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Sub-Imperial Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/09/2021 - 4:51pm in

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War

There are said to be more than 200 theories as to why the Roman Empire fell. Explaining Australia’s decade-long entanglement with submarine procurement would give that figure a run for its money. This week’s announcement of an all-new global alliance—AUKUS—based on the home-grown construction of a nuclear-submarine fleet, demonstrates why we have had a decade-long obsession with these high-tech tin cans, which form no more than one strategic part of a navy.

It’s a de facto acknowledgement that we have abandoned the idea that we might have an independent defence policy. Our focus on subs has long been an expression of our idea that any defence would involve us contributing a subordinated part of a giant US-led naval force in the region.

With the creation of AUKUS—however much it might be spin—the notion that the coming struggle will be an epochal conflict, cold, warm or scalding, with China has now been formalised.  That has been the occasion for a great deal of chest-puffing and back-slapping by the foreign-policy establishment about a new will to assert ourselves and the glorious future of abundance and freedom that awaits us.

But it comes at a pretty contradictory moment, as John Hinkson notes in his piece on US defeat in Afghanistan. This is an epochal moment in which the West’s centuries-long projection of power and imposition has come to an end. At this point, to lace ourselves ever more tightly into the old Atlantic alliance—now projected all the more ebulliently over a world it has never had less control over—is not merely familiar strategic folly and foreign-policy hubris.

The US-friendly foreign-policy establishment is constructing it as a response to Chinese aggression. From a critical perspective, one would see it as the old imperial feint of encirclement of a large land power.  Added to that is domestic politics (getting the failed French ‘barracuda’ subs deal off the table), and the chance to sneak through port the basis of a nuclear power industry.

The conventional left explanation for this is a voluntarist imperialism. Instead it is another example of a deeper process that Hinkson points to in the final paragraph of his piece. The West, driven by an ideology and culture that take for granted the endless expansion of the market, fused with ever-advancing technology—of life or death—can do nothing other than project power throughout the world, even as it becomes increasingly obvious that the societies projecting that power are coming apart at their core.

Which may be one of the 200 theories historians of the future will advance for why a vast but sparsely populated nation at the southern end of Asia committed itself to the revival of an alliance based on an implicit bond of racial solidarity, and built on the ruins of empires that had already fallen. And why, in pursuit of that, its obsessive focus for a decade or more was the acquisition of a fleet of submarines.


Sub-Imperial State: Australian Dirty Work

Clinton Fernandes, Jul 2020

The instruments of statecraft, as exposed by Brian Toohey and Bernard Collaery, are wielded in the interests of those with real power: elite elements in the private sector and the US national-security state, which defends a global order protective of its interests.


Nuclear Promises

Tilman Ruff, Oct 2019

Back on the political agenda in Australia, but for what benefit?

The US defeat in Afghanistan: An epochal moment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/09/2021 - 3:00am in

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afghanistan, War

There is no doubt that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has caused pain, misery, fear and a loss of hope for many. This experience is real and undeniable. We do not know how the Taliban will rule when they settle in. They may be cruel, as we saw in the past, their rule typified by a male -warrior-dominated aggressivity that takes hold of all aspects of life. It will almost certainly be ‘cruel’ in another sense: there is little doubt that the Taliban will not support the form of cosmopolitan social living that is increasingly these days termed ‘freedom’. They especially will not support the way of life that some people in the cities in Afghanistan have experienced and built their hopes around, in large part facilitated by the Western presence.

There is every likelihood that the West, because it was defeated by the Taliban, will make conditions worse for ordinary people by denying all support for the country. Joe Biden’s declaration ‘We will not forget’, even though it referred to the loss of US soldiers, is a reminder of the widespread experience of the end of warfare, especially when one side is humiliated. The United States took a generation to relax its hatred of the Vietnamese rulers after the end of the Vietnam war. More to the point, there are few signs that the United States, or the West more generally, ever came to terms with what went wrong in Vietnam. They merely accommodated a new reality over time while denying that they were defeated.

The United States will probably attempt the same response to the defeat in Afghanistan (as it has also done in Iraq and Libya). There are certainly no signs of deep thinking about their own way of life given what has happened. They may be stung by declarations, like that of William Maley in the media, that they are no longer a trusted ally, but this is a declaration that seeks more of the same interventions (endlessly)—one that assumes the moral high ground against both terrorists and cultures where they have no affinity with the West. It is that moral high ground that needs interrogation.

One does not have to be a Taliban supporter to see that this defeat reflects deep changes in not only geopolitical relations but ways of life that are making their mark on what the West can do practically. Even declaring the war in Afghanistan and, for that matter Iraq, a disgrace—which they are—does not get to the nub of the problems that now confront the West. If we can say that a world dominated by the West in varying degrees has been a reality for four centuries, this defeat is not simply the end of that kind of imperialism. It reflects mechanisms that combine technological and military dominance with an incapacity to put in place a social order that would stabilise an alternative way of life. In other words, apart from the initial years of the Afghanistan invasion related directly to 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, the United States attempted a wholesale transformation of Afghan culture to bring the country into the ‘modern world’. Despite Joe Biden’s denial that the United States engaged in such state building, that is exactly where they failed. The same can be said about Iraq and Libya. This was not the case in South Korea or Japan after the Second World War.

