” terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State and both Mr Howard and former foreign minister Alexander Downer should be held to account, Mr Wilkie said, renewing his call for a third and broader Australian inquiry into the war.

“I will take it up with whoever is the next prime minister,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

Mr Wilkie resigned from the Office of National Assessments in protest over the government’s decision to join in the Iraq war.

“Frankly, there are a number of political leaders who in my opinion have blood on their hands. The Bali bombing of 2005 would not have occurred if we haven’t have joined in the invasion of Iraq,” he said.

“The Lindt Cafe siege would not have occurred if we hadn’t helped create the circumstances for the rise of Islamic State.”

Former Australian army chief Peter Leahy said there were lessons to be learned from the 2.6 million-word Chilcot report.

“Frankly, some of the decisions the United States, our senior partner in our strategic alliance, have made over the last 20 or 30 years have been a bit crook,” he told ABC TV.

The Greens plan to reintroduce a bill requiring parliamentary approval when Australia participates in a war.