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Green Left Weekly: Throw Howard Out!

Throw Howard Out!

By Rohan Pearce
Green Left Weekly

“There is no doubt in my mind that Australia’s involvement in the Iraq conflict was consistent with our interests and our values… I believe in the US[-Australia] alliance because it is in our national interest and delivers enormous benefits to Australia” — Prime Minister John Howard, June 18.

The message is clear: If re-elected, the Coalition government will drag Australia into more US-led wars of aggression.

In his speech, Howard spelt out the pillars of the Liberal-National Coalition's militaristic post-9/11 policy: unconditional support for US-led wars of aggression around the world; repressive “anti-terrorist” attacks on civil liberties at home; support for repression in South-East Asian nations; and the recolonisation of poor Pacific states, such as the Solomon Islands, that can no longer satisfy the needs of Australian big business.

There is no doubt that getting rid of Howard's government in the federal election would be an important step towards upsetting this agenda. In particular, it would be a blow against the brutal US-Australia-British occupation of Iraq.

In the lead-up to the federal election, particular venom has been levelled at ALP leader Mark Latham, in parliament and in the Murdoch press, for his promise to bring the Australian troops in Iraq “home by Christmas” if Labor defeats the Coalition in the election.

Although Australians only make up a fraction of the 150,000 foreign troops occupying Iraq, their withdrawal would significantly pressure the regime in Washington to abandon its war on the Iraqi people. For Australians to force this withdrawal would be a powerful statement that we will not let politicians murder in our name.

But under pressure, including public rebukes from the White House, the ALP has begun qualifying Latham’s promise. In a June 22 interview on ABC’s 7.30 Report, Latham made it clear that he neither intends to withdraw all of Australia’s military forces from the Middle East nor does he intend to fundamentally challenge Washington’s phoney “war on terror”.

Latham told the interviewer that he intended to leave the Australian forces involved in “Operation Slipper” in the Middle East as an ongoing contribution to the “war on terror”. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, one aspect of Operation Slipper was enforcing the murderous UN Security Council economic sanctions against Iraq. The sanctions were responsible for more than half-a-million deaths.

While Latham supports many of the Australian troops operating in Iraq coming home, he doesn't support ending the occupation and allowing Iraqis to determine their own future. Although Latham hasn't bowed to US pressure to ditch his “troops home” policy, he has made clear that he supports the US-Australia military alliance.

Given the ALP's history of reneging on promises made while in opposition, even the promised, limited troop withdrawal from Iraq may be threatened by a Latham-led government caving in to US pressure.

That's why you should vote for the Socialist Alliance. A vote for the Socialist Alliance is a vote for the anti-war alternative — we're helping to build a movement to make sure that all the Australian troops are brought home from the Middle East.

To seriously challenge the US-Australia alliance, and to end Australian participation in Washington's murderous “war on terror”, we need to build a visible, militant mass movement capable of forcing whichever of the pro-corporate parties gets elected to act. That's why we don't just want people to vote for us, we want them to help us build the anti-war movement.

In its 2004 election manifesto, Another Australia is Possible, the alliance puts forward a vision for radically different foreign policy than the ALP-Coalition consensus: “Australian foreign and defence policy must change sides. It must champion the poor and struggling peoples of the world against corporate elites and their governments and global institutions, like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation. That requires one thing above all: to end Australia’s military and economic alliance with the US, not only rejecting `Son of Star Wars' but closing Pine Gap, leaving ANZUS and ending all `defence' agreements with Washington.”

From Green Left Weekly, June 30, 2004.
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