A headline like this has gotta make you sit up and pay attention:
US military bets all on Iraq campaignI think this explains how Howard will approach the Iraq War issue during the election campaign. Indeed, he has already begun hinting at an Aussie withdrawal scenario:
Under mounting political pressure at home, the US military is betting all that a summer-long campaign against Al-Qaeda in Iraq will leave it in a position to begin drawing down US troops by early next year.
General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, has only three months to bring about a major change in security conditions, a goal that has eluded all his predecessors.
Should he fall short, analysts say, an angry Congress is almost certain to act to take matters into its own hands.
Recently an Australian soldier in Iraq told the Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, that Australia was "not pulling its weight" and said its forces were "being withheld from actual combat roles".Well, that last bit is certainly not true. Howard himself has previously admitted that Aussie troops were on the ground in Iraq even before Bush's cowboy-style deadline to Saddam had expired:
When this was put to Mr Howard on Channel 10 yesterday he referred to Australia's understanding with the US. He had "made it very clear that … if we did commit forces, they would be committed for the sharp operational stage, the invasion stage, if you like, and then after that we would not be leaving forces on the ground".
It was not until April 2005 that Australia sent ground forces to Iraq, Mr Howard said.
MATT BROWN: On Melbourne radio 3AW the Prime Minister has confirmed this morning that Australian troops entered Iraq before the deadline George W. Bush set for Saddam Hussein to surrender expired.Never mind. We are all accustomed to Howard's lies these days. Right?
JOHN HOWARD: I think Senator Hill has indicated that that did happen.
INTERVIEWER: But it was denied at the time.
JOHN HOWARD: Well, I think what we said at the time was that we did the right...that we went in, in...
INTERVIEWER: I remember asking you whether troops went in, after we'd been told they were, and you said no.
JOHN HOWARD: Did I say that?
INTERVIEWER: "Not to your knowledge", yeah.
JOHN HOWARD: "Not to my knowledge". Well, that could well have been the case at the time.
INTERVIEWER: How early did they go in?
JOHN HOWARD: Well, certainly after the ultimatum was rejected.
INTERVIEWER: No, but did they not go in before the deadline expired?
JOHN HOWARD: Yes, but once an ultimatum is rejected the deadline is irrelevant.
Seems to me that Howard will be going into the election with the US military pumping out good-news stories from Iraq to support his "nearly there, not quite" thesis. After the election, it will be entirely up to Howard and his US masters whether we actually withdraw or not.
Same goes for the US politicians: they just want to get through to November 2008 without a complete withdrawal of forces, then the US military-industrial complex can carry on doing what they like for another four years.