Japan Peace Conference 2005
Robin Susan Taubenfeld
Everyone for a Nuclear Free Future (ENuFF) Brisbane
Brisbane Anti-Bases, Brisbane Australia
Australia, the US and our place in the Pacific - an activist take on the culture of fear
Hello everyone. Thank you for inviting me to speak at this conference and to join you in this week's action. My name is Robin Taubenfeld. I am an US born resident of Australia. I live in Brisbane Queensland on the east coast of Australia and I work with Everyone for a Nuclear Free Future and the Brisbane Anti-Bases group.
While Brisbane is a declared "Nuclear Free Zone" US nuclear powered submarines and other potentially nuclear-armed war vessels visit our ports, the civilian Brisbane International Airport is used by the US military for re-fueling and troop changeover, the nuclear free zone is not legislated and, in fact, local, state and federal governments welcome military visits and increased military ties. I was actually born and raised in Texas and I can assure you that there are many Texans like me, who do not support George Bush, the War on Terror and military expansion. In my adopted home there are many Australians, both new and old residents of the land, who do not support war and who truly hope to build their communities on principles of social justice and peace.
Australia in the Pacific:
Though now predominantly white and English-speaking, Australia, shares a common legacy with other nations in the southern Pacific region. This is the legacy of invasion, colonisation, nuclear experimentation, involvement in other countries' wars, being the stomping grounds for the United States, and a struggle for sovereignty and human rights for its indigenous people. Today, though I come here to speak to you as a white English-speaking woman, I would like to acknowledge the indigenous people of the land which I inhabit, and the peoples of the Pacific whose voices are so rarely heard. I carry with me strong knowledge that 200 years of colonisation and 60 years of nuclear experimentation have attempted to decimate and genocide the original inhabitants of the region and to belittle and destroy their diverse cultures.
I believe it is impossible to look at Australia and her place in the Pacific without putting the issues in the context of their colonial histories. Furthermore, I believe the nuclear aspects of colonisation vital to understanding Australia's current situation at home and her place in the world.
At the time of European invasion, Australia had hundreds of Aboriginal tribal and language groups. The colonists declared Australia "terra nullius" - an empty country- denying the existence or humanity of its original inhabitants. They converted the land to pastoral land, and began to pillage it for its "natural resources". They proudly maintained the ties and alliances to Britain, Europe, and the "western world", neither identifying with Asia, nor forming treaties the indigenous populations of the land and the region.
Australians have supported and fought in English wars. In the last 60 years, Australia has been the host to British nuclear testing at Maralinga, Emu Field, and the Monte Bello Islands, and to huge amounts of uranium exploration and mining. WW2 saw Australia become the home or host to numerous US soldiers and Australia has welcomed US military, allowed the US to set up strategic military infrastructure, and has given US access to all Australian military facilities upon request. Australia now:
* Houses Pine Gap, "one of the largest and most important US war fighting and intelligence bases in the world" (www.anti-bases.org), joint "training facilities" at Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, Delamere Range and Bradshaw in the Northern Territory, several military "spy or support installations linked to the US military,
* Hosts US troop change-overs, known as "Sea Swaps", at Fremantle and bombing practice at Lancelin in West Australia,
* Allows nuclear and military vessels into many of its ports,
* Participates in joint exercises/war games with the US, which are set to expand, and
* Supports US lead wars and invasions.
USS Columbia in Brisbane Port
Australia is also intrinsically linked to the US and global war machine on a commercial level. Besides being a major producer of the world's uranium, Australia is home to subsidiaries of some of the world's major war-profiteers. Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) have a presence throughout the country, as do Boeing, Raytheon, and Metalstorm, an Australian weapons manufacturer is developing components for US military and police use.
The Colonised Pacific
Beyond Australia, the colonised Pacific is home to numerous active US bases. The Pacific command centre in Hawai'i controls US military operations for over half of the world.
