We have been too passive and trusting

The Western imperialist destruction of Iraq helped create ISIS; now western leaders use its existence as a pretext for further intervention

by Don Franks

This morning’s DominionPost editorial ponders how many foreign people we should kill.

“America is back at war in the Middle East, and Prime Minister John Key is weighing up what to contribute. In truth, there are few options.

“The country has no offensive airforce, so it cannot join the bombing of Iraq like Australia and Britain. It is too soon for the kind of rebuilding work New Zealand did last time. Sending the SAS, a small group of special forces troops, seems highly likely.

“That will probably be the extent of our involvement, but there is no telling how the war may yet grow.”

Indeed. Conscription looks like an absurdity today – tomorrow it may not.

Air strikes will not be enough to ensure total western dominance.

A ground war might conceivably bash ISIS into submission, the Bush-led invasion came close – at a terrible price. Thousands of lives, billions of dollars, a ruined Iraqi state and the emergence of a ruthless resistance driven to assassination of aid workers.

Why should New Zealand decide to be involved at all?

Unless they are resisted powerfully from below, the decision will be made by our ruling class, in their interests. New Zealand’s contribution will then be the action of a junior imperialist power needing powerful friends. A state which makes its own independent decisions, conditioned by the need to keep in good with allies and trading partners.

The war launched by Obama’s administration in Iraq and Syria is not really about ISIS. That body has provided the latest pretext for imperialist intervention aiming  for US control over the oil-rich region.

What are people’s alternatives?

Labour doesn’t currently support sending NZ troops to Iraq but does not oppose US war in the region. Labour’s concern is soley about the most effective way to contribute.  Their foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer told TVNZ on September 28: “I don’t think we have the logistics and the type of weaponry. . . that would be useful” in the war.

When it comes to the crunch, Labour will be no use to war opponents. The party has a long record of supporting US imperialism and waging war in the interests of the NZ ruling class. The 1999-2008 Labour/Alliance  government had no hesitation in sending soldiers to Afghanistan. New Zealand SAS squads were complicit in various criminal operations, including an attack on a defenceless village that resulted in 21 civilian casualties.

Despite public opposition, Labour also sent 61 army engineers to Iraq in 2003. US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that the troops were sent in part so that New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra could keep its lucrative contract to supply Iraq, under the UN Oil for Food program.

These factors will weigh with our rulers this time round. As will the huge amount of trade New Zealand conducts with America’s upcoming rival – China.

We have been too passive and trusting. An internationalist focused anti-war movement is something New Zealand people urgently need to rebuild. The experience of Vietnam showed that such a movement can make a difference.

The recent parliamentary election campaign was notable for lack of serious anti-war agitation from any political party.

If Mana Movement wish to regroup as a radical alternative, here is plenty of scope.



  1. That was an odd interview, eh? She decided to be all hostile for some reason and take him on intellectually when she was really no match at all for him. She made herself look like a total jerk. I don’t if she ever recovered much credibility. I think a bunch of her colleagues would’ve had less respect for her ‘abilities’ after it, for instance.

    But I can’t imagine the media here offering much time to seriously critical voices. I watch a lot of al-Jazeera these days and it makes me realise just how crap our ‘mainstream’ media are, especially TV. They are an embarrassment.

    For instance, one of the things I noticed around the elections was how they personalised *everything*. I’ve never seen TV that so repeatedly *blocked* discussion of political issues and fixated on personalities.

    I almost felt sorry for some of the bourgeois politicians who did have something to say, regardless of my disagreements with their politics. We basically have an *anti-political* set of ‘political’ correspondents and interviewers.


    • I have a couple of Filipino flatmates. During the election results, I asked one of them what they thought about politics in NZ. Interestingly he stated that he see’s a lot of propaganda, but very little information on what the propaganda means. I then asked him what he means by propaganda. He stated all the billboards and TV advertisements. I then asked him if that’s what people in the Philippines refer to as propaganda. He said yes. I then told him that was interesting as propaganda is refereed to in NZ as something misleading mostly done by ‘non-democratic’ countries. He told me that back home politicians have no problem referring to what they do as propaganda and the phrase is an acceptable word. Goes to show the power of our own propaganda and those other western countries, that have convinced the majority of the population that we don’t use propaganda. I guess ignorance is strength and with our soon to be involvement in Iraq and Syria, war is peace.

  2. It’s like in lots of countries, politics is just part of the day-to-day topics of conversation. In new Zealand, people either shy away from talking politics or else you get part-way into a political discussion and they might be in agreement but then you reach a point where the conversation might have some actual ramifications (like for them to do something) and they start to look uncomfortable and shut down the discussion. We have a very philistine and nervous culture in this society, although often Maori don’t have the same inhibitions. People from the Pacific, Middle East, Latin America, parts of Asia like the Philippines, and also southern European countries are also more likely to be more comfortable discussing politics.

    Without wanting to fall into ethnic stereotypes, it seems a very pakeha thing to be wary about political conversations, especially when the subjects have practical ramifications.

    I often think this will be the last country in the world to have a revolution. However, then surprises can come along, like the militancy people were prepared to express around the 1981 tour. But since that 1981-1991 period, it’s like the country used up all its progressive radical energy and needs an indefinite period of recovery before another round of battle is commenced.

    The way so many people here shy away from political debate is also reflected on the left. A philistine society has produced a philistine left. On the other hand, in Australia, where you might expect the same, they have significant left sectors which have produced impressive analytical work, mainly people associated with the now-defunct CPA and, more recently, people associated with the IS tradition. There’s just no equivalent here.


  3. I’m indebted to a WSW article by Tom Peters for some of the research material quoted in this article.

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