Friday 15 January 2010

Epic Fail

The sharp end of Japanese Foreign Policy: The Japanese whaling fleet's security ship Shonan Maru No. 2 deliberately rams the New Zealand boat Ady Gil in the waters off Antarctica. New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully's response? He accuses the protesters of wanting to kill people!

JAMMER looks like he should stink to high heaven – but he doesn’t. At least, not in a bad way. Those brown dreadlocks piled high behind his head, like he’s carrying a furry octopus up there, exude a resinous, piney-wood scent (special oils, apparently) which is actually rather pleasant. And his gypsy wardrobe, which looks like it’s been assembled at random in the nearest Salvation Army store, carries the reassuring aroma of Sunlight soap and Janola.

With Jammer, appearances can be deceptive.

"’S’up?" He asks as he slumps down at my table.

"Not a lot", I reply. "How about you? Keeping out of trouble?"


Jammer lifts a squat bottle of Australian ginger-beer in mock salute to "trouble".

"Let me guess," I say, raising my own glass of pinot in reply, "Stanley Street? Shahar Peer?"

"Nope. Palestine was last week. I’ve just come from the Japanese Consulate."

"Ah", I shake my head in what I hope is an appropriately sympathetic fashion. "Bad business."

"Business is right", says Jammer. "And what’s with this dude McCully? A New Zealand boat is rammed by the Japanese whalers’ attack-ship, a bunch of people are nearly drowned, and our Foreign Affairs Minister goes on National Radio and accuses the anti-whaling protesters of sailing down to Antarctica to kill people. I mean, that is just so fucked-up. So wrong. You know all these politicians, Chris. What’s the guy into?"

The emphasis which Jammer lays on "into" communicates a world of youthful disdain.

"You’ve got to understand where McCully and his colleagues are coming from, Jammer. What they’re trying to achieve."

"What? Earn a few brownie-points with the Japanese? Keep our trading partners happy? That sort of thing?"

"Actually, no, I don’t think that’s what’s driving McCully at all. From a short-term political perspective, his indifference to what is taking place in the waters off Antarctica is doing the National-led Government a lot of damage. And he’s far too well-versed in the dark arts of public relations not to know it. Sure, Japan’s an important trading partner of New Zealand – but with the rest of the world as pissed-off with the Japanese as we are, there was nothing to be gained, and a lot of public support to be lost, by down-playing this country’s opposition to ‘scientific’ whaling."

"So why all the aggro towards the Sea Shepherds? Why the refusal to speak out against the sinking of the Ady Gil?"

"Well, partly it’s just McCully’s Tory reflexes kicking-in. As you and John Minto discovered last week, conservative New Zealand still has no great love for protesters."

"Yeah! Did you see all those comments on John’s blog? Five hundred of them! People just don’t get it, do they?"

"Nope, they don’t. And believe me, Jammer, they were just the same at the beginning of the anti-apartheid movement fifty years ago. And that, really, is the point. It’s that very Kiwi impulse to come out in support of the under-dog; to stand up and be counted in the face of injustice – even if it pisses-off the French and the Rugby Union, like Norman Kirk did; or the Americans, like David Lange and Helen Clark did – that McCully’s out to eradicate."

"No way!"

"Yep, I’m afraid so. National has always hated the way progressive and idealistic New Zealanders have hauled this country kicking and screaming onto the moral high-ground. It’s always detested, and done its best to douse, the beacon fires of principle we’ve lit there for all the world to see. As Foreign Minister, McCully wants New Zealand to become a follower – not a leader. He wants to show the big powers, America and China in particular, that we’ve finally abandoned our troublesome predilections for standing-up and being counted. He means to show the world that, henceforth, New Zealand will be only too happy to take things lying-down – and count for nothing.

"So that’s why, for the first time in 10 years, this country wasn’t represented at the International Whaling Commission by a Cabinet Minister?"

"Yep. And it also explains why we’ve got the SAS in Afghanistan, and why we hardly said boo to a greenhouse-gas-emitting goose at Copenhagen."

"And why the cops were so bloody heavy-handed with us outside the tennis?"

I nod. Jammer puts down his ginger-beer, shaking his dreadlocks sadly.

