Us or us?
January 15, 2013 in Australia-Oceania
Australia, if you thought we were geographically safe from things like the effects of Fukashima radiation, if you thought the Powers That Be had overlooked this place- were planning to use it as some sort of escape destination when they finally destroy the northern hemisphere 100%, you were wrong. They are here and they are moving in lock stock and barrel. Literally.
In February 2010 and all through 2011, there were rumblings; talks that US Marines were to be stationed in Australia. Mr. Obama and Julia Gillard held talks about installing a training ground for US Marines in Darwin which would include above ground activities and amphibious exercises. Throughout these talks, Australian Defence Minister, Stephen Smith stated that any US occupation would not be a permanent but that wepons would be stored. He said the areas would be a training ground where Marines would pass through months at a time during the dry season, and leave. Australian media then asked the predictable questions about whether placing Marines at the top end of Australia would antagonize Indonesia due to proximity and also gain China’s attention as America proceeded to “have a presence in the Asian Pacific region.”
Following on from former presidents, Reagan and Bill Clinton’s ideas, Obama believed it was essential to the USA to protect commercial traffic in the Pacific and that the Asia Pacific region was one that was going to play a vital role in the US’s future economic development. He also mentioned that the plans to unite Australia and the US in this way would reaffirm ties with Australia on issues of national security which was also the reason Julia Gillard stated.
The White house refused to make commentary on whether or not the military base in Darwin was going ahead but by the end of Obama’s visit in 2011, agreements had been drawn up and the nightly news flashed the details, nicely glossed over with screenshots of Obama shaking excited people’s hands. The deal was done and Australia was signed up to another agenda that no one was fully informed about.
There were approximately 250 Marines (from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment)training in the Northern Territory’s Robertson Barracks, 20 miles east of Darwin this year. They are the first US soldiers to be stationed in Australia since WW2. Soldiers with this particular company have been to Afghanistan twice in recent years. Lieutenant-Colonel AnDroy Senegar, an eighteen year veteran of the Marine Corps interviewed at his Darwin office and quoted in the Sydney Morning Hearald (April 2012) said, “We will build no infrastructure. We will subsist on Australian food. We will be part of the community. It will be a partnership. We will not be intrusive.” However, recent news suggests otherwise.
The numbers of Marines present in the top end of Australia will increase to battalion strength; about 1000 by 2014 and then a 2500-3000 person Marine Air-Ground Task Force by 2016. The Marines aren’t coming alone either, they plan to have vehicles, ships and aircraft brought over. New runways will be built at the Robertson base and changes made to the Tindal base to accommodate the aircraft as well as bigger hangars and the larger use of fuel. All of these things are supposedly catered for in the budget – the one that Australian taxpayers contribute to with only a flimsy footnote from sources stating the US will contribute towards the cost.
There has never been an amount made public or a date when these rumoured US funds may make themselves available. As part of the agreement, Australia’s Defence Force will also be making a shift to take on more amphibious capabilities to match their US counterparts and other training is thought to include disaster relief, live round firing, evacuations and ‘humanitarian assistance.’
The combination of training subjects does not sound good. When looking around at the world, seeing the ‘disaster relief’ US military and special forces have given to victims of Katrina, Sandy and also the documented uselessness of FEMA lately, it is worrying. It gets worse when looking at the next part of the agreement Australia has entered into, which is to construct a US Navy Base in Rockingham, forty minutes south of Perth in Western Australia.
The latest plan in the agreement was officially announced in November 2012 when Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s and (former head of the CIA) Defence Secretary Leon Panetta visited Western Australia, Clinton sighting the trip, and other scheduled commitments, as reasons why she could not testify in the Benghazi court proceedings which were going on at the time. Footage on the news showed them getting off a plane onto the tarmac to a line-up of the usual suspects; Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Defence Minister Stephen Smith, Premier of the State of WA Colin Barnett and the infamous Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr (who attended Bohemian Grove this year) ahead of the AUSMIN meeting to hammer out the specifics.
Western Australia is a huge state, the vastness alone is a goldmine to military operations and prospective investors because it is rich with Uranium, which despite all protest and second thinking, the government has recently decided to export to other countries. The state has many sparsely situated towns and nothingness in between, stretches of uninhabited areas that could be used to build structures, store items or create bomb testing ranges with minimal exposure to passers-by.
One of the plans mentioned in the agreement was that weapons such as missiles would be stored in Western Australia and there would also be “shelters” built. There was no elaboration of what the word “shelter” meant. Some people are speculating whether these shelters have something to do with the “training” these men are partaking in, again, consisting of disaster management and humanitarian assistance. Does this mean the shelters are Fema-style camps or is it simply referring to shelters for the deadly weaponry?
The base south of Perth is not out in the middle of nowhere as may be imagined. Rockingham is a beachside town populated by approximately 108, 200 people who live in the area (only 7 kms away) and also countless others who pass through from Perth City and surrounding suburbs to visit shopping centres and go to the beach and cinemas.