This was no mere failure of bureaucracy or military knowledge on the part of the United States. Nor does it bear directly on this or that person or even the president of the day. It is a consequence of the institutional transformation that has overwhelmed lives in the West for at least the last four decades. In a strong sense we have so changed that we can no longer understand cultures that have not experienced this transformation of how we live and think. This new setting is actually the source of what we now tend to call freedom, a notion far different to the sense of freedom against power that is our historical tradition starting with Magna Carta.

To capture this change we need to be able to distinguish between social relations that rely on the presence of others as well as the spoken word in communities (the so-called face-to-face relations) that take place for granted and value it; and relations that draw upon technology to allow them to function socially even while absent from others—where there is no need for the other to be present. If community-based and family institutions as well as the experience of touch and tangibility serve as examples of the former, the written word, electronic media, email and social media illustrate the latter. These are not black-and-white distinctions, but who could deny that social absence is a widespread reality within the West today? This ‘culture’ is given its power by the revolution of high technology that has unfolded in stages through the twentieth century. While it is a revolution of potential and practical reality when it comes to technology, its other side—our way of life—is increasingly composed of fragile and fleeting social relations that are a mystery to cultures that constitute the whole history of Homo sapiens prior to the twentieth century. The latter are typically structured around kinship and generational renewal of a predominantly face-to-face social life. The cosmopolitan life of fleeting others is found to a degree in all cultures, but it moves towards becoming a norm in the life of the West. In a strong sense the West can no longer rely upon intuition to grasp and understand the core assumptions of cultures in the Middle East or Afghanistan. And those cultures are often appalled by what they now encounter in the West. Difference in belief and practice has now become difference in social kind.

Here then is the problem. The West has technologies easily available to it that can cause enormous pain for those who oppose it. Think of the role of drones that engage in warfare via absence in the savaging and slaughter of oppositional leaders, even as ‘collateral damage’ for civilians is often devastating. Nevertheless these technologies do not easily break those survivors who have a multilayered social formation. Of course they may be brutalised, but their social commitments are deep structured. On the other hand, the West’s capacity to engage in state building is radically undermined because it can only pursue ‘cultural’ strategies that it knows from its own experience—a complex but thin network of connections. At best these find a place in cosmopolitan settings in the cities that, to a degree, offer this type of nihilistic freedom from constraint. But state building in cultures like Afghanistan will always be thin if it relies on such relations. That it suddenly collapses when it is no longer propped up should be no surprise.

It is also good to keep in mind that those societies in the West who have come to rely more and more on the fragile and ever-moving network are themselves experiencing novel and deep-going crises that lead some, with good reason, to reflect on their viability over time. In other words, we are losing our predictable substance. This means that William Maley is quite correct to conclude that the United States is no longer a predictable ally, but this should not be the main point. The West has entered social transformations that are a threat to it and the conditions of life on the planet while also being a poor basis for state building in other cultures.


The Rules-Based Order

Clinton Fernandes, Sep 2021

Military historians are well aware that Australian governments have not gone to war for sentimental reasons or because they were duped. The organising principle of Australian foreign policy is to remain on the winning side of a worldwide confrontation between the empire and the lands dominated by it. 

The Bloody Trade

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/09/2021 - 2:47am in

Australia’s Yemen War and the supply of arms to rogue regimes

‘You’ve got to…get your hands covered in blood if you want to be one of the big 10’ was the warning for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when he announced Australia’s goal to become a top global weapons exporter. ‘[You’ll]…be selling to Saudi Arabia, to the United Arab Emirates…to these very authoritarian countries…engaged in major conflict…in places like Syria…in Yemen. You’ve really got to get your hands dirty.’

That warning came from Andrew Feinstein, one of the world’s foremost experts on the arms trade, interviewed on ABC radio in early 2018. He was soon proved correct.

Australia had already been doing secret arms deals with the countries fighting the catastrophic Yemen war, despite large numbers of civilian casualties and mounting evidence of war crimes. News of the deals emerged publicly in late 2018: Australia had approved dozens of military export permits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the key nations fighting in Yemen. By March 2021, Australian military export approvals to these two nations had topped 100: eighty to the UAE, twenty-three to Saudi Arabia.

Australia’s Yemen war

The ongoing Yemen war is now widely known to have caused the world’s biggest current humanitarian catastrophe. But even as early as October 2016 the UN was warning of likely war crimes and calling for nations to stop supplying weaponry to the countries fighting there: ‘Since the beginning of this conflict in Yemen, weddings, marketplaces, hospitals, schools—and now mourners at a funeral—have been hit, resulting in massive civilian casualties and zero accountability for those responsible’.

The world was aware of the horror being inflicted on Yemeni civilians by the Saudis and the UAE by the time Christopher Pyne, as Australia’s new defence industry minister, flew to both countries in late 2016 to spruik Australian weaponry. Just months later, Pyne returned to the UAE for further talks. While in Abu Dhabi, he attended the Middle East’s largest weapons expo, the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX). Pyne said he was discussing a possible $1 billion worth of arms deals with the UAE, adding that Australian companies could finalise hundreds of millions of dollars in sales at IDEX 2017.

His prediction came to pass when, in early 2018, Canberra-based weapon-maker Electro Optic Systems (EOS) announced a $410-million contract with an unnamed customer for EOS’s remote weapons systems. The secret customer was later exposed as the UAE, and the deal size increased to $450 million. In October 2017, Pyne again flew to the Middle East, for more meetings in Riyadh.

