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Issue #1646      July, 9, 2014

War preparations

Australia’s military role

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joined press columnists recently in pointing out 21st Century parallels to the build up to World War One. She noted that seemingly random events could unleash a calamitous chain of events – a reference to the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914. She warned that territorial claims in the region need to be handled carefully to prevent them ending in armed confrontation.


Some of the around 8,000 people who took part in the anti-budget rally in Sydney last Sunday. They stood in solidarity all across NSW, in Lismore, Newcastle, Albury, Wodonga and in countless other communities. Tens of thousands more protestors took part in similar demonstrations in the other states, putting the Abbott government on notice that Australians will not accept its brutal austerity plans. (Photo: Tom Pearson)

Fine sentiments but the looming anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 has many other lessons about the prevention of war – lessons about the militarisation of societies, the launching of an arms race with perceived rivals and the stitching up of allegedly defensive alliances that are clearly about fighting a war. On these questions the Abbott government’s aggressive actions speak louder than words.

War fighting allies

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Australia this week. Abbott will return the hospitality he received during his visit to Japan in April. A new defence cooperation agreement will be signed taking the growing US-Japan-Australia alliance to a new stage and the “free trade” agreement signed during Abbott’s tour of Japan will be ratified. Economic and military bonds between imperialist countries go hand-in-hand.

As a result of discussions with Abe, a trilateral dialogue may take place on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit to be held in Myanmar later in the year. Discussions about “defence” technologies will be progressed.

Submarine building will be on the agenda including the sharing of innovations from the 4,200 tonne Soryu class submarine. Australia is projected to have 12 new generation submarines in service by 2030 at a cost of $36 billion. And Mr Abe will receive all the sympathy he could wish for in relation to “concerns” about China and every encouragement to move further away from Japan’s post WW2 pacifist constitution. It will be a packed agenda with a military theme.

Another partner in the project of shoring up US influence in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions is newly elected right-wing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He will visit Australia in November and top of the list of topics to be discussed will be the strengthening of the military cooperation between Australia and India including full bilateral naval exercises, intelligence sharing and an agreement regarding Australian uranium exports to India.

The Abbott government will give full support for the increasingly bellicose language Indian ministers are using about cross border tensions with China. The Indian government claims China is continuing to make incursions into Indian administered Kashmir. In 1962, the corporate media happily played along with the Indian government’s propaganda about “human waves” of People’s Liberation Army soldiers storming across India’s north-eastern border. The reports were usually filed from the distant vantage point of Delhi.

Belligerence from Indian officialdom is back. “Next time the response will not be fudge or denial,” chief spokesman for Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Jana Sangh Party said recently for the attention of his Chinese neighbours. “You are playing chess, but the knights are fully armed.” In defiance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India is a nuclear weapons-armed state. Seeing that a military alliance is in the offing, the US and Australia are happy to ignore this violation of international law. This will be made clear during Mr Modi’s visit. Moves for Australian uranium sales to India are well under way.

Playing the generous host

Australia is not a two-bit military power. It is now the seventh largest importer of major arms in the world. Purchases of large scale weapons such as warships, fighter planes and tanks jumped 83 percent in the five years to 2013. Australia buys 10 percent of US military production and is a good customer for killing machines from the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Israel. Defence was the only area of government spending spared from cuts in Hockey’s horror budget in May – in fact it got a six percent boost.

Australia’s military will purchase an extra 58 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from the US at a cost of $12.4 billion and hopes to provide a service hub for other countries in the region committed to buying the aircraft. Abbott is keen to “expand cooperation on ballistic missile defence”, as a White House statement put it following Abbott’s recent visit to the US. The installation of advanced ballistic missiles aboard the navy’s new air warfare destroyers is no longer a taboo subject.

The list of other items made to order for the Pentagon goes on and on. The new US Marines base at Darwin will host more rotations. There will be more frequent visits from US bombers and refuelling aircraft to RAAF bases Learmonth and Tindal. Julie Bishop mentioned new measures for “working closely on our joint aims in space” during her address to the Alliance 21 conference held in Canberra last month. As well as further cooperation for intelligence gathering to combat “terrorism”, there will be new assets built in Western Australia for the use of US military planners – a radar station and a space surveillance telescope.

Nerves start to show

The blunt talk from regional leaders about China’s alleged “threat to freedom of navigation”, increased “aggressiveness” in disputes with its neighbour over disputed island territory and “border incursions” into India has an alarming tone. While the term “rebalance” is used to describe the US military’s “Pivot” to the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, the intention is clearly to contain the growing influence of the People’s Republic ahead of more direct confrontation.

Former PM Malcolm Fraser speaks for many, including a growing number of captains of industry, when he said that we must ditch the US alliance. It is pointedly directed at China and risks dragging Australia into a war solely in the business interests of the US. This makes no sense seeing PRC is our major trading partner and has done nothing to provoke a military response from Australia. But on the other side of the Pacific, the possible future US President, Hilary Clinton, is putting the opposite position plainly – we have to choose, it’s either the US or China. Of course, in her world it’s not possible to pursue an independent foreign policy based on friendly relations, solidarity and mutually beneficial trade.

Julie Bishop made it clear in her Alliance 21 speech – the Abbott government favours the US alliance and war. This is a massive, confronting challenge to all Australians to build a powerful anti-war movement in this country.

Next article – Editorial – Class attack

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