US troops arrive in Top End for Marine Rotational Force Darwin

Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton, says the 1250 US Marine deployment to Darwin stands ready to fight if tensions between his country and North Korea escalate into direct conflict.

Lieut. Colonel Middleton said when US Marines were in forward deployment they were ready for battle.

Lieut. Colonel Middleton is leading the sixth and most complex US marine air-ground task force to be deployed to the Territory.

Along with the 1250 marines that make up the latest Darwin rotation of US troops, it will eventually include up to 13 aircraft, four tilt-rotor Ospreys, five Super Cobra helicopters and four Huey helicopters.

When asked about the North Korea stand-off he said: “We stand ready to fight.”

The marines are from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, California. They will be based at Robertson Barracks, RAAF Base Darwin and Defence Establishment Berrimah.

Marine Rotational Force Darwin is mainly a series of joint exercises, training and exchanges between the US and the Australian Defence Force, but some exercises will also involve military personnel from China and other Asian countries.

The US has rotated a small force of Marines through Darwin since 2012. It was originally planned to send a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force of 2500 Marines to Australia by 2016, but the timeline has been pushed back to around 2020.

With Donald Trump in power, Australia urgently needs to re-evaluate its US bases

Recent changes to the US National Security Council should be ringing loud alarm bells in Canberra.

By demoting the highest-ranking military officer and the highest-ranking intelligence officer, and appointing political adviser Stephen Bannon as a permanent member of the NSC, Donald Trump has seriously escalated the risk of the US launching into ill-advised conflicts. Bannon comes from a role as chairman of the racist, Islamophobic website Breitbart.com, and is reported as having been in charge of writing the recent executive order that has banned US entry for refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.

It is no secret that Australian foreign policy and defence forces are closely enmeshed with the US. Since Trump has taken office he has loudly proclaimed an "America first" foreign policy, and his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, talks of denying China access to artificial islands in the South China Sea. Any such blockade is likely to be seen by the Chinese as an act of war.

Malcolm Turnbull's meek response to the immigration executive order does not inspire confidence that he will stand up to the US.

Historically Australia's foreign policy has also leaned towards "America first", with little differentiation between our ally's interests and our own. In rushing to join the coalition going into Iraq, the thought that Australia may be better off not invading another country on the basis of dubious intelligence was overlooked. Indeed, in the Vietnam War, the CIA knew the war was unwinnable, even before Australia sent troops. Malcolm Fraser, defence minister at the time, was livid when he discovered this many years later. A total of 521 Australian troops died in Vietnam and about 3000 were wounded.

Since World War II, Australia has joined in more US wars than any other ally. With Canberra's current "business as usual" agenda, Australia is at high-risk of joining future US wars that will likely create further humanitarian disasters and undermine our security.

Simultaneously there is talk of expanding US bases in the region. What is Australia going to say when the US asks to increase its bases on our soil? Are we willing to make Australia a target? CIA documents from the 1980s released this month revealed authorities expected the Pine Gap spy base near Alice Springs to be attacked in the event of a US-Soviet nuclear fight.

Australia has US marines based in Darwin, multiple surveillance bases and about 40 senior Australian Army officers working in US Pacific Command. This includes an Australian Army Major-General serving as the deputy commanding general – operations, US Army Pacific. This intense enmeshment reinforces Australia's past behaviour; when the US goes to war, we have little option but to follow. With the US building up its military bases around China, American threats of blockades in the South China Sea are reckless and provocative. A war between China and the US is not in Australia's interests or anyone's interests.

Another example of US influence has been Australia's behaviour at recent UN talks regarding the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Australia has acted as US proxy in trying to thwart these negotiations. So much so that the Australian delegation was dubbed the chief of the "weasel states". Despite Australia's efforts, negotiations for a treaty will go ahead this year. Australia has not committed to participating, which calls into question our government's commitment to the UN.

Australia urgently needs to re-evaluate its American bases and promote steps that defuse rather than intensify regional tensions. Having senior Australian defence personnel integrated into the US defence force hinders Australia acting independently. Do we want Australia to be capable of making strategic decisions in the national interest? New Zealand clearly acts in its own interest and remains an ally.

With Trump now the new US Commander-in-Chief, is it wise that we allow ourselves to be so automatically tied to American foreign policy? War in our region would be a humanitarian catastrophe for all involved.

