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Talisman Sabre 2013 Report

August 15, 2013

I arrived in Rockhampton on the 3 July. I had come up to support Graeme Dunstan, veteran peace activist of Peacebus.com fame and to protest the US/Australian Alliance as it manifests at the biennial joint Military Exercises known as Talisman Sabre.

 

The US/Australian Alliance has seen Australia follow the US into wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Iraq and Afghanistan, just to name the wars that we know of.

 

Graeme had been active in the Talisman Saber 2011 Peace Convergence. He assisted Bryan Law perform a Ploughshare action in which Bryan had smote a Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter with a mattock. The strike caused an estimated $170,000 worth of damage and disabled the helicopter.

 

The media at the time took the view that people should not be damaging helicopters that had helped Queenslanders during the January 2011 floods. The media did not state that the Tiger helicopters are not capable of air drops or rescuing people. Lightweight, they are a flying weapons platforms costing $35 million each, or in the words of the late Bryan Law “vile death machines”.

 

Bryan and Graeme were to face trial in Rockhampton District Court on 19 August. During last Easter Bryan died, so now Graeme will be in the dock facing the charge of wilful damage of Commonwealth property alone.

Talisman Sabre

 

Talisman Sabre (TS) is a biennial joint training exercise between the United States and Australian military. TS13 was bigger than ever before with some 28,000 troops involved. The line taken by politicians is that it helps secure Australia and ensure that if Australia were to come under attack, the training would help the US be better able to defend Australia from threat.

 

The ADF (Australian Defence Force) however admits, that the exercise is also about “interoperability”. That is, it seeks to make it easier for the US to use Australian armed forces in their foreign wars of invasion and occupation. Two recent examples of this are Iraq and Afghanistan. These are not war games, but war rehearsals for the invasion and occupation of states that have economic interests to those in the United States.

 

Independence from the US Day

The first action I undertook as part of TS protests was a SpeakOut at the gates of Western Street Barracks in Rockhampton, now known to the military as Army Base Rockhampton. It is the main staging ground in Rockhampton for the War Rehearsals. The southern perimeter of the Shoalwater Bay  Exercise Area is about 100 km north east.

 

The fourth of July and Graeme had dubbed the day, the “Independence from the US Day”. Ten people attended the event but Graeme, because of his Ploughshare notoriety, drew all the local media (ABC Radio Capricornia, WIN and Seven News) who were recording the event and, because Rockhampton is the media hub for Central Queensland, this meant a potential audience in the order of 190,000 people. 

 

Standing in an array of colourful flags and banners, Graeme delivered a fire brand speech Graeme condemned war, the war rehearsals and the recently leaked confirmation that our “powerful friend is snooping on all our emails and all of our phone calls”.

 

I got a chance to speak next. Immediately all the cameras were turned off. Only slightly undeterred, I called for an independent and peaceful Australia. A country that doesn’t strip millions of dollars from universities to fund schools as the Federal Government is planning on doing to fund the Gonski review, but instead takes money out of the botched Joint Strike Fighter program (estimated cost $1.4 billion) or out of the Collins Class submarines which cost a $1 billion each.

 

Also present at the SpeakOut were Capricornia Greens candidate, Paul Bambrick, and partner Edwina Mullany, an art teacher at Yeppoon State High School. Vocal against TS and the over reach of the security establishment Paul attracted lots of media attention that day.

 

I wanted to acknowledge Paul and Edwina for their generous support and hospitality for me and the Peace Convergence crew.

Havachat

My main job, apart from supporting Graeme, was to set up Havachat for accommodation. Havachat is a casual drop in centre and eccentric art gallery in the main street of Rockhampton CBD and Rockahmpton eccentric, Chris “Pineapple” Hooper, formerly of the Funny Farm, a pineapple farm near Emu Park, is it’s proprietor.

 

A café of sorts for there is a kettle and tea bags available, if you’re broke, Chris will give you a free cuppa. Out front is an array of lounge chairs where local discontents sit about and chat. Out back is a huge warehouse space gradually filling with stuff which Chris collects. His speciality is multi seated bikes. Bryan Law’s peace trike has pride of place there.

 

Chris generously opens up Havachat to serve as a base for the Peace Convergence. My job was to create space amongst the stuff for laptops and bunks.

 

Most of us stayed there when we were not in Yeppoon or breaking into Shoalwater Bay. Central and friendly, easy access for police liaison who came by regularly and media crews, it served us well and I had a lot of good times there over the three weeks that I was there.

