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Former Australian PM Howard defiant in the face of Iraq War criticism
   2016-07-07 18:42:34    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Xu Yaqi

Former Australian prime minister John Howard speaks during a press conference in Sydney, Australia, July 7, 2016.  Howard has said he does not regret his decision for Australia to enter the 2003 Iraqi War, despite the Chilcot Report's damning response to the U.S.-led invasion. [Photo: Xinhua]

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who led the country during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, is standing by his decision at the time to send Australian troops into the war.

Howard made the remarks in response to the release of Britain's Chilcot Inquiry, which concluded that the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair had relied on flawed intelligence in making the decision to go to war.

Howard said that he agreed with Blair's decision at the time and stood by his judgment.

"Look, I regret, clearly, everybody regrets the loss of life in any military conflict and I've said before and I repeat it, the hardest decision that I took as Prime Minister, along with my Cabinet colleagues, was commit the men and women of the Australian Defence force to military conflict. It always bothered me but I believed that the decision to go into Iraq was justified at the time and I don't resile from that."

Howard is facing a storm of criticism for the decision to put Australian forces in harm's way on the back of intelligence calculations that have since been roundly debunked.

Andrew Wilkie is a former Australian intelligence officer who became a whistleblower in 2003 to expose the flaws in the intelligence behind the Iraq War.

He says the flawed decision created a domino effect in the region for which leaders like Howard bear responsibility.

The fact is that the invasion of Iraq and the start of a war that continues to this day, not only did it turbo charge al-Qaida back then, but it created the circumstances for the rise of Islamic State. So the terror threat that we face in this country right now is a direct result, a direct result, of the decision by the Australian government under John Howard in 2003 to join in that invasion. Frankly, there are a number of political leaders who in my opinion have blood on their hands."

Wilkie, who is now an independent member of parliament, called for an inquiry equivalent to Chilcot's in Australia.

Australian governments can declare war without asking the permission of the country's Parliament, although some critics argue that war should be authorized with Parliament's consent.

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