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Issue #1786      July 19, 2017

Culture & Life

Defending freedom? What else?

Malcolm Turnbull, speaking in France after the G20 summit in Germany, made much of the fact that in 1916, Australians came from – as he put it – the other end of the world to fight in France “in defence of freedom”.

To defend itself, North Korea has had to develop missiles capable of hitting targets in the US, in the expectation that this would give the Americans pause.

The problem with that cosy notion, of course, is that they did no such thing. The Australians had just been ignominiously withdrawn from Gallipoli where they had played the lead role in the failed Anglo-French attempt to sever the Turkish empire from its German and Austro-Hungarian allies. The Australian soldiers, of course, had been told that they were fighting “the Turk” in the interests of Western civilisation and to oppose aggression (by Turkey in the Middle East and by Germany in Europe).

The result: thousands dead, several capital ships sunk, and absolutely nothing to show for it. The British ruling class had hoped – by forcing the Dardanelles – to exert its control over the valuable iron and coal resources of Russia’s Donbas region. But the Gallipoli campaign was a costly failure, that ended with Turkey still in firm control of both the peninsula and the opening to the Black Sea.

The Australian and New Zealand soldiers withdrawn from Gallipoli were reorganised in Egypt and Palestine and then sent to France, to fight in the maelstrom that was the Western Front. However, they were not there to fight for freedom, any more than they had been on Gallipoli. Like the other soldiers of WW1, despite what their leaders claimed, they were there to fight for markets and colonies. In other words, to fight for Anglo-French capital in a trade war with German capital.

Concepts of “fighting for freedom” and defending little countries from the “beastly Hun” were simply propaganda ploys designed to explain away a war of unprecedented scope, expense and casualties to a public that grew increasingly restive as this seemingly interminable war dragged on.

Imperialism of 1914-18 is little different to that of today. Governments using their military might to fight wars at the behest of the boardrooms of big business interests, while cloaking their predatory activities with specious claims to be fighting terrorism or the old standby, “defending freedom”.

President Macron of France heartily seconded Turnbull’s mendacious talk of fighting for freedom, despite France’s sorry record of aggression from the end of WW2 until today. In that time, France has fought savage wars of colonial aggression in Algeria, Indo-China, West Africa and Afghanistan, to name but four.

Australia used the outbreak of WW1 to seize German New Guinea and hold it, as the colony of Papua, for the next half century. Australian imperialism has tried to lord it over the island states of the Pacific and Indian oceans for decades, notably sending police to Bougainville and stealing Timor Leste’s off-shore gas.

Prior to WW2, Australia was a faithful lapdog of the dominant imperial power of the time, Britain. After WW2, however, imperialist dominance switched to America and so did Australia’s allegiance, although our governments – and our military – continued to support the colonial wars fought by British imperialism in Kenya, Borneo and Malaya, by Dutch imperialism in Indonesia and by French imperialism in Indo-China. However, Australia faithfully – even enthusiastically – joined our American “ally” in the 1950s in the latter’s attempt to “roll back Communism” in Asia by fomenting a war on the Korean Peninsula.

In the 1970s, following the expulsion of the French from Indo-China by the Vietnamese, the USA took over the pursuit of the war there, as usual justifying the war as necessary for the “rolling back of Communism”. Once again Australian imperialism was an enthusiastic supporter of its powerful American counterpart. And once again, the propagandists of imperialism claimed that the war was being fought “in defence of freedom”, grotesquely, the freedom of the Vietnamese themselves.

Today, US imperialism is trying to foment a war with Russia and China, despite the misgivings of some American capitalists (those who trade with China or have oil interests in Russia). And just as in the past, these war preparations are being justified as essential to “defend freedom”.

Also once again, the Korean Peninsula is being made the locale for a major war. The USA has carried out provocations against tiny North Korea ever since the end of the Korean War. To defend itself, North Korea has had to develop missiles capable of hitting targets in the US, in the expectation that this would give the Americans pause. However, US imperialism does not like to be thwarted, especially by small countries. It is not good for US imperialism’s self-image.

So it has countered with an intense propaganda campaign to convince the people of the world that, far from defending itself if attacked, North Korea is preparing for nuclear aggression against neighbouring Japan and also the USA. That is such an insane idea that the only way imperialism can get any traction for it is to claim that North Korea’s leadership is quite literally mad.

Combining political, racial and cultural prejudice against the small Socialist state, this dangerous message has been hammered continuously in all the bourgeois media, a blanket coverage that includes both of Australia’s national broadcasters.

Australia’s imperialist government has run true to form and wholeheartedly joined in this belligerent chorus. It is not in the interests of the Australian people to have another war in or around Korea, especially one involving nuclear weapons! That is in nobody’s interests.

A responsible Australian government would use its “special relationship” with the USA to seek to counsel its powerful ally to respect the desire of the world’s people for a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the latest Korean dispute.

But that, of course, would be a government more interested in the needs of the people than the greed of big corporations. Unfortunately, we do not have that type of responsible government and neither does the USA at present.

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