31 May, 2011

The Use of Coercive Force

The Use of Coercive Force – Willy Bach 31 May 2011

The threshold for resorting to the use of coercive force, formerly called ‘going to war’ is being systematically lowered. We have seen the US War Powers Act and measures designed to enable the President of the USA to use military or covert paramilitary force, including the use of secret arms supplies and the use of private military contractors, without the consent of the US Congress. This followed closely on the heels of US President Barack Obama’s announcement that he had assumed the power to order the assassination of any person(s) including US citizens, anywhere in the world, by whatever means he deemed appropriate, including drone attacks, Special Forces assassination teams or other non-specified means.

Now the Pentagon proposes that a cyber attack on their computer systems or on any essential infrastructure in the USA and elsewhere (there is a long list revealed by WikiLeaks), including power grids and corporations that are suppliers to the US government, such as Lockheed Martin, should be described as acts of war and should be responded to in kind with a ‘proportionate’ response. Since many attempts to hack into the US Defense Department and similar targets have been carried out by non-state actors, including school students and individuals, this new lowering of the threshold suggests that governments are going to be held accountable to the USA for activities within the borders of their sovereign nations and will be faced with demands to reign-in such groups or individuals or face the prospect of military action and possibly the destruction of their entire nation.

This is likely to result in major curtailment, already underway, of civil liberties, free expression, dissenting views, media and artistic creation. Filtering and blocking of the internet (already proposed by Australia’s major parties), data harvesting, monitoring and the introduction of ‘sock-puppets’ to social networking sites and search engines and the absurdities of Edgar Hoover-like excesses of surveillance and persecution of environment and peace groups, the securitisation of the state and the dismantling of democratic institutions (already underway). US President Obama has also stiffened his government’s resistance to whistle-blowers and has attempted to silence and/or imprison some courageous North American people, who saw or discovered wrongdoing that offended their consciences and acted in the public interest. Nations that proclaim their democratic governance will no longer have anything to boast. The nations of the world where this will be most severely experienced will be those that have not yet developed strong democratic institutions and traditions. People who are only now learning how to effectively raise their voices following decades of emergency rule by dictators, in Eastern Europe, in Latin America, in Africa and in the Arab world will see their hopes snuffed out even before the flame is fully lit.

Furthermore, allies are being drawn more tightly into the orbit of US control by the requirement to replicate this doctrine in their own legal structure. This will require member states of NATO and by extension all allies including Australia will be more inextricably and inescapably co-opted and recruited into the service of promoting and protecting US interests (rather than their own interests) and will be fighting yet more wars on behalf of the USA, even with a token force and token tasks. Australia will be embroiled in more wars, enmeshed in US security concerns and will forego the right to object, shed more blood and experience the inevitable flow of displaced people seeking protection. Fighting more wars will see Australia increasingly unwilling and unable to address the issue of refugees. Australia and its people need to make their own choices about what is in their interest, which may not always be identical to those of the USA. Just think of the risk of a US President Sarah Palin and ask this question. Yes, thankfully Donald Trump is out of the race. In making law nothing can be left to serendipitous chance.

This scenario will impact very dramatically on the willingness of the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Liberal Party, both of whom are directly instructed by the US Embassy on these matters, when Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam proposes his Private Member’s Bill to limit the powers of the Australian Prime Minister to take the country to war without consulting Parliament. Australian Prime Ministers are going to argue that there was no time for discussion, that the military response required immediate action. I suggest that the Bill will require further strengthening to protect the interests of the Australian people. We should all study closely the timelines and decisions of the British government under Tony Blair’s Prime Minister-ship, in the way the decision to go to war both in Afghanistan and Iraq were predetermined to mesh seamlessly with the agenda of the then US President, George W Bush. There is little time to prepare for the counter arguments to be made explicitly or implicitly with stubborn silence and negative votes.

A sample of web sites for further reading:

Cyber Combat: Act of War

Pentagon Sets Stage for U.S. to Respond to Computer Sabotage With Military Force


Congress Reauthorizes Overbroad Patriot Act Provisions


Oppose New Worldwide War Authority


Going to War - Who Should Decide?


