Red Alert

Archive for the ‘peace’ Category

NZ and the disarmament agenda – where are we?

Posted by on December 19th, 2013

The nuclear disarmament agenda has been gathering pace internationally in 2013 but our government has been ignoring, or just missing, every opportunity to do anything to advance it.

We had a great statement on it read at the UNGA recently by our disarmament ambassador, but that was despite Murray McCully, not because of him. She has been withdrawn from Geneva and sent back to Wellington, and the poor sole rep in Geneva is left there defending our interests and trying to advance the agenda without any instructions from government in Wellington.

The humanitarian rationale for non-proliferation and dismantling of nuclear weapons is gaining traction internationally. The impact of even one nuclear bomb being detonated (they are so much more powerful now than in 1945) will have catastrophic implications for the global environment and climate, food production and security, economics and politics, that winding back our collective arsenals and decommissioning nuclear warhead production is the only sensible way forward.

There are more or less 17,270 nuclear weapons in the world right now, of which 4,400 are on high alert, or ready to be used immediately. $1.75 trillion USD is spent annually on military expansion. Just 9 countries spend $100billion USD per annum, that is nearly $300million USD daily, on nuclear weapons. Just imagine what we could do if……

NZ had an opportunity to assist Obama and the US in his ambitious programme for the de-escalation of this threat to humanity, but John Key only saw it as a photo op. What a waste. It’s time he moved over and let someone who actually cares about NZ’s role in the world take over. David Cunliffe will do nicely.

Nicky Hager: Uncomfortable truths, NZ foreign policy in the ‘war on terror’

Posted by on May 4th, 2013

Author and investigative journalist Nicky Hager delivered this year’s Capt Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture. He draws on his book Other People’s Wars, telling the story of New Zealand’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan over the decade of the ‘war on terror’.  As I say in my introduction, I think it is a cautionary tale for any future Labour-led government with a progressive, independent foreign policy. I am proud of the determination shown by Helen Clark and the Fifth Labour Government to keep New Zealand out of the invasion of Iraq. Nicky marshals some persuasive evidence that the military and intelligence establishment saw the ‘war on terror’ as an opportunity to work their way back into close operational engagement with our former ANZUS allies and worked assiduously to make this happen, in a way that at times undermined the Government’s foreign policy position.

Here’s Nicky Hager delivering the fifth Capt Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture.

On behalf of the North Shore committee of the Labour Party thanks to Nicky for adding to the Jack Lyon tradition; and thanks also to all the volunteers who made this year’s event a success: Frances; Michelle, Heather and the kitchen team; Syd for the PA, Kane for recording the speech; as well as Mark, and Danielle at Paradigm for the programme.

So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun, and they sent me away to the war

Posted by on April 24th, 2013

Every ANZAC Day I have the Pogues singing And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda in my ears.  It’s a melancholic rambling ballad about the young men who left Australia to fight in Gallipoli, written by Eric Bogle but immortalised  by the great Shane MacGowan and the Pogues. It is a classic yarn in the anti-war tradition. When I get up tomorrow morning and pin my poppy on, and head off to the dawn ceremony at Waikumete I’ll be humming along. At the Te Atatu ceremony, and then Henderson service later in the morning, and then back to the local RSA for lunch and a beer, it will be my soundtrack.

ANZAC Day has become such an important fixture. A day when we remember those who gave their lives for their country, and reflect on war and peace, and how both have shaped the country we are today.

The version below is from the Pogues’ 2012 Australian tour. Wish they’d come to New Zealand! Stay with it through the shaky camera at the beginning, it is worth it.

Have a good ANZAC Day everyone.


Nicky Hager to deliver this year’s Jack Lyon

Posted by on April 13th, 2013

This year’s  Capt Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture will be delivered by author and investigative journalist Nicky Hager – Uncomfortable truths: NZ foreign policy in the ‘war on terror’.

Drawing on his acclaimed book Other People’s Wars, Nicky will tell the story of New Zealand’s role in the war on terror. Based on thousands of leaked New Zealand military and intelligence documents, extensive interviews with military and intelligence officers and eye-witness accounts from the soldiers on the ground, he shows how the military and bureaucracy used the war on terror to pursue private agendas, even when this meant misleading and ignoring the decisions of the elected government.

