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?

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

“End the Afghanistan War” – peak hour vigil 14 September

Campaigners with banner "End the Afghanistan War"

Anti-war campaigners held a vigil at the Elizabeth St entrance to Melbourne Central station during the peak hour rush this evening, holding banners reading “End the Afghanistan War” and “Hit the STOP Button on the Afghanistan War”. Although most of the commuters were obviously rushing to catch their trains, as can be seen in some of the accompanying photos, many took leaflets, and a few stopped to discuss the issues.

Commuters hurrying past banner

This was one of a series of such vigils, the last having been on 17 August. The leaflet set out ’8 Reasons to end the Afghanistan War’ as shown in the scanned copy posted below, but also served to advertise a further action planned for the 9th anniversary of the start of the war – a “die-in” at Flinders Street Station and other locations. Further information via email to melb.anti.war@gmail.com

Campaigner in discussion with member of public

Taking a leaflet

From the callout for this evening’s vigil:

Thanks to the unusual election result and the unfortunate deaths of more Australian soldiers, the Afghanistan war has been thrown into the centre stage of politics. In this context the Australian Greens have negotiated an agreement for a coalition with Labor, which included a committment to “a full parliamentary debate on Afghanistan”. Given the reluctance of both major parties to have any open discussion about the Afghanistan war, this is definitely a step forward which hopefully open the space for peace activists to call for troops to be withdrawn. Info about the agreement can be found at: http://greens.org.au/greens_labor_deal

See also http://smoyle.wordpress.com/

Detail from banner - peace dove with names and messages in texta

Detail from one of the banners

Second banner - "Hit the STOP button on the Afghanistan War"

The second banner

Scan of flyer - "8 Reasons to end the Afghanistan War"

The leaflet