Sunday, April 13, 2014

On the Pivot - a script for a radio program.

The Pivot to Asia
The term pivot is sometimes claimed to be a word that is too hard for the ordinary citizen to comprehend.  It is a term that only those who study international relations or are specialist journalists or activists readily understand.  In the context that Obama used it in 2011 was that it was a sudden turn in the direction of US foreign policy.  The US is changing its direction in foreign policy.  Formally it has been preoccupied with the Middle East and Europe and now it is going to concentrate more of its efforts in the Asia region.  The US and current Australian usage now focuses on the word ‘rebalancing’.  A seemingly much ‘nicer’ word with less aggressive over tones but pivot and rebalancing are interchangeable.

What does it entail exactly for Australia?
Each regional ally, including Australia have been expected to increase military spending, make available bases of various sizes and tasks while hosting US military exercises around their countries at an increasing rate.  The US while being the biggest spender on the military in the world is also keen for its allies to pay extra for the their militaries and supply facilities and assets for its use. 
Australia has been the first most prominently involved in the pivot with the decision to station Marines in Darwin which raised eyebrows in China.  There has been many significant moves in other regional countries about the positioning of US military forces with extra ports and bases.
Australia is finding that out that even though it hosts 50 Bases already, this is insufficient to satisfy the needs of the pivot.  Australia has put at the disposal of the US bases in Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.  The number of bases now at the disposal surpasses the 50 mentioned above and as far as we can tell Australia has had to build and finance the new accommodation for Marines in Darwin.  We can expect more and more use of our territory as some have suggested for Nuclear capable navy craft and drones to be used over SE Asia.
In previous agreements between the US and Australia has seen an arrangement put in place that would have the US using Australia military bases in an emergency.  Since the pivot the use of bases has increased markedly especially the military training bases of Shoalwater Bay Queensland and Bradshaw and a tank firing base in the Northern Territory.  As far as we know the use of these bases are free of charge and the Government claims that the advantage we get back is the use of US military tactics, equipment and training in the US way.  In regard to the Air Force the bombing range of Delemere near Catherine is to be increasingly used first by US air force planes flying directly from Guam or  from RAAF bases in Australia.  Other regional allies will be using this bombing range more frequently.  The US navy is keen to extend the facilities in Darwin and Freemantle for its ships as well as storing materiel for present and future conflicts.  Space does not miss out, with more bases being built near the town of Exmouth, these bases will have sophisticated radar and telescope detection of space based weapons.  For years the US military have fostered the integration of Australian and other forces into it own force and they have named this process ‘interoperability’.
We in Australia could say our whole country has become a US base as they will no longer restrict their bases to isolated desert locations.
The pivot means that the US will have more bases in Australia and even if we had little control previously we now find ourselves completely outflanked by the US military.  Despite many requests from Anti Bases and IPAN, we have had no assurances from the Australian Government that it will Ban the US from launching military attacks on other countries from our shores.
The previous Gillard ALP Government caused some distress in Washington when it cut military spending by $5 billion in 2013.  Envoys from the States came out and abraded us for our lack of effort in relation to military spending.  One media report ran:
Former United States deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage has criticised Australia for appeasing China in a toned-down Defence white paper and warned Australia can’t continue “free riding” off its alliance with the US. August 2013
We counter what more do they want?  They already have had Australia spend over $15 billion on the war in Afghanistan and lose over 40 lives plus many disabled by injuries for life.  Australia provides free access to our military facilities and training bases plus the dedicated 50 US Bases.  The simple answer to what more do they want is the US wants MORE.  More treasure, more subservience, more Australian troops doing what is in the interests of US foreign policy in the Asia Pacific and still they will not be satisfied.  
The Abbott Government has announced it wants to see military spending go from around 1.4% of GDP to 2% of GDP in real terms from around $27 billion to $50 billion per year.  Already the Government is promising cuts in services and jobs in an effort to enable it to pay for the present level.  The attack on the poor presently under way in Australia can only have at its heart a desire by the Federal Government to direct more money into the military. 
The pivot will cost Australian lives as services are cut and austerity measures kick in to finance the exorbitant military spending.  Unrest and unpopularity caused by these measures and organised resistance is the only force which can turn the Government from excessive military spending.  Even the Abbott Government has had to delay the submarine program of the Rudd Government which was to cost $100 billion.  Suddenly a report has stated after years of mocking of the Collins Class subs they have gone from ‘dud subs’ to remarkable, astonishing in a report by British submarine expert John Coles.  Even more recently on 9th April 2014 the Defence Minister announced that the plans for 12 subs have been put on hold.
