Friday 10 July 2009

From the Front line

Cairns veteran protester and Peace by Peace activist Bryan Law, is on a family holiday. He took his partner Margaret and son Joesph on a journey southward.

However, deciding to camp alongside 17,000 military troops from the USA and Australia, armed and running around the coastline of Rockhamption and Yapoon for three weeks, wouldn't be everyone's idea of a picnic. This is no ordinary family when it comes to communicating the unjust and the wrongs they see about our society.

Bryan writes from the front line.

Hi to all CairnsBlog bloggers!

I finally got time to write a piece on how things are going at Shoalwater Bay, and how we’re going in preparing for our interventionary nonviolent actions starting next week. Plus I’ll send some photos.

It’s day 10 of the journey, and today we saw our first arrests. Ciaron O’Reilly and Jim Dowling blocked Rasberry Creek Road, 50 kilometres north of Rockhampton, near the Bruce Highway. For a little over an hour we stopped military traffic, including five semi-trailers loaded with jeeps and trucks that belonged to the US Marines. We also stopped seven or eight smaller 4WD vehicles with Australian and US military personnel.

Rasberry Creek Road runs for about 20 kilometres to the “Green Gate” of the Shoalwater Bay military exercise area, and is know in military parlance as the “Green Route”. The “Green Route” is the most heavily used access road to Shoalwater Bay, but there is also a Brown, Yellow, and Blue route. We’ll address each in turn.

Eventually some 15 Queensland Police officers, including an Inspector or two, directed us to leave the roadway, and arrested Ciaron and Jim – both in their early fifties, and both Catholic Workers for the past 30 years or so. They were transported back to Rockhampton, charged, and put in front of a Magistrate during a special sitting of the Court at Midday.

They refused bail, and were remanded in custody until 12 August. Ciaron and Jim strongly believe in what they call “prison witness”, which involves resolute resistance both to war/injustice, and to the social/legal institutions which support it. So refusing bail and staying in prison signifies the lengths to which citizens of conscience might go in opposing these war games, and the wars in which Australian and US troops are involved.

While these are our first arrests, they are the third “action” of Christian nonviolence protestors in the past five days, and part of an ongoing series of events and news articles that have been running in Rockhampton for eight days now. The public debate was kicked off last Wednesday 1 July, with a front page story in the Morning Bulletin about the intentions of our group, and a beautiful photo of media tart yours truly, pinched from the Cairns Post.

However, unlike the Cairns Post where their reporters call me a "serial pest" and stifle debate on the issues, in Rockhampton there were follow up stories on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There were symbolic actions on Sunday and Monday, and we scored good coverage on Monday, and another front page photograph on Tuesday.

We’ve been subjected to three editorial cartoons and two opinion pieces, and yesterday the non-News Ltd Morning Bulletin published an opinion piece I wrote...
  • My opposition to Exercise Talisman Saber is based on a desire to end war and the preparation for war.

    I draw my inspiration from Jesus' sermon on the mount, and Martin Luther King Jr's vision of a world where peace and social justice include all peoples everywhere.
    I'm horrified by the killing that happens every day in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

    I'm appalled at the waste of $300 million on fuel, ammunition and ordinance that will be spent during these war games. I'd like that money to be spent on schools and hospitals.

    I don't expect that everyone will agree with my point of view, but I did expect that Rockhampton and districts would proudly display the best qualities of Regional Queensland, and would show tolerance, friendliness and a willingness to engage in rational discussion.

    I've been surprised and disappointed by the virulence of some local reaction to me, and my friends, family and colleagues. “Idiot”“moron”“terrorist” and “pest” are some of the labels put on me by your readers. Not one had addressed the issues of war and peace.

    Many have cited “the money” that soldiers and the war machine will spend in the local economy. Many have told me to “go home” or “go away” and your former town Councillor Bruce Simpson has gone so far as to claim I've somehow insulted his dead father.

    For Bruce's information my late father, John Law, was born in Rockhampton in 1920 and fought with the Australian Army during WWII in New Guinea. He was then a member of the occupation forces in Japan. He became a life-long member of the RSL, and he taught me that our democratic society was worth defending. He taught me that any citizen worth their salt would stand up for what they believe in.

    I'll bet that my father and Bruce's father would have easily become mates had they met.
    Any time Bruce wants to have a civilised debate based on facts, in any forum, before any audience, I'd be happy to accommodate him.

    If all he can manage is to hurl prejudice and insults at me because my beliefs are different from his, well, I'm sorry but that's how I behave, and I really think Rockhampton can do better.
CairnsBlog commentors like Bryan Outlaw, Headless Horseman, and America Sucks My Cock, even the Cairns Post, may go ballistic at the idea, but the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin seems to have the idea that genuine community debate is a good thing.

This week we also went electronic with WIN, 7, Hot FM, and ABC radio and television running headline stories about our actions. The scene is set.

For the next three days we go quiet in the media as the “mass” secular peace movement runs a “Peace Convergence” program of mainstream actions aimed at informing and persuading the general population about peace and environmental issues.

