by Don Franks
Last year, US ambassador Scott Brown clashed with our then prime minister Bill English, who’d described Trump’s threat to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea as “not helpful”.
In a TVNZ interview on October 15th , Scott Brown complained: “With respect to the prime minister, who I do have a lot of respect for, people either love the president’s tweets or they hate the president’s tweets. But this is how the president communicates and reaches his base, and it’s effective for him… I would refer your viewers to a recent Washington Post article that came out on October 11th saying that the president’s policy, after years of basically languishing, are actually working”. Scott Brown went on at some length to make it clear that in future he expected more compliance from New Zealand politicians.
Since the governing Labour/NZ First coalition has been going, the US ambassador has not needed to caution our government on matters of foreign policy. It would seem the lesson has been taken.
Soon after becoming prime minister, Ardern made it clear that her government would be prepared to support an attack on North Korea. Her statement was hedged around with talk of negotiations and UN resolutions but it was unambiguous. Military support was a last resort, but a resort no less. And there was no comment from her about Trumps’s continuing bellicose rhetoric being “unhelpful”.
On April 14th this year Jacinda Ardern declared that New Zealand “accepted” the US-British-French missile strikes on Syria. Ardern told reporters that her government had been informed about the attack hours in advance.
Asked by reporters if she would send troops to Syria, Ardern did not rule it out, responding: “That’s a hypothetical. We haven’t been asked.”
She said she would discuss the war with French, German and British leaders during an upcoming visit to Europe. When later conferring with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ardern firmed up her pro-war response, now saying she “utterly accepted” the need for attacks on Syria.
Like National, the Labour Party is no party of peace. Both support military alliances with Australia, the US and European powers in order to ensure their support for the NZ ruling elite’s own junior imperialist operations in the Pacific. That’s the logic of being a political party commited to the capitalist system. Labour has had no quarrel with the previous National Party government’s announcement in 2016 that $20 billion would be spent to upgrade the military over 15 years to make it “inter-operable” with the US and other allies.
Not everyone in New Zealand is of the same mind. A poll of more than 3,700 people by TVNZ last year found 90 percent opposed New Zealand involvement in Syria.
The people’s instincts are correct. The bombing of Syria should be widely condemned for what it is, imperialist encroachment on a foreign territory, in the interests of big power rivalry. This can only increase the death toll, displacement and the destruction in a war that has already claimed half a million lives and ruined the lives of many more.
What’s urgently needed in New Zealand is anti-war organization to mobilize the anti-war sentiments of the people and build solidarity with those resisting imperialist invasion.
Illusions that Labour might somehow serve the cause of peace only delay the building of a genuine anti-war movement.