Prime Minister John Howard's December 1 statement in an interview on Channel Nine's Sunday program that his government would launch pre-emptive military attacks on neighbouring countries to stop any suspected terrorist strike on Australia has understandably met with outrage throughout South-East Asia.
As a statement issued in Manila on December 4 by the 200,000 member Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP — Solidarity of Filipino Workers) labour federation observes: "'Pre-emptive strike' is nothing more than a code word for brazenly violating the national sovereignty of Third World nations, which is now the centrepiece of the post-September 11  doctrine of the Bush gang in the White House, as it seeks to strengthen US global hegemony... The Australian government intends to piggyback on the US, in order to grab for itself a piece of the action.
"Australia", the BMP statement accurately noted, "has historically assumed the role of general super-cop policing the Asia-Pacific region in the interests of imperialism. It has been the United States' loyal junior partner, assisting the US in its wars of intervention against every single attempt by the peoples of the region to overthrow the yoke of foreign domination, from Malaya and Korea, to Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor and Bougainville."
The initial angry comments made by government officials from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines in response to Howard's statement have begun to moderate after Howard made it clear in parliament that his December 1 statement was "not in any way directed against the governments of the countries of our region".
While this may ease the concerns of the governments of South-East Asia, it in no way diminishes Howard's threat of pre-emptive military action — what used to be called "aggression" — against the poor people of these countries.
In a statement issued on December 5, the Peoples Democratic Party of Indonesia, that country's largest left-wing party, observed that Howard's threat to carry out "pre-emptive strikes against terrorist threats in South-East Asia is clearly an arrogant statement from an imperialist country which wishes to show its fangs to the poor people" of the region.
The PRD statement noted that since the October 12 Bali bombings "not a week has passed without actions by the Australian government which continues to drum up" the threat of "war against the poor people of South-East Asia" under the cover of "defence" against "terrorists" and "Islamic fundamentalism". "Howard", the statement adds, "intends to stick this label on all the poor people of South-East Asia".
Howard's December 1 statement is part of a calculated drive led by the US ruling elite to condition the working people of the US and Australia to accept Washington's and Canberra's "right" to wage war against any resistance by Third World workers and peasants to the systematic plunder of their nations' resources.
While this is presented as necessary to defend the citizens of these countries from terrorist attacks, the most immediate target for a "pre-emptive" strike is Iraq, despite the fact that no credible evidence has been presented that Iraq has any connection with "Islamic terrorists". What Iraq does have, however, is vast petroleum reserves that are not presently under the direct control of the First World's oil corporations.
[For the full texts of the statements, visit the Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific web site <pacific-action.org>.]
From Green Left Weekly, December 11, 2002.
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