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The Melbourne Minutes: New Downing Street Memos from Down Under

By David Swanson

Over a year before the United States launched an endless war on Iraq in what President George W. Bush told Congress was an urgently needed action to prevent an attack with nonexistent weapons by non-Iraqi terrorists…

Eleven months before Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that a good way to start a war on Iraq would be to paint planes with U.N. colors, fly them low, and get them shot at…

Five months before the Downing Street Minutes were taken at a meeting revealing the knowledge top British officials had of the secret war plans of the Bush administration…

Just a week or two before several of the Downing Street Memos recorded U.S.-British discussions of the coming war…

On February 27, 2002 – just five months after 15 Saudis, 2 Lebanese, and 2 Yemenis flew airplanes into U.S. buildings – Trevor Flugge, who was then chairman of AWB, the Australian Wheat Board, a private corporation, told AWB's board that John Dauth, who was then Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, had revealed to Flugge the plans of the U.S. and Australian governments for war on Iraq. Tragically, for war-profiteers everywhere, somebody took minutes of the meeting.

HERE ARE THE MINUTES: PDF. (Note: This is a 12-page document with several blank pages. See page 9.)


You may not have heard about this from the U.S. media. Maybe if we all scream really loudly for six weeks you will. That's how the Downing Street Minutes found their 15 minutes of fame in June 2005. But, as we stuff our faces with dead turkeys, the new Melbourne Minutes are the top news story in Australia. According to the Australian Associated Press:

"Mr Dauth briefed Mr Flugge in New York in February 2002 - 13 months before the invasion - and the details appear in minutes of AWB's February 27 board meeting tendered to the inquiry.

"'The ambassador stated that he believed that US military action to depose Saddam Hussein was inevitable and that at this time the Australian government would support and participate in such action,' the minutes say. 'The ambassador believed that the Iraqis grossly underestimated the US reaction to September 11 (with the consequent military response in Afghanistan) and that Iraq's request to renegotiate UN weapons inspectors was a direct result of their nervousness about US action. The ambassador believed that the latest olive branch from the Iraqis was likely to stave off US action (for) 12 to 18 months but that some military action was inevitable.'

"Mr Dauth - now high commissioner in New Zealand - predicted the Iraq war would be similar to the campaign in Afghanistan, with heavy use of air support followed by the deployment of ground troops.

"'He undertook to ensure that AWB was given as much warning as would be possible under such circumstances but noted that in these instances often the Australian government had little notification,' the board minutes said."

Where have we heard that word "inevitable" before? Oh, yeah: the Downing Street Minutes: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Why are we hearing about the minutes of this Australian meeting only now? Well, the minutes have been released by a government investigation into AWB's bribing of Saddam Hussein's government in order to win contracts to export Australian wheat to Iraq. That investigation may now be expanded in Australia. It's also one that the incoming Democratic chairs of the House and Senate agriculture committees in the U.S. committed last week to investigating. What will they do now, with the wheat bribe scandal having taken this interesting twist?

The past six years of near zero Congressional oversight in Washington is one reason Americans' knowledge of the planning of the Iraq War comes largely from foreign sources. But, if members of the Australian government were passing word around, I shudder to think how many people in the right circles in Washington, D.C., knew the score but kept their mouths shut and are keeping them shut to this very day. It's clear that members of the U.S. corporate media elite were in the know. In fact, if you ask them to condescend to notice this Australian news, they'll almost certainly tell you it's "old news," that they knew it all four years ago. They did, but they didn't tell the rest of us.

Now, here we are years later, still killing and dying in Iraq, and proposing to attack Iran on the basis of lies almost identical to those used to justify the initial attack on Iraq.

We must demand that the new Congress block any new wars and cut off funding for the current one. We must also demand investigations immediately into the lies that launched the war and the conducting of the war. American citizens are the last to know what our government is doing. We're used to that, but there is no reason we need wait any longer. If the subpoenas don't start piling up in the White House mailbox on New Year's Day, we will have established two critical facts:

1. Future presidents are free to ignore all laws.
2. Democrats are just Republicans with manners.



Here's the response:

Iraq war tip-off a conspiracy theory: Downer
By Peter Veness
November 24, 2006 07:34am
Article from: AAP

SUGGESTIONS the Australian Government told AWB of its plans to invade Iraq a
year before the military action are crackpot conspiracy theories, said
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

The Cole commission, which is investigating $290 million in kickbacks paid
by AWB to the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, has released
documents revealing that an Australian diplomat told a former AWB chairman
of the invasion plans in 2002, more than a year before it took place.

But Prime Minister John Howard and Mr Downer both have dismissed the
diplomat's comments as purely his own opinion at the time.

Tonight, Mr Downer said any other interpretation was a conspiracy theory.

"The old crackpot conspiracy theories," Mr Downer said on ABC's Lateline

"The government didn't make any decision until 2003 to participate in the
overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime and the military build-up... wasn't
even until later in 2002.

