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Issue #1699      August 26, 2015

Dangerous allies

US bases and troops in Australia

There’s a great deal that could be discussed and analysed about the US Pivot into Asia-Pacific, but I will confine myself to the US-Australia military alliance and its implications for Australia with a threat of war in the region.

US military.

The world today is torn by imperialist wars, wars by proxies of imperialism and threats of war. Behind most major wars of aggression, occupations, regime changes, is the hand of the US empire and its multinational corporations, banks and financial institutions. At the centre of these wars is monopoly capitalism’s insatiable drive and need to capture more natural resources, new markets, cheap labour and expanded areas of new investments for capital. Sovereign countries that refuse to be subjugated to imperialist powers’ demands are savagely attacked, and in the case of Libya, Syria and Iraq, are crushed. Where there is resistance by governments and the people of sovereign countries, the imperialist powers install their local fascist puppets to suppress the people, divide, conquer and loot the sovereign countries’ resources and wealth.

Fierce competition

The major powers of US and EU collude in waging wars against sovereign countries and people, and at the same time, they are in fierce competition with each other in the re-division and capturing of the world’s resources, markets, cheap labour and political and economic spheres of influence.

This is what drives wars of aggression and occupation by imperialist powers and their proxies.

By all indicators the Asia-Pacific region is becoming another major centre of economic rivalries in the 21st century.

The US has more than 1,000 US military bases and intelligence installations in countries around the world and on every continent. And these are the publicly disclosed. There are many more secret or camouflaged US military and intelligence bases around the world. At least 300 of these known US bases are in Asia-Pacific: Japan, South Korea, Australia, Guam, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam.

Even before the US announced its US Pivot into Asia-Pacific in 2011, more than 320,000 US troops and marines are already stationed in Asia-Pacific. This number will grow much higher over the next five years with the announcement that 60 percent of the US military, naval, air and ground forces will be shifted to Asia-Pacific by 2020.

In November 2011 President Obama visited Australia to make the first public announcement of US new policy named the US Pivot into Asia-Pacific. The announcement was enthusiastically greeted with a great deal of fanfare by the gushing Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the equally subservient LNP opposition. In October 2012 the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, also graced Australia’s shores to reaffirm and strengthen the US-Australia military alliance. She commended Australia’s two main parliamentary parties’ subservience and unquestioning support for US preparations for another major war and Australia’s integration into the US war machine. Significantly, both Obama’s and Clinton’s announcements were made in the Australian parliament. There was no need for parliamentary and public discussion or debate as it would only jeopardise and upset US strategic plans in Asia-Pacific and Australia’s crucial role as its deputy sheriff.

Long history

Successive Australian governments have a long history of subservience and submission to US domination economically and militarily since the Second World War, and before that to British imperialism and colonialism.

And what is the US Pivot into Asia-Pacific really about? It’s about protecting and expanding the economic domination by the US and its multinational corporations and monopoly banks in the region. The rapid economic growth and influence of China threatens the US economic and political hegemony in the region.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the economic side of the US Pivot into Asia-Pacific and is driven by the US and its multinationals and banks. It is being ruthlessly imposed on 40 percent of the world and nearly one billion people. The TPP will open up and create new markets and areas of investments for its corporations, banks and giant financial institutions to intensify and broaden the exploitation of people and the environment to maximise profits.

Thomas Friedman, the famous US economist and New York Times columnist said in 1999, “The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist of the military. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”

Friedman clearly demonstrates that the US economic power cannot be sustained and enforced without the backing of the US military.

In the past few years the US has shifted more attention to the Asia-Pacific. Kurt Williams, assistant secretary of the US Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, told the US House of Foreign Affairs Committee in October 2011, “ ... we are witnessing the re-emergence of the Asia-Pacific as a key theatre of global politics and economics ... as Asia rises, so too must America’s role in it.”

Hillary Clinton refers to the Pivot as “forward deployed diplomacy”, “expanding trade and investment, forging a broad-based military presence and advancing democracy and human rights”.

For past 60 years, since the Second World War, the US and its corporations have dominated the Asia-Pacific region economically and militarily. They have been able to maintain that power over countries and people through their client governments in Japan, Australia, South Korea, Philippines, etc. However, whilst militarily it’s still a super power, economically it’s in decline, due to its own worsening capitalist economic contradictions and crises.

By 2020 the US will relocate 60 percent of its military forces, naval, air and ground forces from around the world to Asia-Pacific. New bases will be built, existing bases upgraded and expanded, and the previously decommissioned bases closed down by the people’s movements will be re-opened e.g. the Philippines.

Australia a US base

The Pivot is turning Australia virtually into a US military base and a launching pad for its imperialist wars. Australia’s military and intelligence facilities have now been officially opened to US war ships, nuclear powered submarines, US Air Force, intelligence gathering and spying on other countries and people. The joint US-Australian military facilities are “joint” only in name and in reality operate as American run facilities with the US in command. The upgrading of existing Australian military facilities with high-tech military equipment, the establishment and maintenance of new bases and hosting US marines in preparation for the US launching pre-emptive wars, will be paid for mainly by the Australian people through our taxes, just as the people of Japan have been paying for the gigantic US military base on Okinawa for more than 60 years.

This is one of the demands of the US Pivot, together with the integration and interoperability of Australia’s military forces into the US imperialist war machine. The US is insisting on large budget increases in Australia’s military spending on the Pivot. This is clearly spelled out in the US Pivot documents, and Australia’s two main parliamentary parties oblige.

There are more than 20 highly secretive, so-called joint military and intelligence bases and facilities in Australia, in reality under the US command. They are based mainly in West Australia and the Northern Territory. I won’t list all of them just now. Pine Gap in Central Australia is best known and warrants special attention. It is the most important base of all the US overseas intelligence installations. There are also Australia’s air force and naval military facilities that will be virtually operating as US bases.

