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The Blind and the Blind-folded

Thanks Jim. Part of my decision to contest the charge was being unsure if I could keep going through this without retraumatising myself. Jim kept at it and asked me if I felt like testifying. I felt I was and Jim gave me my own “day in court”. Thanks a lot mate.

Which Side Are We On?

Last week Anne, Eleni and I drove 1800 kms to go to court in the chilly city of Geelong. About 10 others came from Melbourne and Geelong to attend the final court case arising from last year’s Swan Island actions, and bear witness to the power of community and resistance.

In court some of us recounted once again the assaults by Special Forces on Swan Island on October 2nd 2014. On that day four of my companions were assaulted, stripped, and had hessian bags placed over their heads with the words, “Welcome to the bag motherfuckers!” *

However it appears even with bags over their heads they managed to see more than the police officers on the scene!

The case went like this:
Sargent Knight gave evidence about arresting me with three others. When I tried to question him about the condition in which he…

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The War Criminal and the Scapegoat

There are two men gaining more and more media attention in Australia. One is a criminal, the other is a doctor.

Kamleh was an Australian paediatrician who has joined the Islamic State, claiming there was humanitarian need. No matter how you feel about the Islamic State, I think you’d find it pretty hard to argue that the children who live under IS control should be denied adequate medical care, especially as children are sometimes the innocent victims of allied airstrikes in Syria.

Australian Police have issued a warrant for Kamleh’s immediate arrest, should he return to Australia, for travelling to a “restricted zone”. Who gave the Australian government the right to decide what is and isn’t a restricted zone? The Australian government has the right to legislate for the safety of Australians, but restricting freedom of travel is a restriction of civil rights.

If this was a guy who was threatening to blow up the Opera House or to kill people when he returns to Australia, than I would support subjecting him to due process if he returns home at all.

If he was bragging of murdering innocent civilians, I would support arresting him and trialling him for war crimes.

Instead we want to arrest a man who helps to heal sick and injured kids. Kamleh has even distanced himself from IS atrocities and policies:

“I have no input or responsibility over the political or military actions of the state, if they are correct, I wish them progression, if they are not, that is between them and God” .

Kamleh has every right to travel where he wishes. Children, all children, even those living in the midst of a barbaric regime have the right to expert medical care. Kamleh claims there is a shortage of medical staff in the area, if that’s true than I have no problem with him being in Syria and helping kids.

Kamleh has appeared in propaganda for the Islamic State and of that, I am not supportive, if that is a crime than we can decide on the legitimacy of that law should he return to Australia.

Kamleh may be a criminal for appearing in a commercial for IS. This is true.

The second man has committed crimes that go beyond being part of propaganda.

Not only is he not being held accountable for his heinous violent crimes, he is even profiteering from it and building a political career on the backs of his murdered victims.

Major General Jim Molan’s political star is on the rise. Set to run for the Liberals in NSW next election, the man is almost guaranteed a spot in our Upper House. Indeed, some have touted him as our next Defence Minister.

Molan has had a long military career, an expert on Indonesian relations, he is the go to guy for any Coaliation government. For the last few weeks he has received media airplay, talking up sending more troops to Iraq.

Molan has much experience in Iraq.

In November and December 2004, Molan, integrated as a commander with the US Military (whilst still technically an Australian officer) planned and executed Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah.

Phantom Fury was one of the most evil acts of the invasion of Iraq and with an Australian commander at the helm; Australia has blood on its hands– and most of us have never heard of it.

Between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians were in the densely packed city when it was declared a free fire zone in November 2004. Cluster munitions, white-phosphorous and depleted uranium were used in this zone (the cancer and birth deformity rates of Fallujah are now ten times higher than Hiroshima after the dropping of the nuclear bomb), it is speculated that 4000-8000 civilians were killed as a direct result of the battle, many were women who refused to leave their men behind.

Men of “fighting age” were not allowed to leave the city- that’s any man, without trial or reason to decide who was an insurgent- and understandably women and their children stayed with them. We don’t know how many women and children died in the aftermath for want of food and medical care, but the United Nations Special Rapporteur did say that hunger and depravity of civilian populations were used as a weapon in the battle by the Molan led American forces.

Molan’s Legacy. The once bustling Fallujah in November 2004.

Unfortunately, no investigation, no tribunal, no accountability has happened for Molan or any of the leaders of the brutal 2004 Massacre of Fallujah. Molan may be a war criminal, but instead of investigating him, he gets the ear of the media and a bright political career.