The diplomat, John Dauth, is now Australia's High Commissioner to New

Mr Downer said the government did not brief Mr Dauth, Australia's then UN
ambassador, at any time.

"If it's an accurate reflection of what he said, I've no idea whether it was
or wasn't and it's really immaterial whether it was or it wasn't, it
certainly wasn't a view based on any briefing, some secret conspiracy that
the Australian Government had been involved in with the Americans, of course

The Cole report is expected to be handed to Governor-General Michael Jeffery
today at 2.30pm (AEDT).

Mr Downer said the report would be tabled in Parliament next week and, he
said, "everyone will be able to read it, so all of the theories that people
have, whether they're conspiracy theories, whether they're accurate,
inaccurate, wrong, lies, whatever they are, that will all be transparent for
people to see... and I'm not getting into any speculation about it late this



So the opinion of Australia's ambassador to the U.N. does not reflect the opinion of Howard's government?

The accuracy of the "opinion" is pure chance?

Even Americans won't fall for that. Are Australians expected to?



Here's a Good column by Mike Carlton in the Sydney Morning Herald

Regrets? Howard might have had a few but he's certainly not telling
By Mike Carlton

How very helpful of our ambassador to the United Nations to give AWB a heads-up on the Iraq war. And not just any old heads-up of days or weeks, but a full 13 months' notice. As Marian Wilkinson revealed in the Herald on Thursday, the ambassador, John Dauth, told the AWB chairman, gun-toting Trevor Flugge, in early 2002 that "he believed that US military action to depose Saddam Hussein was inevitable and that at this time the Australian Government would support and participate in such action". The Iraq war officially began, with us dutifully in it, on March 20, 2003.

Two possibilities suggest themselves. Either Dauth was gifted with extraordinary powers of prophecy or, as seems rather more likely, he was aware that the Howard Government was already up to its neck in war planning with the Bush White House and the Pentagon many, many months before this interesting commitment was revealed to the Australian people.

John Howard, of course, has always recognised a useful little war when he sees one coming. With a stunning lack of tact, he chose Ho Chi Minh City as the place to declare, last Tuesday, that the Vietnam War had been a good idea. His answer to a journalist, in all its tangled verbosity, is worth repeating verbatim:

"I supported our involvement at the time and I don't intend to recant that. I believe that in public life you are accountable for the decisions that you take. I mean, I didn't hold any position of authority then but I supported the reasons for Australia's involvement and nothing has altered my view that at the time on the assessments that were made then I took that view and I took that view properly and I don't intend to indulge this preoccupation that many have in recanting everything that they supported when they were in positions of authority. I think in public life you take a position and I think particularly of the positions I've taken in the time I've been Prime Minister. I have to live with the consequences of those both now and into the future. And if I ever develop reservations, well I hope I would have the grace to keep them to myself because I think you take a position and you've got to live by that and be judged by it, and that's my position."

So there. What an exquisite irony it was to see him and George Bush at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Hanoi, hobnobbing easily with their hosts, posing in splendid Vietnamese gowns.

Hanoi used to be full of the enemies of freedom intent on destroying our Western way of life, but apparently not any more. They are all in Iraq now. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, as Vietnam's French colonial masters would say over an absinthe or two in the bars of the Vieux Carre. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Quagmire, anyone?

THE release of Commissioner Terence Cole's report into AWB's lavish underwriting of Saddam Hussein's war effort prompts me to reprint for you some doggerel on the subject, first seen in this column last February. As happens these days, it quickly hit the internet, described as "by Anon". Kind people have been emailing it to me on and off ever since, hoping that I might enjoy it. Such is life. I actually wrote it:

HOWARD DIDN'T KNOW (With apologies to Banjo Patterson)

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better

Knowledge, sent to where I met him at the Wheat Board, years ago

He was chairman when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him

Just on spec, to make the point, that "Howard doesn't want to know."

And an email came directed, not entirely unexpected

(And I think the same was written in some Middle Eastern bar)

'Twas his CEO who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it,

Trevor Flugge's gone to Baghdad and we don't know where he are.

But when he left Australia, he was going to meet with Alia,

A trucking mob in Jordan, who were keen to grease the wheels

For just 10 per cent commission, they could swing Saddam's permission

To get our wheat accepted: it's the mother of all deals.

But I assure you, dear Prime Minister, that there's nothing at all sinister:

The chaps at DFAT told us that the sums looked quite OK.

For if you're selling wheat in billions, what's a quick 300 million?

If it keeps the Nationals happy it's a worthwhile price to pay.

Sitting here at Kirribilli, I've been thinking, willy nilly

That it's somehow reminiscent of the children overboard:

But I can deal with Rudd and Beazley as I always do, quite easily,

By endlessly insisting that there's nothing untoward.

