By Deborah Coddington
New Zealanders should take fright at Prime Minister Helen Clark’s announcement in Paris that “the whole dynamic” is shifted by a German, French and Russian “linkup.. against a small Anglo/American group.”
But we should not be surprised. Spurned by her very, very close friends in Washington, and determined to blindly accept ‘multilateral agreements’, Clark has turned to countries that will bring nothing but grief for New Zealand.
Her choice of the key word “against” is extraordinary, given that right now Tony Blair is trying to hose down this friction. Once more our PM has embarrassed us on the world stage.
If Clark takes this country down the path to “linkup” with EU countries, we will pay with our sovereignty. The EU is turning into a neo-socialist behemoth that rides roughshod over member states, annihilating their traditions and national identities.
This is what’s happening in Britain, and it goes much further than adopting the euro and dumping the pound. Leaving aside the issue of whether you can have a single currency without a single European state, Brits deeply fearful about joining the EU. As always, it’s the little things. I’m in East Anglia for nine weeks, the Fens, the place London sophisticates still joke as inhabited by people with webbed feet.
But those Fen folk, who’ve laboured to turn the swamps into fertile agricultural land so Soho restaurants can please their picky customers, are outraged that they are now committing ‘Imperial Crimes’. In other words, butcher shops, greengrocers and the like can now only advertise their wares in metric measures – pounds and ounces are outlawed and those who steadfastly try to please their customers face fines of £2000 and possible imprisonment.
This nonsense doesn’t stop at food. One woman at a market in Cambridge told me she could be prosecuted for selling fabric in yards, not metres. “Most of my customers can’t picture a metre,” she said. “They know they can make a skirt out of a yard and a half. Who am I hurting by advertising my fabrics like that?”
The EU’s so-called Parliament, that’s who. A council of ministers and commissioners who are not democratically accountable. True, the ministers are appointed from the elected governments of the EU states but they are mostly failed politicians who rubberstamp directives and rules. There is no Opposition in this ‘Parliament’ and the lawmaking body, The Commission, is a group of officials that initiates legislation in much the same manner as the old Star Chamber.
It's not just agricultural and health products that must be farmed, slaughtered, packed, measured and weighed in every politically correct manner possible, but also the forfeiture of individual liberty which is greatly at risk. For example, on May 1st Britain's Extradition Bill went to the House of Lords. This will make the so-called European Arrest Warrant part of British law. Brits will lose the protection of habeas corpus – briefly meaning no one can be detained without good reason for more than 24 hours before being charged or brought before a judge - something they have enjoyed for centuries.
The Extradition Bill also has links to the EU's proposed criminal code, which employs European rather than British law. The code is draconian, as anyone who has endured French or Greek justice will confirm. Years may pass before an accused appears in court; there is no right to being tried by one's peers, nor the right to face one's accusers. The freedom of the individual is sacrificed for the supremacy of the state.
And don't think it won't happen in New Zealand - the Government passed the so-called 'boy racer' legislation which makes speedsters guilty before being proven innocent and empowers the police as not just enforcers of the law, but also judge and jury, giving them the power to seize property from those suspected of breaking the law.
Then there’s Margaret Wilson’s determination to abolish the right of appeal to the Privy Council and end the status of Queen’s Counsel; Helen Clark’s refusal to appoint anyone to the Privy Council (but she won’t forfeit her own ‘Right Honourable’ title), plus other measures destined to undermine our constitutional conventions.
This high-handed behaviour fits well with the New Zealand Government’s refusal to support our traditional allies in ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein. Who cares if the US kicks us out of the waiting room for trade deals, Clark is probably thinking as she justifies her insults to George W Bush by re-aligning New Zealand with Germany, France and Belgium.
For New Zealand’s sake the Labour Government must let go of its 1960s anti-everything-American attitude and realise that thinking people have, in Clark’s own lingo, “moved on”.
At a lecture in Cambridge University’s Faculty of International Studies last week, Dr Marc Weller, expert on international law, and Dr Brendan Simms, expert on wars of Yugoslav secession, discussed ‘Iraq – what now?’ Weller argued though the US had violated international law by invading Iraq; Iraq had made itself a rogue state and could expect consequences from that. However, there were no weapons of mass destruction and we still need to honour multilateral agreements to keep the world safe.
Simms responded that international law, which we all supported, imposed sanctions on Iraq that killed millions – mostly children. He argued that more Muslims have died as a result of adherence to multilateral agreements than by any unilateral action from the US.
We violated international law on humanitarian grounds when we went into Kosovo to overthrow Milosovic, he said, who was slaughtering thousands. No one would disagree that Saddam Hussein had to go, on humanitarian grounds, so why was it okay for Kosovo but not okay for Iraq? Should we have waited, as Weller suggested, until the Iraqi people were dead or fled before humanitarian grounds were justified? And where were the critics when India went into Bangladesh? Vietnam into Cambodia? The Soviet Union into Afghanistan? All violations of international law.
The danger of multilateral constraints, Simms pointed out, is that they constrain ourselves. Good interventions won’t happen. Bad ones will. He warned the anti-war movement (and here he could have been referring to New Zealand’s Labour Government) not to confuse disapproval of the US as a superpower, with the indisputable fact that toppling Hussein and liberating the Iraqis was a good thing.
True, the US went in to seek out weapons of mass destruction and to date has found none. But those who’ve read Scott Ritter’s 1999 book, ‘Endgame’, will know that four years ago this former weapons inspector turned Bush critic said he had no doubt Hussein would have WOMD a few years down the track and would not hesitate to use them against his neighbours. Ritter has not explained why he’s changed his spots.
Closer to home, Hussain Hindawi, editor of UPI’s Arabic News Service and an Iraqi historian wrote in The Australian last week of the common democratic dream shared by Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, eloquently stated by one leader: “There has been no light, no chance to lead a free life, not a spark of liberty. When we get it this time, we will hold the torch high and never let the flame go out.”
New Zealand’s Labour leaders, by contrast, will offer up our democratic freedoms to a European Soviet-style superpower, rather than withdraw and apologise for ungracious and stupid remarks made about the US.
America may have her faults. She may have gone into Iraq for a multitude of conflicting reasons, but look at the result: The strongest military and economic force in the world today belongs to a liberal democracy. This is what the Greeks dreamed of over 2000 years ago and we should welcome this alliance. But Helen Clark would rather sip café au lait with Chirac.
Yours in liberty, Deborah Coddington