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Issue #1747      September 7, 2016

On its 50th anniversary

Close Pine Gap

Pine Gap, 20 kilometres southeast of Alice Springs, was established in 1968 in conditions of great secrecy. Local people were told it was a space research facility. In fact it is a satellite ground station dedicated to spying and warfare. Pine Gap is one of the largest and most important United States war fighting and intelligence bases in the world.

Every branch of the US military as well as the National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency and the CIA are stationed at Pine Gap. It employs over 1,000 US and Australian personnel.

Pine Gap’s original and still most important function is to serve as the ground control station for US satellites which cover a strategically important third of the globe, encompassing China, southern Russia and the Middle East oil fields.

US satellites transmitting through Pine Gap monitor missile launches and military, economic, political and domestic telephone, microwave and VHF radio communications from allies and enemies alike. They provide photographic surveillance of terrain, buildings, troop movements, the results of bombing raids, etc. The satellites can also intercept radar emanations, allowing mapping of air defences, anti-ballistic missile radars and early-warning radars.

Pine Gap was established in the hysteria of the cold war and was part of the United States nuclear war fighting strategy. With the end of the cold war the United States did not downgrade Pine Gap. Instead it intensified its use of the base, adding more and more functions as the years went on.

US bases on Australia’s soil contribute to the US war fighting strategy. The bases assist the US to prosecute wars against the poor in our region and beyond and help swell the list of Australia’s enemies.

For 50 years the US military facility has contributed to making Australia less secure and poorer.

It is time to close Pine Gap.

Pine Gap sits on Aboriginal land. The Arrente people were never asked their opinion, let alone given their permission, for a huge war-making facility to be located on their traditional lands.

It is time this prior Aboriginal ownership was acknowledged. It is time the traditional owners were given back their right to decide what is done on their land.

Pine Gap ties Australia to US nuclear war planning, specifically via its contribution to missile defence programs that are more offensive than defensive. As a result, Pine Gap is contributing to nuclear proliferation with destabilising consequences.

Pine Gap involves Australia in planning for and perhaps even starting a nuclear war, and makes us a nuclear target as a consequence.

Pine Gap contributes crucial tracking and targeting information for US drone strikes across the globe. Thousands of civilians have been killed by US drone strikes.

Far from helping to defend us, drone strikes foster anti-western sentiment and facilitate the recruitment to terrorist organisations. The Pine Gap drone program makes Australia complicit in war crimes.

Pakistani human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar has said that Australia must end its complicity in US drone attacks on civilians in Pakistan or face war crime accusations at the International Criminal Court.

Australia is a crucial part of the US-led “Five-Eyes” intelligence club (US, UK, Canada, Australia, NZ) who work together to gather intelligence material across the entire globe.

Documents provided by CIA whistle-blower Edward Snowden reveal that the US-led global surveillance network – of which Pine Gap is an important part – consists overwhelmingly of indiscriminate, bulk collection of the phone and internet communications of millions of civilians around the globe. The targets are not merely individuals under suspicion for planning crimes but everyone.

Pine Gap consumes a huge amount of resources, especially power and water, and generates considerable waste, some of it toxic.

Pine Gap has a role in the US National Missile Defence (NMD, also called Star Wars) program

NMD is a controversial space battle system which aims to allow the US to attack other countries without fear of retaliation. NMD is concerned mainly with offence – with using space to establish domination over the world below. NMD is about trying to be invulnerable. It is not a benign, defensive nuclear umbrella.

NMD has the potential to trigger a nuclear arms race and to seriously undermine global disarmament and non-proliferation agreements. Australia’s security will not be advanced by such developments.

Pine Gap expresses Australia’s lack of independence for it involves our country, without permission, agreement or even notification, in US foreign policy disasters and crimes.

Pine Gap is a US base and not a “joint-facility” as successive Australian governments have falsely asserted. Although Australia has some access, Pine Gap was built by the US, its core facilities are paid for and maintained by the US and it would not exist but for American strategic purposes.

Pine Gap is so central to the US military that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Canberra to disentangle itself from any future US conflict, including a US-China war. In any major contest in the Pacific, our relationship with the US would make Australia a strategic target for America’s enemies. It is not in Australia’s interest to be in that position.

The corporate presence at Pine Gap has expanded substantially since the 1990s. It includes some of the major US aerospace and defence companies, such as Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, as well as major computer companies, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Raytheon is by far the largest contractor at Pine Gap.

The corporations are primarily interested in making profits. They are less committed to Australian security and intelligence priorities or Australia’s national interests. This again compromises Australia’s sovereignty and independence.

Pine Gap functions within the larger context of Australia’s long-standing subservience to US foreign policy interests. In return for US protection “insurance” (the ANZUS Treaty), Australia must pay a “premium” in the form of support for American foreign policy objectives, even when they do not directly contribute to Australia’s interests.

Australia is the only nation to have joined the US in every one of its major military interventions in the past century, including Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq.

With rare exceptions, Canberra has enthusiastically supported Washington’s efforts to extend its dominance to every corner of the globe, defending and downplaying atrocities committed by notorious American-allied dictators from Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia, and a host of repressive states across the Middle East today.

On the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Pine Gap, the peace movement will stage conferences, direct action, street theatre and more to expose what Pine Gap does and to demand that the base be closed down.

Next article – Healing plans

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