US, Australia Launch Biggest Joint Military Exercise Amid Protests

June 18th, 2007 - by admin

Jerusalem Post & Herald-Sun & Australian Broadcast Corporation – 2007-06-18 22:16:58

Australia, US Launch Biggest Joint Military Exercises
The Jerusalem Post

(June 18, 2007) — Australia and the United States launched their biggest joint war games Monday, with 27,500 troops backed by a US aircraft carrier engaging in exercises aimed at consolidating the allies’ military dominance in the Asia Pacific region.

The biennial Talisman Sabre exercise pits 20,000 US troops and 7,500 Australian forces against two fictional enemies – the Kamarians and Musorians – in a variety of land and sea-based scenarios designed to test their skills in combat, peacekeeping and humanitarian relief efforts.

The exercise, which runs until July 2, will also include 10 US ships, 20 Australian ships and 125 aircraft operating off the coast of Rockhampton in northeastern Queensland state.

“The United States and Australia have a long-standing relationship … we share the same values and interests. Foremost among those interests is the stability and security of the Asia-Pacific region,” US Vice Admiral Doug Crowder told reporters on board the USS Blue Ridge in Sydney.

“Therefore it is very important that our militaries train together to carry out the types of missions our governments may call upon us to execute to ensure regional security and stability.”

The exercise comes as the United States and Japan step up efforts to build a joint missile defense system in Asia, partly as a bulwark against regional threats such as a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Australia, a steadfast US ally that maintains around 2,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, is studying whether to participate in the defense shield, Defense Minister Brendan Nelson announced this month.

Canberra is expanding its military personnel to 30,500 troops from 27,500, and ramping up other defense capabilities as part of an overhaul to take greater responsibility for Asian security.

Japan plans to send observers to the Talisman Sabre operation, Crowder said, but would not expand on what role they might play in the exercise. Australia and Japan signed a security agreement in March that will enable Japanese forces to train alongside Australians for disaster relief and peacekeeping missions, and boost cooperation between the two countries in counterterrorism measures and intelligence sharing.

Meanwhile, environmentalists have voiced concern about the possible dangers of submarine-hunting sonar equipment to whales in the region. The International Whaling Commission issued a report this month saying a mid-frequency sonar sometimes used by US and Australian ships can cause hearing loss and tissue damage in whales and can alter their diving habits.

“A huge part of the planning for this exercise has been the environmental concerns. We have many procedures in place,” Crowder said. He would not elaborate on the procedures, saying only that the operation “will be conducted in compliance with all the Australian governmental requirements.”

About 100 people gathered Monday outside an army barracks in the northeastern city of Rockhampton to protest the exercises. They laid a wreath and hundreds of shoes at the gate of the barracks to symbolize military and civilian casualties from the Iraq war.

“We mourn all loss of life and we feel the shoes are a very powerful symbol,” Robin Taubenfeld, of the environmental group Friends of the Earth said.

Protests against Military Exercise Begin
Herald-Sun / AAP

(June 18, 2007) — A CANDLELIGHT vigil in Rockhampton tonight began a week of protests against a joint US-Australian military exercise at central Queensland’s Shoalwater Bay.

More than 100 hundred people from across the country and overseas assembled outside the Western Street Army Barracks to pray for a peaceful future and protest the Talisman Sabre exercise.

Protesters laid a wreath on the barracks’ main gate and produced hundreds of shoes to represent the military and civilian deaths at the Iraq war.

“We mourn all loss of life and we feel the shoes are a very powerful symbol,” Robin Taubenfeld of Friends of the Earth Brisbane said at Rockhampton tonight.

About 40 groups have assembled for the week of action which includes forums, street theatre, marches and information nights culminating with a group demonstration near the main exercise site at Shoalwater Bay on June 23.

Thousands are expected to attend the “peace convergence” to protest the military exercise which the groups claim was damaging to Australia’s national interests.

Talisman Sabre – Australia’s largest military training exercise – was officially launched in Sydney earlier today.

The war games involve some 7500 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, 20 ships and 25 aircraft joined by 20,000 US troops in ten ships and 100 aircraft.

US Vice Admiral Doug Crowder and Australia’s Major General Richard Wilson, aboard the USS Blue Ridge, today launched the operation that runs until July 2.

Vice Admiral Crowder, who commands the US Navy’s 7th Fleet from Japan, said uncertainty and unpredictability remained a threat to economic prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Therefore it is very important that our militaries train together to carry out the types of missions our governments may call upon to execute to insure region security and stability,” he said.

Talisman Sabre War Games under Fire
Australian Broadcast Corporation

MELBOURNE (June 19, 2007) — A group of doctors says the huge joint Australian-US military exercise underway in north Queensland and the Northern Territory sends the wrong message to Australians and the world.

Operation Talisman Sabre involves more than 26,000 troops and will take place in Townsville, Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton, and Bradshaw in the Northern Territory.

The president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW), Professor Tilman Ruff, says Australia needs to take the lead in building peace and not be a follower in plans for war.

“What it’s exercising is a very large scale application of military force such as would be appropriate for military invasion,” he said.

“It’s not the kind of military operation that most Australians support, [not the sort of operation] that would improve our relations with countries in the region, that would deal with our real security threats,” he said.

Professor Ruff says the exercise undermines rather than promotes the health and security of Australians.

“There are a number of significant problems relating to its costs, its potential for injuries, for environmental damage relating to unexploded shells and a huge number of live bombs that will be dropped,” he said.

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