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Clark And Peters: Apologists for Mass Terror

Helen Clark and Winston Peters: Apologists for Mass Terror

by Cameron Walker

In January 2007 Cabinet Minister Jim Anderton, in an interview about the Bush Administration’s decision to send 20,000 more troops to Iraq, with Christchurch's newspaper The Press, compared the occupation of Iraq with America's Vietnam 'fiasco'. He then added:

"One wonders whether the lessons I would have expected to be learnt from that fiasco have been learnt in any way at all. It is literally years since Mr Bush landed on an aircraft carrier and announced the war was over. I don't know whether he remembers that."

A fair comment from a Minister from a government that at election time proudly reminds the public that it kept out of the Iraq invasion one would think. Unfortunately not. Foreign Minister Winston Peters even made a special press release from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in the Philippines to strongly condemn Anderton. According to Peters "Jim Anderton's comments about United States President George Bush are ill-informed and regrettable"

"Mr Anderton is entitled to his own thoughts on world events but it is unfortunate he has chosen to make them public on this occasion." he added.

Prime Minister Helen Clark quickly distanced herself and the NZ Government from Anderton's comments. While during the 2005 election campaign Clark happily brought to the public's attention comments made by then National Leader, Don Brash, saying 'I would have done what President Bush did [in Iraq]', her reaction to Anderton’s comments show how superficial any anti-war position she takes is. Meanwhile ‘progressive outward looking’ National Party leader John Key said that Jim Anderton was probably just repeating the ‘anti-American’ comments he hears around the Cabinet table of this very ‘anti-American’ Labour Government.

After 9/11 the Labour led government happily sent SAS (Special Air Service) troops to join the USA's war of terror against Afghanistan. For nearly a year the government refused to answer what NZ troops were doing there but it turns out that since 2001 they've been doing things like illuminating targets to guide bombers, taking prisoners and other operations that the NZ government calls 'direct action missions".

All this makes New Zealand party to countless serious war crimes including but not restricted to:

  • The deaths of up to 200 civilians, who suffered blast trauma, ruptured lungs, blindness and blown off arms and legs, when the US Military dropped 15,000 Pound Fuel Air Explosives (FAEs) 20 miles from their villages in 2001[1]

  • The capture of innocent people who were then tortured and sent off to Guantanamo Bay to be imprisoned without trial

  • the dropping of cluster bombs on villages

  • the bombing of a wedding party, killing 48 people and wounding more than 100.

Before anyone writes to say 'but the Taliban did worse!' please take note that the warlords from the Northern Alliance, who the US allied with to oust the Taliban, committed all the same sorts of abuses as the Taliban. As an activist from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) said:

’The fact that the Taliban closed down schools was publicised, but it was the Northern Alliance that destroyed the schools. They were the first ones to throw acid at women who did not wear ‘burqas’. They posed democracy as a concept for ‘infidels’ (anti-Islamics) and said women were not part of general civil society.’ [2]

Criticising Jim Anderton’s comments on Iraq isn’t the first time Winston Peters has stood up for state terrorism. After the 1996 election he broke his election promise to not join a National Government and was then made Deputy Prime Minister, and Treasurer, a bit like how he slimed his way into being Foreign Affairs Minister after the 2005 election. Recently I was looking through some old newsletters of the New Zealand Free East Timor Coalition [3], who consistently spoke out against both Labour and National Government’s support for the brutal Indonesian Military occupation of East Timor. In 1997 some photos taken by Indonesian soldiers of the torture of five young Timorese women three of whom who were wearing school uniforms, were released to the outside World. To quote from the newsletter:

‘The photos show the young women with their heads covered by black hoods, tied up and undergoing beating, burning with cigarettes, being stripped naked and even having nails driven into their bloodied bodies. The military have written messages on the women's bodies - messages which mock their Christian faith and their support for independence. In one instance a young woman is laid out naked with a picture of Christ placed above her and a sign against her: "If you are God's child, try to come down and resuscitate your faithful”.’

When Winston Peters was questioned in Parliament that year as to why New Zealand was still inviting Indonesian Military personnel to visit NZ for training in light of these photographs and other evidence of mass state terror in East Timor he replied "our engagement ... is the training of dentists and other things of a humane quality".

In reality Indonesian Military officers were here learning things like ‘planning night infiltration attacks, how to do ‘military operations in urban terrain’ and other skills very useful for suppressing clandestine resistance and demonstrations. As the July 1998 Free East Timor Coalition newsletter goes on to mention ‘In East Timor the nights are feared because "pre-dawn" is the time when the military carries out raids and abductions.’

Many New Zealanders are well aware of the shocking abusive nature of US and British foreign policy. It’s time we had a close look at our own country too.

1 Dr Helen Caldicott (2002) ‘The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military Industrial Complex, Carlton North, Scribe


3 The Website of the Free East Timor Coalition is no longer updated but kept online for historical purposes


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