Each year around Anzac Day, the North Shore Labour Electorate Committee hosts the Capt Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture in memory of Jack Lyon who was the MP for Waitemata, part of which later became the North Shore electorate. Jack Lyon served in the first Labour Government and volunteered to fight in World War Two. He died fighting in Crete. The annual lecture is a forum to discuss issues of war and peace, and national identity. Previous lecutres have been delivered by Gaylene Preston, Maui Solomon, Glyn Harper, and Bob Tizard.

5pm Sunday 28 April.  1st Floor, 7 The Strand, Takapuna (next to the Library), Auckland.

Tickets $20 from Frances Bell, 09-445 6178. There will be no door sales.

Hibakusha and a nuclear-free convention

Posted by on August 9th, 2012

When I taught English a lifetime ago, I used to teach John Hersey’s “Hiroshima”. This week I met two hibakusha (survivors of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) in person for the first time in my life. It was very affecting. She was 80; he was 73.  She is Shigeko Sasamori and he is Michi Hirata. They were inspiring. If you want to see some pictures of their visit, go to Mary Wareham’s flickr page . Thanks to Mary for those pics. To hear their stories is to go back to my 5th form English class and revisit why it was a good idea that Hersey’s work was part of the curriculum. It is still  a good idea.

 Today is the anniversary of the Nagasaki bomb. The Hiroshima bomb was dropped on 6 August 1945. On Sunday of this week (Aug 5), Grant Robertson and I attended the annual commemoration of the dropping of those bombs on Japan in 1945. At the commemoration, students from Heretaunga College spoke about why they, who have only ever been told stories and read stuff, are ardently in favour of a nuclear-free world. They were inspiring too.

Next week, Parliament will receive a report from the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee – an all-party report, with no minority report – proposing that New Zealand join with other like-minded countries to advance a convention prohibiting the development, stockpiling, transfer and use of nuclear weapons. This is in response to a petition from Edwina Hughes on behalf of the Peace Movement Aoteaora.  Officials advised us against it, as something which would not be supported by the major powers.  Sure, that might be so. Should that stop us from aiming for the stars? The committee said no. Officials said that about cluster munitions at the time, and we got a treaty on that. This could just be the start of the next step towards a nuclear-free world. Too idealistic? God (or someone) protect us from politicians without ideals. You can read the report here. I await the government’s response in 90 days.

Happy anniversary.





Turning up

Posted by on June 28th, 2012

It was disappointing to see my Depleted Uranium Prohibition Bill go down last night. With a 60-60 vote it doesn’t proceed.

And it was a shame that although support from Labour, the Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, Mana, and United Future should have delivered a one vote majority, the Maori Party cast only two votes instead of their full three.  The party has explained that Pita Sharples was away at the tangi of Hoani Waititi but casting only two votes meant they can only have had one of their three MPs in the House. Rules allow three votes if they have two or three of their MPs in the House, and two votes if only one is present.

Pita Sharples’ office has since apologised to me, saying they didnt realise the vote would be so tight. I appreciate that, but I did email their Whip and his assistant yesterday to say that we were relying on them voting their full quota to deliver the bill majority support.

First rule of democracy: you have to turn up.

Uranium weapons bill a chance for NZ to lead

Posted by on June 27th, 2012

My Depleted Uranium Prohibition Bill is likely to get a first reading tonight. It is a chance for New Zealand to take a lead on banning the Agent Orange of the 21st century.

Depleted uranium is the by-product of processing uranium ore for use in nuclear reactors or bombs. It is incredibly hard and is used in armour piercing munitions. It ignites on impact and disperses a radioactive smoke which is also chemically toxic causing heavy-metal poisoning.

The US and UK used depleted uranium munitions in the 1991 Gulf War, in the Balkans in 1999, and in Iraq in 2003. They may have also been used in Afghanistan since 2001 although this is denied by the US. You might have seen a story by Michael Field in the Sunday Star Times reporting that NZ soldiers are urine-tested on return from Iraq and Afghanistan to check their exposure.

