Olympics under the gun
by Marcus Browning A massive mobilisation of military personnel is under way in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics. Army counter terrorism units have been in heavy training for 18 months, specialising in boarding ocean-going vessels as well as in dealing with chemical, biological and radiological attacks. Almost the whole of the Australian military's special forces will be on 24- hour alert at a number of spots around Sydney starting in August and ending in October, after the Paralympics. This in addition to 30,000 private security personnel, the NSW Police Force and agents from the Federal Police, plus tens of thousands of Olympic volunteer workers who will be given powers to arrest and detain. Sydney in September will be a city under siege. A squadron of Black Hawk helicopters will wait in readiness at the Holsworthy army base west of Sydney. The Olympic Security Command Centre, which will coordinate operations, has pinpointed 115 places throughout Sydney as possible terrorist targets. The spectre of Osama bin Laden, number one on the CIA hit parade, has been conjured up, his suspected "connections" in Australia already under surveillance. In fact, unnamed sources told The Age newspaper last week that he had "connections throughout Australia". Intelligence agencies here have gone so far as to collect the names of thousands of people from around the world believed to be some how or other linked to bin Laden. Clearly Australia's Arab community is in for a barrage of harassment and racist abuse. And what about the three Hercules RAAF aircraft which will be capable at a moment's notice of moving assault units anywhere around the country? Presumably this is in case terrorists decide to attack the Games via Western Australia or Victoria or Queensland. All this in the name of Olympic security, even though security spokespeople and government representatives keep insisting that the possibility of an attack is "slim", "low", "unlikely". Twofold purpose The military involvement has a twofold purpose. Firstly, it is an ideal opportunity to practice the mobile strike force tactics and crowd control measures of the special units. These units have been created for just such action; to move swiftly to any "hot spot" in the region (after getting US approval of course) and if necessary crack down on dissent within Australia. Secondly, it is to serve as a public relations exercise to make the public feel secure in the knowledge that there is a crack defence force to protect them (so we feel "relaxed and comfortable", to quote Prime Minister Howard). Howard announced last week that military spending is to be increased in the 2001-2002 budget. To do that and maintain the precious budget surplus means there will be more cuts to funding of public services, more privatisations, more hardship. Thus, the Sydney Olympics will be used to soften up public opinion and to try to put a stopper on growing opposition to the government's economic terrorism.