US vice-president Dick Cheney, about to visit Sydney, is not welcome.
Cheney is visiting Australia to meet with the Howard government in Canberra, and will address a meeting of supporters in Sydney on February 23 at 9.30am at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Rocks.
Cheney's visit comes at a time when the Bush government faces increasing isolation — internationally and domestically — for its war and occupation of Iraq. The routing of the Republicans in last year's mid-term elections, and Bush's recent announcement to deploy more than 20,000 extra troops to Iraq has increased that isolation.
Cheney, a former CEO of Halliburton, one of the key corporations to profit from the US war and occupation of Iraq, still receives handsome kick-backs from the war profiteering corporation.
Cheney represents the most corrupt and brutal aspects of the Bush administration. In the US, his approval rating has plunged to just 16%. Cheney has been outspoken in advocating torture in US prison camps like Guantanamo Bay. He has argued for US government endorsement of practices such as "water boarding", which involves almost drowning the prisoner, outlawed during the Vietnam war.
Australia is one of the few US allies left in the "coalition of the willing" countries that signed on to the Iraq war in 2003. Since then, many countries have pulled their troops out of Iraq, or are making plans to. Britain and Australia are exceptions.
The continued incarceration of David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay underlines the Australian government's support for the US-led war drive. PM John Howard has approved Hicks's trial in the sham military commission in which evidence obtained under torture is accepted.
Cheney's visit is an opportunity for the anti-war movement to increase the pressure on Howard to bring Hicks home and withdraw the troops from Iraq.
While Australia's contingent is small — some 1400 troops — it is nevertheless politically significant and reinforces the Australia-US alliance, which has always been an alliance between war criminals.
The ALP has called for the troops to leave Iraq. The NSW Labor Premier Morris Iemma should use Cheney's visit to forcefully reiterate this position.
Socialist Alliance is helping organise a "welcome" for Cheney in Sydney and Canberra. It's a crime that while David Hicks has been illegally incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay for five years, this war criminal, with the blood of 650,000 Iraqis on his hands, walks free.
Until we break the Australia-US war alliance, the world's peoples will be vulnerable to the dangerous whims of the warmongers such as Cheney, Bush and Howard.
[Pip Hinman is an activist in the Sydney Stop the War Coalition. Visit <http://www.stopwarcoaliton.org>. She is also standing for the Socialist Alliance in the NSW seat of Marrickville. Visit <http://www.socialist-alliance.org>.]