A Message to the Masters of War
Written by: Ross Gwyther on 12 June 2012
Tanks, guns, drones, AI goggles – all these and more were on display in Brisbane Convention Centre last week for the bi-annual arms expo, this year entitled “Land Force 2021”.
This arms fair is aimed at connecting business, government, security contractors and the armed forces with large and small weapons manufacturers. It is dominated by large corporate multinational weapons companies, for example Thales (weaponised vehicles), Rheinmetall (battle tanks and heavy and light munitions), Boeing (military helicopters, troop carriers, counter-insurgency jets), EOS (missile fire systems), Israeli company Elbit (military drones) as well as Australian companies such as NIOA munitions. The expo was organised by a high level defence and security organisation called the Maritime and Defence Foundation of Australia – AMDA, which not only is Federal Government funded but has charitable status. AMDA has previously organised the Avalon weapons expo, and is set to run an Indo-Pacific Expo of maritime warfare in May 2022, according to Michael West reports. The Land Forces 2021expo was financially supported by the Queensland Government.
The Australian Government has demonstrated that it will commit $270 billion over the next 10 years to purchasing offensive military equipment (jets, ships and submarines) that are designed for “interoperability” with US military forces – in other words to be used in US wars, not for the defence of Australia. The Government also aims for Australia to be in the 10 largest arms exporters in the world, and has budgeted $billions for a loan fund to assist multinational arms companies manufacture weapons in Australia for export around the world. Already some of these weapons are being sold to the Indonesian Government for its war on the West Papuan independence movement, to the Saudi government for its war on the people of Yemen.
This year some 200 to 300 people demonstrated their opposition to this arms bazaar. Hundreds of local Brisbane people turned up over three days to hold noisy demonstrations outside the entrance, as some of the 12,000 attendees entered the expo. People travelled from other Australian States, and were welcomed by local Indigenous Jagera peoples to camp on their traditional land at Musgrave Park close by the Convention Centre. A wide range of grass roots activities were held – including concerts, teach-ins, workshops, protests outside weapons manufacturing factories, and a 24 hour fast by local Quaker activists.
The protest brought together the quite different parts of the Australian peace movement. Some people were opposed to all weapons and arms, and committed to non-violence as the only way to resolve international disputes. Others were focussed on the use the weapons sold at the Expo in violently suppressing people’s struggles in West Papua, Yemen, Palestine. Still others were highlighting the fundamental nature of capitalism in promoting violent suppression of peoples’ rights.
Some young people were able to courageously and creatively enter the exhibition hall, distribute leaflets, and take over one the largest exhibits – a Rheinmetall battle tank – by chaining themselves to it, and streaming video of their protest to social media. The video can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/disruptlandforces
The protest this year was significantly larger and more militant than protests at previous arms expos held in other Australian cities. However the nature of the protest was such that there was little organised working class involvement. This is a lesson which can be used to build even larger protests at future arms expos. The working class movement has a long and proud history of involvement in struggles for peace. A campaign aimed at building sustainable and socially useful industries (instead of war-related industry) will resonate strongly with workers and their unions.
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