This is what Australia has become, the media crucifies Kamleh, a man we have no evidence against (except that he is a doctor for children and appearing in a glitzy add). Molan, a probable war criminal, is rewarded with praise, media attention and a political career. Kill kids, we promote you, help kids, we condemn you.

Welcome to Australia in 2015.

The unanswered question on asylum seekers

The Asylum Seeker issue is one of the issues that makes me the saddest as an Australian and a human being. What it must be like to be sweltering on Nauru, with no security or certainty at all in your future, I’ll never know.

One of the underlying, subconscious arguments of the whole thing, is that people are trying to get to Australia to enjoy the economic benefits Australians enjoy. Now why Australia is so wealthy is one question I’ll leave for now, but has mainstream Australia considered that the asylum seekers who come here are from a few select regions around the world. Rohingyans from Burma, Iranians, Hazaras and Pashtuns from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tamils from Sri Lanka, then people from the politically disintegrating Middle East- they are all from warzones where many people fear for their lives.

If asylum seekers, or “boat-people” were just coming here to steal our wealth, why from so few places? Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines are full of the world’s poorest people. Whilst not starving, you wouldn’t call what most of them have as a life as “vast economic opportunity”. If asylum seekers are trying to take our jobs, steal our wealth or make us hard working white people poor, why are they all exclusively from war zones and not from our brutally poor neighbours?

The answer is, that asylum seekers aren’t at all seeking a monetarily rich life. They’re seeking safety, seeking asylum from warzones that our global economic system helped create. They’re not mindless creatures intent on stealing our dollars and making us all Muslim. They’re people, like those photographed in the last few days crossing the border into Turkey:

Asylum seekers, boat people are leaving areas where their life is at risk to places in the world who made laws saying that we will look after them. We made these laws and ratified the UN Refugee Convention because we used to believe that if your life is in danger, if your family is threatened with death, we’ll take care of you.

Now we believe the rhetoric of lazy politicians and the shadowy fear in our own hearts that looks to this Australian, like selfishness of the most ignorant kind.

Interoperability- even my spell check rejects it

In a few weeks I will be going to Rockhampton to try and slow down US led war preparations. Talisman Sabre are large biennial War Exercises that take place near Rockhampton in the pristine Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area on Darumbal Land.

Australia is currently deployed with US forces in Iraq and our Special Forces work directly under the command of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) in any place in the world, most likely Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria and other areas of strategic interest to our economy.

Talisman Sabre is sold to the Australian public as practice to defend this continent, playing on White Australian fears of an Asian invasion. We are scared that perhaps Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, with a population more than 10 times of Australia’s might want to invade. Of course, when you look past your fears to a bit of logic, there is no imminent Indonesian invasion.

Indonesia is not a stable State. From Papua to Aceh and beyond, the Indonesian military spends almost all of its time and resources just keeping the country together. A stable country without rowdy locals wanting a fair share of their resources, say the Papuans wanting some kind of say in their 4.6 billion dollar (per year) copper and gold mine that currently flows into the coffers of US and Australian companies. That’s why the US and Australia help arm and train the Indonesian military. Do you do that to a country your scared might invade you?

So if there is no imminent invasion from Indonesia, why do Australia and the US spend so much time and money on exercises in Rockhampton?

I started writing this piece because in my mind, I couldn’t quite grasp why the Australia was spending so much money on housing troops in Darwin. Oh, I get why the US wants them there- kind of.

The idea is that in any conflict with China over the strategic Straits near Singapore, Australian based Marines and probably in the future B1 bombers, can strike first against the Chinese (who are also Australia’s largest trading partners- you know that nice lifestyle you have- in the last ten years you can thank Chinese-Australian booming trade for that). Also, as a bonus, if Indonesia starts disintegrating (I don’t think it will any time soon) you have troops there to send in and control the resources you need.

Talisman Sabre is about bringing the Australian Military into interoperability with the US Military. Australia is the 5th largest buyer in the world of US arms. We buy their planes and guns, than we train, so when we bomb and kill people in Iraq (up to 740 civilians have been killed by Allied forces in the latest War in Iraq). Since 2001, Australia has supported a large War of Terror that has killed 1.3 million civilians. That is the fruit of the US Alliance. That is where our billions go.

In a way though, whilst Talisman Sabre is definitely large- it might be highly symbolic. US troops in Darwin, and nuclear capable B1 bombers, are expensive. Australia is currently spending nearly one billion dollars upgrading RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory and Amberley near Brisbane to house and upgrade large planes like the B1. But more than this, every day the US Marines are in Darwin, they are training and integrating with Australian forces. Exercises are taking place almost constantly that keep the Australian Military as an Auxiliary to the US Forces.