Hawai'i and Guam have hosted strategic military installations for over a century. These bases are being expanded today to support American military operations in the Asia-Pacific region.
The US's only live-fire-training location in the western Pacific is located in the Northern Mariana Islands. The bombing range is in Farallon de Medinilla, a 206-acre island about 45 miles north of Saipan. (MacLellan, 2005)
Furthermore, in Tahiti, Kiritimati (Christmas Island), the Marshall Islands and Kalama (Johnston Atoll) have all been used as testing sites for nuclear weapons by France, the UK, or the US.
Seen as a "stable" nation and a leader in the Pacific, Australian "leadership" is actually a promotion of US style imperialism in our region and further afield, and a "followership" of US policy at home. Journalist and member of Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) Nic MacLellan notes four key elements to new US military strategy, all of which Australia supports or plays an active part in. These are:
1) "An increased role of space and satellite technologies in warfare, with continuing development of Star Wars, Missile Defence, stealth technologies, and the capacity for "real-time" control of military operations
2) The expansion of Special Forces and covert operations
3) The development of US military bases in areas traditionally out of bounds during the Cold War (new bases in Central Asia and the Middle East, and NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe)
4) Attempts to preserve a US monopoly of high-tech weaponry, denying others "weapons of mass destruction" while building a new generation of "usable" nuclear weapons and refusing to abide by arms control treaties on landmines, anti-ballistic missiles, nuclear free zones, nuclear testing and more."
I would like to add a fifth strategic element, in which Australia is proactively engaging:
5) The development or creation of a culture of fear. I believe an era of "perpetual war" can only be entered into or "legitimised" through the cultivation of mistrust, disempowerment, repression, and fear of others amongst ones own people.
How Australia supports US Military strategy:
The Australian government spends $60million dollars a day on the military. Australian support for US military strategy and its key elements are exemplified by its involvement in the "Coalition of the Willing" and, amongst other things, its support for the missile defence program (Star Wars), and by its adoption of a pre-emptive strike policy. (Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, (AABCC) 2004)
1) Space and satellite technologies: Pine Gap: The US-Australia joint facility at Pine Gap, located near Alice Springs in the desert of central Australia, plays a crucial role in satellite, intelligence and ballistic missile programs, and was involved in targeting operations during the war on Iraq. " Established in 1968, it now consists of around 20 radomes working as satellite receiving stations... The satellites span a strategically important third of the globe, encompassing China, southern Russia and the Middle East oil fields."(AABCC, 2005) The US-Australian base at Pine Gap is now being upgraded to support TMD programs.
2) Covert operations: By supporting US spy bases, military installations and taking part in US actions, and training with the US, Australia facilitates the expansion of US "special forces" and covert operations.
3) New Bases/Territory: The US strategic "need" to develop bases in new regions has coincided with its loss of popularity or its welcome in other regions, such as the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Australia is playing a vital role in acting as a lilly pad for US troops.
"Sea Swap" The "Sea-Swap" program allows the US Navy to use Western Australia as an exchange point for sailors of the US Seventh Fleet. Exchanging navy crews in Western Australia instead of their homeport, saves the US military both time and money. "Sea- Swaps" have accommodated more than just troop changeover; US live bombing practice has also been permitted at Lancelin, north of Fremantle.
USS Kitty Hawk "Down Under" in Operation Talisman Saber 2005
Navy News June 30, 2005 p 9
Joint Training Facilities and Exercises
In July 2004, the US and Australian governments agreed to develop three new "joint training facilities" which will be built at Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, and the Bradshaw Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range, both in the Northern Territory. These three facilities will be linked to US bases by the latest computer technologies, through the Pacific War Fighting Centre in Hawai'i. (AABCC, 2004)
Operation Talisman Saber 2005, a huge joint US- Australia joint military exercise which took place this June, used both Shoalwater and Delamere Range, as well as numerous other locations on the east or northern coasts of Australia. It was the largest war games ever to take place in Australia, with at least17, 000 troops, mostly US, taking part in land, sea, and air activities. Operation Talisman Saber 2007 is expected to be even larger and to take place when the three new joint facilities are fully operational and on-line to practice high-tech warfare.
