by Bob Lesmeister
Its 1978. Oum, a young woman seven months pregnant, is herded along a dirt road with dozens of other people, among them her two younger sisters and elderly father. Armed guards, most of them no older than 20 years old, push and prod the hapless crowd into a clearing.
As she pleads for her life and the life of her unborn baby, a soldier splits her skull open with the butt of his rifle and kicks her aside. The same fate awaits her sisters and father. Children crying for their mothers are beaten until the ground is covered with blood and brain matter. Within an hour the entire clearing is covered with lifeless bodies or bodies quivering in the last throes of death.
Oum, like 2.2 million other innocent citizens of Cambodia, was a victim of her own government, ruled at the time by the Khmer Rouge.
This genocide occurred because the bulk of the populace had no way to defend itself. Cambodia and much of Indochina after World War II struggled under French domination, which included strict gun control for the average citizen. When the Khmer Rouge came into power in the 1970s, all arms were taken from non-party members, finishing the job the French had started.
Cambodia in the late 1970s was not an aberration. In the history of the world, what happened in that country has been repeated over and over. It usually takes three phases. First you disarm the people. Second, you apply a nationwide blanket of propaganda. And third, you destroy any and all who disagree or pose a threat to the government in power.
Lessons of History
In every single case in recorded history it has been shown that when a government is given or takes complete control, the inevitable results are corruption and mass murder. All we need to do is look at what has occurred in ancient Rome, Armenia in 1915, Germany of the 1940s, and Cambodia.
The question is: Will Australia be next?
The Australian government, after having forced its citizens to surrender their firearms, wants to give its standing army the power to shoot its own citizens. A bill that has already passed the House of Representatives would allow the army to mow down protestors and civil dissidents. Green Party Member of Parliament Bob Brown, realizing the potential for abuse, is cautioning the government to reconsider because the bill would allow the government to call out the army without first getting permission from the state or consulting with it first.
The bill, known as the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2000 (Aid to the Civilian Authorities) allows the army to use reasonable and necessary force to suppress civilians. Of course, the definition of reasonable and necessary are defined by the government. The bill would also allow the army to enter buildings without warrant, cordon off areas, erect barricades and stop vehicles in order to search and seize. The army would also have the authority to stop, search and detain civilians and seize personal property.
The most chilling portion of the bill would allow the army to use lethal force whenever the government decides it has reasonable grounds to believe that such action is necessary. Browns objection to the bill is that it does not define domestic violence, which is one of the reasons the armed forces would be given their shoot-to-kill orders.
Damien Lawson, a community legal educator at Melbournes Western Suburbs Legal Service, was quoted in the Aug. 10 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald as saying, domestic violence was so undefined that its really a political decision of the government of the day as to whether they think they can get way with using troops.
Three of Australias largest unions have joined Browns Green Party in opposing the shoot-to-kill bill. The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Maritime Union of Australia all call the shoot-to-kill bill a threat to democracy. These unions have a right to be worried as strikes and work shutdowns may be construed by the government as domestic violence and civil unrest, which would necessitate the use of lethal force on unarmed workers.
Labor Sen. Barney Cooney, chairman of a Senate committee charged with examining the impact of the shoot-to-kill bill, expressed his views in an Aug. 18 edition of The Herald. The Army and the police forces really exercise different functions. The function of the Army is to defend us from external forces. In civil society, the police are the ones that look after us. To confuse those functions, Cooney said, is very dangerous and should only be done in the most drastic of cases.
Cooney is very disturbed by the special powers given the military if the bill should pass. It does not detail the rights of citizens when detained, rights they would have if in police custody.
Realizing that history has a tendency to repeat itself, minorities in Australia are very worried about the shoot-to-kill bill. As in most governments where the military has the right to kill its citizens, minorities are the first to face the business end of a firearm. Their concern is shared by the New South Wales Labor Council.
Vietnamese, Filipino, Indonesian and Yugoslav workers fear they may be targets for the militarys bullets if they should decide to strike or protest work conditions. Many of the minorities in Australia fled there to escape their own governments shoot-to-kill mentality.
