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Issue #1573      14 November 2012


The hoopla is over – back to bombing as usual

Australians will welcome the end of the US Presidential election campaign for a variety of reasons. There are many lessons that still need to be drawn from the hugely expensive extravaganza.

The ABC got in on the act with a series called Planet America that hyped the event with the same artificial zeal that surrounds Australian coverage of the US National Football League’s Superbowl. The reporting in recent times of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy showed a similar bias. The devastation wrought by Sandy in Cuba and Haiti went largely unreported as did the mighty efforts in solidarity from nearby Venezuela.

Few will miss the election hoopla and few will regret the defeat of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Unfortunately, given the Pentagon’s perennial aggressive military posture and massive nuclear and conventional weapons capability, US presidential elections do impact on all the inhabitants of the planet.

A parallel between the US and the Australian political landscape is the lack of choice, a lack of real democracy. People feel obliged to vote for policies they don’t support. The “lesser of two evils” dilemma plagues voters in many capitalist countries and this month’s US presidential poll was a classic example. On the one hand there was the Republican candidate – a multi-millionaire from various business consulting and private equity investment ventures – and an African-American with a background in community organising among marginalised people in Chicago. In Australia we have a similar, seemingly simple “choice” between the religious, stridently conservative Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard – Australia’s first female Prime Minister with a background in the “left” of Labor politics.

Mitt Romney betrayed his contempt for the 47 percent of US voters who do not earn enough to pay income tax at a dinner hosted by wealthy supporters. Obama stuck to his theme of hope and care for citizens doing it tough as a result of the economic crisis gripping the country. Abbott makes no secret of his intention to take another axe to the public sector and to rip into workers’ trade union rights. Gillard talks about future-proofing “reforms”, spreading the benefits of the resources boom and support for “working families”.

There is a stark contrast in the image and rhetoric from both “sides” of politics on both sides of the Pacific. But none advocate abandoning the neo-liberal agenda of privatisation and deregulation with all the suffering and corruption it has brought with it. A practical demonstration of the perverse lack of choice for US voters was given just hours after the announcement of the re-election of Barack Obama. The Nobel Prize winner, the less hawkish of the candidates on offer, took the occasion to authorise yet another drone attack – this time in Yemen.

This week US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Perth to take part in the AUSMIN talks between Australian and US “defence” and foreign affairs spokespersons. Obama has already said the first overseas visit of his second term will be to destinations in our region to consolidate the “pivot to Asia” – i.e. the tightening of the military noose on China. The Gillard government is bending over backwards to assist this shift in strategy. New US bases, including a base for Marines in Darwin, are being established and military spending remains high. Australian troops are still deployed in Afghanistan despite mounting and needless fatalities.

The majority of Australians don’t support any of this military adventurism. They don’t support the neo-liberal agenda with its crushing consequences on poorer communities. At present most Australians, like most US citizens, believe they have no choice. The spell of this self-fulfilling belief must be broken. It must be shattered by the united action of workers and other exploited people defending and advancing their interests and the creation of a left and progressive alternative to the two old parties of capitalist rule.

Next article – “Australia in Asia”

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