It wasn’t until I went to Christmas mass that I grasped an appreciation of our anti-war court scene and witness in Rockhampton this past Christmas week. Our local priest gave a fine reflection on the nativity, juxtaposing the empires of this world, the endless wars of Pax Romana/Americana countered by the absurdity of the nonviolent Kingdom of God represented by the vulnerable infant in the feed box, marginalised shepherds gathered, dodging Herod on his search and destroy hunt etc.
Jim Dowling and I were due, a couple of daze before Christmas, in court in Rockhampton (central Queensland/Australia) as consequence of blockading U.S. marines and several truckloads of their equipment accessing a military exercise in July. The joint exercise in July was all about interventionary warfare complete with some soldiers playing the roles of local insurgents and an urban warfare centre with a mosque, finetuning Australian /U…S. recent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
While our support group read a litany of Afghan/Iraq war dead we held up military traffic for 90 minutes on an access road into Shoalwater Bay military exercise area.. As we blockaded this road U.S. led forces were surging in southern Afghanistan and Pakistani forces were doing likewise in northern Pakistan. Surging, killing and creating orphans and refugees. They claimed at the time to be securing an environment for “free and safe elections” in Afgahnistan. The self evident is now generally admitted that the U.S. sponsored Afghan elites were never interested in free and safe elections. Troops died and more Afghanis slain for rigged elections. Australian, British, U.S. Pakistani forces are killing and dying to protect the corrupt governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan .
So 5 months after our blockade, and subsequent 4 days in the Rockhampton watchhouse, it was time to drag our sorry asses back to central Queensland. In the early hours of our hearing day, I clocked off from work at a homeless shelter in downtown Brisbane and grabbed a cab to the airport. My cabbie was a refugee from the slaughter in Rawanda and testified to the nature of war. Jim and family had driven up to Rockhampton the previous day in their van fueled by recycled fish and chip oil.
Going to court is tough at anytime but in the present atmosphere of the lack of an anti-war movement in Australia it felt particularly difficult. I had no expectation of any support in Rockhampton around our hearing and that proved to be the case. The Dowling family picked me up at the airport and we drove into town to conduct an anti-war vigil outside the court before going in. We believe that the war will be stopped on the streets rather than in the courts or the parliaments. So there we stood.
The Rockhampton courthouse itself felt subdued, not much happening these short days before the holidays. Our arresting officers were quite friendly reflecting that while there isn’t any popular opposition to this war there is defintiely no popular support for it either. There’s just an escalating war. Two British soliders had just been killed by firendly fire, The “War is Peace” U.S. President had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and ordered another 30,000 troops into battle, doing a cruise missile drive by on Yemen for good measure the U.S. had just been outed as repetitively overriding Pakistani soveriegnty with boots on the ground elite U.S. forces on hunting expeditions crossing the border into Pakistan over the past years.
This lack of popular support for the war was also reflected in the magistrate’s decision to override the prosecutor’s initial objection to Jim’s testimony focussed on his acting under the obligations of the Nurembourg Principles. The magistrate allowed us to testify to what we did and why we did it. He seemed to agree that the exercises were for interventionary war rather than defense. he had done his homelwork on the Lenin Liimbo Pine Gap case law in relation to ruling out the Nuremburg Principles in an Australian court.
Among those officials present in the court room there seemed to be an atmosphere of resignation. The war will continue unabated. A few souls will throw themselves against the machine. I had a sense we were being treated as harmless curiousities, like some near extinct Australian flora or fauna. Behold, eight years into this war, an anti-war activist, close to extinction! Like one of those Japanese soldiers they would find in the Pacific in the 1970′s not realising WW2 was over, we haven’t cottoned on that although war is escalating the anti-war movement is over! I started feeling like some kind of Bilby or rarely sighted nocturnal piece of long forgotten Australiana. Admittedly, Jim and I do look like we have been recruited form central casting…Jim doesn’t where shoes and I have dreadlocks down to my butt.
Jim and I met in Brisbane watch house in 1978 and we have spent the last 3 decades together and apart exploring the Catholic Worker tradition and praxis which embraces nonviolent resistance to war. Another war, another court scene. The magistrate and the prosecutor seemed to resonate on some level and concluded that no further punishment would expediate our rehabilitation. It was just over an hour flight to Rockhampton and a 12 hour dirve back to Brisbane. How long stopping this war is going to take, is anybody’s guess.