Background Note Parliamentary involvement in declaring war and deploying forces overseas Online only 22 March 2010


01 May, 2011

Interoperability and lawlessness - the Cluster Bomb Treaty

The Australian government signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008. It was in the process of ratification of the treaty. It did take submissions that were supposed to help shape this as an Australian law as the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010, but then Washington intervened and ... this is what we get:

Labor foiled bomb treaty

Philip Dorling

May 2, 2011


We must do more to help rid the world of these foul weapons

Paul Barratt

May 2, 2011


My response to this travesty:

Dear (Senator Scott Ludlam's office)

Thank you. My thoughts exactly, and I am with you and with Scott in being outraged by this abominable anti-democratic behaviour by the Rudd/Gillard government(s). How much worse off would we be with Tony Abbott? It couldn't get much worse, could it!

Thank you for this very strong statement. It is good to see that the Greens are really the Greens and standing up for democracy, the rule of law, peace and nonviolence and the independent foreign policy that I wanted to see when I helped to write the Greens foreign policy in 2006-2007. I want this statement to publicly put the Gillard government on notice with all the Greens parliamentary team solidly behind it, that we are profoundly offended by their scurrilous and anti-democratic betrayal.

I do not use the word betrayal lightly or as a wounded victim, or in some quaint 19th century sentimental sense of this word. I was one of the people who submitted to the inquiry a well-reasoned argument why the ratification should be done according to the intent of the treaty, the good intentions of other signatories and morally defensible in the international community. My submission was written in Costa Rica, without any input by others, yet on almost every point it was in agreement with all other submissions. My submission and others that I have read were written in good faith that the democratic process would enable the committee to give fair consideration to all of the submissions, that a rational, evidence-based process would take place, that we are all stakeholders in the good reputation that our nation has in the international community. The decision that the Gillard government has made makes Australia a pariah state without the consent of the Australian community.

Yet we find, with the fortuitous help of WikiLeaks, because the Australian government would not have told us voluntarily, that the committee wilfully ignored all of the available evidence in the large number of submissions that they were presented with, in favour of the views of a foreign power, namely the United States of America, a party that was not openly a stakeholder at the table, not part of a democratic parliamentary process and not Australian. This betrayal is a profound betrayal of the democratically elected Australian parliament and all of its instruments, a failure to respect those who are truly stakeholders and a betrayal of the sovereignty of Australia as an independent nation. Seeking to conspire with other nations to undermine and sabotage an international treaty is a betrayal of the most profound kind, an unconscionable act of deceit.

Furthermore, this betrayal is a profound act of contempt for the lives of members of the Australian armed forces and their forebears, who the Prime Minister and all previous Prime Ministers claim so frequently that they admire and support. This is the final proof that their claim is false. This government is intentionally undermining the morality and dignity of members of the armed forces of this country by contriving with a foreign power to oblige these servants of the government to violate the treaty they so recently signed and went through the motions of ratifying. No wonder our soldiers are conflicted when they are supposed to be serving us and when they find they are required to perform so many tasks that are morally equivocal and not in the best collective interests of Australians. There is nothing that more endangers the lives of Australian soldiers and civilians than being confronted by opponents who don't respect the rules of war, because we are known not to respect these rules either.

What I also want to draw attention to in this context is the recent Canberra Times article by David Ellery on Agent Orange, a matter which I believe further demonstrates that the Australian government pays more attention to the requirements of Washington than they do to their own veterans, some of whom are suffering the effects of Agent Orange, as are their children. Agent Orange is an egregious genocidal weapon with inferred effects of causing inter-generational collective punishment on the children of Indochina, who have never been a threat to Australians and who are no longer regarded as our enemies, yet we refuse to compensate them or our own soldiers. It is time for the nonsense of secrecy to be discarded and all relevant documents be made available to the Australian public, enabling this painful a shameful episode be put to rights. It is untenable that the Australian government goes along with the charade played by the US government with their veterans in order to stay in step with Washington's wishes.

Vietnam veterans at war with historians


27 Apr, 2011 04:00 AM


Please get back to me about this letter.

Willy Bach

Greens member
Author of one of the submissions of the ratification of the cluster bomb treaty
UQ School of History research student
Veteran of the CIA's Secret War in Laos