The Waste of War – the 10th Anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, 7 October 2011

To mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, Renegade Activists prepared a leaflet setting out some of the uses to which $21.3 billion could have been put, this being the sum of increased military spending over the last ten years compared with 2001 levels. A lolly was attached to each “as a taste of what you could have been enjoying”: it was calculated that $21.3 billion would provide “19 712 lollies for every man, woman and child in Australia”.
More seriously, people attending a vigil in the City Square were asked to consider how this sum could have been better spent – or wasted, if they preferred – while two peace activists, Simon Moyle and Jessica Morrison, took turns reading out the names of Australian servicemen and some of the thousands of Afghan civilians killed in the war. There was also an attempt to drop a banner from the balcony of the adjacent hotel, partially thwarted by security guards but still making its point.
Footage from the event, including some of the responses, can be seen on EngageMedia:
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link to video

Click on image for video

Attendance was not large, with the rain not helping, but a good many leaflets were distributed. Among those who did attend were representatives of MAPW Australia, and Greens federal MP Adam Bandt, who also addressed the gathering.

See also Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition

Here is part of the text of the leaflet:

The Waste of War

During the past ten years successive Australian governments have invested in a major expansion of Australia’a offensive military capacity and engaged in two destructive wars, all at an estimated cost of $21.3 billion in increased spending above 2001 levels (Age, 10/9/2011). The results of this have been disastrous, with 29 Australian servicemen losing their lives alongside at least 137 000 Iraqi and Afghani civilians. Millions of refugees have been forced to flee both countries, and despite all the talk of “war on terror” car bombings and terrorist-style attacks on civilians have increased (Guardian, 14/9/2011). Although the waste and scams involved in the government’s insulation scheme were deplorable they pale into insignificance alongside those of the military. Investment in the Collins class submarines, most of which cannot even leave port, has been over $6 billion since 1989 (Australian, 15/9/2011) whilst projected spending on new NH-90 helicopters will top $3 billion despite German Army reports showing they have major defects (Sydney Morning Herald, 2/3/2010).

Spent Properly $23.1 billion could have bought

15712 new school buildings
3 234 133 fully installed solar power systems
6 999 671 cataract operations
1 521 428 571 clean water filter jars for Cambodian villagers
88 750 000 000 meals for the Horn of Africa

Imagine what further cuts to 2001 military spending levels could have also paid for?

6 August 2011 at the GPO – Hiroshima Day vigil and more

Women in Black and Japanese for Peace banners on steps of GPO

Representatives of Japanese for Peace and ICAN held a low-key vigil on the steps of the old GPO in Bourke Street, displaying banners and handing out flyers for the afternoon’s Peace Concert at the State Library and postcards relating to the Future Fund’s investments in the nuclear weapons industry (see The Age 26 May 2011; there is an article on the same subject in the current issue of Friends of the Earth’s Chain Reaction). They shared the venue with members of Women in Black also holding a vigil calling for peace in Palestine:

Women in Black banner on steps of GPO

The main event of the day was of course the concert, and the vigil was a very small affair, but a good many passers-by took the offered leaflets or at least had their attention caught by the banners and the traditional Japanese cranes:

Japanese for Peace banner

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Paper crane at foot of one of the pillars

One of the speakers listed for the Peace Concert was Felicity Hill of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom,and a WILPF banner can be seen attracting attention here:

WILPF banner on steps of GPO

And the message ‘No More Hiroshimas’ was displayed in more than one way:

Placard and t-shirt with 'No More Hiroshimas' message

Anti-Conscription Celebration – 25 April, 2011

Lineup in front of IWW banner next to 8-hours monument

As in previous years – see for example on this site last year – there was a counter to the ‘official’ ANZAC Day events in Melbourne, this time taking the form of a celebration of IWW success in defeating attempts to introduce conscription during WWI. The gathering was held at the 8-Hours monument across the road from Trades Hall – which is currently adorned by banners promoting the annual Comedy Festival and this anti-nuclear one:

No-nukes banner on wall of Trades Hall

In addition to some spirited singing of, amongst other things, (a modified) “I Walk the Line”, Jeremy of IWW Melbourne read a selection of poems by Lesbia Harford, and members of MACG circulated a statement entitled “End the Anzac Myth”, the text of which
should be available soon on anarkismo.net.*

Singing "I walk the line" - text suitably modified

See also this post on Indymedia Australia referring to this and other current protests in Australia.

