America’s Wars, Australia’s hypocrisy

With his fate set and Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership in its death throes, it is time to look back across the wasteland of his leadership.

The ritual lies of political combat: The Prime Minister has my full support. Laugh Out Loud. Versus: I’m focused on delivering for the Australian people. Laugh Out Loud.

While in the backrooms the knives are fully drawn and in their imaginations they’re already dancing over pools of blood.

The Australian: PM’s leadership on knife edge. The backbench rebellion against Malcolm Turnbull has spread as ministers last night gathered for an emergency meeting.

News: Support for a Malcolm Turnbull-led Coalition is falling apart as speculation swirls around a possible leadership challenge by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton

Turnbull’s enemies can barely wait to carry his corpse off the battlefield; so much is this toff from Australia’s wealthiest postcode despised.

The Ruins of Musl. Courtesy The New Daily.

Turnbull, arguably the worst Prime Minister in Australian history, has led his Party into the Valley of Death, facing atrocious polls and a wipeout at the coming elections.

He leaves a terrible legacy. The worst internet in the world, sky high energy and housing prices, a dysfunctional bureaucracy and widespread disillusionment with the country’s political processes.

Live By The Sword Die By The Sword

Perhaps worst of all, Malcolm Turnbull sacrificed his own nation’s sovereignty to America’s misguided military adventures.

Turnbull sent soldiers into counterproductive, poorly managed and morally indefensible wars no sane person could possibly believe in. He gave the public no explanation, and refused to answer questions on the subject.

While in the background played tens of billions of dollars of secretive military contracts.

I reach to a nearby shelf and extract a blue surgical glove and pull it onto my right hand and take a slow breath and step close to each man placing my hand on his shoulder and turn.

The chill of their bodies reaches my heart, looking down at each dead soldier.

I say how sorry I am that they have been claimed by war. I thank them for their sacrifice and tell them they are on their way home. It feels perfectly natural to be speaking to the dead.

After a moment of contemplation I say ‘goodbye Jacob’ and then I pause and say ‘goodbye Darren’.

Australian General John Grantwell on the Afghan War in which more than 40 Australian soldiers died.

The Bombings Increase

From Malcolm Turnbull’s first day as Prime Minister in 2015, the bombings on Iraq increased.

To this day, putrid skeletons are still being dug out of the rubble.

Lovers, sons, soldiers, old and young, men and women, children.

Most of all, they were believers in an Abrahamic god, Allah. They died for their beliefs. In a modern day Crusader War.

I can still smell the filth, the lingering odour of death (think vomit plus defecation) that seeped up from under fallen masonry blocking the street. I can still see, in the houses, the scattered detritus of clothes and baby toys, the remains of lives torn apart by horror.

No glory there, watching Iraqi people dying senselessly while our planes flew overhead. Nicholas Stuart, Sydney Morning Herald.

Australian bombs helped to make those corpses.

At the same time as bombs paid for by Australian workers were killing Muslims on the other side of the world, a grinning corpse of a Prime Minister launched yet another policy, made yet another announcement, threw himself in front of yet another camera.

And as a result of all this frenetic activity, became increasingly unpopular.

While the country itself slowly died, becoming a democracy in name only.

Turnbull dropped more bombs

Australian bombers

Malcolm Turnbull was responsible for dropping more bombs than any other Australian Prime Minster in history.

That is, he killed more people.

Muslim people, not to put too fine a point on it.

His actions alienated the Muslim minority, who to a man or woman regard Australia’s involvement in Middle Eastern wars as the one and the same as terrorism.

By his obsequiousness to American foreign militarism, Turnbull sacrificed his own country’s sovereignty.

Courtesy Stop the War Coalition

Australia has been involved with American Wars since Korea. At great loss of life, treasure, credibility and moral integrity.

We cannot stand proudly on the world stage when we do such things.

Vietnam was a disaster. Afghanistan was a disaster. Iraq was a disaster.

And yet there our political class yet again: tally ho, bombs away.

Bombs rain down on medieval streets

By early 2017 Malcolm Turnbull had been responsible for dropping twice the number of bombs on Iraq and Syria as his predecessor, the warmongering Jesuit trained Tony Abbott.

Abbott was responsible for dropping 669 bombs on Iraq and Syria between September 2014, when he announced he was taking Australia back into the Iraq War, and September 2015, when he was turfed from office.

FA/18 Hornet

By April of 2017 Turnbull had been responsible for dropping 1,256 bombs.

There was no threat to the homeland.

Most Australians mistakenly believed Australia’s support in the Middle East was limited to humanitarian aid.

In May of 2017 the bombing increased still further, with 119 bomb drops on Iraq.

