Rockhampton Bulletin article & photo from court case

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


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  • The Af/Pak War and the USA & Australia Militaries

      While Australia services the escalting U.S. Af/Pak War in northern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan, a training exercise is taking place in July in central Queensland/Australia between the two militaries.

      Australia has a long history servicing U.S. aggression in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The Catholic Worker has a long history in nonviolently resisting such wars and preparations for war. Catholic Workers are heading to the Talisman Sabre exercises to 'fight fire with water' and nonviolently bring and end to Talsiman Sabre and the Af/Pak War.

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