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Peace on Earth
While we were away Bryan Law and his friends were not idle at all. This post is an update to The bush track to Pine Gap, continuing the story that began with Entering the 'gap' between what's right and what's legal and continuing with If you want peace, work for justice.
It seems a shame that I
should feel obliged to note that Webdiary does not necessarilly endorse
anything published here, as it should be obvious enough. We certainly do not support any illegal act whatsoever. The point of Webdiary is to allow a forum for publication of a wide range of views and to allow free discussion on them. The actions described below are from a long-term Webdiarist who is absolutely familiar with the scrutiny he can expect here. For your courage alone Bryan, my hat is off to you. Hamish Alcorn.
by Bryan Law
Act One of “Transform Pine Gap” has been completed.
A Christian affinity group of six people managed to get four members undetected to the “man-proof” perimeter fences twenty metres from the radomes of Pine Gap. Two of those (Jim Dowling and Adele Goldie) passed through both “man-proof” fences and scaled a building right in the heart of the most secret and sacred US war-fighting base in Australia. Peace friends.
Atheists please avert eyes for this paragraph. When we walked across the kilometers of spinifex and mulga plains by starlight on Friday 9 December 2005, we needed faith and determination to negotiate the potholes, fallen trees and security patrols one finds on the path to Pine Gap. I know it’s naughty, but I was looking for evidence of God’s presence in Earth, and I found it. It was quite a walk.
The celestial influences were good. Just before the half-moon set it spent an hour behind clouds as Donna Mulhearn and I started our walk along the roads through and behind the Alice Springs Shooting Complex, to the east of Pine Gap. (Jim and Adele approached from the north). When the Moon set, the clouds blew away and we enjoyed a fine, clear night under a canopy of stars.
Towards the end of our walk, security patrols buzzed around looking for us. There were a LOT of security patrols after 4.00 am, when they discovered Jim and Adele taking photos from a building in the middle of their top secret compound. At about 4.45 am one vehicle directed its spotlight right on us and stopped to look, but did not see.
I walked the last 150 meters upright in my white and red Citizens Inspection Team overalls. It was 5.00 am, first light. The fence I walked towards had three Commonwealth Police and two NT Police just inside it, but they were looking the other way, at a building inside the compound. It was the building Jim and Adele had climbed.
The first time they saw me and Donna was when I took out my trusty bolt-cutters and began cutting the “man-proof” fence on its eastern side. Donna took out her trusty digital camera and began photographing proceedings.
I’m sad to report that the Commonwealth Police in particular became agitated and forgot about their promises of decent and respectful behaviour. They started punishing us with excessive force, humiliation rituals, and prolonged discomfort. Still, they didn’t shoot us. Neither have we been sent to Guantanamo Bay
What have we achieved?
We’ve made a beginning.
Like hundreds of thousands of Australians, I was opposed to the invasion and slaughter in Iraq in 2002, and we worked to build and express what became majority public opposition to the war. Australia went to war anyway.
What I noticed was that our political leaders could tell any kind of lie and have it reported in the mainstream media as if it were true. There was no honesty in government pronouncements, and no honesty in the position of the ALP. Our people were made fearful, and were then subjected to bi-partisan support “for our troops”.
In the subsequent Commonwealth election, our people were bi-partisan lied to and told the war was over. Then they were lied to and made fearful about “interest rates”.
While the war-crimes continue in Iraq, Australia has accelerated its operational role in the military alliance with the US. We’ve undertaken a profound commitment to providing training areas, bombing ranges, and integrated command and communication systems to assist the US in carrying out terrorist bombing outrages around the world. To enable this transition into a militarised state, we’re creating a large secret police force with extraordinary powers of detention and imprisonment.
What is a citizen to do in such circumstances? Is a citizen’s democratic participation limited to a vote? Do the Nuremberg Principles apply? What moral opportunities are available to us?
(i) Rallies, symbolic actions, lobbying and working on public opinion are all necessary parts of peace-making.
(ii) By themselves however they are NOT able to bring about required change.
(iii) Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) amounting to civil disobedience is required.
Our inspection of Pine Gap was designed to showcase the results that can be achieved using small, autonomous affinity groups to carry out the required NVDA. Our primary intent was intervention, but we also used it as a networking, capacity building, and publicity generating tool.
As a result of our efforts, Pine Gap went into “lock-down” mode for four hours on Friday morning 9 December. There was a road-block staffed by 30 NT Police at the start of the access road to Pine Gap. All staff on the dayshift were kept out of the base while security tried to stabilize “the situation”.
This is a modest outcome. A lot more needs to be done before the machinery of war is brought to a halt. A lot more. Yet look at how few we are (6), and how modest our budget and resources.
