Four Corners: Australia becomes US nuclear spear carrier in Asia

Nov 1, 2022
American soldier in uniform and civil man in suit shaking hands with Australian flag on background.

Four Corners last night showed how Australia is becoming ‘a proxy’ or is it ‘a patsy’ for the US in a possible conflict with China. Our actions invite a Chinese response. Sometimes I wonder why the Chinese bother about a reset in relations when we behave so foolishly at the behest of the US. China is not a threat to Australia but our ‘dangerous ally’ keeps goading China to provoke a war.

Last night Four Corners reported:

  • The US is preparing to deploy up to six nuclear capable B-52 bombers to northern Australia, a provocative move experts say is aimed squarely at China.
  • The bombers are part of a much larger upgrade of defence assets across northern Australia, including a major expansion of the Pine Gap intelligence base which will play a vital role in any conflict with Beijing.

Richard Tanter, a senior research associate at the Nautilus Institute and a writer for Pearls and Irritations said that the planned deployment of the bombers is more significant than the rotation of US marines through Darwin each year. He said it is ‘very hard to think of a more open commitment that we could make. A more open signal to the Chinese that we are going along with American planning for a war with China’.

‘The RAAF’s ability to host USAF bombers as well train alongside them, demonstrates how integrated our two air forces are’ said a US defence official. Equally important to the growing US presence in northern Australia is the construction of eleven giant jet fuel storage tanks in Darwin.

Richard Tanter said that the spy base near Alice Springs is undergoing a major upgrade.

‘This is at a time when the Australian parliament has been informed of none of this, no statements by ministers and no questions to ministers.’  He said that if a conflict broke out between the US and China, Pine Gap would play a hugely significant role. It would also be a prime target.

But there is more than what Four Corners told us.

The US has a slew of more modern and stealthy bombers exercising out of Amberley with the South China Sea and beyond as targets. The RAAF provides in- flight refuelling for these US aircraft.

As Richard Tanter and others have pointed out, there is no attempt to inform the Australian public about these momentous developments with Australia committing itself to ‘high-end war fighting and combined military operations’ with the US in our region. That’s what US and Australian Ministers agreed last year.

I have also not seen any sign that the Australian government has discussed these issues with ASEAN countries. Our regional neighbours are more concerned about economic issues and climate change. They are deliberately choosing not to take sides between China and the US.  They are excluded  from QUAD and AUKUS. This must all  be sending shivers up the Indonesians’ and ASEAN spines. If our military provocation is not enough offence to our neighbours we have joined the US in excluding China from regional institutions.

Caught up in the Washington drip feed, most of our journalists have been captured by foreign interests on these strategic issues. They join daily in the anti-China campaign run out of Washington. They are slavishly followed by our politicians, senior public officials, intelligence agencies and US funded ‘think tanks’.

As full paid up members of the Washington Club, Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles show no signs of changing the dangerous course we are on. And Penny Wong is hard to find!

The rapid US militarisation of Northern Australia is occurring at a time when the Defence Strategic Review is supposedly in progress. It looks like continued US colonisation of Australia with window dressing for what the Washington Club expects and wants. The Club cannot accept anything but US hegemony with its determination to overthrow governments and wage endless wars. The US is one of the most violent empires in human history. That violence abroad is reflected in violence and decay at home.

See below a repost of an article I wrote on these issues on September 16 this year.

The Defence Strategic Review – We are becoming a proxy or is it a patsy for the US in a possible conflict with China

USA flag with soldiers and the Statue of Liberty

The Defence Strategic Review must warn Minister Marles about the dangerous path he is committing Australia to. We are becoming a spear carrier for the US.

  • Fearing its world hegemony is under challenge the US is goading China at every opportunity. Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was but the most recent example of this goading.
  • The threat we face from China is if we continue to act in our region as a proxy for the US. Other regional countries are not doing so.
  • The ‘China’ threat is a rerun of the shameful and earlier ‘yellow peril’. China is not a military threat to Australia.
  • The US is the most violent and aggressive country in the world, almost always at war. Its military empire includes 800 foreign military bases.
  • We need a strong US presence in our region but not the provocative and dangerous behaviour we see time and time again.
  • We are attaching ourselves uncritically to a declining but dangerous hegemon.
  • Our ‘Washington Club’ has been on an American drip feed for a long time. It has a ‘colonial’ mind set. It accepts without serious thought the US view of the world.
  • Northern Australia is becoming a US military colony.

These points are developed further below.

Northern Australia is becoming a US military colony

In some political difficulty in 2011 Julia Gillard was anxious for President Obama to visit Australia and address the Parliament. Kim Beazley, our Ambassador in Washington was very keen to help. As part of the deal to lock in the Obama visit Gillard agreed to the rotation of Marines through Darwin with US hopes for more future basing in Perth and Cocos-Keeling.

