Crying out in the Wilderness
Report of the Victoria Barracks Speak Out
8 November 2010
When Peacebus.com jumped the kerb and drew up on the grass beside the gate of Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, there was a small reception committee waiting: Liam Regan, the Base security manager, and Det Sgt Peter Greaney of Victoria Police Security Intelligence. Later Federal Agent Dan (?), of Protection Intelligence joined us.
They introduced themselves respectfully and Liam asked if, for the sake of the recovering grass, if i would please park on the other side of the gate. That being the only condition, I was happy to oblige.
Victoria Barracks, Melbourne is a heritage-listed bluestone pile in St Kilda Road. It once housed the joint services command and the War Cabinet during WW2 but those military functions have long gone to Canberra and these days the military presence is small though though just as secretive.
Across the road from Victoria Barracks and the quaint "Night Bell" sign in faded paint on the gate pillar and hidden from view by the trees of the parklands, is Government House.
Here US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, were meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Defence Minister Stephen Smith to sign away the sovereignty of Australian military bases.
War criminals in town to do war crime deals and only Peacebus.com on the ground to bear witness. How bereft the peace movement in Melbourne!
The Speak Out was a hastily organised affair. When i arrived in Melbourne on the Friday evening after the Puckapunyal Speak Out i had no plans but was open to supporting any local action.
I knew the Sydney Stop the War Coalition was planning to "shoe away the war criminals" outside the US Consulate in Sydney, but my inquiries revealed that nothing was being planned at all in the city most famous for its anti war activism.
To speak out or not to speak out?
It was a media opportunity too good to be missed. Three things cinched it for me.
First was my grokking of the agenda of the AUSMIN meeting as revealed by Greg Sheridan, Murdoch media's US government mouthpiece and sycophant in The Weekend Australian 6-7 September. I was appalled.
The second was the companionship of Margaret Pestorius, former Melbourne Rainforest Action Group activist, one of the Boenhoffer Four, now resident in Cairns and active in Cairns Peace by Peace, who happened to be in town for a co-counseling training. We met on Sunday evening and she offered to change her plans for next day and come join me. She also agreed to prepare a pamphlet for distribution the next day.
The third factor was the uplifting fellowship of Simon and Julie Moyle's Emmaus Baptist Church in Coburg. This couple and their friends make up the Boenhoffer Peace Collective but they would be out of town next day facing changes in the Geelong court arising from trespass actions at the ASIS spy training base at Swan Island, near Queenscliff.
Here was peace activism as lifestyle, walking in the footsteps of Jesus. In the witness of such determination to peacefully confront the war machine, how could i quail?
At Simon and Julie's dining table i set to on the evening before and emailed a draft media release for approval on the Stand Fast organising list and another to give notice of my intention to the Victoria Police.
In the drive way of the Church I camped the night and next morning, down on my knees there, I prayed for strength, guidance and voice.
At 9.30 am the media release went out and at 11.41 am AAP ran the story, headlined Anti-war vets protest at Clinton meeting. AAP goes national and international.
We were joined at the barrack gate by Dale Hess, long time Quaker peace activist. Margaret and Dale handed out pamphlets to the people entering and passing the Barracks engaging them in conversations.
Later after the media had departed, but in time to see the Gates/Clinton motorcade leave, three Socialist Alliance activists (Chris Peters, Peter Hobb and Alex Salmon) arrived. They expressed disappointment that no other - or bigger - action had been organised but were pleased to stand in solidarity with Stand Fast.
Apart from me, no-one else from Stand Fast showed. The veterans and ex-service people present were amongst the local cops, the AFP, VicPolice Security Intelligence and the barrack security with whom i negotiated the action. Once again i was received with respect and cooperation.
I have got to say that enjoy these conversations. Mutual concern about PTSD is our common ground and they told me of service friends who had suffered and fathers! Liam had served with the RAAF as an air traffic controller in the First Gulf War. "It was an invasion," he said to let me know he had seen government lies before.
Dan's father was a past president of the Vietnam Veterans Federation and Dan spoke with deep sadness of him. Seems he was estranged from his father who had rung him one day to say he was sick. Soon after he was dead. "It is like that with Vietnam vets," he observed. "Sickness and then quick coming death."
