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Vigil at Enoggera Barracks, Australia
My family have shared a back fence with the Enoggera Army Barracks since the late 1950's. My older brother Sean and I were raised during the long years of the Vietnam War next to this second largest military base in Australia. My parents are still there, the base is still there, the rifle range is audible form our home, the lowflying military choppers occasionally pass over our house and young men and women in uniform fill the aisles of the local Brookside Shopping Centre. Sean and I have spent 30 years in anti-war activism that has taken us to resistance actions, court secenes and prison from New York, London, Texas, Roxby, Jabiluka, Nurrunga, Cunungra, Carbahla, Amberley, Pine Gap, Nevada Nuclear Test Site to Dublin's Four Courts but never before had we been drawn to the gates of nearby Enoggera.
In March 07, troops were deployed form Enoggera to Iraq and that has brought the war close to home and us to the gates of Enoggera. We are joined by our younger brother Brendan and friends who too have been influenced by the nonviolent direct action praxis of the North American Catholic Worker Movement and faith based resistance network. Lisa Bridle, who we first met in the 1980's resisting first strike nucler war preparations, brings her sons Sean and Dec. Jim Dowling and Damien LeGoullon who have experimented with us in Catholic Worker communities and are both long time anti-war activists are present. Daniel who we came in contact with during the 1990's activism around East Timor brings his daughter Grace. Sr. Kay McPadden who works witht the local indigeneous community and has joined us on many civil disobedience actions is also present.
We are more of a tribe than an organisation. We have always been more concerned with spiritual reflection, nonviolent resistance and the rituals of solidarity and celebration than "campaigning", media profile, or the politics of branding, product placement and recruitment. I have recently escaped a prison sentence in Ireland being found "not guilty" of $US 2.5million criminal damage to a U.S. war plane headng for Iraq www.peaceontrial.com Jim Dowling is before the courts in Alice Springs at the end of this month for a citizen's inspection of the secretive U.S. warfighting Pine Gap base www.pinegap6.org We continue to wrestle with questions of faith, nonviolence, raisnig children, life over the long haul in a world rushing towards ecological destruction and war. We do this in a context of community and as Woody Guthrie told us "we know the secret to life is turning up!" when the powers would simply like us to go away.
We gather to vigil against ongoing Australian complicity in the invasion and war on Iraq. In the radical Catholic tradition, to vigil is to remain awake while society slumbers in a time of peril. This is such a time as the war escalates and expands in the Middle East and when Australian society remains largely disengaged and the anti-war movement invisible. A changing of the Government guard offers little hope as the Labor Party who lead us so enthusiastically into Gulf War 1 and so recently completed the final chapter of the anti-uranium sell out prepares to take over the franchise. So we gather on Wardell St, Enoggera at the intersection to the main entrance to the base.
The theme of our weekly vigilis to reach out in solidarity to those being used as cannon fodder. Our signs state....
-"Refuse to Serve the Illegal Invasion of Iraq!"
-Invading Iraq Has Nothing to Do with Defending Australia!"
-"Bring Our Troops Home!"
- www.ivaw.org Listen to Iraq Veterans Against the War
The traffic is a gridlocked crawl and we soon realise the power of this locality and context. A drama is unfolding in Australia around this war in Iraq but it appears cocooned in the military community. 60+ uniformed military personell crawl by in cars during our 90 minute vigil.
Responses range from a supportive thumbs up to disciplined blanking to verbal abuse and to the surreal
Young soldier on motorbike shaking head vigoriously
Me "What's the problem?"
Soldier "But I want to go overseas!"
Me "Great aspiration! How about backpacking or youth hostels, just don't go to war!"
An older man holds up a wallet size photo of his son, I assume he's deployed. A young soldier and his partner living nearby walk up to investigate. Two out of uniform soldiers screech recklessly to a halt, oblivious to the traffic pile up they are causing, the passenger door flies open. They accuse us of trying to incite people to abuse them. I assure them that I have several friends who are American vetearns of this war and we are not here to abuse them or him. We are here because we are concerned about them and the people of Iraq.
For the last few years the Australian forces have been deployed relatively safely in a southern Shiite province of Iraq. That community has played along with the occupation as they have initially benefited. That arrangement is rapidly coming to an end, an Australian convoy was attacked four times in less than 24 hours last week. The digger who copped the sophisticated IED coming through the floor of his armoured personnel carrier is now in Darwin hospital. As the year rolls on the realities of this war will continue to come home. This corner outside Enoggera Army Barracks will become an increasingly relevant place to take a stand.
I have a hunch if all those people in Australia who oppose this war stood publicly with a sign for one hour a week on their campus, near a military base, government office we would soon have a vibrant and visible anti-war movement. If 1% of those who had marched against this war had gone into serious nonviolent resistance in the spirit of Ghandi and Martin Luther King and had gone to jail resisting this war - the Australian government would have a serious problem following U.S. orders and waging it.
Make contact for more info about the Enoggera Vigil
Ciaron Ph. 0432 023 188
Sr Kay & Jim