Photos and Report from Original Blockade Action of U.S. Marines
-Central Queensland July ’09
Jim Dowling’s reflection on our court appearance in Rockhampton
TWO ANTI WAR ACTIVISTS remained for 11 days in the Shoalwater , under arrest for trespass. until last Sunday, officially the last day of the joint Australia-US exercises. The two, Yulanji Bardon and Emily Nielsen, turned themselves in to Range Control and were escorted from the premises by
They were able to meet their goal of staying till the end of the Talisman Sabre Exercises which represented the largest training in ‘interoperability’ between the US and Australia.
Emily Nielsen  said: “These exercises are not just a ten-day long game of laser tag as Brigadier Bob Brown and the media would have us believe. They represent Australia joining the United States in the illegal invasions of and where thousands of civilians have been killed.”
Ms Bardon and Ms Neilsen lived on rations and slept in a tent in the Western and southern sectors of the area while Jim Dowling and Culley Palmer had stayed in the Eastern area. Their presence posed a difficulty for the military. They dodged helicopters, military dogs and avoided thousands of military personnel refuting the idea of the ‘all-pervasive security state’.
“The ideas that the military offers protection and that terrorism can be overcome with military means are in glaring need of revision. ” Ms Bardon said. “If two young women with a compass and limited ‘tactical experience’ can get away with sight-seeing in a military base over the course of eleven days without detection, there may need to be an inquiry into just how effective these training exercises actually are.”
Yulanji and Emily entered the base on the 16th July with 5 other activists in two groups: the Jaegerstatter 3 and the Grana 4.
Photos of Jaegerstaetter 3 (Jim Dowling, Cully Palmer, Bryan Law) inside Shoalwater Military Area
Bryan Law was arrested inside the area blocking a military convoy. Jim Dowling and Cully Palmer left the exercise area after 8 days at the conclusion of the Talsiman sabre exercises.
Four anti-war activists remain at large in the prohibited Shoalwater military exercise area in central Queensland. The Shoalwater area is presently hosting the $250 million Talisman Sabre exercises involving 18,000 U.S. and 6.000 Australian troops.
The four were part of a group of seven activists who covertly entered the area a week ago. Three of their number have since been detected and captured by the military and handed over to state police. U.S. and Australian military have been involved in offensive war game scenarios. Some of the soldiers encountered by the activists were playing the roles of insurgents following an amphibious assault by U.S. and Australian personnel. Today the military are involved in exercises countering civil unrest of the occupied population.
Two of the activists, Yulangi Bardon and Emily Nielsen, are pictured above on top of The Polygon spire inside the Shoalwater military area. Jim Dowling and Culley Palmer also remain at large in the area after evading helicopter and dog searches.
The group’s support spokeperson Ciaron O’Reilly stated “Since these exercises commenced a few weeks ago 30 U.S., 18 British, an Australian soldier and uncounted Afghanis have been killed in combat in Afghanistan. The Talisman Sabre exercises are dress rehearsals for more death and destruction, invasion and war”.
By Bryan Law
Last Sunday morning, when I’d usually be just leaving Mass with the closing words “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” resonating in my ears, I found myself instead on a dusty road at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area. In front of me, stopped on the road, was an armoured column of US Marines, looking fierce with all their machine guns and cannons and carbines.
I had stopped the armoured column by the sophisticated, high technology method of waving a blue plastic tarpaulin at them from beside the road as I emerged from the bush – a peace-crazed trespasser on the giant war-games called Exercise Talisman Sabre, outside Rockhampton in central Queensland. The Marine who spotted me from the turret of an APC, hopped on the radio and said something along the lines of “Holy Jiminy Batman, there’s an intruder on our war!”, and the column ground to a halt. Goodoh! Thinks me, this is what I came to do. For the how and why of that, let’s go back a step.
On Thursday 16 July 2009 I walked into the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area with two friends, Culley Palmer, 21 and Jim Dowling, 51. We’d formed our little band over 10 days of organising and taking symbolic actions around the Peace Convergence, and we’d been part of the Martin Luther King House of Christian Nonviolence at Yeppoon. Our mission is to save Australia and the world from the spiritual death of militarism.
Full reflection by Bryan continued on this link…….
Anti-war activist Jacob Bolton was discovered by military personnel inside the Shoalwater Military Base late on Saturday night. He was detained and taken to the Rockhampton Watchhouse to be charged and was released on bail early Sunday morning.
