In time of war, march for peace

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service, and during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. – Major General Smedley D. Butler in 1931.

On ANZAC day 2022, Australia and New Zealand are getting further away from big wars in Europe but military spending keeps escalating. So why are the crowds on Anzac Day getting larger? Government is talking up war with China, and both sides of parliament continue to support US policy in the Asia-Pacific.

The same government that is leaving old people to die in nursing homes during Covid wants to spend over $100 Billion on nuclear powered submarines and to have them dock in Brisbane, Newcastle and Woolongong. Does that make you feel safe? It doesn’t me. We may never fight another war in Europe but in our region we have done little good.

We stood by for a quarter of a century while Indonesia colonised Timor Leste and continues to do so in West Papua. Our government showed no respect for first nations people’s land claims from Clermont to Bougainville. We participated in war crimes in Vietnam and Afghanistan. The government has increased the presence of US bases on Aboriginal land and tried to burying nuclear waste on sacred country. The Australian government ignored the unrest in the Solomon Islands until it helped initiate a military agreement between China and the Solomon Island government. But now it is too late.

The Australian government remains blind to the underlying causes of conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka, and the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. It accepts refugees from Ukraine but refuses Tamils, Rohinygan people and Afghanis – we have a truly racist government to celebrate at the shrine of remembrance. Finally our government stands by as the British legal system extradites Julian Assange to stand trial in the United States for disclosing wars crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Below is the text of talk on military spending given by Hannah Middleton to a peace group in the Philippines. Hannah is a long time member of both Australian and British Communist Parties, and an activist in the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition (AABCC).

Sadly none of the political parties have any real differences over foreign policy and maintain close relations with the United States and Britain. Less money, not more, should be spent on the military.

Sadly the annual Palm Sunday Peace Rally Brisbane/Meanjin 16 April 2022 was devoid of Trade Union involvement despite the banner in the background. Only a small crowd attended in time of war whereas in the past there would have been thousands with unions living up to the slogan shown in the picture below. But no more. The Australian Labor Party lacks the leadership of a Jeremy Corbin in England, or a George Georges here in Queensland. No political organisation has been capable of mobilising against the kind of gangsters and war mongers we have running this country.

Palm Sunday Peace Rally Brisbane/Meanjin 16 April 2022


Ian Curr, Editor.
Anzac Day 2022

Shrine of Remembrance Brisbane/Meanjin

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Anzac military excess in time of war

I want to start by acknowledging that I am speaking to you from the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging, and I acknowledge that this is Aboriginal land – always was, always will be. I want to tell you about how the Australian Government is locking our country into spending billions of dollars on weapons to support US efforts to contain and control China and ultimately turn it into a subservient capitalist country. This is criminal madness that will make my country a nuclear target while also stealing the money we desperately need to save the environment, to combat the covid pandemic and to deal with the massive bush fires and floods that we are facing.

Australia is being further militarised and garrisoned as a forward base for US plans for the encirclement of China – at an estimated cost to our people of a quarter of a trillion dollars over the next 10 years.
Already underway or developing are more US military personnel based here (there are already 2,500 US Marines) more US planes & bombing ranges more US surface vessels and submarines more joint war games more US ordnance stored in Australia co-operation on artificial intelligence, cyber warfare, underwater systems, space warfare and hypersonic missiles purchase of US Trident missiles four new military bases (in addition to Pine Gap and over 30 US bases here already) two new bases for space warfare.

CURRENT SPENDING
The Australian Government plans to spend $48 billion on the military in 2022 to 2023 alone. Its recent budget delivered a massive setback to the people of Australia which will make us poorer but not safer or healthier.

A country like Australia that is not feeding its aged pensioners properly should not decide to spend $120 billion or more to buy nuclear powered submarines.

If ten per cent of the $48 billion for the military was transferred to healthcare, something like 64,000 jobs could be created, including thousands of nurses, and we could be better equipped to combat the pandemic.

