Thursday 30 November 2017

Green Party Lesson No. 1: Anticipating The Direction Of Political Sniper Fire.

Not A Good Look: Golriz Ghahraman (then an intern for the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) poses alongside Simon Bikindi - the Hutu singer-songwriter whose "killer songs" played a deadly role in the killing of 800,000 to one million Tutsi tribes-people during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Ghahraman has come under intense criticism for not making clearer this, and other, associations with war criminals. That the Greens did not anticipate such attacks should be of real concern to the Ardern Government.

IN POLITICS, as in war, the aggressor’s first strike is almost always directed against the defender’s weakest point. That being the case, the National Opposition has clearly identified the Ardern Government’s lacklustre political management skills as its primary target. Their secondary target, equally clearly, is the Greens. This should be the cause of considerable angst on the Government’s part. The Labour-NZ First Coalition’s political management skills will improve with practice. Improving the Greens political skills is a much taller order!

The Greens face a number of serious problems at the moment, not the least of which is the extremely heavy workloads being borne by the most experienced members of their tiny caucus. James Shaw, Julie-Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage, as Ministers Outside of Cabinet, have their hands full just bringing themselves up-to-speed with their portfolios. Of the remaining five Green MPs: one is an Under-Secretary; one the Party Whip; another is campaigning to become the next Female Co-Leader; and the remaining two are complete newbies.

Unsurprisingly, it was one of the latter, Golriz Ghahraman, who this week found herself in the cross-hairs of David Farrar and Phil Quin, two of New Zealand’s most deadly political snipers.

Both men’s attention had been drawn to what can only be described as the unnecessary grandiloquence of Ghahraman’s CV. Describing her fairly modest role in the massive UN exercises known as the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and the Special Tribunal for Cambodia (ICTs) in terms that made her sound like Geoffrey Robertson and Amal Alamuddin Clooney all rolled into one, really was asking for, if not trouble, then most certainly some pretty close enemy scrutiny.

That Ghahraman was not well-placed to withstand such scrutiny, raises two obvious and important questions. Why did she draw attention to her participation in these ICTs without fully disclosing her potentially controversial roles as a member of the defendants’ legal team? And, why didn’t the Green Party carry out the same sort of due diligence exercise on Ghahraman’s CV as Quin and Farrar? At the very least, these simple precautions would have allowed Ghahraman and her Green Party colleagues to anticipate precisely the sort of attacks that eventuated.

The obvious lesson which the National Party will have drawn from this incident is that the Green Party – or at least those responsible for its communications strategies – are in the grip of a conception of politics that places far too much emphasis on marketing and spin. Only the most inexperienced (and cynical) public relations flack could consider it “okay” to leave out of a politician’s most immediately accessible biography (the one on her own party’s website!) something as potentially explosive as the information that she had helped to defend people accused of genocide and other, equally horrifying, crimes against humanity.

The incident will also have alerted National to the fact that the Greens have learned absolutely nothing from the parliamentary bullying meted-out to their colleague, the former Green MP, Keith Locke.

It was the Labour Party’s Opposition Research which dug out of the pages of Socialist Action, the Trotskyite newspaper which Locke edited for many years, a nugget of pure political gold. The Socialist Action League had been an enthusiastic early supporter of the Khmer Rouge – the revolutionary party led by Pol Pot which, in 1975, toppled the right-wing military government of Cambodia. As the editor of Socialist Action, Locke had celebrated the Khmer Rouge takeover as a “victory for humanity”.

In vain did Locke attempt to explain to his parliamentary accusers that, at the time the offending articles were written, neither he nor the Socialist Action League were aware of the wholesale “politicide” unfolding in the killing fields of Pol Pot’s Cambodia. John Pilger’s shocking revelations that the Khmer Rouge had murdered millions of Cambodians, however, rendered Locke’s after-the-fact explanations utterly ineffective. He had written in support of Pol Pot – and for many MPs that was enough to place him beyond the pale of political respectability.

