Project Greyfin: reshaping the Australian military for greater US interoperability
Military planning by the Morrison Coalition government in Canberra, to implement Project Greyfin, has provided a graphic example of Australia being dragged into US-led regional foreign policy objectives.
US-led military planning is primarily concerned with reasserting traditional hegemonic positions; they increasingly pursue an aggressive stance against China, which is regarded as a rising power.
The US-led military planning is also increasingly relying upon Australia for two distinct reasons:
• as a strategically-placed regional hub for operations;
• to provide military personnel for operations.
Australia is being dragged into the dangerous position of having to take military action in regional theatres of war at the behest of US imperialism.
In mid-August an official media release from Canberra announced the first stage of Project Greyfin, an estimated $500 million four-year defence spending spree 'to ensure the elite combat units continue to have access to the best intelligence, science and technology'. (1)
The entire program had an estimated $3 bn. defence budget allocated over the next two decades. (2)
US role for PNG
Emphasis was placed in the media release on 'alarm bells' in Australia's nearby region, the South Pacific, with the observation that 'the upcoming Bougainville independence referendum will also be closely watched as a potential flashpoint'. (3)
The position adopted by Canberra toward Port Moresby, from a diplomatic perspective, is, however, curious at first glance. Statements about Papua New Guinea from within the corridors of power leave little to the imagination. One recent media release labelled the country a 'failed state' which was 'poorly governed'. (4) The fact of the matter is, nevertheless, that Canberra has maintained a compliant government in Port Moresby by keeping the country 'poorly governed' to serve neo-colonial interests. Spurious Australian aid programs, including those about good governance, are invariably more concerned with the maintenance of compliance and control. A stronger governmental position in Port Moresby would have enabled the country to contest the dominant Australian position in defence of their own national interests as opposed, often, to those of Australian-based share-holders more concerned with personal profit than economic development.
There, likewise, remains little ambiguity with US requirements for Australia as a strategic hub for regional operations; a recent statement from the Lowy Institute, a non-governmental advisory body for Canberra stated that ‘the government will need to think more expansively about hosting US bombers and drones here, accelerating joint base developments in Papua New Guinea and deploying land-based precision-strike missiles in northern Australia'. (5)
US leaves missile launchers in the NT
The revelation that following the US-led military exercise, Talisman Sabre, in July, a 'specialised US rocket system was to be left in the Northern Territories’ has provided evidence US-led military planners regard it as their right to deploy land-based precision-missiles in Australia without seeking government approval. (6) The fact the present Morrison Coalition government in Canberra denied the existence of the specialised US rocket system (three truck-mounted HIMARS short-range missile launchers made by Lockheed) and officially ruled out the siting of similar systems in northern Australia is further evidence of a prevailing attitude in such circles to a culture of denial and political expedience.
The most significant part of the initial Greyfin program, however, was the transformation of Australian Special Forces to resemble their US military counterparts, with specific reference to US Navy SEALS and the highly secretive Delta Force. (7)
Interoperability of personnel
The US Navy SEALS form part of the Pentagon Special Operations, with a long history dating back to the Second World War. They are restricted to naval operations.
The Delta Force grew out of US military concern at what they regarded as terrorism in the 1970s; modelled upon the British SAS, they were closely linked to intelligence services.
Terrorism, however, is a loosely-defined political term; definitions available from defence department training manuals invariably link the problem with Communism, while elsewhere in the same documents emphasis is placed upon 'the most effective use of para-military forces', indicating that far-right terrorists have their designated place within usual formal military planning.
Information in the public domain about Delta Force training and operations has provided a chilling glimpse of what US-led military planning have already allocated for Australian personnel with their operations.
Emphasis is placed upon marksmanship, demolitions, bomb-making, sniping, the establishment of intelligence networks, and executive protection as bodyguards. (8) Their personnel are also on record for rarely wearing military uniforms to avoid detection. When wearing military uniforms, personnel are expected to remove all insignia and markings to avoid identification and ultimately, distance themselves from responsibility for their actions. (9)
Studies of Delta Force from previous personnel have revealed why they have been regarded as so relevant for US-led military planning conducted from Australia into the nearby region.
During the 1980s, for example, the US waged war upon the peoples of Central America; a tiny region linking Mexico with the main part of Latin America. Following the success of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua in 1979, the US waged brutal counter-insurgency programs across the region, funded by illicit drug-trafficking from the southern half of the Americas into California. Despite continual denial from the Reagan presidential administration, the subsequent Iran-Contra scandal shook the very foundations of US government. (10) The legacy continues to resound around Washington and the Pentagon; it has never disappeared, although many of those involved continue to hide behind lawyers.
