Australia cleaning house. Troops withdraw and Howard may face war crime tribunal!Submitted by remember5th on Tue, 06/03/2008 - 23:39
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has praised the hundreds of Australian troops leaving Iraq, but says they were sent there because of flawed intelligence.
His comments come as Australian troops end combat operations in southern Iraq, and prepare to return home.
Mr Rudd dismissed former prime minister John Howard's reasons for supporting the war.
Mr Rudd says the Iraq conflict had failed to prevent terrorist attacks, and that no link between weapons of mass destructon and the former Iraqi regime had been found.
The pullout fulfils an election promise by the prime minister, Kevin Rudd, to bring the soldiers home this year.
For almost two years, Australian troops have been patrolling Dhi Qar and Al Muthanna provinces, as well as training Iraqi soldiers and police.
The packing up now begins.
Mr Rudd says the troops have performed their mission superbly in a dangerous environment.
But he has also strongly criticised the former government for joining the invasion.
"We on this side of the house did not support the decision to go to war," he said.
Leader of the main opposition party, Brendan Nelson, says there is evidence to show the mission has succeeded.
"As a result of all of this, we are now close to the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq," he said.
It is expected many of the 550 troops will be home by the end of this month, when a welcome parade will be held in the Queensland city of Brisbane.
Their operations will now be taken over by American troops.
Around 1,000 Australian soldiers will remain in Iraq supporting troops deployed in Afghanistan and providing diplomatic security.
The national head of the Returned Services League says he does not expect the troops to face the same resentment as Vietnam veterans did.
Major General Bill Crews says the Australian community is far more sophisticated and aware than it was in the Vietnam days.
"I believe we're all able, or most of us are able, to separate the politics of the deployment from the need to wholeheartedly support the service men and women who are undertaking this role on our behalf," he said.
"Because most people say 'I didn't agree with you being there, but I certainly agree that you've done a great job'."
Relations secure between Iraq, Australia
Iraq's ambassador to Australia says the relationship between the two countries will not be damaged by the withdrawal of Australian combat troops.
Iraqi Ambassador Ghanim Al-Shibli says it is the right time for them to leave.
"The need for troops are not there any more, the Iraqis are standing on their feet thanks to the assistance of the Australians, as well as the multinationals," he said.
"The relationship with Australia is moving into different avenues."
Meanwhile, a legal brief has been sent to the International Criminal Court alleging the former Australian prime minister, John Howard, committed a war crime by sending troops to Iraq.
A loose alliance of peace activists, lawyers, academics and politicians are behind the brief organised by the ICC Action group based in Melbourne.
An organiser, Glen Floyd, says Mr Howard should be made accountable for sending troops to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations.
"We have produced a 52-page brief of evidence which states to the chief prosecutor of the criminal court that we allege John Howard's actions are war crimes under article 8 of the Rome statute," he said.