BRIAN TOOHEY Chained to the chariot wheels of the Pentagon

The British monarchy has no say in Australian government decisions. It’s a different story with the head of the American Republic. A US president presides over a military-industrial-intelligence complex with a huge say in whether Australian governments go to war, buy particular weapons, host US-run military and intelligence bases and ban trade with certain countries. The upshot is that Australia has now surrendered much of its sovereignty to the US.

The US requires almost all countries that buy its weapons systems to send sensitive components back to the US for repairs, maintenance and replacements without the owners being allowed access to critical information, including source codes, needed to keep these systems operating. As far back as August 2001, a Parliamentary Library research paper concluded that it was “almost literally true that Australia cannot go to war without the consent of the US”.  Since then, Australia has become much more dependent on US support for far more complex systems. As a result, Australia could be defenceless if attacked, unless the US allows the defence force independent access to key operational components of fighter planes, missiles, submarines and surveillance systems .

If Australia, against the wishes of the US, became involved in a conflict with Indonesia, the Americans could refuse to keep the weapons systems operating and block access to shared military communication facilities. The US said the ANZUS treaty did not cover Australian troops fighting Indonesian forces in Borneo in 1965. It rejected John Howard’s desperate appeal for “US boots on the ground” to help respond to the violent reaction by Indonesian troops following East Timor’s independence vote in 1999.

Israel is the only country to successfully demand that it be able to operate key systems independently of the US. Like Australia, Israel has bought the US F-35 fighter plane whose cloud-based computer ‘brain’, the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), constantly sends information to and from the plane and its manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The American defence writer Joseph Trevithick reported in June 2017 that Israel had secured unique and unprecedented rights operate its ALIS systems outside the centralised network and possibly operate the F 35’s independent of the ALIS totally. Among other examples, Australia Air Force depends on continuing access to US systems during a major conflict to operate its F-35 and its Super Hornet fighters, Growler cyber warfare planes, Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft and its big Triton drones.

Shortly after returning from a six-year posting as Australia’s Washington ambassador in 2016, Kim Beazley gave a speech sponsored by Lockheed Martin which had appointed him to its Australian board. He happily admitted that he was a member of a “deep state”, but not an evil one where “the real power lies in a military/intelligence phalanx”.  He belonged to what he called a “benign deep state”. “Benign” is not obvious description of what Beazley’s deep state did to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan or to elected leaders such a Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh, the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba or Chile’s Salvador Allende.

Beazley said the Americans wanted to move beyond “interoperability” of the two countries military forces to “integration” in which the US will sometimes want to use our equipment. He gave an example of US Marines using a big amphibious Australian ship, leaving the Australian navy unable to deploy it at short notice to meet Australia’s own needs in critical circumstances. More broadly, integration means that Australian equipment and troops will be able to ‘plug’ straight into US forces when a new war erupts.

Australian ministers are sometimes so eager to buy US military equipment that they reject good advice not to. They insisted on buying the most important component of the trouble-plagued Collins class submarine – the computerised combat data system – from a US firm that had never made one. It was a costly failure. To obtain a replacement, Howard government commissioned a former Chief of Defence Procurement in Britain and a former managing director of BHP to recommend a replacement. They advised that a proven German system called ISUS rated best in all categories. The coalition Defence minister Peter Reith decided in 2000 that he knew better and chose another US company Raytheon that had never built a combat data system for a conventionally powered submarine. Installing the new Raytheon system into the Collins class was a difficult task spread over several years. But it is due to be included, without tender, in the big French/Australian submarine the U.S. Navy recommended.

Many Australian observers are mystified by why the government didn’t choose 12 high-quality, well proven German submarines operated by Israel, Singapore, South Korea and other navies. They would cost around $12 billion, compared to a realistic estimate over $80 billion  for 12 redesigned French submarines, the first of which won’t become operational until after 2035 and the last not until 2050. As a result, a new version of the Collins class must be designed and built to avoid a capability gap.

Embedding Australian troops, ships and planes within US forces effectively prevents Australian governments pulling them out if a conflict suddenly occurs. In 2013 the Gillard government agreed to embed HMAS Sydney for almost two months in a US carrier battle group based at Yokosuka, Japan. The Sydney was under US command when Japan’s renewed emphasis on its claim to the uninhabited Senkaku Islands became a flashpoint with China. The battle group was widely expected to be the first responder in a clash over these tiny islands that Japan claimed after the 1905 Sino-Japan war. Similar sovereignty problems apply to Australian military personnel embedded in US war planning and command structures.

