Biden Administration, Hands Off Indo-Pacific! Peace, Justice and Sovereignty, Not More Militarization!
Biden Administration, Hands Off Indo-Pacific! Peace, Justice and Sovereignty, Not More Militarization!
The Asia-Pacific network of the Resist US-Led War Movement condemns the recent visits to the Asia-Pacific region by high-ranking cabinet members of the Biden administration. While these visits were presented as promoting “freedom and a rules-based order”, the Resist US-Led War Movement exposes these for what they genuinely represent: the continuity of US military strategy in order to maintain US-friendly economic and political policy at the detriment to sovereignty and human rights of the people of the region.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Loyd Austin visited Japan and South Korea in March. The two then subsequently returned in July, with Blinken visiting India and Austin visiting Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines. Vice President Kamala Harris just finished her August tour of Singapore and Vietnam. Each of these countries represents a fortified political-military “base” for the United States in the region, and the policies reaffirmed by these visits reflects this unequal relationship.
Japan has been a favored location for US military bases since the country’s defeat in World War II. The US-Japanese security treaty provides ‘legal basis’ for stationing the US troops there for ‘peace and security of the Far East’, even though the Japanese Constitution outlawed the use of an offensive Japanese military. Japanese taxes would be used to fund the US military bases that dot the island nation, today amounting to 81 US-owned bases in addition to at least 52 Japanese facilities used by US forces. The majority of these bases are on the island of Okinawa, where a 2019 referendum showed 72% of residents are against the construction of new bases. Yet the country’s elite who make up the government continue to push for US military agreements that match their economic interests, including the implementation of harsh crackdowns against mass anti-base protests. Japan is the fourth largest U.S. trading partner and largest source of foreign direct investment into the United States, and its investors are the largest foreign holders of U.S. Treasury securities.
South Korea remains a key US buffer state to counter the policies of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (North Korea). The US has continuously stationed the THAAD missile system in Seongju since 2017, against the demands of thousands of consistent protesters but to the benefit of THAAD producer Lockheed Martin’s annual billions of dollars in profit. Blinken and Austin’s visit reaffirmed the placement of the unpopular missile system, the retention of the 15 US military bases and support for other state policies designed to keep the current order. One of these polices, the 1948 National Security Law, has been used to quash free speech and label calls for sovereignty and peace as support for terrorism, especially around the calls for peaceful reunification of Korea, a move that would make the US military presence in the country a clearly moot point.
Austin’s visit to the Philippines came right after an approved $2+ billion weapons sale and the one-year anniversary of the country’s widely condemned Anti-Terror Law, which has been used to extrajudicially arrest and execute hundreds of activists. The key point of discussion was the Visiting Forces Agreement that has allowed the US to circumvent constitutional bans on foreign bases, troops and facilities on Philippine soil, thus enabling US troops to station at Philippine military bases following the popular movement which led to the ejection of US bases from the country in 1992. The Agreement was rescinded by the Duterte regime in retaliation for human rights concerns expressed by some members of the US Congress, assigning Austin’s meeting the objective of winning the Agreement back through promises of further military support. Over 600 US troops are regularly stationed on a rotational basis in the Philippines to counter what the US sees as the encroachment of China and the suppression of mass actions for sovereignty against the billions of dollars in US foreign ownership in the country’s economy.
Vietnam and Singapore are two other countries the US seeks to maintain strong influence with. Austin’s speech in Singapore proclaiming that, “no one can go it alone” marked a turn from the unilateralism of President Trump and towards the multilateral Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Yet ASEAN has from its start been used to promote foreign monopoly control through capital investment via US-friendly trade agreements. Singapore also renewed the US’s use of domestic military bases. Vietnam has long expressed concern over Chinese claims to territorial waters, and the US used this opportunity in 2019 to approve the first sale of Boeing weapons to the country since its war of liberation. An extra stop in Hanoi for Austin reaffirmed the US’s posture in the region. Harris promised over $100 million in new USAID funding for Covid-19 relief, energy infrastructure, higher education, support for people with disabilities and business innovation, funding that historically has been used to further privatize once-public industries.
Blinken’s visit to India was intended to strengthen the so-called Quadrilateral Alliance (Quad) between the US, India, Japan and Australia against the posturing of China. This was in the shadow of massive nationwide demonstrations of farmers against neoliberal agricultural laws favoring foreign agribusiness and one of the world’s most devastating Covid-19 outbreaks due to government inaction. Blinken said nothing about the Indian military’s well-documented human rights abuses in its occupation of Jammu and Kashmir nor its crackdowns on activists and national and religious minorities in the country.
Australia was not visited, however its government’s long time subservience to US military and economic interests in the region guarantees Australian government’s support for US aggression. More than 2,500 US marines are now permanently stationed in Darwin (North Australia) on a rotational basis. Pine Gap in Central Australia remains the largest US intelligence base outside of the US itself, and the US is allowed access to any Australian military base in the country. Australia’s military spending is slated to reach $570 billion over the next 10 years and multinational weapons companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have been given more than $22 billion in weapons manufacturing contracts over the past four years, whilst requiring to pay only minimum tax. This demonstrates Australia’s low priorities for public funding of health, education and social services in order to maintain the highest military capacity to fulfil the escalating requirements and unequal relationship of the Anzus Treaty with the US.
