Lost in translation: Iraq III, Rorts for Oil and the Coalition of the Killing

By | | comments |
Former PM John Howard took Australia to war based on a lie and aparently "knew nothing" about the AWB kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime.

In a joint press conference with Kevin Rudd in Canberra in 2009, now embattled Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki allegedly condemned the Howard Government over the AWB oil for wheat scandal, however an unnamed interpreter chose to change his words. Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence reports.

AUSTRALIA'S MORAL COWARDICE has long impaled us between Iraq and a harder place.

Like it or no, we are inextricably linked to the current crisis and heinous slaughter that has turned Iraq into an abattoir for humans.

As we are to the circumstances that have led up to it, including President Barack Obama's announcement yesterday to send in the marines and deploy precisely 275 troops to help quell the bad guys.

Just who the good guys are is anyone's guess. We all bleed.

We have some of that blood on our hands and surely on our conscience for the flyblown dismembered corpses of massacred Iraqis and the spillage onto the pages of yet another ill-writ chapter of our fumbling military strategies in the Middle East.

To indecently paraphrase: First we invaded. Then we abandoned. Then we went into denial. Three strikes and we were out of there. We can't keep blaming America for things we do. Or don't do.

Even if we habitually acquiesce to US commands.

The world has long been aware of Iraq's corrupt and Shia-dominated government and the weary inevitability of a mighty insurgent schism. For the greater part, we shamelessly averted our eyes.


On March 11, 2009 the much loathed Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, lobbed into Australia.

The next day, he was formally welcomed to the serenade of a 19 gun salute, as befitting his status as a stooge for the West; this time, the guns weren't aimed at him, as well might be the case in his homeland.

At the tightly corseted press conference in Canberra, the body language between then PM Kevin Rudd and his Iraqi counterpart, who had replaced Iraq's Transitional Government, conveyed an uneasy coldness – even an intense dislike between the two – that not even the media orchestration could masquerade. 

The two looked like a divorced couple who despised one another and who'd had a blistering argument behind the scenes, but were now forced to put on a united front for the sake of their child's wedding.

A Barney Rubble lookalike, only not as benign, Maliki just wasn't into Rudd. And vice versa. Nor had they clicked when Rudd visited Iraq, months earlier.

Answering questions through an interpreter, Maliki clearly couldn't contain his distaste.

Secret negotiations with Australia had reached an impasse and he was annoyed at the loss-of-face implications of being publicly humiliated with such stage-management.

His answer defiantly broke with diplomatic protocol and, in Arabic, he slagged off at the previous Howard Government.

No sooner had he lashed out than it was immediately covered up by the official translator. The trashing should have hit the headlines. Maliki was biting the very grasping hands that wanted to feed him more wheat. For a price.


There were several hushed-up backstage disagreements between Maliki and Rudd.

In brief, they included, but are not confined to, argument about the bribes and kickbacks of the Australian Wheat Board who notoriously collaborated with Saddam Hussein and his boys in direct contravention of the Oil for Food program.

The shonky and ignominious activities of the AWB were initially exposed in an 2005 U.N. report by Paul Volcker, that did much to also expose the squalid mutual corruption of other foreign companies dealing with the Hussein regime.

But despite such intense international competition, AWB had the dubious honour of being the worst culprit of bribes/kickbacks.

Some of its number were cowboys in attitude and conduct.

Fairfax published a memorable photo of a bare-chested former chairman of the AWB, Trevor Flugge, flaunting his slab rather than a six-pack, toting a gun and pointing it at the camera.

Former AWB chairman Trevor Flugge, in Iraq 2003 doing deals with the Saddam Hussein regime as PM Howard's senior agricultural advisor. (Image via smh.com.au)

Nice one for the Annual Report. 

Australia was later to set up an inquiry with Royal Commission powers, headed by Terence Cole QC, to investigate the AWB Scandal. In a rare appearance for a prime minister, John Howard was called to give evidence as was then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.


Howard and Maliki share a mutual contempt for one another. And the Iraqis thought Downer was not to be trusted, and that he was a self-serving dork and an 'abeet' (an idiot), who was up himself. Some of these opinions are shared by his fellow Australians.

As well as the AWB affair, Maliki and Rudd also haggled over the forgiving of Iraq's debt to Australia, as well as the treatment and visa/residency status of Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers.

