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Close all US bases! Accept no more marines!

Written by: Nick G. on 31 March 2020


The federal government has temporarily cancelled plans for this year’s rotation of US marines through Darwin.

The cancellation was announced on March 30 and follows earlier advice on March 18 that the 2500 US marines would have to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival in Darwin.

The stronger response follows concerns that the US armed forces are proving very susceptible to Covid-19 through failure to properly respond to the crisis.

Covid-19 and the US armed forces

On March 25, the online US Military Times reported that there were 175 Covid-19 cases per million US troops compared to 135 per million US civilian population. On March 30, it reported that numbers had grown to to 438 per million compared to the general 375 per-million among the U.S. population.

The new coronavirus is starting to impact operations in the Indo-Pacific Command, as a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was sent to dock in Guam after more than 20 sailors aboard tested positive.  On 21 March there were three confirmed cases on board the carrier; two days later, there were 25 when it docked in Guam.  By March 28, there were 36.  The following day, it was announced that the USS Ronald Reagan, a second carrier based at Yokosuka Naval base in Japan, was also hosting a Covid-19 outbreak.

US Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, in a video to Airmen released March 26, said the outbreak is “a challenge we have not faced before.”

According to Task & Purpose, an online magazine for US service personnel, troops were reporting that the US military was not taking the Covid-19 outbreak seriously.  "This is a telling indicator of leadership failure," one Army officer told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity.

The Department of Defense has given wide discretion to commanders in the advice they give their subordinates.

“I can’t put out a blanket policy, if you will, that we would then apply to everybody because every situation is different,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday in response to questioning about "inconsistencies" in DoD guidance on social distancing and travel restrictions being carried out at lower levels. “Tell me how I do six feet distancing in an attack submarine. Or how do I do that in a bomber with two pilots sitting side by side?”

Australia and the US imperialist armed forces

Given that the US military is something of a Coronavirus hot-spot, the decision to temporarily halt the latest rotation of 2500 marines through Darwin is absolutely necessary. It must also apply to any US personnel, civilian or military, at US bases like Pine Gap near Alice Springs, or involved in planned extensions at the Tindal Air Force base and the new port facility proposed for Glyde Point near Darwin.

The US also “shares” with Australia Kojarena, the Joint Military Communications Ground Station (JMCGS) located approximately 20 kilometres east north east of Geraldton, Western Australia. There are several Australian military infrastructures that Canberra makes available to the US including a naval base on the Cocos Islands and a certain number of training sites and shooting ranges scattered throughout the country (Bradshaw Field, Delamere, Mount Bundey, Shoalwater Bay, Townsville Field, Cowley Beach).

Other countries in our region could be forgiven for seeing the Australian continent as yet another US aircraft carrier.

Everyone of these bases is making Australia complicit in the desire of the US empire to maintain its domination over the Indo-Pacific. They reflect our subordination to the wishes of our US overlords. They demonstrate Australia’s domination by and dependency on US imperialism.

If Covid-19 has done us any good, it is the temporary halt to US marine rotations through Darwin.  However, those rotations will be resumed once the pandemic is brought under control.

For our part, we must not be kept under control.  We must continue to agitate and organise to oppose imperialism in Australia, and to demand an independent and peaceful foreign policy.

Close all US bases in Australia!

No more marine rotations in Australia!


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