By James O’Neill*
The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has once again declared that the United States alliance is the “bedrock” of Australia’s defence policy. That and similar words have been used by Australian prime ministers for at least the past two decades.
One alleged pillar of this reliance upon the US is the ANZUS Treaty, perhaps more accurately described nowadays as the AYS treaty as New Zealand effectively withdrew in 1984. Curiously, the sky did not fall in and no Chinese, Japanese, North Korean, Indonesian or other imaginary peril swooped on New Zealand and declared it part of “their” empire, as opposed to either the British or American empires to which allegiance had previously been owed.
New Zealand also decided that it did not need warships, submarines, fighter planes or other expensive military toys to pretend immunity in the age of multiple, independently targetable, hypersonic missiles possessed by Australia and the US’s two favourite enemies du jour, China and Russia.
By contrast, Australia prefers its illusions of not being a military target (false); being out of range of the aforesaid missiles (false); able to insult China in multiple ways and be immune from non-military retaliation (false); and that clinging to America’s coattails is a principled and viable foreign policy (false).
First, what does the ANZUS Treaty actually offer? Contrary to widespread misrepresentation and misapprehensions, it does no more than require the two nations to “consult in accordance with their constitutional procedures” in the event that one of them is attacked.
“Consultation” hardly seems the apposite word when the history of the past 70 years is that the US has only to ask and Australia will come running. Indeed, Australia does not even wait to be asked, either proffering unsolicited support, as with 9/11, or soliciting an invitation as most recently with Syria and Afghanistan.
The US on the other hand embarks on one military and/or diplomatic misadventure after another, secure in the knowledge that not one word of criticism, let alone defiance, will ever emanate from the political class in Canberra, irrespective of whether it is Labor or the Coalition pretending they are in charge and not simply doing the bidding of others, either internally or externally.
What has the US done in the last 70 or so years that has either escaped Australian criticism or found itself fighting alongside its most loyal and unquestioning ally?
Whole books have been written on that topic, of which William Blum’s Rogue State (Common Courage Press, 2005) is a good primer. To take just a random sample from the lengthy catalogue of cries perpetrated by the self-described ‘indispensable nation’, the details of which are found in the works of Blum and other authors.
The Vietnam War from an Australian perspective officially began with the false flag event of the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Incident’ and finally ended with the unseemly scramble to escape via helicopter from the roof of the US embassy in Saigon in 1975 (although Australian troops had already gone by then).
In fact, the war began decades earlier but only involved the Americans in a serious way when they sabotaged the outcome of the 1954 Geneva Peace Accords by refusing to allow nation wide elections to be held, on the well-founded fear that the ‘wrong’ man would have won.
As they had done in Korea in the post world war 2 period, a divided country with a tame dictator in “their” half was always seen as the better alternative. The current problems with North Korea are a direct consequence of that interference and subsequent sabotaging of attempts at a possible resolution of that seemingly now intractable problem.
Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam fiasco (three million dead; an environmental disaster; the ongoing genetic consequences of land devastation with Agent Orange; etc) only ended with the election of the Whitlam government in 1972.
Whitlam paid a heavy price for withdrawing from the Vietnam War and threatening to close Pine Gap, Australia’s number 1 nuclear target and a crucial component of the world wide mass murder machine that is the US military.
The US ambassador in Canberra at the time of the constitutional coup in 1975 was Marshall Green. He had an interesting career. He was a high official in the US embassy in South Korea when a coup installed a US backed dictator. He was similarly in Indonesia when another coup in 1967 when Suharto replaced Sukarno. That coup led to the killing of more than half a million Indonesians, mainly of Chinese ethnicity, with the authorities working from a CIA-supplied kill list.
Green then went to Chile and organized the violent overthrow of the democratically elected (but fatally non-obedient to American wishes) Allende government. Fresh from that triumph he was then sent to Canberra where, lo, another less than enthusiastic supporter of American imperialism was dispatched.
