'We want a world without war'

October 24, 2001


George Bush and Tony Blair's war on terrorism is totally hypocritical. The Bush administration is quite happy to throw more than US$40 billion at the war effort, meanwhile back in the US, 44 million people live below the poverty line.

Their rhetoric says that they are fighting for justice and democracy, but for the past 10 years they have murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and they have a long, sordid history of funding conflict in the Middle East.

These are not governments that want a world without war. Their policies and their actions create war and division and mass poverty.

The same breathtaking hypocrisy can be seen here in Australia. PM John Howard in the "great" debate last week spoke of so-called "mateship" and "a fair go", yet in the same breath talked up war and attempted to justify his racist policies in a bid to get re-elected.

Less than two months ago Howard was a pariah in the political wilderness. Massive defeats in recent state elections mean that the Coalition today only governs in one state and in one territory. Howard was facing certain defeat at the next election, and had to do something — fast. So he chose to play the race card and to play it hard, and, more recently, to go strong on supporting the US war.

For the last six years the Coalition has criminalised and demonised asylum seekers in the eyes of the Australian public.

This has been so Howard and Ruddock can lock them up, beat them up, deny them basic human rights and, as a final solution, imprison them on remote islands in the middle of the Pacific. No government of a developed country has gone further than the Australian government in the cruel treatment of asylum seekers.

With the attacks in the US, Howard seized upon another opportunity to promote his politics of hatred and of division.

To "protect" Australians against the threat of asylum seekers coming to Australia's shores, Howard has committed a guided missile destroyer, two Anzac frigates, a supply ship, a transport ship, an unknown number of patrol boats, four PC-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft and a detachment of SAS soldiers. Estimates of the cost to taxpayers so far are about $5 million per day.

For the war in Afghanistan, Howard has committed two Orion aircraft, 1550 personnel, an Anzac frigate, possibly a naval command ship and two Boeing 707 air-to-air refuelling aircraft.

War is clearly a big priority — more of a priority than, say, decently funding our public health or education systems, or indeed, more important than helping those fleeing the ruthless Taliban in Afghanistan.

Howard's response to these issues isn't about justice; it's about distracting us from the Liberals' economic and social policies and getting himself re-elected. And unfortunately he's now in with a chance.

Howard's recent soaring popularity can also be directly attributed to Labor's absolute refusal to provide an alternative voice. Beazley's shameful backing of the government on the issues of refugees and the war has legitimised One Nation's refugee policy and helped fuel racism and hatred within Australia.

It's no wonder many Australians are disillusioned with mainstream political parties. An obsession with war and with fighting imaginary threats from Iraqi women and children are not helping ordinary Australians find jobs, get decent health care or an education. They're not helping to stem the growing list of corporate collapses and resulting redundancies, conservatively estimated at a loss of 28,000 jobs in the three months to December.

Worse, racism is being tacitly endorsed and scapegoats made out of innocent people.

But it's not all bad news. In the past couple of years we have witnessed a growing, international anti-capitalist movement that has effectively challenged the mentality of corporate globalisation. In Australia and around the world we have seen thousands of people out on the streets against war and militarism and for peace.

Coalition governments have been dumped across the country. But where people's votes now go isn't certain. Labor's continued drift to the right has opened up a new electoral space for the left, as working class people, denied the traditional political representation through the Labor Party, seek alternatives.

One such alternative is the Socialist Alliance, which is striving to make the process of voting relevant to ordinary people. We are seeking to involve ourselves and others in real politics — not simply the shenanigans that occur every three years at election time — but the politics of fighting for real change.

Building the anti-war movement is one of the most effective ways of undermining Howard's racism and war-mongering. Socialist Alliance is heavily committed to this, to getting thousands of people out on the streets, and stands firmly on a platform of no US retaliation and no Australian involvement in Afghanistan.

Put simply, a vote for the Socialist Alliance is a vote against the war. We must continue to challenge the priorities of political leaders who would apologise for a system that puts the profits of multinationals before people, who would rather spend billions on military hardware than address the poverty and suffering of those fleeing conflict.

We stand with the hundreds of thousands around the world who are mobilising against US military retaliation and against the multinationals and governments who will profit from the war.

And finally, we stand with all those who believe that another world is possible, a world without poverty or the ruthless drive for profit, above all else a world without war.

[Sue Johnson is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Grayndler, in the inner western suburbs of Sydney. This article is abridged from a talk she presented to a Socialist Alliance public meeting in Sydney on October 16.]

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