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Issue #1624      January 29, 2014

Culture & Life

Why the rush to war, Tony?

Anyone who paid attention to the utterances or the actions of Tony Abbott’s ultra-conservative Australian government could be forgiven for thinking the country was in imminent danger of being attacked by foreign foes. True, much of the present government’s policies were begun under Labor, continued and extended under John Howard’s ugly conservative government, then after Howard’s ouster continued yet again by Labor. However, all that shows is how far the Australian Labor Party has travelled to the Right in the last half century or so.

Moves that pointed towards war thinking in the cabinet rooms of the Australian government under Labor included the stationing of US Marines in Darwin, turning Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia into a US naval base and refuelling centre for its Indian Ocean fleet, following Howard’s policy of sending Australian troops or police to “trouble spots” in the Pacific region to maintain pro-US regimes there, joint training exercises with the US in how to invade China and how to “interdict” Chinese and North Korean shipping.

While Labor was in government we also saw a general increase in militarism and belligerence, the active encouragement of the same kind of mindset on the part of young Australians that the US government encourages on the part of young Americans: wrap yourself in the flag and declare that you stand for “your country right or wrong”. (Which, as a wise man one said, is like declaring that you stand for “your mother, drunk or sober”.)

“Pilgrimages” to Gallipoli are now all the rage. Australia’s sorry role in that debacle is now portrayed in popular myth as some sort of victory, just as our part in the USA’s criminal and disastrous war of attempted conquest against the Vietnamese people is portrayed as a “victory” because we won a battle (but lost the war along with the Yanks).

Australia’s Lilliputian army trains hard at waging a mobile war against a land-based foe across Northern Australia. What country could possibly invade Australia (without first having to conquer umpteen other countries in the region)? Only Indonesia. And Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party government has made it explicitly clear that they view the prospect of war with our populous neighbour with equanimity.

In fact, they go out of their way to provoke the Indonesians. Having abrogated all our treaty obligations with regard to refugees, the government has declared the Indonesian fishermen that the refugees hire to sail them openly to Australia to be “people smugglers” and have stated categorically that “we are at war with people smugglers”.

To make that point crystal clear, our Navy has been making provocative sallies into Indonesian territorial waters to intercept or turn back these same “people smugglers”. The real people smugglers of course are the business people (who in every other way are favoured by Mr Abbott) in Indonesia, Malaysia or elsewhere who in return for large sums of money wrung from desperate refugees arrange passage on dilapidated, overcrowded fishing boats to Australia.

The previous Labor government was hostile on refugees, but the Abbott government is vehemently so: refugees sailing into our waters are “breaching our sovereign borders”. The right of Australia to refuse entry to poor people – especially poor people of colour – was put on record by the previous Liberal Party PM, John Howard. Abbott is merely following his former leader’s policy.

Meanwhile, he is going out of his way to antagonise the Indonesian government. Why? Australia is a developed capitalist country with its own imperialist stake. Australian imperialism has long coveted the resources of some of Indonesia’s territories as well as portions of the Pacific islands.

But Australian imperialism, for all its ambition, is still very much the junior partner in this business venture, still the “deputy sheriff” to the USA’s big boss. Would Australia go out of its way to antagonise an oil-rich, strategically placed US ally like Indonesia without the prior approval of the boss? I don’t think so, do you?

Which raises the question why would the USA want to antagonise Indonesia. Well, of course, they don’t. But the USA does have a long-standing policy of trying to break up large or diverse countries that don’t always see eye-to-eye with it into a grouping of smaller countries.

Yugoslavia defied the US, so German imperialism and US imperialism working for their separate ends combined to destroy the country, fostering separatism amongst its various ethnic minorities and ending up with a near-impotent collection of independent statelets with no economic or political clout whatsoever.

Now Iraq is going the same way, with separate little states being prepared for Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis.

Indonesia would be a prime target for breaking up in this manner. Its resources would still be harvestable, no matter how many small countries it was turned into, but it would be unable to mount much resistance if each of its main provinces had hived off into “independence”.

There are already separatist movements in part of the country – have been for decades in some regions. The US, while doubtless privately in favour of breaking up Indonesia (a mainstay of the non-aligned movement for so many years) into its component parts, would have to tread carefully at least for a time. Might not the best idea be to let Australian imperialism, ever the faithful lapdog, provoke trouble with Indonesia which the US – no doubt backed up by the UN General Secretary – would then step in to help fix, in the process supporting key separatist forces which it was itself financing and arming.

Standard operating procedures, really, for the USA these days. Wouldn’t you say?

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