As some sort of counter to all the nationalist nonsense that pervaded New Zealand over the weekend, there were three excellent opinion pieces published by this country’s leading leftwingers, which I’m linking to. Matt McCarten’s Herald on Sunday column was entitled We’re still hanging on to the Empire’s coat tails and argued that New Zealand is still heavily committed to waging wars against innocent citizens and nations around the world, including against the people of Afghanistan. Our political leaders are thus hypocritical when they spout ‘the solemn message that we must not forget the fruitlessness of war’ while do exactly the opposite and continue to blindly follow the lead of Britain the US in places like Vietnam and Afghanistan. He points out that ‘We rightly got bloody noses from the Turkish conscripts who were defending their lands’ in Gallipoli in 1915. Chris Trotter blogged an excerpt from his No Left Turn book, that explains that New Zealand sent our troops to kill and die, not for freedom and democracy, ‘but to strengthen the sword-arm of one of the most brutal autocracies on the face of the planet’. Furthermore, ‘ANZACs slaughtered tens of thousands of young Turks so that the British and their French allies could carve up the territories of the Ottoman Empire between them – an act of diplomatic depravity which continues to generate death and despair across the Middle East to this very day’ – see, The Blood of Its Sons. And finally, John Minto writes, Why I won’t be wearing a red poppy, explaining that ‘it's deeply disrespectful’ to those that died to pretend that the World War I ‘deaths were for some greater good’. Instead it was ‘mindless, jingoistic madness which led a generation of young New Zealanders to be decimated on the far side of the world’.
A guest blog post by John Moore on the issue of sanctions argues that much of the New Zealand left make a bad call when they demand the boycott of oppressed third world countries such as Burma/Myanmar. [Read more below]
A critical guest blog post on the National League for Democracy by John Moore
The anti-junta uprising in Myanmar/Burma, and its violent suppression by the military force, has placed the concerns of this county on the international stage. In New Zealand, political oganisations ranging from the National Party through to the Greens and ‘far-left’ Socialist Worker have issued statements of uncritical support for the pro-democracy movement. The military regime is clearly despised by a vast majority of the population in Myanmar/Burma. However, leftists who want to support the people of Myanmar/Burma should cast a critical eye on those leading the ‘pro-democracy’ movement there. By examining the policies of the Aung San Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy (NLD), the less than positive implications of an NLD-led government coming to power can be deduced. (Read more below)
Labour has launched a '10-year, $8 billion plan to re-equip and man' the Defence Forces. This and other facts about the NZ military have just come to light, with the release of an independent report on the health of the defence forces. Most significantly, these facts shed some light on what the Labour Government's expenditure priorities have been since coming to power, as well as its orientation towards militarism and the armed forces. It seems that after significant cuts to defence spending by the National Government, Labour has been keen to modernise the military by way of massive spending increases on equipment. [See more below]
Tomorrow is Anzac day - whereby an increasing number of people are being fed the lie that thousands of New Zealanders died fighting for freedom and independence. What people forget, is that it was NZ that was invading Turkey. What had Turkey ever done to us? Well, John Minto has written a brilliant and striking riposte in the Press to all the false commemoration of war - especially in terms of Anzac day and the First World War. Minto correctly argues that World War I - like most wars that NZ has been involved in - was fought for control of resources and markets. Instead of dying in a moral fight, the NZ conscripts died on a giant Monopoly board of European struggle for the control of empires, driven by greed, envy and suspicion. Minto also corrects the myth that NZers are a peace-loving people, when in fact our warmongering governments send troops off to fight unjust wars about every 10 years. We should be shamed that NZ is one of the harshest in its treatment of conscientious objectors, and also by the fact that 'In the entire history of human warfare no country has proportionally sent a greater number of troops a greater distance to fight a war than this little country of ours did in 1914.' As Minto says, we should be honouring the dead by demanding 'No more wars'. See also: Matt McCarten's column, Anzac story a sordid tale of world domination and death.