"Epic fail, dude" he sighs. "Epic fail."

This essay was originally published in The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Evening Star of Friday, 15 January 2010. 


Don Franks said...

Chris, come on. "we've got the SAS in Afghanistan" because that type of deployment has suited our ruling class for nearly a decade.
As you well know, the Labour/Alliance government knocked the top off the New Zealand troops to Afghanistan bottle and all National's done is keep pouring.

Moneo said...

Whales are animals and should be fair game the same as any other animals, the only restriction should be if they are truly endangered. Its either that or else all animals should be off limits.

I think it is perfectly acceptable to eat cows, sheep, chickens and pigs, so I don't know why we as New Zealanders must have this irrational fixation on preventing other people eating animals of their choice, such as horses or whales.

And I don't think Sea Shephard are innocent victims. They clearly have a hyper-aggressive, confrontational policy towards the trawlers, and I wouldn't by any means accept their version of events.

Chris Trotter said...

Sigh. New Zealand's initial engagement in Afghanistan - sparked by the Taliban-protected Al Qaeda terrorist organisation's attacks on 11 September 2001 - was mandated by the United Nation's Security Council resolution of December 2001 establishing the International Security Assistance Force.

The NZ forces engaged were elements of the New Zealand SAS, who fought alongside US and NATO troops in the Battle of Tora Bora.

In 2005, when it became clear that the protocols of the Geneva Convention were being consistently breached by the US military and its intelligence agencies, as well as the Kharzai regime, the Labour-led Government declined to authorise any further rotations of SAS personnel.

In addition to the SAS, New Zealand has maintained a Provincial Reconstruction Team of 100-200 personnel in Bamyan Province. This is essentially a non-combatant force drawn from regular NZ Army infantry units.

The decision to send the SAS back to Afghanistan as an active combatant force was made by the National-led Government in 2009, and was almost certainly intended to boost this country's chances of securing a free-trade agreement with the US.

The present government's motivation contrasts sharply with NZ's initial decision to participate in the war against the Taliban, which was prompted, overwhelmingly, by the sense of horror and outrage which swept the world in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

In this light, the left-wing of the Alliance's decision to oppose NZ's engagement in the war was a self-defeating one. Most NZers were strongly in favour of putting an end to the reactionarty, theocratic and deeply misogynist Taliban regime, which had indisputably provided aid and comfort to Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda confederates.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't found like much has changed. The current regime often seem to be just as misogynist - read up on the treatment of female Afghani MP, Malalai Joya.

With headline stories like: Afghan leaders accused of bid to 'legalise rape' (2009) you have to wonder what there is to show (besides gas pipelines).

Anonymous said...

This is worth reading for example:

Malalai Joya has been called one of the bravest women in Afghanistan. Age 27, she is certainly one of the most well known and popular public figures in Afganistan, yet almoust unheard of in the U.S.

She told the 300-strong audience in London last week, in an electrifying speach that she’s survived five assassination attempts and despite being a duly elected member of the Afghan Parliament is still not safe with personal security guards or by wearing a burkha to cover her identity.

Yet she continues to campaign against both fundamentalist warlords and foreign occupation, and for women’s rights and education. She believes all NATO troops must leave Afghanistan immediately.

Don Franks said...

"Most NZers were strongly in favour of putting an end to the reactionarty, theocratic and deeply misogynist Taliban regime, which had indisputably provided aid and comfort to Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda confederates."

Shit yes.

We were all well up on the finest details of the wickedness of whatshisname.

Accordingly, knowing that absolute truth to resonate deeply in their bones the noble self sacrificing social democrats of the day rolled up their trouser legs, spat on their hands, acknowledged the infinite wisdom of their maker and sorrowfully sent their sons across the sea to indisputably do the decent thing.

We could have another big sigh.

Or perhaps face up to the the historical facts.

Shona said...