There is growing international concern about depleted uranium weapons. About one-third of the 800,000 US veterans of the 1991 Gulf War now claim disablity benefits for mystery illnesses, and depleted uranium has been suggested as one of the risk factors for the syndrome. There has been a sharp upsurge in cancers and birth deformities in Iraq after 1991 and 2003, most recently in Fallujah which was the scene of heavy US bombardment in 2004.

Medical studies conclusively linking depleted uranium weapons to health effects on civilians and combatants have not been done. The military powers using these weapons are secretive and obstructive. But there is growing concern and enough medical evidence that depleted uranium is a potential hazard to warrant a precautionary approach.

My bill bans depleted uranium weapons just like New Zealand has banned nuclear weapons, landmines and cluster munitions. Until the military users of these weapons are prepared to open up their records and allow conclusive scientific studies on the health risks I believe we should outlaw their use.

Belgium and Cost Rica have already legislated bans. If New Zealand adds its voice to this growing international movement we can make a real difference.

I am expecting the Opposition parties will support the bill to select committee. National MPs have indicated they won’t support it, and the International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons has replied to their concerns in an open letter published here.

You can bet that if depleted uranium weapons were being used on New Zealand soil we would take the precautionary approach. We owe the same duty of care to civilians exposed to depleted uranium in war.

Larry Ross – in memoriam

Posted by on April 24th, 2012

“Peacenik” is a word which will only resonate with a few, but Larry Ross’s work for the anti-nuclear movement resonated far and wide.

Born in 1927, Larry Ross died last week at the age of 84. He founded the NZ Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Committee in 1981. His work at local government level saw the establishment of 105 nuclear free zones across New Zealand. That work was pivotal in building an anti-nuclear movement which culminated in New Zealand’s nuclear-free status enshrined in the Nuclear Free Zone Act of 1987.

Larry’s contribution to the peace movement in New Zealand was extraordinary. His commitment to a nuclear-free world was absolute and he achieved more than one person could ever expect to achieve, by galvanising neighbourhood peace groups and working from the ground up to build a robust and effective anti-nuclear peace movement, expressed locally and globally.

Rest in that peace you worked so hard for Larry. The NZ Labour Party salutes you and your years of commitment. Our thought and condolences go to Larry’s family and loved ones.

Gaylene Preston on remembering the war

Posted by on April 20th, 2012

Every year around ANZAC Day the North Shore Labour Electorate Committee puts on the Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture.  Jack Lyon was a Labour MP in the First Labour Governnent and the Member for Waitemata which back then covered the North Shore. He gave up his seat in Parliament and volunteered to fight in World War Two. He was killed by German fire in the evacuation of Crete. Jack Lyon was a left wing social democrat, and an internationalist who gave his life fighting fascism.

This year’s speaker is celebrated film maker Gaylene Preston. Gaylene will show excerpts from two of her recent films and talk about how we remember the war, and what exactly we are trying to remember. War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us, and Home By Christmas (trailer above) were inspired by Gaylene’s parents’ stories of their wartime experience. Home By Christmas with the wonderful Tony Barry playing Gaylene’s Dad, brings to life the Kiwi wartime experience; the young man heading off to fight and his family left behind to wait. War Stories is pure oral history, with Kiwi women telling moving and often hilarious stories of their war.

The Jack Lyon lecture series is a way to remember and celebrate what Jack Lyon stood for, and what he died for.  Each year the lecture deals with a different aspect of war and peace and national identity.  The inaugural speaker was Hon Bob Tizard who served in WW2 and later as a Cabinet Minister in the 3rd and 4th Labour Governments. The next year military historian Glyn Harper talked about the battles of the Western Front and how WW1 shaped modern New Zealand. Last year Moriori leader Maui Solomon talked about the ancient peace culture of the Moriori.

If you want to come along and hear Gaylene Preston tell war stories, book your ticket ($20) by emailing or phone 09 445 6178. The event is at 5pm this Sunday 22 April, 1st floor, 7 The Strand, Takapuna.