Before Australian participation is taken for granted, governments should state clearly that its forces won’t engage in aggression contrary to international law and Article 1 of the ANZUS treaty.

This article draws on Brian Toohey’s book SECRET, the making of Australia’s security state to be released on September 3.

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6 Responses to BRIAN TOOHEY Chained to the chariot wheels of the Pentagon

  1. R. N. England says:

    I am sick of this notion that Australia is a basically decent country being forced to serve a tyrant. We have always been close to the worst of the worst, beginning with our treatment of the first Australians. Consider the little rat Billy Hughes, the most odious of all the tyrants at the Versailles Conference, which resulted in a treaty so oppressive that it led directly to the resumption of world war. Compare Hughes and the admittedly atypical Wilson.

    We were in Vietnam because of the yellow peril, our deep fear and ignorance of, and savage aggression towards the ancient culture and races of the east. All that has been whipped up again with consummate ease, notably by the ABC. Our spies bugged Australia’s friends in Djakarta, President Yudoyono and his wife. Australia shamelessly robbed the poorest of the poor: East Timor. The majority of us couldn’t give a rat’s arse for the inundated people of the Pacific, or even the dying biosphere. The Anglo culture has become so full of arrogance, stupidity, and aggression that it is thankfully destroying itself in Britain, in the USA, and in its little drug-dealer-founded outpost of Hong Kong. Australia is not far behind, with the ALP and Liberals falling over each other to pander to the poisoned millions who lap up Alan Jones’ bile for breakfast.

  2. Mac Hallliday says:

    The facts of this matter are on the table and are an indictment of our culture and the intelligence establishment as shown by the indifference of our media including the ABC

  3. Cameron Leckie says:

    As demonstrated by the regular stream of articles (and supportive comments) published on P&I on various aspects of Australia’s unhealthy relationship with the United States it is clear that there is a constituency, albeit probably small, of Australian’s very concerned about this issue.

    There seems to be very little debate however on the ‘alliance’ in the mainstream.

    I wonder what it will take/ how do we get this issue on the agenda at the national level?

  4. Rex Williams says:

    “Before Australian participation is taken for granted, governments should state clearly that its forces won’t engage in aggression contrary to international law and Article 1 of the ANZUS treaty”.

    It should also be a clause in electoral platforms giving voters an assurance that such aggression and support for the aggression of others, primarily the arrogant USA with its hegemonic objectives through illegal sanctions and military force, will not be allowed by Australia.

    But in reality, we are probably well past this becoming possible, for well over 50 years fulfilling the role as lapdog to the US and in today’s climate, under the leadership of Morrison and Payne, far worse subservience than ever before.
    We will eventually pay a price for this stupidity, such a price being not very far away. It will start with an economic disaster as China finally decides that the Morrisons of this world are not for turning and our status as a major provider of raw materials to that country comes to an end. Couple that disaster with a total restriction on the entry of Chinese students to our Universities and any first year accountancy student will see how this will impact out bottom line. And on it goes.

    The sad part of this whole story is the way that the US administration sees Australia. Something of a joke, easily controlled and ready to jump at the first request (command). I have been present at a meeting when this attitude was expressed.

    I did not find it to be the slightest bit funny.

  5. Jim KABLE says:

    It is so depressing to learn how closely imprisoned we and our taxpayer dollars are to an ugly war-mongering US. We need to know the names of all traitors to our national well-being (by which I mean those who have sold us out to the me-first US profit-takers)!

  6. Bruce George says:

    The way things are we may as well give up the name Australia so as not to confuse ourselves and trick ourselves into thinking that we have any semblance of sovereignty in any part of this country. Perhaps Texus would be more appropriate name to reflect our current state of total dependence on USA, permission to wage war or even defend ourselves. Malcolm Fraser in his latter years got it right on a couple of things:
    1) Our constitution was/is for a self Governing colony only,
    2) The USA is a dangerous ally, and
    3) It is time to close Pine Gap.
    The interesting thing is that Malcolm did not acknowledge that the sacking of his predecessor Gough Whitlam was a CIA initiated move because he spoke of closing Pine Gap. He must have known this.
    What is a whole lot less interesting is that the current mob in Canberra seem to have no idea of just how dangerous our alliance with the USA is. Specifically how disastrous a war with China would be for our economy as well our our international reputation if we have any positive reputation left to speak of.

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