The Greens have launched an extraordinary attack on new Liberal senator and former military leader Jim Molan, accusing him of overseeing a “humanitarian catastrophe” while directing coalition forces in Iraq.
But the Greens intensified their criticisms of Senator Molan during Question Time, lambasting his record as chief of operations for coalition forces in Iraq almost 15 years ago.
American, British and Iraqi forces launched multiple assaults on Fallujah in 2004 as they tried to root out Sunni insurgents in the city.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the attack on Fallujah was a disaster for civilians, and Senator Molan had to bear responsibility.
“In my 20 years in this chamber I have heard many extraordinary things, but that reflection on the service of a senior Australian army office takes your lows to depths I did not think you could plumb,” Senator Payne told the Greens.
“You consistently disappoint the Australian people and you do so with the most extraordinary lack of self-awareness of what it takes to lead your nation in a uniform.”
The US military denied it deliberately withheld food or water from civilians, but conceded supplies were sometimes disrupted by combat.
Senator Molan did not respond to the accusations on the floor of the Senate.
But in his 2009 book Running the War in Iraq, he said the coalition did “everything we could to avoid killing innocents”.
“[Military commanders] did not want to aggravate an already difficult situation, and their first guiding principle was often expressed as the old medical dictum: ‘First, do no harm’,” he wrote.
“There was a continual search for any approach that did not involve bombs and bullets.”
Tensions flare over ‘white supremacist’ accusation
Coalition senators rallied behind Senator Molan.
Queensland senator Barry O’Sullivan said Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young had accused Senator Molan of being a white supremacist.
“She’s done it twice, it’s a despicable thing to say about a fellow senator,” he said.
Senator Hanson-Young was unrepentant.
“I said that the senator was supporting white supremacists. That is what he did when he shared that Facebook post,” she said.
“That is what he’s being asked to apologise for, that is what he should be ashamed of.”