This was the real door opening for the Americans.

The colonisation has continued apace since then with more and more Marines rotating through Darwin and USAF operations in Northern Australia.

But putting the foot on the accelerator of US military colonisation really came in September 2021.

On 16 September 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin hosted Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton in Washington D.C. for the 31st Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN 2021). The Secretaries and Ministers endorsed the following areas of force posture cooperation:

  • Enhanced air cooperation through the rotational deployment of U.S. aircraft of all types in Australia and appropriate aircraft training and exercises.
  • Enhanced maritime cooperation by increasing logistics and sustainment capabilities of U.S. surface and subsurface vessels in Australia.
  • Enhanced land cooperation by conducting more complex and more integrated exercises and greater combined engagement with Allies and Partners in the region.
  • Establish a combined logistics, sustainment, and maintenance enterprise to support high end warfighting and combined military operations in the region.

See the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) joint statement.

We have committed ourselves to ‘high end warfighting and combined military operations and unfettered access for US forces and platforms’ in northern and western Australia.

Only yesterday the AFR highlighted the US focus on western and northern Australia. ‘Former foreign policy adviser to president George W. Bush and new United States Studies Centre chief executive Michael Green predicts the US will become more dependent on Australia for its military operations and intelligence. A shift in foreign policy focus from Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific meant that areas of western and northern Australia would be ‘‘critical’’ for the US and its allies. ‘‘We need access: we need purchase on the Indian Ocean and, so geographically, in technology, in terms of military operations and intelligence, the US is going to be more dependent on Australia,’’ Mr Green said. ‘‘There’s no two ways around it.’’

We have not seriously debated or considered the enormous and very risky consequences of all of this. Our sovereignty and integrity as a nation is on the line and at the whim of the US, a country that does not really know which path it is on, crypto-fascism, civil war or anarchy.

In AUKUS, at enormous cost and with great delay we are planning to fuse our future nuclear powered submarines with the US Navy to operate in the South China Sea against China.

Minister Marles has told us that we are not only working ‘inter-operatively’ with the US military in numerous ways but we are now committed to ‘inter-changeabilty’ with US forces. We are locking ourselves even more to a ‘dangerous ally’. Minister Marles seems unconcerned about the dangerous path we are on. Even worse he seems careless about surrendering our national sovereignty. He should be watched very carefully.

The US is the most violent country in the world and almost always at war

There is an enormous and powerful US constituency committed to continual war. We joined those wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. All were disastrous. Now the US is continually goading and provoking China and wants us to join it. And we are obliging.

Malcolm Fraser was right about ‘our dangerous ally’.

The US is addicted to a belief in its exceptionalism, grounded in aggression and violence both at home and abroad, and finding it hard to admit mistakes.

Domestically it is looking more and more like a slow motion train wreck.

Apart from brief isolationist periods, the US has been almost perpetually at war.

The record is clear. Time and time again we have allowed ourselves to be drawn into the imperial wars of the UK and then the US. We have forfeited our strategic autonomy.

Over two centuries, the US has subverted and overthrown numerous governments. It has a military and business complex that depends on war for influence and enrichment. It funds our War Memorial and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and many other fronts for US military and business interests.

Records show that the US is a much more aggressive and violent country than China.

The US assumes a moral superiority it denies to others. It is blinded by its own ideological delusions and self righteousness.

Many of our political, bureaucratic, business and media elites have been on American drip feeds like the Australian America Leadership Dialogue for so long that they find it hard to think of the world without American global hegemony. We had a similar and dependent view of the UK in the past. That ended in tears in Singapore.

In this blog, Is war in the American DNA?, I have drawn attention repeatedly to the risks we run in being “joined at the hip” to a country that is almost always at war. The facts are clear. The US has never had a decade without war. Since its founding in 1776, the US has been at war 93 per cent of the time. These wars have extended from its own hemisphere to the Pacific, to Europe and most recently to the Middle East. The US has launched 201 out of 248 armed conflicts since the end of World War II. In recent decades most of these wars have been unsuccessful. The US maintains 800 military bases or sites around the world, including in Australia. The US has in our region a massive deployment of hardware and troops in Japan, the Republic of Korea and Guam. China has one off shore naval base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa primarily to combat pirates.

Just think of the US frenzy if China had a string of similar bases in the Caribbean or its ships patrolled the Florida Keys.

The US has been meddling extensively in other countries’ affairs and elections for a century. It tried to change other countries’ governments 72 times during the Cold War. Many foreign leaders were assassinated. In the piece reproduced in this blog The fatal expense of US Imperialism, Professor Jeffrey Sachs said:

“The scale of US military operations is remarkable … The US has a long history of using covert and overt means to overthrow governments deemed to be unfriendly to the US … Historian John Coatsworth counts 41 cases of successful US-led regime change for an average of one government overthrow by the US every 28 months for centuries.”

