To honour Daniel Ellsberg, we must reject a US war over Taiwan

Jun 19, 2023
Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, died on June 16. Asked about his decision to dispute the Nixon White House claims about US progress in the Vietnam war, Ellsberg said he had one regret. ‘I waited too long to release those papers. The bombs were already falling.’ From his death bed he stressed the value of warning against war before it is too late.

If politicians, journalists, think tank researchers and the general public would heed the Ellsberg lesson, there would be massive protest against Australia being seduced into compliant alliance with US military preparations for war against China over Taiwan.

But war talk is everywhere, advocacy for peace too easily ignored.

In a culture historically influenced by a dominating mother UK or big brother US, citizens have been comforted by deception that such alliances provide strength and security. Freedom from that dependency requires our culture to grow up, question dogma, and protest loudly that the US taste for war remains highly dangerous and will benefit no one.

From the 2014 Force Posture Agreement which cedes control of military operations in Australia to the US, to locating thousands of marines in Darwin, the placement of B52 bombers at RAAF base Tindal and the extension of the Pine Gap listening station in readiness for US Australia military cooperation, the means of war are taken for granted.

Even the much lauded Defence Strategic Review (DSR) looks like a US military inspired document. Deferential to their big brother, the Morrison government paid handsome fees for advice from ex US admirals on defence policies. The Foreign Policy Defence Director at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney was paid almost a quarter of a million dollars as the lead author of the DSR.

From those deliberations and from a media frenzy of anti-China hysteria, the AUKUS alliance was born, not to defend Australia but to support the US by deploying nuclear powered submarines to patrol Chinese coasts.

Dependency cultures thrive on secrecy. The supposed adult leader says, you don’t need to know, and if anyone, Danielle Ellsberg, Julian Assange, David McBride or Bernard Collaery dares to challenge the military/political hierarchy, they should be derided and punished.

Supposed well informed, bi-partisan leaders expect gratitude for their cunning crafting of absurdly expensive alliances in preparation for the next war, but appalling human and environmental costs will not be counted until it’s all over. Bertrand Russell will not be heeded. He tried to teach that wars never determine who is right only who is left.

If Australia weans itself from US/UK dependence, as a Sub Imperial Power, in Clinton Fernandes’ words, that would increase the enthusiasm for peace and the chances of hearing about it. That enthusiasm exists but is easily ignored.

Mainstream newspapers featured that Red Alert of antagonism towards China, and in common with ridicule of previous protesters against wars, opponents of AUKUS can be derided as weak appeasers. Threats of a khaki election frightened Labor leaders and have almost certainly prompted them to insist they are as strong for war preparations as their right wing, patriotism-for-ever opponents.

On television chat or infotainment shows such as ABC’s Q&A, people who know something about peace studies or who have experience of peace negotiations are distinguished by their absence. With few exceptions, such as Phillip Adams on Radio National’s Late Night Live, peace, let alone peace with justice, is apparently not worth programming time. Better to have a rehash of the sights and sounds of old wars.

Political, defence think tanks and mainstream media personnel have ignored the philosophy, language and practice of peace, but peace talk is coming to the surface. Across university campuses, student unions argue that their generation’s future depends on peace not war. In addition, numerous Labor constituency parties, plus Queensland Labor’s State conference, have passed motions opposed to AUKUS. They want peace and are disgusted by claims that Australia’s security depends on continued cooperation with the US military.

On the dangers from climate change, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the world is hurtling towards disaster. Human, animal, environmental destruction from war hastens that disaster.

Around the globe, as a commitment to survival on planet earth, advocacy of peace must replace the fascination with war. Daniel Ellsberg pleaded, ‘don’t wait until the bombs are falling.’

If Australians respect Ellsberg, the country must hasten steps to grow up, abandon dependency on others, reject war anywhere, not least the US taste for war and their current sights on Taiwan.


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