Red Alert

Archive for the ‘war’ Category

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.

Red Cross takes up anti-nuke agenda

Posted by on November 5th, 2012

Last Saturday I spoke at the Australian Red Cross conference in Adelaide called “Towards Eliminating Nuclear Weapons”. You can read my speech here.

It is a wonderful thing that the International Red Cross movement has chosen to take up and advance the nuclear non-proliferation agenda. Here is an organisation with well over a century’s history and experience in every modern theatre of war you can imagine, bringing its substantial reputation and credibility to the advancement of peace, on the grounds of humanitarianism. They are wading into the mixed international political agenda on grounds which are entirely irrefutable.

This is the first century of human existence when people have had the ability to destroy ourselves globally. This is the first century which has begun with nuclear weapons as a fact of life. The imperative to advance non-nuclear proliferation and the reduction of nuclear weapons to zero is greater now than it has ever been. Listening to one of the speakers talk about the impact of even a limited regional nuclear conflagration on the atmosphere, environment and crop production was enough to scare you witless.

We launched the NZ Red Cross branch of the campaign “Make nuclear weapons the target” earlier this year in Parliament. I was pleased to see so many young people getting in on this campaign. It is about their future after all. Try #targetnuclearweapons for starters.

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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.

Let’s rid the world of landmines!

Posted by on April 4th, 2012

Landmines are a dangerous legacy of too many conflicts and must be banned world-wide. It is 13 years since the treaty banning antipersonnel landmines became international binding law, yet there are countries including Cambodia and Colombia where people continue to be killed and maimed by landmines.

Today, 4 April, is a day of international action to promote the Mine Ban Treaty and to apply more pressure to cleaning up those parts of the world where landmines continue to wreak havoc. 80 per cent of the world’s countries have banned landmines and millions of mines have been removed from the ground and destroyed, but there is still more to do. The Lend Your Leg video currently on YouTube is a good illustration of this (link above). New Zealand has started the international action today with a Lend Your Leg activity on the steps of Parliament. MPs have rolled up their trousers to ‘Lend Your Leg’ to the campaign. Even I, who will go to almost any lengths usually NOT to reveal my legs, was moved to participate and roll up my trousers for the occasion!

We may no longer have a Minister for Disarmament in New Zealand, but we still have people who care about these issues and care about New Zealand’s performance on them internationally.

Foreign Affairs = more than trade

Posted by on October 21st, 2011

You could be forgiven for thinking that our only interest in other countries under this government, is how much money we can make out of them.

Yesterday, at an NZIIA seminar at Victoria University, I released our Foreign Affairs policy. MurrayMcCully had given the opening speech and every country or region he mentioned was couched in terms of our Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with them, an emerging FTA with them, the desirability of an FTA or other bilateral economic agreement with them and how well we were doing because of them.

Don’t get me wrong – I am a great supporter of FTAs as long as we don’t concede our sovereignty and they can be negotiated in a more open way which engages the non-government sector as well. But for Labour, Foreign Affairs is also about peace, security, conflict resolution, disarmament, multilateralism, human rights, climate change, environmental protection and restoration, disaster relief, good governance and democratic representation, and most importantly, people to people exchanges and relationships.

Without a viable and secure planet, all the global supply chains you can think of count for nothing.

Our independent foreign policy is a source of great pride for us. It has been most enhanced in our history by great Labour Prime Ministers: Peter Fraser, Norman Kirk, David Lange and Helen Clark. We will build on that tradition.

We will bring human rights and a commitment to multilateral international decision-making back to the fore again. They have been languishing on the back burner under the National government.

Have a look at the policy – comments are welcomed.

Oh – and for those who wonder why there is no mention of Afghanistan – that is simply because our position on that is well known, has been well reported and has been the same since late 2005. In case you have missed it (!) : Labour would not have sent the fourth rotation of SAS troops back to Afghanistan. The SAS should no longer be deployed there. A Labour government will bring them home. We will progressively withdraw our Provincial Reconstruction Team as well, in an exit strategy worked out in consultation with other forces with whom we are working in Bamyan. The fight can only be won in Afghanistan if the government there wins the hearts and minds of the people. That hasn’t happened. Time to come home.

Credit where it’s due

Posted by on September 3rd, 2010

I have to acknowledge that the government did a good thing in formally recognising (today) September 3 as Merchant Navy Day. I’m presuming there were discussions during Labour’s tenure in office, but it was the NACTs who got the remembrance day over the line.

I’ve been to a few Merchant Navy commemorations, and seen the huge memorial in Sydney Harbour. Merchant Seamen played a critical role during wartime, transporting troops, food, military equipment and vital cargo around the world, under the constant threat of enemy raids.  But their remembrance days have been quiet affairs, compared to Anzac Day.

These seamen put their lives on the line and faced enormous risk. Their work was so essential to the war effort that the Merchant Navy became known as the fourth service, alongside the army, navy and airforce.

At least 130 New Zealand merchant seaman lost their lives during the Second World War and around 140 were taken prisoner.  Internationally, around 80,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted 2074 from 3 September 1939 to 7 May 1945, when Germany finally capitulated.

These are untold stories that must be told to our children and grandchildren. Even if it means I have to say something nice about the NACTs, these sailors need to be remembered.