The overthrow or interference in foreign governments is diverse, including Honduras, Guatemala, Iran, Haití, Congo, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, Afghanistan and most recently, Syria. Compare that to China!

And this interference continued with the undermining of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine by the US-backed Maidan coup in 2014. Gorbachev and Reagan agreed that in allowing the reunification of Germany, NATO would not extend eastwards. But with US encouragement, NATO has now provocatively extended right up to the borders of Russia. Not surprisingly, Russia is resisting.

The US encouraged the recent “democratic” insurrection in Hong Kong. It almost succeeded.

Despite all the evidence of wars and meddling, the American Imperium continues without serious check or query in America or Australia.

There are several reasons why this record has not been challenged.

The first is what is often described as America’s “manifest destiny”; the God-given right to interfere in other countries’ affairs. This right is not extended to others because many Americans see themselves as more virtuous and their system of government better than others. US President Biden today dresses up this manifest destiny in terms of democracy versus autocracy. And Nancy Pelosi blunders into a provocative trip to Taiwan. Some ally!

The ignorance and parochialism of ordinary America and its politicians of other countries is legendary but possibly just as important is their resistance to any relief of ignorance. That may not seem unusual — but it is dangerous for a country with overwhelming military power employed around the globe.

Anyone who has been stuck with a travel group of parochial Texans will know what I mean!!

The second reason why the American Imperium continues largely unchecked is the power of what president Dwight Eisenhower once called the “military and industrial complex” in the US. In 2021 I would add “politicians” who depend heavily on funding from powerful arms manufacturers and military and civilian personnel in more than 4,000 military facilities. Congress increases the enormous military budget year after year. The intelligence community and many universities and think tanks also have a vested interest in the American Imperium.

Australia is trapped within the American Imperium

This complex co-opts institutions and individuals around the globe. It has enormous influence. No US president, nor for that matter any Australian prime minister, would likely challenge it. Morrison and Albanese have the same view on the US imperium.

Australia has locked itself into this complex. Our military and defence leaders are heavily dependent on the US Departments of Defence and State, the CIA and the FBI for advice. We act as their branch offices.

But it goes beyond advice. We willingly respond and join the US in disasters like Iraq and the Middle East. While the UN General Assembly votes with large majorities on nuclear proliferation, Israel and Diego Garcia we remain locked into the position of the US and a few of its mendicants.

Our autonomy and independence are also at great risk because our defence/security elites in Canberra have as their holy grail the concept of “interoperability” with the US. This is mirrored in US official and think-tank commentary on the role they see for us in our region. Our new Defence Minister Marles now even tops all this all up. ‘Interoperable’ now becomes ‘interchangeable’ and we are to operate ‘seamlessly’ with US forces.

So powerful is the US influence and our willing cooperation that our foreign policies have been largely emasculated and sidelined by the defence and security views of both the US and their media acolytes in Australia.

The concept of interoperability does not only mean equipment. It also means personnel, with increasingly large numbers of Australian military personnel embedded in the US military and defence establishments, especially in the Pacific Command in Hawaii.

The US military and industrial complex and its associates have a vested interest in America being at war and our defence establishment, Department of Defence, ADF, Australian Strategic Policy Institute and others are locked-in American loyalists.

AUKUS has locked us in even more. In AUKUS we are effectively fusing our Navy with that of the US so that we can operate together in the South China Sea and threaten China. We are surrendering more and more of our strategic autonomy by encouraging the US to use Northern Australia as a forward base against China as if the US does not have enough giant military bases ringing China in Japan, ROK and Guam.

A ’rules-based international order’; but not for America

The third reason for the continuing dominance of the American Imperium is the way the US expects others to abide by a “rules-based international order” that was largely determined at Bretton Woods after World War II and embedded in various UN agencies. That ‘order’ reflects the power and views of the dominant countries in the 1940s. It does not recognise the legitimate interests of such newly emerging countries as China, which now insist on playing a part in an international rules-based order.

The US only follows an international rules-based order when it suits its own interests. It ‘cherry picks’ what best suits at the time. It pushes for a rules-based system in the South China Sea while refusing to endorse UNCLOS (Law of the Sea) or accept ICJ decisions. The invasion of Iraq was a classic case of breaking the rules. It was illegal. The resultant death and destruction in Iraq met the criteria for war crimes. But the culprits have got off scot-free. Only Tony Blair has suffered reputational damage.

It is a myth that democracies like America will behave internationally at a higher level of morality. Countries act in their own interests as they perceive them. We need to discount the noble ideas espoused by Americans on how they run their own country on the domestic front and look instead at how they consistently treat other countries.

