The announcement that the United States will start sending long range B-52 and B-51 bomber aircraft as well as stealth bombers for training exercises — including bombing practice — in the Northern Territory signals the latest stage in preparation for US aggression in the region. The decision was revealed during last week’s visit by US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld at a joint press conference with Australia’s Defense Minister Robert Hill. US Deputy Secretary of State Robert B Zoellick was also in Adelaide for the annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) held there last week.
The massive planes will fly from their US base in Guam to the Delamere Weapons Range in the Northern Territory, which has been especially developed for bombing exercises.
The testing of US weapons on Australian territory was first publicly mooted 12 months ago with an agreement between the Bush administration and the Howard Government to allow the US to test a new generation weapons at Shoalwater Bay in Queensland and two training areas in the Northern Territory.
The kind of weapons to be tested have not been specified but the US has a policy of using plutonium and uranium depleted weapons. That would be in addition to the threat to the local residents and the ecosystem, and the arrogant dismissal by the Howard Government of the rights of the traditional Indigenous owners of the area.
Add to the new base the US set up last year, the 20,000 US troops who will descend on Shoalwater Bay in 2007 in the Talisman Sabre joint exercises for warfare training and weapons experimentation, and a clear strategy emerges of a build up to war.
This is confirmed in the evasive language in the joint US-Australia communiqué following the AUSMIN meeting. “The United States welcomed Australia’s contribution to the stability and security of the Pacific Island countries [read ‘thanks deputy sheriff’]. Australia reaffirmed its support for proposed changes in the United States’ regional force posture [read ‘war preparations’] and welcomed progress by the United States and Japan in their alliance transformation [read ‘aggression pact’].”
The communiqué speaks of a “US Global Peace Operations Initiative” in the Asia-Pacific region [read ‘interference in the internal affairs of Asia-Pacific nations, including invasion and occupation’]. The Howard Government has “agreed to explore opportunities for partnership in helping build the capacity of regional countries in this area” [read ‘strategic manoeuvres converging on China as the central target’].
The ALP has come out in support of the latest move to turn Australia into a bombing range and stepping off point for US aggression. Labor defence spokesman Robert McClelland rationalised it this way: “If … instead of the United States resources you require Australia to develop these resources it is a massive drain on the budget.…”
Ross Babbage, head of strategic and defence studies at the Australian National University, incidentally highlighted the lackey’s role to be played by the Howard Government in the launching of any war: “The Americans using only their own territory wouldn’t provide Australia with the edge we need to operate effectively with these US forces”, he told ABC radio.
Greens leader Bob Brown, labelling the decision “shocking”, said, “We are not the 51st state of America. It would be better if the US found a bombing range near Crawford, Texas [the location of George W Bush’s ranch] for their exercises.”
And outside Parliament, while Downer and Hill were bending the knee to Rumsfeld and Zoellick, protestors sent a very different message to the warmongers.