Launching Australia’s arms export industry

Late January 2018. The day after Prime Minister Turnbull launched Australia’s arms export strategy, trade minister Steve Ciobo said he was not concerned that exported arms might one day be turned against Australia. ‘This isn’t about providing weapons or arms to rogue regimes or anything like that’, he told breakfast television. ‘We’ve got strict controls, and those controls make sure we only supply defence assets in the future to like-minded countries that have a strong human rights record and have protections in place.’

That statement was plainly false. Ciobo had led a trade delegation to Saudi Arabia in April 2017 that included representatives from the ‘defence export’ sector. His colleague Pyne had already concluded arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Saudi Arabia and the UAE: ‘like-minded countries’, ‘strong human rights record’?

As to Ciobo dismissing the possibility of weapons being turned against Australia, his confidence was misplaced. He noted later in the interview that Islamic State (ISIS) was ‘a major problem’. A three-year investigation undertaken by Conflict Armament Research in fact found that US-supplied weapons had frequently ended up in the hands of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The investigation also found that the United States ‘repeatedly’ contravened agreements with its EU weapons suppliers and diverted the EU-manufactured weapons to opposition forces in Syria, and that ISIS subsequently gained custody of significant quantities of them.

Cosying up to repressive regimes

In August 2018, a Saudi-coalition missile strike on a school bus in Yemen killed forty children and eleven adults and injured dozens more. Despite this atrocity, the Australian government wanted to get closer to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The following month the Saudi assistant minister for defence visited Australia and attended one of Australia’s largest weapons expos, Land Forces. Pyne had just been appointed defence minister. During Land Forces 2018, Pyne said Australia was looking at signing new formal ‘defence industry’ agreements with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It was startling news that Australia was considering locking itself into arms-supply arrangements with these two repressive regimes.

In October 2018 the question of arms sales to Saudi Arabia erupted as a global issue. The gruesome murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul dominated headlines for weeks. On this subject, Australia’s new prime minister found a moral voice. ‘We are appalled beyond description by what has happened’, said Scott Morrison.

Pyne’s plan for a defence industry agreement with the Saudis was suddenly ‘not a priority’; the proposed agreement with the UAE ceased being mentioned. Asked in July 2021 whether Defence has made progress with these agreements since October 2018, a Defence spokesperson said, ‘Australia does not have defence industry agreements with either Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates’.

In the wake of Khashoggi’s murder, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said ‘all options are on the table’ when asked whether Australia would follow the lead of several European countries and stop exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia. Defence Minister Pyne said future military exports to the Saudis would be assessed with regard to the ‘deplorable’ events. Both ministerial statements simply provided a policy holding pattern. The Lowy Institute’s Anthony Bubalo commented at the time, ‘We do need to look very, very closely at the issue of defence exports to Saudi Arabia. We should have been looking…at that anyway, not because of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi but because of Saudi Arabia’s continuing involvement in the war in Yemen, which has been a humanitarian disaster’.

Meanwhile, Pyne tried to distance himself from the Saudis by perpetuating the myth that Australia can dictate what Saudi Arabia does with Australian-supplied weapons. Pyne was reported as saying that strict export controls ‘prevent’ our equipment being used in the ongoing conflict in Yemen. But Australia’s ‘strict export controls’ can prevent no such thing. In weapons deals with Saudi Arabia or the UAE the only point of strict control is the decision on whether to approve the export. If we want to be strict, Australia can say, ‘No’. Once an export is despatched, the chance of Australia exercising control over how those weapons are used plummets to virtually zero.

Under intense questioning in Senate hearings in 2018, defence department official Tom Hamilton could not categorically rule out the possibility of Australian weapons being used in Yemen. He admitted, ‘Military equipment, by its nature, will contribute to the capability of a military force and will often contribute to a conflict’. Hamilton also noted that Defence assesses arms exports on a ‘case-by-case basis’ and ‘consider[s] all relevant current information around the likely use of the item that’s been exported’. He repeated the usual line that Defence will not approve an export permit if it’s considered likely that the weapons would be used to contravene international law.

This blinkered case-by-case approach leaves unaddressed the overarching question of whether Australia should, in the first place, be enhancing the military capacity and weapons arsenals of nations already known to be serial and significant human rights abusers. ‘Australia has a legal duty under the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which Australia actively promoted when it was a UN Security Council member, to ensure that weapons are not used to commit human rights violations’, says former Australian politician and international lawyer Melissa Parke, who is now one of the UN’s group of experts on Yemen. ‘Under the treaty, there must also be fully transparent public reporting about arms exports.’

***

Military export applications

A freedom of information request by this author revealed that Defence has denied three applications for military exports to Saudi Arabia since 1 July 2019 and approved six. Before that date it had not denied any applications for military exports to Saudi Arabia since the Yemen war started. Twenty-three Saudi applications were approved from mid-2015 to the end of March 2021. No applications for military export permits to the UAE have been denied; eighty were approved. 

***

What happened to ‘transparency’?

