A report, written by Dr. Albert Palazzo of the Australian Army’s Directorate of Army Research and Analysis (DARA) between 2008 and 2011, was accessed by Fairfax Media and cited by the Sydney Morning Herald. DARA is a branch of the Australian Army Headquarters and serves as the Army’s think tank
The 572-page declassified document provides enough evidence to prove that then Prime Minister John Howard joined former US President George W. Bush in invading Iraq only to strengthen Canberra’s ties with Washington.
It also gives insight into how the political decision to enter the unpopular war was made – Howard’s statements about enforcing UN resolutions, combatting global terrorism, and contributing to the post-war reconstruction of Iraq were dismissed in Palazzo’s report as “mandatory rhetoric.”
Eventually, Prime Minister Howard and the then Chief of the Australian Defense Force (ADF) General Peter Cosgrove were unwilling to accept the prospect of high casualties among the soldiers deployed to Iraq.
“The government was uncomfortable with the prospect of losses due to the possible negative effect on the domestic political environment,” the report said.
Australia, nonetheless, deployed a very limited number of troops and assets, which were often incapable of carrying out any noteworthy combat action. However, sending a sustainable and combat-capable contingent was “secondary to the vital requirement of it just being there.” Ultimately, such policy made some US military officers ridicule the Australian commitment, calling it “a series of headquarters.”
The US wanted the Australians to provide a reconnaissance battle group consisting of light armored vehicles. Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy, who was then chief of Australian army, actually pushed for them to be sent to action at the time, but “Cosgrove pushed back,” finding the “manpower requirement too large.” Consequently, the only significant Australian force on the ground in Iraq was the SASR, Australia’s equivalent of the famous British Special Air Service, because the Army was not prepared to fight against “even a mildly competent opponent,” Palazzo wrote.