Release of Overseas Aid policy

Posted by on October 11th, 2011

Today I released our Overseas Development Assistance policy. This is one point of distinct difference we have from the Nats in the Foreign Affairs basket of interests and issues. The points are simple:

1. Restore poverty elimination as the primary focus of overseas aid, as opposed to economic development, as the Nats have prioritised. Get back on board with achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially here in the Pacific, and that includes education to improve literacy, access to health services like maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS prevention programmes, sexual and reproductive health programmes.  Stop handing aid dollars out to business friends without tender, so they can line their own pockets AND feel good about themselves at the same time.

2. Redevelop a strategic partnership with the NGO sector and develop best practice again, as we were known for previously. If there are inefficiencies in aid delivery through NGOs, let’s sort that out, but let’s not alienate some of our experts by adopting McCully’s “4 legs good, 2 legs bad” approach to the sector. In other words, if it comes out of the private sector, it must be good. If it comes out of the not for profit or, god forbid, the public sector, it must be bad.

3. We will set up NZAID with semi-autonomous status, taken back out of MFAT and based on sound principles of development analysis and research. Stop the blurring of the boundaries between aid and foreign policy objectives where it is too easy to slip into chequebook diplomacy.

4. We will build on our experience in reconstruction and peace-making to develop a specialist capability in mediation and conflict resolution.

Those are the main points. You can see the whole thing here. Comments welcome.

Tweet of the Week

Posted by on July 24th, 2011

Moana is unable to post this week. I am the ring in. So I shall start with a King and end with a Queen (yes I will)

PS: I don’t think my layout is as good as hers

These words give us all strength and courage

NorwayUN NorwayUN

King Harald of #Norway: “when the nation is tested, the strength, cohesion and courage of the Norwegian people becomes evident.” #Utøya

15 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

and these

@andy_williamson Andy Williamson

RT Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg: “The answer to violence is even more democracy. Even more humanity” Hope our world leaders are listening

23 hours ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

Retweeted by Roselady64 and 100+ others

and these

olavkjorven Olav Kjorven

Deeply saddened by senseless attacks in Norway. Thanks for outpouring of support from around the world to a hurt but sturdy people.

17 hours ago Favorite Undo Retweet Reply

then there was this. Not so good

homebrewcrew Home Brew

‘Key uses Norway massacre to justify NZs military involvement in Afghanistan’. Can we please do something bout this guy in November people?

9 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

and the clash of stories

mingyeow Ming Yeow Ng

Via @dcurtis: Norway was attacked, Amy Winehouse is dead, Greece has defaulted, the US is about to, and New York melted. What a week :(

7 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

Billy Bragg had this to say about the 27 club

billybragg Billy Bragg

It’s not age that Hendrix, Jones, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain & Amy have in common – it’s drug abuse, sadly #27club

14 hours ago Favorite Undo Retweet Reply

and the final word goes to Her Majesty about “that other story” which, am pretty sure, won’t go away easily

@Queen_UK Elizabeth Windsor

No, Mr Murdoch, you cannot “pop round” after you’ve finished at the Commons.

19 Jul via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

Horror and sorrow

Posted by on July 23rd, 2011

It’s hard to know what to say about what’s happened in Norway.

At least 87 people killed. 80 at a Labour Party summer camp. Our thoughts are with the Norwegians. It’s a small, stable country much like ours.

Events are still unfolding.

That’s for the police and others to comment on. For now, the people of Norway need to know that we are shocked and horrified and standing with them in whatever way we can.

Norway is a peaceful nation. Phil Goff and Maryan Street have sent their condolences today.

Norway hosted and worked hard to negotiate the Oslo Accords in an attempt to resolve the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict and made a huge effort in its work to find peace in war embattled Sri Lanka, Phil said.

It’s a country much like ours in many respects and we in the Labour Party have many personal contacts with Norwegian politicians, Maryan said.

I know we are all thinking about Norway today as they face the aftermath of this tragedy.

The poppy: a symbol of death and life

Posted by on April 25th, 2011

Brass .303 poppy brooches

Until about 10 years ago I was not interested in ANZAC Day.  Like many of my generation I took the view that it was a glorification of war. Something changed my attitude.

