Australia is in an historically unusual position. Cultural and social ties with Europe have been the historical benchmark. There was a profound national shock following the fall of Singapore in December 1941.
That saw an immediate reorientation towards the United States. The US has been the focus of Australian security concerns ever since. As recently as in the past week the United States Secretary of State has been in Australia giving instructions for Australia’s involvement in yet another war on behalf of the Americans, this time in an entirely manufactured crisis in Iran.
There was a brief attempt to move away from this counterproductive alliance in the 1970s.
Marshall Green, known in United States circles as the coup master for very good reasons, was sent to Canberra as United States ambassador.
Green had been in South Korea to engineer the overthrow of the South Korean dictator. His next project was in Indonesia where he organized the overthrow of the troublesome (to the United States) independently minded Sukarno Government.
More than half a million people, predominantly ethnic Chinese, died in that coup. That Indonesia was for the next 30 years ruled by a brutal dictatorship was not of the least concern to the Americans.
Green’s next project was in Chile where again a troublesomely independent and left leaning government was in place.
Salvador Allende was too independent and too left wing for US tastes. He therefore had to go. Again, there was a massive death toll.
In a familiar pattern a 30 year long brutal dictatorship took his place.
Mr Green’s next assignment was to Canberra as US ambassador. Again there was a troublesome government in place that showed alarming signs of developing an independent foreign policy.
Australia has been a loyal United States satellite up to that point. It faithfully echoed the anti-communist rhetoric that saw Australia involved in US wars in Korea and Vietnam.
The latter war was instructive in many ways. When it became obvious that Ho Chi Minh was going to win the scheduled election following the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the United States used its influence over the South Vietnamese dictatorship to ensure that the scheduled election in the south was not held.
It would of course have been unthinkable for the “wrong man” to win. One of the enduring fantasies about US foreign policy is that it has the least interest in democratic processes where they conflict with US determined self-interest.
That United States interference in Vietnam led inevitably to a civil war, invariably portrayed in the west as communist expansionism. It was a common theme at the time to hear phrases such as “we don’t fight them there, we will soon be fighting them here.”
Australia was an enthusiastic participant in this rhetoric. Then as now there was precious little connection between the rhetoric and the reality.
Gough Whitlam came to power in 1972 in part on a platform of ceasing Australian involvement in the American wars of choice.
That was clearly a threat to the status quo. Whitlam’s fatal error however was to threaten the closure of Pine Gap, the major United States spy centre for the region. It is a role that continues to this day and is a major factor in Australia’s ongoing participation in the US war crimes.
The day before Whitlam was to announce the closure of Pine Gap in the Australian parliament, long time CIA lackey in Canberra, John Kerr, sacked the Whitlam government in what can only be described as a coup d’état.
The historian Jenny Hocking has spent a significant portion of her professional life endeavouring to obtain the papers that would establish the British link to that coup d’état.
It is my respectful opinion that Dr Hocking’s focus is misplaced. The coup was in fact organized by the aforementioned United States spy/ambassador Marshall Green. His role has been made abundantly clear in declassified United States documents.
The unwillingness of Australian academics among others to confront this uncomfortable reality is reflective of a wider problem in Australian academia and foreign policy generally.
There are a number of other consequences of that coup that persist to the present day.
The most obvious is that the last vestiges of an independent Australian foreign policy disappeared. Irrespective of which of the two major Australian political parties is in power in Canberra, the loyalty and obedience to American foreign policy remains absolute.
It was in November 1975 that’s the last vestiges of an independent Australian foreign policy disappeared. Irrespective of which of the two major Australian political parties is in power in Canberra, the loyalty to US foreign policy remains absolute.
As previously noted, we saw the evidence of this as recently as a week ago when the US Secretary of State obtained an Australian commitment to become involved in the American campaign against Iran. We were told that the American request was being “carefully considered” but on the history of last 78 years “their wish is our command.”
The Americans did not even bother to conceal their concern that the Port of Darwin had been leased for 99 years to a Chinese company. It took a very short time for Australia to agree to the building of a major US naval base very close to Darwin’s Chinese managed Port.
That naval facility for the Americans will be the latest in a long line of US military bases in Australia, the vast majority of which are almost completely unknown to the Australian public.