If another ten per cent went to clean energy, it would create about 45,000 jobs and could help address the nation’s major security problem, the environmental crisis. So let’s look at what was in this budget which the government announced about a week ago [and I will only deal with major items] $5.5 billon for nothing – compensation for the cancelled French submarine project. SPACE WARFARE $7 billion over the next 10 years to fund a new Defence Space Command and triple the size of Australia’s space activities.

Defence Space Command was set up on January 18, 2022. Its new head, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, said “It is central to how we will fight and win in the future across multi-domain operations, using advanced hypersonics, precision strike missiles and guided weapons.” The new agency’s members will come from Australia’s army, navy and air force, and will include private contractors. Defence Minister Dutton said space will take on “greater military significance” in this century.
The increased investment into space related military technologies by the Australian Government is dangerous, given Canberra’s intimate links with US military ambitions.

We have to understand Space Command in the context of the Australian US military alliance and the plans for interoperability between the Australian and US military. The joint war game Talisman Sabre held in Australia in 2021 was intended “to enhance relationships and operational capability with allies and partners” and to “provide effective and practical training to ensure space warfighters and forces are capable, interoperable, deployable on short notice, and combat ready.” “In Talisman Sabre 21, we took critical steps to promote interoperability and demonstrate the flexibility, responsiveness, and relevance of our space forces in the Indo-Pacific,” said Major General Miller, USSPACECOM’s director of operations, training, and force development.

In 2018 President Trump said that “space is a warfighting domain” and claimed that “we must have American dominance in space“. The US Space Force was launched in 2019.

How nations use space is governed by the Outer Space Treaty which entered into force in October 1967. Developed primarily as an arms-control treaty for the peaceful use of outer space, it declared that space is the province of all and banned weapons of mass destruction.

The US has been putting nuclear devices in space, including first strike and anti-satellite weapons. However, these are defined as weapons of selective [not mass] destruction.

The 1967 treaty said space belonged to all humanity, However, in 2016 Obama allowed corporations to claim ownership of asteroids. The US is determined to be the “master of space” and now Australia has joined this exorbitantly expensive and terribly dangerous project.

MORE SOLDIERS
In this year’s budget, the government plans to spend $38 billion over the next 17 years to increase the number of defence personnel by 18,500.

CYBER WARFARE
In the budget, the government committed $9.9 billion over ten years for cyber operations of the Australian Signals Directorate. The ASD is the agency responsible for foreign signals intelligence, cyber warfare and information security. The funding will triple Australia’s aggressive cyber capability with the Australian Signals Directorate doubling in size with 1,900 new staff members – if it can actually find that many qualified people! Despite rhetoric about a defensive role for Australia’s cyber capabilities, it is clear that the new funding is an expansion of an ongoing development of cyber warfare capabilities aimed first and foremost against China. The new cyber program – codenamed REDSPICE — is a real increase in the ASD’s ability to strike in cyberspace and it increases the ASD’s presence overseas fourfold, allowing for closer collaboration with key allies, especially the US and UK, Australia’s partners in the aggressive anti-Chinese AUKUS pact.

MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX
Just before the budget, on 5 April, Australian Defence Minister Dutton announced that the giant armaments corporations Raytheon and Lockheed Martin will lead a $3.5 billion plan to build guided missiles. With homegrown defence contractors complaining the build up in military spending has not flowed through to them, the government provided almost $152 million, to be spent over five years, for grants to help Australian small and medium armaments suppliers. The funding is also intended to help the government reach its target of moving from the 20th largest arms exporter in the world to the 10th largest merchant of death.

Now let’s look at AUKUS
The AUKUS partnership, announced in September 2021, is a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US. There is a disgusting hypocrisy about AUKUS which makes me very angry — The 3 governments which signed AUKUS proclaim that they are acting in the interests of peace and stability in this region. But they are the same governments which have inflicted death and destruction on the Middle East for the last 40 years. They have caused around four million deaths and 37 million refugees.