The IWW banner next to the 8-hours monument

The well-worn IWW banner

Another view of the lineup

By way of postscript, it may not be amiss to recall here a well-known poem by Wilfred Owen, killed in France 4 November 1918, exactly one week before the Armistice:

[text from Project Gutenberg]

Dulce et Decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

* The statement can be found here; It runs as follows:

A Myth is Born

On 25 April 1915, ANZAC troops storm a Turkish beach at Gallipoli and are mown down by the defenders. They hung on till January 1916 before evacuating. It is an ill-thought-out attempt by the British to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the First World War. Between 1914 and 1918, 9.6 million soldiers and 6.8 million civilians died in this clash of two rival imperialist alliances, each out to conquer territories and markets from the other. The soldiers and civilians died, not for freedom or democracy, but for the power and profits of their ruling classes. In Australia, Anzac Day has become a foundational myth for nationalism and militarism. The undoubted sacrifices of the troops are used to sanctify both the Australian military and Australia’s imperialist wars.

Militarism is Brutality

This year, Anzac Day occurs in the midst of a series of scandals involving Australian military personnel. The Skype scandal involves a female soldier unwittingly being broadcast to a group of male soldiers while having sex. This has released a flood of other complaints, some current and some from decades ago, about beatings, sexual assaults and other examples of bastardisation. Even an independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, has been drawn in. Military forces around the world are hotbeds of bastardisation; they both attract many brutes and turn many soldiers into brutes. It cannot be otherwise, since the military require not human beings but obedient killers.

Imperialism on Franchise

The United States is overwhelmingly the most powerful country in the world, with the largest economy and a military which dwarfs all others. With that power, it dominates world affairs, maintaining a world order favourable to it (though not to the same extent as in previous decades). This domination is known as imperialism. Australia supports the US in maintaining this order and, in return, gets to dominate East Timor and the South Pacific. It is effectively a franchise arrangement and the franchise fee is Australian participation in Uncle Sam’s wars across the region, regardless of either the justification or the direct relevance to the national interests of Australian capitalism.

Workers of the World, Unite!

There is an alternative, a path to peace, to a world without the violence of war and the brutality that it breeds in order to produce soldiers. As workers, we need international solidarity for the daily fight against global capitalism. Without it, we are played off against each other country by country, in an endless race to the bottom. With it, we can sweep away nationalist myths and stand as comrades across national borders. And it is this internationalism that will enable us to build a global movement and have a workers’ revolution that spreads around the globe. We can establish a world society of libertarian communism and put an end to imperialism, militarism and war. Then, and only then, can we have peace.

MILITARISM IS BRUTALITY

Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group

25 April 2011

Palm Sunday Silent Vigil for Peace – 17 April 2011

Peace banners on lawns of State Library

Peace activists held a silent vigil on the lawns of the State Library in Melbourne on Palm Sunday before making their way to a Peace Forum at the Wesley Uniting Church in Lonsdale Street. While some held banners calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan and the abolition of nuclear weapons, others distributed leaflets listing upcoming events and ’8 reasons to end the Afghanistan War’ (see report on a “Peak Hour vigil for Peace” on this site for 14 Sept 2010).

Among the banners was one from Japan, made in 2004 when a 9-month march from Roxby Downs in South Australia ended at Hiroshima – see this article.
Japanese peace banner

There will be another ‘Footprints for Peace’ walk later this year – see details here.

The recent nuclear catastrophe in Japan was also remembered:

No Nukes and anti-uranium placards

The vigil ended with a symbolic ‘die-in’:
Activists lying on ground to simulate casualties

The outlines of the dead being marked in chalk:
Chalk outline of one of the 'dead' - 'Mum of 3'

Detail of dove on one of the banners

Vigil in Support of Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers – 21 March 2011

On the 21st March, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, with international supporters, planned to plant trees and hold a candlelight vigil in Kabul, Afghanistan. They had asked people around the world to also hold vigils in support. In Melbourne, a small group of peace activists held banners and handed out leaflets outside St Paul’s cathedral…

Among them were army veteran Chip Henriss and Jessica Morrison, recently returned from Afghanistan (see http://jesspeacepilgrim.wordpress.com/):

Jessica and Chip with another peace activist

The leaflet featured a statement by Abdulai, a fifteen year old Afghan boy whose father was killed by the Taliban.(http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/2011/02/i-wish-to-live-without-wars-an-afghan-boy/):

“I see the unchanging system of the rich and powerful in which my world is violently collapsing and human hope for a decent life leaves my heart. So, in solidarity with the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Gaza, the Middle East, North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and with the people of the world, I will walk for peace; I will light my candles; I will plant my trees.”

