John Menadue: From deputy sheriff to the 51st state of the Union

Sep 30, 2021
US embassy Canberra Australia
US Embassy in Canberra. (Image: Unsplash)

Paul Keating put it succinctly yesterday in The Sydney Morning Herald that we are selling our country to another power. Or, as former ambassador John McCarthy put it, “we are moving from being a country with the self-respect of true independence”.

Step by step we have been ceding our sovereignty to the US. The recent AUKUS and AUSMIN meetings in Washington were further giant steps in our becoming a US colonial outpost.

This retreat from true independence has been promoted by our White Man’s Media that reflects the view and interests of Washington and New York. In support of the military, business complex and the foreign policy establishment in the US our media have become attack dogs in the anti-China frenzy.

Our media saw the Washington visit by Scott Morrison and Ministers as a success. Yet the US president referred to Scott Morrison as “that fellow down under”. Figure out how that suggests much interest in or knowledge of Australia let alone “success”!!

The US CIA base at Pine Gap is a denial of our independence. We don’t really know what goes on at Pine Gap. But we do know that it would be a prime target if the US embarked on a military adventure with China over Taiwan.

Paul Keating: I am not a defeatist who would sell the country out to another power

Through Pine Gap the CIA operates its illegal drone assassination program. The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has estimated that between 8858 and 16,901 civilians have been killed by drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The last disaster was an attack on an innocent family in Kabul. Attacking wedding parties has been a special feature of the CIA’s drone operation.

I wonder what the CIA  drone operator sitting in Langley thinks about his or her moral complicity in this. We also seem to have no problem either with this new warfare, assassination by US drones.

With the help of then-ambassador to the US Kim Beazley, Julia Gillard invited President Barack Obama to visit Australia.

Part of the deal for the Obama visit was that Gillard agreed to the temporary rotational deployment of US marines in Darwin and the use of airfields in northern Australia by US military aircraft. The US has also long been pressing for the home-porting of nuclear powered aircraft carriers at Sterling in WA. This may well be now agreed.

The development of more US military facilities in northern Australia will enable the US to link with its enormous military establishment in Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. To make way for this base, indigenous people were expelled.

The United Nations General Assembly in May 2019 determined  by a vote of 116-6 that the US occupation of Diego Garcia was illegal. But the US cherry picks international rules that suit it.

The US blatantly ignores international laws and rules in Diego Garcia (Repost 3 July 2020)

More and more, under the rubric of interoperability in both personnel and equipment, we are locked in to the US military/business complex. As Brian Toohey pointed out yesterday in Pearls and Irritations, we can’t be independent when we buy equipment from the US like submarines where the US will not share the source code or let us know how the top secret technology works — or repair it.

With our media missing in action, there has been little serious examination of what transpired at the AUSMIN meeting in Washington last week. At this meeting, Australia clearly abandoned any pretence of independence in key strategic areas. As Mike Scrafton put it in Pearls and Irritations on Sunday:

The Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) joint statement records Australia’s surreptitious accession as the 51st state of the Union. That it has been done without a vote, or even a serious national or parliamentary debate, highlights the accompanying loss of democracy.

Australia has effectively surrendered its right to say what kinds of military platforms and weapons can be brought on to, or stationed in, it’s territory.

The Australian government will permit “the rotational deployment of US aircraft of all types in Australia and appropriate aircraft training and exercises”. It will facilitate “increasing logistics and sustainment capabilities of US surface and subsurface vessels in Australia”. Alarmingly, Australia will “[E]stablish a combined logistics, sustainment, and maintenance enterprise to support high end warfighting and combined military operations in the region”.

This represents a complete and total subordination of Australia’s interests to those of America. It is not possible to say no to America when so deeply entwined with US military war preparations.

The total abrogation of the right of Australia to independently determine its own strategic situation is contained in just three words in the joint statement. The ministers agreed that the purpose of giving Australia over to the US military as a base was to “deter our adversaries”. Australia now has “adversaries”!

Australia is now openly a cog in America’s war plans. In plain language, Australia now refers to China as an adversary, that is an enemy, and has acceded to turning itself into a launching pad for “high end warfighting and combined military operations in the region”. Think what is enveloped in that phrase!

At best this is ill-considered and reckless rhetoric, at worst a potentially irretrievable step towards war wherever and whenever the US decides to embark on one.

The implications of this for Australia need to be understood. First, it appears these concessions license the deployment of nuclear weapons to Australia.

The US strategic nuclear triad and its tactical nuclear capability is spread across a range of delivery means, including US aircraft, and surface and sub-surface platforms.

The joint statement is open-ended, it doesn’t exclude long-range nuclear armed bombers, ballistic missile submarines, or the various platforms with tactical nuclear cruise missiles.

If Australia is to be a base for sustaining operations it seems inevitable nuclear weapons will enter, transit or be stored here. Australia is too far from the South China Sea to be for launching conventional operations.

The transfer of technology related to nuclear-powered submarines and cooperation on other technical and industry matters — like hypersonics and space — are sops to the eager Australians desperate to be big international players.

It is unlikely the US will offer up the family jewels; the leading edge innovations and technologies that provide America’s commercial as well as military advantage will be withheld. The intellectual property that gives the US its technological military edge will also be essential to its national economic competition with China.

None of the US’s apparent generosity will provide short term advantages to Australia.

The guarantees under ANZUS are not changed. The ability of Australia to defend itself won’t be altered substantially until at least 2040.

However, access to Australia as a base hosting a “logistics, sustainment, and maintenance enterprise to support high end warfighting and combined military operations”, and unfettered access for US forces and platforms, gives America some strategic depth and somewhere to retreat to if, as many expect, the US will be expelled from the South China Sea in the first engagement with China.

Then, under the pretence of being war ready, and as a logical step for protecting US platforms using Australian facilities from long range or stand-off attacks, it won’t be long until we see missile defences deployed. That’s because all of this means Australia will have become a target.

We are becoming a major US military base for possible military action against China. The US already has numerous bases in the Pacific particularly in Japan, the Republic of Korea and Guam. But that is apparently not enough to deter China. Australia is being enlisted as another major US base in our region.

We seem unable to shake our colonial dependence, first on the UK and now the US.

As Paul Keating put it yesterday, “we are turning over our effective control of our foreign policy'”.

And turning it over to a declining state whose political and business establishment depends on never-ending wars.

As one war ends another enemy is found. This time China. We are enlisted again.

When will we grow up?

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