JOHN MENADUE War and militarisation has become our new norm.

 War and militarisation has become ever present in so much of our public life.

Australia Day this year should have been a civilian celebration of  our multicultural success. But the military were there on queue. They backed the citizenship celebration in Canberra with a gun salute and march past. The Navy was conspicuous on Sydney Harbour and we had the RAAF fly past. Meanwhile all around Australia mixed groups were quietly celebrating our real successes, the richness of our diversity and out social harmony.

The day after Jan. 26 we had the government boasting that it has plans for Australia to become one of the top 10 worlds arms suppliers. This is at the same time as we have announced dramatic cuts in our humanitarian aid program that saves lives. We are to export more military equipment to kill and maim. More militarisation.

When I arrive at Sydney Airport I see our Australian Border Force decked out in their military-style black uniforms. The personnel look intentionally like part of the Australian Defence Force instead of Customs and Immigration officers. There is clearly a message being conveyed. We need to act more like the military

Tony Abbott ran scare campaigns on many fronts particularly the ‘continuing war’ against ‘illegal’ asylum seekers and terrorists. The language was clear, we were at war with asylum seekers in their rickety boats. Scott Morrison described Operation Sovereign Borders run by the Navy as a ‘military-led border security operation’. He added that the battle against people-smugglers ‘is being fought using the full arsenal of measures’.

To keep our fears at fever point and the threat ever present Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton warn us about African youth gangs in Melbourne at a time when crime rates are declining.

Many of us had hoped that at last we were putting to an end the appointment of the Australian military as vice-regal representatives in Australia. But we are back-tracking on that with General Cosgrove our Governor General and General Hurley our Governor in NSW. The military is the norm. How pleasant it is to see a former refugee the Governor of SA.

Our aid programs have been progressively militarised. AIDWATCH has reported that our ‘military forces manipulate humanitarian aid in order to achieve tactical and political objectives. While the military can play an important role in the immediate aftermath of a humanitarian crisis, particularly through the provision of transport and creating a secure environment, researchers have found that militarised aid is not effective and can cause harm to local communities and aid workers’. It added ‘All Australian government activities in Afghanistan that are related to Operation Slipper – whether delivered by the ADF, AFP or Ausaid – are not aid.’ At a Senate Inquiry into Australia’s aid program to Afghanistan in December 2012 it revealed almost $200 million in military spending being reported as “aid”. The acknowledgement raised serious concerns about the close relationship between aid and Australian military and police forces in Afghanistan.’

The militarisation of Australia and our conditioning to it has been most evident in the extravagant celebration of the Centenary of the Gallipoli invasion and WWI. The Australian War Memorial has orchestrated an extremely well-funded campaign across the country, including schools, to depict WWI as the starting point of our history, our coming of age. The AWM celebrates war by accepting generous funding from arms suppliers, the agents of death as Pope Francis calls them

We are encouraged to celebrate the disastrous Gallipoli invasion and forget our great civilian and peace time achievements in the decades just before 1900 and in the subsequent decade. There were remarkable civilian achievements; federation, the national parliament, a living wage, rights for women and an Australian ballot. We were world leaders in these and other civilian achievements but we are encouraged to forget them so we can focus on our military history and valour.

Our foreign policy has become subjected to our military dependence on the US. . We are at the beck and call of the US military, usually regardless of our own interests.  With interoperability of equipment and personnel we are locked into the US war machine. We are dragooned time and time again into US disasters– Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan .Malcolm Fraser has warned us that the US is a ‘dangerous ally’. The US has many attractive features but war seems to be in its DNA. Since its independence in 1776, the US has been at war 93% of that time. It has never had a decade without war. It has launched 201 out of 248 armed conflicts since the end of WWII and maintains over 700 military bases around the world in more than 100 countries. Former President Eisenhower warned Americans about the industrial and military complex in the US. The warning should be for us as well as for the Americans about the militarisation of civilian institutions and values. Our foreign policy has been eclipsed by our mistaken military adventures and dependence on the US.

There is great danger that the militarisation of Australian history and our ready acceptance of the military as the accepted norm will lead us to more and more tragedy. We used to believe that committing our country to war was the most serious thing that any government could ever do. That is no more. We go to war without even the Australian parliament being consulted. Tony Abbott could hardly contain himself at the prospect of sending 1000 ADF troops to far away Ukraine after the downing of MH 17

Bill Shorten does not lift a finger to assert Australian sovereignty.

But  to keep our fears on high and to keep war machines running we now hear of terrorism as a threat being downplayed and a new threat is writ large for us, China and Russia. The cold war is to be revived.

And if all that is not enough to keep the military in full view we are told by the well funded stalwarts of the American Imperium  in Australia that it is all about defending western values. Really!

These stalwarts are the real and powerful agents of influence,not Sam Dastyari. He is small beer.

Henry Reynolds in this blog ‘Militarism marches on’, warned us ‘The threshold Australian governments need to cross in order to send forces overseas is perilously low. Because there has never been an assessment of why Australia has been so often involved in war, young people must get the impression that war is a natural and inescapable part of national life. It is what we do and we are good at it. We ‘punch above our weight’. War is treated as though it provides the venue and the occasion for Australian heroism and martial virtuosity. While there is much talk of dying, or more commonly of sacrifice, there is little mention of killing and never any assessment of the carnage visited on distant countries in our name.’

Militarisation is becoming more and more pervasive. We are sleep-walking in dangerous territory.

Even Australia Day is not free of the clutches of the military.

War and militarisation have become our norm.

 

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5 Responses to JOHN MENADUE War and militarisation has become our new norm.

  1. tasi timor says:

    Our renewed period of militarisation began in 1999 with INTERFET, a dangerous moment more than merely supported by the Left that engendered the renewed jingosim of Australia Day 2000. When the myths of both Left and Right combine to form a National Myth, it takes brave historians to challenge it. In Australia, there are none.

  2. Greg Bailey says:

    This is an excellent summation of the build up of images of militarization in our society and media/political culture. It is also very disturbing, as John has joined the dots so effectively. Most people may notice one of the developments he points out and consider it in isolation from everything else, but when joined together they paint a disturbing picture of a changed culture designed to do the bidding of some very cynical, if highly motivated, forces.

    I would add that the proliferation of television programs–even televised on the ABC!– dealing with border security, minor traffic infringements and the like, all showing real police and customs officers in action, works hand in hand with this kind of militarization and upgrading of security concerns. I also note that these programs are not dealing with highly organised white collar crime, but with very minor misdemeanours usually committed by people of “working class” backgrounds. But they are effective because what the offenders do is black and white and easy to portray on the television screen.

    All this serves to reinforce that most Australians are very subservient to authority, despite the larrikin image, which in truth represents a highly conservative view of the world–a bit of ostentatious rebellion with no follow through. As such, and with a high dose of fatalism amongst the majority of the population, the possibility of this militarization being a prelude to more authoritarian governance is a very real one. The attacks on the various “resistance” groups such as Get Up are a sign of this, as is the compliance being shown by the mass media, with even media outlets like the Age and the ABC becoming less critical and more taken up with celebrity culture.

  3. A Sniveller says:

    I lay the blame at John Howard for most of this. But you’ll have noticed also that police forces in most western countries have been slowly militarised over the last 15 to 20 years, both through appearance (black not blue), and weapons such as water cannon, tasers, etc.

  4. Colin Cook says:

    Great article indeed but how can we get the message out into the wider public domain. This blog is great but needs to be more widely read. Maybe there could be a standing exhortation, ‘I you liked this article, mail it now to three friends – or post on your favourite social media platform.’ or some such

  5. Peter Davis says:

    Thank you for your great article.

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