The Melbourne Minutes: New Downing Street Memos From Down Under
By David Swanson
t r u t h o u t Guest Columnist
Tuesday 28 November 2006
More than a year before the United States launched an endless war on Iraq in what President George W. Bush told Congress was an urgently needed action to prevent an attack with non-existent weapons by non-Iraqi terrorists ...
Eleven months before Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair [http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/whitehousememo] that a good way to start a war on Iraq would be to paint planes with UN colors, fly them low, and get them shot at ...
Five months before the Downing Street Minutes were taken at a meeting revealing the knowledge top British officials had of the secret war plans of the Bush administration ...
Just a week or two before several of the Downing Street Memos recorded US-British discussions of the coming war ...
On February 27, 2002 - just five months after 15 Saudis, 2 Lebanese, and 2 Yemenis flew airplanes into US buildings - Trevor Flugge, who was then chairman of AWB, the Australian Wheat Board, a private corporation, told AWB's board that John Dauth, who was then Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, had revealed to Flugge the plans of the US and Australian governments for war on Iraq. Tragically for war profiteers everywhere, somebody took minutes of the meeting.
You may not have heard about this from the US media. Maybe if we all scream really loudly for six weeks you will. That's how the Downing Street Minutes found their 15 minutes of fame in June 2005. But, as we stuff our faces with dead turkeys, the new Melbourne Minutes are the top news story in Australia. According to the Australian Associated Press:
Mr Dauth briefed Mr Flugge in New York in February 2002 - 13 months before the invasion - and the details appear in minutes of AWB's February 27 board meeting tendered to the inquiry.
"The ambassador stated that he believed that US military action to depose Saddam Hussein was inevitable and that at this time the Australian government would support and participate in such action," the minutes say. "The ambassador believed that the Iraqis grossly underestimated the US reaction to September 11 (with the consequent military response in Afghanistan) and that Iraq's request to renegotiate UN weapons inspectors was a direct result of their nervousness about US action. The ambassador believed that the latest olive branch from the Iraqis was likely to stave off US action [for] 12 to 18 months but that some military action was inevitable."
Mr Dauth - now high commissioner in New Zealand - predicted the Iraq war would be similar to the campaign in Afghanistan, with heavy use of air support followed by the deployment of ground troops.
"He undertook to ensure that AWB was given as much warning as would be possible under such circumstances, but noted that in these instances often the Australian government had little notification," the board minutes said.
Where have we heard that word "inevitable" before? Oh, yeah: the Downing Street Minutes: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Why are we hearing about the minutes of this Australian meeting only now? Well, the minutes have been released by a government investigation into AWB's bribing of Saddam Hussein's government in order to win contracts to export Australian wheat to Iraq. That investigation may now be expanded in Australia. It's also one that the incoming Democratic chairs of the House and Senate agriculture committees in the US committed last week to investigating. What will they do now, with the wheat-bribe scandal having taken this interesting twist?
The past six years of near-zero Congressional oversight in Washington is one reason Americans' knowledge of the planning of the Iraq War comes largely from foreign sources. But, if members of the Australian government were passing word around, I shudder to think how many people in the right circles in Washington, DC, knew the score but kept their mouths shut and are keeping them shut to this very day. It's clear that members of the US corporate media elite were in the know. In fact, if you ask them to condescend to notice this Australian news, they'll almost certainly tell you it's "old news," that they knew it all four years ago. They did, but they didn't tell the rest of us.
Now here we are, years later, still killing and dying in Iraq, and proposing to attack Iran on the basis of lies almost identical to those used to justify the initial attack on Iraq.
We must demand that the new Congress block any new wars and cut off funding for the current one. We must also demand investigations immediately into the lies that launched the war and the conducting of the war. American citizens are the last to know what our government is doing. We're used to that, but there is no reason we need wait any longer. If the subpoenas don't start piling up in the White House mailbox on New Year's Day, we will have established two critical facts:
1. Future presidents are free to ignore all laws.
2. Democrats are just Republicans with manners.
David Swanson is creator of MeetWithCindy.org, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of Democrats.com. He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997. His website is www.davidswanson.org.