Friday, November 24, 2006

The Coalition of the Un-Willing Grows

Peter Tinley, former SAS officer who devised and executed the Iraq war plan for Australia's special forces breaks, ranks to say that the nation's involvement has been a strategic and moral blunder and to call for immediate withdrawal of his nation's deployment.

"The notion that pre-emption is a legitimate strategy is a betrayal of the Australian way."

Mr Tinley, 44, who retired from the army last year after a distinguished 25-year career, served 17 years with the elite SAS regiment, leaving the army as a major last year. In 2003, Mr Tinley served as deputy commander for the 550-strong joint special forces task group that took control of western Iraq. The same year, he was appointed a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for "dynamic leadership and consistent professional excellence". He has also been decorated for his military service in Afghanistan.

Tinley says the US-led coalition had been naive in its thinking about what it could achieve after a quick military invasion of Iraq and condemns the Howard Government over its handling of the war and has called for an immediate withdrawal of Australian troops:
It was a cynical use of the Australian Defence Force by the Government . . . . This war duped the Australian Defence Force and the Australian people in terms of thinking it was in some way legitimate . . . . They never had enough troops to fully lock down the major centres and infrastructure or the borders.
During war planning with US and British special forces at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 2002, Mr Tinley says he never saw any hard intelligence that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction:
When I pressed them (US intelligence) for more specific imagery or information regarding locations or likely locations of WMD they confessed, off the record, that there had not been any tangible sighting of any WMD or WMD enabling equipment for some years.

It was all shadows and inferenced conversations between Iraqis. There was an overwhelming desire for all of the planning staff to simply believe that the Iraqis had learned how to conceal their WMD assets away from the US (surveillance) assets.

During our preparations for this war I remember hearing (ex-defence chief) General Peter Gration's misgivings and assumed he did not possess all the information that our Prime Minister did.

I now reflect on his commentary with a completely different view and am saddened that other prominent people in our society didn't speak louder at the time and aren't continuing to speak out in light of what we now know.

This is no slur on our soldiers. (Brigadier) Mick Moon and his men have been doing a fantastic job.

The notion that pre-emption is a legitimate strategy in the face of such unconvincing intelligence is a betrayal of the Australian way.