Friday, August 08, 2008

Where are you now my dum dum boys / are you alive or dead

There are all sorts of odd things happening in the dunia-politik.

Not least of those for me are the convolutions in New Zealand over the suggestions / disclosures that the National Party are perhaps trying to win a general election on not really telling the exact truth as to what they really plan to do if elected. As a died in the wool lefty that doesn’t really surprise me that much…you can’t trust ‘em at the best of times as we know from recent experience (as an aside, if National had been in power in 2003, I wonder if New Zealand’s troops would be back from Iraq yet…still at least they were relatively open with that agenda).

I’m not so sure though. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to work out if they have any agenda, let alone a dastardly hidden one.

Yesterday, with a free hour, however I spent some time scouring the web and the National Party web site trying to work out what the party’s Foreign Policy might be. These things affect me as a New Zealander abroad. Sadly it was fruitless and all I could come up with was this vacuous wishy washy speech from John Key earlier this year where he makes arguments for, uhh, integrating with Asia, playing our part in the Pacific, trying to be more like Ireland, and, ohh, improving the bilateral relationship with the US…(considering earlier National cowering to the US that last part remains a worry). These are hardly revolutionary, revealing or incisive policies of the sort of thing you’d reasonably expect from a party which wishes to be seen as a government in waiting.

But that speech aside, and an equally vacuous speech a year earlier from the odious Murray McCully, which he says does not represent policy, there is nothing. The only conclusion that I could reasonably come up with was that National have figured out that large parts of the NZ electorate are increasingly clueless, and simply don’t feel comfortable with things like policy and other challenges, and the key to winning an election is to treat them as if they are stupid. They don’t want to know so why tell them.

Either that, and the National Party website is correct, as are the protestations of National in Parliament that they have no hidden agenda, which means, since they have no public policy, they simply have none at all. Zip.

Which brings me to my real problem: two people, both Australian, have asked me in recent days what New Zealand’s foreign stance is likely to look like under a National Government. I have to answer that I don’t know. The party has no foreign policy. We all know and understand the policy positions of the current leadership, and that of Australia, both US candidates and just about every other country in the region..but in New Zealand’s case, come the end of the year we simply won’t have one. I can't answer.

As interesting and diverting as that is, I’m equally fascinated by the stuff going down under the radar in the USA.

The anthrax thing, being the suicide of the US defence scientist who may or may not have sent the anthrax that killed 5 people in 2003 is both dark and increasingly twisted. Whether he did it or not is one thing but the other question, just as important, is whether the anthrax arrivals were manipulated to suit the purposes of the US administration as Glen Greenwald suggests, using compliant media to link it to Iraq, an assertion which seemingly had no legs or basis in fact, but was picked up and touted publicly, despite the lack of evidence by the likes of ABC News and John McCain at the time. I want to see where this one heads, but wherever it goes it strips another strand away from the GOP candidate’s credibility.

Even more potentially explosive is the book from Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Suskind, which alleges in part that a document was forged under instruction from the Bush Whitehouse, indeed from Bush himself. And not just any document, but one which was supposed to show a senior Iraqi intelligence official writing to Saddam Hussein and tying Iraq into 9/11. The letter was slipped to a right wing UK journalist (for The Telegraph which, bless Conrad Black, has a history of running with these half baked stories) and briefly, despite the fact that it looked like a fake from day one, was touted as the new coming for those who found pleasure in the war and all it entailed.

Suskind’s book is bound to be attacked and he’s already being accused of gutter journalism and every other depraved and heinous crime against decent god fearing freedom lovin’ folk, despite his reputation as a serious journalist, his history as a Wall Street Journal editor, and his sources who are two high-level CIA operatives on who went the record.

And why are we surprised. The lead up to the war was a litany of lies and half baked deception; the US vice president has repeatedly gone on globally televised shows and uttered things as truth he knew to be completely untrue. As Louis Bayard says at Salon:

Suskind suggests that "the White House's knowingly misusing an arm of government" would be "the sort of thing generally taken up in impeachment proceedings." Whether or not the impeachment drums start beating in earnest, it's hard to imagine anyone saying, at this stage of the game, that the White House couldn't have done what Richer and Maguire say it did. This is an administration, after all, that lost all its moorings the moment it fixed its compass on Saddam. Since then, it has selectively misread evidence, imprisoned hundreds of innocent men, and tried to stifle opposition in every quarter. How great a leap is there, finally, between quashing dissent and manufacturing support?

But the difference is this time it’s a potential line straight to Bush himself, and the White House denials and those of the others quoted in the book, are, according to the WaPo, both weak and unconvincing, and written to deceive. This one has just begun.

And a hat tip to my friend Simon for putting me onto Robert E Bartos’s blog, Shrapnel, which has this sharp post about, amongst other things, the increasingly bizarre John McCain’s credentials as a commander in chief. His years in a North Vietnamese prison must have been less than pleasant but I’m not sure how those qualify him (and from an Asian perspective he did volunteer to go, twice, and drop bombs from an altitude on innocent people in a third world nation which somewhat tempers my sympathy, and any idea that he may be a ‘hero’)..yes General Clark was bang on, despite Obama backpedalling from the General's rather qualified opinion,  so, I guess, as not to offend that truly odd American thing they have about honouring the military.

Which is yet another reason I still think McCain will romp in…

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