Do You Trust Your Government?
In this series, we look at events where governments, factions of governments, or individuals within government, have acted in way that has harmed its own citizens.
Part 4 – Gallipoli campaign
Known in other parts of the world as the Dardanelles campaign, it had been considered by the British for the 8 years from 1904-1911, but not proceeded with, as British military and naval opinion was against it.
When World War I broke out, Australia put its fledgling fleet of seven ships under control of the British Admiralty and offered 20,000 troops to support the war effort wherever they were required. Sadly, Australia retained no control over where and how they were to be used.
The Dardanelles Was Re-Examined And Considered Hazardous But Possible
The Russians appealed for assistance to relieve pressure on the caucasus front, at which time the Dardanelles was re-examined and considered hazardous but possible. Australian and New Zealand troops were sent in.
After a series of naval defeats, military withdrawals, a trench-fought stalemate lasting 6 months with no progress, the allies withdrew, leaving behind 250,000 dead, including more than 8,100 Australians. There were a further 26,100 Australian casualties.
The chief promotor of the exercise was Winston Churchill, who resigned. This may explain why Churchill would have been so cavalier in his approach to war in 1939. For him, it was an opportunity for redemption. At any cost.
Put in the context of Australia having strong connections to the British Empire, the decision to offer support was understandable. The decision to have no say in how forces were to be deployed, less so.
No Weapons of Mass Destruction were ever found
Australia Commits On The Basis Of Faulty Intelligence
Not much changed in the next seventy years. When US President George Bush Jr decided to short-circuit international efforts and ride into Iraq at the head of the so-called “coalition of the willing,” – including Australia – this was done on the pretext of intelligence information that indicated Saddam Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This information was subsequently proven to be faulty. No WMD’s were ever found.
Australia Had No Intelligence Assets
Australia had no intelligence assets of its own on the ground in Iraq, so clearly it was relying on US intelligence. Whether Australia independently assessed the intelligence, or – more likely – accepted America’s assessment, they committed Australia to war on false premises. Australians died there. This was done without a parliamentary vote.
Whether Prime Minister John Howard knew the intelligence was flawed before committing is still a matter for debate. The release of official documents to settle the matter – if they still exist – is likely decades away.