Monday 24 April 2023

War Schizophrenia (Updated).


Today Australians and New Zealanders commemorate Anzac Day: the anniversary of the tragic Anzac Corps landing in Gallipoli, in 1915.

Since then, however, Australians also commemorate today all the wars and engagements of the Australian military since Federation: from World War 2 to Iraq and Afghanistan – all of them, without exception, overseas, most of them in far flung places around the world.

The official ceremonies start before dawn. As you might expect, they’re a solemn even sombre affair, where Australians are warned “lest we forget”.


A little levity may be welcome today. You know, to cheer Aussies up.

That’s a cool video, isn’t it? I’m sure millions of people worldwide would agree it’s catchy and funny. The thing is, that was a public service announcement.


This, too, would have been funny. It wasn’t:

Peter Dutton, Minister for Defence at the time (November 2021), tells his audience of all the many ways China threatens Australia and the world, as part of a longer speech.

He throws at them everything but the kitchen sink, keeping however this gem to close the catalogue of horrors:
“China has amassed more than 2,000 ground-launched ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of up to 5,500 kilometres. Over the next decade China’s nuclear warhead stockpile, estimated to be in the 200s last year, is projected to reach between 700 and 1,000 warheads. Every major city in Australia, including Hobart, is within range of China’s missiles.”
Scary stuff, uh? Mercifully, he stopped just short of describing mushroom clouds. One wonders, however, what went through the minds of those listening:

A pressing question inevitably arises, particularly today, in Anzac Day: how can we prevent the looming apocalypse?

Think about it, but don’t give me your answer. I’ll spare you mine.

Instead, I’ll tell you Dutton’s, because as a former Minister for Defence and current federal Opposition Leader it’s much more to the point. To make Australia safe he proposes to poke a stick at a grizzly bear:


Don’t get me wrong, If we were talking about Peter Dutton in person poking a literal stick at a real grizzly bear, I’d be strongly tempted to encourage him. I’d even applaud his hawkishness.

Any similarity between that picture and real
persons and situations is, I am sure, accidental.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. His belligerence does not involve him personally poking at the bear. It’s us, the people, who are to hold that stick.

It’s worth to dwell on this because many Aussies seem not to understand the situation. It shows in Dutton’s rambling speech. Or maybe his vagueness is deliberate.

After enumerating all those terrifying statistics, Dutton’s conclusion is that Australia must pick a fight with China at the behest of the USA, no matter that every major Australian city is within reach of Chinese rockets.


You want to see what Dutton’s ideas may entail?

Suppose a 5 Mt warhead, carried by a Dong-Feng 5 Chinese ICBM, detonated above the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a weekday morning, as people go to their workplaces. (An explosion at ground level maximises radioactive fallout, leaving the soil contaminated, at the cost of diminishing the number of casualties; an air burst maximizes the casualties, with limited fallout).

According to Alex Wellerstein’s NUKEMAP, this is the result for Sydney:

According to the simulation, the detonation itself would cause over 700 thousand deaths, leaving additionally a million and a quarter people injured: roughly one in every twelve Australians would be either dead, dying or injured. English-speakers often misuse the words “decimate” and “carnage”; they fit this situation, though.

The blast would be felt around a circle of nearly 34 km of radius (light grey): inside that circle falls pretty much the whole of Sydney, from Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (north) to the Royal National Park (south) and from Bondi (east) to Blacktown (west).

Worst hit, however, would be the 11 km² circle around the Bridge (small yellow circle in the map): “Anything inside the fireball is effectively vaporized”. That circle contains a number of very well-known landmarks: the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tunnel, Circular Quay, Sydney CBD, NSW State Parliament and Library, Kirribilli House, HMAS Kuttabul.

Sydney Town Hall and the ABC’s Ultimo studios are barely outside this area (Channel 7 and the Reserve Bank of Australia drew the short straw: they fall within too), but they aren’t out of the woods: in the smaller grey circle buildings collapsing and/or catching fire would be common and “injuries are universal, fatalities are widespread”. With some luck, Aussie media hawks may survive long enough to regret their hawkishness.

Even as far as Parramatta, Hornsby, Liverpool, and Sutherland 3rd degree burns would be common. Those surviving with disfigurement and/or mild disablement would be the lucky ones: amputations could be common.

If you live somewhere else and want to know how things could be where you live, go here.


