7 May 2007

Australia Has Become A De Facto US Territory

A famous Czech writer once suggested that there are two kinds of people in this life: those with the soul of a collaborator, and those who are comfortable with the idea of resisting authority. Australia's participation in the Iraq War debacle has cruelly exposed this previously meaningless division within our own society. Those who support the war also tend to favour increased military, economic and political integration with the USA, whereas those of us who oppose the war are increasingly outraged by the Howard government's fawning obsequiousness to the Bush White House.

You might think that public outrage over the David Hicks case would have at least slowed the pace of this Oz-US integration. But no. A couple of other recent legal cases have highlighted the extent to which our country has already been sold out to Washington.

The first case involves Cairns taxidriver Bryan Law, who was arrested in 2003 for a pacifist protest in which he and others deliberated set foot on the grounds of the ultra-secret US spy base at Pine Gap. No big surprises there: Pine Gap has always been the subject of much controversy, and it's legal status has always been a question of debate. But that always seemd a rather one-off problem. Till now.

The second case is far more serious. An Australian citizen, Hew Griffiths, who was arrested in 2004 for breaching Australian copyright laws has now been extradited to the USA to face prison for breaching their copyright laws! Liberal Justice Minister Chris Ellison signed the extradition papers, which were deemed to be "at the minister's discretion". As Mr Lefty said:
How can an Australian, acting entirely within Australia, be liable under US law? Why not extradite democracy activists to China? Or homosexuals to Saudi Arabia? Or Jews to Iran?

And what law is he alleged to have broken? The famously corrupt and flawed US copyright laws? You have got to be kidding.
Sadly, this is not a joke. It is part of a repeated pattern and it is becoming more frequent, despite the fact that there has been no real public debate in Australia about whether or not we should hand over control of our country to Washington.

The Constitution of the United States states:
"the congress shall have power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property of the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be construed, so as to preclude the claims of the United States or of any state." - Article IV
Wikipedia defines existing United States territories as:
* American Samoa
* Baker Island
* Howland Island
* Jarvis Island
* Johnston Atoll
* Kingman Reef (mostly maritime territory)
* Guam
* Midway Islands
* Navassa Island
* Northern Mariana Islands
* Palmayra Atoll
* Puerto Rico
* U.S. Virgin Islands
* Wake Island
No mention of Australia there. Yet.

Lest you think I am being needlessly alarmist, this little stub from the history of American Samoa provides an instructive example of how the process of becoming a territory can rather subtly occur over a period of time:
In March of 1889, a German naval force shelled a village in Samoa, and by doing so destroyed some American property. Three American warships then entered the Samoan harbor and were prepared to fire on the three German warships found there. Before guns were fired, a typhoon sank both the American and German ships. A compulsory armistice was called because of the lack of warships.

International rivalries in the latter half of the nineteenth century were settled by an 1899 Treaty of Berlin in which Germany and the U.S. divided the Samoan archipelago. The U.S. formally occupied its portion — a smaller group of eastern islands with the noted harbor of Pago Pago — the following year. The western islands are now the independent state of Samoa.

After the U.S. took possession of American Samoa, the U.S. Navy built a coaling station on Pago Pago Bay for its Pacific Squadron and appointed a local Secretary. The navy secured a Deed of Cession of Tutuila in 1900 and a Deed of Cession of Manuʻa in 1904. The last sovereign of Manuʻa, the Tui Manuʻa Elisala, was forced to sign a Deed of Cession of Manuʻa following a series of US Naval trials, known as the "Trial of the Ipu", in Pago Pago, Taʻu, and aboard a Pacific Squadron gunboat.
It's interesting how often such signing ceremonies are performed on board US naval vessels. I wonder if there was a "Mission Accomplished" flag draped in the background? I wonder if the Tui Manuʻa Elisala had a gun to his head while he signed? I am sure John Howard would not need such coercion, just the promise of a Photo Op.

By the way, the background to the takeover of American Samoa involved the monopolization of the copra industry. And the American Samoa Naval Secretary who got the deed signed was later convicted by the US Navy of stealing the profits involved. No honour among theives, is there?

The history of Hawaii, now a fully integrated US State, is also instructive:
In 1893, Queen Liliuokalani threatened to abrogate the "Bayonet Constitution" and draft a new constitution that would restore power to the monarchy. Supporters of the Reform Party (primarily of American and European ancestry, but including some native Hawaiians) organized in response to this and took over the government of the Kingdom of Hawaii. American troops aboard the USS Boston were landed in Honolulu under strict orders of neutrality, to protect the "lives and property of American citizens, and to assist in preserving public order",[4] while a 13 member council of businessmen, attorneys and politicians organized the Honolulu Rifles to depose Queen Liliuokalani.
Notice how that word "property" keeps popping up? US capitalists spread their "property" around the globe and then, whenever anyone threatens it, they use it as an excuse for a takeover. As the bishop said to the nun: "This won't hurt a bit. I'll just insert my property a little way, and I'll pull it out any time you like." Next thing you know, you are f&*#ed!

The Hawaiian takeover even had the pretext of some rather conveniently placed WMDs (or the nineteenth century version thereof)!
The monarchy ended in January 1893, and there was much controversy in the following years as the queen tried to regain her throne. After an unsuccessful attempt at armed rebellion in 1895, a weapons cache was found on the palace grounds and Queen Liliuokalani was placed under arrest, tried by a military tribunal of the Republic of Hawaii, convicted of misprision of treason and then imprisoned in her own home. The Queen officially abdicated in 1896.
Australia under Howard has rendered innocent Aussies to the US military system, and now we are rendering ordinary citizens to the US justice(TM) system. And even Howard cannot explain what our soliders are doing in Iraq, other than "safeguarding" our relationship with the USA and saving George W. Bush from "embarrassment".

When a country's government repeatedly surrenders its democratic authority to another nation, that country has ceased to be a democracy. It has become a de facto territory, subject to the whims of that other nation's rulers.

The USA neoconservatives who prematurely declared this "The American Century" are now preparing a big push for further power in the Pacific, having hit some rather severe obstacles elsewhere in the world. 2007 has just been declared "The Year Of The Pacific". Condi Rice today announced a number of initiatives including "new democracy grants focused on democracy, civil rights and the rule of law". Who wants a piece of that?

What's really happening here is that the process of corporate globalisation has led to corrupt governments around the globe who are all too happy to sell out their citizens to US-based Big Money. And inter-governmental cooperation on such matters is gathering pace.

UPDATE: From iTWire:
The UK government refused to allow the nine UK inmates in Guantanamo to be tried by the US military tribunals, yet Australia happily left Hicks to rot. UK-based members of Drink or Die were tried in UK, yet Australia happily handed over Griffiths to rot in a US jail cell. The US and UK governments don't stand for such treatment of their citizens, yet Australia happily sells out people like Hicks and Griffiths to appease its US masters.

The treatment of Hicks and now Griffiths is a disgrace - Australians can no longer trust their own government to protect them from the interests of foreign powers. Why do we even pretend Australia is a sovereign nation anymore when it's clear the US calls the shots and Australia follows blindly?

If a person betrays their country it's considered treason - a crime often punishable by death. What's the penalty when a country betrays its people?