Maliki ominously wanted personal data on the latter and also about those who claimed to be political asylum seekers fleeing from his Shia-dominated government.

There was also tense argument about credit for the rescue of Australian hostage Douglas Wood, and even tenser discussion between Maliki and Rudd about whom should snatch undeserved credit for my campaign to secure sanctuary for the Iraqi soldiers involved. (It was a people driven campaign and succeeded despite the thwarting of both governments who, time and again, tried to sabotage it).

However, in a brazen act of outrageous censorship, the still unidentified and mysterious interpreter chose to ignore Maliki's disparaging statement and instead instantly manipulated it, to make it sound as if Maliki was referring to the previous Iraqi regime — and not the previous Australian regime. 


It so happened that I watched broadcasts of the strained press conference in the company of Iraqis and Arabic-speaking Australians.

They categorically believed Maliki was referring to John Howard's government.

They felt that the translator appeared to deliberately mask what Maliki said, or was 'protecting' Maliki from his own words.

It may be that Maliki was under instruction by the U.S. to keep his head down, or was under political strictures from his own Dawa colleagues and other government and tenuous sectarian factions.

The Iraqi Government is a lucrative cash camel for those who have bought their membership fees and who are entitled to write their own rules.

Of course, I asked if the arabic used by Maliki was ambiguous and was told that the phraseology used by Maliki was unambiguous and that it was clear he was referring to the government/regime before the Rudd Government — that is, John Howard's Government. And he was making his displeasure with the Howard Government public — with good reason, as it transpires.

A professional accredited interpreter also confirmed Maliki's interpreter did not correctly translate the words. She too confirmed that Maliki was referring to the Howard Government, not the previous Iraqi regime.

Presuming that media attending/monitoring the televised press conference would have an Arabic-speaking person checking the translation, I cross-checked with other media, including the ABC, Fairfax and News Ltd, the Canberra Press Gallery, SBS and other ethnic media.

Most were unaware of any anomaly or dispute about the translation.


Astoundingly, others said they knew the translator was incorrect but didn't want the hassle of getting into a stoush with the Federal Government and its media unit, and/or 'rock the boat' regarding the Iraqi-Australian relationship, or have their families put on an immigration department visa 'black list' or any intimidating 'watch list.'

It happens. Yes. In god's own country.

Others, including ethnic media representatives, confided that it was just too dangerous and asking for personal trouble to visit them and their relatives, because of the divisiveness it would provoke within the Iraqi and wider Middle-Eastern community in Australia, including hotheads among the Sunni and Shia communities.

Given my own horrible and continuing personal experiences, including being  physically attacked and my property being shot into, resulting from funding and mounting the campaign to rescue the Iraqi soldiers and their families from being systematically assassinated by al-Qaeda, I understand those fears only too well.

Here is a breakdown of responses to questions I directed at the time, to various government and other departments, including government media representatives.

Who was the interpreter, anyway? No-one professed to know.

Who was paying him? No one knew.

Who had engaged him? No-one knew.

Was he part of Nouri al-Maliki's contingent? No-one knew.

Or was he 'supplied' by the Australian Government? The Government, strangely, refused to answer this seemingly innocuous question.

Was he a DFAT employee? Wouldn't say.

Was the interpreter a minder? Was he a U.S. intelligence officer?

Was he there to ensure that Maliki did not drop a verbal incendiary device in a vain attempt to gain cred on the arab street that he is his own man? Maybe.

I asked the Prime Minister's department to provide me with a transcript of the Press Conference. They wouldn't.

I asked the Prime Minister's department to provide me with a copy of the televised Press Conference. They wouldn't.

I asked the Parliamentary Library to give me a copy of the televised Press Conference. They said they would get back to me.

They didn't. So I again contacted them for a copy of the televised Press Conference. They said they couldn't give me a copy. They had been instructed not to.

I asked who gave such an extraordinary instruction? They said they were not allowed to say.

I note there is now a DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) media release that purports to be a transcript of the 12 March 2009 Joint Press Conference with Prime Minister al-Maliki, who is also secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party.

There is also a second copy of a transcript on their website.

I am not prepared to say it/they correctly represent the dialogue in any way.

