Peace Vigil & Stand Fast

Thursday afternoon often sees me near the Enoggera Army Base where alongside the main road we of the ‘Vigil’ hold posters protesting Australia’s involvement in the criminal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today was a bit different.

Stand Fast appeared before the Army Camp’s main gate with a small groups of anti-war activists who held a Speak Out event that was covered by the media.

This is a fairly poignant time as Australian soldiers have recently been dropping like flies owing to the increase in hostilities where they are operating in Afghanistan.

Many of those who have died were Queenslanders.

Honour guards, flag-draped caskets and tearful funerals attended by somber politicans are becoming all too frequent. And it is all totally unnecessary.

We could stop anytime we wanted rather than ‘finish the job’ and ‘stay the distance’ in a military adventure of dubious value to Australia instigated by war criminals against sovereign non-aggressive nations.

I’m reminded of a quote by Mohammed Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) who refused to serve with the US Army in Vietnam as saying “No Vietnamese ever called me Nigger!”

Admittedly, the political platform of former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd included the withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq and that has happened.

But in the latest federal election neither of the major political parties questioned Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Amongst the eventual winners was the Green Party which did have the withdrawal of Australian troops in their policy.

Also amongst those voted in was the Independent candidate Andrew Wilkie, a former soldier who worked in the Intelligence community until he quit when he spoke out about the lies regarding Sadam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction the government and the media were foisting on an unsuspecting public encouraging Australia’s participation in the Coalition of the Killing.

The fact that he wasn’t given the same treatment as the British weapons expert Dr David Kelly is perhaps a true credit to this land Australia.

Now he’s one of 3 Independents and the Greens who will hopefully keep Julia Gillard’s Labor government afloat, and he has demanded the withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan.

As the Chinese curse goes: ‘May you live in interesting times’.

Well, Sunshine, we’re there.

I hope you enjoy the enclosed attachments.



Stand Fast.doc

Traitor in the White House – Slimy Scumbag.doc

Afghanistan Exit Cartoon.doc

Afghanistan where empires go to die.doc

Blair Reveals Cheney’s War Agenda.doc

See also: QUT News

Vigil at Enoggera Barracks, Australia

12 thoughts on “Peace Vigil & Stand Fast

  1. Has the peace movement forgotten the lessons of the Vietnam war?

    The focus of this protest – as presented by the above report, the placards shown to the public and the mainstream media reporting of the event – is simply on bringing the troops home. At best it proposes the nice-ness of peace and the nastiness of war but offers no insight into either the causes or solutions of war.

    War is about imperialism. How many socialist and anarchist pamphlets and articles have been written in the last 40 years analysing the shallowness of the “bring the troops home” campaign around Vietnam?

    I saw on the TV several old faces who would have at least read these anti-imperialists critiques of Vietnam, some would have handed them out or even written them.

    The Afghanistan and Iraq wars are about global capital’s investment in oil, gas and water infrustructure that needs to be defended against constant sabotage.

    It is not simply evil people being aggressive, who might calm down a bit if they heard the wisdom of the peace activists.

    It is not just the Aussie diggers who are dying, (“Our Boys” as described by one activist on the news), it is the people of Afghanistan and they will continue to die as long as the global capitalist projects exist on their country, whether the Aussie troops are withdrawn or not.

    But you all know this and have held such an opinion for decades. So why has a new knee-jerk “bring the troops home” campaign been created, repeating the mistakes of the past?

    Sure, the escalating Aussie deaths has created a sore point in the Australian psyche that can be exploited, but this opportunity should bring the real issue to the fore rather than simply engaging in the same shallow sentimentalism by which the mainstream media and mainstream Aussies perceive the wars.

    If peace activists confirm the mainstream perspective that it is all about us and our troops then nothing has or will change except for the colour of the commentary.

    Our troops are being killed by Afghani resistance fighters.

    The resistance fighters are killing foreign troops because the foreign troops are killing resistance fighters.

    The foreign troops are killing resistance fighters because the resistance fighters are blowing up key oil, gas and water pipelines and infrastructure connecting production to markets in Africa, Europe and Asia.

    The companies behind the pipelines and infrastructure, such as Halliburton and Bechtel, are the same companies that have caused the privatisation of Queensland’s water and energy systems and are behind the present privatisation of coal infrastructure (rail and ports).

    These are the same companies that the Greens, Friends of the Earth and farmers are fighting with on the Darling Downs and other places.