If China and the US go to war as, in my opinion, the US seems intent on doing, Australia will now be automatically on the side of the US, is that best for Australia? The decision has already been made by our politicians. Unless we as a population decide to do something about it.

I

US Marines showing Australians how to use their equipment

I’m going up to Rockhampton to disrupt Talisman Sabre in July, not just because I don’t like war- but the future of my country is already being sold out to US corporate interests.

And I want us to take it back.

2015 Frontier Wars March- 50 meters that defines a country

From the website of the Australian War Memorial:

“Anzac Day goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It is the day on which we remember Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.”

On the 25th of April, Australia commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Anzac landings on Gallipoli, Turkey. Since that day in 1915, Australia, particularly white Australia, has looked back on Anzac Day as the day Australia was born. Nationally, as has been reinforced since the 1980’s when most of the men involved on the day had died off, the Anzac commemorations got bigger and bigger.

There has been a lot written about why Anzac Day has become one of the defining days of Australian identity. I will only say here, that it has clearly been engineered by political and military leaders to build unquestioning loyalty to the State. Allowing politicians to lead us into whatever murderous invasion they like to distract us from the real political and economic issues of our time, like climate change, environmental destruction of fragile ecological systems to feed our economy and rampant arms spending based on out-dated theories of international relations that promise a threat of large scale inter-State war.

Great.

Now let’s pretend that Anzac Day has credence to be our national day, let’s say that those poor young blokes slaughtered on Gallipoli, on both sides, actually had a stake in giving Australia freedom (personally I think Tom Barker and Vida Goldstein who both faced persecution and gaol in protection of freedom of speech and association in Australia during the war are the defenders of freedom) or prosperity. With the dying off of the last Anzac’s, many of whom did not go to Anzac Day marches or talk much of that day and the many more of whom died of alcohol abuse, depression and suicide from the trauma suffered in the war- modern politicians faced a dilemma. How can we keep this a day about honouring our Anzac’s, when they’re all dead? The solution was the phrase I started this piece off with. Anzac Day is about all veterans, dead and alive of all wars that Australia has been a part of.

In 1788, when the first fleet landed in Australia, the grounds of conflict were sewn. In 1789, according to historian, Chris Warren, the White Coloniser’s were short of ammunition and the tools to fix their muskets. The colony had spread to Norfolk Island where the convicts were planning a mutiny and to Parramatta to open up enough farming land to try and feed the colony. Tensions were high; Indigenous People had been wondering when the new comers would leave their land.

According to Warren, a mid-level Marine took it upon himself to take a small boat, travel around Port Jackson and down to La Perouse. There, using vials of smallpox, for some unknown reason carried on the First Fleet, they infected blankets before handing them over to the First Nations Peoples. The effect of smallpox on the Indigenous Peoples was nothing short of devastating. The disease had never before been present in the population and may have killed half of the populations who became infected. It was an act of biological warfare.

By 1816, the New South Wales colony was expanding south west from Sydney. It was driven predominately by greedy land holders like John Macarthur looking to expand their land and wealth. A drought hit the land and Indigenous People jumped the fences that the White settlers had put up around waterways for their sheep and cattle. They took some sheep or cattle for food as they needed.

The Settlers literally went up in arms. Armed marines and police went out and executed Indigenous men, women and children. Indigenous Australians retaliated, raiding outposts and farms, burning crops and killing farmers. Such was ferocity of the conflict that Governor Macquarie stated “All Aborigines from Sydney onwards are to be made prisoners of war and if they resist, they are to be shot and their bodies hung from trees in the most conspicuous places near where they fall, so as to strike terror into the heart of the surviving natives.”

A declaration of war.

There you’ve read two tiny chapters in the Frontier Wars that started in 1788. People killing and dying defending this country from a greedy, bloodthirsty invader. Babies massacred, people poisoned. Marines called in to fight pitch battles in the Nepean- everything that any historian, amateur or otherwise would see as a war. Fortunately there are loads of materials coming out from historians like Tim Bottoms that document what evidence remains of this massive, wide-ranging conflict.

And yet, on Saturday, at the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, when we were supposed to be commemorating all soldiers in all wars, descendants of the indigenous people who fought and died, descendants of the White Settlers who fought, killed and died in the Frontier Wars, were denied the right to march. In the previous four years, the War Memorial had refused to allow the party to march officially. The Frontier Wars commemorators had marched anyway, unofficially on the end of the official march. I was amongst them this year and last year.