It is worth noting that despite using the words 'wheat sales' in the transcript, there is no mention of wheat in the subject's headlines.

This is such ridiculous neglect, it has to be deliberate. Any mention of 'wheat' in relation to Iraq and an Iraqi Prime Minister is a dead set attention-grabber.

(Image via stublogs.wordpress.com)


Given that this was the first time an Iraqi Prime Minister had visited Australia, why were so few questions allowed from the media? 

And, to say the least, why no questions about the bleeding obvious, ergo, the AWB scandal, the Douglas Wood rescue, Iraqi soldiers campaign, et cetera?

I eventually got a copy of the televised press conference from Sky News.

However, the National Australia Bank, McKean Park Lawyers illegally possess this, as they illegally do all my business equipment and investigative/journalism files and property and personal belongings, including investigations and statements of financial holdings in the National Australia Bank by Libyan tyrant and former frenemy to the West, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and his family and cohorts. 

There are also documents and confidential investigative files, illegally taken by the National Australia Bank and McKean Park Lawyers, including but not confined to, matters pertaining to the National Australia Bank and matters relating to the Australian Wheat Board and persons and organisations associated with the selling of wheat and other business matters associated with Iraq, and matters dealing with investigations relating to Douglas Wood, the Iraqi soldiers campaign, 'Mohammed Comes to the Mountain', as well as the secretion of funds in Australia, including into banks, by corrupt regimes, terrorists and drug cartels. 

Here is part of the DFAT transcript that might contain a few clues as to the 'lost in translation' aspect [IA emphasis].

Subjects: Australia-Iraq Relationship; United Nations Sanctions; Security; Overseas Aid; Labour Force Figures; Liberal Party

PM RUDD: Australia's security relationship with Iraq will continue to remain important.We still have a small number of Australian embedded forces in Iraq. We still have Australian forces defending our embassy in Baghdad. Of course we still have our naval frigate in the Gulf. These are important, continuing contributions to the security relationship...

But this is simply the beginning in what we intend to build as a very big, broad and strong relationship in agriculture. Both on the research side and on the commercial side.

.... I'm pleased to note the statement made just before by the Iraqi Trade Minister that Iraq has also agreed on new wheat sales from Australia to Iraq.

Prime Minister, you should know that in Australia you are seriously among friends; genuine friends. There are many Iraqi Australians and more broadly Arab Australians who make a huge contribution to our life in this country.

PM AL-MALIKI (translation).... I bring my gratitude and the Iraqi Government's gratitude for the contribution by the Australian forces in Iraq in helping rebuild Iraq, particularly in the security sector.

I also would like to...thank Australia for forgiving Iraq's debts, which were accumulated due to the policies of the previous regime due to its ill-conceived adventures and wars.

...The Prime Minister has outlined the areas for the Memorandum of Understanding. In this Memorandum the agricultural sector is the most important. Unfortunately it has deteriorated so badly in Iraq due to the policies of the previous regime.

In response to a question about killings in two mass attacks, and the ability of the Iraqi security forces to protect the country once the US forces withdraw, Maliki says...

PM AL-MALIKI (TRANSLATED)...The Iraqi police and the security authorities in the country are trying to do their best to bring the perpetrators to justice...notwithstanding the gruesome operations that took place and the large number of victims, Al Qaeda extremists and terrorists in Iraq have lost their capabilities of confronting and challenging the security forces in Iraq...what happened ...appears to be an attempt by them to prove that they still exist in Iraq but we are intent on doing our best to secure the situation in the country...The situation keeps... getting better day after day and that is through the close cooperations between the people and the security forces in Iraq.

When it comes to the withdrawal of the American forces, I believe that Iraqis will be able of taking the whole situation in their hands.

Maliki is also asked by the same journalist:

'And when will the Australian security attachment be required to leave your country?'

According to the transcript, Maliki, a former newspaper editor, does not answer. Nor does Commander Rudd give his two bob's worth.

Spoken in 2009, Maliki's words, along with those spoken by Rudd, ring as hollow in 2014 as they did then.


This afternoon we wrote to Peta Credlin, requesting a copy of the al-Maliki press conference.

Here is the text of the email:

June 12, 2014
Ms Peta Credlin
Office of the Prime Minister

Dear Ms Credlin,

I hope this email finds you well in bod and spirit.