For the last 5 years I’ve marched in the ANZAC dawn parade with my mum, wearing the medals of her two older brothers (see below) who died during WW11 in their early 20s. I guess I’ve grown up a bit. It’s amazing watching how each year more and more younger people turn up to the ANZAC parade. I take that as a sign that the newer generation feels some responsibility for the future.

I do believe wars are avoidable. But I don’t hold responsible for war those who go and fight. And I believe symbols are so important.

The red poppy has become the recognisable symbol of ANZAC Day. The red, or Flanders poppy has been linked with battlefield deaths since WW1. It was the first to grow and bloom in the mud and soil of Flanders.

Madam Guerin and Moina Michael were responsible for making the poppy the international symbol of rememberance. They saw the potential for using the proceeds to help veterans and their families.

I want to tell you a story about  a Dunedin artist who is on a quest to use the symbol of the poppy to transform an object of terror into a thing of beauty and perhaps life.

Stephen Mulqueen is a jeweller and sculpter. His poppies are crafted from the debris of war. I came across his work through an advert in the Listener about 3 years ago. Since then we’ve had various conversations.

What he produces is quite confronting, but also beautiful. He transforms a brass cartridge shell into a piece of wearable art. He makes poppies. Brass poppies. And he wants them to be made by veterans across the world and seen as a symbol of peace.

In his words;

As we move towards the centenary of the Great War (1914/18 – 2014/18) Poppies of War offers a very real connection to the collective memory of the human carnage that scarred so much of the world during the 20th century. The brass cartridge poppy lies at the heart of current social debate, and offers a space for reflection on the causes and consequences of war as people all over the globe continue to experience it daily.

…. a hybrid of the fragile poppy flower with a discarded metal fragment, a residue of war where ‘beauty meets terror’.  The brass cartridge poppy resides in the tradition of mourning jewellery and spirit of the biblical text ‘turning swords into ploughshares’.  It carries its own poetic resonance and is a signifier both for death and new life.

Whatever you think of Stephen Mulqueen’s work, his quest is admirable and worth supporting.

Lest we forget:

Private Gerald Howard, killed in action in Tunisia, North Africa, 25 April 1943 aged 22

Pilot Officer Alastair Howard shot down over Flanders, Germany 23 February 1945 aged 23

The genie is out of the bottle

Posted by on February 21st, 2011

I’ve been listening to reports from the Middle East and the phrase that keeps coming up is ‘ the genie is out of the bottle’. By the end of this year, we may well see a complete change of order in the Middle East.

Already the tide has rapidly turned against Gaddafi in Libya, one commentator predicting his departure in 24 – 36 hours; the loyalty of the army and security forces is now questionable. At the end of the day, soldiers all have families and friends and they do not want to be the ones firing on their own people.

For us it means the fuel prices are likely to go through the roof. Egypt was a very small producer. But Libya produces in the order of 1.6 million barrels a day when the world’s surplus is less that one million. Bahrain is also a producer. Watch our use of public transport skyrocket.

It’s revealed the anger in these socities and a mix of young populations (Egypt’s median age is 23, Libya 24 and Yemen a staggering 17), lack of jobs (unemployment for under 30s is up around 50% in many societies) and greater technological connectivity through the internet which has meant the young see what could be, rather than what is.

But perhaps the most important ingredient is the lack of fear of repessive authorities. It took a man who set himself alight in Tunisia, a grocer who was beaten to death in Egypt to act as a rallying point. It’s clear that the brutal reaction by dictatorial governments has backfired, incensing and steeling rather than intimidating crowds into silence.

Meanwhile the streets have done what Al Qaida has failed miserably to do despite a decade of heinous acts and vitriol.

So this is Christmas

Posted by on December 23rd, 2010

Apropos (I love that word) my previous post on great Xmas songs.  Here’s John Lennon; Happy Xmas (the war is over). Except it’s not.

Not much else to say really. There will always be another war. And there will always be hope that it will end. Lennon was on the side of hope. Me too. And I hope all of you.

I hope for a world without war.

Sometimes, the planets align…..