    The war is in our own back yard but the peace movement cannot get beyond the infantile social democratic illusions of the anti-Vietnam “peace” and “bring the troops home” slogans.

  2. No war, an end to imperialism! says:

    Hello John,

    To put your mind at ease, every speaker at the Stand fast rally talked against imperialism. Of course they did it in their own way, which is everyone’s right. Most of the speakers had some experience of or connection with the Vietnam war – so I don’t think they have somehow missed the message of imperialism you wish to impress on everyone opposed to the Afghan war. We have to participate in struggle to raise our consciousness – it does not come out of the blue.

    If you doubt me. listen to what John Jiggens says about the imperialist motive for being in Afghanistan and central asia (see end of the video clip above).

    As for targetting companies engaged in imperialism, ‘Justice for Palestine’ in Brisbane is doing just that – its present goal is to shut down an israeli company engaged in the exploitation of minerals from the Dead Sea in Palestine and selling them as cosmetics to Brisbane women.

    This is a small part of the Palestinian unions’ call for an International Boycott campaign to shut down the Israeli economy.

    By the way, in my very first political march (in Brisbane) I was nearly knocked over by people running through the demonstration carrying the flag of the National Liberation Front of Vietnam. It was not possible to avoid the message being pressed on me as a young and shy medical student.

    Some years later I participated in a demonstration at the Waterside Workers Club in 1978 where two Vietnamese trade unionsts were confronted by violent stone throwing anti-communists. Our reply was ‘Ho, Ho, Ho Ho Chi Minh!’ to distract the angry mob as George Georges smuggled the two Vietnamese communists out a side exit.

    The Vietnam war was not an internal conflict between North and South as the media portrayed it, it was an external war by the rich a powerful to exploit resources and labour on a global scale. The New Left used refer to it as the Military Industrial Complex.

    By the way, the Qld police force assisted the stone throwing anti-communists and arrested a number of democratic rights activists at the Wharfies club that night. You can’t be reading your daily Workers BushTelegraph, John. Stay tuned.


  3. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

    If Christians stand on the street corner and pray for peace, does it make a sound?

    If peace activists stand on a street corner and mention imperialism, does it make a sound?

    What makes a sound is what is written on placards that passing cars and television cameras see, what sound bites from spokespeople are broadcast and what the social consequences of the gathering were.

    Aussies are pissed of with the disrespect for the dead, shallow meaningless one-liners about peace are broadcast and passers-by think whatever they used to think about protestors on street corners.

    This might be how you propogate post-Leninist and Christian ideological sects but its not how you build a movement. Thirty years of this mode of action has produced nothing yet, apparently through habit alone, is reproduced campaign after campaign after campaign. Why? Because it makes activists feel better about themselves.

    Where do you get this daily WBT?

    am tuned.

  4. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
    We’re finally on our own.
    This summer I hear the drumming
    Four dead in Ohio.”
    (“Ohio” lyrics by Neil Young)

    Hello John,

    I don’t think the Americans were defeated in Vietnam because of empty sound bytes on TV either. We do not control what Mass Murdoch puts on screens around the world.

    I don’t accept the argument that the defeat of French colonialism and then the failure of US imperialism in Indo-China had anything to do with media portrayal of war.

    Nor was the American war machine defeated by demonstrations at Uni campuses like Kent State University — even though there was loss of life there as well.

    The anti-war movement in Australia defeated conscription. The movement brought to power a moderate social democratic party. It was no accident that Jim Cairns was both the leader of the anti-war movement and a powerful infuence in the ALP government of 1972-75. I think Australian troops were withdrawn by Whitlam in the first week of his becoming PM mostly because Nixon had already signalled US withdrawal and therefore defeat.

    The Iraq and Afghan wars are different. There is no conscription and the people who are sent to fight are there because young people have been deluded into thinking the army is a worthwhile career and have trouble getting work or a trade. Dueing the Vietnam war nearly anyone could get called up for national service – it had nothing to do with getting a trade, it depended on whether your number came up in the lottery. Far more people died. Military commitment in terms of troop numbers to that war was far greater.

    Capitalism has mutated, it has corporatised war, the Iraq war is privatised except for the 50,000 US troops still occupying that country. It is a similar story in Afghanistan. Vietnam was fought during a long boom, the Afghan war is being fought as America descends into a second dip of the recession that brought on the Global Financial Crisis.