 

If you’re in Rocky, drop in to 20 East Street and say g’day to Chris.

 

NAIDOC Parade and Expo

The Peace Convergences past had established strong links with the local Darumbal people, the local traditional owners. It began in 2007 when Darumbal elder Auntie Jeanette welcomed two women anti US bases organisers from Guam and Hawaii.

 

Graeme, amongst others had made a deep personal connection with Auntie Jeanette, and together they had organised a flag making project to dress the NAIDOC Parade for which Jeanette was the principle marshal. As a NAIDOC March it has the biggest turn out in all Queensland.

 

Sadly, Aunty Jeanette passed back into the Dreaming in September 2011. Though her support was missed, the Peace Convergence again had a stall and a presence in the annual NAIDOC March at the NAIDOC Expo where the March went to.

 

I helped Graeme rig and array flags for the March and I also helped Robin Taubenfeld and Treena Lenthall man a Peace Convergence information stall at the Expo.

 

The week after NAIDOC, a small Memorial Service was held for Auntie Jeanette by the Fitzroy River near Havachat. It was attended by a sister, a daughter and a granddaughter of Jeanette and her Peace Convergence friends.

 

Military Open Day

On the Sunday before TS begins, the ADF organise “Family Military Open Day” at the Rockhampton Showgrounds. Inside the Seventh Fleet Band and Australian military bands play big band swing music (which I have to admit, was great to listen to) and kids line up to hold weapons of war and climb over tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

 

Peace Convergencers are forbidden entry but offer alternative entertainment outside the gates.  In particular, Robin Taubenfeld of Brisban FoE, organised for their distribution of free helium balloons with the CND symbol printed upon. Since this was the first free offering for the arriving family groups, children eagerly took them and carried them into the Open Day.

 

Robin had also brought a photographic exhibition called Children of Iraq which was hung from the Showground fence near the gate, a salutary illustration of the true impact of war on children.

 

Graeme had cheekily advertised the inaugural Bryan Law Memorial Tricycle Ride. He had wanted a trike race but was forbidden by police. Instead he set up a beautifully designed three panel backdrop depicting a Tiger helicopter under the motto in large print “turn attack helicopters into ploughshares”. In front was the tricycle that Bryan Law used on his Ploughshares action and people were invited to sit on the trike and have their photos taken.

 

Some of us also donned “Guantanamo Bay” suits and reminded people that what they were going in to see were not toys, but implements designed to kill and enforce our will on others. One of the costs of these actions is the continuing illegal detention of men who have had their justice denied.

 

Graeme had a hired PA (Peacebus PA had been forbidden) which he used to spruik to the queuing family groups.

 

Using that PA I read out the story of Mamdoud Habib. I strongly urge all readers of this to familiarise themselves with his story as a Muslim Australian citizen, of abduction and torture at the hands of the US military and its cohorts and complicity of the Australian Government.

 

The Open Day was attended by maybe 5000 Rockhampton people, much fewer than the 13,000 expected, and much fewer than the 2011 Military Open Day. Graeme reckoned our war is not for children message was getting through.

 

Channel Nine News Brisbane covered the event, interposed video of 4 and 5 years old boys playing with guns and with shots from the Children of Iraq Exhibition and was critical of the recruiting pitch of the event.

 

Next day the front page of Rockhampton Morning Bulletin carried a photo of a tot on a tank and it drew hostile comments from readers.

 

There was also an article featuring Graeme and the rest of the Peace Convergence. The hard work and dedication of many a peace activist over the years had generated local media space in which questions about the US Alliance can be asked and the call for an independent and peaceful Australia mentioned.

 

 

Vince Emanuele

On the day of the Military Open Day, Vince Emanuele flew in from Brisbane for the last leg of a four city speaking tour which was organised by Graeme and his Stand Fast friends.

 

Vince is a former US Marine who did two tours of duty in Iraq. When he was told he was to go for his third tour, he refused to pick up a weapon and was honourably discharged from the Marines.

 

Vince suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). Usually referred to as a disorder, I disavow that term. I do not think that it is a disorder to see or experience what soldiers do in Iraq or Afghanistan or any war and come back spiritually and mentally scarred for life.

 

Vince spoke on the Monday outside of the gates Western Street Barracks the Peacebus PA booming through the wire to the soldiers within who came out of their tents and offices to hear.

