OPPOSITION Leader Kevin Rudd has been flexing his political muscles over the Howard Government’s involvement in Iraq War No 2.
But he seems to have forgotten that the Labor Party has unfinished business from Iraq War No. 1.Labor wants to pull out the Diggers from Iraq War No. 2, but it has not taken care of its responsibilities from the first war with Saddam Hussein.
Iraq War No. 1 started after the Iraqi dictator invaded Kuwait in 1990.
George Bush Sr was president of the United States and was quick to respond to the Iraq takeover.
So, too, was Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, who offered ships and sailors. Behind this decision was an ALP government wanting to score international recognition.
In his 1992 book The Gulf Commitment: The Australian Defence Force’s First War, respected academic David M. Horner gives a behind-the-scenes look at the political scramble to get our sailors and a small contingent of Diggers into the Gulf.
The key players listed were prime minister Hawke, defence minister Robert Ray, foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans and two key advisers.
Professor Paul Dibb was deputy secretary of Defence and Hugh White was an international adviser to the prime minister.
Iraq War No. 1 was mercifully short. It was over by the next year, but the legacy is Gulf War Syndrome, which is a term used to cover a wide range of illnesses or conditions suffered by ADF personnel.
Illnesses include chronic fatigue, migraines, nerve damage, dizziness, nausea, skin rashes and ulcers.
American and British inquiries have found evidence to suggest Gulf War Syndrome has affected a substantial number of veterans.
But Australian authorities have refused to accept these findings.
A study headed by Associate Professor Malcolm Sim of Monash University in March, 2003, found veterans were likely to suffer from mental health and respiratory problems.
However, it could not positively link these conditions to Gulf War Syndrome.
The three-year study of 1400 veterans found they faced increased risks of nerve damage.
Australian governments of both political persuasions are reluctant to accept liability.
It took decades for (US) Vietnam War veterans to prove their case in the Agent Orange controversy. This was the name given to the defoliants sprayed over Vietnamese jungles in the 1960s. Agent Orange resulted in illnesses in American and Australian servicemen.
LABOR has been as eager as conservative governments to send Australians into conflict to gain international kudos.
When Paul Keating became prime minister after Bob Hawke, he and foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans were keen to gain international clout.
They sent a small number of Australian peacekeepers into the African hell of Rwanda.
Inadequate rules of engagement meant Australian soldiers were powerless to stop ethnic massacres.
But the Australian Labor Party is still to admit its responsibility over Iraq War No. 1 and needs to do so before it can be taken seriously in its claims to have a responsible foreign policy over Iraq War No. 2.
The issue of Gulf War Syndrome remains a stain on ALP policy.
None of the key players has publicly expressed concern for veterans who might be suffering from it.
They, too, remain silent on what was a major issue while they were federal MPs.
Yet Blewett was a vocal anti-Vietnam war activist in his youth and Howe has returned to his calling as a minister of religion.
Kevin Rudd, who professes to be a man of faith, needs to heal the wounds caused by Gulf War No. 1.
SASHA UZUNOV is a freelance journalist who covered the second war in Iraq and served as an Australian soldier in East Timor
GULF WAR ILLNESS REPORT FROM AMERICA
“The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that ’Gulf War illness’ is real, that it is the result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time,” said the report, being released Monday by a panel of scientists and veterans. A copy was obtained by Cox Newspapers.
Webmaster’s Commentary: http://whatreallyhappened.com/
The chemical poisoning of our own troops by the government and military supposed to protect them is nothing new (remember the enduring legacy of the defoliant Agent Orange to both the Vietnamese People and our Vets?)
But what we have here, through this definitive research, is the sure and certain reality that we’ve done it yet again.
Every Vet who has gone out there and put their life on the line, particularly those who have been injured (or chemically poisoned, as has happened here), should receive the same level of medical care that (US Vice President Dick) Cheney gets.
That they do not speaks volumes about our national priorities, and about the degree these people become disposable, once they have done their jobs on the battlefield.