Cocos Keeling Islands - at risk of military exploitation

2012 - Volume 15 Number 3

Before March 2012, most Australians would not have heard of the Cocos-Keeling Islands, but America's military build-up in south-east Asia means that the use of the remote islands as a possible base for US surveillance aircraft has become more attractive.

Now reports suggest that the USA Pentagon is also viewing these islands as a possible new base for its unmanned aircraft or drones which have been used indiscriminately in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

And yet whilst talk of establishing a drone base on the Territory has concerned local people, the Coalition defense spokesperson has reportedly said he is ‘very keen that we welcome the Americans in any shape or form that they want to come and work with us in our region’.

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands consist of 27 coral islands. They have a land area of only 14 square kilometres and are 2,950 kilometres north-west of Perth and 3,700 kilometres west of Darwin in the Indian Ocean. But the location is increasingly valuable for other reasons. Though locals feel they are not really wanted, they know they are strategically significant.  

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Austerity - trickle down cruelty

2012 - Volume 15 Number 2

As several countries try to pay off huge public debt due to the financial crisis and apply spending cuts - voices of caution say this is ‘a dangerous idea’ because this response indicates there is one set of rules for rich countries and another for poor countries. 

The financial ship has been taken into dangerous waters by those at the top and they do not suffer from austerity budgets. We need to listen to those who have suffered from these budgets: children who only get one chance at an education; the sick and disabled unable to support themselves; and seniors too old to work. 

This war on the majority of people intensifies as the global business class’ call for austerity ‘hides processes of the uneven distribution of risk and vulnerability.’ 

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Famine - A man made tragedy

2012 - Volume 15 Number 1

Hunger is not a natural but a man-made tragedy. People do not go hungry because there is not enough food to eat, but because the system that delivers food from the fields to our plates is broken. Rising global food prices and increasing food insecurity, which affect the poor disproportionately, is seen as a business opportunity by the agribusiness industry. Whilst drought is largely a natural phenomenon, famine is political and avoidable.

In a time where we are becoming increasingly desensitised to largescale, deepening tragedy, this is a Just Comment that brings famine and our role back to the fore. As Desmond Tutu says, 'world hunger is man-made and only we can end it'.

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Riots - the language of the unheard

2011 - Volume 14 Number 3

In the scramble to comprehend London’s August riots, almost every commentator opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence.

There was no doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences. But it just seemed too easy to dismiss it all as mindless and needless, opportunistic theft and violence, ‘pure criminality’, or the work of a ‘violent minority’.

A reasonably objective view of Britain’s political landscape and the civil unrest witnessed in Britain would suggest that the responsibility lay exactly where it always has since the beginning of ‘civilisation’: the leaders responsible for the society they have helped to create.

It is no coincidence that this violence in London takes place against the backdrop of a global economy poised for free fall. John Kenneth Galbraith has set out the causes of recession: bad income distribution, a business sector engaged in ‘corporate larceny’, a weak banking structure and an import/export imbalance. With no jobs and no sense of a future – a human catastrophe was waiting to happen!

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Insidious Violence - Depleted Uranium Weapons

2011 - Volume 14 Number 2

The 2004 US assault on the small Iraqi town of Fallujah was one of the most horrific war crimes of our time. And yet today, another war continues daily in Fallujah. The populace is gripped by a stealthy killer - a slow and silent violence where the best medical advice given to young women is: ‘Do not have babies!’.

An average of three babies are born daily with severe deformities. Many are stillborn, others live a few hours, and most who survive live for only a few months because of their severe abnormalities. A new study, ‘Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009,’ showed higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than recorded among atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The prevalence of these conditions in Fallujah at levels many times higher than in nearby nations proves that a high proportion of the weaponry used in the US assault on Fallujah contained depleted uranium, a radioactive substance used in shells to increase their effectiveness. Fallujah provides us with stark evidence as to the urgent need for a treaty to ban depleted uranium weapons.

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