Airman's widow calls for inquiry into decision to enter war with Iraq
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Airman's widow calls for inquiry into decision to enter war with Iraq

Australia's first service widow of the Iraq War has called for an inquiry into the nation's involvement in the 10-year conflict.

Kellie Merritt says Australian and US political leaders ''exaggerated, cherry-picked and manipulated'' intelligence to strengthen the case for invading Iraq in 2003. Her husband, Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, a former member of the RAAF, died along with nine others when their British RAF Hercules transport plane was shot down by insurgents over the Tigris River in 2005.

Paul and Kellie Pardoel in a family photo with their three children.

Paul and Kellie Pardoel in a family photo with their three children.

Restating her calls for an inquiry into Australia's involvement in the war, Ms Merritt said lessons should be learnt from the death of her husband and the other military personnel and civilians killed in Iraq.

The attack that killed Flight Lieutenant Pardoel and nine British servicemen came as the first elections for the Iraqi National Assembly took place on January 30, 2005.

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In an opinion piece for Fairfax Media, Ms Merritt accuses former officials including then US vice-president Dick Cheney, UK prime minister Tony Blair and Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer of having ''dodged and re-shaped the principles, rules and norms that limit and define the justifications for waging war.''

She said there was growing momentum for an official inquiry into Australia's involvement in the war and that former prime minister John Howard should be called to give evidence in public hearings.

''I think for those of us who have lost so much, the redeeming aspects of an inquiry would be that their deaths would not be in vain,'' she said.

''There would be lessons learnt and information identified, particularly as countries such as the United States and Australia continue managing conflicts in the Middle East and on a global scale.''

The mother of three called for a wide-ranging inquiry to ''bear witness'' to the human cost of the war, and to bring redemption for those killed and injured in Iraq.

Earlier this month, the former secretary to the federal parliamentary intelligence committee, Margaret Swieringa, rejected the defence of Australia's involvement in the war by Mr Howard in a speech he gave to the Lowy Institute marking the 10th anniversary of hostilities. Ms Merritt, a Canberra social worker who also cares for the parents of Flight Lieutenant Pardoel, said the government still owed a duty of care to the families of all Australian Defence Force personnel injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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"I think that war shouldn't be dominated by political ideology like it has been,'' she said.

''The nature of war has a context and that is something that should never be undermined in the pursuit of personal and political agendas."

Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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