Friday, 19 April 2013

Let Liberty Be Our Shield

How Much Love We Could Show: Norway's response to terrorism was to call for more openness, more democracy and, yes, more love. When it comes to the power of government, Thomas Jefferson warned, "the people themselves are its only safe respositories".
THE UNITED STATES Department of Homeland Security, dangerously overloaded with surveillance and interception powers, could not save the Boston Marathon. But, then, no one could have saved the Boston Marathon. Short of imposing a monitoring regime of Orwellian proportions – one which would utterly obliterate all civil rights and democratic freedoms – no state can promise its citizens absolute safety.
The world is a dangerous place.
Assailed by its dangers, the most important thing a government can do is make sure that by its actions it does not contribute to the world becoming a less free or a more oppressive place.
When New Zealand experienced its last terrorist attack – the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 – the first response of the David Lange-led Labour Government was not to bring down a series of draconian “security” measures. His instinct was to allow the NZ Police to get on with their job.
Note that: the NZ Police. Not the NZ Security Intelligence Service, and certainly not the Government Communications Security Bureau. Those agencies had proved completely worthless as protectors of New Zealand’s national security.
In spite of our membership of the UKUSA Agreement, and after years of loyal (some would say sycophantic) service to our Cold War “allies”, not one of them saw fit to warn us that a French “Black Ops” team was about to launch a deadly attack on a British registered vessel moored peacefully at an Auckland wharf.
A Deadly Blow: Neither the SIS, the GCSB, nor any of New Zealand's so-called "allies", provided the New Zealand government with the slightest warning that the French were planning to attack the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior when it docked in Auckland. The culprits were identified by the NZ Police - aided by the New Zealand people.
And the NZ Police – magnificently assisted by a host of Kiwi sticky-beaks – did a splendid job. Indeed, if our Aussie “mates” had held the French “getaway boat” in Norfolk Island (as the New Zealand authorities had requested) then we would have nabbed the whole gang.
Why were the Police so successful? Because New Zealanders trusted them. When the Police asked for help in apprehending the people who had done this (because, let’s not forget, French saboteurs’ bombs had taken the life of Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira) everyone who harboured even the slightest suspicion of “Swiss” newly-weds, or who’d noticed anything remotely out of the ordinary on the night of 10 July 1985, did not hesitate to call the cops.
No gang of terrorists can escape the surveillance of an entire nation. “National Security” only has meaning if we are all, collectively, determined to preserve it.
In 2011, the Norwegians gave the world additional proof. The response of Norway’s government to the shocking slaying of 77 of its citizens – many of them teenagers – by a right-wing racist terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, was very different from that of the United States Government in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
At a memorial service in Oslo Cathedral, the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, declared: “We must not allow this attack to hurt Norwegian democracy: the proper answer to such violence is more democracy, more openness … No one has said it better than the [young woman] who was interviewed by CNN: ‘If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together.’”
And stand together they did. In Oslo, on 25 July 2011, more than 200,000 people gathered to show their solidarity for the victims of Breivik’s savagery, and to demonstrate their commitment to Norway’s proud traditions of social and political democracy.
“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone”, wrote the author of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. “The people themselves are its only safe depositories.”
How depressing that John Key, so strong an admirer of all things American in every other respect, should place so little value on the words of America’s most illustrious Founding Father.
How unfortunate that the example of his own country’s, and Norway’s, democratic response to terrorism has been lost on him.
How disappointing to see our liberties sacrificed to the Prime Minister’s reactionary notions of security.
And, how extraordinarily insulting to hear Mr Key justify empowering the GCSB to spy on his fellow citizens with some uncorroborated story about Weapons of Mass Destruction. (As if that alarmist excuse had not failed its deceitful fabricators’ once before!)
It was Benjamin Franklin who wrote: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Another American Founding Father we’d all do well to heed.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 19 April 2013.


Brendon said...

I think we give too much power to our prime ministers. And their inbuilt tendency is to take even more. I have written to the constitutional commission people and the Green party giving some practical suggestions to strengthen our freedoms. The speaker and governor general to be appointed by 75% majority.

I suggest other readers think upon this matter and come up with their own suggestions.

newsworthy said...

I so agree with you Chris - and also despair that no other political parties are essentially challenging John Key on this matter

Anonymous said...

NZ's lovely police are every bit as much as past of the capitalist state as the spy agencies. They framed Arthur Allen Thomas, routinely work over young Maori and PI workers, every now and agin they shoot one of them dead. They're all yours Chris.

Jigsaw said...

Wise man was Ben Franklin!

peterpeasant said...

Key using WMD is behaving like he is cornered by the GCSB fiasco and his US cronies.

Kat said...

Good one Chris! Its all just more tory divide and rule. John Key is just a hapless sucker really, a pawn in their game you might say. Sadly a fair proportion of the electorate get suckered also.

Glad to hear your a Shearer supporter at last!

jh said...

"We must not allow this attack to hurt Norwegian democracy: the proper answer to such violence is more democracy, more openness "

but you yourself pointed out how the political class crowded out Norways equivalent of NZ First which 1/5th supported.
The surveillance society is a response to need. The two recent terrorists were caught on CTV and in the U.K are a response to the IRA.

Peterkar said...

An excellent article and one which we'd all do well to heed. But a problem arises on the matter of the surrender of government to our rulers. Jefferson's statement forms part of the reasoning behind the right to bear arms, which led directly to the deaths of another eleven people across the US in the twenty-four hours the Boston hysteria gripped the nation.

Chris Trotter said...

I suspect, Peterkar, that if you'd just won your freedom and independence with the aid of "well regulated militias", the Continental Army and the French navy, then you'd been pretty keen to preserve "the people's right to bear arms" as well :-)

Robert M said...

The need for a surveillance society is partly created by societies like the US and NZ accepting that mass immigration is desirable and creates a more lively society. In fact NZ's much more homogeneous society of 1983 was probably much more interesting and intelligent than the one of today which for all the ethnic variety is neither a melting pot or exciting.
I don't accept the Mike Moore view that opening the gates is in our interests or highly non selective immigration improves the breed.
In terms of the 88 NZ citizens under surveillance by the GCSB , it would be interesting to know where they were born - even in four broad categories (1) Former Warsaw Pact nations (2) China (3) Islamic nations (4) the English speaking nations.
It is reassuring to see some elements of the Canadian services are competent because our defence relations in SIGNT and defence is with the lesser members of the fist Canada, NZ and Aus working together and and the US/UK being a higher level pair.
Also interesting is that unlike NZ the US and Canada see the promotion are redevelopment of passenger trains and trams as a priority for large government spending. 4 million passengers a year on long distance electric trains from Toronto to NY and a substantial rebuilding of passenger rail in California and in recent years remerging coridors up to 600km from Chicago in particular to St Louis and to the university corridor cities.