Peace activities: september 2014

PM Abbott steps up war drums to boost his political support, but can be beaten back by peace actions. 10 points below.

1. Withdraw Australian military from Iraq conflict
From Peter Murphy.
Prime Minister Abbott’s decision to join in the delivery of weapons and ammunition to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq is a cynical political decision, without foundation in law, and bound to magnify the disaster of Howard’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The idea that the Australian military would be running guns from Albania into Erbil is a huge surprise to the Australian people, underlining another major democratic failure by the arrogant Abbott government.

The Australian anti-war movement was completely correct in 2003 and should now condemn the Abbott government’s action, call for its cancellation, a parliamentary debate and for the Australian people to mobilise now to stop this intervention and to prevent it expanding any further.

The Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has failed to grasp the situation and lamely supported the foolish move from Prime Minister Abbott. The labour movement needs to urgently correct this situation.



Australia’s two military transport aircraft are marginal, it is Abbott’s political commitment to the disastrous US policy in the Middle East which is the main concern of the anti-war movement in Australia.
US-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, allegedly against the Islamic State forces, will lead to massive civilian casualties, and will help to consolidate the domination of the Iranian fundamentalist dictatorship in both Syria and Iraq. The US under both Bush and Obama has maintained a testy partnership with Tehran to divide and subdue opposition to its Iraq occupation and then support the murderous sectarian government of al-Maliki regime.

IS burst on the scene this year when the northern and western provinces of Iraq finally rose up against al-Maliki. A viable Iraqi nationalist Shia and Sunni alliance has emerged to displace the Iranian dominated Shia but Obama’s strategy is aimed at suppressing it, and Abbott is making the Australian people support this profoundly stupid policy.

Abbott’s claims to humanitarian motivations in Iraq don’t wash when he could find no words for over two thousand Palestinian civilians, including 500 children, killed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza. Not to mention Abbott’s lack of concern for civilian casualties in the current civil war in South Sudan, or the ravages of the Lord’s Army and other militias in Uganda and Kenya and Nigeria.

As it was in 2003, it is for the Iraqi people to determine their future without outside interference.
This latest escapade in Iraq demonstrates that the Australian foreign affairs, intelligence and military command, as well as the political party elites, no longer work within the framework of international law. This elite is really a danger to democracy and peaceful resolution of conflicts and needs an urgent and massive shakeup.

Waging Peace on War: Canberra. WACA Peace Convergence

Fraser on why Parliament has to debate war

2. “The last thing Australia needs is a holy war”
says spokesperson Nick Deane for the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN).
“Our Federal Government should reject completely any consideration of sending our airforce personnel to drop bombs on Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, or sending our troops or SAS into combat in those countries. We know now only too well the inevitable civilian casualties from such actions.”
“The humanitarian emergency we see unfolding in Iraq and Syria is a direct result of the disastrous policies of military intervention which the US has followed in the Middle East for more than 10 years”, says Mr Deane. “Up until now Australian Governments of both political persuasions have abjectly followed a US lead. It is time we showed an independent approach in our foreign policy.”

Mr Deane went on, “A Humanitarian disaster requires a humanitarian response, not bombs and missiles.”
IPAN is a network of over 50 peace organisations from every State in Australia, and represents the voices of many thousands of everyday Australians.

“We call on the Australian Government to reject this military madness, and play a positive and proactive peace-making role in international affairs. An important step in that process is for all Australian politicians to agree to calls for the Australian parliament to have oversight of any Australian Government commitment to foreign military engagements.”

Nick Deane Marrickville, NSW 0420 526 929

1. Promote an independent Australian foreign policy that builds peace and nonviolent resolutions of conflict in our region;
2. Oppose the establishment of foreign military bases and the deployment of foreign troops and military in Australia and the Asia-Pacific;
3. Provide information, analysis and opportunities for NGOs, unions, churches and community groups to participate in decision-making on Australia’s peace and security options;
4. Build links with peoples and organisations in the Asia-Pacific campaigning for peace and against military bases and troops in the region.

Please distribute this PETITION
To the Honorable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled,
The petition of the undersigned shows that:-

• Australia faces no military threat from any other nation nor has there been any increase in such a threat for many years. No nation in the region or the world is capable of launching a military invasion of Australia, apart from our ally the US.