In the 2018 Senate hearing, Hamilton noted that Defence was working on ‘a framework for transparency of defence exports’. What became of this? A Defence spokesperson said in July 2021, ‘In the 2018 Defence Export Strategy, the Government committed to enhance the transparency of defence export control principles and approach, including public reporting of defence export approvals and denials as defence exports grow’.

The spokesperson did not include an equally relevant sentence from the strategy that reads, ‘This will provide the Australian public with increased visibility of equipment and technology exports…’ (emphasis added). The visibility of actual exports has not increased at all. The Australian government continues to refuse to provide any details about the nature, quantity or destination of Australia’s arms exports.

The spokesperson also said, ‘Data relating to export permits is published quarterly on the Defence website’. At the time of writing, Defence had not yet published data for the March or June quarters of 2020–21. The data on the Defence website is broad brush, with several complicating factors identified but not addressed, thus obscuring any meaningful picture of Australia’s arms exports. Despite the government’s strategy declaring the Middle East a ‘priority market’, there is no data at all showing the value of arms exports to this region and whether, or by how much, they have increased.

In a 2020 report examining the Defence Export Strategy, the auditor-general said Defence had not established baseline data for defence exports or a methodology for measuring them. Defence responded that developing a baseline was a complex undertaking and that a suitable evaluation framework would take several years to implement. It has already been several years since the strategy was launched.

Would we ever find out if Australian weapons had been used in Yemen? Probably not. There is no formal Australian system in place to monitor arms exports. What does this say about our ‘strict’ controls that ‘prevent’ Australian weaponry from being used in Yemen, or anywhere else, in contravention of international law? Feinstein told ABC radio:

Our governments do not monitor that equipment once it’s been delivered to Saudi Arabia. And it’s for this reason that we find elements of Al-Qaeda, elements of ISIS, and ISIL operating in Syria, operating in Yemen, even operating in Iraq, who are armed with United States, British, and probably Australian weaponry.

Feinstein’s concern about the lack of formal monitoring by governments is borne out by responses from another defence department official under questioning in the Senate:

Senator Ludlam: How do you provide for protection and confidence that Australian military exports will not be used to…further human rights abuses inside Yemen?

Ms Skinner: Because where we have a concern that that will occur, we do not issue the permit.

Senator Ludlam: How do you ensure, after the gear has left our shores, that is not happening?

Ms Skinner: We have other ways of monitoring, where we can, through intelligence and other things, where we might understand munitions are used. We do not track Australian goods and companies per se, but should there be at some other point a concern, we would add that to our base of information (emphasis added).

As this 2017 exchange makes clear, Defence does not track Australian weaponry or companies after export has been approved. But what does the rest of Skinner’s response mean in practice?

Illegal weapons transfers

Governments routinely attach ‘end-user certificates’ to military exports that prohibit the retransfer of the weapons to third parties without approval. Despite this, unauthorised third-party transfers occur regularly. The United States diverting EU-supplied weapons into Syria without authorisation, mentioned earlier, is an example. There are rarely any repercussions for offending nations.

A German public broadcaster partnered with the Jordan-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism in 2018 to investigate weapons transfers into Yemen. The investigation found, ‘No penalties have ever been levied for breaching end user agreements’.

During the year-long investigation, Egyptian journalist Mohamed Abo-Elgheit uncovered hundreds of examples of weapons and military vehicles supplied by Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria,  Switzerland, Belgium and others either being used in Yemen by al-Qaeda and other non-state armed groups or offered for resale, still brand new, on the black market. Western governments had sent the weapons and equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE with ‘strict’ end-user agreements in place supposedly preventing transfer to third parties.

The investigation found:

  • armoured vehicles supplied to the UAE and Saudi Arabia by the United States being used by non-state armed groups (one later added to a terrorist watch list) in Yemen, some draped in UAE flags. The United States said it would investigate.
  • large armoured vehicles the United Kingdom had supplied to Saudi Arabia were also found in use by armed groups in Yemen, one being driven by a known fundamentalist Islamist leader. The UK government refused to engage with the journalist, saying the investigation was politically motivated.
  • Germany initially claimed it would investigate breaches, but, when provided with serial numbers and photographs of German weapons for sale on the black market, it stopped responding to the journalist.
  • the Austrian government did not respond to evidence of hundreds of its rifles supplied to Saudi Arabia being used in Yemen, some by children, others for sale in markets.
  • Swiss grenades supplied to the UAE were filmed in the hands of Yemeni fighters. Switzerland said it would investigate.

Does the Australian government have a greater ability than any of these countries to exert control over the Saudis and the UAE as to how Australian weapons and other military exports are used? Can Australians trust bland assurances from the defence department that Australia’s ‘strict export controls’ prevent the illegal use or transfer of Australian weapons?

On this issue of trust, in October 2020 an Australian-made transponder was discovered in a downed Azerbaijani military drone used in the latest eruption of the long-running conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Queensland manufacturer of the transponder, Microair Avionics, said it did not sell them to Azerbaijan. So how did its transponders end up in Azerbaijan’s drones? The company refused to reveal the country to which it had sold the transponders. The Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade also refused to answer any questions. Within months of the above investigation being published, Microair Avionics had revamped its website, having removed key information.