NUCLEAR SUBMARINES
The first priority for AUKUS is to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines intended to be used to contain and control China. Remember Australia is often called the “deputy sheriff” for the US in the Asia Pacific region. Australia also participates in the Quad – with the US, India and Japan. The Quad is focussed on intensifying co-operation on security and development assistance in a bid to threaten China and maintain US hegemony in our region. The Australian Parliament has already adopted legislation allowing the US to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia. It is estimated that the nuclear submarine project will cost at least $120 billion or more. This extraordinarily expensive cost will mean that other departments will be raided to pay for them. The environment and the important health budget, public education, public housing and other services will all suffer.

OTHER COSTS
The AUKUS nuclear powered submarine deal breaches the spirit of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. It is probably allowable under the treaty but it sets a really dangerous precedent There is also the threat the nuclear submarine deal will open the way for Australia to develop a nuclear power industry and even nuclear weapons.

Nuclear powered submarines bring appalling environmental risks.

There are already 9 nuclear reactors on sea floor, the result of nuclear submarine accidents.
There is a serious threat of the release of radioactivity during normal operations and maintenance. In the UK iodine pills have been distributed to child care centres, schools and other locations.

No solution has been found yet to the problem of disposing the high level radioactive waste from the submarines. Judging by past practice, it will probably be dumped on Aboriginal land, despite the passionate opposition of the traditional owners and their supporters.

The Australian ship building workforce has no experience building nuclear powered vessels and this will put Australia in the hands of the US. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating commented:

Through this submarine purchase, Australia surrenders its naval forces to the command of the United States …. It takes a monster level of incompetence to forfeit military control of one’s own state.”

The right wing Australian government claims the nuclear submarine deal will create many jobs. There are rumours now that the submarines will be built overseas – but even if they are built in Australia they cannot create as many jobs as the same investment in civilian fields.

Research from the US a few years ago showed that US$1 million spent on defence creates 6.9 jobs US$1 million spent on health care creates 14.3 jobs US$1 million spent on education creates 19.2 jobs.

REGIONAL DANGERS
AUKUS threatens stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. The AUKUS pact is disrupting good relations with some states supporting the pact while others, including Indonesia and Malaysia, oppose it.

But the great majority of countries in the region do not want to have to chose sides; they do not want an arms race in our region, and they most definitely do not want to be involved in fighting proxy wars for US.

AUKUS INCLUDES MORE
In addition to all this, AUKUS has already seen US military personnel further embedded in the Australian military and the establishment of a strategic fuel reserve in Darwin in the north of the country.

The US has also made a commitment to build $2 billion worth of defence related infrastructure to strengthen its presence in northern Australia.

AUKUS also includes cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and initial trials next year of undersea drones. The Australian Government plans to spend $10 billion over 20 years to develop an east coast submarine base in Brisbane, Newcastle or Port Kembla, once a site is selected. However this may not be so easy with local councils in Wollongong and Newcastle re-affirming their nuclear free status and local communities developing feisty opposition campaigns, including rejecting the distribution of iodine pills.

HYPERSONIC WEAPONS
Australia, America and Britain have also announced a new AUKUS deal to build hypersonic missiles and defence systems. The US and Australia already have a hypersonic weapon program called SCIFiRE and the new deal will see the three AUKUS partners work together on further research and development.
Hypersonic missiles can travel at least five times the speed of sound, which is around a mile a second. They have a range of more than 2,000 kilometres and can carry a conventional explosive or a nuclear warhead. They can be fired from the land, sea and air.

Land-based missiles would be stationed in Australia, while air and sea based missiles could be deployed on our country’s jet fighters and warships. They are hard to defend against because of their speed – just minutes warning time. They fly at low altitudes, beyond the line of sight of ground-based radars, and can manoeuvre mid-flight, making their flight path so hard to predict that it makes interception virtually impossible.

