Preparing to protest the ‘peace’ president

Image: Lauren Carroll Harris

“Break the war alliance” is one of the key messages anti-war groups will send to US President Barack Obama when he visits Australia in June.

Protesters plan to focus on the stepped-up US war drive in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will also demand of Obama and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that the occupying troops leave.

Compared to the Bush administration, total US defence spending is projected to rise from US$534.5 billion in 2006 to $663.7 billion in 2010 according to Congressional budget papers.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has cut education spending, which in 2006 was $56 billion, to a projected $46.7 billion in 2010.

Obama has surpassed his predecessor in authorising US drone missile attacks on Pakistan. In 2004, there were five such missile attacks. In 2009 there were 44, which killed more than 700 people — 90% of whom were civilians.

This year marks the seventh anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and nine years of the West’s occupation of Afghanistan. Clear majorities across the West now oppose these occupations.

Apart from the wanton killing and destruction, more than US$1 trillion has been spent on these wars — money that could have been productively spent on health care, education, green jobs and energy efficiency programs.

Obama talks about the “draw down” of soldiers in Iraq, but more than 130,000 US troops will remain in and around Iraq on huge US military bases.

Sydney Stop the War Coalition is organising a candlelight vigil and march on June 18 (see ad the activist calendar) to highlight these and related issues. Hadi Zaher, an Afghan-Australian, and Marcus Strom, Summer Hill Labor Party branch secretary, are among the speakers.

The United Nations has been forced to withdraw its operating staff from Kabul due to security concerns, and yet the Rudd government has declared a freeze on processing Afghan asylum claims, declaring that the country is now “safer”.

Activists also oppose the US push to increase sanctions on Iran, will only hurt the most marginalised Iranians.

Obama’s broken promises on closing Guantanamo Bay and other torture centres will be addressed by a speaker for the campaign for justice for Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist and mother of three, who the FBI has declared to be one of seven "most wanted" al-Qaeda fugitives.

She was convicted in a US district court in February for attempted murder and armed assault against US personnel in Afghanistan, but not for any terrorism-related charges.

The protest will also address the US’s increasing belligerence in Latin America.

[Pip Hinman is an activist in Sydney Stop the War Coalition and is the Socialist Alliance’s candidate for the NSW seat of Grayndler.]