Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has criticised the government for ignoring the plight of Muslims in Iraq and only raising concerns about the country once violence spread to Christian minorities and foreign workers.
In an interview with New Matilda, Wilkie said Western government were guilty of turning a blind eye to atrocities committed against non-Christian groups.
“The government only seems to have started to care about north-west Iraq since westerners started to get beheaded and since Christians started to be killed,” Wilkie said.
“It didn’t seem to see any pressing humanitarian crisis while it was Muslim Iraqis being killed.”
While the advance of the Islamic State has seen violence against civilians increase in Iraq this year, the country had already been enduring a deteriorating situation as ethnic tensions and instability precipitated what the UN head of mission in Iraq described as an “infernal circle” of violence.
2013 was the deadliest year in the country since 2008, with around 8,000 civilians killed.
Recent coverage of Iraq has centred on the Christian Yazidi minority, though Islamic State has also been accused by the UN of committing ethnic cleansing against the country’s Shia population.
Wilkie, who resigned from his position at the Office of National Assessment in 2003 over concerns intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities had been exaggerated to the public, said Australia had a special responsibility to help rebuild Iraq.
“We helped start a war that has run for eleven and a half years, destroyed much of Iraq, and created the conditions for the current bloodshed and anarchy,” he said.
“So not only do we have a practical obligation or a practical need to help rebuild Iraq because of our own self-interest, but we clearly have a pressing moral obligation to try and remedy the problem that we helped create.”
After taking part in the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, Australia’s support to the country diminished in line with the withdrawal of troops.
Aid to the country has declined since 2008 and in its first budget since coming to office the Coalition ended all development aid.
Though critical of this decision, Wilkie has offered conditional support for military intervention in the nation on the basis it was part of a genuine multi-national effort with a clear objective and strictly limited to Iraq.
He acknowledged Australians were still sceptical about the government’s plans and the way it was explaining the situation.
“This repeated use of the term ‘death cult’ by the Prime Minister, a lot of Australians I think would be rolling their eyes every time they hear that particular term,” Wilkie said.
A spokesperson for Julie Bishop said the Minister for Foreign Affairs was currently in security talks at the UN and unable to respond directly to Wilkie’s comments.
Earlier in the year, Australia took part in humanitarian food drops in Iraq. Bishop has committed $5 million in emergency assistance with an additional $2 million for displaced women and girls announced Saturday.
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