The young reporters at the Cairns Post call him a serial pest. A serial protester. A serial stirrer. A serial activist. They've almost run out of ideas. When you can't debate and analyse a complex issue, it's much easier to call someone names. Stick and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me, so goes the age old saying.
Unfortunately, it's all too common for today's mainstream "journalists", the ones that Murdoch is betting we'll pay to read, often don't understand how one event is connected to another.
Someone's showing their age, and it's not Bryan Law.
Last week was big for me. Two arrests, two convictions, time in both the Cairns watch-house and the emergency department of the Cairns Base Hospital, and two new medications for my heart. I’ve got $1,000 in fines to deal with, and a lot of criticism from some quarters for “attention-seeking behaviour”.
No less a luminary than Desley Boyle, member for Cairns, has declared herself to be “over” my “protests with a muddy message”.
It’s time to ask myself whether it’s worth it. It’s a lot of aggravation, and it didn’t achieve everything I wanted. Yesterday was my son Joseph’s 11th birthday, and he spent most of the week worrying about whether I’d be around for it (luckily I was). So what was it all for?
Mostly I wanted to show the people of Cairns just what’s going on in the world around them, and the ways in which we are complicit in some of the worst crimes imaginable against humanity and this beautiful planet of ours.
The USS Blue Ridge docked in Cairns Inlet last Monday. The USS Blue Ridge is the flag ship of the US 7th Fleet. It’s not so heavily armed in itself. Its job is command, control and communication for all the US Navy vessels in east Asia and the western Pacific. If the order comes from Hawaii or Washington to launch nuclear weapons, it will be the USS Blue Ridge that authenticates and transmits that order. If Hawaii and Washington drop off the net for some reason it will be the USS Blue Ridge that decides when and how to respond. This ship has a part to play in the destruction of our planet.
Many of you will say such a scenario is extreme and unlikely. I say you’re guilty of wishful thinking. On 12 October, the very day the USS Blue Ridge docked in Cairns, North Korea fired five short range missiles into the Yellow Sea and warned South Korea to stay out of its territorial waters.
Hilary Clinton responded to the launch as if it was a provocation and part of North Korea’s nuclear program. If you think the USS Blue Ridge wasn’t involved in watching and planning to respond to these launches (even while tied to the wharf in Cairns), you’re a fool.
What wasn’t published in the Washington Post was that the US and South Korea were engaging in “war games” in South Korea and the Yellow Sea at the time, and North Korea regularly demands that such exercises stay away from its country. The USS George Washington, and its attendant battle group were in the Yellow Sea. The USS George Washington is a modern nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed “super carrier” capable of scraping east Asia clean of life. It’s a key part of the 7th Fleet and based in Yokosuka Japan – the same home port as the USS Blue Ridge.
Now on board the USS Blue Ridge there is a large public relations team, and one of their duties is to promote the “peace-loving, democracy-defending nature of the US Navy which just loves children and cuddly puppy dogs”. So in the few days before this ship arrived the Cairns Post was full of human interest stories, along with the message that bucket-loads of money will be ours for hosting this ship.
So the first goal I had was to push this phony message off the front pages and spread the truth instead. The USS Blue Ridge is offensive to God and a crime against humanity. I met with partial success. The PR pap was diminished in effect, but it was very hard to get accurate information published about what this ship actually does. Away from the mass media I would have spoken to a hundred people from Cairns (3 Magistrates, 20 Police, 10 nurses, 3 doctors, and a few score general citizens), which along with Cairns Blog is where the core message gets through.
The second goal was to highlight what’s going on in Afghanistan, where the US General commanding NATO forces has declared the eight years of war so far (with hundreds of thousands of dead) a failure.
The day after the USS Blue Ridge tied up in Cairns it was revealed that the US is quietly deploying 13,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and that this is in addition to a request by General Stanley McChrystal for 40,000 more troops.
Last week Peace by Peace (half a dozen die-hard peaceniks) got some attention for this situation by also organising protests against the Blue Ridge.
As I write this story I feel my resolve strengthening by the minute. These wars we fight, and the criminal waste of money and resources on the Blue Ridge instead of schools, hospitals and housing – just cannot be allowed to continue. I admit that my efforts, and the efforts of my friends, are only small in effect. Tiny. Minuscule if not molecular. But I can look my son in the eyes and we both know that acting out of conscience is the only valid way to live.
When I wrote my statement on Sunday that received a lot of feedback on CairnsBlog, I complained about the way my political representatives hadn’t returned phone calls or discussed with me the issues around the Blue ridge visit. Since then ALP Federal MP Jim Turnour rang me up (he supports the bucket-load of money). Cairns Mayor Val Schier has e-mailed me and we’ll speak soon. Desley Boyle made media comment about how fucked up I am while revealing her ignorance of military or strategic issues.
The mass media gave me lots of coverage that was restricted to the mechanics of my protest, but largely failed to inform about the underlying issues. John Rainbird wrote on CairnsCoev and CairnsBlog very perceptively about the media and cultural dynamics of “news value” in our society. I’ll be doing some breakfast show interviews with SEA FM and HOT FM this week, and intend to continue a dialogue with the Cairns Post.
On top of all that it was a nice swim in the Trinity Inlet. On Tuesday I had my first ever bed-side Court hearing, with Mr Comans SM presiding, and he saw fit to grant me bail without conditions. Likewise Mr McFadden A/SM and Ms Coates SM declined to imprison me, and all three recognised the civil disobedience nature of my actions. Cairns Police, led by Acting Inspector Denis Fitzpatrick, were universally professional and respectful. I find all of that encouraging.
If more citizens of good conscience in Cairns took up nonviolence and civil disobedience as a tool for political and social formation in Cairns we might achieve a better class of politician, and a better class of democracy than the standard we presently (is enjoy the right word?). Meanwhile my family will do what it can.
So I’ll end where I began. Is it worth it? Yup!