The terrible slaughter would continue for months; 106 bombs in June, 104 in July.

Only towards the end of the year, with the claimed defeat of Islamic State in Iraq, did the number of bombs dropped by Australia fall.

The Department of Defence refused to release any estimates of casualties, civilian or military.

A Propaganda Loss

Image Courtesy Al Jazeera

The public does not have much appetite for pictures of dead children, women and older people.

The war in Syria in particular has already turned many Muslims in Australia against the military efforts. If Australia is involved in the bombings and the death of innocent civilians, they are seen by some as murderers and hypocrites. Clarke Jones. Australian National University.

Every bomb dropped was a propaganda loss.

Most of their targets had smart phones, and could transmit the effects of those taxpayer bombs in a second.

Remembrance Day. Iraq.

Journalist Fellow at Defence Department funded Australian Strategic Policy Institute Graeme Dobell, their only truly smart media analyst, says conducting the Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria wars in almost total secrecy has created a backlash.

The Defence Department and the Australian Defence Force had found itself almost entirely unprepared for an age when their opponents and the villagers amongst which they operated were all equipped with smartphones.

Defence and government are going to have to start making the case to the Australian people, to encourage the public to examine Australia’s continuing role in the Middle East.


Australia’s involvement in Iraq and Syria is already being blamed for increasing radicalisation amongst Muslims.

“I fear for our long term outlooks as a result of the civilian casualties caught up in this conflict,” former military analyst Dr Clarke Jones said. “There are always civilian casualties, you would be naive to think otherwise. There are mistakes. Islamic State use civilian shields. Naturally there will be civilian casualties.

“There is no doubt that the sentiment in relation to allied bombing does contribute to radicalisation within communities within Australia. Without a doubt it is radicalising Muslim minorities.”

Dr Jones said Muslims within Australia were overwhelmingly against the war, and Australia’s military intervention was bringing them into conflict with their own country.

“We have to be careful about the enemies we generate in the region, in our neighbouring countries and the overall Muslim sentiment around the world, including in Australia, you bet you. I don’t have to go very far, even inside Canberra, to get that sentiment. We are playing into Islamic State hands. I can’t understand why we are continuing down this path.”

Mosul, Iraq, carpet bombed by the Infidels. AP Photo/Felipe Dana

One of Australia’s best known Muslim spokesmen Keysar Trad says the Coalition went out of its way to cover up the number of its victims; and they failed to understand they were creating a hardened generation of orphans.

“The net result is a lot of death and killings and children raised in desperate conditions. The Holy Qur’an describes a group of people who will be raised towards the end who will…not display the compassionate hesitation. They are more likely to see the world in black and white terms, just like a certain flag.

“Civilian casualties aggrieve people and make the world unsafe. Independent reports already show scores of civilians killed in Western bombings of West Mosul. The civilians casualties are already too high and any continued aerial bombings will increase civilian casualties.

“These wars that coalition governments have dragged us into have cost many innocent lives. Speaking as one of them, the majority of Australians do not want this on our conscience.”

Secret Wars

Australia’s wars were in essence secret wars.

The wars were never discussed with the public.

As a direct result they never had popular support. And if they had been properly aired, community outrage would have forced them to cease and desist.

The Defence were tight lipped on information. Paranoid of being exposed.

While Turnbull passed laws making it ever easier to jail journalists, he also passed laws making it easier for the country to fall in line with America’s attitude to civilian deaths aka collateral damage.

Former secretary to the Department of Defence Paul Barratt described Australia’s involvement in Iraq as insanity: repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result.

Emanuele Satolli for TIME

“The Americans have always been more relaxed about collateral damage than we are,” he said.

“We went through the whole of the Iraq War with the Americans saying we don’t count the bodies.”

Australia was not counting bodies either. And while its rules of engagement were stricter than America’s, that would soon change. The body count was rising. And there was no accounting.

Professor Richard Tanter of the University of Melbourne said the bombs being dropped were 500–2000 pound bombs whose impact could be felt 700 metres away. There was no way of knowing how many combatants, along with civilians, men, women and children, were being killed by Australian Defence Force bombs.

“In the defence of Iraq? That’s ridiculous. We are adding to the misery.”

Former head of the Australian Strategic and Defence Studies Centre Professor Des Ball argued civilian casualties were high: “I would not be surprised if the total number of children exceeds the total number of terrorists.”

Image ADF

No clear strategy

Critics argue that with no clear strategy, and hostage to American military interests rather than our own, the bomb drops are counterproductive and a considerable waste of money and resources. And a waste of the skills and good intentions of the soldiers.

As critics of the West’s involvement in the Middle East repeatedly pointed out, you cannot bomb an idea.