More military exercises with the US are firmly on the agenda on Australian soil and in the region.  The main Australian exercise Talisman Sabre a two yearly event will become even bigger, include more elements of civil society and more expensive.  The training component of the Pivot is substantial in Australia and other parts of the region.  In Australia, there has been a huge US military investment in Shoalwater Bay to enable it to be wired to US headquarters in Hawaii as well as building facilities at Bradshaw for landing huge US air force transport planes.
The pivot effects Australia in broader ways too.
The pivot presents many problems for us internationally as we are unable to act in our own interests and find ourselves in an odd situation with ChinaChina is our main trading partner and the country which we rely on to get us out of economic misery in downturns yet we are in planning with the US to help it attack ChinaAustralia will have to decide which way it will go either for China or US, it cannot maintain the current Schizophrenic policy where it trades China and assists the US to surround and strangle.
We all know how embarrassed the Australian Government is by the Snowden revelations.  They mean that the Government is helping the US spy on Australian citizens, regional leaders for example the wife of the Indonesian president.  Again this weakens the view of Australia as a reasonable progressive and democratic nation among our neighbours and instead projects an unpleasant image.
As well Pine Gap and Shoal Bay assist the highly illegal drone war being waged in Pakistan by the CIA.  This activity means Australia is involved in human rights violation by extra judicial killing.
The other part of the pivot is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deals which seeks to deal China out of the equation in this region.  Despite this being a scheme to block China from trade and increase the influence of the US it is not an exercise in charity by the US towards Australia and the region.  The TPP will demand more and more resources and services which Australians expect.  There is much angst about the possible repercussion of this agreement on our film industry and our medical programs to name but a few.
We have had reports that the Local Government and Territory Government were fiercely sidelined when Obama came to town to massage the pro US feeling.  Only the most fawning of officials were invited and all reports of dissent were ignored.  The privot threatens democracy by stifling debate and information sharing.
The fightback
Both the two major parties fall over each other to prove who is the most pro US and the media gives us wall to wall supportive coverage in favour of the US and its pivot.  The Greens maintain some presence as an anti pivot force but their words are quickly dismissed or ignored.  There is a real struggle to get discussion going among Australian about the benefits and drawbacks of the US pivot for Australia.  The task of the Australian peace movement is to work to get this discussion going in these difficult times yet it is being done.
In the recent past the regular peace marches, namely those marking the end of the Iraq war, Palm Sunday and Hiroshima Day still continue and these efforts and many smaller protests have continued.  The Australian Anti-Bases Campaign has taken its fight against US war efforts from bases to the military exercises and has held peace convergences on Rockhampton’s Shoalwaterbay training area as the Talisman Sabre exercise is conducted.  They have been arriving in Rockhampton every two years since 1997 to challenge this exercise and its war preparation purpose.  Similarly, it has along with other peace groups participated in reviews of Australian Government military policies putting a strong and persistent case for reduced spending.  In recent years we have participated in the Global Day of Action against Military Spending (GDAMS). 
In order to support and foster growing resistance to the US pivot in Australia, the Australian peace movement felt it should reorganize and come together in a broad grouping which eventually called itself the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN).  This group has been going for a few years and is gradually becoming more significant in the minds of activists as they fight the US pivot to the Asia Pacific. 
From April 21 to April 26 there will be a series of conferences and events called the Canberra Peace Convergence, on April 21 there will be the inaugural National meeting of all IPAN affiliates and supporters.  This event is vital to get more resistance going to the plans of the US and its regional complicit elites to promote more violence and disruption on our region. 
The National IPAN conference is shaping up as a significant event for all the peace movement of Australia to increase its activity and encourage more people to join us in the resistance to this all out rush to war that the pivot represents.  The academics speakers from various Australian Universities will bring a wealth of knowledge about military matters, resistance matters and a wealth of experience from various peace groups from around Australia.  We will hear directly from Darwin through Justin Tutty and what his Base Watch Group are doing to counter directly US marine activity in his city, as well as from a former US Marine and Iraq vet Victor Emmanuele.  A partial list of the academic speakers is Dr. Michael McKinley ANU, Marty Branagan UNE and author of the book
 “Global Warming, Militarism and Non Violence:The Art of Active Resistance”.  If you have not already done so it would be great if you could get to this historic and ground braking series.

The pivot is not in the interests of the region or its development.  Get out there and get active.

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