On March 12, 2009, there was a televised Press Conference with the visiting Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr Nouri al-Maliki and the then Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd.

My information is that the unidentified interpreter for Prime Minister al-Maliki failed to properly translate the entire of Mr al-Maliki's responses and that during his responses, Mr al-Maliki was disparaging of the Government preceding the Rudd Government - that is, the Howard Government.

For some inexplicable reason, the Rudd Government refused to give me a copy of the televised press conference and apparently instructed the Parliamentary Library to also deny me access to the televised press conference.  

I am writing an article on this subject and would appreciate you sending me by return email a copy of the press conference, or arrange for a copy to be sent urgently to me via email for publication.

I am assuming that given the current atrocities in Iraq and dealings/negotiations/aid monies sent to the al-Maliki regime, that the Abbott Government, intelligence agencies and various advisers, including the Foreign Minister Ms Julie Bishop, will have revisited Mr al-Maliki's words and have had the video close at hand for scrutiny and assessment.

Kind Regards

Tess Lawrence
Contributing editor-at-large, Independent Australia


As the most servile of the 31 servants of the notorious U.S.-led 'Coalition of the Willing' that invaded Iraq in 2003, we have indisputably contributed to the emergence of extremist jihadist guerrillas like ISIS/ISIL – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – and its celebrated bad-ass leader Awwad Ibrahim al-Badri al-Samarri, better known as Abu Bakr, whose bloodlust and thrill kills make al-Qaeda look like amateur wannabees.

Liberal and Labor, along with their politically effete affiliates, must share in the culpability of an already ruptured nation now reduced emotionally and physically to a pulverised failed state and systemically corrupt puppet leadership.

Post Saddam Hussein, the land that some deem the site of the Garden of Eden, continues to boil in a bloody quagmire of industrial strength rape and murder, soul-destroying massacres, atrocities and violence, profiteering war and whore mongering,

Corruption is endemic and politically sanctioned; as is wholesale fraud, vicious insurgent and religious in-fighting.

Contemptuous government militia and private armies alike, daily trespass on the discarded genteel Conventions of Geneva and common decency. The rule of law is as feral as the rule of lore. We helped to make it so.

As ever, war weary poor ordinary people are the ones who most suffer; human sandbags for swords, bullets and bombs.

Today's fomenting Sunni-Shia animosity and atrocities were tragically predictable.  

Everywhere. Anywhere. Think Catholic versus Protestants. Think IRA and ' the troubles ' in Northern Ireland. Think Omagh bombing.

Waging war on Iraq because of the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction will forever relegate the United States, Britain and Australia and their leaders, George W Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard to the realm of war criminals in pin-stripe suits – and justly so – regardless of their revisionist collective and individual bleatings to the contrary, including Blair's controversial essay on his website.

Draw straight lines from 20 March 2003 to 17 June 2014 from the starting points of Washington, London and Canberra to Baghdad. We all know where the bodies are buried; the Christian populated Mosul included.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott will be only two aware of Maliki's disdain for Howard's government; even if it was the government that dislodged Saddam Hussein from his Sunni-dominated murderous regime. But no doubt Abbott will keep his balance holding onto Obama's elegant coat-tail.

What the Coalition of the Willing has succeeded in doing is to lay the foundation stone to fuel those locked out of the decision-making process to take by force what they believe is theirs by forming their own Coalition of the Killing.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

Monthly Donation


Single Donation


Join Newsletter

Please fill the text in this image in the field below to assist us in eliminating spam

A selection of John Graham originals, including the above may be purchased from IA's online store. (See more of John's political art on his Cartoons and Caricatures Facebook page.)

Recent articles by Tess Lawrence
#7 TOP STORY OF 2021: The night Porter and allegations of rape

The horrifying rape allegations against Christian Porter proved to one of the ...  
The night Porter and allegation of rape

Attorney-General Christian Porter deserves the backlash received from the public ...  
Trump impeachment: He's so bad they did it twice

The destruction of democracy in the Capitol on January 6, live-streamed by proud ...  
Join the conversation
comments powered by Disqus

Support IAIndependent Australia

Subscribe to IA and investigate Australia today.

Close Subscribe Donate