4) Weapons development: Australian involvement in missile defence supports the US refusal to abide by ABM treaties. Australian provision of bombing ranges, and its welcoming of and training with the nuclear powered, nuclear-capable, and depleted uranium-using US disregards Australia's own nuclear free zones and international rulings and agreements on weapons and war. Furthermore, Australia has not condemned the US for its re-cycling or upgrading of its nuclear arsenal, its refusal to disarm, or its responsibility for the failure (so far) of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Young Rockhampton children climb on top of an Australian Light Armored Vehicle during Open Day. Photo: Pte. Jodie Richter, RAR
5) Creation of a culture of fear: Australian civil society has been under constant attack, not from external forces, but from persistently divisive policies of the current conservative government. The last few years have brought an erosion of the rights the unemployed, people with disabilities, students, women, homosexuals, refugees, the elderly (pensioners), indigenous people, and workers. Peak bodies meant to represent these groups are being dismantled or undermined. Australia's government maintains racist practice and policies actively promoting fear and insecurity in the community. The environment is up for sale. Water is being privatised. New "anti-terror" laws threaten civil liberties. We are told that Australia has long been a "terrorist target."
At the same time, the new catch phrase for military is "seamless interoperability" with the US military, Australia refuses to sign a non-aggression treaty with our neighbours in the Pacific and military recruiters enter our schools. The Defence force has open days and demonstrations at major public, family events and festivals and jet fighter formation flying and "dumping and burning" (of fuel) is a highlight at major sporting and community events. Military activity is portrayed as exciting, family entertainment, normal, even fun.
Is this the direction we want to take?
Australian strategic alignment with the US fuels the culture of fear. It legitimises US action and raises security concerns for Australians. It is a clear show of force to our neighbors in Asia, as well as further afield. Military bases and exercises have a destabilising effect on our communities as they take resources from social services, while having severe potential environmental and social impact on their regions. Drug related crime and sexual assault are known to accompany US bases and troop visits. Areas rich in heritage or ecologically sensitive are sacrificed for target practice. Shoalwater Bay, for example, contains numerous protected areas, endangered dugong populations, and areas of indigenous significance. Indigenous land rights are denied to support military and nuclear expansion. At Shoalwater Bay, recognised traditional owners of the land, the Darrumbal people, have been denied title to their land, and as it has been declared a military exclusion zone, have only limited and occasional access. US Bases and military operations in Australia raise further questions about Australian sovereignty.
Exercises take place in sensitive habitats of endangered dugongs
Taking back the power: Taking action.
Luckily not all the community are willing to accept Australia's dangerous strategic alliances or to buy into the culture of fear. The majority of Australians actually oppose the war in Iraq. People are actively opposing the ongoing war, US ship visits, war games, weapons conferences, the erosion of our rights and the numerous aggressive policies of the Australian federal government.
Though through little steps, people are taking action.
One area, in which I personally focus my energy is the anti-nuclear movement. While this is not the case in many other countries, in Australia, the movement against uranium mining has long been linked to the peace and civil rights movements.
Yvonne Margarula, senior elder of the Mirrar clan, (left center) has long fought uranium mining on her land at Jabiluka. The Ranger Uranium mine was forced upon her community despite their opposition. (Beginning of Jabliluka Blockade, 1998)
Working for peace through opposing uranium mining:
Australia has some of the world's largest high grade uranium reserves, three active uranium mines, and at least 26 more proposed for operation. There is currently a strong nuclear push by the US, Australia, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and nuclear powers to promote the so-called "peaceful" uses of nuclear energy. For the Australian Aboriginal people, however, there is no "peace" associated with the nuclear cycle.