• However, there is a danger of an ‘arms race’ in the Western Pacific – exemplified by the United States’ so-called military ‘pivot’ to the region.

• Australia may be contributing to this process, through plans to increase government expenditure in all areas of defence, especially in the acquisition of such offensive, military hardware as the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. Meanwhile, other, civilian programs are facing severe reductions in expenditure.

Australia currently spends $29.3billion per year on defence, and, by buying 10% of all US arms exports, is the seventh largest importer of major arms in the world.

Your petitioners ask that the Senate:-
Ensure that that there is no increase in Australia’s military spending, thereby indicating our peaceful intentions to all our neighbours and releasing funds to be spent in more beneficial areas.


3. Australia progresses in its plans to purchase a fleet of sophisticated P-8 Poseidon planes that specialise in anti-submarine warfare and maritime strike. The planes would be pivotal in any war against China in the South China or East China Seas.

Asio knows what will raise the terror threat level: sending Australia to war

4. Top intelligence analyst slams Pine Gap’s role in American drone strikes
Australian Broadcasting Corporation 13/08/2014

Reporter: Dylan Welch

The joint US-Australian defence base at Pine Gap is accused of helping direct American drone strikes leading to Australia’s leading intelligence expert to call its work ‘ethically unacceptable’.
CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: For almost half a century, the joint US-Australian defence base at Pine Gap has lurked on the edge of our consciousness in the Northern Territory desert, mostly accepted, but largely mysterious.

The little we know is that it scoops up secrets from satellites that watch nuclear weapons stockpiles and spy on foreign governments.

But now there are claims it has a new role in the post 9-11 world, directing American drone strikes that have killed thousands of militants and civilians over the last five years.

And that has led Australia’s pre-eminent intelligence expert and former cheerleader for the site to brand some of its work “ethically unacceptable”.

Dylan Welch reports.

DYLAN WELCH, REPORTER: With a few small steps and some gladhanding, the US launched its latest charm offensive designed to further strengthen military co-operation between Australia and the United States.

CHUCK HAGEL, US SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I very much appreciate the opportunity to renew our friendship and be together again. And I’m particularly pleased to be back in Australia.

DYLAN WELCH: Deep in Australia’s Outback and shrouded in secrecy lies the base that’s been at the centre of that relationship for decades.

Pine Gap is the jewel in the crown of US-Australian intelligence sharing, detecting nuclear weapons and intercepting communications around the globe. For a decade, it’s also been involved in the US drone program, which has killed thousands of militants and some civilians in countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Iraq.

Now Australia’s pre-eminent intelligence expert says Pine Gap’s role has gone too far.

DES BALL, STRATEGIC & DEFENCE STUDIES CENTRE, ANU: I’ve reached the point now where I can no longer stand up and provide the verbal, conceptual justification for the facility that I was able to do in the past. We’re now linked in to this global network where intelligence and operations have become essentially fused and Pine Gap is a key node in that whole network, that war machine, if you want to use that term, which is doing things which are very, very difficult, I think, as an Australian, to justify.

DYLAN WELCH: Pine Gap has intrigued outsiders ever since it was set up by the US and Australian governments and began operating in 1970.

It’s managed partly by America’s CIA and National Security Agency and controls US spy satellites orbiting around the globe.

MALE VOICEOVER (archive footage): High above the Earth, the spy satellites can monitor everything. Missile silos, ship movements, aircraft, radar, electronic signals – nothing escapes their antennae or their lenses.

DYLAN WELCH: Pine Gap has always been controversial. In the 1980s, anti-nuclear protestors converged on the desert site to demand the closure of the base.

20 years later, demonstrators campaigning against the Iraq War descended on the base again.

It was Des Ball who revealed Pine Gap’s existence in 1969, and over decades, has kept a close watch on its activities. In 1987, he argued Pine Gap’s monitoring of Soviet weapons development was crucial to keeping a check on the arms race.

DES BALL (archive footage, 1987): Since that monitoring function is quite critical to most of the kind of arms control agreements which are in force between the United States and Soviet Union, you wouldn’t have those arms control agreements without Pine Gap.