See further http://www.livewithoutwars.org/lwwarsproject.html

The reverse of the leaflet set out “Reasons to end the Afghanistan War” – see report on a “Peak Hour vigil for Peace” on this site for 14 Sept 2010

There was a ‘wish bucket’:

Large basket decorated with wishes

… and Bob Dylan contributed:

Vigil for Japan, 17 March 2011

ICAN (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) along with Japanese for Peace and MAPW (Medical Association for Prevention of War) organised a candlelight vigil outside the old GPO in Melbourne ‘to honour the victims of this terrible tragedy, and to show our concern for the safety of those who have been exposed to radioactivity from the Fukushima nuclear power plant’.

It was not originally intended to have formal speakers, but in the event there were several addresses: a member of JFP read letter from another member resident in Kew, Melbourne, whose home town in Japan had been destroyed by the tsunami. She had been trying to get news of relatives there, and although eventually successful in determining that they were alright, was herself still too distressed to attend the vigil. Instead, she had sent the letter [text to follow when available]. Other speakers were representatives of MAPW – the Medical Association for the Prevention of War – the Railways Union, Friends of the Earth, and ICAN, whose Campaign Director Tim Wright was MC.

There is a report by Takver on Melbourne Indymedia, and more photos on Takver’s Flickr Photostream (http://www.flickr.com/photos/takver/sets/72157626160141551/)

JFP member reading letter

Reading the letter

Origami cranes and candles on steps leading from GPO

Origami cranes and candles

Speaker from MAPW

MAPW speaker: The bottom line is, the take-home message is, there is no safe level of radiation …
See also MAPW media release

Jim Green from Friends of the Earth speaking

Jim Green, FoE spokesperson on nuclear matters, summarised the situation as far as that was possible on the sometimes contradictory information being released. He mentioned various plausible scenarios, ranging from the best, that the situation could be brought under control, with minimum human exposure to radiation following the mass evacuations, all the way to the nightmare of self-sustaining chain reactions … “We don’t know how this is going to play out, but either way it’s a disaster…” He suggested however that it was not too early to start drawing lessons for the future: “TEPCO is a company with a track record of accidents, of falsifying safety data and of mishandling earthquake situations …” Amongst other things, in 1984 the company had had to implement an emergency shutdown at one of its reactors and had kept it secret for 25 years… Finally, he raised the matter of Australia’s culpability in this matter, it having been well aware of TEPCO’s record ‘and the unwillingness of the Japanese government to hold these utilities to account … but [having] been perfectly willing to allow uranium sales to proceed from Australia to Japan…’. He named BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto as also culpable, and ended by urging everyone to get involved in the quest to make the world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. See also FoE media release Spinning Fukushima.

Tomohiro Matsuoka, Japanese for Peace, speaking

The issue of Australia’s responsibility was echoed by another speaker from Japanese for Peace, Tomohiro Matsuoka: Australia was related to this disaster, because Australia and Canada were the two largest suppliers of uranium to the Tokyo Electric Power Company ‘so this radioactive material spreading from Fukushima actually originates from Australia. So we must stop this export of uranium to overseas … if you are serious about this disaster.’

Another speaker was Victor Moore of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, pledging solidarity with workers affected by the disasters: ‘this is a very sombre occasion, and ourhearts go out to [those] directly affected. This is going to be a very long, sustained campaign in terms of rebuilding Japan, in terms of ensuring that those who don’t have wealth in Japan are looked after, those that are homeless, those that are poor, those that aren’t part of the rich are looked after in Japan, and unfortunately at the moment those are the ones who are most greatly affected …’

Victor Moore of the Rail union

More images:

Banner of Japanese for Peace

On the steps of the GPO

Another view of same

Anti-nuclear campaigners with dog

International Peace Day in Melbourne, 21 September – 2, Retire the Bomb!

Elderly 'bomb' with placard - 65 years on it's time to retire the bomb

ICAN in Melbourne marked the day at the State Library with a mock retirement party for the Bomb, which was also an opportunity for people to add their video messages to the One Million Pleas campaign.

"Bomb" handing out booklets

The decidedly superannuated-looking bomb spent much of the time on a convenient couch next to a table with tea things, but at intervals got up to help distribute a recently published ICAN booklet entitled ‘The Case Against Nuclear Weapons’(also viewable online – there is a copy next to the teapot here –

Table with tea things

- as well as obliging passers-by and children by posing for photos:

"Bomb" seated, with friends

Seated with young woman

One young woman was wearing a notice that it was her birthday, and offering free hugs:

Seated with 'birthday girl'

Hugging the Bomb

‘He’ was particularly popular with the children:

"Bomb" towering over group of children

Visit http://www.icanw.org.au