    There is no anti-war movement now. I can’t speak for the Catholics you refer to but it seems that Stand Fast is trying to convince soldiers to refuse to go to Afghanistan. Just read what they say:

    “If a mate was convinced to do something you knew was pointless and dangerous you do what could to stop them. Even if it pissed them off,” Hamish Chitts, Stand Fast spokeperson on why Stand Fast supports the troops more than the brass bands,flag wavers and politicians.

    Stand Fast Flyer

    As more soldiers die this will have a greater impact. No one likes the work these soldiers do in Afghanistan – least of all the soldiers. It is deadly work.

    The reason soldiers are getting killed at a greater rate now in Afghanistan is because they are not getting the air cover that they had previously in the early years of the war. The Afghan resistance now has effective surface-to-air missiles capable of knocking down helicopters and jets. So the air cover has to keep at a greater distance and is therefor less effective in defending troops on the ground. This is a development that worries strategic planners because it ultimately means defeat on the ground. This is precisely what happened to the Russians in Afghanistan (1979-1988). When the US congress funded anti-aircraft missiles for the Taliban, Soviet withdrawal was inevitable. I doubt they (the planners) lose much sleep over loss of life by working class Brits, Australians and Americans. They simply can’t achieve their military objectives because there has been a military shift in the capability of the opposition. Also President Kazai is corrupt. Afghan civil servants and militia are paid by a bank owned by Kazai’s family. The bank has recently gone bust. Such is the corruption Kazai’s government will fall – it is not performing the function of government of building roads, schools, hospitals. So Kazai is no better than the Taliban. Afghanis know it but have to survive somehow, so allegiances shift depending on who can make survival possible.

    Anyway, these are my thoughts — not that they matter much.

    The defeat of the occupation will come about mainly because of the resistance of the Iraqi and Afghani people.


  5. Ok if we’re going to quote pop songs we could at least go a little Leonard Cohen….
    John “abandon your perfect offering
    everything has a crack in it
    that’s how the light gets in…”

    The Catholic Worker network has been maintaing a weekly vigil for the best part of 3 years outside Gallipoli Barracks. Our placards have been educational (statin the obvious)
    -Invading Afghanistan is Not Defending Australia
    -War is Terror is War

    and a list of demands not appeals to power
    -Bring Our Troops Home
    Resist the War on Afghanistan
    -Listen to Veterans Against the War

    The Catholic Worker network welcomes this initiative by Standfast and has always appreciated the value of anti-war veterans communicating with soldiers. The demonstration by Standfast wasn’t perfect but it’s a start and definitely an effort in the right place at theright time. Our weekly vigils haven’t been perfect but they were a start. And maybe if we hadn’t been doing them, this Standfast thang wouldn’t have happened. So there’s no telling what might come form this Standfast effort,,,,,

  6. “And friends they may thinks it’s a movement. And that’s what it is , the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come’s around on the guitar.”

  7. I was wondering if anyone would have a go at explaining how actions such as…..

    – the Standfast and Catholic worker vigils at Enoggera
    – Talisman Sabre protests
    – CAAT exorcisms
    – Creech 14 and othe Plowshare style actions

    ….. might contribute to ending, preventing or reducing war anywhere?

    The myth of democracy tells us that our opinion is important and we can change the world by simply expressing our opinion. Do the peace protest events rely on this same assumption, that the public expression of an opinion will stop war? If not, what role do these pickets, vigils and theatrical civil disobedience have?

  8. The Catholic Workerdoes not picket (a military term) or protest or vote or appeal to power. We speal truth to power, expose power and nonviolently confront imperial power.

    To respond to your previous post and Arlo Guthrie quote…no there is no anti-war movement to speak of in Australia, Britain or the U.S. There s howevera an anti-war remnant of veterans, Catholic Workers etc….., no great support or active opposition to the war.

    I recomend the dicumentary “Yes Sir, No Sir” regarding anti-war resistance within the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. It is doubtful there would have been such resistance within the military if there hadn’t been such visible opposition in broader civil society.

    As Dan Berrigan would say “Just don’t do something, stand there!”..and that’s what…what is left of the Catholic Worker in Brisbane have been doing at Enoggera these past years. As Woody Guthrie would say “The secret to life is showing up!” or Acts 1 “…hanging in there together.”