There’ll be public meetings, a mass hokey pokey, a vigil at the Rockhampton military depot, and concert/cultural events. Our mob will leaflet and speak to the wider mob about how to deepen “protest” into “resistance”. It’s my hope that the community discussions we’ve helped start will continue with extensive coverage of the Peace Convergence.

During this week, the actual Talisman sabre exercise has been focusing on force integration, deploying the equipment, and testing/de-bugging the command, control and communication systems. From Monday 13 to Saturday 25 July the actual exercise – an amphibious invasion of Darumbal land – takes place with live-firing and armoured vehicle deployments (plus apache helicopters, missiles, bombs and all the deadly toys of modern warfare).

Coincidentally, Monday 13 July is when our mob starts up its program of trespass into key exercise areas. If Air Commodore Meier was telling the truth to the Australian Senate when he testified there on 4 June this year, our presence will force that exercise to halt (and/or be re-organised) until they track us down and haul us out.

Also entirely coincidentally a military map of the area has fallen into our hands which shows the live fire zones, the sentry posts, the communications repeaters, transfer ramps and sector names – along with roads, trails and all the information needed to navigate one’s way through Exercise Talisman Sabre.

When speaking with Jade, from Defence Minister John Faulkner’s office earlier this week, she was adamant that we “can never get into the exercise area”. With 90 kilometres of land border, guarded by a three strand cattle fence, I can’t see how they’ll keep us out.

They can make it harder I suppose. Queensland Police are now maintaining three separate road blocks, each staffed with 6 – 10 officers, 3-4 vehicles, and aerial-laden command vehicles 24 hours a day, seven days a week until 25 July. That’s a big commitment of Police resources, but each road block can be by-passed by track, or on foot.

Indeed, Queensland Police have a four sergeant team of negotiators/liaison officers who are in touch with many of the protest groups – and they are very keen to maintain safety for all. We are keen to work with them. I just received a call from that team to say that the Australian Army are reporting that unauthorised people are on the site right now.

It’s not us. We think next week is better for disruption. But the military are certainly keyed up, perhaps even paranoid, about our intentions. Tee hee hee!

It’s late, and it’s been a long day. Time for bed.

If even a small number of committed peacemakers really put their minds and hearts into it, we can make Australian participation in war much, much harder. I know that some of you think I’m a whacker, but I feel the spirit move within me, and I wouldn’t trade places with the apathetic for all the industrial espionage in China.


Thaddeus said...

Just to remind people, here are some lines from Christ's Sermon on the Mount:-

"...Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God."

"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake."

There have been true people of peace throughout the centuries.

Edge Hill Eric said...

You're quoting Jesus Christ, Thaddeus? Is this the same Christ who's had more wars and senseless violence performed IN HIS NAME than any other person in history? The same Christ that has served as a backdrop for the most sick and heinous child abuse performed by his most ardent followers? The same Christ that most of your colleagues there would deny, preferring instead to say they're "agnostic"?

I'll stick with the military, thanks. You can keep your Christ. He's worthless, especially as an argument for peace.

Dave said...

What is with your fascination with this half-wit hippie? He'd protest against going to the toilet if he thought he'd get a headline.

america is welcome in cairns said...

I can see it now ,someone scribbling down with a hammer and chisel christs words from mount whatever or did they recall it ?
you lot of wakkers base your whole life on a myth fed to you by a lot of desert dwellers that still live in tents and mud huts ! give me a break .
Just live a good life hurt no one ,pinch nothing , it is easy !

Thaddeus said...

It is a complete crock of bullcrap to "blame" wars on religion and Jesus Christ. Please go out and get some texts and start educating yourself.

cutting hedge said...

Thaddeus wow angry little person ! just use some grey matter ,
1.Who wrote the texts you refer to.
2.How can an intelligent person base their whole life on what some person ,that wrote something they made up hundred of years ago.
You only have to watch any news program on the middle east to see they share a brain ,sheep all chanting all looking the same ,religon was created to control the masses , I simply ask you to really think why you base your life on anything past down to you by anyone that lived in the middle east hundreds of years ago !
hell they aren,t that smart now hhaa.

nocturnal congress said...

For Chrissakes, Thaddeus, the likes of Eric have never heard of, nor could they even understand the books of Barbara Tuchman, John Keegan or John Tincey. I mean, reading and educating yourself means less time for other pleasurable pursuits...
Sadly only some of us are curious enough to want to know about our history and the world shaping events leading up to our time.

Thaddeus said...

cutting edge, I quoted from the Sermon on the Mount because Bryan said he was inspired by it.

Unlike you I do understand that some deeply religious Christians are opposed to war, and no, I don't scoff and mock them. I respect their non-violent beliefs.
And further I am aware that the Bible was written by many people at various times.

Alison Alloway said...

It isn't so long ago people were running around screeching "Saddam has weapons of mass destruction!"
There were plenty of dills who believed that too. PS Thaddeus, Barbara Tuchman's book "The Guns of August" is brilliant.

cutting hedge said...

Alison the two who believed "saddam had weapons of mass destruction" ,were the leaders howard a regular church going god fearing man and george bush another leader duty bound to the radical christians in america ,so I would not qoute what dills believed that !
Not a good comparison.

