Hard News by Russell Brown

Ill Semantics

So are we to see the crucial foreshore legislation fall over semantics? It's shaping up that way, with the two minor parties, New Zealand First and United Future utterly at odds over whether the legislation will decree the foreshores as Crown property or as public domain vested in the Crown.

The Waitangi Tribunal has already said it can see little functional difference between the two (although others take the view that public domain provides better security against future attempts to dispose of property), but it’s almost not about that so much any more as a power struggle between the two minor parties. There are votes - especially that of Georgina Beyer - to be counted yet …

Anyway, better get this published before my 10am embargoed copy of the proposed policy arrives. If you're interested, I'm interviewing John Tamihere about it all at 1pm The Wednesday Wire on 95bFM. The live Internet feed is here. That Bic Runga's coming in at 12.25pm.

The New Yorker's Seymour Hersch has a fascinating story on The Other War - Afghanistan. The sypnosis - again: stability and reconstruction in Afghanistan were sacrificed to the obsession with getting into Iraq. Hersch also quotes an internal report commissioned and then buried by the US Defense Department, which says, in part"

What was needed after December 2001 was a greater emphasis on U.S. special operations troops, supported by light infantry, conducting counterinsurgency operations. Aerial bombardment should have become a rare thing …The failure to adjust U.S. operations in line with the post-Taliban change in theater conditions cost the United States some of the fruits of victory and imposed additional, avoidable humanitarian and stability costs on Afghanistan … Indeed, the war’s inadvertent effects may be more significant than we think.

Hersch's story mentioned the Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum, an "alleged war criminal and gunrunner" who recently had Alan Gibbs over for a feast. Yes, that Alan Gibbs. His Afghani travelogue, published in the Herald yesterday, is interesting. He's not optimistic about prospects for democracy either.

Propaganda News Network appears to have decided become my personal fisker, which is fine: one shouldn't object to being scrutinised. But he'll really have to try a bit harder. He claims I'm a "mendacious weasel" over what I've said about Gerry Brownlee's view of civil unions. You can weigh up adjectives all you like: in his outburst at the bishops Brownlee quite clearly placed social sanction of same-sex relationships in the same basket as the prostitution law reform he claims is producing child prostitution, as a social evil.

I quoted his exact words the first time I mentioned it, and it still pisses me off. Brownlee was, of course, at it again yesterday, smugly declaring to 3 National News that the National Party had no need of a gay branch, the day after poor old Pansy Wong, with Brash's support, had held a meeting to set one up. The National Party needs to decide what it stands for, and I actually don't think it's what its deputy leader believes. It's a bit better than that.

He also takes issue with my suggestion that the relevant health professionals and the research seem to support the current targeted health policies for Maori. He says he'd like to see evidence of that (it's been all over the news, chum) and offers that "we shouldn't pander to any Maori who are too racist to trust whitey to give them an injection."

Charming. Like most textbook modern conservatives, his anger seems to derive from the fact that the world does not function as he believes it should.

There's been some odd stuff going on over at PNN's friends' place at NZPundit though. I'm always wary of taking Gordy literally, but his comment a few days ago that "I'm not saying the US should just go in and raze Fallujah, but FFS get in there, clear out the more innocent looking women and children, and THEN raze Fallujah" rankles even as a bad-taste joke. Let me get this right: get the "more innocent" women and children out and then kill the menfolk on the basis that they happen to live in the wrong place? And it's the good guys doing this?

It appears Gordy may be getting his grim wish anyway. Coalition forces have sealed off Fallujah and are strafing parts of it from helicopter gunships, with the inconvenience of the media observing it. Meanwhile in Sadr City, civilians are claiming to have been picked off by snipers, just for being there. The hospital is reporting 50 civilian deaths since Sunday. The big problem with killing people by map reference is that, as the Christian Science Monitor points out, most Shiites, for now anyway, don't support Sadr and just want to be safe. I would have thought the risks of brutalising them would be obvious.

Still, at least the War on Smut is well on track …