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VIDEO: Protesters say war sucks social and economic capital

Talisman Sabre protesters outside Rockhampton Court House late last year.
Talisman Sabre protesters outside Rockhampton Court House late last year. Sharyn Oneill Rokscourt

TOMORROW one of the world's largest warships, the USS George Washington, docks in Brisbane ahead of the 2015 Exercise Talisman Sabre at Shoalwater Bay.

The nuclear-powered warship and its 6000 sailors will join with Australian, New Zealand and Japanese troops for the joint training exercises from July 4.

Along with the troops come the protesters, on a mission to slow down and disrupt the international war exercises.

Activist Greg Rolles, a former soldier and the holder of a Master's Degree in International Relations, flies in the face of the stereotype peace protester.

Mr Rolles says he is not opposed to a trained military, but to the US Alliance and the wars the alliance has dragged Australia into.

"Wars like Afghanistan and Iraq have come at a huge personal and financial cost into the billions of dollars," Mr Rolles said.

"In 2003 we were involved in a huge scale support of Iraq that killed 1.3 million civilians and left the place in tatters.

"My first concern is the victims of war, the Australian soldiers and innocent people being killed… we need to step back for a moment and think what the best response is.

"It's an issue that isn't talked about much in Australia, but it sucks so much of our social and economic capital."

Mr Rolles joined the Australian Army in 2000. He was in basic training and preparing to move into electronic warfare on September 11, 2001.

"I started to question when it was morally right to kill someone," he said.

"Individually, a lot of officer cadets would talk to me about why we were killing all these people, but in a group everyone towed the line."

He left the army in 2003 and says the transition to peace activist was "an evolution".

Mr Rolles believes the best response to the current threat from Islamic State is to encourage an arms embargo and to stop buying oil from ISIS.

"The Syrian government is buying oil from ISIS and that's what funds a lot of their operations… they control the oil fields," he said.

"The Pro Shiite militia in Western Iraq, the Al Nusra Front operating in Syria or the Free Syrian Army have all been accused of human rights abuses as bad as ISIS, but they don't advertise it on video and social media.

"ISIS is looking for a response from the West, for military engagement.

"Lots of powers are flooding arms into the region, but there's no talk between US, Russia and Europe about how many weapons are being sold and who is selling them.

"That's one way you could use the United Nations... Germany has proposed an arms embargo.

"As it is, complex factions are fighting each other with cheap weapons.

"What else do you do when people are bombing your family? These people are desperate."

Mr Rolles and his friends operate under the principles of non-violence, though not necessarily the law.

He says it would be great if people contacted their local members to protest, but activists are planning to trespass on Shoalwater Bay.

"I understand why people are reluctant to engage with us, but I think we need to talk a bit deeper about the actual cost and what these war exercises are all about.

"Community, communication and peace-building is how we build a just, secure peace."

Topics:  shoalwater bay military training talisman sabre 2015



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