For all the ritualistic Anzac Day talk about the horrors of war and the hardships soldiers go through and the need for peace, Australia keeps sleepwalking to war. Apparently the word “dissonance” does not ring a bell.

Last year, after May 21st, for a while I dared to hope Anthony Albanese’s newly formed federal Labor Government would show more sense on this subject. Their stance on China, I thought, was just for show. You know what wishful thinking means, don’t you?

Fast forward to the present.



Lately the Prime Minister has been whingeing about the Opposition’s opposition (!) to his Government’s policies:
“He [federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton] is just saying no to everything and not being a part of any solution … He said no to manufacturing jobs. He said no to our plan for more social and affordable housing. He has said no to getting wages moving again. He has said no to renewable energy and climate change action”.
In opposition – you’ll remember – the Australian Labor Party often supported the COALition Government’s policies. Now in opposition, the COALition ingrates are not reciprocating.

(In opposition Labor pollies would say they didn’t oppose for opposition’s sake. They were the adults in the room. Those more cynical might have said that it was all about offering the smallest of small targets to criticism).

So, the COALition – in the witticism Aussie journos came up with – opposes everything, everywhere all at once. It’s the NOalition (hilarious, uh?).


Now, now, that’s not really fair, is it?

Dutton can play bipartisanship. You guys may have forgotten, but I can’t forget Dutton jumping to show his enthusiastic support for the AUKUS nuclear subs deal shortly after the Three Stooges Amigos announced it from San Diego.

It didn’t end there. Although a self-annointed priest of fiscal rectitude, he is not whingeing either about the purchase of American HIMARS rocket launchers and Norwegian Naval Strike Missiles or the acquisition of American Tomahawk cruise missiles. Why would those two deals – adding together a measly 3 to $4 billion – be a problem, when the eye-watering price tag of those boats (between 268 and 368 billion) wasn’t one?

Indeed he went as far as to suggest his party’s support (maybe even in Parliament) for cuts in the NDIS budget, so as to make funds available for the subs.

That, mateys, is bipartisanship: the pinnacle of wisdom, according to Aussie centrist talking heads.


The bottom line is that bipartisanship made the AUKUS submarines, not meant to protect Australia but to hunt Chinese submarines, all but inevitable. The “radical” crossbench cannot even attempt to moderate the monumental mistake the two mainstream parties are making. And with the fucking subs no matter how many times the PM parrots the “sovereignty” word, the likelihood of Australia once again joining thoughtlessly the Americans, this time in a war with China they cannot win.

This is how the much talked about Defence Strategic Review – released on Anzac Day’s eve, for crying out loud – refers to Australia’s defence policies:
“Australia’s strategic culture has long been based on a major power alliance. Every Australian Government since Federation has assessed our strategic circumstances and reaffirmed the centrality of an alliance partnership in relationship to our strategic interests.
“Contrary to some public analysis, our Alliance with the United States is becoming even more important to Australia.”
Nothing spells sovereignty like that.

And as climate change fades in the background of public consciousness replaced by a war engineered futilely to attempt to preserve American hegemony in a dying world, the damned review only mentions climate change in two fucking pages, for Christ’s sake. There is no indication the idea of attempting to minimize the damage climate change creates even crossed the minds of the review authors. The only thing they have to say is that the Australian Defence Forces are not to be used in the case of emergencies.


Sometimes it feels like Australia is suffering from a kind of collective schizophrenia. Let me give you yet another example. This is the first sentence of the review: “Defence policy and strategy serve to secure peace and prosperity”.

Compare that with this:
“From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
“War is Peace
“Freedom is Slavery
“Ignorance is Strength” – George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four

UPDATE (25/04/23):

Today the Government announced yet another review, this time of the surface fleet. The idea is to see if those vessels go with the subs, which Australia eventually may get. You know, unless you are Michael Portillo – who insists on dressing like a clown, with red trousers, green or yellow shirt and blue jacket – you need to pick clothing that matches. The same principle applies to warships, it seems. And the thing is that US Navy Vice Admiral (ret.) William H Hilarides will be one of three reviewers. Sovereignty!

The Australian Army is not happy with the treatment the DSR gave them. And shadow Minister for Defence, Andrew Hastie, hastily manifested his displeasure: the new subs will be paid for in part by “can-ballising” Army projects. Outrage!

Welcome to the circus.

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