Imagine if a thousand teams of (6) addressed similar actions to US war-fighting bases across Australia, each doing one action per year. That would be three a day. Would that make a difference?
Put simply, Australian citizens can use their power to end our participation in war crimes - by taking nonviolent interventionary action at their nearest US war-fighting base. To do this effectively they must be willing to sacrifice some of their comfort, and accept punishment by the state. This means you.
NVDA can be likened to asymmetric guerilla war (without the violence). One challenge is to make best use of our energy and resources by organising a multitude of outcomes per input.
Our message is about what Pine Gap does and represents, and what we can do to stop it/transform it.
Our primary audience consists of community based peace and social justice activists already committed to social change activity. We met with twenty or so of these in each of Brisbane, Rockhampton, Townsville and Alice Springs. This is networking, galvanizing, information sharing. In future we’ll work more closely with all these people in fostering interventionary NVDA in the cause of peace conversion.
In particular we’ll work with the Peace Convergence and local activists around Shoalwater Bay, and prepare to interrupt Operation Talisman Sabre ’07.
Secondly we communicated through internet-based blogs and discussion lists that have an interest in nonviolent politics, including webdiary. Our inspection of Pine Gap made all the Indy media sites in Australia, with large chunks of our message verbatim, for which we got many messages of approval and support. This is a local, national and international audience. We’ve made several contacts with like-minded organisations internationally, and will strengthen and build cooperative relationships with them based on NVDA.
Our third audience is church members and faith-based activists who are interested in the will of God and the example of Jesus. There is a powerful tradition of peacemaking in Christianity, and this is available for fostering. There was an ecumenical community in Alice Springs that enabled our connection with both the traditional custodians of the land in question, and also with an appreciative and active group of thirty or so Christians who supported/learned from us and our activities. (Local knowledge was an essential part of inspecting the base).
In Alice Springs we have ongoing commitments to future action about Pine Gap from both secular and Christian activists. This is a combined group of 50. I find this an exciting opportunity to broaden the public appeal of NVDA and strengthen our capacity by bringing faith based and secular activists together.
And so our most important ancillary task of networking and galvanising activism has also been very successful.
The use of costume, theatre and culture in our activities magnifies the message that can be communicated through the internet and mass media to select and mass audiences. Peace by Peace in Cairns became aware of “Citizens Inspection Teams” in 2002 when they were adopted around the world as a means of exposing the WMD hypocrisy. We adapted the idea to our campaign of stopping port visits to Cairns by US warships.
CAAT did symbolic “citizens inspection” actions in Brisbane (AFP HQ), Townsville (Defence Recruiting Centre) and Alice Springs (Pine Gap) using these tools to build interest and awareness. I’m posting a selection of photos illustrating our sense of theatre.
Our success entering Pine Gap made national news on ABC radio and television, on-line news and in later editions with the Australian, Sun-Herald, Age, and Sydney Morning Herald. We went regional in the Advertiser, Canberra Times, Sunday Mail, and Channel Seven. We headlined local news for two consecutive days in the Northern Territory News and the Centralian Advocate, and on ABC and CAAMA television, and on all local radio stations. My hometown newspaper, the Cairns Post, ran stories for three consecutive days. I’m sure there are others.
What I noticed is that the closer the story was to Pine Gap, or to an audience interested in Pine Gap, the more of our message was included in the report. By the time it got to mainstream metropolitan newspapers, it was down to how many got arrested, who, and on what charges. Our message was reduced to our description as “Christian Pacifists”, and “Anti-war activists”. Sometimes Iraq got a mention.
For the first time in my experience, this action had participation from an “embedded” journalist from the local News Limited paper, The Centralian Advocate. Gavin King made himself available to us for twelve hours from 5.30 pm the evening of 8 August, witnessed the preparations for our action, and went with one team to the outer perimeter fence of Pine Gap base in order to see how NVDA works.
His intention was to write a blow by blow account of our action, and we also offered him the photo of Adele Goldie atop the building she’d climbed with Jim, making a peace sign in front of antennae and radomes. After seeking legal opinion, News Ltd declined to publish the photo and ordered the destruction of all copies of the photo held by the Centralian Advocate. The Age similarly declined to publish, and the photo was finally published by the Canberra Times. Now it’s been published by the Alice Springs News, a weekly giveaway - in defiance of a direction from NT Police. It’s published on several sites on the internet.
All Gavin’s photos of our preparation were seized, along with his camera, by Commonwealth Police when they searched our group’s vehicle without warrant on Friday morning. They will probably be used as evidence against us, and may never be returned to the journalist who took them. For a time, Gavin was threatened with arrest. News Ltd is not going to publish the story Gavin had in mind. We’re hopeful it may eventually emerge in an independent magazine.