Canberra’s foreign policy goals have similarly being essentially indistinguishable from those of Washington over the same period.
Australian troops are currently involved in at least three US led wars. There may be others but the hostile reaction to Freedom of Information requests makes research difficult. Even where Australia’s presence is acknowledged, as with its illegal participation in the war in Syria, actual details are difficult to obtain.
The campaign for an informed public is not assisted by the complete absence of any debate in parliament of Australia’s involvement in foreign wars. The ongoing campaign against whistleblowers, and the complete absence of support for these persons by the Labour Party, is reflective of the parlous state of democracy in Australia.
Australian troops have been involved in the Afghanistan war since overt hostilities commenced in October 2001. Australians were sold the lie that the invasion was in response to the Taliban government’s refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden.
His alleged masterminding of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York is one of the more enduring lies foisted on the public.
The fact that the evidence is now incontrovertible that the American plan to invade Afghanistan was finalized in July 2001 is not allowed to enter the Australian public discourse.
We now know that the decision to invade Afghanistan was made when the Taliban government of Afghanistan refused to give the contract to US companies for transporting oil from the Caspian basin to a friendly warm water port.
Instead, the contract was given to an Argentinian company, Bridas Corporation. One of the very first acts following the US led invasion of Afghanistan was for it to cancel the Bridas contract and award it to American companies.
Bridas sued the United States government and were eventually awarded substantial damages. You will not read about that litigation in the Australian newspapers.
Following the American led invasion of Afghanistan, the heroin trade, which had been virtually eliminated under the Taliban, once again boomed. Afghanistan now accounts for more than 90% of the world’s heroin production.
Processing the raw opium into heroin requires a range of chemicals that are not produced in Afghanistan. Instead, they are flown in on US planes. The same planes are then used to fly out the processed opium (now heroin) for sale by the CIA around the world.
It is one of their largest sources of off the books revenue. Afghanistan replaced the role of Thailand as the principal source of US heroin sales after their defeat in the Vietnam War.
None of this is secret information. The details can be readily ascertained in the annual reports of the United Nations drug agency. They are not considered important enough to be reported in Australia.
Heroin is also used to undermine and subjugate target countries such as China (old habits die hard, just ask the British), Russia, Pakistan and Iran. Heroin addiction is a major problem in all of these countries.
In Pakistan’s case it went from virtually a zero problem to a major one in a time period that exactly matches the US led war in Afghanistan.
18 years later the occupiers of Afghanistan are still there, including the Australians. Local propaganda insists Australia is there to train local troops. That is fantasy. Attempts by some journalists to truthfully report what is going on have been met with repressive prosecutions and harassment.
The mainstream media is again complicit in failing to report what is really happening, only expressing concern when their journalists are targeted.
They have in fact been derelict in their duty to honestly report what is going on for the past two decades.
Less than 18 months after the disastrous invasion of Afghanistan, Australian troops were again acting at the beck and call of the Americans in invading Iraq. The ostensible justification was Saddam’s fabled weapons of mass destruction. The truth however was spelt O.I.L.
Australian troops are still there, although a measure of how unwelcome they are is reflected in the fact that all Australian military personnel in Iraq have diplomatic passports. Again, the subservient Australian media do not ask the obvious questions.
Australian troops are also involved in the war in Syria, although unlike the Americans have not set up an unwelcome and illegal base in that country and refusing to leave when asked to do so by the legal Syrian government.
It is always a clue as to the Australian government’s position when the local media describe a particular government as a “regime”. This is an epithet only reserved for the enemies du jour. It is never applied, as it legitimately could be, to the regimes running Israel or Saudi Arabia for example.
The involvement in Syria however, is instructive as to the deceit with which the Australian military forces in Syria are acting. In late 2015 then foreign minister Julie Bishop announced that Australia’s engagement in the Syrian war had been requested by the Americans, but no decision would be made until the legal question had been examined.
A month later the Liberal government announced that Australian forces would be joining the “Coalition” to fight in Syria.
There has never been any attempt by the Australian government to explain why Australia had to get involved in another war in a different hemisphere.
I was intrigued by this announcement and very curious as to how the conclusion had been reached that such an engagement was lawful under international law.
I made a Freedom of Information request for the legal opinion that was apparently used to breach new legal ground and involve Australia in yet another war, one that was manifestly outside established legal principles.