The two main parliamentary parties enthusiastically welcomed the permanent rotational stationing of 2,500 US marines at Bradshaw Military Base near Darwin. However, it is accepted that the number of US marines stationed in Australia will be significantly higher.

The decades-long mass struggle by the Japanese people to rid Okinawa of US troops and bases is forcing the US to look at relocating some of their military to a more safe and stable country. Guam, a significant US outpost covered with US bases and thousands of troops, has no more room to expand. It is likely Australia’s compliant governments will bow and allow the US to move more of its troops here.

There are also military facilities for joint US-Australia military exercises on land, sea and air. Talisman Sabre is a major joint military exercise held every two years, mainly between US and Australia’s military forces. Many of these military exercises are now also jointly held with Japan, US, Australia and New Zealand. This year, July 4-12, some of the world’s largest military exercises were held in Queensland, primarily on the central coast of Queensland in Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton, and also in the Northern Territory near Darwin. More than 34,000 troops were involved in these joint exercises – over 20,000 US marines, 10,000 Australian troops, 500 NZ troops and up to 40 Japanese military personnel. Many US war planes, war ships, nuclear submarines, war technologies and intelligence, were brought to our shores and activated during these pre-emptive war preparations.

During the exercises a group of several hundred people held a Peace Convergence in Rockhampton to protest at the rehearsals for pre-emptive wars of aggression, calling on Australia to break from the US-Australia military alliance and for an independent and peaceful foreign policy.

Deep integration

The deep integration of the Australian military into the US war machine is accelerating. There’s been extraordinary growth in Australia of US military intelligence activities. The opening up of Australia’s military defence facilities to the US and handing over command to the US military and the permanent stationing of US troops and marines will deepen the integration and interoperability between US, Australia and Japan’s military forces and foreign policies, with the US at the helm.

Behind the moves by the Australian government handing over the lucrative contract to the Japanese to build Australia’s submarines is the pressure from the US who want full integration and interoperability of US, Japan and Australian military, with the US in command.

US forces and air force bomber planes regularly use Australia’s Bradshaw Military Base near Darwin for exercises and reconnaissance. In early April 2015, US Lieutenant Colonel Dougherty excitedly proclaimed Australia as an empty place: “You guys have opened up your homes to us. We’re living in your guesthouse. The outback truly is out back, with vast wide open spaces. There’s things we can do here we cannot do back in the States. [In the US] it’s very restricted; you have to worry about safety considerations like not shooting other units as you train. Here you don’t have those issues. It’s a blank slate.” – no recognition of local Aboriginal communities, the environment and other local communities. The terra nullius of British colonialism in 1788 continues today, but is now replaced by the US.

In May this year, during testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US Defence Department Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, David Shear, announced that in addition to the movement of US Marines and Army units around the Western Pacific region, “We will be placing additional Air Force assets in Australia as well, including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft.” It was later claimed that Shear “misspoke” – it’s more likely that he “let the cat out of the bag” and revealed the US’s real intentions for this country.

The US Pivot is defining Australia as a major US military and intelligence base, and a launching pad for its drones, overseas military incursions, targeted assassinations and, eventually, major wars in our region.

The strategic and military importance of Australia’s subservience to US military and economic interests was in open view in 1975 when the newly elected progressive Whitlam Labor government of that time dared to question and raise concerns about the US-controlled Pine Gap. He also expressed his leanings towards making Australia more independent of the US, economically and militarily. Recent WikiLeaks documents confirmed the US role in the 1975 coup that overthrew the progressive Whitlam government.

The two main parliamentary parties’ subservience to US military plans for Australia as its deputy sheriff in the region, and the erosion of independence and sovereignty to make our own decisions in the interest of Australia’s ordinary people, peace and the environment, appals growing numbers of people.

The call for an independent Australia with an independent foreign policy that builds peace with justice, and friendship with the people in our region, is now frequently raised. The late Malcolm Fraser, and former Liberal Prime Minister, had been publicly speaking out and warning of the dangers of US-Australia military alliance to Australia’s people. He called for immediate removal of US troops from Darwin and closing down Pine Gap within five years.

In his recent book Dangerous Allies (reference to the dangers that the US is posing to the interests of the Australian people) he wrote, “Any political leader who offends, or who is believed to have offended the United States, is unelectable. Keeping the US alliance in good health is taken to be the first and most important aim of foreign policy.”

Fraser, as a former Liberal Prime Minister, had direct knowledge and insight into the relationship between the US and Australia. In the last 2-3 years of his life he strongly advocated breaking out of the alliance for an independent foreign policy and an independent Australia. Fraser’s stand illustrates the breadth of the growing united front movement for an independent foreign policy and strivings for an independent Australia.

Independent and Peaceful Australia Network

IPAN was formed in early 2012 in response to the joint US and Australian governments’ announcements on the Pivot, expansion of US bases and the stationing of US marines in Australia. It brought together peace, anti-war community groups, faith organisations and unions concerned with the rapidly increasing US military presence in Australia; the government’s subservience to US foreign policies, and the distinct possibility that this will lead us into another major war – this time on our doorstep with countries in our region.

We are concerned that Australia does not have its own independent foreign policy that builds peace and friendship with ordinary people in our region and the world. In defence of Australia’s security, sovereignty and peace in the region we’ve put forward a call for Australia to become independent of big powers’ dictates and interests, and chart our own foreign policies that uphold and build genuine peace and justice.

Shirley Winton, IPAN (Vic), Spirit of Eureka (Vic)

A talk given at the Melbourne Unitarian Church on June 28, 2014.

The Beacon

Next article – Economic aftershocks of Nepal’s earthquake

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