Iraq attack: Australian reaction

Melbourne: ( South News , Dec 17) Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett today described the American-British attack on Iraq as ``extraordinary'' and said it would have repercussions around the world.

Mr Kennett said he ``hoped to God'' British Prime Minister Tony Blair and United States President Bill Clinton knew what they were doing.

He was commenting after British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed reporters about the Operation Desert Fox attack, launched at 9am (AEDT) today. The White House announced the attack, but Mr Blair has spoken before United States President Bill Clinton.

``It would be hard to remember another occasion when the defender of the free world has not led the debate, or broken the news, I suppose,'' Mr Kennett told radio 3AW. ``But let's hope to God, they both know what they are doing.

``I mean, it is extraordinary. It is absolutely extraordinary.

``It is not just going to affect that part of the world.

``These communities have their friends and fellow travellers. ``And the repercussions, the ramifications right around the world will be extraordinary.''

Mr Kennett said the attack reinforced that Australia was ``but a very small drop in the bucket'' and an observer.

``It's very hard for us, here in Australia, to understand what the blazes is going on,'' he said. He said he had a sense of de ja vu about the attack.

Melbourne group People against Sanction on Iraq have denounced the US aggression and called for a demonstration at 5pm today assemblying at the Melbourne GPO. People Against Sanctions on Iraq spokesman David Muller said the US and British action was shameful and criminal.

In Sydney a Catholic peace group is organizing a protest Thursday outside the U.S. Consulate. Secretary of the group Denis Doherty said the protest would start at 4:00 p.m. on the corner of Castlereagh Street and Martin Place, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported.

"We call on the Australian government to condemn this cynical, inhuman bombing of innocent civilians," Doherty told AAP. "It is estimated the air strikes may cause up to 20,000 casualties -- men, women and children murdered to try and save the U.S. president from impeachment," Doherty said
 Doherty said the weapons inspection team could not find evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and engaged in provocative acts while maintaining sanctions on Iraq. "These sanctions have killed over one million people since 1991," he said.

Australian Arabic chairman Roland Jabbour said his community was disgusted. Mr Jabbour said the United States was driven by its domestic agenda and had shown its disrespect for Muslims by attacking just before the holy month of Ramadan. "Iraq is in an impossible position," he said. "It has to prove it does not have the weapons that it is accused of having."

Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Abbas Ahmed said Iraqis had already suffered too much. Ahmed described the US bombing of Iraq as a demonstration of the loss of moral direction in the leadership of the USA. The fact that prominent Republicans have attacked this assault on Baghdad indicates that the real nature of the moral highground once occupied by US policies is being exposed.

"No civilised people claim the end of ridding Iraq of Saddam is justified by the means of killing innocent civilians," Mr Ahmed said. Mr Ahmed said the Iraqi people alone should choose their leadership.
He called on the government to distance Australia from the conflict.

"The name of Australia features each time Richard Butler's name is mentioned, and it is not doing our international reputation any good," Mr Ahmed said.

Mr Peter Boyle a national spokesperson for the Democratic Socialist Party, said in Sydney today "Howard and Beazley have the blood of innocent Iraqi civilians on their hands and stand condemned, along with US President Bill Clinton and British PM Tony Blair, by millions of people around the world".

The DSP and the associated youth activist group, Resistance (which organised this year's high school walkouts against racism), are throwing their weight behind organising protests against the bombing. They join with peace activists, Islamic, Christian and Arab organisations and other progressive individuals.

"Clinton faces impeachment for lying to his people but he should be impeached and tried for the mass murder of more than a million Iraqi civilians, including children,"  added Mr Boyle. "In Australia, the Coalition and the ALP leaders have once again demonstrated their bi-partisan commitment to injustice"