In 2004 Janet Jackson flashed a breast (sorry, suffered a wardrobe malfunction) during the Super Bowl half time entertainment. The same day 109 innocent civilians were killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq.
This coincidence was noticed by Carl Hiaasen of the Miami Herald who asked the question: guess which one led the news?
You would have guessed right but for the wrong reason. You had a thought about US celebrity culture and that clinched it. But the deeper reason was that after the US being at war for 225 out of 242 years since 1776 – 93% of its history – many are simply inured to war news.
The problem for Australians is that since WWII our alliance with the US warmongers, plus the supine relations between Australian governments and the US, have got us embroiled in illegal and unwinnable wars from Harold Holt’s ‘All the way with LBJ’ to John Howard’s deputy sheriff and Iron Man badges.
We have fought alongside the Americans in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and have been remotely involved in regular US drone strikes, bombing and missile strikes around the world as a result of hosting bases like Pine Gap.
We did briefly fight against the US Army in November 1942 in the Battle of Brisbane in which one Australian died and hundreds of Australia and American soldiers were injured over two days of rioting, looting and attacks. There was also ill-feeling between the troops of either country during the bigger wars they fought together but which never got further than pushing, shoving and the odd fisticuffs.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs the wars since 1775 wars have included: the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Indian Wars (1817-1898), the Mexican war, the Civil War, the Spanish-American war, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Shield/Desert Storm and the so-called Global War on Terror.
The dates don’t add up to 225 years because the US DVA doesn’t include wars against Filipino guerillas following the Spanish-American conflict and the many secret wars waged by the CIA and proxies. Moreover, not all the 215 overseas interventions the US carried out between 1798 and 2016 are included.
There’s not much to be said about Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan beyond the fact that none of them resulted in victories; the Vietnam War saw 6.3 million tons of bombs dropped on Indochina – double the total the allies dropped in all WWII theatres; the Iraq one was fought under false pretences (no weapons of mass destruction nor links to Al Qaeda just billions of dollars for Halliburton); and Afghanistan is the longest in US history.
In these wars Australians have suffered lives lost and wasted billions of dollars which could have been used more productively in Australia.
The two countries also share a commitment to fighting the drugs war. But the US has fuelled the drugs epidemic by assisting in the production and distribution of heroin, cocaine and other drugs in alliance with drug dealers who are potential allies in both the secret and not so secret wars.
Alfred. W. McCoy, showed in his book The Politics of Heroin in South East Asia, how heroin grown in Vietnam and Laos by hill tribes was transported out of the region by the CIA’s Air America to America (see the Mel Gibson film if you haven’t got time to read the book).
According to Brian Toohey in Secret the CIA during the 1970s the US was also flying in plane loads of drugs from Laos and Cambodia to add to the US R&R King’s Cross spike.
In McCoy’s new book, In The Shadows of the American Century, he details drug trafficking from Afghanistan throughout the US-supported war against the Russians to the present day where it was carried out by CIA assets related to the Afghan President.
For the US the most egregious involvement with drug-trafficking was the Iran-Contra scandal when Oliver North organised cocaine shipments from Columbia and Mexico to the US and onwards to fund the secret US support of Contras terrorists against the Nicaraguan Sandinista Government.
North spent the 1980s facilitating the narco-terrorist drug traffickers through a secret off-the-books operation involving its own planes, pilots, airfields, operatives ship and secret Swiss bank accounts.
Our gallant allies have also not been above interfering in Australian politics. At the superficial level it involves softening up potential assets with US trips and briefings as Edward Snowden has shown. At the less superficial, as Brian Toohey shows, it involved the CIA and ASIO discussing how it might get rid of the Whitlam Government and ongoing US discussions with ASIO about the derisory belief that the Government might be acting for the Russians and fear for the future of the Pine Gap facility.
A new US Ambassador, Marshall Green, was parachuted in after being involved in clandestine activities in South Korea and Indonesia where the new Suharto regime, with US blessing, massacred half a million people. Green and the CIA were also in contact with the Governor General, John Kerr, who had a track history of involvement in CIA fronts, and the involvement of the US in the Kerr coup needs as much attention as the Palace Letters do.
Needless to say, while the Government bans Huawei, both our own government and the US are busy spying on us ever second of every day through monitoring and data mining through a network of ASD/NSA ground stations.
Perhaps the final straw in how our relations with the US always end up with us screwed is the US-Australian Free Trade Agreement pushed by John Howard even after the officials negotiating it recommended that it was dud deal.
Shiro Armstrong of ANU writing in the Australian Institute of International Affairs journal in 2015 said: “AUSFTA was negotiated and signed within a year — a feat unmatched in trade negotiations today — driven by the political determination of Australia’s prime minister, John Howard, to do a deal with America’s president, George W. Bush, after the second invasion of Iraq.
“One of the conclusions from the Productivity Commission’s review of FTAs was that their economic benefits are usually overstated and that they are often more political than economic in their motivation. The cost of whatever political gain derived from the deal has not been trivial.
“Between 2005 and 2012, AUSFTA diverted US$53.1 billion of trade, leaving Australia and the United States worse off than they would have been without the agreement…..Australia’s goods and services exports to the United States were $23.1 billion. Australia’s total imports from the United States were $50.8 billion,” Armstrong said.
So, perhaps it is fitting that the best summary of the whole US-Australia relationship is the title of Malcolm Fraser’s book – Dangerous Allies.