Through US base at Pine Gap, Australia is complicit in US war crimes

Dec 22, 2021
Pine Gap
(Image: Flickr / Greens MPs)

As Australia locks itself into the US military machine, we increase the risks of retaliatory attacks on Pine Gap in the Northern Territory.

Whilst shrouded in secrecy, a large proportion of US drone attacks around the world result from intercepts from the American base at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory of cell phones, mobile phones and emails, combined with overhead imagery.

The New York Times this week reported that there were more than 1300 reports of civilian casualties since 2014, many of them children, in the war that the US portrayed as being waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs:

A five-year Times investigation found that the American air wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have been plagued by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, thousands of civilian deaths — with scant accountability.

The military’s own confidential assessments, obtained by The Times, document more than 1300 reports of civilian casualties since 2014, many of them children. The findings are a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.

The documents show, too, that despite the Pentagon’s highly codified system for examining civilian casualties, pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity.

In an article in Pearls and Irritations on September 3 Michael Kelly also drew attention to frequent killings:

“The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimated the total number of deaths since 2004 from drones and other covert killing operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia to be between 8858 and 16,901. Of those, up to 2200 are believed to have been civilians, including hundreds of children, although that is likely an undercount because the US classifies people killed in drone strikes as ‘enemies killed in action’ unless proven otherwise.”

At the fall of Kabul, the Pentagon boasted that it had succeeded in a drone attack in killing ISIS operatives in Kabul. A few days later, the Pentagon had to confess that the drone-inspired attack from Langley had not killed ISIS operatives at all but had killed Afghan civilians, including five children.

To justify these drone attacks, the Pentagon has been giving us the same refrain from the Korean War onwards through Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria that “we are trying to kill fewer people with even smarter, more accurate weapons. We promise to do better next time. We regret the loss of innocent life, etc. Now it is time to move on.”

The great pity as usual is that as the drones kill more and more The New York Times published its report after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan when it won’t make any difference.

As we lock ourselves more and more into the US military machine, so we increase the risks of retaliatory attacks on Pine Gap if there is an escalation of conflict, as Defence Minister Peter Dutton says is probably inevitable, over Taiwan,

Not only are we complicit through the US base at Pine Gap, but we have allowed the US to relentlessly pursue an Australian citizen, Julian Assange.

What the US will not forgive about Assange is that he exposed US war crimes in Iraq in 2007 when US Army Apache gunships killed two Iraqi journalists and nine other men. The US has pursued Assange not only with the object of breaking him physically and mentally but to make it clear that the US will do the same to anyone else who has the temerity to expose US war crimes. That pursuit of Assange has included not only every possible legal tactic, but even the possibility of the CIA kidnapping and assassinating Assange in London with the cooperation of MI6.

In all of this, the Australian media has given away any pretence at truth-telling. And that is just fine with the Australian government.

But it portends disaster for Australia.

READ MORE: “New York Times reporting on airstrikes should give Daniel Hale more credit” — Common Dreams

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