***

End-user certificates

End-user certificates (EUCs) are issued with weapons exports. The EUC certifies that the approved buyer is the final recipient of the weapons and it lists any restrictions on the use or transfer of the weapons. There are many problems internationally with EUCs: they are routinely forged, obtained by corrupt means, not completed properly or just plain ignored. Most governments, including Australia’s, do not put in place any meaningful mechanism to monitor compliance, which means EUCs operate under an honour system with little or no penalty for breaches. In theory, if a government discovered a receiving state had transferred its weapons to a third party without approval it could stop future exports to that state. In practice, this rarely happens.

***

Revolving doors and ‘upmarket mercenaries’

EOS has attracted significant criticism in recent years for its decision to supply its weaponry to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In a startling and mixed review of EOS’s financial position, The Australian Financial Review reported in June that the UAE accounts for 60 per cent of EOS’s total revenue (adding that the revenue is being booked by EOS as it manufactures the weapons, not upon delivery).

In a statement issued to the ABC when its supply of weapons systems to the UAE was exposed, EOS used an ‘economies of scale’ argument to defend its decision: ‘Foreign sales significantly reduce the cost of development, acquisition and support for Australia for defence technology. This is the principal reason why Australian industry participates in international sales’. In March, the company’s UAE subsidiary signed a partnership agreement with the UAE to develop a high-tech machine gun.

The company receives solid support from both major political parties. Along with Pyne’s joint sales trips to the Middle East with the EOS chief executive, the ‘revolving door’ has proved useful. The EOS board includes former Australian chiefs of army and air force Peter Leahy and Geoff Brown and former ALP senator Kate Lundy. Brown and Lundy are also current members of the ACT Labor government’s defence industry advisory board and both act as ACT government ‘defence ambassadors’. The ACT government has granted EOS significant tax concessions and has repeatedly refused to answer questions about them. Earlier this year Barnaby Joyce, now Australia’s deputy prime minister, disclosed that a trust fund established for his three-year-old son owns shares in EOS.

In January 2019, Defence Minister Pyne flew to the UAE to meet with its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, along with its minister of state for defence. Pyne’s media release didn’t mention it, but documents released under freedom of information reveal that his visit included a meeting with former senior Australian army officer Michael Hindmarsh, who is now the commander of the most important military unit in the UAE armed forces, the Presidential Guard, which was closely involved in the Yemen war.

In a 2018 piece for Arena on Australia’s links and involvement with Yemen, Richard Tanter describes Hindmarsh’s 2009 transition from senior ADF commander into ‘up-market mercenary’ for the UAE government:

Hindmarsh retired from the ADF as a major general in June 2009 after a career in the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and as head of the Special Operations Command.

During much of his later ADF career Hindmarsh was closely involved with the UAE, mainly through his role in the expansion of the large, longstanding Australian base at Al Minhad Air Base in Dubai. …

Hindmarsh initially accepted a position in late 2009 as national-security adviser to the UAE’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and shortly after as commander of the UAE’s Presidential Guard, reportedly at a tax-free salary of half a million dollars a year. In this role, Hindmarsh is a member of the UAE’s armed forces, wearing a UAE lieutenant general’s uniform and, most importantly, reporting directly to bin Zayed.

There are reportedly dozens of former ADF personnel working with or as part of the UAE armed forces, including a number of senior former officers whom Hindmarsh brought with him.

While heading Australia’s Special Operations Command Hindmarsh served under Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, then the chief of army. Leahy is now a long-serving board member of EOS, having joined its board in May 2009, less than a year after he retired as army chief.

Flouting international law

After the launch of Australia’s Defence Export Strategy, Pyne gave a commitment that Australia would only authorise military exports to countries ‘like ourself who support the rules-based international order’. He’d broken this commitment before he even made it. Or, to put it more plainly, he lied.

On top of extensive documented breaches of international law in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, the UAE is widely known to be illegally arming and supporting rebel Libyan forces trying to overthrow Libya’s internationally recognised government, in defiance of a UN arms embargo. Following repeated breaches over many years by multiple countries, including the UAE, the UN has labelled the embargo ‘totally ineffective’. Regardless, Australia has continued selling weapons and other military equipment to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

‘Australia’s actions in approving arms exports to countries that are known to be committing serious violations of human rights, and its failure to be transparent about this, are inconsistent with its obligations under international law’, says Parke. ‘Having signed up to…these international laws, the Australian government can’t just cherry pick what aspects it’s going to abide by, especially when it…lectures other countries, such as China and Russia, about the importance of the international rule of law.’

Is there another way?

Nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in Yemen will suffer acute malnutrition this year and 400,000 could die if they do not receive urgent treatment, said UNICEF in February. Save the Children Australia coordinates the Australian Arms Control Coalition, a group of human rights organisations (including Amnesty International, Oxfam Australia and the Medical Association for Prevention of War) calling on the Australian government to stop exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Save the Children says 1.71 million children are in displacement camps in Yemen, and 90 per cent of these children don’t have sufficient access to food, clean water, or education. ‘Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster’, says Philippa Lysaght, humanitarian policy and advocacy adviser at Save the Children Australia. ‘To think that Australia is somehow complicit in this catastrophic war is horrifying. It is time to stop the war on children.’

