When war comes home

It took a little while to sink in. The first indications we had that there was anything wrong, was that an ambulance headed for the gates of the peaceful blockade to the military base that peace activists had held strong for several days. Quickly, one of our number went to ask the police if the ambulance needed to get through. They instead turned around and drove away.

We then heard that one of our crew might have a broken nose. He came out through the gates dazed, bloodied, and holding the pants that had been cut off of him with a knife.

Pieces of the story came with each person who was released. And a piece of some of us got left behind. It is one thing to protest the nature of war, to stand sentry at the gates of a military base, to pass commentary on the tools and tactics of the special forces we were there to oppose. It is quite another to have torture tactics used so blithely, in such a casually mercenary way… on peaceful activists.

As each person recounted parts of their story… some were hooded, one threatened with rape, all abused, interrogated, some told they would ‘go for a swim’ whilst bound and hooded.. it slowly dawned on them, and all of us, that these were completely normal tactics and a way of operating for the SAS. Just a regular day in the office.

The same thoughts and conversations were shared by everyone… If they do this to peaceful activists they were expecting, on Australian soil… if they do this to the people whose taxes pay their wages… just imagine what horrors they inflict on people in war zones, people who have been arbitrarily been painted as the enemy by someone higher up … out of sight, out of mind…

And yes, they were expecting activists. The base had been closed down because of it, and the disciplined nonviolence of the mainly Christian activists participating has been on display for five years. This wasn’t a midnight raid out of the blue… in fact the SAS admitted they knew the activists were on the island in part due to a live radio interview an activist called in from the base.

So that is just how they roll apparently. Casual torture.

And unfortunately a handful of brave peace activists have paid the price for bringing this to light. I am really proud to have stood at the gates of Swan Island with them, and urge you to check their website and get involved – and to speak out against Abbott being able to decide on a whim to take us into another war he is too gutless to name as such.

As spokesman Greg Rolles said; waging all-out war on ISIS is an unnecessary response to recent terror threats: “Western military intervention has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the last fifteen years,” he said.

“The west has given these extremist groups a message of retribution to sell. “It is the best recruiting tool that ISIS could dream of.”

Rolles said governments should try to halt ISIS’s cash flow to weaken the group, so that a more peaceful, regional solution is possible.

“Instead of rushing in again, all guns blazing, we need to cut ISIS’s purse strings – arms embargoes, block oil supply channels,” he said.

The Swan Island Peace convergence and the community that has built around the annual blockades of the military base is truly an example of being the change we want to see. Kids are an important part of the community and contribute in their own ways, with thoughtfulness and reflection that far outstretches their years. Nonviolent direct action trainings are provided, skills and food are shared and for a few days out of their lives people stand in way. Stand in the way and say no to wars waged in our name, and our military facilities being used to train foreign and local intelligence agencies and elite military units, and aim drones at civilians in other countries. You can find out more via this video, and article, and see some of the photos and media here and here from the convergence.

And please show your support for activists by visiting their facebook page or tweeting #NoWar and #SIPC14 – there have been a range of responses and objections to their nonviolent resistance, a number of which have said… ‘what did they expect’ and ‘they deserved it’.

NO. No one deserves that. Not peaceful activists here, nor alleged enemies we have created for ourselves overseas.