The point of this cautionary tale? That a political party – especially one which, like the Greens, attracts radicals and activists of all kinds – not only needs to keep its institutional memory alive, it needs to keep it kicking-in. The most important lesson to be drawn from Locke’s experience is that political parties need to conduct exhaustive research into the backgrounds of all its candidates, so that areas of weakness and vulnerability can be identified early and, if possible, neutralised by preventive revelation.

It is supremely ironic that Ghahraman, Locke’s successor in the role of Green Spokesperson for Global Affairs, was a member of the Special Tribunal for Cambodia’s prosecution team for bringing the mass murderers of the Khmer Rouge to justice. Ironic, too, that she, like Locke, has seen her credibility in the Global Affairs and Justice Spokesperson roles severely damaged by a failure to anticipate how the Greens’ enemies, however unfairly, might turn the actions of her past, no matter how well intentioned, against her.

After Ghahraman’s ambush, Jacinda Ardern will be acutely aware that improving her government’s political management skills is not simply a matter of keeping her own Labour Party safe from political snipers, but that the job also entails teaching the Greens how to anticipate – and then dodge – their common enemy’s bullets.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 30 November 2017.


Jack Scrivano said...

Another of the downsides of MMP, I’m afraid, Chris.

The Greens have some very good ideas. But they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near real government.

Kat said...

The Greens will always be open to "political snipers" as long as they remain, as you say a party that "attracts radicals and activists of all kinds" based on "marketing and spin". The Greens have always been a distraction and now ironically offer Labour a safety valve similar to what National had with Act. Jacinda will certainly have to keep a weather eye out for the Greens but my bet is National and its "snipers" are going to come of second best, just as they did in the failed dumping on Winston Peters.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Funny, conservatives can sort with that war criminal George Bush, who was afraid to leave the United States because he might be arrested for promoting torture, or with Henry Kissinger, who for Christ's sake should have been shot for what he did in the Vietnam war. But nobody says a dicky bird about them. Has this guy been convicted of anything? Perhaps, as conservatives often say – "we should wait until all the evidence is in."

thesorrowandthepity said...

A bit apples to oranges in your comparison, Chris. Keith Locke typed praise for Pol Pot prior to the actual events or any knowledge of their crimes (at least I hope that's the case!) & he most certainly hadn't read a copy of the prosecutions charge sheet prior to having his photo taken (beaming smiles all round) with someone on trial for crimes against humanity.

I read the prosecutions charge sheet this morning over my breakfast coffee, sobering to say the least

Ordering massacres of Tutsi prisoners at Gisenyi Prison
Murder of Stanislas Garasira, a worker at the National Printing Press
Murders of a watch repairman named Karasira and his family
Preparing and leading massacres in Nyamyumba commune
Murders of a nurse named Ancilla and her daughter
Ordering massacres of Tutsi at a roadblock in Gisenyi
Massacres of Tutsi at Camp Scout
Driving captured Tutsi women to the commune rouge, a large killing field near
Murders of three women at the commune rouge
Encouraging sexual violence against Tutsi women among his subordinates
Conspiring with political and military leaders and RTLM personnel to train
Interahamwe and organize and coordinate the genocide
Inciting genocide through public speeches at several political rallies
Inciting genocide through statements made from a car as he traveled between
Kivumu and Kayove
Composing three songs that incited genocide

Nick J said...

Methinks a hard word all round from Jacinda and Winnie to clear the decks and audit everything aka put it away and keep your heads down.
After that fly a few false flags to attract fire, then make the bastards pay.

Clem said...

It would be interesting if you or any one else investigates Phil Quin's activities in Rwanda and his motive in trying to damage this new Green MPs's reputation.

venezia said...