Bruce Riedel from prestigious US think tank The Brookings Institution has called the Yemen war ‘America’s war’. He says Barack Obama could have stopped the war right at the start in 2015 by cutting off military, diplomatic and intelligence support for the Saudi-led coalition. Riedel notes the huge proportion (86 per cent) of Saudi Arabia’s weaponry supplied by the United States and the United Kingdom and says, ‘It is time to stop the carnage in Yemen and stop fueling the arms race in the Middle East’. America’s loyal ally Australia should do the same. Arms-trade campaigner Ann Feltham is succinct: ‘The arms trade fuels war, exacerbates regional tensions, gives succour to human rights abusers, and squanders resources’. Earlier this year, Australia confirmed it would not ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Important questions remain unanswered: what does this murky trade with repressive regimes have to do with the defence of Australia? Why is Australia willing to be associated with the deaths of tens of thousands—maybe hundreds of thousands—of children, and to stain its international reputation just to provide a comparatively small number of Australians with jobs of questionable morality? Surely there is another way.

Shop top with

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/09/2021 - 9:26am in

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vintage, War

Shop top with a rare date from WWI, when construction work rapidly declined as almost 40% of the male population signed up to go away to war. Recently repainted after becoming a real estate agent’s office, of course. Hurlstone Park.

Manufacturing Dystopia: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/09/2021 - 10:27am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/cbccb02d6d20efd5cdab51f534b48868/href

We live in a world of manufactured lack, manufactured enemies, manufactured crises and manufactured consent. We’ve had sufficient resources to care for everyone for generations. All our wars are based on lies. All our problems are cooked up by a few psychos with too much power.

Ever since he came to Australia my American husband still finds it strange to see a parrot out in the open instead of sitting in a cage. I feel much the same whenever I see George W Bush.

The capitalist class has never voluntarily returned anything it has stolen from the working class; every time it manages to give people less it never reverses it, no matter how much greater profits become. Capitalism is never going to get less abusive. It will only grow more so.

If there were good billionaires they wouldn’t still be billionaires.

It’s impossible to be a good billionaire, not just because it’s immoral to remain that wealthy in a world full of need and because all billionaires are parasitic middlemen siphoning the profits off other people’s labor, but also because in order to obtain that much wealth you generally have to manipulate the actual movement of human civilization to your benefit in some way.

“You’re anti-American!”

No I’m anti-war, anti-militarism, anti-empire, anti-ecocide, anti-oligarchy, anti-capitalism and anti nuclear brinkmanship. It just happens that the US is at the center of a globe-spanning power structure that is the worst offender on all these fronts by an extremely wide margin.

The most evil and destructive things Trump did as president weren’t the Trumpian things but the American things. The things his predecessors and his successor are also guilty of doing.

If the US empire ran out of excuses to use and test its extremely profitable military arsenal on impoverished foreigners, it would simply invent more excuses.

It’s hard to wrap your mind around, because it’s so much more profoundly evil than we’re ever taught to anticipate, but it really is an objective fact that people who make money manufacturing military weapons have a tremendous amount of influence over how and when those weapons are used. A war profiteer can pour money into campaign contributions which incentivize policymakers to push for acts of military interventionism, and pour money into think tanks and lobbying to give those policymakers an excuse to do so. This is all perfectly legal, and it happens constantly.

It’s exactly the same as murdering human beings at mass scale and selling their body parts for a tremendous profit. And it’s deemed perfectly reasonable and acceptable.

I grow continually more and more amazed at how western media get away with citing think tanks funded by governments and defense contractors to promote imperialist propaganda. If everyone understood that they do this constantly and what that means, it would end the mass media.

The real heroes of 9/11 were those precious few who immediately took a stand against the jingoistic hysteria that swept across public consciousness and opposed the horrors the western empire was about to unleash upon the world.

History seldom vindicates the peacemongers. Not because they aren’t right, but because history is written by warmongers.

Covid could just as easily have been used to transfer wealth from the wealthiest to the poorest and pay people to voluntarily stay home and to take the vaccine. Instead it’s seen a massive wealth transfer to the very wealthiest, and vaccine mandates that will hurt the poorest.

We’re a few months out from seeing American libertarians angrily sharing around a video of police beating an unvaccinated Black person for noncompliance with some new authoritarian law, and seeing liberals in the comments cheering for the police.

Don’t look to other leftists to figure out how to think about a given issue, look at the values and priorities which led you to the left in the first place. The group consensus and your most deeply held values will not always be in alignment.

Humanity is deeply insane, even the parts of humanity which align with your ideological preferences. For this reason it’s never a safe bet to go along with the consensus positions of your ideological faction instead of figuring things out on your own based on your own values.

There are a lot of people who correctly ask “who benefits?” whenever there’s a potential false flag event yet fail to ask who might benefit from a religion that glorifies poverty, meekness, humility, docility, and rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

True humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, and it isn’t thinking of yourself less. True humility is the deep, all-pervading insight that the very phenomenon we call “self” is pure illusion.

You just have to wonder how much of a mass-scale psychological pummelling human consciousness can take before it snaps. And you have to wonder what might lie on the other side of that snap. Maybe something bad. But maybe something very, very good.

It’s a tricky tightrope walk the oligarchs have to do, making sure they don’t steal too much of our wealth and freedom all at once so we don’t rise up and take it back. It’s easy to forget that we’re actually the ones with all the power here. Only problem is we don’t yet know it.

They’re more afraid of you than you are of them. It’s true of spiders, snakes, and oligarchic imperialists.