I'll tell Bush next time I meet him, at The White House, when I greet him,

That I'm sure he'll understand about the Wheat Board's quid pro quo

It's just a little error in the global war on terror

And I can look him in the eye and tell him Howard didn't know.

It's hard to keep up with such a roving mind

THE Hon. Kim Beazley, Leader of the Opposition. Transcript of doorstop media interview, Sydney, November 21, 2006.

BEAZLEY: Let me begin by saying, on behalf of all Australians, that our thoughts today are very much with Billy Thorpe as he announces his retirement from competitive swimming.

MEDIA: Mr Beazley, do you…

BEAZLEY: Billy's feats in the pool have been an inspiration to us all, and…

MEDIA: Billy Thorpe sang with the Aztecs. It was Ian Thorpe in the pool.

BEAZLEY: And that's the point I've been making all along. The question is, when did the Prime Minister and Alexander Downer know this, and why weren't the Australian people let in on the secret?


BEAZLEY: While I'm here, let me take this opportunity to also congratulate Jamie Durie on joining the Opera. From Backyard Blitz to La Boheme is a big step, but if anyone can do it, Jimmy can.

MEDIA: It's not Opera. It's Oprah.


MEDIA: He's joined Oprah Winfrey, the American talk show host.

BEAZLEY: Let's not play with words here. Experience is what counts, and that's what I bring to the job of Opposition Leader. Folk know leadership when they see it. And let me say just this: most people I know think that I'm crazy.


BEAZLEY: It's a song. As everyone recognises, it was one of Ian Thorpe's biggest hits when he was singing with the Olympics. Thank you for coming this morning.


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In regard to Iraq:
U.S. changed Iraq policy to begin airstrikes months before war
Did Bush lie to Congress about use of force?
The U.S. quietly shifted policy towards Iraq to allow for surgical, pre-emptive airstrikes months before any attempt to seek UN or Congressional approval for the use of force, RAW STORY can reveal.
The discovery, made by investigative blogger Ron Brynaert, raises questions of whether Britain and the United States violated a UN resolution to provide for the security of Iraqi citizenry in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.

The change meant that the U.S. began systematically bombing air defense systems and other buildings, even beyond the No-Fly Zones established in the wake of the Gulf War. The U.S. justified these pre-emptive airstrikes under a 1991 UN Security Council resolution which says that Iraq must “remove the threat to international peace and security in the region.”
The resolution, however, never specifically called for the use of force. Nor did it authorize the no-fly zones, a joint venture of the British and U.S. governments.
Some suggest the change indicates President George W. Bush lied to the nation when he declared in October 2002 upon signing the Congressional authorization on the use of force, "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary."

In regard to Iran:

Retired Colonel Sam Gardiner on Iran War Plans: "The Issue is Not Whether the Military Option Would Be Used But Who Approved the Start of Operations Already"
COL. SAM GARDINER: I think the same thing has happened, and the evidence -- let me give you two or three evidences. First of all, the Iranians in their press have been writing now for almost a year that the United States is involved inside Iran conducting and supporting those who conduct military operations, attacks on military convoys. They've even accused the United States of shooting down a couple airplanes inside Iran. Okay, so there's that evidence from their side.
I was in Berlin three weeks ago, sat next to the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and I asked him a question. I read these stories about Americans being involved in there, and how do you react to that? And he said, oh, we know they are. We've captured people who are working with them, and they've confessed. So, another piece of evidence.
Let me give you a couple more. Seymour Hersh, in his New Yorker article, said that there are Americans in three locations operating inside Iran. Another point. We know that there is a group in Iraq, a Kurdish group called the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, that crosses the border from Iraq into Iran, and they have taken credit for killing numbers of revolutionary guard military people. And the interesting part about that is, you know, we tell the Syrians, ‘Don't let that happen. Don't let people come across the border and stir things up in Iraq,’ but we don't seem to be putting any brakes on on this unit. So, you know, the evidence is pretty strong that the pattern is being followed.
Now, the question that really follows from that is “Who authorized that?” See, there is no congressional authorization to conduct combat operations against Iran. There are a couple of possibilities. One of them is that it's being justified under the terrorism authorization that occurred in 2001. The problem with that is that you would have to prove a connection to 9/11. I don't think you can do that with Iran. The second possibility is that it's being done under the War Powers Act. I don't want to get too technical, but the War Powers Act would require the President to notify the Congress 60 days after the use of military force or invasion or putting military forces in a new country under that legislation, and the President hasn't notified the Congress that American troops are operating inside Iran. So it's a very serious question about the constitutional framework under which we are now conducting military operations in Iran.

if the American population doesn't absolutely demand that the madman who illegally occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue be arrested and put into prison, pending trial for treason, this war with Iran will become a reality right after the first of the year. Everyone needs to understand this madman must be stopped at all costs.

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