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Gordon Campbell on climate change protest, and Iraq training

Gordon Campbell on the climate change protest, and Iraq training

For sheer style, humour and content fit for purpose, it would be hard to beat yesterday’s Greenpeace protest at Parliament. The fact that the hanging of functioning solar panels from Parliament Buildings caused such spluttering outrage among fogeys old (David Carter) and young (David Seymour) added a Monty Python level of amusement to the whole event. Even the way the response has been defined in terms of a security lapse has been comedy gold. The need for security (in the face of climate change) is exactly what the Greenpeace protest was about.

As Greens Co-Leader James Shaw pointed out in a recent speech we have a pretty skewed sense of priorities when it comes to taking steps to protect our security against potential disaster. “We have a military. We have civil defence. We have an earthquake fund. We have the security agencies, given staggering powers and budgets to keep us safe from terrorists, or bad guys. All this money, all this effort to keep us safe, and the one disaster we know is going to happen [climate change] is the one thing we’re not doing anything to prevent.” All true.

Like the inevitability of death, the current/future effect of climate change is something that people and politicians prefer not to think about. Among voters, as Shaw conceded, the issue tends to get lost amid the pressing day to day concerns about the economy, healthcare and education. Which is why the Key government’s current response is to kick the problem down the road for future governments (and voters) to deal with, and to pay for. And that’s also why protests like the Greenpeace one – which break through this veneer of procrastination - serve a useful purpose, by bringing the need for action back into the political frame.

Ultimately, there’s no real need to tighten up security around Parliament, which would be mainly about protecting the dignity of Mr Speaker. There is however, a need for Parliament to get serious about climate change, which affects the security of all of us. Even though we’d prefer not to think about it.

Footnote : Len Brown at least, is trying to deal with the future needs of Auckland, and with a legacy of neglect by previous administrations. When polluters don’t pay, the public does.

Training For What?

Hmmm. What if they gave a war, and no-one came to learn how to fight it? One of the lesser publicised effects of Islamic State controlling the wide open rural spaces of Iraq is that it then – logistically – becomes really, really hard for the Iraqi government to get stuff from A to B and back again. That’s one reason why Ramadi fell recently to IS forces. The Iraqi government couldn’t get supplies and ammunition to its troops, or communicate with them, or co-ordinate their actions. Motivation becomes hard to sustain, in those circumstances.

The IS control of the countryside in the likes of Anbar province is also one reason why the training mission that New Zealand, Australia and the US have invested so much money and political capital is foundering so badly. The Iraqi government simply can’t get the trainees from where they are, to the camps where the trainers are waiting, because IS controls the roads in between.

A couple of weeks ago, some startling numbers emerged on just how badly the training effort is going.

US Defense officials believe the training has stopped for two main reasons: the difficulty of bringing forces to the base, and the government of Iraq being "still not completely unified. They still haven't gotten over many of their sectarian divides, so that is creating some of the problems as well," the defense official said.

The U.S.-led coalition has so far trained about 8,920 at the five training sites in Iraq. Those include one located near Baghdad, and others in Erbil, Taji, Al Asad and Besmaya. There are approximately 910 trainees at the site near Baghdad, which is training Iraqi special operations forces, 800 trainees at the Erbil training site, 255 trainees at Besmaya, and 630 trainees at Taji.

Yes, you read that right. Some 300 Aussies and 143 New Zealanders have been sent to Camp Taji – which also has God knows how many US trainers as well - and yet there are only 630 Iraqis there for them to train. The ratio of foreigners to trainees must be bordering on the absurd. That’s partly due to motivation, which in turn is eroded by what the US military calls ‘tribalism’ and ‘cronyism’.

To be fair to the prospective Iraqi trainees, tribal and clan allegiance is probably all that remains for anyone living in a failed state, when any notion of a functioning central government (and any sense of national boundaries) has become entirely illusory.

Training to protect what, exactly? It’s a good question.

Of the 24,000 Iraqi security forces the US had originally envisioned training at its four sites by this fall, it has only received enough recruits to be able to train about 7,000, in addition to 2,000 counterterrorism service personnel.

EDM For The Planet

Portable is one name that South African born, Berlin based Alan Abrahams uses for his work – mainly for the dreamier, driftier kind of electronic dance music he makes. (Bodycode is his other, feistier nom de guerre.) On last year’s haunting “Surrender” Abrahams-as-Portable successfully walked the line between ethereal and limp, and its devotion to open spaces and wind energy would probably earn the approval of Greenpeace.

If you’re looking for a bit more grit within the spacier realms of your EDM, then Abrahams’ mentor would probably be Omar S, from Detroit. Hard to choose, but “Thank U4 Letting Me Be Myself” builds pretty well.

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