We are facing the greatest threat of nuclear war since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis: a nuclear war that would make the terrible destruction the US wreaked on the defenceless populations of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seem like a kindergarten affair.
What is the response of the Australian government? It has gone out of its way to declare its full-blooded support for a warmongering US president who has promised “fire and fury” against North Korea.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced he was “absolutely of one mind” with Donald Trump over North Korea after a “very warm” 30 minute phone conversation with the US president on 6 September.
Previously, Turnbull had proclaimed that “we are joined at the hip” with the US. In August, he said that “if there is an attack on the US, the ANZUS treaty would be invoked” and Australia would come to the support of the US:
“The ANZUS treaty means that if America is attacked, we will come to their aid and if Australia is attacked, the Americans will come to ours … The American alliance is the bedrock of our national security.”
After a briefing from the Australian defence chief, air chief marshal Mark Binskin, following an overnight telephone call with US vice president Mike Pence, Turnbull announced, “We stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States”.
Turnbull has called for the “enforcement of strong economic sanctions” against Kim Jong-un’s North Korean regime. Indeed, he has called for additional sanctions beyond those already imposed.
This belligerent rhetoric is simply egging on Trump, who tweeted that the US “is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea”. If this threat were carried out, it would devastate US trade with China and plunge the world economy into depression, throwing tens of millions of workers across the globe out of their jobs.
Along with his strident backing of Trump over North Korea, Turnbull is also joining with the Trump regime in stepped-up military involvement in the fighting in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to outdo Turnbull’s warmongering, former PM Tony Abbott has called for Australia urgently to consider a missile defence system. If adopted, this proposal would provoke a regional arms race and divert billions of dollars away from vitally needed public services.
Labor’s stance has been virtually indistinguishable from the Liberals’. Bill Shorten said, “Australians should be reassured that on this matter of North Korea and our national security, the politics of Labor and Liberal are working absolutely together.
“I’m not going to comment on every personal comment that comes out of the mouth of the Americans but what I do recognise that if you want to talk about provocative conduct, I think it starts with the North Koreans.”
This is the same Bill Shorten who, during the US presidential election campaign, described Trump as “barking mad” and “entirely unsuitable to be leader of the free world”. Talk about bowing before power.
Previously, in April, Shorten declared, “I know these days there is some concern about the United States. I have to say, when you look at the role that the United States’ security plays in our region I am grateful for their presence and certainly I regard the American alliance with Australia as being very important”.
But the US alliance has never been about protecting the security of ordinary Australian workers. It is an aggressive alliance aimed at asserting US and Australian imperial power and economic dominance over the region.
The Greens reacted angrily to Turnbull’s comments – accusing him of inflaming tensions in the region.
“What we’ve got is two dangerous, paranoid and unhinged world leaders goading each other into a conflict which puts the very survival of each and every person on the planet at risk”, Greens leader Richard Di Natale said. “If there was ever a clearer example of why Australia needs to ditch the US alliance and develop an independent, non-aligned foreign policy, this is it.”
Di Natale is right to denounce the warmongering of Turnbull and Trump, and to call for an end to the US alliance. However, it is mistaken to see this conflict as simply being a clash between “two dangerous, paranoid and unhinged world leaders”.
It is about the assertion of US imperial power. On the one hand it is aimed at putting North Korea in its place. But more broadly, it is part of the ongoing conflict between a declining, though still incredibly well armed, US power and its up and coming rival China.
It is not simply Trump, Turnbull and Kim Jung-un that are dangerous and unhinged. It is a dangerous and unhinged world capitalist system, which needs to be got rid of.