An open letter to the President of the United States Barack Obama & Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the occasion of Barack Obama’s address to the Australian Parliament on November 17, 2011.
While you meet in Australia’s Parliament House, Australians concerned about human rights, peace, justice and equality protest against your policies.
We believe that the policies you jointly agree on undermine the security of our future and the opportunity for our children to live in a world free of war and violence; a world where economic equality, freedom of speech, expression and knowledge are sacrosanct.
We are prevented from having that world because of the support you give to the military industrial complex, of which Australia is a loyal subsidiary. Those interests would have us believe that they wage war to bring peace and something they call “democracy”.
But, after 10 years of war in Afghanistan, and nearly eight years in Iraq, there is scant evidence of any democracy, only destruction and death. Israeli military action against the Palestinians will not bring peace. Israel can continue its apartheid-like policies against the Palestinians because it knows it has Washington’s support.
Many dared to dream that you, Barack Obama, would begin to reverse the terrible crimes of your predecessor. Instead your foreign policy is underscored by the same violence and coercion.
The stated aim of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to rid the world of terrorism and to bring democracy to the region, was deceptive. Both wars are illegal because they were conducted under false pretences. In his book “Axis of Deceit”, former Australian Intelligence Officer, Andrew Wilkie, now an Independent member of parliament, has said, that the over-riding reason for the invasion of Iraq was “the US’s determination to safeguard and enhance its global ideological, economic and military hegemony.” We believe that the same applies to Afghanistan.
The “war on terror” has been used as an excuse to colonise Iraq and Afghanistan. In exchange for aid, the Governments of Iraq and Afghanistan have been coerced into adopting neo-liberal economic policies. In this “privatisation of war”, vital public infrastructure has been sold off or destroyed. Multinational corporations such as Blackwater, KBR (Halliburton), and agribusinesses such as Chemonics Inc, with the support of USAID, can now impose their products on these war-torn nations.
Meanwhile, mismanaged foreign aid falls into the hands of Afghan war-lords and criminals, fuelling corruption and violence and preventing Afghans from democratically deciding on their futures.
The majority of Australians do not want to benefit from the torture, maiming and impoverishment of civilians, the destruction of people’s livelihoods, and their environment. We call on you Julia Gillard to withdraw all Australian troops from Afghanistan.
Barack Obama and Julia Gillard: We accuse you of complicity in war crimes
You are responsible for killing and maiming unknown numbers of innocent men, women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq while peddling the illusion that war and occupation can still bring democracy.
These war crimes include: the execution of women and children in Ishaqi, Central Bagdad in 2006; an unprovoked helicopter attack on civilians and journalists in Bagdad in 2007 killing 11 people; and the bombing of Rigi village, Afghanistan in July 2010 where it is claimed 50 civilians, mostly women and children were killed. None of these atrocities have been adequately investigated by either the US or Australia. Human Rights Watch has reported that throughout 2011, there have been incidences of rape, torture and beatings committed by US/NATO backed Afghan Local Police forces. A recent report in Human Rights Watch has found that, with very few exceptions it is “rare for the US and NATO to hold independent and transparent investigations into possible acts of wrongdoing, or to hold individuals to account.”
The US President has conferred upon himself the right to murder US and other national citizens on the basis of “secret evidence”. Obama has escalated the use of unmanned predator drones to assassinate terrorist suspects, often killing innocent civilians. This undermines the rule of law and violates the US Constitution and the Geneva Convention. These CIA-based actions are morally wrong and set a dangerous precedent. The use of unmanned predator drones should be banned.
Barack Obama and Julia Gillard: We accuse you of complicity in torture and continuing extraordinary rendition
For years Amnesty International has warned US, NATO and Australia that prisoner transfer agreements with the Afghani National Directorate of Security, will expose prisoners to the risk of torture. In 2010, Amnesty warned the Australian government that prisoners transferred by Australian officials in Afghanistan to US or Afghan detention centres may face torture and that this could put Australia in breach of International laws against torture.