_______________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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Twenty Years Of Phony Tears About 9/11

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/09/2021 - 4:11am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/e02b9f8c02469c93a8884066dec1051a/href

The mass media are churning out articles and news segments commemorating the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, many of them featuring adoring retrospectives of their celebrity president’s actions as a US senator that day. Biden’s ceremonial PR tour to New York City, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon can be expected to receive a great deal of coverage as outrage swells over the president’s controversial new nationwide vaccine mandate.

And it’s all just so very, very stupid. This nation which has spent twenty years weeping about its victimization with Bambi-eyed innocence reacted to 9/11 with wars which killed millions and displaced tens of millions and ushered in an unprecedented new era of military expansionism which has funneled trillions of dollars to some of the worst people in the world.

Compared to the horrors the United States unleashed upon the world under the justification of 9/11, 9/11 itself was a family trip to Disneyland. The death and destruction visited upon Iraq alone dwarfs the 2,977 people killed on 9/11 by orders of magnitude; hell, this was true of the death and destruction the US had been inflicting on Iraq even before 9/11.

In a saner, more emotionally intelligent world, it is those deaths that Americans would be focused on this September the 11th.

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There’s a great thread being shared around on Twitter right now by someone who found a book full of political cartoons published in the wake of 9/11, and it’s a perfect reminder of just how insane people were being driven by mass media manipulation during that time. The brazen Islamophobia, the flag-waving jingoism, the mawkish histrionics and the government bootlicking contained in those vapid comics are like an emotional time portal back to the lizard brain mentality of that point in history. I especially recommend it to those who are too young to remember how people came to support the monstrous foreign policy decisions made in the aftermath of 9/11.

It’s also an excellent lesson into why it is always best to avoid being swept up in the emotionality of a major event that’s getting a lot of narrative push, no matter how loudly the mass media are shrieking about it and no matter how many of the people around you get swept up in it.

There was no real reason Americans needed to respond to 9/11 with slobbering patriotism and the banging of war drums. It would have made sense for everyone to feel shocked, afraid, angry and sad, but that’s all that would have happened had their minds not been manipulated by the mass media and the Bush administration into believing that the sane response to a terrorist attack is to start launching full-scale regime change invasions of sovereign nations.

Americans could just as easily have felt sad for a bit, and had that be the end of it. Imagine. Imagine what a better world we’d be living in if the public had not consented to wars and had instead just felt their feelings for however long it took to feel them, and had that be that.

Without being told so by solemn-looking pundits and politicians, it never would have occurred to ordinary people that the sane response to an attack by Al Qaeda was to invade and occupy Afghanistan, much less Iraq. People would’ve expected to see the individuals responsible for the attacks captured and brought to justice, just as they’d seen happen with every other terrorist attack in their country, but on their own it would never have occurred to them to think of it as an “act of war” for which wars were an appropriate response.

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But wars were planned. The US had already been strategizing to oust the Taliban before 9/11. Donald Rumsfeld was pushing for the Iraq invasion within hours of the planes striking. Further wars were planned within days. The official 9/11 narrative itself was riddled with gaping plot holes. And mass media pundits were fired if they didn’t support the Iraq invasion.

So people were psychologically conditioned by mass-scale propaganda to believe that 9/11 was some unforgivable atrocity so egregious that it could only be paid for by rivers of blood. And that conditioning remains today, as we will see from brainwashed empire pundits weeping their crocodile tears on the 20th anniversary of an event which, compared to the consequences of their government’s retaliation, wasn’t actually a very big deal.

It would have been infinitely better for everyone if America had done nothing, absolutely nothing, in response to 9/11, or better yet if it had left the Middle East altogether to make sure there are no extremist groups wanting them dead due to their actions there. But, again, wars were planned. And the public was psychologically brutalized into accepting them.

This is what we should all remember on 9/11. Not those 2,977 deaths on US soil. As sad as they were, they’ve been grieved more than enough by the general public. Now it’s time to begin addressing the giant stain upon our collective soul that is the vastly greater evils those deaths were exploited to justify.

_________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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Only the World's Workers Can Save Us from a Capitalist Cataclysm

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/09/2021 - 9:10pm in

The World’s Deadliest Terrorist Group: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/09/2021 - 10:01pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/b4e7b0ebfaab1c46a51add64fd54844e/href

The CIA just casually discussed sinking a boat full of Cuban refugees and planting bombs in Miami and blaming Castro, but you’re bat shit crazy if you suspect such agencies may have had similar discussions about other geostrategic situations and decided to go through with it.

There’s more public criticism of ordinary people taking ivermectin than there is of planet-dominating power structures driving humanity to armageddon.

Nobody who supports internet censorship does so because they’re worried they themselves might consume dangerous words and believe them, it’s always to protect other people from dangerous words. It’s about the most megalomaniacal, emotionally stunted desire anyone could possibly have.

They see themselves as responsible adults who can be trusted to independently sort out truth from falsehood, but see other people as infants who cannot be trusted to do this. This is nothing other than garden variety narcissism.

Internet censorship via monopolistic government-tied tech corporations isn’t just a problem because of free speech issues, it’s a problem because the way it’s applied is completely uneven and power-serving: politicians and the mass media circulate disinformation constantly without ever being censored. It’s not just silencing people, it’s actually shifting power upwards.

There is no path forward for humanity on this planet without complete female reproductive sovereignty.

