The AUKUS orchestra, Julian Assange and Iraq

Mar 22, 2023
Free Julian Assange graffiti

On Saturday, March 18, a small rally to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War gathered in a park outside the Lismore Memorial Baths.

The Iraq War was an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation, Iraq, by a group of nations who called themselves the ‘coalition of the willing’: Australia, the UK and the US, an alliance that has recently rebranded itself as AUKUS.

The proto-AUKUS brought devastation to Iraq with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, mainly civilians, and with millions more forced to become refugees. Although the Iraq war was one of the major disasters of this century, whose lessons need to be learned, it was an anniversary the complicit Australian mainstream media, who acted as cheerleaders for that war, ignored.

An Australian citizen, Julian Assange, is currently imprisoned by the AUKUS alliance, rotting away in Belmarsh prison. He has been there for four years, convicted of no crime, because his “crime” was the unspeakable crime of exposing the truth of their war with the Collateral Murder video and the Iraq War Logs.

On a day of record heat, a crowd of 50 or so sheltered under shady trees on the lush green lawn before a small but colourful stage, centred around flags and banners created by Peace Bus captain Graeme Dunstan. The slogans read: Free Speech! Free Press! Free Assange and End the US Alliance.

Graeme Dunstan delivered a passionate speech, powered by his outrage at the imprisonment of Assange, the extraordinary cost of the AUKUS submarine deal, the growing number of US bases and forces being stationed around Australia, and the way Australia was being forced into a war with China, as we were coerced into the Iraq war by a cheerleading mainstream media.

“We are an occupied country,” he declared. “This is an occupying army. What happens next? The next step is plunder. The occupying army steals what it want from us. We are no longer a sovereign country. We are an occupied country and there is pillaging going on right now.”

Dunstan lamented the treachery of the Albanese government who had sold out Australia. A new peace movement had to be built, he said. He deplored the warmongering of the MSM with “hysteria for war, dribbling from their lips.”

Byron Bay filmmaker Kym Staton, who is making a film about Julian Assange, also spoke. He read a poetical speech about Australians marching to a hellish future, passively watching “as the Mandela of our time walks a long walk toward freedom every day around a six-metre cell.”

“This is a fight for our right to know,” he said, declaring:

“Humanity is tethered by a rope of greed to a chain of criminality to an anchor, dragging on the bottom of an ocean of lies! But there are some with the strength to set us free!”

Although Graeme Dunstan described the warmongering of the MSM as “hysteria for war dribbling from their lips”, the media bloodlust was suitably restrained on Insiders the next morning, as host David Speers discussed the AUKUS deal with his hand-picked journalists, the mainstream media’s two premier China hawks and warmongers, Peter Hartcher and Greg Sheridan, who tried their best not to gloat too noticeably now their ‘China Scare’ policies have been adopted by the ALP government.

War between the US and China over Taiwan will occur in 2027, Hartcher and Sheridan prophesised, and they are the ones most vigorously beating the drums for that war. Australia would be immediately involved, Sheridan predicted, because the Chinese would strike Pine Gap. Strangely, the approaching war with China filled Greg Sheridan, not with fear, but with a self-satisfied complacency: AUKUS version 2 won’t be the disaster Iraq was, Sheridan reassured those Insiders viewers who might have concerns they were watching history repeating.

All this flew past host David Speers unchallenged. Neither did Speers question Hartcher about his rabid warmongering in the “Red Alert” series published in the Sydney Morning Herald the week before the AUKUS announcement. The accompanying SMH editorial went far beyond calling for nuclear submarines, demanding missiles armed with nuclear warheads and the reintroduction of conscription, and declaring China to be a clear and present danger; policies “your” ABC’s premier journalist clearly finds untroubling and as unworthy of discussion as the twentieth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Nor was Speers concerned that some might perceive a panel of Hartcher and Sheridan assessing AUKUS to be unconscionable propaganda for a third world war.

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