Why would Australian PM John Howard reneg on an election year pledge in order to assist an old enemy?
Prime Minister John Howard refused to apologize Wednesday for breaking an election pledge by doubling Australia’s troop commitment to Iraq, arguing it was justified by the need to maintain an important regional alliance with Japan.
Howard acknowledged he broke his two-year policy not to substantially increase Australian troop numbers in Iraq when he announced Tuesday that 450 additional soldiers will be sent to southern Iraq to protect Japanese military engineers who are repairing roads and schools there.
He also conceded that his back-flip might anger Australians who remember Japanese brutality during World War II, when thousands of Australian war prisoners died in Japanese custody. The announcement came three days after the nation marked the 63rd anniversary of the first devastating Japanese wartime air raid on Australian soil.
Because Commerce Is On The March!
Greens leader Bob Brown says the Prime Minister is sending more troops to Iraq to boost Australia’s chances of signing a free trade agreement with Japan.
An extra 450 Australian soldiers will be based in southern Iraq to guard Japanese engineers involved in the reconstruction effort.
Senator Brown has accused Prime Minister John Howard of trying to gain personal kudos with the Japanese on the eve of his trip in April.
“This is not about the Iraqi issue, this is about promoting the prime ministerial interest in free trade with the Japanese in the lead-up to his visit to that country,” he said.