 

The speech is on YouTube ( http://tiny.cc/5a48zw) and linked to the Peace Convergence website. I urge anyone reading this to check it out. Here is the opening excerpt:

 

“Brothers and sisters, I know why you joined the military; because it’s the same reason I joined the military: I wanted to serve my country. I wanted to do something that was honourable, that was worthwhile, that wasn’t like the rest of my friends just sitting around at home going to school bullshitting and the rest. But then we were sent to a bullshit war, a war that should have never happened. And we know why now. We know that there were no weapons of mass destruction, we know there were no ties to Al Qaeda, we know that bullshit Cheney and the rest of them lied to us, and what happened? Well I’ll tell you what happened in the United States with veterans: there’s a hundred and fifty thousand veterans that sleep homeless in the United States every night, one fifth to a quarter of the homeless population in the United States is made up of veterans. And there are 22 veterans that kill themselves every day in the United States. More veterans have killed themselves than have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

 

Vince’s speech was powerful and Graeme reckons the highlight of his Peace Convergence organising.

 

The next night Vince spoke to a small crowd at the Rockhampton Motor Boat Club.

 

At Yeppoon RSL Club the following night, the Peace Convergence showed the documentary about PTSS and veterans which features Vince and is called “On the Bridge”. Vince was advertised as being available for a Q&A after. It was the last gig of his tour.

 

Before the documentary I met a woman who had seen the posters around town. I did not get her name, but she had a son who had returned from two tours of Afghanistan. She confided in me that he had “changed”. That he was drinking a bit more, that he was less communicative and she wanted more information. We watched the documentary, which amongst others, featured the parents of a young soldier who had come home and slowly displayed the symptoms of PTS, despite medication and a loving family he continued to decline and committed suicide.

 

The mother whom I had spoken to left in tears. I followed her to the car park and told her Vince was going to talk and hearing him speak might offer more information or avenues for support. In tears, she declined and thanked me for showing the documentary. She drove away. I don’t know her name or what will become of her son or her. But it drove home that PTS and the effects of war on veterans and soldiers and young people whom we tell the Defence Force is a good career option is real. These are real lives with real suffering and real deaths. For what gain?

 

Vince spoke briefly about PTS but also about the need for those in the know to care. He asked what are we as activists prepared to do? He reminded us of Gandhi’s call for his followers to walk lovingly into a hail of machine gun bullets. He reminded us that no-one could campaign with Martin Luther King Jr unless they were willing to be savagely beaten by opponents.

 

I wonder if as activists in modern Australia we are too complacent and too comfortable…

 

Community Cabinet

Before we went to hear Vince speak at the Fitzroy Motor Boat Club, we went to protest outside the Community Cabinet which took place at the North Rockhampton High School Hall and was attended by the recently reappointed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

 

Before I went in, I and some others again donned the Guantanamo Bay jumpsuits. Jessica and I started and we stayed on the footpath outside of the school. It was rather wide and large.

 

The whole time we were in Rocky, because of the media around Graeme and the Ploughshares action, we had Queensland Police liaison officers assigned to us. Sgts Kerry Duffy and Joe Aboud who knew Graeme very well. They both went to Bryan Law’s memorial service and we consulted them before every planned action.

 

They had told us that we were allowed on the footpath as long as we didn’t block it. Jess and I sat on the footpath with our placard, silently bearing witness to the torture and illegal detention of human beings, some now proven to be innocent who have spent 11 years on Guantanamo.

 

Within moments we were surrounded by plain clothed Australian federal police agents and also Queensland Police from Protective Intelligence (aka Special Branch). They told us we weren’t allowed there.

 

I said we had been given permission from QLD police liaison officers. One federal officer replied “I don’t know anything about this supposed liaison officer”. Jessica declared, and I followed suit, that we would not move until given a move on order by the police. We sat there and waited.

 

Kerrie Duffy, the QLD police liaison came over and spoke to plain clothes cops and that was the last of that part of that harassment. I sat there for about half an hour, barefoot in my jumpsuit and black hood.

 

A police officer leaned over the school fence, a man I’d never met and said “Greg, I’m going to get you a pair of socks Greg, your feet will be cold Greg.” I was a bit stunned for a moment, then realised this was just an intimidation tactic and I replied “My feet may get cold, but my heart is warm.”