A spokesperson from the Martin Luther King House of Nonviolence said that “Jake is very pleased that he was able to find a physical way to challenge war and the military machine. These exercises are only a step removed from current warmaking by the US and Australia in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US and Australians have no civilian players in the exercises. These exercises are a fantasy. The activists presence counters this fantasy”
Margaret Pestorius, who was detained by US solidiers last week said: “Each activist that is found by the military is a reality check for those military personnel who run into them. War has real people: Ordinary men, women and children who want peace and who are trying to go about their daily business in the face of bombing, shooting and incarceration”.
“We were discovered by US infantrymen playing insurgents in a large role playing invasion scenario. Yet there are no civilians in this scenario.”
Jake was part of a group calling themselves the Grana 4. Grana was the sole survivor in her family of a NATO aerial bombing of her village. [see Guardian website]
Phone Margaret on 0403214422
Ciaron on 0411516434
See Jake’s statement click link MLK House
A Statement from the Martin Luther House of Christian Nonviolence
to Senator John Falkner Minister of Defence
on his visit to Talisman Sabre Military Exercises
July 18th 2009
For more information call: Sean O’Reilly 0423749946, Margaret Pestorius 0403214422
Australian Defence Minister, John Faulkner will today visit the US-Australian war games in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training area.
7 activists remain in the Shoalwater Bay area. These people represent the civilians who are endangered in every war and who are being killed in bombing raids in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the current escalation of war there by the Australians and the US. The overwhelming numbers of those killed in these wars are innocent civilians and children.
We particularly oppose the concept of training Australian forces to participate and engage with US forces in the simulated invasion of another country. Australia has no right to train for such behaviour.
We understand that the model city in the war games has a mosque. Australia has no right to practise violence against such sacred places.
Senator Faulkner has been appointed by Rudd government to the defence portfolio significantly because of his reputation in regard to taking control of obstructive government officials and monitoring expenditure carefully.
We ask Senator John Falkner to stop the exercises, to stop the wars, to reduce military spending and redirect that money to making the transition to a sustainable future.
Australia is set to spend a further $100billion over the next 10 years on top of current military spending. Many Australians oppose an escalation in spending on military hardware and assisting America’s wars overseas.
Spokesperson Sean O’Reilly said:
“Our security will not be guaranteed by expensive weapons systems. Moreover the recent defence review confirmed that Australia has no immediate, medium or long term threat.”
“Australia’s external security will only be ensured if Australia is an active participant in peace and justice in the region and globally. We cannot address terrorist violence by trying to kill more and more people, most of whom will be innocent bystanders.
“Australia’s internal security requires we address the causes of homelessness, of social violence, of changing our wasteful culture. These changes will require financial and human resouces which are presently being wasted in War.”
Eight people have been arrested over the past 2 weeks while opposing the wars and the exercises.
Balloons will be released today with messages to John Faulkner since we have been unable to communicate dirtectly with him despite several attempts. A vigil will be held mid-afternoon at Yeppoon where statements by the seven activists will be read aloud.
*Call Talisman Sabre Hotline and demand the end of the exercise
1800 639 724
*Further background on nonviolent resistance to Talisman Sabre 09
*Further suggestions for solidarity with the 7 activists see the end of this email
7 More Activists Inside
Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area:
Call for End to War on Afghanistan
Seven anti-war activists entered the Shoalwater Bay military training area in central Queensland during joint US-Australian Talisman Sabre exercises. The seven remain in the area and are presently moving towards the ‘live fire’ areas with the intention of shutting down the exercises. They remain undetected by Australian Defence Force Security and the Qld Police guarding the area.
The activists are:
Yulangi Bardon, 21
Jake Bolton, 27
Jim Dowling, 53
Bryan Law, 55
Emily Nielson, 19
Culley Palmer, 21
Mark Palmer, 51
The group stated:
“US and Australian militaries, training at Talisman Sabre are presently involved in waging an escalated war in northern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. Most of the victims in this eight year war have been civilians yet the concept of civilians and civilian loss seems to have been completely lost on the military. There aren’t any civilians permitted in the exercises. Civilians are eliminated here as they are eliminated in war.
“As civilians we enter this area in solidarity with all the civilian victims of the US and Australian military. We enter the exercise area with the intention of shutting down the exercises.