STC you are an ignorant uninformed moron! The Southern Ocean is a whale sanctuary!!!Sea Shepherd are upholding internationally agreed laws on conservation. The vessel that attacked the Ady Gil was a Japanese government sponsored security vessel. It broke maritime law and the captain and crew are guilty of attempted murder.The consumption of whale meat is not a Japanese tradition. Whales are not domestic farmed animals. They are an endangered species you halfwit. They are not " fair game" for any one!!!You want to hunt something you brain dead pillock then hunt possums and use your bloodlust in a way that will at least benefit the NZ forest ecosystem.There is nothing irrational in protecting these leviathans of the oceans they an integral part of the ocean environment. You ecologically illiterate f**kwit!!!

Chris Trotter said...

Wonderful rhetoric, Don, but better suited to the trade for which you're deservedly famous - song-writing.

The "facts", stubborn little critters that they are, remain those I've already laid before you. But feel free to check them if you've any doubts.

And, just so you know, the NZSAS is made up of the elite of our all-volunteer army. 2001 was not 1916, when the Massey-Ward Government did, indeed, send New Zealand's conscripted sons across the sea to their deaths. By contrast, the world's special forces units hunger for action and seize every opportunity for combat.

Until a few months ago, however, our Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan hadn't fired a shot in anger. Even when under attack, their orders are to do no more than defend themselves and the Afghan people they have been sent to serve.

Perhaps you should ask yourself why the Far Left so consistently adopts political postures that turn out to be at odds with their fellow citizens. Could it be that, unlike the social democrats you so despise, they're radically out-of-touch with the masses they yearn to lead?

It broke my heart to see the Alliance immolate itself over Afghanistan - especially when there were so many other, worthier, causes over which they could have preciptated the inevitable show-down with Jim Anderton. As it was, the tens-of-thousands of New Zealand voters who'd loyally supported the Alliance since 1991 looked on in complete confusion as their party tore itself to pieces over the morality of bringing to justice a man who'd just master-minded the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent human-beings.

Chris Trotter said...

To Shona:

I completely concur with your sentiments - but please try to avoid crude personal abuse when travelling on Bowalley Road.

Moneo said...


"Southern Ocean is a whale sanctuary" It is, and I would agree that if the Whaling Commission deemed it off limits then the Japanese should leave it alone.

"Sea Shepherd are upholding internationally agreed laws on conservation" They are also ramming Japanese trawlers, which is illegal.

"The vessel that attacked the Ady Gil was a Japanese government sponsored security vessel. It broke maritime law and the captain and crew are guilty of attempted murder" Two wrongs don't make it right.

"The consumption of whale meat is not a Japanese tradition" Attempting to prove something is wrong or right by relying on tradition is a logical fallacy. The consumption of Whale is not made right or wrong by whether there is a tradition of eating it, if you think it is, you are a cultural imperialist imposing your culture on another group of people.

"Whales are not domestic farmed animals." You are indeed correct. The fact that they are wild does not render them inedible, nor does it mean they should be off limits, as humans hunt and eat other wild animals, including a lot of the fish we consume.

"They are an endangered species" 'They' are? And here was I thinking Whales were made up of several different species, some of which are endangered and some of which aren't.

"They are not " fair game" for any one" Ok this comes to the crux of my argument. Why? Why is it ok to shoot a wild deer for food, but not a wild whale? If you want to be morally consistant, I believe you either have to be a strict vegetarian or concede that Whales can be a legitimate food source, provided te practice of hunting Whales does not endanger them.

"You want to hunt something then hunt possums and use your bloodlust in a way that will at least benefit the NZ forest ecosystem" I've never hunted anything in my life, and don't particularly intend to in the immiediate future barring the collapse of civilisation. The glorious benefit of living in the age we do.

"There is nothing irrational in protecting these leviathans of the oceans they an integral part of the ocean environment" And nothing I said contradicts that.

@ Chris: Do you have any response to the charge that you are a hypocrite on this issue, eating some meats but irrationally claiming other meats are immoral to hunt and eat?

Moneo said...

On Afghanistan, I quite agree with Chris, and would add that I believe that two things have made the situation there deteriorate:

a) Rumsfield's incompetent leadership and focus on security rather than development (which comes from rhetoric in Bush's 2000 campaign "We are not into nation-building") means that 8 years on the country has achieved neither

b) the Iraq war both swung emphasis away from Afghanistan and created massive new support for Islamic resistance groups.