Conspiracy or coincidence, Mr Green certainly had the knack of being in the right place at the right (from an American perspective) time.
Australia rushed off to join the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 which was sold to a gullible public as ‘stopping Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorists’ (repeated as recently as last week); getting Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in the US; and bringing ‘peace and democracy’ (isn’t that always the claim?) to a benighted land. Those same lies are still being repeated 15 and a half years later.
That the US had been undermining the Afghanistan government since at least the late 1970s; that bin Laden (aka Colonel Tim Osman) was a key figure in the US founded, trained and supported (along with Saudi finance) of al Qaeda; that bin Laden died of natural causes in December 2001; that the decision to invade Afghanistan was made in July 2001 following the Taliban government’s refusal to allow an American company to build the Caspian pipeline and instead gave it to an Argentinian company, Bridas; and that opium production, used to finance much of the CIA’s off the books clandestine operations, has increased 20 fold since 2001, is never part of the official narrative.
Australian troops are still there, and likely to be increased because the Americans asked us to when Turnbull was recently in Afghanistan being told what was expected of Australia by US Defence Secretary “mad dog” Mattis. The myth that we are ‘training Afghanistan forces to make their country able to resist terrorism’ is the tired repetition of a refrain long grown stale from abuse and misuse.
Much has been written about the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that repetition is not needed. Suffice to note that once again, Australia offered to join by Howard soliciting an invitation from the Americans. That this spectacular failure of foreign policy resulted in the deaths and displacement of millions of people; destroyed a once successful and prosperous society; and is at the centre of an ongoing disaster seems to trouble the foreign policy and military establishment not one little bit.
Again, 14 years after the invasion we are still there, haven’t learned nothing and eager to repeat the folly in Syria and elsewhere. The pretexts have subtly shifted, but the policy remains the same, as done the complete absence of accountability for Australia’s role in one of the great criminal enterprises of recent times. Do not expect any change any time soon, nor expect to hear a coherent rationale as to why fighting America’s illegal wars serves Australia’s national interest.
Australia’s involvement in the Syrian War differs only in degree from the debacle in Iraq. The lies, the obfuscation and the illegality are all part of an all too familiar pattern.
At the last US Presidential election the American people were offered a choice between a psychopath and a sociopath. The sociopath won, notwithstanding Bill Shorten’s accurate (but never repeated) observation that he was “barking mad.”
It was clearly an unexpected result, and ever since, in a display of raw power not seen since the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, the deep state is using every means possible short of another assassination (yet) to remedy the “error” of the voters choosing the wrong candidate.
One of the most favoured memes, loyally repeated ad nauseum by the Australian mainstream media, is that it is all the fault of the Russians, whose ‘meddling’ in the election allowed Trump to win. The absence of any evidence to support this allegation, let alone its illogicality, is no bar to its repetition. This should not be a surprise. Recent history is replete with such self-serving examples, of which Saddam’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’; Assad’s ‘gassing of his own people’; and ‘Iran’s nuclear weapons program’ are only some of the more egregious examples.
Trump will probably accede to the wishes of the deep state, if only to ensure his won preservation. The signs of such acquiescence are already apparent, with the ongoing unquestioning allegiance to Israel, the support for Saudi Arabia’s unconscionable war being waged on Yemen, and a likely attack on Iran (on top of the clandestine war being waged there since at least 1979) through its Saudi and Israeli proxies are only some of the many examples.
The Australian government has not commented on Yemen (and then not critically) since February 2015. It never criticizes the Israeli government despite the latter’s impressive record of ignoring international law, UN resolutions, and the appalling treatment of the Palestinians. If it has made an objective, let alone favourable comment on Iran since the Accord of 2015, then I must have missed it.
Amidst all this chaos, warmongering and disaster there is one certainty. Regardless of what outrage the Americans perpetrate, Australia will provide loyal and unquestioning support. It doesn’t have to be that way. New Zealand has shown that it is possible to be both friendly with the US and independent. If only our politicians had as much regard for Australia’s national interest.
*Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org