Well, the guy ought to have a boomerang shoved up his bum for such a stupid remark.Australian Prime Minister John Howard was one of the first leaders to commit troops to the U.S.-led war, and some 450 of those Diggers have been protecting a non-combatant Japanese contingent of 600 peacekeepers in southern Iraq, which Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi has announced will be withdrawn. Will those Aussies be coming home? No. They're being redeployed for more dangerous duty elsewhere in Iraq.
Spain chickened out of the coalition soon after the March 2004 Madrid subway bombings and the Philippines after a series of terrorist kidnappings, while Italy will be leaving soon.
Some 16 countries in all have bailed and the U.S.-led Coalition of the Willing is quickly becoming a Coalition of the Reluctant as some countries are weighing the costs of continued involvement in an unpopular war against the benefits of backing President Bush for the remainder of his second term.
But for many countries, whether to leave has less to do with the rights and wrongs of the war than where it sees itself four year on and with no end in sight.
For the Japanese government, being a coalition partner has carried great symbolic weight. It was the first military mission of the former imperial power since its defeat in World War II and that mission was to offer a peacekeeping presence in a troubled region.
Koizumi has been under enormous pressue to bring home his troops, but to his credit refused to do so until Iraqi forces were trained sufficiently to be able to take over for the Japanese-Australian contigent. He also refused to give in when a Japanese civilian was kidnapped in Iraq.
Australia and the U.S. have had strong, if sometimes fractious, ties since the early days of World War II when the only thing preventing a feared Japanese invasion were U.S. naval forces. Those ties were further strengthened when General Douglas MacArthur made Melbourne his headquarters after he fled the Philippines. Aussies fought in Korea, had a substantial presence in Vietnam (where over 50,000 served and over 400 died) and in the first Gulf War, as well.
John Howard made it clear this week that Australia would not abandon the coalition but would reevaluate its role.
While there is an active antiwar movement in Australia, Howard has two comforts that George Bush does not: A vibrant economy now in its 16th year of expansion and wide popularity.
Other coalition partners and troop levels:
Poland (900), Romania (830), Japan (600), Denmark (550) Georgia (400), El Salvador (380), Azerbaijan (15), Mongolia (145), Albania (125), Latvia (122), Bulgaria (120), Lithuania (120), Slovakia (105), Czech Republic (90), Armenia (46), Bosnia and Herzegovina (36), Estonia (35), Macedonia (33), Kazakhstan (29).Countries that have withdrawn from the coalition:
Canada has not disclosed how many troops it has in Iraq, although it is known some are embedded with U.S. and British special forces.
Dominican Republic, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Moldovia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Tonga, Ukraine.