The issue relating to the war in Iraq was not only a matter of conscience for John Howard, but also a matter of national security. When he went with his conscience and chose to put the Australian troops in Iraq, many people thought that it was the wrong choice. However they, most likely, formed their opinions without looking at all the facts. I believe putting the Australian troops into Iraq was indeed the right choice.
But wait, didn't Labor leader Kevin Rudd, refer to Iraq during the election campaign, saying that it was the "greatest national security policy disaster that our country has seen since Vietnam"? Yes, it is true that many people have died during the war. In fact Iraq's official estimate of civilian deaths from violence is now about 25 a day. But, to put this into perspective, have a look at the deaths in South Africa.
South Africa has twice the population of Iraq, with on average 52 people dying from murder a day. That is the same percentage of deaths per day as Iraq, but do these numbers cause such a fuss as Iraq does? And does anyone say that these killings in South Africa prove freedom was not worth it? No, they donÃÂt.
And if you are still thinking ÃÂThe war has only increased the death toll!ÃÂ I have this to say. Sure, the death toll is still fairly devastating, and yes people are dying in Iraq. But it is not from Australian or American troops, but instead from fellow Muslims. How many, no one knows. Perhaps 100,000 since the war in 2003? Maybe even more? But Iraq was no Eden under Saddam. If the deaths today are bad, the suffering before was worse. The battle for Iraq always involved a grim question: ÃÂwould freedom save more people than it killed?ÃÂ So let's calculate how many died under Saddam.
In 1980, the dictator invaded Iran, starting a war in which at least 500,000 people died. In 1987, he crushed the Kurds, killing perhaps 100,000 or more. In 1990, he invaded Kuwait, starting a war that killed more than 23,000. On his defeat, he then killed some 100,000 Shiites who had rebelled. Add the mass executions he ordered, the purges he unleashed, the opposition activists he shot and the terrorist attacks he paid for. Remember also the children who died, robbed of medicines by his regime.
Add them all up, and even by the most conservative count you see Saddam did not just threaten the West, but cost the lives of more than 100 Muslims a day, every day, for the 24 years of his barbaric rule. That's four times more than are being killed in Iraq today. So the question remains, ÃÂWas John HowardÃÂs conscience right when he chose to keep the Australian Troops in Iraq?ÃÂ I believe yes, it was.