I was the only one to take the mike and spruik. The first time i pointed a horn speaker to reverberate off the walls inside the Barracks. The second time i pointed them in the direction of Government House, hidden to us by trees, about 300 m away.
The sound bounced back to me off passing trams and i reckoned, if the AUSMIN meeting couldn't hear what i was saying, it would hear the sound of dissent like distant thunder.
I spoke to the trees rather than to any apparent audience. I spoke of the lies told to mobilise the Coalition of the Willing and in particular of the Big Lie of 9/11.
"I am an engineer by training and i know steel framed buildings do not collapse in freefall. That steel does not turn to dust because of the heat burning fuel. No, steel bends and distorts as it fails. The twin Towers and the bulding beside were demolished by explosives. It was an inside job and Robert Gates as CIA director at the time, knows it."
My eye caught a fluoro vested tradesman standing by and listening. After he came up and gave me a hand full of coins, "to support your cause".
Little affirming gestures like that are a boon. Also the praise of a distant daughter.
At Simon's table and on his broadband the night before i had posted a message to Facebook:
"Greetings from Melbourne where certifiable war criminals Hillary Clinton and Robert gates are meeting Julia Gillard and Stephen Smith, certifiable ALP curs, to sign a deal to hand over Australian military bases to US occupation. I for one will be speaking out about it at Victoria Barracks. Watch this space. Meanwhile read the report of the Puckapunyal Speak Out of 5 October."
My daughter, Dr Holly High, presently a post doctorate fellow of Cambridge University had responded with a cheer, her man Tim too, and praise for my writing as "elegant". All day i was warm heartedly chuffed by this affirmation.
But i was unable to respond the next morning. Or fill out the Watch This Space notice. Facebook was blocked to me. CIA dirty tricks? Maybe.
Lots of Tv news cameras arrived at about 2 pm.
Luke Waters from SBS News interviewed me at length. I have not seen the SBS World News piece but i know it was significant because next morning in Ballarat, an old codger in a Palestinian flagged Tshirt saw Peacebus.com and the Stand Fast signage waiting at traffic lights and came shook my hand most affirmatively.
The Melbourne AAP reporter, Kelly Nolan, was also there told me she had earlier rung Hamish Chitts, Stand Fast spokesperson for comment. She also interviewed me and ran the story headlined Three People protest AUSMIN in Melbourne.
A corrective to the earlier news bulletin, i suppose.
Stand Fast sure got noticed and our views made known nationally and internationally. But is the glass half empty or half full? Is this success or failure?
Here is what Stand Fast member Allen Jasson had to say:
Great effort Graeme, I admire your determination.
However, and I know it will sound defeatist, but I have to say that for all the sycophants of all sections of Australian society - and there are an abundance of them in the media, politics, secret services, military, now-American-owned former public utilities, sold-out private corporations etc etc - this is the final consummation.
Of course, because the economic might of $700bn pa is on the US side of this "partnership" this means that all direction and decision-making will come from the US side and in practice means a top-down takeover of the command structure.
Now the "Defence" forces will be no different to the secret services after the reigns were handed over from the British Empire to the Americans after WW2.
Australians in general are too ignorant to understand what it means and those who are so gleeful about approval from Americans like Gates or Clinton (sipping their champaigne at the tennis to celebrate), like those who likewise celebrated the victory of Fraser over Whitlam all those years ago, are too stupid to realise what they have lost.
For them the headline "Three People protest AUSMIN in Melbourne" is as good as "Mission Accomplished".
I congratulate them.
They are like stupid tribal chieftains standing on the beaches, arduously greeting the invaders for the glamourous beads and baubles that will now adorn their chiefly standing.
It will be a century before their descendents come to understand their folly and despise them in their vanity.
They will get what they deserve and deserve what they get.
"Mission accomplished!" Clinton and Gates may well proclaim. But like the same claim made by the now reviled and discredited ex US President GW Bush, it is a grand presumption based on a lies and deceit and will just as surely come undone.
Yes i feel like some lonely prophet crying out in the wilderness. But better for my soul to be giving voice to the painful truth than to suffer it in silence. Better a lone voice, than no voice.
My heart aches and i do best i can.
12 November 2010