Why stationing the B-52s is an ‘act of war’

December 21, 2022
B52 stealth bomber. Photo: US Defense Department

Putting six United States air force B-52 strategic bombers in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Tindal in the Northern Territory was just one of several dangerous moves to further integrate Australia into the US’ war plans against China, warned Richard Tanter, Senior Research Associate, Nautilus Institute and Honorary Professor in the School of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

Tanter was one of three guest speakers in an online forum, organised by the Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition, titled “B52s — An Act of War” on December 14. The other speakers were Darwin peace activist Justin Tutty and Keiran Finnane, author of Peace Crimes: Pine Gap, National Security and Dissent.

The Scott Morrison Coalition government authorised a $1 billion expansion of the Tindal base for the B-52s without there ever being a discussion in the parliament. The public only heard of this when ABC’s Four Corners program revealed the secret plan on October 31.

Tanter said the purpose of stationing the non-nuclear armed B-52s in Tindal was to “lessen the vulnerability of the US strategic bomber task force to Chinese long-range missile attack”. He said AUKUS’s purpose for Australia was to buy nuclear-powered submarines “to marginally supplement US fleet protection capabilities to attack China, and/or to help destroy China’s second strike nuclear deterrence submarine-based missile force”.

Taken together with the joint naval communication facility near Exmouth, Western Australia and the joint facility in Pine Gap, Australia was now integrating at a higher level into the US nuclear war-fighting system, Tanter said.

Tanter explained that the Pine Gap base near Alice Springs had been substantially expanded since 1970. It had three main functions: relaying information from US spy satellites collecting a wide range of electronic transmissions; spying on other country’s satellites; and infra-red detection of missile flares.

This expanded military integration with the US would play a critical defensive and offensive role in a nuclear war against China, Tanter said.

“After the Madrid summit earlier this year, NATO is now effectively a global alliance drawing in second tier allies like Australia, Japan and India,” he told the forum. “This increases the danger of war over rocks in the South China Sea.”

Finnane and Tutty decried Australia’s mainstream media’s largely uncritical reporting of US-Australia military integration expansion which they said included routine “puff pieces” about military hardware and joint training exercises.

Tutty described several disturbing failures to bring to trial, and cover-ups of, sexual assaults committed by US Marines stationed in Darwin since 2014.  “There have been 11 rotations of US Marines and the numbers have now grown to 2,500 in each rotation.”

The way these sexual assaults have been swept under the carpet should make the public even more concerned about what it is being told about the even more secretive military side of the US bases, said Tutty.

The public was systematically being led to believe that all the expanding military integration with the US was a legitimate and necessary response to a growing military threat from China. This was a lie, Tanter explained. While he had other strong criticisms of the Chinese government, “China is not the advancing imperialist power that the media claims”.

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