    Our presence outside Gallipoli Barracks has been significant for those who have gathered, reflected, prayed and gone on to resist and for for the soldiers who know they are not actively supported by broader Australian society. The myth of empire is nothing can be done, stay home watch the teev or surf the internet……

    Act, reflect, act again, reflect again, act that is what we continue to do at Enoggera and where empire trains, recruits, prepares and executes

  9. Ciaron,

    1/ It was not the conversion of American soldiers or the protests of the American peace movement that forced the withdrawal of foreign troops from Vietnam, it was the determined resistance of the Vietnamese people, just as it is the determination of Afghanis resistance that is forcing the present troop withdrawals there.

    The dead soldiers from Enoggera are the symbolic message to Australia from the Afghani resistance. This is what weakens Australia’s commitment to war, not placard waving protesters.

    Dissident soldiers may well have provided interesting conversation amongst Americans but the war machine cares little for the opinions expressed in conversations.

    2/ While perhaps you can only see the faithful remnant of Catholic Workers and veterans as the peace movement, you do not seem to be able to see the rise of the Greens, in particular their recent commitment to have a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan.

    There is a mass movement with realistic and achievable goals that they are succesfully working towards – yet you don’t seem to be able to see it.

    For all the limitations of the Greens, a parliamentary debate on Afghanistan is far more powerfull than holding placards about Afghanistan at Shoalwater bay or Enoggera. Even Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle’s little tiff with George Bush when he was here was more powerful than placard waving

    Actions such as Talisman Sabre and the Bonhoeffer campaigns in Victoria only have meaning, if there is any at all, as support for the Greens agenda. But instead of injecting a more radical perspective into the Greens such as focusing on the broader context of imperialism, they provide slogans and media sensations to the debate.

    “there is no anti-war movement to speak of ”

    “Because something is happening here
    But you don’t know what it is
    Do you, Mister Jones ?

    You raise up your head
    And you ask, “Is this where it is ?”
    And somebody points to you and says
    “It’s his”
    And you says, “What’s mine ?”
    And somebody else says, “Where what is ?”
    And you say, “Oh my God
    Am I here all alone ?”

    3/ Acts 1 – after Jesus had ascended, the apostles were chastised for standing around. vs. 11 ” “why do you stand here looking into the sky?”

    After that, the only person in Acts 1 doing any hanging is Judas.

  10. John

    You have been advocating sitting on your arse for a long time on this site…and seem to get distressed when any of us get off ours.

    You know these people do much more than wave placards. We live and tend to war refugees in our houses, here in London we have refugees from Congo, Eritrea, Afghanistan and veterans of the Ira/Iran war and the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

    You know many of us have undertaken nonviolent resistance and have been dragged through the imperial courts and prisons.

    You should also know that the German Green Party in coalition government prosecuted a war on Serbia and the Irish Greens presetly in coalition government are facilitating the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan….you also know that demanding a debate in parlliament is a long way of refusing to participate in a government that is going to continue to service the illegal expanding war on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    As I have pointed out before you use the same argument as our government prosecutors that these are all media publicity stunts rather than direct nonviolent interventions t save lives. English, Irish and New Zealand juries have rejected your/the Prosecutors argumentsin the last few years.

    This initiative by Standfast has been a significant one. There is more significant opposition coming from military veterans and their families than any other section of civil society presently.

    My hope is that Standfast reflects on tis action and returns to Enoggera and the rest of us cop on and break out of the privileged white boy bubble we have been afforded in relation to these wars.

  11. Ciaron,

    I am very aware that “these people” do more than wave placards. My question included a specific reference to the Creech 14.

    You do not seem to be able to answer the most basic question of what do these actions achieve beyond self edification?

    It is wonderfull that you care for refugees but I am not so impressed by catholic Worker responses to homelessness and poverty. The C.W. charity mode is just as disempowering as St. Vinnies and the Salvos and I make the same criticism of that as I so of the protests, they primariy serve the needs of the activists.

    But whatever high moral ground you assume from these welfare schemes does not increase the effectiveness of anti-war protests in any way.

    Can you put any substance to the following comments?…..

    “an effort in the right place at theright time.”

    “there’s no telling what might come form this”

    “We speal truth to power, expose power and nonviolently confront imperial power.”

    ““The secret to life is showing up!”

    “Act, reflect, act again, reflect again, act”

    “This initiative by Standfast has been a significant one”

    What do these cliches and plattitudes mean? They sound like a coach’s pep-talk to a footy team that is getting thrashed because it doesn’t have a game plan.

    I do not advocate arse sitting, I just challenge mindless militance. Younger and future generations of rebels deserve something more substantial from their elders.

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