Stand Fast

Palm Sunday Brisbane 2008

I would like to acknowledge the Turrabul and Jaggera people on whose land the people of Brisbane live and continue to profit from with no true recompense to the Jaggera or the Turrabul.

I am from a new veterans group called Stand Fast which is being launched nationally today. We have someone speaking at the rally in Melbourne today and someone in Sydney as well.

Stand Fast is a group of veterans and former military personnel who oppose the current wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We who have borne arms denounce these wars because:

· These wars are about money, power and fear.

· Soldiers are people; they are our neighbours, our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.

· Too many have died, often leaving behind partners, children and other loved ones.

· Many will carry the psychological scars for the rest of their lives.

Stand Fast seeks to add weight to the antiwar movement in Australia through organising veterans to speak out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and by debunking the myth that “If you’re against the war, you’re against the troops.

We are also encouraging current serving members of the Australian Defence Force to inform themselves about what is really happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will provide advice and support for those who may question serving in either of these wars. During the Vietnam War an anti-war movement grew within the U.S. that by 1971 had, in the words of one colonel, infested the entire armed services. This group added great strength to the anti-war movement and by the Pentagon’s own figures, 503,926 “incidents of desertion” occurred between 1966 and 1971; and by 1971 entire units were refusing to go into battle in unprecedented numbers. In 1972 there was fear among some generals that the majority of their armed forces would mutiny and take control if the Vietnam War did not end soon.

Stand Fast also draws inspiration from U.S. based group Iraq Veterans Against the War. Last year when Matt Howard from Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke in cities around Australia he said, “In Iraq you saw this testosterone filled bloodlust. A lot of people just shot things for the sake of shooting things. Buses, vehicles, houses, whatever. Donkeys, camels...people.” Today, Matt and hundreds of other veterans travel to schools, universities and demonstrations to speak out against the war. In Australia alone his one tour encouraged thousands to protest against these wars. It is his testimony and that of other veterans that is having strong pull on people in the U.S. to protest against these wars.

There are Australian casualties occurring everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan that no one sees or hears about. Through my own experiences as a former infantry soldier and veteran and through those of my mates I can tell you no one who sees active service comes back the same. Recent figures from America have shown that troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering 3 times more Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than their counterparts did on return from Vietnam. But it doesn’t just effect those who’ve been directly involved, it effects their children and even their grandchildren. A recent survey of 2500 children and grandchildren of Australian Vietnam veterans has found 70% of children and 30% of grandchildren suffer psychiatric or psychological problems. The average for Australia is 18%. So currently the thousands of Australians sent to Iraq and Afghanistan each year equates to tens of thousands of lives adversely effected either directly or indirectly by mental health problems that has a flow on effect through generations to come.

So military personnel are risking their minds as well as their bodies and for what are we as people and as communities paying this high price for? For what are Iraqi and Afghani civilians paying with their bodies and their minds for? It is being done for oil, in the interests of multi-national corporations and it is being done for strategic real estate for the U.S. military. Most people recognise this about Iraq but not everyone knows that the same reasons have brought about the occupation of Afghanistan. In 1998 Californian company UNOCAL withdrew from negotiations with the Taliban government after failing for several years to be allowed to build a gas pipeline from fields in Turkmenistan through Western Afghanistan to lucrative markets in Pakistan and India. The top negotiator for UNOCAL was fellow named Hummed Karzai. The same Karzai that is currently President of the puppet regime in Afghanistan which is comprised of warlord thugs who are no better to the people of Afghanistan than Taliban thugs they replaced. The pipeline however is back on the agenda.

Our new Prime Minister has called Afghanistan a ‘good’ war. It is not. It is no better than the war in Iraq and it is being done for the same reasons. But he knows this that is why he still supports the occupation of Iraq. Rudd has made a big public show of bringing the troops home from Iraq later in the year, but, when you look at the fine print he is only bringing back one third of the personnel currently over there.

That is why we need to keep coming out on the streets and why Stand Fast has formed. To show real support for the people in our armed forces, to show our real support for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan by demanding from the Rudd Government a true and complete troop withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you want further information about Stand Fast or if you are a veteran or have served in the armed forces of any country and would like to get involved (or know someone who would) please see me after the speakers have finished.

Bring the troops home now!

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