SOME FINAL COMMENTS
The 2022-23 budget confirms an exorbitant spend on Australia’s military capabilities that is unjustifiable from every angle: strategic, economic, environmental, political and social.

A report in 2010 found Australia’s military spending was among the least efficient in the world. In a list of 33 major countries, Australia tied with the United States for worst at getting value for our military dollar.

Australia is acquiring a military capability grossly disproportionate to its defence needs. The planned capability will work as a provocation and destabiliser, undermining national and regional security.

Security is often interpreted to mean military security but Australia’s true security would be enhanced by attention to economic recovery, social cohesion, diplomacy and humanitarian issues.
Resources committed to developing the military mean less money for the environment and the health, education and housing needs of Australians and our neighbours.

Military spending is less effective at creating jobs than virtually any other form of government activity.
An election is due in Australia on May 21 but it is unlikely to change this situation.

Anti-bases coalition protest, Hannah Middleton at left

The Labor Party – whose leaders are conservative social democrats – have indicated that they support all these military projects. One hope is that the Greens may hold the balance of power in Parliament after the election. There is a fight back in the community – there are anti-AUKUS and anti-nuclear base coalitions all round Australia. They include peace, trade union, environmental, indigenous, religious, migrant, women’s and youth organisations.

However so far they have not been able to change the direction of Australia’s aggressive military policies. There is a great deal to be done, in co-operation with many groups across Asia Pacific, to win peace and security for our region.

Hannah Middleton
26 April 2022

Palm Sunday Peace Rally Brisbane/Meanjin 16 April 2022
Palm Sunday Peace Rally Brisbane/Meanjin 16 April 2022

One thought on “In time of war, march for peace

  1. On 3 Feb 2011, during a smoking ceremony at the Qld museum Wayne ‘Coco’ Wharton, a Kooma man from Cunnamulla in Western Queensland, extracted a promise from then Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell-Newman, that Murri warriors, Dundalee and Watego, would be honoured. Discussions took place about the best way to do that. Campbell Newman who attended the ceremony at the Queensland museum never lived up to his promise.

    I personally heard Campbell-Newman give that promise with others at smoking ceremony at the remembrance ceremony in 2011 (see photo).
    The following year Campbell Newman became premier of Queensland and did nothing to fulfill his promise.

    Interviewer
    All right, Wayne, talk us through why it’s important to remember Dundalli?

    Wayne Wharton
    Well, I guess it’s, especially for indigenous media and young people who are coming through indigenous media. It’s importantly, I guess, then to tell the stories of our heroes, the people that fought and died for his country and try to oppose the invasion of this country, because it’s not in our schools. It’s not taught in our schools. It’s not even known in our homes, amongst our own people. So it’s important that these stories are told, or that barriers so that our people, and our young lawyers get the right idea about our people that we weren’t just a mob of stone age, people are set around, eatin’ and hunting, as hunter gatherers, whilst our country was stolen, our women were raped, and killed, and our children murdered,

    Interviewer
    Talk us through what’s going to happen at the post office square today, here in Brisbane,

    Wayne Wharton
    Well basically what’s happening is that this is the third year, we’ve held a memorial for Dundalli and his partners that were hung in 1845 On this date, fifth of January. And basically, what we’ve done is invited people we have a ceremony, and we basically, and talking his spirit up, and hopefully educate and hand out flyers educate the non Indigenous people, as well as some of our own black fellas that wouldnt have a clue about half of their heroes that exists around the country.

    Wayne Wharton
    Its ironic, that the place that they hung him, is the same place that the white people have chosen to honor their war heroes at Anzac square in just between Queen Street. And basically they all there with the shrine of memorial and all their military and their warriors, honoured by statues and that within that part, and it’s irony that Dundalli was hung down in the western end of the park and that’s why we start the ceremony there at 11 o’clock, and go through till 12 noon and just after inviting people to an open mic and, and people to come and participate in it.

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