Margaret Beavis is a Melbourne GP and president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War.

America’s military presence is growing in Australia. That might not be a good thing.

THE US is strengthening a network of secretive military bases across Australia that could be used for waging wars against our interests, it was claimed at a weekend summit.

Instead of fostering crucial relationships, we are allowing the US to create enemies for us with its growing strategic presence on our soil, say the academics, politicians and campaigners who gathered for the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) conference attended by news.com.au in Alice Springs this weekend.
Under a burning hot sun in the red centre, experts and citizens shared their fears over what is happening in the most remote parts of the country. These mysterious bases may be invisible to the majority of us living in the most populated regions along the coast, but could threaten the fabric of all our lives. Here’s what you need to know:

NORTH WEST CAPE — SPACE WARFARE
Perhaps the most frightening of all the bases, North West Cape is at the cutting edge of warfare — in space.
The monstrous structure sits on the northwest coast of Australia, where kilometres of wire surround a soaring central tower and others fanning off it, sucking up huge amounts of electricity.

DARWIN — TROOPS ON THE GROUND
In 2011, President Barack Obama visited Darwin to announce US troops would begin making regular visits to the Northern Territory as part of the country’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.
The Gillard government agreed to the “permanent rotation of US marines and US air force aircraft”, meaning we have a constant flow of US soldiers on the ground in Australia. There are currently 1500, but this could rise to 2500.
It was this development that triggered the establishment of IPAN in 2012 as onlookers became alarmed at the move from “the invasion of nerd and computer freaks” to actual “troops in uniform with rifles”

PINE GAP — ‘THE POISONED HEART OF AUSTRALIA’
Pine Gap was established in Alice Springs in 1966 when the CIA came up with the idea of putting satellites 36,000 kilometres above the earth’s surface. These had giant antennae that could listen to very weak signals from Soviet missiles testing, allowing the agency to work out the capability of enemy weapons.
The spy base was placed in isolated Alice in the NT because at the time, the massive amount of data had to be collected over 130km of land.

OTHER BASES
The Defence Satellite Communication Station at Geraldton in Western Australia, along with Kojarena 20km inland, was one of Australia’s spy bases. It is now shared with two large American operational military communication systems that pull down information on Indonesian and Chinese satellites from the sky. This is part of the Five Eyes surveillance system used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kojarena is creating “battlefield conditions”, says Mr Doherty, providing data a soldier in Iraq can use to ascertain what’s behind a hill — the visual, weather and so on — making it “an American war fighting base”.
Australia paid $800 million for one of the satellites used by this system. But if America does not approve of an operation the Australian Defence Force requests, for example in Timor, it can turn off our access, says Prof Tanter.

So why is the US using our bases a problem? Well, we aren’t just passive bystanders. “Australia is very, very deeply involved,” says Prof Tanter. “At least we’re not locked out the way we were before, but with that comes culpability. The government seems to lack the ability to ask the question, ‘When do Australian and American interests coincide, and when do they not?’”

Defence in 'emergency' talks with USA over Darwin port sale

Pentagon officials have flown to Australia to for "emergency talks"
to express their frustration over the Port of Darwin sale
and Canberra's reluctance to stand up to Beijing.

Last year, the port hosted 102 naval vessels, according to its annual report, and was the point of arrival for US Marines on rotation through Darwin. Pentagon officials now want assurances from Australia on security arrangements at the port and better systems to ensure the breakdown in communication doesn't happen again.

The US officials also expressed concerns over Australia's lack of interest in sending naval ships to join Washington's so-called "freedom of navigation" operations in the South China Sea.

Mission Creep Tony Abbott pushed for US request to join Syria air strikes

The Abbott government pushed for Washington to request that Australia expand its air strikes against the Islamic State terror group from Iraq to its more dangerous neighbour Syria, Fairfax Media has learnt.

Government sources say it was Mr Obama who raised Syria as a topic and then made the first suggestion of Australia's expanded role.

But it is widely known in government circles that Mr Abbott has long been keen to do more in the fight against the Islamic State, which has taken swaths of territory stretching across Syria and Iraq and established affiliates in Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

from humanitarian air drops to begging master to let us off the leash, in 12 months.