 

Though this was not the coolest reply, it took the wind out of his sails and he left me alone at least. Until he came out and asked about Jess “is that person next to you male or female Greg?” I took my hood off and looked at the officer, “My friend?” the officer nodded “My friend I just met today and they’re helping me out a bit”. I put my hood back on and resumed my pose.

 

To have my name would not take a lot of resources or working out, but I wonder if government/ police/ surveillance might not have something better to do with their budgets then monitor a casual high school teaching/ uni student/ peace activist. If I am up there with the big threats to the State, than the State is pretty safe! I was not the only one who copped this treatment, so I don’t want to big note myself, but as this is my report, I can make myself out to be the star for a little bit can’t I?

 

I went inside the Community Cabinet. After the predictable references to State of Origin and Kevin talking up scrapping the Carbon Tax (he spoke about every aspect of it except for the environmental costs of the move- I suppose that’s fair. What has the environment ever done for us?) The floor was open for questions.

 

My friend, activist and Friends of the Earth mainstay Robin Taubenfeld asked about the US alliance and whether that was the best thing for Australia. Kevin Rudd gave the tired answer of “No one will forget 1942 when the Japanese nearly invaded us. America saved our skin and we’re not likely to forget it.” Now I could do another 5000 words on this subject, but whilst you’re waiting for the video of Vince Emanuele to load, can you just do a quick google of “The Battle for Australia Day”.

 

Have a look at the criticisms of Peter Stanley, the former principal historian at the Australian War Memorial. He criticised Kevin Rudd in 2008 for instituting this Day. There was never a “Battle for Australia” it is historically highly inaccurate to say Australia was under threat of invasion by the Japanese. No other country in the world thinks this, but as part of our paranoid national narrative we love stories of the Asian horde trying to destroy our “Christian” English, white nation. Why do Boat People get such a hard time in the media?

 

So Kevin Rudd spun this lie again to the Australian people and I rolled my eyes. I realised I should have done something more useful, like protest or watch 12 hours of soap opera television.

 

One highlight of the community cabinet for me was the last question. An elderly gentlemen stood up and asked “I’m a retiree and I’m worried. How can we as a country be more humane to refugees and asylum seekers?” I, along with I think quite a few others, gave a long, hard cheer and clap. This was two days before Kevin announced the ultra-draconian PNG solution he did a double answer. Summary “We need to be soft hearted and hard headed on this”. It was a lame answer, appealing to the will of the crowd and the base racism of Australian pop culture. How I long for real political leadership that doesn’t play to the basest desires of the mob.

 

Western Street Barracks Action

The following Friday 19 July, I went and spoke at St. Ursula’s Catholic High School about peace and faith. For ninety minutes, I was given 60 young minds (plus their teachers) to challenge and talk with. It was fantastic.

 

At the same time, several of the Peace Convergence went back to the Western Street Barracks and protested. Some of them ended up blockading the driveway in an attempt to disrupt the War Rehearsals. Four were very quickly arrested by police and slapped with severe bail conditions, restricting them from going within 500m of any place aligned with TS. From reports on the Peace Convergence website and what my friends told me, the police response was heavy with 10 police showing up within a few minutes.

 

On top of this, a hire car we had, plus the Peacebus were targeted for constant “random” breath tests and license checks. Jessica got breath tested “randomly” four times in two weeks, I got done twice and several others got pulled over a few times as well. It feels like we were targeted and the police were trying to say “we’re watching you”. Again, if we were the biggest threat happening at the time, we live in a very safe country and don’t need any American protection at all!

 

Yeppoon Peace Parade and Concert

The following Sunday, about thirty-forty of us turned out at Yeppoon for the biennial Peace Parade and Concert. It was a very small turn out, I’m told, compared to previous events. We did not have a permit and so walked on the foot path. Amongst us were the Peace Convergence and locals who were concerned with the environmental effects of the TS Military Exercises happening in nearby pristine coastal rainforest.

 

The police presence was heavy. One Peace Convergencer saying “I was filmed and photographed more here than I was at the G20 protests.” When you consider the G20 is a bastion of possible violent protests against world government powers and Yeppoon Peace Parade overwhelms the local fish and chip shops for the afternoon, you get a sense of the heavy-handed police monitoring and enforcement of laws that had not been broken.

 

When I first got to Rocky Graeme was enthusiastic that we were ruffling feathers and causing commotions within the military encampments. I thought this was a little egotistical. But to see the amount of police out in force and keeping very watchful eyes on us, I started to wonder. Either the police in the area are way overfunded, or Graeme had a point.

