Saturday, September 25, 2004

Weapons expert's fight to warn PM: "Australia's leading expert on weapons of mass destruction defied political and bureaucratic barriers to warn the Prime Minister that his case for war against Iraq was based on falsehoods and would make Australia a bigger terrorist target.

"Bob Mathews, a 35-year veteran of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, wrote to John Howard as a private citizen three days before he committed Australia to the war - a last, desperate act after the expert's superiors repeatedly blocked him from expressing his views."

"The Herald has obtained a copy of Dr Mathews's letter and been appraised of what one colleague described as his "disgraceful" treatment both before and after it was sent to Mr Howard. His actions were investigated, his travel was curtailed and charges were contemplated. Dr Mathews's lengthy critique called on Mr Howard to reconsider his position and take action to dissuade the US from its path. In the letter, he said:

"There was not even circumstantial evidence to back the view that Saddam Hussein had substantial stockpiles of usable WMD. If he did have WMD, and if Iraq were invaded, there was a "high probability" they would be passed on to terrorists. He said there was no chance of their falling into al-Qaeda's hands while Saddam remained in power. Australia would "face an increased risk of terrorist acts" if it joined the invasion, which was a "serious distraction to the fight against terrorism".

"Australia would have greater difficulties dealing with South-East Asian nations in combating terrorism due to the Iraq war. The United Nations must be given more time for inspections, and was an important curb on Saddam's WMD ambitions. "There are no reasons at the present time to justify supporting a US-led invasion of Iraq," Dr Mathews told Mr Howard, urging him to make a last-ditch effort to persuade the Americans to abandon their war plans. Dr Mathews sent his letter to Mr Howard on March 17 last year, three days before the Prime Minister formally announced Australia was at war."

Yet another high level leak, which further devastates the already shattered case for the war, and the credibility of the leadership. But does it matter? Or are we in an era when official lying and warcrimes are to be accepted as the norm?

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