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Issue #1447      17 March 2010


Demonstrate, don’t celebrate Obama’s visit

US President Barack Obama will visit Australia in late March, officially to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Australia-US relations and to boost the US-Australia war alliance. Australia’s military alliance with the United Sates is nothing to celebrate. It is a subservient relationship which has cost Australian workers lives, jobs, independence and security over the past 70 years.

Both sides have made their intentions for the visit clear. The Prime Minister said he and Mr Obama will discuss defence, security and intelligence matters as well as the global economic recovery.

“Australia’s relationship with the United States of America is our most important international partnership,” the PM’s statement said. “Our formal military alliance, the ANZUS Treaty, has been in force for nearly 60 years.”

The alliance has led Australia, as the junior partner, into Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. March 2010 marks the seventh anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and nine years of the occupation of Afghanistan by the US and its complicit allies. Unlike other countries which are withdrawing, the Rudd government has given an open-ended commitment to the US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Instead of responding to Australia’s defence and security needs, Australia has developed a policy of projecting power in our region, buying hugely expensive long-range weapons delivery systems that threaten neighbouring countries rather than focussing on defending our continent. The Rudd government slavishly backs US foreign policy, regardless of whether this damages Australia’s interests, and provides bases and other facilities for the US to expand its grip on the Asia-Pacific region.

Obama’s visit is intended to reinforce this unequal alliance. But Australia cannot afford such a relationship, economically, politically, militarily and socially.

No real change

The Obama administration has not fundamentally changed US foreign and military policy, flouting the wishes of the massive movement for change which voted him into office.

It is equally clear that the Rudd Labor government has also not changed the basic foreign and defence policies of the previous right-wing Howard government.

Australia remains allied to the United States and acts as its agent, its deputy sheriff, in this region.

Australia is building up as the major military strike force in its neighbourhood and far beyond and at the same time being integrated ever more tightly with the Pentagon. It has no other reason to amass an array of offensive, advanced weapons for use on land and sea and in the air, able to strike at targets thousands of kilometres from Australia’s shores.

The cost of the alliance

A year ago (March 2009) the federal government released its Defence White Paper which announced the largest military build-up in Australia since World War II. Annual military spending will rise from $62 to $71 million every day.

$72 billion in new military spending will pay for new submarines, air warfare destroyers (three more Aegis class vessels with missile killing capacity), frigates, 100 strike planes, land-attack cruise missiles with a range of up to 2,500 kilometres, almost certainly of the Tomahawk ground-launched cruise missile variety, and more.

Much of this involves the purchase of hugely expensive, unsuitable US equipment which aids interoperability and the profits of the US arms manufacturers but does little if anything for the security of Australians.

All this is taking place when 70 percent of the Australian people do not want more spending on the military.

This exorbitant military spending mirrors the Obama administration plans to spend an astronomical US$5 trillion on defence between 2010 and 2017. This is five percent more in real terms than the Bush administration budgeted from 2002 to 2009.

The new Obama military budget is a record US$708 billion, up 3.4 percent, to cover October 1 to September 30, 2011. Adjusted for inflation, the defence budget is the largest since World War II.

The Obama administration has also asked Congress to approve a US$33 billion emergency supplemental to pay for the troop surge in Afghanistan. This is not included in the Pentagon’s base budget which brings the actual military spending proposal to US$741 billion.

There is also considerable indirect spending, including nearly all the budget of the Department of Energy. Despite the hope of nuclear weapon cuts, the Obama administration has budgeted an additional US$5 billion to modernise its nuclear weapons stockpile and develop new facilities at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge.

Australian subservience to the United States has other costs.

Australia, in addition to hosting US military bases and deploying forces for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has entered on yet more dangerous ground by joining the American worldwide interceptor missile system.

In May 2007 Australia said it had joined the US and Japanese missile defence plans and would consider the deployment of a missile shield on its soil. Both Russia and China have expressed deep concerns about these plans.

The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) has expired, but no agreement has been reached on a new pact.

When Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was asked about the delay, he responded: “What is the problem? The problem is that our American partners are building an anti-missile shield.”


Aside from the size of the US military budget, another controversial aspect of it is what it will fund. More than $2 billion will be used to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, which the Obama administration has used increasingly over the past year to target suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US government runs two drone programs – a military and a covert CIA version.

The number of drone strikes has risen dramatically since Obama became President. During his first nine and a half months in office, he authorised as many CIA attacks in Pakistan as president Bush did in his final three years in office.

The Air Force’s fleet of Predators and the more heavily armed Reapers has grown from some 50 in 2001 to nearly 200. The CIA will not reveal how many drones it operates. The government plans to commission hundreds more, including new generations of tiny “nano” drones, which can fly after their prey like a killer bee through an open window.

While Pine Gap and other US facilities on Australian soil may not (or in some cases perhaps may) be used directly to control the US drones, the information they provide through eavesdropping (Echelon), photographic, terrain mapping and other satellites is sufficient to provide targets for the drones.

Australia is buying more drones itself. It remains to be seen if they will be used in the Middle East or for domestic purposes as in Britain.

A group of government agencies led by Kent Police has commissioned arms manufacturer BAE systems to adapt military unmanned drones for civilian use.

Five other police forces have signed up to the scheme, which could pave the way for countrywide adoption of the technology for surveillance, monitoring and evidence gathering.


Australia’s high military spending, dictated by its subservience to US interests, takes money away from employment, public health, education, housing, clean water, environmental protection, infrastructure projects, etc. Money invested here would provide far more jobs, stimulate the economy and bring many other benefits now and into the future.

South Australia calls itself the “defence state” and claims military production can revive the state economically, can have “a genuine stimulus on the economy”.

Any economic activity on that scale can revive an economy, but there are far healthier and safer ways of stimulating economies and socially beneficial industries and sectors that would create many more jobs with the same taxpayer dollars.

Here Obama will bring no relief for Australian unemployed workers for the demands of the US alliance mean Australia under Liberal and Labor governments will continue to spend on the military money needed for community development.

They will be following the same path as the US. The amount Obama proposes to spend on “job creation” in the 2011 budget is only US$100 billion, a drop in the bucket. However, none of the $100 billion is for hiring workers. It consists largely of tax cuts for businesses that hire workers or raise their pay, extended unemployment benefits, and aid to state and local governments.

Opposition voices

Obama’s visit is intended to strengthen the US political and military alliance with Australia, formalised through the ANZUS treaty. But militarising Australia and delivering support for US aggression and threats to use force against other countries cannot ensure security and sustainable development for Australians.

Australians are sick to death of following the United States into war, thereby providing some token “legitimacy” for the “empire’s” predatory aggression against other countries. The US alliance costs Australians dearly.

We cannot effectively deal with climate change and at the same time put weapons into space. We cannot solve the problems of health care, education, job creation and infrastructure repair without abandoning the US alliance and making substantial cuts in military spending.

The Obama visit is nothing to celebrate, but it is an opportunity to raise these issues with the Australian people and for the voices of those opposed to US imperialism’s crimes to be heard.

The peoples of South America are moving leftward, asserting their national independence, throwing off the chains of imperialism and building a better life. Isn’t it about time the Australian people joined this river of change?  

Next article – More being locked up

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