In The Age Scott Burchill puts ten questions to Citizen Howard on Iraq:
"1. Australia's Iraq policy resembles a rudderless ship at the mercy of three prevailing winds: increasingly hostile public opinion, capricious politicians in Washington and unpredictable but decisive events on the ground.
In this policy climate, does it make sense to run a vicarious foreign policy in the Middle East when the Bush Administration has proved so incompetent, and has even asked a congressional committee - the Iraq Study Group - to propose policy options?
2. Given your noble intentions and the promise of being welcomed as liberators, why has the coalition of the willing faced stiffer resistance in Iraq than either the Nazis confronted in occupied Europe or the Soviets found in the East?
3. If highly trained and well-equipped Western armies are unable to quell the insurgency and sectarian violence unleashed by the occupation, why will inferior Iraqi troops be more successful?
4. Just before the recent Hanoi Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum summit, you and Alexander Downer said you would propose "some ideas and information" to the Americans about how to reduce the violence they have unleashed in Iraq. What were these ideas and why did you wait three-and-a-half years to share them with your ally?
5. The occupation is now justified on the grounds that withdrawal would be a disaster, not that its continuation will lead to success or victory - whatever they might mean. What then are your specific criteria for withdrawal?
6. You oppose a "precipitive" withdrawal of troops because you claim it would lead to further chaos and violence. But the occupation has produced both a violent insurgency and a sectarian civil war. Whether The Lancet's figure of more than 650,000 excess deaths is accurate or the Centre for Strategic and International Studies' more conservative estimate that between 2 per cent and 5 per cent of Iraq's 27 million people have been killed, wounded or uprooted since the invasion, it is difficult to see how much worse things could get.
Given your shared responsibility for this slaughter, are you in a credible position to warn about a post-withdrawal bloodbath?
7. You argue that a withdrawal would embolden terrorists worldwide who could then claim "victory". Surely the war was lost two years ago, and the insurgents have been celebrating their victory ever since by attacking coalition troops and tormenting the civilian population. It cannot be won now by extending or intensifying the occupation. Many insurgents presumably want US, British and Australian troops to stay on where they can be further humiliated.
Do you agree with US General George Casey that the presence of coalition troops in Iraq fuels the insurgency but that a withdrawal actually removes its raison d'etre?
8. A withdrawal, you claim, would inflict enormous damage on the reputation and prestige of the United States. And yet it is difficult to see how either could be further tarnished. Subcontracting foreign policy to Congress is about as embarrassing as it gets in Washington. With a Secretary of State so marginalised she can't get an audience in the Arab world, a new Defence Secretary who concedes the war is being lost, and a President who seems oblivious of the mayhem he has caused, Washington's foreign policy stocks - domestically and globally - have plummeted to unprecedented depths.
Why do you speak as if the Unites States' image in the Middle East hasn't already been destroyed by its recklessness in Iraq?
9. You have been forced to reverse the moral polarities of the Iraq debate and it is only the fortunate absence of Australian casualties that has allowed you to get away with it. However, the burden remains on the occupier to justify the impact of the occupation, especially its human costs. There is no equivalent requirement on those wanting to end the occupation to prove that its termination will make matters worse. On what basis - three-and-a-half years after invading - do you defend the continuing immiseration of Iraq?
10. Despite overwhelming opposition from the Iraqi people, US troops will almost certainly stay in Iraq until a reliable Vichy-style dependent client willing to protect Washington's regional strategic and economic interests is securely in place. Dependable collaborators are proving hard to find.
What lessons have you learnt from the Iraq catastrophe and how will these be reflected in future defence and foreign policy settings for Australia?"