My request for a copy of the legal advice was refused. But I was sent a list of 50 relevant documents that I was not allowed to read. Four of these documents were headed “legal advice” on Australia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. They all had the same date.
The date on the legal documents was one year before Bishop had told the Australian public that no decision on joining the war would be made until the government had legal advice that it was legally able to do so.
In other words, the Australian public were the victims of a complete charade. The decision to involve Australia in another illegal war had long since been made when Bishop was telling the Australian public something completely different. The whole exercise of purporting to consider an American request and establish the legality of such a request before making a decision to join the war was simply a charade.
It was equally a charade to pretend to be influenced by the legal advice. It was a safe bet that the advice would have been that Australia’s involvement in the Syrian war was illegal.
For such an action to be legal it had to meet at least one of three conditions. (Self defence; UNSC resolution; at the request of the attacked nation. Manifestly, none of those legal preconditions applied. Otherwise there was no reason to hide it (unlike the advice the Howard government had received in respect of the Iraq War).
Outside the military sphere of Australia’s dubious, and I would argue illegal, involvement in US Wars of choice, other changes were occurring that ultimately will prove to be of far greater significance for Australia’s future.
In 1964, when Australia was still engaged in the Vietnam War, the United Kingdom was its largest trading partner taking nearly a quarter of Australia’s exports. Japan took fractionally less (22.4%), the United States 12.9% and China 7.7%.
By 2014 the United Kingdom accounted for 1.4% of Australia’s trade and the United States 3.9%. Japan had dropped to 18.0% and China had risen to 36.7% . The rest of Asia barely registered in 1964 but was 28.3% in 2014.
That trend has continued in the latest years. In other words, there has been a radical shift in Australia’s trading pattern with the rest of the world. Japan, China and the rest of Asia now account for well over 80% of Australia’s total trade.
This is an historically unprecedented situation. For the first time in its history, Australia over the past few years owes its economic prosperity to a country, China that is not an ally or even a nation with which it has especially good, let alone friendly relations.
In fact, the opposite has been true. Australia has gone out of its way to make statements and pursue policies that are antithetical to the source of its economic prosperity.
Taking part with the Americans in an annual exercise that practices blockading the Straits of Malacca, through which more than 80% of China’s maritime trade passes, is the antithesis of sending friendly signals to Australia’s most important trading partner by a very large margin.
It is also significant in my view that at each of the last two G20 meetings the Chinese President refused to even speak to his Australian counterparts (Turnbull and then Morrison) in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Through this and through other signals, Chinese authorities have made it clear that Australia’s overt hostility to the PRC contains a price tag, the payment of which will prove exceedingly painful to Australia.
It is not just in trade that Australia’s prosperity is intimately linked to China. China is the largest source of foreign tourists, the largest source of foreign students, and the third largest source of foreign investment.
China’s capacity to strike a devastating blow to Australian prosperity should be a paramount issue for Australia’s economic and political planners.
Historically, Australia’s role as a European outpost in an Asian world was an aberration. What we are seeing now is the assertion of economic and geopolitical reality.
The mindset of the political leadership has not adjusted to this reality. In a very real sense, the politicians and the military have a mindset that reflects an earlier age. One that is long past and one that is highly unlikely to ever return.
This is not to say the Australia should exchange subservience to first the British and then the American mindset, for one dictated by a foreign, and this time, Asian power.
There is however, an overdue change that is required. The French statesman Talleyrand once remarked that nations have neither friends nor enemies, only interests.
The time has long past when Australia should reflect on where its interests truly lie, and adjust its conduct accordingly.
Recognizing the realities of this geography and its trading patterns and hence prosperity would you be a good start.
Forsaking its blind adherence to other nation’s wars of choice, particularly those whose primary objective is based on outmoded concepts of exceptionalism and manifest destiny supported by endless wars that have killed tens of millions of people since 1945 alone would be a good start.
What we are in fact seeing is a reversion to an older historical reality and that is the reassertion of China as the dominant power in the world. The aberrations of the past 250 years are thankfully passing.
The survival of this nation, and indeed the human species, demands a different and better mindset and of the policies that reflect it. In Australia’s case the readjustment of its mindset is long overdue.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.