We who love Australia should be sad, but not surprised, to find that our troops have been abusing human rights in Iraq. A military has only two purposes: to threaten to shoot people, and to actually shoot them. If you wanted any other job done, you wouldn't send a military, would you? Pointing guns at people is what soldiers do - and that's when they're being relatively restrained!
If our troops had committed other or worse abuses, would we know about it?
To blame a few rogues is to miss the point. Our soldiers should not be there. Our good intentions have miscarried. After 9/11, in a wave of sympathy for our old allies the United States, we joined them in a military campaign in a foreign land broiling with chronic religious, ethnic and nationalist disputes. We now know that the reasons put forward for the war in Iraq were wrong. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and there were no Iraqi links to Al Qaeda. President Bush had his own reasons for making war on Iraq. But the point is, we have now joined in a war which has killed over 100,000 men, women and children. Australia. For what? The best reason, or excuse, that is now on offer is that we are helping to 'build democracy' in Iraq. It's a kind of welfare/warfare state, if you like. We take money from people who didn't consent, and give destructive 'benefits' to people who didn't ask, all in the name of 'democracy' and helping 'the disadvantaged'.
This teaches us a home truth. Democracy loses its value when it means nothing more than that the majority or the state can use force to violate other people's liberty and property rights. What's the point of having a government to keep down thieves and burglars, if those in government are free to take as much of your liberty and property as they feel like? Only when the law equally constrains all people - including those in government, - to respect other people's life, liberty and property, is democracy a guarantee of freedom or human dignity. This applies everywhere - as much in Australia as in Iraq.
The welfare/warfare state violates the values of life, freedom and property at every turn. It denies personal responsibility which is the foundation of morality, it involves everyone in the injustice of its own plunder, and it destroys social harmony. The government does not 'represent' us when it commits crimes and violates human beings.
The truth hurts, but we should still face it. It is wrong that the war in Iraq has any legitimacy in terms of the defence of Australia. It is wrong for Australia's military to be involved in a campaign that has destroyed the lives and the homes of thousands upon thousands of innocent people. The Iraqi people are not our enemies. It is wrong for the Commonwealth in this way to defame the good name of Australia.
A true friend helps his friend to see and do right, not to persist in wrong. We should withdraw our troops from Iraq immediately and urge our old allies the Americans to do the same.