DYLAN WELCH: Former US intelligence analyst David Rosenberg worked at Pine Gap for 18 years. He wrote Inside Pine Gap, which remains the only insider’s description of the base.

DAVID ROSENBERG, US INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, PINE GAP (1990-2008): I believe that Pine Gap is very vital to Australia. It collects intelligence that may not be accessible from very many other sources. Sometimes Pine Gap is a sole source of collection of some intelligence and that of course can be used to safeguard our troops, to safeguard our people here in Australia and in the United States and our allies as well.

DYLAN WELCH: Following the al-Qaeda attacks of 2001, Pine Gap’s role changed as its focus switched from monitoring nuclear proliferation to countering terrorism and Des Ball grew increasingly concerned.

DES BALL: We’re entering – we’ve already entered into a new phase of warfare where intelligence and unmanned vehicles of various sorts – under the water, killer satellites in space, battlefield, being fed from intelligence sources like Pine Gap, still one of the two biggest stations of the sort in the world, and we’re thoroughly embedded into it.

DYLAN WELCH: In November, 2001, the US launched its first armed Predator drone as part of the hunt for al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. It marked the beginning of a new era.

DES BALL: It’s now information warfare, it’s now using data directly from censors, the satellites up above, down to Pine Gap, but directly to the shooters.

DYLAN WELCH: Rosenberg left Pine Gap in 2008. Soon after, the new Obama administration ordered a major escalation in the use of drone strikes.

DAVID ROSENBERG: If the US military could make use of whatever assets it has in place to help the drone program, then the US military will of course do that. Whatever signals Pine Gap can collect that could be of use to the governments would certainly be passed on.

DYLAN WELCH: After decades of watching and supporting Pine Gap, Ball finds its key role in the drone program deeply concerning.

DES BALL: The drone program puts some of these dilemmas on a plate in front of you. You have to start confronting this conflation of intelligence and operations. I don’t know how many terrorists have been killed either by drones, but I would not be surprised if the total number of children exceeds the total number of terrorists.

DYLAN WELCH: And Des Ball fears support of lethal US operations is becoming a steadily increasing part of what Pine Gap does.

DES BALL: If they were really to change the balance around so that Pine Gap basically became a war-fighting machine rather than an intelligence collector, then I think we all have to have second thoughts.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Dylan Welch reporting.

5. British scientists secretly used Australian population to test for radiation contamination after nuclear tests at Maralinga
BRITISH scientists secretly used the Australian population to test for radiation contamination after the nuclear tests at Maralinga in the 1950s, a new book confirms.
Its author, Frank Walker, has obtained the minutes of a top secret meeting in England where the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment approved a program to determine the long-term effects of the tests on Australia and its citizens.

In his book, Maralinga, Walker details how the meeting at Harwell on May 24, 1957, decided to first obtain soil samples from pasture regions near Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to check for fallout from the nine nuclear bombs detonated at Maralinga and the Monte Bello Islands, off WA.
The second phase was to test vegetation, particularly grass and cabbage, and milk for the presence of the radioactive isotope, Strontium-90, a fission by-product of nuclear explosions.
The meeting was chaired by Professor Ernest Titterton, the nuclear scientist who oversaw the British nuclear tests in Australia.

According to the document obtained by Walker, Professor Titterton told the meeting he wanted to collect animal bones “to see if Strontium-90 is getting into domestic animals”.
The meeting decided to take bone samples from 12 sheep stations along a 800km path of fallout tracked by Royal Australian Air Force planes which flew into the mushroom clouds following each nuclear explosion at Maralinga.

The document found by author Frank Walker detailing the nuclear testing program on the Australian population. Source: British National Archives

Professor Titterton told the meeting that the final phase of the testing would be to determine if Strontium-90 was being absorbed by the Australian population.
“We have to find out if Strontium-90 is entering the food chain and getting into humans,” says the document, which has the file number DEFE 16/608.
The scientists then agreed to start testing the bones of dead Australian infants and children for radiation contamination.
“As many bones as possible are to be obtained,” says DEFE 16/608.
“The bones should be femurs. The required weight is 20-50 grams wet bone, subsequently ashed to provide samples of weight not less than two grams. The date of birth, age at death and locality of origin are to be reported.”

