The news that AWB Chairman Trevor Flugge was told of the invasion of Iraq, and of Australia’s planned participation in early 2002 adds yet another layer of deception to this amazing story of duplicity.
At the core of the story is of course AWB’s leadership in the subversion of the Oil-for-Food program. AWB connived at the theft of around $100 million dollars from money held in trust for the Iraqi people, handing some back to Saddam Hussein to finance (among other things) the purchase of weapons many of which are now being used by the insurgency and the purchase of political support through payments to the families of suicide bombers. Obviously this required AWB to deceive the United Nations, which it did,
Meanwhile the Australian government was engaged in multiple deceptions, including self-deceptions. It deceived the world, including the UN and the Americans by denying the accusations that were regularly made against AWB. Meanwhile an elaborate system of nods and winks ensured that, while fully aware that AWB was doing “whatever it took” to sell wheat to Saddam, could swear that they had never been told about the systemic bribery going on under their very noses.
More seriously, while stating publicly that war was a last resort, which could be avoided as long as Saddam readmitted weapons inspectors, the Australian government was concealing inside knowledge that US policy was set on war regardless of the required pretext. The latest news indicates that this was the case well before July 2002, when the Downing Street memos recorded the fact.
Now we learn that AWB was part of the inside team, informed of what was going on. This adds yet more layers. First, the legal fiction that the formal privatisation of AWB, with its government-enforced monopoly powers intact, made it a private organisation rather than a government instrumentality has been exposed as a sham. Clearly, the government is just as responsible for the actions of AWB as if they had been those of a government department (of course, with the death of the doctrine ministerial responsibility, that’s not saying much).
More interestingly, AWB was presumably double-crossing its partners in crime on the Iraqi side, taking their money while well aware they were marked for destruction. Or perhaps favoured individuals were tipped off, and warned to prepare themselves for an accommodation with their new rulers – certainly some of them seem to have survived the downfall of the Baath regime with AWB help.
Finally of course, there’s the massive deceptions being perpetrated by the Australian supporters of the Iraq war, nearly all of whom have backed the government to the hilt over its support for AWB (most others have maintained a discreet silence). In this context, I should exempt those who frankly present our participation in the war as a matter of self-interest in backing the Americans, while looking out for the largest possible cut of the spoils of war. But all those who’ve accused war opponents of being objectively pro-Saddam should recognise that the government they support has directly funded Saddam, and indirectly funded Hamas, and the current insurgency.