One would have thought that a country which invades another for what it considered altruistic reasons would continue to have an interest in events there long after the troops have been withdrawn. When that country is Iraq, however, there appears to be a case of collective amnesia among Australia's political leadership.

Many would be unaware that elections were held in Iraq in April. Certainly there were no congratulatory messages from Australia, one of the members of the 2003 'Coalition of the Willing', at the fact that an election was held. A bit curious, when the current prime minister saw the invasion of Iraq as a justified attempt to create a pluralistic democratic state. Curious also, given that the foreign minister did take the time to condemn the sham election held in neighbouring Syria.

When the word 'Iraq' is mentioned, countries like Australia tend to cough, look downward and shuffle their feet uncomfortably while hoping the conversation moves on. That's because deep down we know what we did was ill-informed and without any understanding of the likely consequences of our actions. We just can't quite admit it.

If the result of the invasion was simply the replacement of one autocratic ruler with another, then perhaps we could move on. But when the government we helped usher in loses control of the country's second-largest city to radical Islamists, following a concerted week-long regional offensive by a force entrenched in neighbouring Syria, then it demands at least some comment from Canberra.

The Iraq-Syria border is in danger of disappearing and the Syrian civil war becoming a contiguous battlefront from the Lebanese border to the outskirts of Baghdad, if it hasn't already. But among the supporters of the invasion of Iraq, there will likely be studied silence or slightly embarrassed coughing. Altruism counts for nought in the face of these grim realities.