This submission is based on the ideas presented in the 2020 Clifford D. Connor publication entitled The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump. In this work, Connor examines ‘the U.S. economy ‘s addiction to military spending’ arguing that this ‘distorts and deforms science by making it overwhelmingly subservient to military interests.’
As the sub-title of Connor’s discussion suggests, these military interests have infiltrated political systems until we now have the terrifying spectacle (this sounds dramatic, but it is definitely not) of everyday politics – designed to provide services and support the citizenry – completely intertwined with the industrial-military complex.
In this context, the myth of ‘commercial in confidence’ – fundamentally capitalists wanting to have information all to themselves in contrast to the pre-war, pre-atomic science notion (see Elizabeth Tynan, Atomic Thunder, 2016) of all scientific information being what we would now refer to as ‘creative commons’ – has infected political decisions. As a result, it is now almost impossible to access either the background or substance of political decision making across all areas. This is particularly the case in the realm of military-related matters.
The current environment in which China – which indeed presents a certain set of challenges – is demonized as a means of softening the electorate for future war – a war that will greatly profit the military-industrial complex – is part of this pattern.
There is no doubt that the tentacles of that complex now reach deep into politics. Borrowing Connor’s words, military capital is driven by a desire to ‘search for new and more efficient ways to kill people.’ If there is any doubt regarding the fact that – through the US Alliance – this desire has infected the Australian social environment, we need look no further than statements made by representatives of the Queensland government.
In June 2021, both the Queensland State Government and the Federal Government supported the conduct of the so-called Land Forces Expo – fundamentally a ‘fair’ displaying military hardware designed to kill, much of which was manufactured in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia, although the expo included international exhibitors also. The support of the Federal government for the military-industrial complex is well-known. For example, the Michael West website, Revolving Doors, lists previous politicians (regrettably of both persuasions but particularly Coalition) who have left the Parliament to take up positions with military hardware manufacturers and similar. Queensland Government support, however, was also significant in terms of promoting the Land Forces Expo.
Yet, in line with the obsession with secrecy referred to above, the Queensland Government has been coy about financial support for that event. In the State Legislature on 12 May 2021, Greens member for South Brisbane, Dr Amy McMahon, asked Treasurer, Cameron Dick: ‘How much money is the Queensland government spending in sponsoring the Land Forces weapons expo?’ Obfuscating that he ‘did not have the figure available,’ the Treasurer declared the event ‘an investment in the future of Queensland.’ Ramping up to a monologue worthy of Canberra’s drum-beating tribe, the Treasurer declared that world instability was evident, among other things, in ‘the sphere of cyberwarfare [and] the threats to cybersecurity, that rain down on our state every single day.’ Thus: ‘We need an array of defenses for our state and nation and we need to create economic opportunity and jobs for Queenslanders.’ When a second Greens member, Michael Berkman, asked was the Treasurer taking Dr McMahon’s question on notice, the Speaker replied: ‘He has not indicated that he is doing so, so I do not believe that he is taking that on notice.’
Queenslanders, like people everywhere, undoubtedly need jobs and personal security. Job creation, however, can occur outside an industry that, for example, creates devices that pulverise human bodies into parts too small to collect. There are pressing needs for nurses, aged care workers, teachers, environmental protection workers, national park custodians – the list is endless. Why subsidise and promote jobs associated with weapons production when the same monies could create jobs supporting those in need?
Yet governments affiliate with weapons companies. In a 3 June 2021 letter to Dr McMahon, the Queensland Treasurer gave an assurance that the State does not use ‘public money to promote weapons and warfare,’ arguing that the ‘defense manufacturing industry that exists in Queensland is geared towards supporting our defense forces to promote peace, human rights and democracy far into the future.’
One industry player in Queensland is Boeing, the US-based multinational whose Australia, New Zealand, Pacific head is ex-Coalition Minister and ex-War Memorial head, Brendon Nelson. Boeing was a major Land Forces exhibitor. An 18 November 2019 press statement by current Queensland Treasurer, then Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, referred to the State investing $14.5 million in a ‘drone testing facility at Cloncurry Airport’ (in Queensland’s north-west). A December 2020 release by the new State Development Minister extolled the ‘first test flights, by aerospace giant Boeing.’ This release quoted Director of Boeing Phantom Works International Emily Hughes, who said the company ‘would take the opportunity to continue flight trials on key autonomous projects.’
According to Wikipedia, Boeing Phantom Works ‘is the advanced prototyping arm of the defense and security side of Boeing. Its primary focus is developing advanced military products and technologies, many of them highly classified.’ Is this a reference to killer drones? How do these devices promote future ‘peace, human rights and democracy’?
Rather than providing any protection for Australia, the US-Australia Alliance has merely dragged this country into an unholy alliance with the corporations, American and otherwise, that manufacturer devices designed to kill and to kill with extreme efficiency. This is not a new development. In the 2003 Errol Norris documentary Fog of War, ‘talking head’ Robert McNamara, Minister of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson US administrations and prewar mathematics whizz-kid, notes how he was appointed to fundamentally up the kill-rate during the Tokyo fire bombing campaign. In other words, enhancing killing efficiency is not a new concept.
However, we must remember the question posed by Arundhati Roy in Capitalism: A Ghost Story: ‘Do we need weapons to fight wars? Or do we need wars to create markets for weapons?’ There has clearly been a shift since McNamara deployed his mathematical skills to ‘assist’ the 1945 B-29 Superfortress bombing campaign (involving, coincidently Boeing planes manufactured by the same corporation now testing drones in a remote part of Queensland).
Now, production drives war. Involvement in the US-Alliance arguably is a major factor in the growing Australian penchant for war and for the involvement of figures who previously held public office to affiliate with those who manufacture the hardware of war. (This includes the killer drones featured in a recent Four Corners program.)
Australia must divest itself of its involvement in the US-Alliance and model itself on a state – such as New Zealand – that manages to maintain its independence while being recognised as a significant player in world affairs.