Had the operation in Aghanistan been carried out under a President committed to development in Afghanistan and willing to keep the focus there, I think the situation would be a lot better.

I also believe things will get a lot worse quickly if NATO forces abandon Afghanistan.

Chris Trotter said...


I'd vouchsafe that I, like most people, are guilty of all kinds of hypocrisy STC. On the subject of whaling, however, I would say this.

Cetaceans constitute a special case. The size of their brains and the growing body of scientific evidence which points to their highly complex social structures and even rudimentary languages makes them an entirely unsuitable prey for human carnivores.

In addition to these considerations, there is a grandeur and beauty about these creatures that should similarly rule them out as a food source.

I realise that this is an entirely subjective judgement, but it is one which the rest of the world's peoples - with the notable exception of the Japanese, Icelanders, Norweigians and Inuit (who I concede have a strong cultural case to make for limited predation rights) - seem to share.

Don franks said...

"Perhaps you should ask yourself why the Far Left so consistently adopts political postures that turn out to be at odds with their fellow citizens."

Fair enough.

Most days of my life I do some sort of little inventory along those lines.

Some of my best friends are social democrats. On more occasions than I can remember it has been left social democrats who led the charge and held the line on hugely unpopular cause actions. Gay rights, anti racism, anti war and several industrial struggles. Its not just us mad wild eyed bolshevicks who burn the letter boxes.

Yes, there was a ghastly feeling among all strata of folks in New Zealand after 9/11. Something fucking awful had happened that we could all immediately relate to. Lyndy McIntyre made a great speech in parliament grounds about how the main victims were American working people. office workers and cleaners.
There was also, I think, a feeling of coming dread, the US were going to exact a price, on some people somewhere, didn;t matter much who, just to re establish their bossman status.

They did, with bells on, and that is still the main problem on the planet.

Chris Trotter said...

To Don:

Yes, of course the US retaliated - just as Osama Bin Laden hoped it would.

And just think about that. Just contemplate the monstrous cynicism of the man and his followers.

To achieve their ends they were willing to kill not only 3,000 innocent Americans, but to condemn untold thousands of their fellow Muslims to death at the hands of the US military and its allies.

And don't try to tell me, Don, that George W. Bush - or any democratically elected US leader - could have refused to retaliate.

Had Bush (by some miracle) attempted to do so the US Senate would certainly have impeached him, and the American people would figuratively (and quite possibly literally) have lynched him.

The United States of America is not the sole source of evil on this planet, Don - maybe not even the principal source.

Francisco Hernandez said...

A good piece - inspite of the most cringeworthy dialogue I've seen all year since Avatar...

don franks said...

One million murdered Iraqis since the begining of the US 2003 invasion is sufficient evil to be preoccupied with.

That said,the reduction of politics to competing "evils" is best left to the nursery. Democratic in self description rather than substance, US imperialism continues as the greatest aggressive menace to the people of the world, its own increasingly impoverished population included.

This ugly fact is not quite so apparent from the relative comfort and safety of New Zealand, but its a fact nonetheless.

Joseph said...

this Jammer guy sounds familiar....

Chris Trotter said...

And there he goes again ...

You really must curb this tendency towards rhetorical overkill, Don. Murder has a very specific legal meaning, here, in the USA, and in Iraq.

One million Iraqis may have died as a result of the military hostilities initiated by the US Government - as well as from the civilian-targeted attacks of elements of the Iraqi and Arab volunteer resistance movements - but they have not all been "murdered". Just as the 45,000 German civilians who died as a result of the Dresden bombing raids of February 1945 weren't "murdered" by the pilots and crews of the RAF's Lancaster bombers.

People are just not going to take you seriously, Don, if you insist on debating these issues in such wildly tendentious terms.

Anonymous said...

Quite. He's being a very naughty boy.

peterquixote said...

as Chris Trotter says,
New Zealand boat Ady Gil in the waters off Antarctica gets sorted out. serves them right.
and Osama Bin Laden has been dead for years.
He had nephrotic syndrome ten years ago.Chris

Any real new Chris Trotter other than the ongoing socialist propoganda?


peter quixote