Australia must end its support for more US wars

August 15, 2019
Darwin 2011, when US President Barack Obama addressed US and Australian troops in Darwin at the beginning of the US push to put more troops here as part of its 'pivot' to Asia and the Pacific.

Remember when Donald Trump campaigned for office in 2016 on getting the United States out of “endless wars”? He did, in part, to distinguish himself from the pro-war Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

Now, Trump and his band of hawks are pushing for a new war, most likely with Iran.

In July, Trump authorised missile strikes on Iran, only to back down at the last minute, after the downing of a US drone in the Persian Gulf, which Iran says was in its air space.

Then, the White House authorised sending 1000 more troops to the Middle East after an alleged Iranian attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The Pentagon wants to send 120,000 troops to the region.

But despite a couple of months of campaigning for a new “Coalition of the Killing”, who is actually on board? Only Britain and Israel.

Australia, we are told, is giving the “complex request” due consideration.

Following the secretive AUSMIN talks earlier this month between Australia and the US — to which Green Left Weekly applied for a media pass but never heard back — foreign minister Marise Payne and defence minister Linda Reynolds parroted the same old lines about being “deeply concerned” by “heightened tensions in the Gulf region”.

If only that were true.

Warmongering US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who quietly slipped into Sydney for the AUSMIN talks on August 4, has been campaigning for Australia to join the US on what he says is one of “the most pressing foreign policy challenges of our time”.

He wants to send more US warships to the Strait of Hormuz, between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It is one of the world’s most strategically important shipping choke points.

Payne and Reynolds know that a build-up of US nuclear-powered warships on Iran’s doorstep will contribute to tension. Japan and Germany are resisting pressure to contribute.

It is not news to anyone that the US hawks have an insatiable desire to expand their network of bases across the world. Weapons production and sales are just as high on their agenda.

According to Iran, the US sold US$50 billion worth of weapons to its allies in the Middle East last year. The United Arab Emirates spent $22 billion and Saudi Arabia spent $87 billion.

By contrast Iran said it spent $16 billion.

Far from being a deterrent, the build up of weapons is contributing to the tinderbox atmosphere. It sets up greater possibilities of an all-out war starting on the basis of a small misjudgement by a lowly sailor – either Iranian or American.

Global military spending grew to a whopping $1822 billion in 2018, 5.4% higher than in 2009. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says global military spending is now 76% higher than in the post-Cold War low of 1998.

Australia, a junior partner in the US alliance, is keen to be part of the action, having already declared it wants to become among the top 10 weapons manufacturers globally.

Former defence minister Christopher Pyne is so keen to help that, after boosting Australia’s defence spending, he took on a lucrative advisory job in EY as a consultant to defence companies, just two months after leaving his cabinet position.

The Coalition government spent $26.7 billion in 2018, almost 2% of GDP, and up 21% since 2009, with not a peep from the so-called opposition, Labor.

Billions are being squandered on questionable defence projects with very little visibility or accountability. They know how unpopular this government spending is, especially as wages and welfare payments flatline.

Ultimately, however, to change this government’s warped priorities we need to build a strong people-powered opposition.

We need to stop Australia from entering a potentially catastrophic war on Iran and to halt its support for the profiteering arms’ industries. It’s been done before — and it needs to be done again

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