Professor Titterton said the bones would be crushed into a powder and sent to the UK for analysis along with the soil, animal samples and vegetation collected from the Australian testing sites.

The document found by author Frank Walker detailing the nuclear testing program on the Australian population. Source: British National Archives

As The Advertiser has previously reported, hundreds of bones were subsequently collected from the bodies of 21,830 dead babies, infants, children, teenagers and young adults across Australia without the knowledge of their parents.
The Strontium-90 testing program in Australia was the longest of its kind in the world, finally ending in 1978.
In September, 2001, following an extensive investigation by The Advertiser, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency revealed it had kept ash samples from bones collected from hospitals in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne.

In a report to the then federal health minister, Michael Wooldridge, the agency said it had detected varying levels of Strontium-90 in all Australian capital cities.

The document found by author Frank Walker detailing the nuclear testing program on the Australian population. Source: British National Archives

6. Friday 29 August 2014 marked the 15th anniversary of East Timor’s historic vote for independence, but Timor’s ongoing struggle to become a true sovereign nation – complete with sea boundaries – continues.

The Timor Sea Justice Campaign’s spokesperson in Melbourne, Tom Clarke, said the tremendous goodwill generated by Australia’s peace-keeping mission in East Timor following the ballot in 1999 had since been jeopardised by Australia’s bullish approach to contested oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.

“It’s a bit like stepping up to chase away a school-yard bully, only to steal the victim’s lunch money yourself,” said Mr Clarke.

Australia has consistently refused to establish permanent maritime boundaries with East Timor in accordance with international law.

“Rather than simply drawing a line half way between the two coastlines as international law prescribes, Australia has chosen to short-change East Timor out of billions of dollars through dubious gas and oil treaties,” said Mr Clarke.

For many East Timorese the Timor Sea dispute is inherently tied up with their independence struggle.

“Here we are fifteen years after their decisive vote for independence, yet when the Timorese look at a map of their nation there are no lines to indicate its maritime boundaries,” said Mr Clarke.

Beyond symbolism, the prolonged dispute has also trapped approximately $40 billion of government revenue – out of reach of the second poorest nation in Asia as it grapples with grave health challenges.

Mr Clarke said that if Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, wants to preserve the perceived legacy of his political mentor, former PM John Howard, he needs to finish the job in East Timor by establishing permanent maritime boundaries.

“If Tony Abbott wants to not only save John Howard’s legacy, but to build on it, he simply needs to give East Timor a fair go. This issue isn’t about charity – it’s simply about what East Timor is legally entitled to,” said Mr Clarke.

Mr Clarke urged the Prime Minister to resubmit Australia to the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea – both of which Australia preemptively withdrew from in 2002 – to demonstrate he’s ready to negotiate in good faith.

“It’s hard to take seriously any of the legal arguments put forward by the Australian Government whilst it refuses to submit to the independent umpire. So this would be a key step in getting fresh negotiations off on the right track,” said Mr Clarke.

A fair go for East Timor. Timor Sea Justice Campaign

The TSJC is comprised of concerned Australians of various ages, backgrounds and political persuasions who all want our Government to give East Timor a fair go. Specifically, we’re calling for the establishment of permanent maritime boundaries in accordance with current international law.

For further information and comments:

Tom Clarke on or 0422 545 763

7. October 4-11, 2014 Keep Space for Peace Week International Week of Protest to
Stop the Militarization of Space
Stop Drones Surveillance & Killing
No Missile Defense
No to NATO Expansion
End Corporate Domination of Foreign/Military Policy
Convert the Military Industrial Complex

8. Mission creep is a one-way escalator to Iraq War III.
“A total of nearly 1,000 U.S troops are in Iraq and U.S. aircraft have mounted at least 70 airstrikes on Islamic State military assets since Obama authorized the bombing campaign less than two weeks ago.”

