As always with a blog, a planned article, this time on immigration and migrant workers, gives way to breaking news. Oh well perhaps for the next issue the world will be a more orderly place and fit itself around my world.
SYRIA IS UPPERMOST IN MY MIND this week as it is for many. An aunt came to see me to urge that I press my son to come home from the Netherlands. She was somewhat relieved when I showed her where Syria was in relation to the Netherlands on a world map. But as the United States readies it awesome military machine to kill Syrians as innocent sacrifices for their geo-political aims I understand the fears of people of my aunt’s generation who went through World War Two.
But the brinkmanship of the US President has clarified two important issues. One is answering who and what Obama stands for. The second is how far National has taken us away from an independent foreign policy.
Obama was the hope of so many. The first black president who spoke of a new world so different from that of the hardline Bush Republicans. I remember Labour MP Chris Carter, Labour’s man at the 2008 US election, enthusiastically relating to me how Obama was changing the face of American politics. The face maybe but not the body. Obama’s voting record on Iraq, healthcare. Palestine and American foreign policy in general should have urged caution to those who rushed into his camp. And the obvious question was not asked by so many: how would a candidate who was given more corporate funding than Bush be anything else but the CEO of US Imperialism Inc.?
And so it has proved to be. Corporate America and the one per cent sit high in the saddle, Guantanamo functions still, illegal settlements continue in the West Bank, China is to be contained and now the usual might is right policy is being followed over Syria while the whole world knows the real target is Iran. A strike on Syria will also demonstrate the ability to use American military power to protect its empire.
Internally the repressive legislation of the Bush era such as the National Security Act and the Patriot Act stay on the books and wholesale spying on the American population, so envied by the Key government for its scope, carries on at higher and higher levels. The rhetoric about nuclear disarmament is just that – rhetoric. Obama’s Vienna speech vowing nuclear disarmament t was hogwash from a practiced Madison Avenue expert. The United States, under the imprimatur of its current President, was already busily planning the next generation of nuclear weapons as it readies itself to blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons.
And with this contribution to the possibility of world suicide the world is expected to take seriously the expressed concern of Obama and his allies in Britain and France, also members of the MAD fan club, about the possible use of chemical weapons by Dictator Assad.
It is also worth remembering that these 3 have been the largest sellers of the ingredients to make chemical weapons including those weapons that Saddam used on the Kurds without a murmur r of protest at the time by the US, Britain or France because he was their ally in bringing Iran to heel.
And the most extensive use of chemical warfare on record is that of the United States with its chemical spraying of Vietnam the awful legacy of which haunts Vietnam today and is carried on down the generations with high rates of cancer and birth deformities. No – one, in their right mind, suggested attacking the United States for this illegal and immoral form of warfare.
And what does Syria tell us about the National government. John Key has been cautious. He has tried to strike a diplomatic tone suggesting a thoughtful and studied approach. But his aim is clear in not condemning outright the threat of military intervention. It is to show the United States that it does not need to fear any outbreak of principle from him or his ministers.
There won’t be any condemnation of a clear breach of international law both in the threat of force or when it actually comes. Instead it will be that sadly the United State had to do what a man had to do. And Syrians have to die.
Concerned that Britain’s Parliament, fearful of the British electorate that has simmered with anger at the lies of the Blair government that got them into the illegal war on Iraq, might influence New Zealand’s chamber, Key has already made it clear that his cabinet will decide the stance to be taken not Parliament. That’s democratic principle for you.
The nuclear policy of 1987 may not have gone by lunchtime but it is not to be mentioned in polite company whether at breakfast, lunch or dinner.
And not for Key – the firm and principled stance and leadership of Helen Clark against the blatant illegality of Iraq. His is the politics of chicanery and mealy mouthed phrases so that the United States can be assured that New Zealand is right back to square one as a loyal junior partner for American foreign policy.
Obama already go that message loudly and clearly when Key scrapped the position of a separate Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control and signed up to the US Pacific strategy of containment of China , albeit not as enthusiastically as Rudd and Gillard given our growing dependence on trade with China. Come another Vietnam, Iraq or Iran and under National it will be Cold War ground hog day all over again.
For the 3 candidates for Labour leadership a clear challenge is posed. Each of them should say whether they will allow this slide to subservience to continue or whether they will recommit Labour to boldly and firmly follow a genuine independent foreign policy. Such a policy is as important to New Zealand’s place in the world as being “ clean and green”.