HMAS Stirling is the location the US Navy will be using, an already established base used for Australian Navy submarines, frigates and personnel. Two American Submarines, one nuclear powered – USS Michigan, already visited the site in April 2012. In the past the general public was allowed to have access to the area during the day before US involvement but in 2010 this was changed and no civilians are welcome there unless sponsored by someone in the military. The base has also expanded greatly over the past two decades to include a Submarine Escape Training Facility, one of only six in the world and the only one in the southern hemisphere.
The American Navy plans to have personnel fly between Darwin and Perth and launch unmanned high altitude drones (Global Hawk drones) to fly over (just?) the Indian Ocean, possibly from the Cocos Islands. They will also bring two warships to the WA base with plans to have Nuclear Submarines in the region in the future as well as aircraft carriers.
Cockburn Sound (the coastal area surrounding the base) will have to be dredged to accommodate these vessels at a cost of millions. Some environmental groups have raised concerns about the contamination of the water, destruction resulting from the dredging, cost to local wild and marine life and the oils, solvents and carcinogenic chemicals used to maintain these vessels.
The only politician who isn’t brushing over the concerns as we are infiltrated is, perhaps surprisingly, a Greens Senator. Scott Ludlam who, although supports the Carbon Tax, seems hot on other freedoms and sovereignty of the country. In a speech made to parliament in November 2011 he asked, “Can we forget, please, this concept of a marine base hosting 2,500 US marines on a rotating basis? Because of course that is just the label on the box. Once established, the facility will take whatever the shape the US government requires it to,” and in a speech to parliament almost one year to the day later in 2012 after Clinton and Panetta’s visit, he said; “This has major ramifications for Australia and for our role in the region. The consent of the Australian public and our parliament was not sought and nor was it given. At AUSMIN, without a whisper of consultation or consent, these arrangements were ‘consolidated’. The communique describes it as ‘US rebalance towards the region’. Other commentators are instead using the words ‘containment’ and ‘arms race’.
Julian Assange also weighed in with his thoughts, this year telling National Indigenous Television in an interview’s Jeremy Geia “I am not reactively anti-American alliance, but to actually station foreign troops on Australian soil, all these bases … to do it in a provocative way when China is aggressively pushing its influence, it sends out all the wrong signals.”
For the rest of the Australian public it seems the issue has gone relatively ignored and they were never consulted. It was not voted on, never a decision which requested petition or protest from the public. Julia Gillard, Stephen Smith and the big-wigs from the US told the Australian people what was going to happen.
In a defence -lead social impact study carried out in Darwin, it was found that there were two speeding fines issued to Marines while they were in Australia training from April to September 2012. Australian Major General Michael Krause was quoted as saying, “I just ask people to judge them by what they’ve done rather than some of the alarmist suggestions about what they might do,” but by acknowledging previously recorded statistics and facts, it is well known that when a foreign military is stationed in another country the crime rate rises; incidences of rape, traffic and vehicle related crimes, abductions and assaults. One need only look at Okinawa and the Middle East to see the documented devastation.
The Australian public has also been kept in the dark regarding the specifics of any new laws surrounding the HMAS Stirling base. There has been no public statement as yet whether anyone trespassing (for example) will be charged under US law or Australian law. Will there be changes? Is it still an Australian piece of land of will there be a Pine Gap type of arrangement? And what about the loopholes in the agreement between the US and Australia regarding Stirling and Darwin?
Australia and the US hold very different positions on matters relating to humanitarian law and arms control. One of the key differences is the opinion on the use of Cluster bomb devices that contain numerous small ‘bomblets’ which spread over the size of two football fields and can be deployed from the air or the ground. They are impossible to control when detonated, killing indiscriminately and sometimes leaving behind unexploded bombs which become like landmines. This is another subject the environmentally-concerned are worried about too, will the use of these weapons and others over the landscape contaminate it for other uses? Will the chemicals and powders used blow across the country and affect other areas?
Australia signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008 which sought to “put an end to all suffering and causalities caused by cluster munitions. ” Obama and the US refused to sign and only agreed for a ban on those made before 1980. As the base in Darwin will be housing B2 Bombers, used to deploy these weapons, it is extremely probable that the US will be stockpiling Cluster Munitions there too ,essentially disrespecting Australia’s official position on the subject with no complaint from the Gillard government or opposition. Australian soldiers, under the Convention, are not permitted to construct, fire, develop, stockpile, transfer or retain these weapons but are allowed to assist a state or country who did not sign the agreement in the course of military cooperation. (Section 72.41 in the Bill)
If there is a military action that Australia does not agree with launched from these bases, what will the government do then? The bipartisan silence on the subject already does not bode well for Australians most of which were against involvement in the Iraq war. So it is with great apprehension and dread that we approach the new year, awaiting the Marines and Navy warships to enter our states and territories. We have only snippets of information to go on and hints at agreements signed that have put our country in a difficult position, one both sides of the government refuse to investigate thoroughly and inform the people of.