“We come from varied backgrounds: Christian and Humanist traditions. We come in common purpose to nonviolently resist these rehearsals for war and the escalating war on the peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“It is universally acknowledged that lies told by the Australian Parliament and the US government regarding “Weapons of Mass Destruction” [WMD] in Iraq led us to an illegal invasion and disastrous war in that country. Prime Minister Rudd’s recent assertion that Australian troops waging war in Afghanistan decreases the possibility of terrorism at home is also a lie leading us all to further disaster, death and destruction.
“We call upon all sectors of civil society in Australia to take action against such rehearsals for invasion and war as Talisman Sabre. We call upon all sectors of civil society to take action against the escalating war on the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We call upon Air Commodore Meier to make good on his word to the Australian Senate “that if unauthorised personnel are known to be on or near the live fire area, we stop the clock on the exercises until they are found.” [June 4th 09] Despite our attempts to communicate, Thursday’s statement by Brigadier Bob Brown, contrary to this position, exhibits a negligence in relation to human safety that echoes the Australian and US military behaviour in Afghanistan.
Call for further comment on the group’s activities: Martin Luther King House of Nonviolence, Yeppoon:-
*FURTHER SUGGESTIONS FOR SOLIDARITY
to one of the 7 c/- 69 Kurumba St. Kippa-Ring Q.4021 AUSTRALIA
-Financial donations c/- “Ciaron O’Reilly” P.O. Box 6376 Fairfield Gardens Q. 4103 AUSTRALIA
*Call the following people for further comment on the group’s activities.
Ciaron O’Reilly 0411516434
Sean O’Reilly 0423749946
Margaret Pestorius 0403214422
Landline 07 4933 0356
+61 7 4933 0356 (international)
Professional photos available on request: Margaret 0403214422
Email contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 14 July 2009
Margaret Pestorius, Jarrod McKenna, Jessica Morrison and Rev. Simon Moyle have been found this afternoon on the Shoalwater Bay military training area after entering the base yesterday. The four are expected to be handed over to the Queensland Police and taken to Rockhampton Police Station.
Four nonviolent Christian activists have entered the Shoalwater Bay Training Area this morning to stop the Talisman Saber exercises. Calling themselves the “Bonhoeffer 4” after Kevin Rudd’s favourite theologian, Margaret Pestorius (44, Social Worker, Cairns), Jarrod McKenna (28, School Peace Educator, Perth) Jessica Morrison (33, University lecturer, Melbourne) and Rev. Simon Moyle (32, Baptist Minister, Melbourne) are currently moving towards a live-fire area. They call on the Australian and US forces to cease their involvement in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the undeclared war in Pakistan.
The group has released the following statement:
In his article in the Monthly, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called Bonhoeffer “without a doubt, the man I admire most in the history of the twentieth century.” We have taken the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, because he embodied a serious, costly commitment to peacemaking and ending injustice, “a costly grace”. Yet Rudd’s $100 billion long-term military spending plan reveals the Prime Minister has forgotten his hero and is in need of some sisters and brothers to jog his memory.
That is why we will put our own bodies on the line in order to stop the U.S./ Australian Talisman Saber Military Exercises and jam a spoke in the wheel of war. These exercises are implicated in killing and injuring our sisters and brothers in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including untold numbers of civilians. This “war without end”, as George Bush put it, has no exit strategy and no end in sight. We will not overcome the violent terrorism of the poor with the violent terrorism of the rich.
Rev. Moyle has been in contact with the Defence Department about our plans for more than 7 months (http://nonviolencestories.wordpress.com <http://nonviolencestories.wordpress.com/> ) in order to build a relationship of trust and openness. Air Commander Meier has stated in Parliament, “If we know there is an unauthorised person into the Commonwealth land at Shoalwater Bay…the exercise is stopped.” The Defence Department has been notified of our presence on the base. We call on Air Commander Meier to keep his word to the Australian people.
We plan to be inside the area for as long as possible, and are well prepared for a long stay.
As Rudd’s hero Bonhoeffer put it, “The church has three possible ways it can act against the State. First, it can ask the State if its actions are legitimate. Second, it can aid the victims of the State action… The third possibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel but to jam a spoke in the wheel itself.” With our actions and our lives we plan to do all three.
For footage and stills of the activists entering the area contact media spokesperson Treena Lenthall (0447 851 858).