You continue the practice of Extraordinary Rendition, sending suspected terrorists to compliant countries to be tortured. A report by the Human Rights Institute at Columbia University found that “the US government continues to take advantage of Bush-era secrecy in subjecting transferred detainees to the threat of torture”. (Dec 20, 2010 Press Release Promises to Keep)
There are concerns that changes made to laws in 2009 governing the treatment of prisoners in US custody have loopholes that would allow for torture under specific situations.
Barack Obama and Julia Gillard: We accuse you of supporting the terrorist state of Israel and betraying Palestinians
Barack Obama, for years the US has paid lip service to peace between the Palestinians and Israelis while consistently voting in favor of Israeli interests at the United Nations Security Council and supplying aid and weapons to the Israeli military. Amnesty International reported in 2009 that over a 10-year period up to the year 2017, the US will provide Israel with $30 billion in military aid.
Barack Obama, in your September 21, 2011 address to the United Nations General Assembly you used the usual platitudes, the prevaricating language of the insincere, to excuse yourself from supporting Palestinian application for statehood. While in the Occupied Territories, East Jerusalem and throughout the refugee camps, the oppressed and dispossessed Palestinians suffer war, violence and hunger because of Israeli aggression towards them.
Julia Gillard denies Palestinians their right to statehood. How do you explain this to Australian Palestinians?
Barack Obama: We accuse you of the persecution and torture of Bradley Manning
You have declared Bradley Manning, the alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, guilty before he has had his constitutional right to defend himself in a court of law. You have prosecuted more whistleblowers than any of your predecessors.
Bradley Manning’s detention conditions at Quantico Marine Base between July 2010 and April 2011 are reported to have included solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for 10 months, sleep deprivation and enforced nakedness during morning inspection. Yale Law School professor, Bruce Ackerman has stated that the treatment reported, “… is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial.” You continue to deny UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez an unmonitored visit to Bradley Manning to clarify the truth of these reports.
Barack Obama and Julia Gillard: We accuse you of persecuting Julian Assange, Australian citizen and founder of WikiLeaks
Julian Assange has released material, such as the Iraq War Logs and Afghan War Diaries, that expose the “corruption, deceit, brutality and criminality of the world’s most powerful factions”. They show the horrific reality of the Iraq and Afghan wars and the degree to which US corporations benefit financially. The Wikileaks cables make it clear that you are both complicit in corruption, war crimes and human rights abuses.
By revealing these crimes against humanity, Julian Assange has provided a great service to the public.
WikiLeaks has also exposed the degree to which European, British and US government officials knew about the fraudulent activities and dishonest brokering which led to the global financial collapse and the impoverishment of millions in the US and around the world.
Barack Obama your attack on Julian Assange makes a mockery of the First Amendment right to free speech.
Julia Gillard you are putting the interests of the US-Australia ANZUS alliance before the safety of an Australian citizen. You and Kevin Rudd have yet to apply diplomatic pressure to stop Assange’s possible extradition to the United States, which his lawyers say, would put him in grave danger. We call on you to fulfill your obligation to protect an Australian citizen in serious difficulty overseas.
Julia Gillard: We accuse you of ignoring public opinion on foreign policy
We do not accept that Australia’s foreign policy is best served by a war alliance with the US. Signing a pact with the US government to allow joint command of military bases on Australian soil is not about preventing wars. Rather, it is about continuing the current illegal and unpopular wars, and being complicit in starting more.
Australians overwhelmingly opposed the invasion of Iraq and, now, the 10-year long war in Afghanistan. Australia’s support for the NATO intervention into Libya, and the risk of such an intervention into Iran, will not help the democracy movements in these countries. Rather, these imperial interventions are about helping install compliant rulers with whom imperial powers, including Australia, can do business.
Barack Obama and Julia Gillard: We accuse you of putting the interests of corporations and the military industrial complex above the safety and well being of those in your care.
We support the worldwide Occupy movement against corporate greed and war. We, the 99%, want a co-operative and peaceful world. The wars being waged today are wars for the 1%.
The light on the hill is out.
But around the world, demands for justice, peace and equality, flare like a new sun.