The 2015 Frontier Wars Commemoration March

This year, the police were more aggressive and pushy. Rather than stopping us just short of the main ceremony with a police line, we were being pushed back from the start. A gap of 50 metres was kept between those of us holding signs remembering the battles of the Frontier Wars and the air cadets. A 50 metre strip that denied the Black history of Australia. The police became pushy and aggressive the further we went. Eventually, under the leadership of a certain elder, we capitulated, despite police aggression, and turned away. The real history of our country denied for a white-washed version. Instead of wanting to admit that Australia was born in the blood of the Frontier Wars, we claim the catastrophe of Gallipoli as our mainstream heritage.

This is not just a case of racism. I am not a bleeding heart Indigenous Rights supporter. I am a selfish person. I don’t want my family and descendants to go off and fight and die in more Empire led wars, like Gallipoli, like Iraq and Afghanistan. Whilst we deny our real selves and build the false story of Gallipoli, building our national identity without admitting our real history, we claim our values as a nation are derived from one military campaign one hundred years ago. Our false sense of identity is one of Empirical outland- first for the British, now for the US.

Whilst we deny our Frontier Wars, we deny admitting that our role since 1914 has been a lackey following our Masters into wars for resources. We do this, because subconsciously, we are worried that Indonesia or China might one day do to us what we did to the Aborigines. Not just destroy us, but then forget about us too. So we suck up to the most powerful Empire of the day and hope that this will guarantee us a defence against this future.

In doing so we become the invaders, the murderers of the West Papuans, the 1.3 million people killed in the US led War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We spend our treasure on wars that we do not have any national interest in, aside from our fear that one day we may be invaded and killed.

This notion, that a large continent could again be invaded by force is laughable. The Japanese, even without US intervention had no hope of doing it in World War Two (see Peter Stanley’s work- Japan bombed US bases in Australia). Indonesia needs our military aid and training just to keep itself together and China is our largest trading partner. There are no military threats to Australia. And if we could remember our Frontier Wars, acknowledge deeply and truly who we are and how we got here, we might have a chance of learning that. We might have a chance of growing up, of telling the USA that we won’t support them in aggressive, illegal wars for oil. Our sisters, brothers, daughters and sons won’t have to waste themselves in foreign wars of aggression.

In the must read book, 1984, George Orwell wrote prophetically “Who controls the past, controls the future”. The Frontier Wars and the 50 metre gap between the real history of our country and the engineered history control our arms spending, our aid cuts, our foreign policy as a US lackey. That’s why I was there on Saturday, and despite the result, I will keep going back. The arc of the universe is long, but inshallah, it bends towards justice.

The war we didn’t notice

Great piece….

andypaine

Years ago, when I was involved in much less activism than I am today, I used to play footy with a number of guys who were in the Australian army. One of these guys missed a chunk of the season when he had to go to Afghanistan on service. When he got back, I asked him what it had been like over there. He told me he didn’t want to talk about it.

I instantly realised what a stupid question it was. Of course he didn’t want to talk about it! I was genuinely interested in what the situation was like in Afghanistan, but I had asked him as if he was getting back from a holiday, completely ignorant of the trauma and mental struggle that a soldier in a warzone has to deal with.

I still cringe when I recall that moment, but I also think that in that…

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Really Reclaiming Australia

Before I went to Saturday’s No Room for Racism Rally at Federation Square, I had massive doubts. I don’t see the “far-Right” as any kind of enemy, in many ways I don’t blame them for grabbing hold of things like halal certification with the same vitriol as some people grab onto 9/11 conspiracy theories, or some Christians the return of Jesus. Like the Anzac Myth, these stories help humans explain their existence and give them a framework in which to operate in the world. No one knows more about this than mainstream media organisations and politicians in parliamentary politics.

Since 1788, White Australians have been controlled through fear of Asians. Asians who are not white and don’t speak English. We had the drummed up fear of Chinese immigration during the Gold Rush, than the Japanese, than the Communists (from Russia, China and Vietnam- all Asian countries) now we have Muslims, the majority of whom live in Asia.

For many working class Australians life is not that easy. I’m not just talking about a seeming lack of access to resources- cars are expensive to run, housing is expensive- no-one gets ahead. And yet the message from our pop culture is that, with hard work and smarts ANYONE can get ahead. When people don’t, they get agitated. When long hours in dreary work after many, many years sees them not gaining more or better material rewards- they build up anger. The easiest people to blame in this situation is someone different to us. Someone NOT working, someone who wears a headscarf or speaks another language someone with a different skin colour.