“The mission for U.S. troops in Iraq to help Kurdish and Iraqi security forces in their fight against Islamic militants remains limited for now, but may **expand** after Iraqi leaders form a new government, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.” ( 8/19/14)

Follow US Labor Against War

9. Book now for APHEDA Melbourne Gaza appeal 11th september

10 From Crikey
So, to be clear about what the Australian government is doing in Iraq, we will be providing arms not to the government of that country, but to a breakaway province whose forces include a terrorist group, the PPK, proscribed under our anti-terror legislation since 2005. As that proscription notes:

“The precise strength of the PKK is not known; however, it is widely believed the group numbers approximately four to five thousand militants, the majority of whom are based in northern Iraq.”

The proscription lists a large number of PKK murders and attacks in Turkey since 2010 alone. Under Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code, it is a crime to provide support to groups like PKK. That is what the Abbott government is now doing, albeit under the fig leaf that the weapons supplied will only be used by the Kurdish regional government forces. In fact, the PKK is central to the fight against Islamic State militants that we have now joined. It’s only a matter of days since the US media was lauding the role of the PKK in the battle against IS, with battle-hardened PKK soldiers — or are they more correctly called terrorists? — providing critical support for the Kurdish peshmerga both in operating alongside them and operating as special forces units behind IS lines. The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government actually visited a PKK camp recently to acknowledge their efforts.

The idea that somehow we’re not helping a proscribed terrorist organisation is thus, given the on-the-ground reality, laughable. And as past experience shows, arming terrorist groups because they are momentarily fighting someone we’re opposed to has a horrible way of coming back to hurt us.

That’s just one of the many absurdities and contradictions in the government’s decision — without debate — to rejoin the war in Iraq. The government itself has proposed laws prohibiting people from travelling to Iraq to fight for non-government forces, as it aids a regional government aiming to split away from the government of Iraq. IS, of course, are fighting a government in Syria condemned by Australia and other Western governments (and anyone with any sense of decency) that only months ago we were debating bombing. And the Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted that there would be no Australian combat troops involved. As Crikey noted last week, air strikes and support for air strikes are very likely to mean SAS troops being involved — something since confirmed. There will be Australian boots on the ground in Iraq, regardless of what the Prime Minister says.

“The only likely consequence of the decision of the Abbott government is to make Australians less safe …”

And remember, IS is being bankrolled by patrons in our allies in the War on Terror, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

How does this serve Australia’s national interest? That explanation was absent from the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday beyond motherhood words about “beheadings” — we await the government’s condemnation of the chop-happy Saudi government — and “a humanitarian catastrophe” and “security nightmare for the people of the region and for the wider world”.

In fact there is no evidence that IS represents any sort of “security nightmare” outside Iraq and Syria. If a group like IS can represent a “security nightmare” to Western governments, it suggests our police, intelligence agencies and armed forces are operating at an astonishing level of incompetence. The website Foreign Policy on the weekend tried to hype the IS threat by running a story about a “terror laptop of doom” that featured plans to “weaponize bubonic plague”. The story was picked up by right-wing sites like Breitbart and Fox in the US, The Times and The Telegraph in the UK and Andrew Bolt here, all presumably unaware that bubonic plague can be treated with topical antibiotic cream from your local chemist.

The problem with the other justification, of a humanitarian catastrophe, is the selectivity motivating the intervention. Where was the intervention against Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group of equal savagery to IS, in Nigeria? Where’s the second intervention in Libya, where Islamic militants, directed from London (despite the UK government hyping the threat is IS) took over Tripoli? Where’s the intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where UN efforts to end a decades-long civil war are hopelessly inadequate, or in Gaza, where hundreds of children can be killed by Israel with the US preventing any international action? Or (ignoring that it’s simply the case that Africans don’t really matter to Westerners) do humanitarian catastrophes only warrant intervention if they are somehow connected to Western security interests? That might be a plausible, hard-nosed approach in a world of limited resources, but relies on making the case that IS is a serious threat to Australian security beyond the Australians we let go over and join in the fight.

In fact the only likely consequence of the decision of the Abbott government is to make Australians less safe, just as our previous intervention in Iraq made Australians less safe. Then again, that can be used to justify further extensions of the government’s anti-terrorism powers and further increase the budgets of our security agencies, so no great loss from the government’s point of view. Let’s just hope that the time-honoured tradition of the War on Terror doesn’t play out yet again and we find ourselves under attack from the very groups we supported.

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