Matthew Reddin

Hello America, From Australia: Interfering in Foreign Elections?

During a press conference after the Geneva summit with Putin, President Biden asked what the world would think of the US if it were interfering in foreign elections. Um …

 

There was a collective outpouring of relief when your previous Commander in Chief was dispatched to irrelevancy in January. This outpouring was not only from the 80+ million people in the US who voted for Joe Biden, but also untold hundreds of millions, if not billions of people around the world who have turned their eyes to the light on the hill that is the US and seen … that, um … “arrangement” for the previous four years. Untold madness lay therein.

Few days would pass without my social media echo chamber being lit up with curiosities of the things the 45th president said. You’ve heard them all before; the bleach drinking, the 9th month abortions, the mocking the disabled, the “fine people on both sides” when one side was filled with neo Nazis. Classic hits of a bygone era (bygone, one hopes). So it comes to pass that occasionally the new president, Mr. Biden, might say something that’s dopey. Or misinformed. Or something that many should think an educated man shouldn’t say near (or into) an open microphone.

But there’s President Biden, opining about the Russian government’s involvement in the 2016 US election: “Let’s get this straight. How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries, and everybody knew it? What would it be like if we engaged in activities that [Putin]’s engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country that is desperately trying to make sure it maintains its standing as a major world power.”

Pretty wild stuff. Imagine if ice cream was sweet? Imagine if the sky was blue? Or that heavy metal gigs were loud? Imagine what that would mean!

Comically short sighted, I have to say. Because apart from America’s heavy-handed, often covert interventions in the elections and established governments of countries throughout the world—especially in Latin America (actually, I can’t say “especially” anything, you folks have been dipping your quill of oversight into many a geopolitical inkpot since WWII)—might I draw your attention to what was going on in my part of the world, with your country’s dirty fingerprints on it, in the early to mid-1970s.

Australia had been under conservative rule since 1949, when in 1972 a reformist, “radical,” progressive government led by a man named Gough Whitlam won the election. Immediately (and I mean, immediately after securing a certified election win), the Whitlam government released all our nation’s conscientious objectors to Vietnam from jail and took action to bring every last one of our troops home from the war.

Whitlam also considered taking steps against the American spy base at Pine Gap. As reported in The Guardian: Victor Marchetti, a CIA officer, said, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.” When Whitlam’s ministers (rightly) condemned the U.S. bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric,” a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

 

Imagine if ice cream was sweet? Imagine if the sky was blue? Or that heavy metal gigs were loud? Imagine what that would mean!

 

The Whitlam government, as visionary and reformist as it was (with net positive impacts made that resonate to this day), held office for just over three years, but fell victim to a hostile opposition, a hostile media, and more than a few instances of their own self-sabotage and ineptitude. They fell into the minority in the federal Senate; once the government’s supply bills were blocked and Whitlam refused to be coerced into another election, the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, took the unprecedented step of dismissing the government; essentially, sacking them and installing the opposition leader as “caretaker” prime minister. That man, Malcolm Fraser, immediately called an election, and the next month won it in a landslide.

It’s long been speculated that the sacking of Whitlam was prompted in whole or part by his threat to “out” CIA agents working in Australia, on top of his plans for Pine Gap. From the get-go, Whitlam’s government was seen by the Nixon administration as semi-legitimate at best, an assessment shared by the upper ranks of the CIA, ASIO, and ASIS. Whitlam’s Australian Labor Party was seen as socialist, anti-US-alliance, linked to communists. The usual red-baiting smears.

Then, of course, there was the man who dealt Whitlam his coup de grace, John Kerr. His career began in the Directorate (the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs, or DORCA, a mysterious think tank and possible intelligence organization within the Australian Army) in WWII, negotiating with groups including OSS (precursor to the CIA) to try and acquire British Borneo as an Australian post-war colony. In the late 1940s, he joined the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, a CIA front. He was tied up with the trade union right, who were funnelled money by US agencies including the CIA, in the ’50s and ’60s.

But the irony is, Whitlam himself appointed him to the role of Governor General. And it was on November 11th, 1975, that Whitlam had planned on using his parliamentary platform to out the two CIA operatives. But on that day, the Whitlam government was dismissed, the Fraser “caretaker” government was installed, and the rest is history.

Speculation as to the events of 1975 being a CIA “soft coup” abound, and it’s a series of events which is rife with questions, legal and geopolitical alike. But it should be noted that upon Malcolm Fraser’s government being elected in December 1975, one of its first acts was to extend the leases for the US bases at Pine Gap. Nixon was of course gone by this time, but the CIA was still firing on all cylinders.

This was touched upon in the 1985 film The Falcon and the Snowman, but that’s Hollywood, bro.

So, in short, I’m quite sure President Biden knows that what he’s saying is done with a fairly rose-tinted view of history, or maybe he’s just playing to the crowds, American exceptionalism, etc. He also knows that most of the political right won’t counterpunch this argument, because such things aren’t meant to be acknowledged, much less defended.

But as someone who lives in a country that cannot be 100% ruled out as having been the subject of CIA intervention in its domestic affairs, as my fellow countrymen would say, “Yeah, nah.”

 

Matthew Reddin

Matt Reddin has been writing nonsense about film, TV, books, music, and live theatre for a touch over 20 years. He’s gone from the halcyon days of street press in Perth, to regional dailies, national magazines, and major metropolitan newspapers. Now, in between bouts of sporadically yelling at clouds, he vents his creative spleen at www.lessercolumn.com.au

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