Posted by on November 4th, 2010

I met Hillary Rodham Clinton today. Two weeks ago, in Washington, I met  Melanne Verveer, Hillary Clinton’s appointee to a new position reporting to her: Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. I was attending a conference, or seminar really – there were only a dozen of us  from nine different countries – to look at some of those irritating issues of no significance compared with guns and bombs and things, like human trafficking, women’s rights as human rights, getting women to participate in peace talks in the world’s hotspots, maternal and child health, the disproportionate effect of climate change on women, etc  etc.

Then I went to New York. There the UN Security Council was discussing Resolution 1325. I can see your eyes glazing over already! That is a ten year old resolution of the UN calling for action on women’s engagement with security and peace. Like having women at peace negotiating tables in the world’s hotspots.

I mean, how can you negotiate peace in the Congo or Afghanistan or Burma without having some of the victims of rape as a weapon of war being engaged in reconciliation processes? Hillary Clinton made a statement with Ban Ki-Moon (UN Sec Gen) about Resolution 1325 and then went on to make a joint statement a few days later with the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs on the same theme before they headed off to a conference on it in Denmark.

So I knew what I wanted to talk to SOS Clinton about: how NZ could work more efficiently and effectively with the US in the Pacific on issues like encouraging women to participate in decision-making, elected or otherwise, how to improve maternal and child health, how we could combat HIV and AIDS which are epidemic in the Pacific, how we could build an enduring peace in our difficult areas. So I did.

You know what she said? “This is music to my ears.” I knew it would be.

To fight, or not

Posted by on April 25th, 2010

In our short history we have seen our fair share of battlefield carnage. Arguably it has helped make us one of the most peace-seeking of nations. The popular support for our nuclear-free policy,  our extensive peace-keeping deployments and the decision to stay out of Iraq reflects strong anti-war sentiment.

And yet throughout our history New Zealanders have always been ready to go to war when called. Modern ANZAC Day services are not anti-war. They respect the sacrifices made by our service men and women.

So what do we think of this paradox?  Historian Glyn Harper addressed it when he gave the 2010 Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture last weekend. It is an annual event hosted by the North Shore Committee of the Labour Party to commemorate Jack Lyon, a Labour MP who held the seat of Waitemata 1935-41.

Lyon personified the paradox. He was a left wing internationalist who believed he had to fight when the cause was right. At the age of 17 Lyon lied about his age so he could fight in WW1. In 1939 he did it again, this time knocking four years off his real age, so he could fight fascism.  He reached the rank of Captain, and died under German fire during the evacuation of Crete.

You can read or listen to Glyn Harper’s excellent lecture. It was a special night. Glyn read out two letters home from New Zealand soldiers in Gallipoli – letters never read in public before.  The event was attended by Sophie Tomlinson, Jack Lyon’s granddaughter. Defence Minister Hon Wayne Mapp was also there and found himself in the middle of some spirited debate about whether our SAS should currently be in Afghanistan.  It was a good warm up for ANZAC Day.  You can read more about last year’s event too.

Reflecting on ANZAC Day#3

Posted by on April 24th, 2010

I confess to a very similar journey to my colleague Grant Robertson in relation to ANZAC Day. 

The increasing resonance and inclusiveness around ANZAC Day was illustrated to me yesterday when I was out in Onehunga Mall with a box of ANZAC poppies.   A range of people reflecting the diversity of our community approached me for a poppy.  On the other side of the Mall Elaine, wearing a brooch with a picture of her brother who died in World War II, was having a similar experience.  Toddlers through to very senior citizens were proudly wearing their poppies.

When I was considerably younger I spent a wonderful week in Crete and was overwhelmed with the warm reception that my friends and I received once people found out we were New Zealanders. I heard a little about the New Zealanders who fought alongside the people of Crete when it was invaded and occupied by the Germans in 1941.  Recently I found out a little more when I read a book by Patricia Grace – ‘ Ned and Katina – a true love story’.   Eruera Rewiri Nathan/Edward David Nathan ‘Ned’ a wounded Maori Battalion soldier is sheltered by the family of Katina Toraki and they fell in love and eventually married and settled in NZ after the war.  In the course of the book I got a real sense of the courage and determination of the soldiers, who were effectively stranded on Crete after the defeat of the allies, and the many Cretans who formed the local resistance.  The tales of human kindness in extreme circumstances are very moving.

