Australia’s politicians fell over themselves to get into the line that would give them a chance to personally grovel before US President Obama when he arrived for a 26-hour visit on November 16.
The ‘lucky’ ones got two seconds of Obama’s time, the super lucky got 20 seconds.
Bob Brown, leader of the Greens, heckled President G W Bush when he addressed the Australian Parliament in October 2003. He promised not to do that to Obama, who, he claimed, is a different kind of person. He offered no evidence to back this up.
While enjoying the Australian sunshine President Obama announced a major military expansion into the Asia Pacific region.
Over the next year, between 200 and 250 US marines will train six months of the year in the Northern Territory and be based in Darwin.
By 2017 there will be 2,500 troops. In addition B52 long range bombers, submarines and warships will visit regularly.
This locking of Australia even further into the strategic and economic strategies of the US for the region was announced by Labor’s Julia Gillard with no Parliamentary discussion and with little objection from Labor MPs.
The nearest the Greens came to opposing this military move was to call for debate.
But it was not simply of case of Gillard and her ministers falling in behind the US in its strategy – the US has also fallen in with the aspirations of the Labor leaders for greater American presence its part of the world.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith told the Murdoch-owned, Weekend Australian: “This Labor government has argued since it’s been in office that power was shifting to the Asia-Pacific and that we wanted the US more comprehensively involved in this part of the world. That is now happening.”
Obama, the leader of the “free world,” came with his massive security circus and a superlative of lies.
No one is in any doubt that the expanded presence in Australia is to “contain” the increasing economic growth of China – a massive importer of Australian iron ore and coal.
That such a move increases the chances of military conflict between the declining power of the US and the growing power of China is evident.
Miao Miao, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canberra, said, “China is Australia’s largest trading partner and has never posed any military threat to Australia. Any attempt to spread Cold War remnants is against the trend of the times.”
The Australian newspaper declared in a front page banner headline that, “The future belongs to the free,” quoting the US president. The President also said the “freedom” will be pursued, “with every element of American power.” The contradictions appear to have escaped the President and the media that reported it with such enthusiasm.
To make sure no one would think that the strategic shift could be mistaken for imperial expansion, President Obama said, “Democracy and economic growth go hand in hand…Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty.”
What “democracy” did he have in mind? That taken by the US and its allies to Iraq and Afghanistan? where according to him, “the tide of war” is now receding (leaving an estimated one-and-a-half million Iraqis dead, five-million homeless, 4,800 Americans dead, and in Afghanistan, almost 20,000 dead.
A violent US presence in the Asia-Pacific region is nothing new. Over 200,000 Japanese civilians died in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WW2, an estimated three million died in Vietnam. The US bloodily suppressed the independence struggle in the Philippines.
Australia is not the only country in the Asia-Pacific, Oceania region, in which the US has military bases. Others include South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Diego Garcia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Marshall Islands and New Zealand.
Internationally there are up to 1000 military bases outside the US, including 268 in Germany and a number in the UK, established during and after WW2.
Once US imperialism has put its military boots on the ground it doesn’t seem to want to leave.
Derek Mortimer is an Australian writer and journalist