Anti- Chinese Cartoon from 1888. The Chinese are depicted as the source of all of our problems…

When politicians say “Stop the Boats”, they’re tapping into that fear of the Other. There are lots of things the Australian government could have done rather than spend 9 billion dollars on Operation Slipper in Afghanistan, and a total of 50 billion dollars on conflicts since 2001 that would have made Australia and the world a safer place. The real reason successive governments have gone to futile wars that have no strategic advantage for anyone except arms companies is to play the political agenda. Drumming up the fear of terrorism keeps people like my Reclaim Australia friends from asking other questions about Australian society. Like, who decides what makes it on to the news each night?

Reclaim Australia: “Why is my country stuffed?”

TV and Politicians: “Those people over there who are different to you”

Reclaim Australia: “Bloody Muslims”

Politically I think it was a crazy move by Reclaim Australia to have a Rally Easter Saturday. I sincerely believe they had more sympathetic supporters than who turned up at the rallies. These people are more the camping, sport watching, beer swilling types than the go to a rally in the middle of a long weekend type. The only ones who turned up were a fringe. And I respect them like hell for that. They turned up for something they believed in. Yes, they are misguided- but they took time out from the 1 million other things they could be doing with their lives and stood together for something. It’s a racist motive, but I’ve already explained why I understand, if I can’t approve of that. I have far more time for people who live genuinely in their ideas and try to work with others to shape the world than people who just sit on the side lines and criticise others for having a crack.

(That’s kind of the end of Part One- the next Part is wordy and explains my experience and how I would have liked to see things done. Thanks for reading this far if you stop now- I really appreciate it).

I was more worried about the Channel 7 and Channel 9 news crews running around looking for any sign of tension, any sign of physical violence. And ignoring calm conversations and people who were on “opposite sides” helped each other out (and there was plenty). This is how nightly news works. They don’t want substance, they want emotion- something inspires anger, fear, elation. That keeps you watching and the viewing numbers up. Any substance or depth means they might lose the race and the other channel will get the advertising dollars. I would recommend NOT watching nightly news at all. Its not news and it won’t inform you. Read papers or the internet. If you have half an hour or an hour to watch news and that’s all you have, watch something that at least has a little more breadth like ABC or SBS.

So I went out on Saturday not wanting to blockade or even be physical. The Muslim population in Australia are generally scared. They are the scapegoats of corrupt political leaders and lazy media. So I went in solidarity, hoping that if Reclaim Australia made the news at all, then Muslims watching it would see more people at the counter-rally. I still think this was a better way to run the day. No clashes. We will just have far more people.

Also letting people assemble creates space for conversation. I got in the middle of several scuffles on Saturday. I got swiped by Reclaim Australia people, I got swiped at by No Room for Racism people- sometimes I didn’t know who it was ripping my hat off of my head swearing abuse at me. But when violence happens we lose space to solve problems together- so I got in the way as best I could. I never felt threatened either. Sometimes you get scared in physical situations, but I never felt like either the angry looking Reclaim men, or the angry looking no room for racism men were going to punch me or someone else, but I felt fearless of this- the situation and people are much less dramatic than channel nine makes out.

The tension was extremely high, the mood foul. I observed 2 things that should make you feel hope for humanity. Firstly, the fact that of the thousands of people at Federation Square, less than 100 on either side engaged in picking out targets on the other side and yelling at them.

Secondly, I got in the middle of lots of scuffles. More than 5 at least. At one point an elderly man on crutches who was clearly with the Reclaim Australia Rally was blocked by police and the No Room mob. Things got tense and I saw he was just trying to leave, but worked up and angry, the Counter Rally started pushing against him. Not with arms, but as numbers swelled in the line, he was getting caught up in the crowd. I managed to get in front of him and yelled out “make way for a disabled man!” (best language I could think of at the time). People turned to see who it was. This man had an Australian Flag flying high, and Australian flags pinned on his hat. Amongst the people looking at him were punkier looking anarchists, with black jackets. One of these had nearly turned on me earlier when I got in the middle of his fight, but when he saw the elderly man behind me this time, he relaxed and stepped back. I got the man to the edge of the edgy crowd and said “Happy Easter” he said the same to me and he wandered off.

The people who came out for Reclaim Australia on Saturday are angry, confused and they truly believe that halal certification of food is a threat. Unless we become a more democratic and just society, extremist groups like these will get numbers and flourish.

I think as a country, we can do better and we damn well better try. A little less worrying about the cricket and a little more worrying about how much money we want to give to the Gina Rinehart’s and Rupert Murdoch’s of the world. To me, Tony Abbott, Bill Shorten, Reclaim Australia and the minimal violence we saw on Saturday are the symptoms of a corrupt system that exploits the fears of the poor for the profit of the rich. All of us need to start working to do better before we dump our prosperity into the dust bin of history.

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