Stand Fast

New recruit to anti-war campaign

Angus Hohenboken

A FORMER Tasmanian navy officer has joined a chorus of veterans’ voices denouncing Australia’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mark Richards, a Tasmanian Greens candidate for Huen in the recent Legislative Council elections, yesterday said both wars were unjust and based on furthering America’s commercial interests.

He said while the public recognised the conflict in Iraq was about oil, most did not recognise America’s war in Afghanistan started for similar reasons.  Before the war US company UNOCAL had failed in its ambitions to construct a gas pipeline through Afghanistan due to problems with the Taliban and local warlords.  The top negotiator for UNOCAL, Hummed Karzai, had since become Afghanistan’s president and the pipeline was back on the agenda, he said. “Why should soldiers need to die for a cause that is not just and is not supported by the United Nations and is really just for the commercial gain of some American companies,” Mr. Richards said.  “It’s ludicrous.”

Mr. Richards joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1985 after finishing Year 12 at Hobart College.  He was awarded an Australian Defence Force Academy scholarship and, after completing an oceanography degree at the University of New South Wales and finishing at the academy, he became a seaman officer.    He served in the Red Sea in 1990-1991 on HMAS Canberra following the first Iraq War.
As the leader of boarding team, he was involved in more than 70 interceptions of cargo vessels, enforcing UN sanctions against Iraq.

The protest group, called Stand Fast, includes Vietnam veterans, but most members served more recently, in areas like East Timor.
It aims to support current servicemen and women who speak out against the wars with access to counselling and legal advice.
“We are seeking to debunk the myth that if you’re against the war, you’re against the troops,” Mr. Richards said.  “We are standing fast in the face of the Government saying it’s all OK.”  “We are not going to be compliant and be pushed away.”

From the Mercury Friday May 9.

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