Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie has called for former prime minister John Howard to face a war crimes trial over his decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
Wilkie made the call following the release of the Chilcot report in the UK, which painted a damning picture of the decision making process before the invasion.
The Chilcot report, which contains 2.6 million words and took seven years to produce, was scathing of former British prime minister Tony Blair’s role in taking the UK to war.
It found Blair committed to the war before all peaceful options had been exhausted, having relied on “flawed” and unjustified assessments of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and with almost no plan for how to run the country after the old regime was removed from power.
Blair, alongside then Australian prime minister John Howard, quickly joined then US president George W. Bush’s “alliance of the willing”, and committed to invading Iraq on the basis that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had produced weapons of mass destruction.
Wilkie says that all three men should face a war crimes tribunal following the release of the report, calling the decision to invade Iraq "the biggest security and foreign policy blunder in our country's history".
Wilkie worked at Australia’s office of National Assessments, an Australian intelligence agency, at the time of the war and became a vocal critic of what he described as the government’s misuse of intelligence to exaggerate the threat posed by Hussein.
In 2003, Wilkie quit the ONA and became a whistleblower, using public speaking engagements to criticise the government and question Australia’s decision to join the US and UK in invading Iraq.
Following the release of the Chilcot report overnight, Wilkie today called for an Australian inquiry into the decision to join the war, saying that some of Australia’s former political leaders have “blood on their hands”.
The former intelligence analyst said the Bali Bombing in 2005 and Lindt cafe siege would not have happened if Australia had not joined the Iraq war.
“Until we have a proper inquiry into the Iraq war, then we won't learn the lessons to prevent or to help prevent such a disaster again in the future,” he said.
“The fact is that the invasion of Iraq and the start of a war that continues to this day, not only did it turbocharge al-Qaeda back then, but it created the circumstances for the rise of Islamic State."
“The terror threat that we face in this country right now is a direct result of the decision by the Australian government under John Howard in 2003 to join in that invasion.”
Wilkie said it is time to take the power to commit Australia to war out of the prime minister’s hands following the intelligence blunders of 2003.
“[In 2003], we all knew that Iraq didn't pose a serious enough security threat to justify a war, that there were other non-invasion options to deal with the odious Saddam Hussein,” he said.
“That he didn't have a weapon of mass destruction program of any note and certainly not of the magnitude that the people like John Howard were talking about.”
Wilkie said he intends to raise the notion of an independent inquiry into the Iraq war when parliament resumes.
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Howard said he still believes invading Iraq was justified at the time.
Howard denied there had ever been a "lie" used to justify the invasion of Iraq, but did concede there had been intelligence failures.
"The hardest decision that I took as prime minister, along with my cabinet colleagues, was to commit the men and women of the Australian Defence Force to military conflict," he said.
"I believed that the decision to go into Iraq was justified at the time. I don't resile from that because I thought it was the right decision."
Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Rob Stott at email@example.com.
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