Alison Alloway said...

cutting edge, I was one of the anti-Iraq war protestors here in Cairns in 2003 and ALMOST everybody I knew was running around saying "Saddam has weapons of mass destruction."
John McKenzie had John Gray from James Cook University on his radio program daily talking "knowledgeably" about Saddam's "WMD". People were phoning in and writing letters to "The Cairns Post" all echoing what they had been told, like silly little Simple Simons.
There were only a handful of us who expressed public opinions that Saddam was unlikely to have WMD and that the reasons for war were not self-defence. Yep, and one of those people was Bryan Law.

I followed the Iraq War very closely and followed the progress of the human shields who entered Iraq immediately prior to the invasion (almost all of whom were deeply religious people), also the Christian Groups who stayed until security broke down. The Canadian Christian Group were the last to leave and only did so reluctantly.
(Iraq had, under Saddam Hussein, many Christian Churches, and Christian events such as Easter and Christmas were celebrated. There is only one Iraqi Christian Minister left today in Iraq and Easter and Christmas are not celebrated.)

Many Christians around the world opposed the Iraq war. On one Iraqi website was literally thousands of photographs of American Christians, all holding posters with the words, "WE ARE SO SORRY" on them.
Yes, cuttingedge, there are "Christians" and "Christians". The Book of Timothy (2,3) warns us there are people who...."Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won't be real. Don't have anything to do with such people."

Syd Walker said...

Thaddeus is right. It's an utter crock to 'blame' all or even most wars on religion.

Anyone who seriously thinks the Iraq War was driven by Christian values - or even by a 'right-wing Christian Lobby' - is deluding themselves. Time to read some Walt and Mearsheimer.

August 1914 got a mention or two.

My heroes from that time are the people who tried to stop the war.

Morely and Burns were British Cabinet Ministers who deserve more respect, IMO. Check this out for prescience:

"What grounds for expecting that the ruinous waste and havoc of war would be repaid by peace on better terms than were already within reach of reason and persistent patience. When we counted our gains, what would they amount to, when reckoned against the ferocious hatred that would burn with inextinguishable fire, for a whole generation at least, between two great communities better fitted to understand one another than any other pair in Europe? This moral devastation is a worse incident of war even than human carnage, and all the other curses with which war lashes its victims and its dupes."

- extract from John Morley's Memorandum on Resignation from Herbert H. Asquith’s cabinet, August 1914.

cutting hedge said...

Alison I dont have anything to do with people who qoute the bible full stop ,how as an obvious intelligent person , do you believe what some person supposedly said /wrote hundreds of years ago EG "The Book of Timothy (2,3)like how do you know who wrote it or if it contained really what some nice person said ? or
anything else back then, that is what bewilders me ,how persons that should know better qoute some words out of some book to suit them.
And these poor souls who rant I AM A CHRISTIAN WOW , WHAT DOES THAT MEAN ? I am more sincere than you because I believe in something you don,t ,what a joke !

Alison Alloway said...

Okies cuttingedge, you are perfectly free to have nothing to do with anyone who ever quotes the Bible, the Qu'uran, the Talmud or whatever. I can understand your disgust with so called "Christians" like George Bush, but try to understand that there are genuine believers out there. I know one of the people down in Rochampton protesting with Bryan, and she is a very genuine Christian woman. My late Mother-in-law was also a genuine, kind hearted Christian who spent her entire life caring for others and doing good works in the community.
Don't be too cynical, cuttingedge.

Pat Macquarie said...

Bryan - be sure and thank any US soldiers you see for figthing to defend the democratic freedoms that allow you to indulge in such street theatre without getting shot or locked up for years. (And no, spending a few weeks in remand when you have the option of bail is not the same thing.)

Try doing what you are doing in Tokyo today, or in East Berlin before the wall came down and you would get a very different reaction from the authorities - THANKS TO THE YANKS.

And that scruffy little paper in Rockhamption will print absolutely anything to fill the spaces between its ads. It makes the Cairns Post look downright left-wing and intellectual.

nocturnal congress said...

What the hell are we doing in Afghanistan anyway?

Anonymous said...
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Thornton On Spence said...

An absolutely wonderful observation Anonymous and I couldn't agree more.

america ships are welcome in cairns said...

Before anyone rights anything good about these moron lawbreakers ,we have laws these people are lawbreakers full stop !

FOUR anti-war games protesters who were found inside the Shoalwater Bay military training area yesterday were taken away by police for questioning.

Treena Lenthall, a spokeswoman from the Christian anti-war group, Peace Convergence, said the four, Margaret is a Pest in the arse 44, Jarrod McKenna, 28, Jessica Morrison, 33, and Reverend Simon Moyle, 32, all claimed to have entered the base on Monday and moved towards a live-fire area where they spent the night.

Alison Alloway said...

Malcolm Fraser, the former Liberal Prime Minister has a worthwhile comment on Australia's Defence White Paper (released 2/5/2009) on his website,
Malcolm's reasoning is that "Peace is our best defence". I would recommend people read his comment.