 

The concert was great. Just off of the beautiful Keppel Bay beach, great sounds and rousing speeches. My favourite was the local Peace Choir. At the end, they sat in the crowd and we all had a sing-a-long to our favourite peace anthems. I turned in early that night, I had a big few days in front of me and I needed the rest.

 

Direct Action

I’m going to be careful with some of the detail in this. Firstly we committed a Commonwealth Offence and I don’t want to name any parties that helped us. Secondly we found a really great hiding spot, and I don’t want to give it away. I’ll call the people my friend or friend/s and the hiding spot “Camp Peace Pilgrim” (or CPP when I get too lazy to spell it all out).

 

Monday after the peace concert we rested and made preparations to spend a few days out bush. The idea was to sneak onto the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area and try and disrupt or even shut down the Exercises. There was only two of us walking on this year, so I didn’t have high hopes of disrupting the games and getting our political leaders to question the costs and value of the US/Australia Military Alliance, but I was hopeful of speaking to a few of the participants and maybe holding up a main road for the time it took the police to come from Rockhampton to arrest me.

 

We left our home stay early in the morning and our friend drove us in the dark to a location adjacent to the Military Training Area. After a 10 minute walk, we came to the fence and the sign warning of trespassing, live ammunition and militant Empire building in process (all true except the last one). Another friend took the photo and we parted ways. Strenuously, we walked another few minutes into the bush and sat and drank water in the dawn light.

 

I ate a small breakfast of a boiled egg and nuts and Graeme and I lamented not bringing any equipment with which to make tea. After a while (to give our other friends time to get away and issue the Press Releases) we turned on our GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and set out for a Peace Shrine that had been set up in the 2011 Walk-On by other peace activists. The Shrine was dedicated to Franz Jaggerstatter, an Austrian Peasant who refused to join the German Army after Austria’s Union with Germany in 1938 (please check that’s the year, I could, but you’re already on the net). For that heroic stand against a brutal regime, Franz went to the guillotine.

 

We got to the Peace Shrine a few hours later, having walked through the serene, beautiful forest. The serenity was only broken for a few moments with the sounds of gunshots. I assumed, judging from the sound, but I’m no expert, they were blanks being fired as part of the training. We sat at the Peace Shrine and adorned it with a few reminders of Peace. We prayed for peace, an end to militarism and conflict and for guidance in the rest of our journey.

 

After an hour or so at the shrine, and again without any tea, we headed west, then north, then east, than south. And found our way after about an hour of bush bashing found ourselves back at the Peace Shrine. Having cleverly thrown anyone following us off the track, we then headed west towards the airfield. We did not take a lot of gear on with us and I was half prepared to give myself up that day, so I wanted to find the main roads and scout out a good spot.

 

After a while (maybe a few hours, maybe a few days) Graeme and I decided that I would make my stand and be arrested. My aim was to stay on the main road for as long as possible and disrupt or stop a part of the exercise. Graeme was going to stay with me and take some photos then depart. Graeme wanted to spend another 24 hours in Shoalwater Bay on his own. Whilst this carried some risks it would also confirm to the Australian Defence Forces and media that we were in the vicinity and live firing exercises should be stopped.

 

So we picked a spot on the road and I waited. An hour and a half later we looked at the maps and I decided to head for the airport. If no convoy came along, I would walk along the airstrip and carefully make my presence known. In my hand I had tracts from Peace Pilgrim. Peace Pilgrim had walked around America for thirty years with virtually no possessions. She fasted until given food and walked until offered shelter. Her mission was to spread the message of peace which she summed up as “Overcoming evil with good, falsehood with truth and hatred with love.” The tracts were brief summaries of her writings and teachings. I had about 15 to give away to any Exercise participants I found.

 

Walking towards the airstrip was good, because I got to walk down the middle of the road rather than bashing through the thick scrub. We’d gotten to an intersection that was only a few hundred meters from the airstrip and I was preparing myself to walk on to the airfield when a Humvee convoy came my way. This struck a chord with me, because Vince had told us some Marines had PTS from being told by their commanders not to stop a convoy for any reason. In Iraq this even meant that small children were run over because it was too risky to stop a convoy. Some militants in Iraq used children as a distraction. A small child on the road, convoy stops, militants attack convoy. So convoy leaders were ordered to run down children if they saw them, to not put their convoys at risk.