In the wake of these high-profile US cabinet visits, the people of Asia Pacific resume their calls for sovereignty, justice and independence from all big powers imposing economic and military dominance. The US Indo-Pacific Strategy will continue to pit the region against itself for imperialist gains. Austin made the US’s objectives clear while en route to Japan in March: “Our goal is to make sure that we have the capabilities and the operational plans and concepts to be able to offer credible deterrence to China or anybody else who would want to take on the U.S.” In this statement, the US clearly delineates China as its existential threat while labeling anyone rejecting US-centered policies an equal threat. This justifies US support for fascisized policies such as the Philippine Anti-Terror Law and the Korean National Security Law, bringing the heavy arm of the state down on people mobilizing for their rights. Harris’s suggestion for the US to host the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference further exposes how this militarist agenda strives to achieve the economic agenda of an Asia-Pacific in the pockets of US monopolists and financiers.
As the ruling elites of Asia-Pacific governments choose their sides in the new multi-polar world order, the people stand united against US-led war and militarism, be it in the form of foreign military bases, joint military exercises, arms sales or US-funded state violence. We have seen the people mount widespread protests for years against the US military bases in Okinawa; the provocative joint US-South Korea military exercises; and the enactment of military agreements which trample on Philippine sovereignty. The Resist US-Led War Movement calls on all those who stand against wars of aggression and for a just and lasting peace to link arms with the people of the Asia Pacific and stand firm against the destructive war preparations of the US and its superpower rivals.
In the wake of the US drone strike against the ISIS-Khorasan group in Afghanistan mere weeks after the US military “pull-out”, the Resist US-Led War Movement condemns this blatant attempt to reassert power through aggression in the country. When Biden declared at a White House press conference that, “We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he was acting as the mouthpiece for the monopoly weapons corporations who have worked hard over the last 20 years to maintain the occupation of Afghanistan as a pool of constant superprofits.
$2,000,000,000,000--two trillion dollars was poured into the US war and occupation of Afghanistan, resulting in 171,000 people killed, four million people displaced, tens of thousands of new refugees, and heightened instability in Afghanistan and the region. After 20 years of the US “War on Terror” waged on Afghanistan, it is clear that the only winners have been the war profiteers who reaped hundreds of billions of dollars by waging this war and are poised to continue benefiting from the instability left in its wake.
Money-Making Venture for Monopoly Capitalists
One look at the balance sheets of the top five largest US corporations in the weapons industry shows how they capitalized on the war on Afghanistan to turn enormous profits. According to research conducted by The Intercept, since the start of the war in 2001, investment returns skyrocketed 331.49% for Raytheon; 625.37% for General Dynamics; 974.97% for Boeing; 1,197.14% for Northrup Grumman; and 1,235.60% for Lockheed Martin. Private military contractors outnumbered US military troops 3 to 1 in both Afghanistan and Iraq since 2017, with over $220 billion spent between the two countries. L3Harris (formerly the Harris Corporation) was awarded a $1.7 billion contract to supply Afghan security forces with communications technology.
Testing Ground for Future Wars
For 20 years, the US used Afghanistan as a military testing ground for war tactics and technology. Using Afghanistan as an international “base” for carrying out the War on Terror, the US secretly operated numerous black sites to disappear and torture alleged terrorist detainees from around the world. Control over Afghanistan ensured a strategic center for the torture program in Asia. Under Trump, the US dropped the so-called “Mother Of All Bombs” on Afghanistan, in the largest non-nuclear bomb attack in history.
Perhaps most notoriously, the US war on Afghanistan became synonymous with drone warfare. With the use of drones for everything from surveillance to missile and bomb attacks, the US honed its done technology through 20 years of application in both all-out aggression and counterinsurgency operations. From 2001-2017, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimated at least 16,000 people killed by drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia alone, with tens of thousands more injured or otherwise impacted by the trauma of drone surveillance and attacks. The Center for the Study of the Drone reported that 102 countries now use drones for military purposes, with the US far surpassing any other country in the use of weaponized drones and production of drones for export. US weapons TNCs such as Boeing also lead the world in developing weaponized jet-powered drones, drones with the capacity to carry large and heavy weapons, micro-drones, and drones with artificial intelligence technology to guide drone “swarms.” Drone warfare and surveillance is an integral part of the militarization of the US-Mexico border wall. The US Navy is now investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), pointing to the expansion of the US’s use of drone technology from Afghanistan to its new focus--the Indo-Pacific and China.
War for Geopolitical Gain
While the US used the rhetoric of fighting terorrism and fighting for the rights of women as justification for launching its war on Afghanistan, its true intentions were never humanitarian. For decades leading up to the war, the US sought to surround Iran militarily from Afghanistan on the Eastern border and Iraq on the Western border. The US also aimed to control the vital trade routes that crisscross Afghanistan, essential for billions of dollars in trade across South Asia. Before the current “Pivot to Asia” doctrine, it was crucial for US strategy to have a “center” for the borderless War on Terror. In the new multi-polar situation, while the new “center” for the US is shifting to the Indo-Pacific, Afghanistan remains important to the US’s geopolitical priorities and will continue to be subject to US aggression and destabilization through sanctions, surveillance, espionage, military strikes and the like.
International Solidarity with the People of Afghanistan
The US resoundingly failed to achieve any of the objectives it outwardly expressed for invading and occupying Afghanistan. No sustained peace was won, the people suffered for twenty long years under air strikes, nighttime home raids and arbitrary arrests, and national unity was not achieved through the US-backed government. Yet, the Afghani people still stand united in the call for a just and lasting peace in their country. US weapons monopolies and their supporters in government destroyed any semblance of peace so as to continue lining their pockets. The only way to fight back against their power is by supporting the Afghan peoples’ struggle for self-determination against foreign domination. The US war machine was defeated after 20 years of struggle against a force determined to eject it from their homeland by any means necessary. Now is the time to support grassroots movement building on the ground so that the entire Afghan people can win a say in their country’s future. International solidarity is the strongest weapon against the power of US-led war and the military-industrial complex.
REsist US Led War
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