Act Two of “Transform Pine Gap” is coming:
So far, the four of us who made it to the “man-proof” fence have been formally charged with one count each of Trespass on Commonwealth Property, and Damage or Destroy Commonwealth Property. We have also been arrested and charged by Commonwealth Police with Unlawful Entry of a Prohibited Area under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. However before this charge can proceed the Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, must give his approval.
We’ll find out what the final charges are at a hearing for mention in Alice Springs Magistrates’ Court on 29 January 2006. This will be followed by a committal hearing on 19/20 April 2006, followed most likely by a Supreme Court Trial at a date to be fixed.
Sean O’Reilly, who was arrested outside the front gate of Pine Gap and is charged with obstructing a Commonwealth Officer, faces a summary trial in the Magistrate’s Court in Alice Springs on February 27 2006.
We’ll be using the lead-up to the committal, and the trials, to highlight again and again our message about Pine Gap and terrorism. Over this time we’ll be looking for other small, autonomous affinity groups to form and take appropriate action against US bases, including Pine Gap - while we argue the Nuremberg Principles, the principles of necessity, and citizens’ obligations in a civilised, air-conditioned Court, complete with dress-up robes and funny hats.
I’m also hoping to make visible the link between the military state and the security state. In this regard the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 is a corker - which parallels the sedition laws due to come into force early in 2006. It carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, and while any Commonwealth Police Officer may arrest and charge a person for this offence, the Attorney-General or his nominee must decide whether or not to proceed with a prosecution.
Uncle Philip will make that decision in our case before 29 January 2006. If he proceeds, we’ll become the first people ever charged under a statute older than I am. A real achievement, if you ask me.
All or part of any resulting trial may be held in camera, for reasons of national security, at the discretion of the Judge. Not even the right to a public trial.
I imagine actual sedition charges will come when we urge others to build capacity for interventionary NVDA aimed at rendering US war-fighting facilities inoperable. Or when we offer workshops in preparation for that NVDA. Time will tell.
I’m told that April is a pleasant time in the Alice, and I urge readers to think about a peace and justice holiday in our country’s red beating heart. There’ll be theatre, NVDA and a good old-fashioned committal hearing. On trial will be the Australian government for complicity with the US in crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war-crimes.
It’s taken me two weeks to process the events of Friday 9 December, of the two weeks’ intense preparation, and the physical, emotional and spiritual aftermath. I’m still exhausted from what was for me a long, hard walk through the wilderness. A five hour walk in the dark. Seeking, not stumbling. One of the things that kept me going was knowing that once I got there I’d get a free ride back to the watch-house in the peoples’ taxi.
It took us from 6.00 am Friday 9 to 2.45 pm Wednesday 14 to get our case before a Magistrate in Alice Springs. Jim joked that it was easier to get into Pine Gap than in front of an Alice Springs Magistrate.
I’m back now with my family in Cairns. Rejoicing in the best and closest relationships I have, and in the house and garden our family does social change business in. Where the rhythms of life are known, and Police wear Blue instead of Brown. Where the horizon is Green, not Red. I am home.
I’d like to thank all of you who sent us messages of support, and those of you who engaged honestly with our issues. I look forward to developing multilogue and argument over the proposition that
NOW is the time for NVDA amounting to civil disobedience, aimed at disrupting the US war-fighting machinery in Australia.
This means you.
And to those who slagged us off, or reacted only to the niggling fears and doubts of modern reality – well, Peace be with you brothers and sisters. Be not afraid, for God is with you.
The USS Ingraham, a “battle frigate” made a Port visit to Cairns last weekend. On 20 December, Peace by Peace attempted to inspect it for Weapons of Mass Destruction. There were five of us, (two of us were late).
The USS Ingraham came to Cairns from duties in the Persian Gulf. Billed as a “Pirate Hunter”, the USS Ingraham would have mostly been inspecting and regulating small shipping in the Gulf, ensuring that only friendly countries get to arm up with approved missiles, small arms, fresh water etc. The USS Ingraham has cannon, anti-shipping torpedoes, and close-in defence weapons.
Ours was a pretty daggy action. Our usual gear had either been seized as “evidence” by Commonwealth Police, or was en route from Alice Springs to Cairns. We costumed in op-shop white, and gift-wrapped pressies for the sailors. Margaret Pestorius was arrested while “trying to take a present to the Captain, and search the vessel for weapons of mass destruction”.
It was wonderful to see Margaret climb that fence so elegantly and powerfully. When arrested and hand-cuffed she spoke issue to the assembled media, and when put in the paddy wagon began singing one of my favourite hymns. Bring forth the Kingdom of mercy. Merry Christmas.