 

So there I was, with a convoy heading towards me. I stood my ground, lifted my left hand up with the peace tracts and my right hand up, open, empty in a sign of peace. The convoy came to a halt and over the microphone I heard the voice of the driver “Sir, step away from the vehicle!” I stood with my hands raised, my thoughts racing “if I were in Afghanistan or Iraq, I already would be dead”. The large 89mm machine gun on the roof of the Humvee was pointed straight at me. Having been in the military I also recognised the blank firing attachment which let me know the gun was loaded with blanks.

 

At no time did I feel threatened or scared of being injured.

 

The voice boomed again from the microphone “Sir! Step aside from the road and away from the vehicle”.

 

“I am a Peace Pilgrim. I’ve come here to ask if we can stop practising for war and start practising for peace.”

 

There was a moments silence, the doors opened and I was facing two boys of about 19 or 20. They were fully “bombed up” (had all their pouches full of ammunition and loaded up with combat equipment).

I did what non-violence teaches is the best way for resolving conflict. I engaged in communication with these two boys.  I spoke about our need to love our enemies, our future depending on disarming and the call for us to work together for peace. I acknowledged that it was a hard road and was not the easy answer, but it was the most humane answer.

 

After about five minutes the boys commander came forward. A latino Gunnery-Sergeant. He engaged with me for about an hour of conversation. In this time, Graeme had taken photos and departed. He went through the bush and towards the airfield. I knew he didn’t want to get caught, so I assumed he would circle around and take more pictures from the bush. How wrong I would be.

 

For 45 minutes to an hour, I talked with the Marines. I listened to why they’d joined the military, to what the Gunnery-Sergeant had seen in Iraq. He was adamant of his way, he was protecting me from people trying to hurt me. He implored me to join the Marines as a chaplain, I implored him to lay down his arms and follow Christ’s call to “love your enemy.” He was adamant, and I wasn’t expecting to “convert” anyone to non-violence. I was there to disrupt the War Exercises and get any participant I could and the general public in general to ask the question “Can we do better?”

 

Weirdly, I kept getting a polite impulse to say to the men “Anyhow, I’ve kept you long enough, I’ll let you go.” It took a real conscious effort to say to myself “I’m pushing for peace here, not friendship with these guys.”

 

I don’t know how effective my voice was to those three men. I don’t know if I achieved anything more than hold up their convoy for an hour or so. I do know that in court the police prosecution claimed that Graeme had “caused millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and personnel to be put on standby” whilst official ADF media releases stated that “there was no disruption to Talisman Saber”.

 

I hoped I planted a seed. I hoped that in the future there is a record that not every human stood for the madness of never-ending war and destruction and some us tried to take a stand against global military empire.

 

After a while the Military Police turned up. I sat on the road and they said if I didn’t move they would move me. I was tired from talking to the Marines, so I complied. As the Gunnery-Sergeant left he yelled out “Peace M**haF***a”. I was touched.

 

Five MP’s got off a truck and headed off in the direction the Marines had seen Graeme going. One MP asked me where he was “I dunno” I replied “we were supposed to stand here together holding a banner, but he mentioned something about getting to the fence and left.”

 

“What’s his fitness level?”

 

“71 year old yoga master. He would have done 10-15kms by now.”

 

She asked me more questions, but I stayed silent after that, fearing I’d given too much away already. In my mind’s eye, Graeme was sitting in the bush behind me, taking more photos and preparing to go the opposite way of the search party. I started talking about the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, the effects of PTS, the fact that 15 Australian Vets had committed suicide this year alone.

 

Then, to my surprise, Graeme came stumbling out of the bush, escorted by two of the search party. I was gobsmacked “I was napping” he told me in a sheepish voice. I broke into laughter. Later Graeme would quote “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

 

Graeme being there and being filmed, gave me a chance to rest. He spoke about the dead Iraqi civilians, the urbicide at Fallujah, the cost to Australian families of Afghanistan. After about half an hour QLD Police turned up and took us away. We were whisked to Rockhampton and held in the watch house.

 

Structural Violence

In the back of the police sedan on my way in, my ego was quite stroked. I knew I was going to the watch house to be detained by the authorities. In my mind I was the embodiment of Gandhi, Luther-King, Day and even maybe, a little of the Jewish Carpenter. In the holding cell, Graeme and I did some Buddhist chants. Then we were moved to another room, fortunately the TV was broken.

