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Australia's Involvement in Iraq War "Solely" to Improve Alliance with United States

Australian Defence Force Personnel were involved in the Iraq War from 2003 to 2011. In 2021 a declassified document revealed that Australia’s involvement in the war was “solely to enhance” the alliance with the United States government.

A high-angle photograph of soldiers assembled with press listening to someone give a spech in a desert environment with an Australian Flag waving. In military font, the text "Australia in Iraq" is foregrounded.

The report, written between 2008 and 2011 by Dr. Albert Palazzo from the DIrectorate of Army Research and Analysis, spanned almost 600 pages and was originally classified as “secret” until it was declassified under a freedom of information request from Fairfax Media. The provided document included more than 500 redactions. The Australia Department of Defence stated that the document was an “unofficial history” which only represented the author’s personal views.

The report concluded that claims made by both Iraq War-era Prime Ministers, John Howard and Kevin Rudd, that the war was about enforcing UN resolutions, rebuilding Iraq following the invasion or stopping the spread of weapons or terrorism were “mandatory rhetoric.”

While the Australian government supported the war, many Australians opposed it, with protests and marches held across the country. In 2007 it was reported that the cost to the Australian taxpayer for Australia’s engagement in the war had already risen to $3 billion. 

The declassified document reported that the risk to Australian defence force personnel was limited as much as possible in response to the “domestic political pressure.” This resulted in a modest military contribution overall, with the document describing how delivering the “right force” was “secondary to the vital requirement of it just being there.”

Reportedly one Australian commander summarised his time in Iraq with:

“We did some shit for a while and things didn’t get any worse.” 

Sources & Further Reading

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