The US claims about how well they run their own country are challenged on so many fronts. Alongside great wealth and privilege, over 40 million US citizens live in poverty, they have a massive prison population with its indelible racist connotations, guns are ubiquitous and they refuse to address the issue. Violence is as American as cherry pie. It is embedded in US behaviour both at home and abroad. Donald Trump incited an attack on the Capitol.

The founding documents of the US inspire Americans and many people throughout the world. “The land of the free and the home of the brave” still has a clarion call. Unfortunately, those core values have often been denied to others. When the Philippines sought US support it was invaded instead. Ho Chi Minh wanted US support for independence but Vietnam was invaded.

Like many democracies, including our own, money, media and vested interests are corrupting public life. ‘Democracy’ in the US has been replaced by ‘Donocracy’, with practically no restrictions on funding of elections and political lobbying for decades. House of Representatives electorates are gerrymandered and poor and minority group voters are often excluded from the rolls. The powerful Jewish lobby, supported by fundamentalist Christians, has run US policy off the rails on Israel and the Middle East. The powerful private health insurance industry has mired the US in the most expensive and inefficient health services in the world.

The US Congress is crippled. The Supreme Court is stacked.

Many democracies are in trouble. US democracy is in more trouble than most. There is a pervasive blindness. Is it drifting to another civil war, fascism or just anarchy?

Derivative media compounds Australia’s lack of autonomy

A major voice in articulating American extremism and the American Imperium is Fox News and Rupert Murdoch who exert their influence not just in America but also in the UK and Australia. Fox News supported the invasion of Iraq and is mindless of the terrible consequences. Rupert Murdoch applauded the invasion of Iraq because it would reduce oil prices. Fox and News Corp are leading sceptics on climate change which threatens our planet.

But it is not just the destructive role of News Corp in the US, UK and Australia. Our media, including the ABC are so derivative. It is so pervasive and extensive, we don’t recognise it for its very nature. We really do have a ‘white man’s media’. We see it most obviously today in the way legacy media spew out an endless daily conveyor belt of anti-China stories.

Our media is full of the death and destruction in the Ukraine but far worse has occurred in Yemen at the hands of Saudi Arabia supported by the US. Our White Man’s Media gives us a Washington/London view of the world. A lot is western propaganda.

Despite continual criminal and often unsuccessful wars, the overthrow or subversion of foreign governments and declining US economic influence, US hegemony and domination of Australian thinking continues. Despite all the evidence, why do we continue in denial?

One reason is that as a small, isolated and predominantly white community in Asia we have historically sought an outside protector, first the UK and when that failed, the US. The colonial mind set is still with us.

We are often told that we have shared values and common institutions first with the UK and now with the US. But countries will always act first in their own interests as Australian farmers are finding as the US grabs our markets in China. Hardly protecting our back!

Another reason why we are in denial about the American Imperium, is, as I have described, the saturation of our media with US news, views and entertainment. We do not have an independent media. Whatever the US media says about China or defence will inevitably get a good run in our derivative media.

A further reason for the continuing US hegemony in Australian attitudes is the seduction of Australian opinion leaders over decades who have benefitted from American largesse and support – in the media, politics, bureaucracy, business, trade unions, universities and think-tanks. Thousands of influential Australians have been co-opted by US money and support in travel, ‘dialogues’ like AALD, study centres and think tanks. That is real ‘foreign influence’. China is a minor player along side the US.

In so far as China is any sort of distant threat it would be much less so if we were not so subservient to the US. The great risk of war with China is if we continue to act as a proxy for the US. Pine Gap would be the first Chinese target.

We are a nation in denial that we are ‘joined at the hip’ to a dangerous, erratic and risky ally. Apart from brief isolationist periods, the US has been almost perpetually at war. The greatest military risk we run is being led by the nose into a US war with China.

Joe Biden is smoothing a few rough edges but he and his foreign affairs advisers are mired in the old US myth of ‘exceptionalism’.

We are in the process of wilfully abandoning our strategic autonomy. We are becoming a proxy and vassal for the US, a very aggressive and violent country

The DSR has a duty to pull us back from the dangerous course we are on.

The military threat we face is not China but acting as a US proxy.

Kishore Mahbubani accurately described our security dilemma. ‘Australia can choose to be a bridge between the East and West in the Asian Century-or the tip of the spear projecting Western power into Asia’

Minister Marles is clearly choosing the role of spear carrier for the Americans.

Does he understand the great risks Australia is running in being a willing proxy and minion for a very aggressive and violent ally, an ally that is almost always at war and drags us into one military disaster after another.?

Read more in our Defence Strategic Review series of articles.

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