What America wants: it's the bases, stupid
July 15, 2004
The US doesn't really care if Australia leaves Iraq. It's after a more important commitment.
"There was never a plan to leave Iraq because there is no intention to leave Iraq. We (the Americans) are currently building 14 bases there. Dick Cheney can't imagine giving up that oil. The military can't imagine giving up those bases. That's why they can't come up with a plan to leave."
Chalmers Johnson, author of Sorrows of Empire, in LA Weekly, July 6
Last week US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that, based on his conversations with Australian "colleagues", the ALP was "rent down the middle" over the issue of Australian troop involvement in Iraq.
The statement was made on the eve of the annual security talks between Australia and the US. These resulted in Australia signing a new 25-year agreement on Australian support for the Bush Administration's controversial $US50 billion ($A69 billion) "son of Star Wars" missile defence system and agreeing to three new military bases in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The Armitage statement was pure mischief-making. Whether the small Australian contingent remains in Baghdad or comes home by Christmas won't make the slightest difference to the US occupation. But the decision to co-operate on missile defence and the establishment of three bases involving "tens of thousands" (according to Defence Minister Robert Hill) of US and Australian troops in joint exercises has profound implications for Australia's regional security and national sovereignty.
The Chinese (and the North Koreans) quite rightly see the missile defence program as directly aimed at them.
The Korean regime will probably now be reinforced in its belief that having some form of nuclear arms capability is the best guarantee that it won't suffer the same fate as Iraq.
The Chinese (and the North Koreans) quite rightly see the missile defence program as directly aimed at them.The program would also push China towards an acceleration of its nuclear weapons capability, in line with the nuclear doctrine that massive retaliation is the best response to a missile defence program.
Most likely the missile defence program should be seen as a multibillion-dollar handout to what former US president Dwight Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. But seen from the perspective of Beijing, the Chinese have to take into account the Bush Administration's 2002 National Security Strategy, which claims the right to pre-emptive strikes against nations (such as Iraq) that, in the opinion of the US, threaten US security.
The Bush Administration's unilateral abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 and a lowering of the nuclear threshold so that tactical nuclear weapons might be used against non-nuclear armed nations (or terrorists) compound the risk that America could ignite a new nuclear arms race.
Hill's statement that to oppose missile defence is "anti-American" would be banal if the issue wasn't fraught with danger for global security.
Latham Labor is right to oppose Australian co-operation on this issue, although logic suggests that opposition to "Star Wars" means opposition to the use of the US communications facilities already in Australia if they were to form part of the missile defence network.
Mark Latham has said Labor will support the three new bases. As a consequence, there has been virtually no public debate (and, I suspect, no private debate in the Howard Government) about how the bases will contribute to regional and Australian security.
America wants the bases because they will offer the US greater security than more centrally located bases in the region.
The Shoalhaven Bay base in North Queensland would provide relatively easy access to both the Pacific and Indian Oceans and offer shorter US supply lines to the Middle East.
According to Donald Rumsfeld, the three bases would be linked to the US Pacific War Fighting Centre in Hawaii, which would enable the US to rely on fast response units as an alternative to more centrally located troops from permanent bases.
What America wants: it's the bases, stupid
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