The Iraqi man who four years ago was broadcast around the world symbolically slamming a sledgehammer into the statue of Saddam Hussein now says he is filled with nothing but regret. According to a new TV documentary, Kadhim al-Jubouri says, 'I really regret bringing down the statue. The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day.' He was previously held in Abu Ghraib, and says Saddam 'was like Stalin', yet to him, 'the occupation is proving to be worse'.
NZ's military participation in the US War on Terror is set to continue for many more years. The Labour Government has just announced that they will spend a further $30m keeping about 130 NZ troops in Afghanistan for at least another year. Echoing George Bush's slogan that it will be a war without end, Helen Clark says she envisages the troops will be there beyond next year as well. [Read more below]
The War on Terror struggles onwards towards defeat. Tariq Ali has written an excellent piece on the tragedy of Afghanistan, reminding us that 'It is much better for regime-change to come from below even if this means a long wait as in South Africa, Indonesia or Chile. Occupations disrupt the possibilities of organic change and create a much bigger mess than existed before'. In Iraq, elite US commanders say they 'face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat'.
But NZ's prime minister continues to abstain on these issues. Lately she has been flatly refusing to state the government's position on the ongoing occupation of Iraq - as discussed in this WSWS article. Once an opponent of the US military intervention in Vietnam, Clark now says, we shouldn't 'get involved in a debate about what other countries should do with their troops'. And now she's going to meet with US President George Bush. Clark says that the talks will not talk about the US's illegal wars of aggression, despite the Iraq occupation currently being the biggest issue in international affairs. NoRightTurn says that Clark will be 'Shaking hands with a torturer', and 'Any decent person would refuse to meet' with Bush.
If any further indication is needed of the Labour Government's foreign policy, note that it has quietly resumed military ties with Indonesia, to the astonishment of human rights groups.
It has been revealed that NZ troops in Afghanistan have been complicit in American war crimes. The Herald reports today that in 2002 NZ SAS captured 50-70 terrorist suspects in 'snatch-grab' missions and handed them over to the US armed forces. Rather than being treated as prisoners of war - which would have give them the protections of internationally agreed procedures - the suspects 'had their heads shaved, no photos or ID taken and their belongings thrown into a single pile'. Despite the New Zealanders having serious doubts about the treatment of the prisoners, neither the then Defence Minister Mark Burton, or the current one, Phil Goff, claim to have been informed of 'operational level' issues relating to this. It is possible that the suspects were sent to Guantanamo Bay.
NZ still have 116 troops in Afghanistan - allegedly involved in 'reconstruction'. NoRightTurn correctly comments that 'Helen Clark's decision to send the SAS to Afghanistan has seen New Zealand troops become complicit in American war crimes. And that is something we should hold her accountable for.'
A new book is launched today in Wellington: Negligent Neighbours: New Zealand's Complicity in the Invasion and Occupation of Timor Leste. Written by Maire Leadbeater, the book details how both National and Labour governments have provided private or tacit support for Indonesia's occupation of East Timor. The book says that New Zealand officials and ministers didn't want to rock the book with Indonesia, even in regard to the murder of a New Zealander in East Timor. NZ even told Indonesia that it would play down the invasion of the country.
Last weekend's Sunday Star-Times editorial (and news review) was scathing about NZ's role, and placed the governments' role in the context of Cold War 'realism':
Hard-headed diplomats in western capitals made a conscious decision to feed East Timor to the Indonesian beast. They did not want a small, easily sacrificed nation to upset an important ally in the Cold War. They feared Fretilin would take Timor into the communist camp, although Fretilin was actually a social democratic movement. They decided that independent Timor, in short, would be better dead than red.
The newspaper, along with Leadbeater, is especially critical of NZ diplomats who played a central part in East Timor's oppression because they didn't want to 'harm our own relations with Indonesia'. The newspaper says: 'Diplomats in particular have created an aura of expertise in order to protect their power. Foreign affairs, they would have us believe, is a high intellectual mystery open only to the specially-trained. In fact, this is nonsense. Thirty-one years after the first massacre, who has been proved right about East Timor? Not the highly-educated and well-informed officials who thought Timor could be quietly suppressed.'