I agree. There needs to be more investigation of this Phil Quin character. I see he has apologised for calling Golriz a "genocide denier" but not for the other attacks on her. He has been tweeting from Colombia, has worked in PR for the despotic Kigame regime in Rwanda, and also for the Rwanda Police Force (and deflecting from Human Rights abuses by labelling critics as "Genocide deniers"). How come he attacks a new woman MP in her first weeks in the job? In whose interests is he acting? Who benefits?

Len said...

Jesus.MMP is to blame for everything. Give us a break. 15 years of elected neo-liberal governments that implemented policies no-one voted for from 1984 - 1999 should have cured anyone who suffers from first-past-the-post withdrawal symptons. Only those who wish to debilitate democracy want to go back there.

countryboy said...

david farrar...! Listening to him is like taking life-advice from an American infomercial. That's like believing there's a God having listened to brian tamaki. Listening to it will coerce you into getting a donald trump hair style while wearing grey slip on shoes with pale blue walk socks, the ones that go up to the knee. Worrying about david farrar is to worry about worms, warts, the hair on the back of ones neck being too unruly. Seeing it evokes , in me, a similar reaction to seeing someone else's phlegm on the foot path, an old persons ear wax still in the ear, the maggot writhing corpse of a dead rat.
Seriously? Do people actually listen to it? It looks like a turd wearing glasses excreted by a person with a liver disease. When it talks ? It sounds like a plea for help from a tape worm caught in a trumpet. To think its opinion is actually worthy of comment might suggest we all need a holiday in a non English speaking country.

Unknown said...

Gareth Hughes unfurled a protest message in Tienamin square. But not long enough to take a picture.

greywarbler said...

Go the Greens. All those who have not had the guts to stand up and declaim the things the Greens have been saying for years, and getting sneers and flak for, now feel justified in laying the critique on even thicker.

Well the Greens might say; It's a dirty job but someone has to do it. So thank goodness for the minor minority that actually think, going forward. Because in the absence of thought, the majority are going backward. Look out, at least put the handbrake on you fools! But no, come out with dogma, follow us and all will be well, and we give you a choice, well, well, well. That's three wells you might be thrown down, a popular place for disposal of bodies when all decency goes to the wall.

And thesorrowandthepity seems a very pretentious pseudonym if we are throwing criticism around. How can a thoughtful person place undemanding respect for a list from 'the prosecution' about awful acts done in a time of awful degradation of human behaviour?
I read the prosecutions charge sheet this morning over my breakfast coffee, sobering to say the least

Perhaps the mention of morning coffee is meant to give that sentence a satirical note?

Dave Kennedy said...

It's a sad political world indeed when someone who worked for Merrill Lynch (a "wealth management" company), who was described as the smiling assassin for his ability to cheerfully sack staff and who wasn't able to convincingly explain his management of Tranz Rail shares was politically competent at the beginning of his term as PM. Golriz, on the other hand (a junior MP) who worked for the UN ensuring fair trials for those accused of crimes against humanity is somehow politically naive for not detailing the details of her work.

If we had a truly able MSM John Key would have been the weak link at the time.

Why the double standard, and why support the double standard in this piece.

Disappointing, Chris.

jh said...

Comparing GG to JK
Something to do with status. No matter what you think about JK he has status. He made millions by understanding that finance beast thing. How many wouldn't have gone that way if they knew they had the ability. GG however is a lawyer. But she is more than a lawyer (so she claimed). A lawyer has status but GG hyped herself as a slayer of dragons (war criminals). In fact she was just a lawyer as she (also) worked for the defence. She also comes across as a refugee princess (poor little rich girl). Also, there is more than a hint of an invidious attitude to the Kiwi population.

jh said...

greywarbler said...

Go the Greens. All those who have not had the guts to stand up and declaim the things the Greens have been saying for years, and getting sneers and flak for, now feel justified in laying the critique on even thicker.
The Greens have not been saying anything useful. They are backward when it comes to behaviour (evolutionary psychology) and in terms of population ecology.

jh said...

Earlier her speech about her experience as an Iranian refugee and not being Kiwi enough roused applause .
That invidious attitude.