8 May 2007

Australia's "Defence" Bill Has Doubled Under Howard

The Australian government is now spending $22 billion a year on what they call "defence". That is double the defence budget when Howard came to power in 1996.

Consider how that looks to our friends in Indonesia, or even across the Tasman. Then ask yourself if there is really a public mandate for this sort of profligacy.
The Strategic Policy Institute noted after the last Budget that, despite spending A$500 million to attract personnel over the preceding five years, numbers had in fact fallen.

The importance of reversing this trend - recognised in Costello's 12th Budget with a A$2.1 billion, 10-year recruitment drive - has been compounded by the Government's plan to meet the increased tempo of defence operations with more manpower.

This is in addition to an A$1 billion package announced by Prime Minister John Howard last December.

The Army has been promised two new battalions, increasing combat troops by a combined 2600 at a cost of more than A$10 billion over 10 years, to produce a land force of 30,000.

In all, the Government intends to increase the military's fulltime strength by 6000, to 57,000 by 2016.

"This is a challenging target, particularly given the current strength of the Australian economy," Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said.

Moves announced in the Budget to attract people to the military include more highly subsidised home loans, better pay and a marketing drive.
Why build a bigger military if you do not want to fight more wars? Howard's Australia is a slave to the US military and industrial corporations which need to ensure endless global turmoil to keep their profits churning. Australians don't want to join the military, we don't want our troops in Iraq, we don't know what they are doing in Afghanistan, and we certainly don't understand why they haven't done a much better job closer to home in places like East Timor.

When it comes to the budget, "Defence" is always the big white elephant in the middle of the lounge room. Nobody wants to be seen to be "soft" on Defence. Neither Liberal nor Labour wants to lose their fat friends in the "Defence" industries. And of course, everybody is lining up to loudly proclaim how much they "support our brave troops".

Here's what I just posted at TPM on that matter:
As a foreign (Australian) observer, I really do not understand all this Democrat hand-wringing about "supporting the troops". The troops simply should not be there! Those who are there should be refusing to fight, and those who are not there should be refusing to go. Follow the lead of Eric Watada, guys - this is an illegal, immoral war!

US troops are killing innocent people. They are murdering and maiming and decimating the future of Iraq! For what? Big Business!

Yes, yes, I know, I know... This "support the troops" nonsense is a critical political reality in the USA today. But why? Because 1970's hippies felt guilty about spitting on Vietnam vets? Or because the military-industrial complex has spent a fortune brainwashing one generation after another?

Arguably, the USA would never have left Vietnam if everybody back home had been worrying about "not supporting the troops" instead of just getting their asses out on the streets and shouting their protests long and hard. I don't see many people out on the streets today.

The world is watching, and this sort of vacillating, half-assed politicking makes no sense at all to us. Why doesn't Pelosi just declare the war illegal and demand that all US troops cease to cooperate with it? Eh?
That's actually a follow-up on another post of mine, at another TPM thread today:
While not wanting to take anything away from this excellent post, I feel obliged to remind readers that the problems the US troops face are really negligible in comparison to the daily horror and tragedy that millions of innocent Iraqi people face.

Compare the story of a US soldier feeling the burned skin slip from his buddy's arm, with the anguished screams of an Iraqi mother, kneeling in the rubble of her home, holding the blackened, smoking corpse of her baby in her arms. Which is worse? Which occurs more frequently?

You say this is first war in US history where troops cannot rotate away from the front to a place of rest. At least they have their swimming pools, canteens and bars in the Green Zone (even if the occasional mortar does lob over the wall). Iraqis live every moment of their lives out in "the Red Zone", afraid to go out on the streets, wondering when the next round of gunfire and explosions will come to their neighbourhood, or when US troops might come through their door in the middle of the night, or what future remains for them and their children. Millions have lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods. Millions have been forced to abandon every comfort and hope they ever knew for an uncertain future as a refugee.

Iraqis do not have psychologists waiting to deal with their PSTD issues. Their hospitals, if they can reach them, lack medecine, sanitation, electricity and trained medical staff. There are no helicopters waiting to airlift the bloodied bodies of their children from the battle zone to a fully-equipped surgery on USS Enterprise.

At least the US soldier can hope and dream that one day he will return home. Life goes on as normal in Bush's USA, where once, long ago, those same US soldiers chose to sign up voluntarily with the military. When they signed up, they agreed to kill on order, without question. That's the deal. That's what it always has been. And so the moment comes when you must seal that compact in blood: kill or be killed. But how did you get yourself into that horrific situation in the first place?

Iraqis did not sign up for this war. They do not have the option of going AWOL. What hopes and dreams can they cling to, as the bullets whiz past their windows?

I am not saying we should not have some compassion for traumatised US soldiers. But if our compassion is only for those we identity as "like us", then this war will never end, and more such wars will surely follow.

The US Military is now having a hard time recruiting new soldiers (the same is happening here in Australia, BTW). Good! One can only hope that this miserable, god-awful war will teach us all a lesson once and for all: war is wrong. Violence is wrong.

Love will win the day. Love is the only sure way to peace.
Yes, I know I am being verbose and probably vainglorious, reposting comments, etc. But this stuff pisses me off no end.

I will close with a bit of news just in:
A US marine who walked through two houses in Haditha, Iraqi minutes after other marines killed occupants with grenades and guns found two wounded children pretending to be dead next to a deceased woman.

"I saw one breathe. That's how I knew," First Lieutenant William Kallop testified at a military tribunal at Camp Pendleton, California.

"The little boy who breathed was about six or seven and when I touched him, the little girl jumped up. She was about 11."

The two injured children were the only survivors of a Marine Corps assault on two Iraqi homes near the site of a bomb attack on a convoy that left one marine dead and two injured. Prosecutors contend that the surviving marines swept through the town on a revenge spree, killing 24 civilians with grenades and guns...

A few months before the 2005 incident, Bush singled out Stone in a speech marking the 60th anniversary of VJ Day.

"He's guided by the same convictions (the World War IIgeneration) carried into battle. He shares the same willingness to serve a cause greater than himself," Mr Bush said of Stone.

Stone, 34, could face a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
These are the troops we are supposed to support, right? Oh, no, this is just an isolated incident! Right. Sure. Whatever. Don't get me started...