 

In there I got to know a man. A man I’ll call Martin, or Marty. Marty was a 30 something Indigenous fella. After a bit of time, he told me he would not bother with peace protests, but if we ever did one to keep innocent people out of gaol he would be in. With that he opened up and told me his story.

 

He and his white friend had been bought into the watch house from gaol that morning. They were told that they would be getting bail and had been fully discharged from gaol. ‘Why were you in gaol?’ Graeme pushed the incarcerated rule of not asking why people were inside but Marty didn’t mind ‘Armed Robbery.’ I nodded and said ‘that’s pretty serious’. He looked at me and went on “We touched up a local drug dealer, then he claimed that we had stolen 1800 bucks off of him.”

 

Now when I think of armed robbery I think knife or gun and shop or bank. “How long had you been in remand?” Marty dropped his face for a minute “Six months next week.” My jaw dropped again “Six months and no judge gave you bail?”

 

Marty shook his head

 

“We never got close to applying for bail until today and now they’re saying the paper work hasn’t come through, so we go back to gaol.” Marty went on to say that he felt like his public appointed solicitor was not communicative and had not voiced any opposition in court when the Crown continually applied for adjournment until further notice.

 

Marty was the only driver in his home and had said his partner and three kids had been severely struggling without him there.

 

Meeting Marty and spending my one night in the watch house, my ego plummeted. I was a privileged white boy with passion and dedication, but I only had room to exercise that because of my social privilege and position. I feel proud of what I did and my stand for peace, but after meeting a real victim of the systemic violence in our society, a poor, black man stuck in the system I felt more like kid being caught with some recreational drugs than the Great Social Justice Activists of history.

 

I see links to the violence and rampant military spending taking place at Talisman Sabre and the disenfranchised Indigenous man trying to raise a family in Rockhampton. Even though he was a self-confessed violent man there was something very gentle about Marty. His demeanour was of man not brutal, but kind and human, a man who often looked around his cell and asked “how did I end up here?”

 

The next morning Graeme and I face court. At the last minute they added the charge of taking photos of a defence installation onto my trespass charge. I am currently, thanks to the generous pro-bono work of David Mills in Rockhampton contesting that charge. If I decide to plead guilty, the matter will be transferred to Brisbane where I can be sentenced for both.

 

Graeme pleaded guilty to everything, trespass, breaching bail and taking photos of a defence installation. He was fined a total of $946.

 

A big thank you to Dale Hess who has already donated $250 to me to cover my fines. Once I get sentenced, I may appeal to the conscience of supporters out there to cover the rest.

 

The Future

Personally, I see Talisman Sabre/ Saber as the weak point of Australian military policy. I know Rockhampton is a long way out of the way. But I think there is a chance up there. If we, the consciousness of Australia can raise enough protest up there, we can challenge the narrative that Australians whole-heartedly support the US Alliance that has led to the deaths of 40 Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, 15 suicides from PTS and the physical maiming of 256 and the mental maiming of maybe 2000 more Australians.

 

This is not to mention the million or so dead civilians in Iraq, the tens of thousands killed in Afghanistan, the cost of 31 billion dollars to the Australian People and increased military spending. Why are we spending billions of dollars on these tools of war whilst making schools and hospitals scrounge for the funding they need? We can do better.

 

If we can get, in 2015, 100 Australians to walk on to Shoalwater Bay and really disrupt the Exercise. If we can show to the media and the Australian Government that there is not universal support for this Alliance and these wars, then we have a chance of really changing the future history of Australia’s place in the region and the world.

 

What do you say? Can you give a week to ten days in July – August 2015 for Australian and World Peace?

 

Do you truly believe that as a country and as a species we can do better than mindless militarism and following the largest military machine in history into bloody and dirty wars?

 

Then how about committing to planning, organising for 2015 Talisman Saber? Why not commit to a beautiful few days in the bush walking and working for global peace? Help to be a voice for the innocent victims of war on all sides.

 

I hope to see you in Rockhampton for the 2015 Talisman Saber Exercises.Image

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2 Comments
  1. I read all of this carefully and am grateful for your peace witness. Greg let me know when you need further donations, Valerie

  2. Helen Bayes permalink

    This an important and detailed record of what has been happening. Thankyou Greg.

I would be honored if you espoused your narrative here.....

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