The subsequent official publication of declassified documents about the Iran-Contra scandal began, for example, with a statement of explanation for successive generations: so that they will better understand the meaning of Iran-Contra - that the real danger to capitalist democracy comes from within. (11)
In Killer Elite, a publication by Michael Smith, a whole chapter is devoted to seemingly clandestine US operations in Central America, which included training of military personnel for counter-insurgency provision, the extensive use of signals systems to track adversaries and the establishment of intelligence networks. (12) The outcome was a region where large number of families lost members in the name of protecting 'US interests', where those regarded as suitable targets and adversaries had only advocated land reform together with educational and health facilities for their children as their main political objectives.
Many of the problems created by the US still linger, the legacy remains; those able to travel continue to struggle to enter the US as asylum-seekers with the aim of better life-chances as opposed to remaining in destitution and poverty in their countries of origin. The crime problem which has had a dreadful impact upon the whole region, was largely created by US-led covert funding for clandestine operations. (13)
The problem continues to the present-day.
A recent 49-page report filed in New York's southern district drew attention to the problem of Honduras functioning as a narco-democracy. (14) Political expedience, for the US, has continued to be played-out in Central America. The US has continued to support presidents in Honduras to serve 'US interests', without paying attention to their relationship to organised crime and drug-trafficking.
The whole episode of the Trump administration wanting a wall on the Mexican border is evidence of the problem they, themselves, created during the 1980s and now want to absolve themselves of.
It is also relevant to note the chapter dealing with Delta Force operations in the Killer Elite publication was titled, Inappropriate Action; even those military personnel who were involved in the operations in Central America came to realise they had over-stepped the mark.
And now the US-led military planners want Australian personnel to undertake the required training and be deployed into our nearby South Pacific region for operations compatible with Navy Seals and Delta Force methods.
In conclusion, it is important to consider recent statements from the conduit for US-led military planning into Australia: US Ambassador Arthur B. Culvahouse recently addressed an audience composed of supporters of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra. He used the event to draw attention to his personal involvement with the Reagan White House, and how 'Australia was seen as a key power and most trustworthy of allies', also taking the opportunity to deny there was a US-led Cold War taking place with China; the guidelines for his behaviour clearly shaped from an earlier part of his career and defined within a culture of impunity where denial and political expedience form a grey, clouded, area devoid of ethical and moral considerations. (15)
The fact the appointment of Culvahouse as US Ambassador has coincided with the appointment of Andrew Shearer as cabinet secretary for the Morrison government is evidence of Australian complicity with US-led military planning. The appointment of Shearer, the product of an elite Washington-based outsourced intelligence organisation, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, which was followed by senior positions in Canberra as a national security advisor, has revealed Australia being drawn into an increasingly hawkish position toward China at the behest of the US. (16)
The aims and methods of US imperialism from the 1980s are now planned to be played-out a second time from Australia toward our nearby region.
We need an independent foreign policy!
1. SAS fighting funds to get $3 bn boost, Australian, 12 August 2019.
2. Special forces: $3 bn ensures they remain the best of the best, Australian, 13 August 2019.
3. Australian, op.cit., 12 August 2019.
4. Failed, vulnerable PNG a perfect target for Beijing, Australian, 9 August 2019.
5. See: Conflict on our doorstep, Alan Dupont, Lowy Institute, The Weekend Australian, 10-11 August 2019.
6. Hosting US missiles not on the agenda, says PM, Australian, 6 August 2019.
7. Australian, op.cit., 12 August 2019.
8. See Wikipedia: Delta Force.
10. See: The Iran-Contra Scandal, The Declassified History, Edited, Peter Kornbluh and Malcolm Byrne, (New York, 1993).
12. Killer Elite, Michael Smith, (London, 2006).
13. Iran-Contra Scandal. op.cit., Kornbluh and Byrne.
14. US claims cocaine funds Honduran presidencies, Australian, 5 August 2019.
15. We're not in a cold war with China: ambassador, Australian, 15 August 2019.
16. PM picks China hawk for cabinet secretary, Australian, 8 August 2019.
Note: The contributor worked in Nicaragua in 1986, arriving in the country shortly after Eugene Hasenfus was shot down flying over Nicaraguan air-space in what was considered a CIA-sanctioned clandestine operation linked to illicit funding for the Contra to destabilise the Sandinista government; the incident marked the beginning of the subsequent Iran-Contra scandal. He also spent a morning picking coffee on a co-operative farm outside Matagalpa with a US State Department lawyer sent from Washington to question Hasenfus in prison on behalf of Senator John Kerry, later chair of the Iran-Contra inquiry committees.
Later, he was also in Managua on the day Hasenfus was released from prison and taken to the airport to be flown to the US to testify to Congress and Senate committees dealing with the matter.
The contributor was later a permanent resident of Papua New Guinea during the early to mid-1990s. Part of his educational work for an Australian-funded aid program in PNG was the training of Defence Force officers for military careers.