But I was particularly struck by the following quote from Ned following a pilgrimage organised on behalf of ex Maori Battalion members and their families in 1977  that visited cemeteries and former battlefields in Turkey, North Africa, Italy, England, France, Greece and the Greek Islands.  On Crete there was a service of reconciliation and forgiveness which was widely reported in Greek and German newspapers.  On his return to NZ Ned received a letter from a member of the German War Graves Commission who wanted to gain an understanding of what had motivated the commemorative event in Crete.  Ned’s reply included the following statement about what occurred at the commemoration:

“I also emphasised that this 28th Maori Battalion pilgrimage to all the Mediterranean countries wherein our fallen are interred, that this was also a pilgrimage with a mission for peace.  In my address at the ceremony at Maleme I also said; that it was shame and a curse on mankind; that they, our fallen had to die together to find peace one with the other, and this surely indicated that we the survivors, and the living, should intensify our efforts to ensure lifelong peace, and prevent another holocaust.”

Filed under: defence, peace

Reflecting on ANZAC Day #1

Posted by on April 24th, 2010

I will be up early on Sunday, and like many New Zealanders will be at a number of different events marking ANZAC Day.  It is a great day to honour servicemen and women and  remember people who have given their lives in the service of our country.  Waitangi Day is still our national day from my point of view, but it is clear ANZAC Day is providing a sense of belonging, and a time for reflection and remembrance that New Zealanders are looking for.

It was not always so for me.  I can remember as a 16 year old avoiding a school ANZAC service on the grounds that I do not believe in war, and I did not want to glorify it.  I was young and naive.  I also think that at that point (in the mid 80s) the day had not taken on the inclusive and unifying feel it has now.  It was the time of fierce debate over nuclear ships and ANZUS, not to mention the whole prospect of dying in a nuclear war thing.

I worked out over the next period of time that in fact the day was not about glorifying war, but rather remembering sacrifice.   A conversation with a veteran as I was finishing school crystallised it for me.  He asked me to think about my friends from school, say imagine a photo from your school ball with 20 friends in it.  Then imagine within two years there were only four of you left.  That was his experience.

He was not interested in glorifying war (in fact he detested it, and thought New Zealand should avoid it all costs, as I still do).   But he did want to remember his mates.  And I reckon that is worth getting up early for.

How the world has turned

Posted by on April 12th, 2010

One day we are being tossed out of ANZUS, our nuclear-free policy the geopolitical equivalent of farting in church. A mere 23 years later, a new American President campaigning against nuclear weapons, singles out NZ and invites us to his nuclear security summit precisely because of our nuclear-free status.

As Terence O’Brien just said on Morning Report, the world has moved a long way in the last 23 years, in the direction of New Zealand’s rejection of nuclear deterrence.

Just to add to the weirdness, we now have a former Labour prime minister publicly suggesting it is time for US warships to visit our harbours, and  a National Government underlining its support for the nuclear-free legislation.

It is perhaps not so weird.  American warships have long been stripped of their nuclear missiles and nuclear reactors. All that remains in the way of American sailors experiencing the pleasures of Kiwi hospitality is their Government’s neither confirm nor deny policy.  If the US is willing to publicly comply with it, and send ships that are acknowledged to be non-nuclear, why not?

There is a bigger issue lurking here though. I hope the enthusiasm for bringing back US ships is not a cover for trying to get us back into ANZUS which is still fundamentally a Cold War alliance based on nuclear deterrence.   In the years since we left ANZUS, the world has changed and so have we. We have developed a more independent view of our place in the world.

The opportunity now is to springboard off our nuclear-free status and campaign alongside other non-nuclear countries for a new Nuclear Weapons Convention to abolish nuclear weapons, building political support for President Obama’s disarmament agenda, as Phil Goff called for this morning. Now that would really make us flavour of the month in the White House.