The Cole Inquiry has completely cleared the Federal Government and its civil service (including DFAT) of any role in AWB deceptions. These groups were not corrupt and did not 'turn a blind eye' to the illegalities AWB was claimed to be engaged in.
A quick search around the blogs that have been severly critical of the government on this account this evening suggested that these commentators have been too busy to send their apologies to John Howard, his government and those affected civil servants. But maybe an apology is called for given the unwarranted accusations– see e.g. here and here and here.
So I’ll suggest the following apology for them. That tireless accuser, Kevin Rudd can use it too if he wants and doesn't even need to thank me.
The blogosphere (and Kevin Rudd) apologize to Australian Coalition politicians and Australian civil servants for the unwarranted accusation that they had prior knowledge of, and ‘turned a blind eye’ to, AWB’s attempts to secure wheat sales to Iraq by offering bribes to a corrupt regime. We are sad to say we were wrong, had no evidence to back up our claims and were really only clutching at straws because we dislike the Howard Government.
Maybe that apology won’t appeal too all those mentioned. There is, alternatively, the opportunity to attack the conclusions of the Cole Inquiry or its terms of reference – Cole however had the opportunity to expand or change these terms of reference but didn’t seek to do so. Or perhaps you could follow this unusually stupid line and claim that the whole Cole inquiry was a lie. Or perhaps critics could wait for evidence from executives within AWB who might seek to discredit members of the Government. But evidence from executives, who face potential criminal prosecution, suffers from obvious credibility problems - they might pursue the 'take you with us if we go down fellas' line.
I suggest that those disappointed with the prosaic truths yielded by the Cole inquiry move onto the next implausible, leftwing conspiracy story. It will keep them off the streets. Perhaps: The Australia Government had planned back into 2002 to join the US in invading Iraq. They discussed this at that time with our ambassador to the UN who then, in turn, discussed it with the AWB. But it wasn't until next year that this policy became public.
Hah-hah hah-hah hah-hah…..its a great yarn.