Clive Williams, Adjunct Professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said it had been foolish for Australia to get involved.

“Most people in strategic studies are saying the airstrikes won’t achieve anything in terms of a political outcome,” he says. “There are a lot of negative aspects.”

Mosul, Courtesy France24.

On gaining office in Canada, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his country would be ceasing aerial bombardment.

No such commitment came from Australia’s new Prime Minister.

Alison Broinowski, vice-president of Australians for War Powers Reform, says the US, UK and Australia badly mishandled just about everything to do with 9/11, and the world had been paying the price ever since.

“The mother of all mistakes was to widen the conflict to Iraq which set in train the series of events that now destabilise a number of countries and gave birth to Islamic State. Australia should have stayed well clear.”

War Crimes

Sure as night followed day, there will be a very high price to pay for the killing — beyond the already astronomical costs in terms of military expenditure and national crackdowns on dissent and freedom of speech.

The dead have a habit of haunting the living.

Perhaps it has already come, the haunting for a man who stained the soul of the country and betrayed the people he was elected to represent.

While Iraq and the United States claimed victory over IS in Mosul, thousands of bodies still lie in the pulverised ruins.

Almost one million people fled. The Iraqi Army lost up to 40 per cent of its attack force. Estimates of the number of civilians killed ranged over 40,000. The exact number will never be known.

Image Courtesy of Al Jazeera

Amnesty International spokesperson Diana Sayed said the bombs dropped into the crowded streets of Mosul had a shock radius of 230 metres and resulted in needless casualties.

“Pro-government forces, including Australia, failed to take feasible precautions to protect civilians during the battle for west Mosul — through launching barrages of indiscriminate, disproportionate and otherwise unlawful attacks, and failing to provide adequate warnings prior to bombardments. The realities of living under the Islamic State often meant people were trapped and unable to leave their homes,” she said.

“Australia and its allies in Iraq should publicly acknowledge the massive loss of lives during the Mosul operation.”

The report, titled ‘At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq’, said Iraqi and US forces did not meet humanitarian law requirements.

“Iraqi government and US-led coalition forces failed to adequately adapt their tactics to these challenges — as required by international humanitarian law — with disastrous consequences for civilians.

Pro-government forces relied heavily upon explosive weapons with wide area effects. These weapons wreaked havoc in densely populated west Mosul, where large groups of civilians were trapped.”

Experts warn that Islamic State, far from being defeated, created a major jihad spectacle in order to drive recruitment.

In other words, the West fell into a jihad trap.

For this ludicrous level of strategic incompetence someone had to go to work in a factory and pay their taxes.

The Emperor has no clothes: The Final Hours

As the man most directly responsible for Australia’s killing of Muslim fighters and their families on the other side of the world, the blood of the martyrs has congealed around Turnbull, whether he likes it or not.

It wasn’t long into his tenure before the Prime Minister’s appearance and disposition, that of a wealthy, successful, chipper, buoyant, well fed Eastern suburbs success story, changed — his demeanour became more authoritarian, his face more sinister, more Mussolini- like, starkly lined, and his glib reiterations of government policy more patently false.

It has all lead straight to the pit.

Men pursue power, and power destroys them.

Surrounded by enemies, alone in his castle, the dreams of Malcolm Turnbull to become Prime Minister of Australia are ending in the ashpit they so richly deserve.

Avarice and bullying, strutting and empty headed nonsense, the I’m an important person bustle in and out of chauffeur driven cars while contempt for those around him oozed from every pore, all of it will be gone in an instant.

A prancing horse dazzled by his own reflection, Turnbull’s tenures has been agonising to watch.

The country tuned out.

Defeated, it was almost as if they accepted the blame for their own demise.

For their own loss of spirit, optimism, determination, a plucky country which was plucky no more.

As the demolition squads move in, let the headlines tell the story.

The Australian: Turnbull’s a dead man walking.

The ABC: Internal division over the National Energy Guarantee has fuelled talk of a possible leadership challenge, with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton seeking to play down speculation on Saturday.

The New Daily: Mr Turnbull hosted a cabinet meeting in a private dining room at Parliament House on Sunday night, amid rampant speculation Mr Dutton was considering a challenge. In what could prove an ominous sign, Mr Dutton reportedly made a late appearance.

Soon after, his camp began briefing journalists that their man now had the support and the inclination to challenge.

The Australian Financial Review: Speculation is rife Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in trouble.

The Daily Mail: Our next PM? Meet the former drug squad cop positioning to challenge Malcolm Turnbull for Australia’s top job — and the career-defining reason why he must act NOW. Peter Dutton poised to challenge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, reports say.



John Stapleton worked as a journalist on The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian for more than 20 years. A collection of his journalism is being constructed here.