AUKUS: the latest capitulation on defence by our born-to-rule elites

Oct 25, 2021
Scott Morrison nuclear submarine announcement uk us AUKUS
Scott Morrison, flanked by Boris Johnson and Joe Biden, announces the AUKUS agreement. (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Conservative Coalition leaders have a history of committing Australia to overseas military adventures – and the ‘patriotic’ media have never questioned the propaganda.

Australian media have accepted the line that strategic planners in the US and the UK have rationally decided that an alliance with Australia is important for Western security. Historically, the media have swallowed the Coalition line that we are good allies and respond when the US or UK asks for assistance. This uncritical, gullible approach has been proven wrong time and again.

In 1914, Australia assured Britain that we were ready to offer assistance in a war against Germany long before any request came our way. In the 1960s, the Menzies government invited itself into Vietnam, perhaps with an eye to a looming south-east Asian ideological war centring on rising communism in Indonesia.

In the 21st century, the Howard government swallowed the lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and promised US president George W. Bush unqualified support for an invasion. It also pushed into Afghanistan knowing that our presence there would be so limited as to
be little more than a token. In every case, Australian media adopted a patriotic attitude and failed to question the propaganda. Thousands
of lives have been lost in the political posturing over these avoidable catastrophes.

The body language of US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been informative. With the announcement of AUKUS, both Biden and Johnson looked quite bemused, if not slightly puzzled. Comments by both suggested that old-what’s-his-name down under would explain everything in time.

At this point they did not have much detail. It looked likely that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had appealed to both men for a general statement of support. It also seems likely that the appeal would have been along the lines that Morrison’s political opponents were breathing down his neck and that, should they oust him, Australia’s ongoing support for the UK and the US internationally could no longer be assumed. Our vote in the UN, for example, might suddenly change.

Once upon a time, it was unthinkable that we might move our allegiance from Britain to the US. Why we cannot at least consider a world in which we need neither is incomprehensible. Our apparent need is based on common strategic interests, but too often some kind of brotherhood is implied and accepted unquestioningly. Perhaps it is inevitable that when much of our media comes from the UK or the US, a cultural cringe develops and numbs any sense of Australian identity.

But consider objectively for a moment exactly to whom and what AUKUS commits Australia and the poverty of these choices is breathtaking. The US talks of democracy but exports dictatorship across Latin America in particular. During the CIA’s illegal mining of Managua Harbour in Nicaragua, for example, an incisive cartoon by Patrick Cook had dialogue between two “operatives” pushing mines out of a plane. One says: “How long are we going to prop up right-wing dictators?” The other replies: “Until they start electing some.”

While we might shun closer ties with China because of its questionable human rights record, why would any rational decision-maker want us to emulate the US? It is problematic to prove racism but on some measures at least the US makes the “top ten” list for the worst race equality.

Surely the notion that it is necessary to assert that “Black Lives Matter” exposes deep divisions and wounds in a society. Nor does it
appear the US leadership is troubled greatly by the need for reconciliation and healing.

In 2020, the US experienced 20,000 firearms deaths. A country that allows 400 people to be killed domestically every week can make no claim to act as international peacekeeper. Killing is an American attribute. Then of course there are problems with the excesses of capitalism which lead to the dumping of unhealthy products in vulnerable economies and the belittling of trade unionism. These are ideological difficulties to which Australian conservatives have no objection.

Meanwhile, post-Brexit Britain faces strains that could lead to violence — on the Irish border for example. Throughout its imperialist history, England has sanctioned murder and distorted the truth about its policies in the face of undeniable evidence. There is no need to remind ourselves about events such as “Bloody Sunday” — one of several — to remember there are severe limitations to British ideals of justice.

In Australia, where a significant portion of the population consists of descendants of displaced Irish people, it is horrific to think that
our defence policy might commit us to unquestioning support of dubious decisions made in London about the Irish border.

Already there are signs that the old cynicism about “you’re Irish until you are proven innocent” prevails. Even-handed British analysis of the looming border troubles is unlikely. And there are the festering constitutional issues of British usurpation of Indigenous Australia and the dismissal of a legitimately elected government in 1975. How do we in good conscience give unquestioning support to two states responsible for the continued persecution of Australian Julian Assange? Do we really need to prop up such failed or failing states?

Executive government should never have the power to engage in alliances or wage wars. The history of Australia’s entry to overseas conflicts shows that truth becomes a casualty long before any shot is fired. Deceitful behaviour by our born-to-rule elites is yet again being accepted by our uncritical mass media. Definitely ditch AUKUS and its arch agent.

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