Uranium mining desecrates sacred land; it leaves the earth and waterways radioactive, and undermines traditional culture. For indigenous peoples "Land is Life, " - destruction of the earth is tantamount to genocide. The peace and social justice movements in Australia support indigenous people's right to protect their land and their culture. We, therefore, oppose uranium mining and the nuclear cycle, whether for power generation or nuclear weapons. Furthermore, people of the Australia and the Pacific share with Japan, the legacy of knowing first-hand the horrors of nuclear weapons use. We want to see the cycle stopped at its source.
Over one million Australians (of a population of 20 million) took to the streets to oppose the invasion of Iraq. Many were left disheartened by a government that did not listen to them. Many of these, feeling powerless, retreated. Many others are doing what they can to challenge the government's agenda.
In November 2005, Traditional land-owners of the central Australian desert are on tour, telling the government and community that they do not want a national nuclear waste dump placed on their land, unions are organising for the biggest ever national action for worker's rights, my city Brisbane is preparing to participate in the December 3 international day of action on climate change.
10 people are preparing for trial on November 30 for resisting the war games of Operation Talisman Saber 2005 at Shoalwater Bay in Queensland. In June this year 50 people traveled from various parts of Australia to support the local community and to oppose those war games. The "Peace Convergence" was a weekend of colorful events, activities and actions coinciding with beginning of the military exercises. On the final day of action, 6 people entered the Shoalwater Bay Training Facility site and with mock coffins and photographs from "The Children of the Gulf War" by Japanese photographer Takashi Morizumi and read out the names of military and civilian dead from the War in Iraq. After they were arrested and removed from the site, another 50 people blockaded the gates to the military zone, holding up military vehicles for several hours. The blockade resulted in another 4 arrests.
Blockade at entrance to Shoalwater Bay Training Facility, June 2005
At the same time, on the other side of Australia, a group of 10-20 activists carried out an eight-day "Walk Against War Games." In solidarity with the Shoalwater Peace Convergence and in opposition to the militarisation of their own region, the walk started at the Lancelin bombing range and ended at the Sea-Swap port of Fremantle, with a message of support and solidarity from anti-bases campaigners in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
November is also the lease renewal "notification" date for Pine Gap. If it chooses to, the Australian Government can this month give the US three years notification that it will not renew the lease for this strategic spy base. While it is not expected that the Australian government do so, it is expected that concerned Australian citizens will attempt to issue the US a "Notice to Quit" the site on the people's behalf.
Storm troopers accompany police during their rounds at the creative action at Pine Gap action 2002
The anti-bases and peace movement is preparing itself for bigger action to oppose US war games in 2007.
Brisbane peace fleet action
Building a culture of peace:
While we must resist militarism and co - option into the culture of fear, I think it is important to remember that "peace is not simply the absence of war." To have real peace in our world community, we must be committed to (or striving for) equality, cooperation, and respect for all beings and the earth. As I said earlier, Australia was, created on massacre and disregard for life - it has been built upon stolen lands. I believe, therefore, that for peace to be achieved in Australia there must be government recognition of Aboriginal and Islander sovereignty. . This would be one step. For peace to thrive, my "nation" must heal itself. Furthermore, I believe that our leaders, well aware of the lack of legitimacy, strive for power and profile by allying themselves with and building "Empire". Our challenge is to actively erode that power base by continuing and connecting our peace, social justice, anti-bases, environment and human rights work to not only oppose war, but to shift values, to re-empower the disempowered, and to help build a culture of peace.
MacLellan, Nic, "Australia and the Pacific Islands in US global forces re-alignment" Peace Frontier Seminar, Tokyo, March 2005
Australian Anti-bases Campaign Coalition, Sydney Australia www.anti-bases.org generally and
Bulletin No.7, Summer 2004
Brisbane Anti-Bases Peace Convergence:
Fremantle Anti-nuclear Group (FANG)