Editorial : Closer US Relations – A Poisoned Chalice

Reprinted from The Common Good, No 52, Lent 2010

The postponement of the visit by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton may be seen as a blessing in disguise. Regrettably, it is likely to still take place. The red carpet being prepared for Mrs Clinton highlights the deeper role the New Zealand Government is playing in American global politics and their global wars. We are being sucked deeper into this relationship at our peril.

Regardless of the visit, negotiations will commence 15 March for the US to strengthen defence and military contracts and join the existing trade and investment agreement, grandly named the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, which will be used as a platform for a broader free-trade bloc in the future.

In theory this seems fine. In practice it will place us in hoc to the dominant partner, the US. Let’s be clear about one thing – free trade is no freer than free enterprise. It is license to exploit. Both National and Labour seem transfixed by its allurement, sitting like mesmerized possums in the headlights of an oncoming express. Both seem to lack the insight and the moral fibre to do anything to avoid this disastrous course of action.

We have a new reason to fear closer relations. The 21 January 2010 decision by the US Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United v the Federal Election Commission declared that corporations have all the rights of free speech that since 1791 citizens have enjoyed. It is a decision with radical implications. It allows a shift in power from private citizens to corporations. It allows corporations to spend what they want on politicians and political campaigns, with no checks and balances. It radically undermines democracy.

In a short time, political office in the US will be beholden totally to corporations, a scenario described by many as ‘political prostitution.’ In effect, politicians will be able to be bought and sold and corporations will set the political and lawmaking agenda. In an unprecedented attack on the Supreme Court, an angry President Obama spoke publicly against the decision warning Americans of its implications.

More Wars

New Zealand is already involved in the US culture of violence which spends one half of every tax dollar on warmaking. Sooner or later, we will be asked to make further troop commitments to the war in Afghanistan. This war is an endless morass which inevitably will claim NZ casualties and bog us down for years to come. It is a war that is already in its ninth year of operation and shows no signs of ending.

It is no good claiming that we are primarily in Afghanistan doing re-construction work. That has not been the case for the past 12 months or longer. Beside the recently dispatched 71 SAS troops who are working at the coalface of the war in Kabul, the Government has secretly been sending intelligence operatives. According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, (9 September 2009), New Zealand’s contribution to the war against the Taleban has included an “intelligence” component, separate from the military commitment. We are already up to our necks in this war. And Hilary Clinton will want more.

This level of involvement is not in the best interests of the Afghani people nor of New Zealand. It places us much closer to the epi-centre of anger from aggrieved Muslims throughout the world and therefore under greater threat from retaliation. It runs counter to the moral teachings of the Church on war and conflict, and flies in the face of repeated appeals from Pope Benedict XVI. It is an affront to every Christian who believes that Jesus taught us to resolve our differences using the tools of non-violence.

American people are among the most decent people on God’s earth. But the ‘principalities and powers’ which drive US major institutions including their political, economic and banking systems, judicial apparatus and war machine, are geared to rewarding a powerful corporate elite at the expense of the many. That is why there is such a disparity of wealth and why the same disparity is growing here. The American dream is a materialist dream. There are winners and losers. For millions of poor Americans, it’s not a dream but a nightmare. The Supreme Court decision disenfranchises ordinary people and signals a major step towards a fascist state controlled by the rich and powerful.

New Zealand should beware the poisoned chalice of closer relations.

Jim Consedine

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