Imagine if the world’s deadliest terrorist group got their hands on drones and cruise missiles and nuclear warheads and aircraft carriers and circled the planet with hundreds of military bases and began waging wars and destroying any country which disobeyed their dictates.

No, Texas conservatives aren’t like the Taliban. No, US government authoritarianism isn’t like China or North Korea. You know what it’s like? It’s like America. It says so much that the most corrupt and destructive nation on earth keeps comparing its homegrown depravity to foreign nations.

It’s crazy how there are guys whose whole entire job is trying to get large number of people killed by mass military violence and we just let that be a thing like it’s a perfectly legitimate way for someone to be.

“Hey why does that mustache guy keep trying to get large numbers of people violently killed?”

“Oh he’s just one of those war starty guys.”

“What?? Why are there war starty guys??”

“I dunno. Isn’t that normal? I just assumed it was normal to have war starty guys.”

Every single soldier who died in Afghanistan died in vain. Don’t make up sugary fairy tales about it, just stop letting it happen.

Are soldiers working under the US empire the worst people in the world? No. But in terms of moral standing you’d have to rank someone who murders foreigners on behalf of imperialists and war profiteers below most of the people in your average prison.

“If it wasn’t us waging all these wars and killing all those people it’d be someone else” sounds very much like the sort of thing an abusive tyrant would say.

There’s no good reason to respect the analysis of anyone who thinks China’s behavior on the world stage is worse than or equally as bad as America’s.

Australia is the only so-called democracy in the world which has no bill of rights of any kind. Most people are unaware of this, including most Australians. What you’re seeing in Australia is simply what happens when you add a pandemic response on top of a nation with no foundational legal protection from government overreach. That’s why our Covid measures are so notoriously harsh relative to other western countries.

Modern gods are corporations and banks, faceless inhuman entities whose agendas of growth and conquest supercede even the wishes of their own executives. Our gods are insatiable devourers controlled by no one. Our gods have no heads.

At a time when our species is hurtling toward its own demise we ought to be coming together and working in unison to avert disaster, and it says so much about the power of propaganda that we are instead doing the exact opposite.

All of humanity’s problems are ultimately due to a misperception of the way things are.

Propaganda causes us to misperceive reality in a way that benefits establishment power structures, so we don’t rise up and use the power of our numbers to put an end to the ecocidal, omnicidal status quo which oppresses and exploits us.

Advertising causes us to misperceive our own bodies and the source of real contentment, leading to the obsessive consumption habits necessary for turning the gears of capitalism.

Ego causes us to misperceive our own experience of consciousness and the information which enters our minds through the senses, leading to the suffering and dysfunction which ultimately underlies all abuses in our world.

What we need, then, is clear seeing, both outwardly and inwardly. An end to government secrecy and the mass-scale manipulations which distort our perception of reality. An end to restrictions on psychedelic tools which help people behold their inner processes with lucidity. A greatly elevated prioritization of self-honesty and self-reflection to help us see through the ego’s illusions.

We can’t move toward health until we can see where we’re going.

_______________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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The U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/08/2021 - 11:12pm in

Tags 

afghanistan, War

In this episode, Neil, Niki, and Natalia discuss the past and present of U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan. Here are...

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The Completion Of The Afghanistan Withdrawal Is Nothing To Celebrate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/08/2021 - 11:13am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/2ddea9810c38fd67eeacc26d309b917b/href

The US has officially announced the completion of its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, minus of course the CIA ops which will continue in that country and the bombs that will likely continue to rain down in the name of fighting terrorism.

There are a lot of warmongers rending their garments over the termination of a decades-long military occupation which accomplished nothing besides making war profiteers wealthy and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Almost as ridiculous are the countless pundits and politicians hailing this as some kind of major accomplishment that Americans should be proud of.

Pride, praise and celebration are not the appropriate emotional response to the day. The appropriate response to a decades-overdue withdrawal from a war that should never have happened in the first place is rage. Unmitigated rage at an unforgivable atrocity which amassed a mountain of corpses for no legitimate reason, from which the region will probably not recover in our lifetime. Unmitigated rage at those responsible for starting and maintaining this horror all this time.

This is not something that Biden should be applauded for. Nobody deserves praise or credit for ending a twenty-year disaster, especially one they helped start. Nobody applauds the mass shooter for finally setting down the rifle.

Every single allied soldier who died in Afghanistan died in vain. They died fighting not for national security, freedom, or democracy, but for war industry profit margins and for the idiotic geostrategic agendas of globe-dominating imperialists. This is also the reason every Afghan soldier and Afghan civilian was killed during that time.

They all died in vain. We shouldn’t concoct sugary fairy tales about this, we should try to prevent it from happening again.

Who knows where Afghanistan would be if the US and its allies had stayed out of the nation two decades ago? Who knows where they’d have been had the US not begun arming the mujahideen against the Soviet Union four decades ago? We will never know what could have been for those people. The opportunity to find out was taken away from them. Stolen forever.

And of course no lessons were learned from this by anyone who will be making decisions about the actions that will be taken by the most powerful military force in history. America’s bloated military budget will continue to swell, and its arsenal and that of its allies will pivot toward new enemies.

The only sane response to all this is rage, and disgust. And a firm commitment to trying to end this madness.

_____________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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