Prime Minister John Howard claims that minorities and other citizens have nothing to worry about, that the shoot-to-kill bill is aimed at curbing terrorism, not civil disobedience. But if hes so confident that this bill is so benign, why did the government attempt to rush it through Parliament at the last minute supposedly to get it passed in time to protect athletes during the Summer Olympics?
Vicki Bourne, spokesperson for the Democrats, expressed her doubts in the Aug. 22 edition of the Australian publication The Age. The government has known that the Olympics were to be held in Sydney for seven years. So why has it been left to the 11th hour to put this legislation before the Parliament? she asked.
Howard countered by expressing doubts that the shoot-to-kill authority would be abused. I dont think Australians will ever so far lose their common sense as to elect stupid people.
One wonders what makes Howard think that Australians are different than any other people living on this planet? History has shown that a government with the authority to set aside rights, while giving its military the power over life and death, will eventually decimate an unarmed populace.
Few doubt that it is just a coincidence that shoot-to-kill legislation is pushed by a government that recently passed and enforced some of the most restrictive anti-firearms laws in the world. Australia is a country where legal, government approved heroin shooting galleries are being established, where violent felons are systematically having their sentences cut by 25%, and where honest citizens can be jailed for owning a firearm. These are all factors that definitely contribute to civil unrest and a drastic rise in crime. The government, in a sense, has created the very atmosphere in which it deems it necessary to allow its military to shoot and kill civilians.
It has been over three years since Australia passed its onerous gun control law, which outlawed semi-auto shotguns and rifles, even .22-caliber firearms. Australians must now show a genuine reason for owning a gun before they get government permission to purchase, and the Australian law does not accept self-defense as a valid reason! All gun sales must also be registered with the police and every sale must be consummated by a dealer. Over 650,000 firearms banned by the Australian gun law and collected by authorities have been destroyed.
Has Australia become a safer country? Quite the opposite.
After dumping $500 million into its great gun ban, Australia is now facing a 3.2% increase in homicides, 8.6% increase in assaults, and a 44% increase in armed robberies. In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are up 300%. These figures from the government publication Firearm-related Violence: The Impact of the Nationwide Agreement on Firearms, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and Keith Tidswell, a spokesman for the Australias Sporting Shooters Association, reveal serious flaws in the governments efforts to take away gun-owning rights from its citizens. Howard prefers people not know that in the 25 years before his gun ban went into effect, crime in Australia had been declining steadily. ABS data also reveal that from 1979 to 1995, firearms ownership increased by 75% while firearms deaths decreased 46%.
According to the Australian Institute of Criminologys report, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, No. 70 Firearm-related Violence in Australia, May 1997, in the 10 years prior to the firearms ban, firearm suicides dropped by a third while the suicide rate by hanging, strangulation and suffocation rose 85%. In roughly the same period, more than 82% of the firearm homicides were committed with guns other than the types banned by the government.
In what has been a repeated pattern in all totalitarian societies, the government bans privately-owned arms, which leads to high crime rates and civil unrest which then precipitates a perceived need for the government to pass shoot-to-kill legislation to control a vulnerable, unarmed population.
With all of the understandable uproar over the shoot-to-kill bill and the firearms ban, there is an irony that is being overlooked. While the government has been attempting to keep so-called assault weapons out of the hands of its citizens, an Australian company is developing what may be the most significant change in firearms to date.
Metal Storm, working with the American firm Science Application International Corp., won a three-year, $10 million contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop an advanced combat rifle able to fire at a rate of 90,000 rounds per minute. This 21st century concept gun uses an electronic chip to initiate firing with no moving parts. Metal Storm recently demonstrated three prototype guns at a Department of Defense test center at Blossom Point Range, outside of Washington, DC. The three systems tested consisted of a 6-barrel 9mm, a 40mm grenade launcher and an electronic handgun. One can only hope that firearms such as these will not be used if and when an Australian prime minister gives the order, Shoot to kill.
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