What America wants: it's the bases, stupid (CONTINUED)


What America wants: it's the bases, stupid (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED FROM http://expage.com/australianbases

And what's in it for us? Well, Australia would have a use, in joint exercises, for the 59 US Abrams tanks bought in March. These exercises would enable Australian troops to slot into US mobile forces in their adventures around the world in pursuit of terrorists. The tanks are incapable of serving any useful purpose in the defence of Australia and in the region.

Set against the military and communications bases, I don't think the Bush Administration would care greatly about Australia "cutting and running" from Iraq, except to the extent that it might marginally affect the presidential election in November (which of course is before Christmas).

Arguably, the Iraq occupation has already failed. This is the issue a mature nation would have debated after Latham's policy decision - not the rights and wrongs of the Armitage statement.

It's the bases, stupid, as Chalmers Johnson points out in Sorrows of Empire. He claims that Gough Whitlam was sacked by John Kerr in 1975 after Kerr was told by the CIA that Labor threatened the security of Pine Gap by exposing it as a CIA operation totally outside Australian control. Maybe.

But Johnson is probably on firmer ground when he claims that in 1977 Warren Christopher, then US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, "promised the deposed Whitlam that the US would never again interfere in Australian domestic politics".

Christopher was a civilised man and I am sure his assurance was sincerely meant. But he couldn't make promises on behalf of future administrations any more than Australian governments should sign agreements that could hold future generations to ransom, based on the tawdry premise that to be anti-American is to be anti-Australian.

Kenneth Davidson is a staff columnist for the Age.

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