Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Wellington Cables

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  • Ross Mason, in reply to Don Christie,

    An encouraging report about the quality of New Zealand aid spending

    Ah yes. I remember the starving people's of SE Asia Magic Bullet we were going to supply and save the planet with. The Milk Biscuit. A tasty treat undigestible to lactose intolerable guts.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Ross Mason,

    I remember the starving people’s of SE Asia Magic Bullet we were going to supply and save the planet with. The Milk Biscuit.

    I remember that. It evoked an image of “feeding out” to the grateful third-worlders from a tractor and trailer.
    Now we feed out their palm kernels to our dairy cows.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Holbrooke denied that the Carter admin were ever the enablers of Suharto. It's worth considering the life-long commitment to and achievements in human rights and democracy promotion of Jimmy Carter and compare that to the allegations that he enabled the human rights abuses of Suharto.

    Carter and Clinton admit that the US got it wrong in the mid 70s, but Carter came to office in 1977, two years after the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, and at the time he had very little that he could do to stop what Suharto was up to. Carter was at the forefront of turning round US foreign policy away from cold war realpolitic to human rights. But he faced a world that already had people like Suharto entrenched in power.

    I think there's very good reason why Obama's team is made up of people like Holbrooke.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    Carter was at the forefront of turning round US foreign policy away from cold war realpolitic to human rights. But he faced a world that already had people like Suharto entrenched in power.

    And so he simply had to gift him weaponry. Really, what was the poor man to do?

    I'm beginning to wonder if you read not only the information that is presented to you by others but also the stuff you write yourself.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Hah...! More Aaron Bady goodness, and this time it's on Holbrooke. It's like the guy's telepathic. Money quote:

    Let’s forgive [Holbrooke] for a life spent “placing big-power concerns ahead of human rights,” as Daniel Southerland put it, in one of the East Timor books I still have sitting in front of my computer from writing this post. If you flip through the indexes of all of them for his name, you find nothing but official indifference to the suffering of the powerless alongside a deep and consistent concern for whatever it is that would best enable the United States to continue its hegemony over the world. It’s hard to forget that, but let’s try to forgive and move on. There were times when he — like the United States — was on the right side of a human rights issue, and there are times when they actions he took on behalf of the powerful were in alignment with the well-being of the powerless. But correlation is not causation: when it suits the imperial hegemon to give a shit about death and suffering, they do so because it suits them to do so. And Richard Holbrooke was its face when it did so. Lets remember that and then move on.

    And his parsing of Holbrooke's response to one of his critics on Timor is pure Neil:

    In other words, (a) You are wrong and this is not what happened, because (b) It’s complicated, and also Jimmy Carter is a good man who would never have done such as deliberately help an ally kill people

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Manakura,

    Here's a link that IMHO conclusively supports Neil's work here of late.

    @Danyl:

    I’m kind of glad the SST is taking the tabloid approach

    Really? I think the tabloid aspect of the stories coming out of the cables are a. boring (ok that Dagestani wedding cable was fascinating, but US State Dept pays for journalists to travel... *yawns*) and b. annoying distractions that actually lowers the credibility of the whole exercise.

    Of course. It had celebrities in it.

    And some celebrities from rival news organisations to boot. I hope the 2nd round of releases has something more insightful. I'd love to know, for example, what the US embassy thought of the colonial government's 1st domestic foray into the 'war on terror'

    Whaingāroa • Since Nov 2006 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    ...a deep and consistent concern for whatever it is that would best enable the United States to continue its hegemony over the world.

    In 1976 - 80 the USA did not have "hegemony over the world".

    It’s hard to forget the entire cold war, but it does appeared to have happened.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Reid, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    school construction projects with the tag "Australia" on them in the poorer parts of SEA, I've yet to see one that carries a kiwi logo. This is our 'hood and yet we are almost invisible

    To be fair Simon, I understand that Australia focuses on SEA and NZ on the Pacific

    The Pacific is the core geographic focus of New Zealand Aid Programme activities. Over half of New Zealand's total aid goes to this region. The New Zealand Aid Programme also supports development in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Global development efforts are supported through funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme to international agencies.

    so it is perhaps not suprising that NZ does not have great visibility in Indonesia.

    South Africa • Since Nov 2006 • 80 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    It’s hard to forget the entire cold war, but it does appeared to have happened.

    We are, you must remember, reaching the point where a significant number of adults do not remember the Cold War, because they weren't born or were too young to notice.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Considering than before the next decade was out the Soviet Union no longer existed, I think the extent in which the US wasn't hegemonic in the second half of the Seventies may be somewhat overstated.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    I think the extent in which the US wasn’t hegemonic in the second half of the Seventies may be somewhat overstated.

    Blimey, that's a somewhat optimistic re-writing of the period.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Manakura,

    Here’s a link that IMHO conclusively supports Neil’s work here of late.

    It's not trolling if it's uttered in good faith, just an argument considered faulty by others.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Don Christie,

    Blimey, that's a somewhat optimistic re-writing of the period.

    I wouldn't say optimistic, I was right behind the Soviets in my primary school years.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    A period when the Team Red certainly seemed in the ascendency in Italy :-) 1/3rd of the vote, that must be a record for any one party in Italian politics.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Right after Enrico Berlinguer died they (we) got to be top party for one election with 33.33% of the vote versus 32.97% for the Christian Democrats. Still not enough to form a government though, there were no coalition partners.

    Around the time when I was born the Communist Party had 15 million voters, and as many as 1.5 million members. Talk about grassroots. [EDITED for functional innumeracy]

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    I think the extent in which the US wasn't hegemonic in the second half of the Seventies may be somewhat overstated.

    The fall of Saigon, the Iranian revolution and then the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan all occured in that period.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    The fall of Saigon, the Iranian revolution and then the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan all occured in that period.

    All of those were failures of US hegemony rather than pointers to its non-existence. There were not many countries world-wide where the US was not trying to exert some sort of influence in the 1970s, including the Soviet Bloc.

    To be fair Simon, I understand that Australia focuses on SEA and NZ on the Pacific

    Yep, I get that and I think that my comment was probably a little self serving - frustrated at the endless little red maps of Australia on signs in Indonesia. Australia's work throughout South East Asia is quite something.

    Still, I guess the profits from processing all that oil and gas from the Timor Sea rather balances the books.




    Plus [self-serving semi-patriotic whinge] I'd be happier though if I could buy NZ wine up here at a decent price. The Australians, Italians, French, South Africans, Californians and various South American nations all manage to get a reasonable bottle into the shops for around $20 - nothing from New Zealand hits the shelves for much under $80. It tends to stay on the shelves.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Reid, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    frustrated at the endless little red maps of Australia on signs in Indonesia

    AusAID does have an impressive Indonesia dossier, which makes particular geopolitical sense for Australia. Just as economic development and stability in the Pacific certainly makes geopolitical sense for NZ. Shame that doesn't help with the NZ wine over there. Having said that it is heartening to see NZ is seen to be responding to needs and relatively free from subordinating aid to political, strategic or military interests (pdf).

    South Africa • Since Nov 2006 • 80 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Matthew Reid,

    Shame that doesn't help with the NZ wine over there.

    It was a silly aside but it is Xmas and it would be nice to turn up to a house with a bottle of Cloudy Bay rather than something from their international competition. I do try to wave the flag when I can but it's not always easy.

    The soccer was a huge boost - hard to understate - with NZ being in almost every conversation and cab drivers shaking my hand furiously. Whole nations adopted us as their team. We seem to have let the opportunity of being the popular flavour of the moment slip though. I went to a massive trade show shortly afterwards and, whilst every nation you can think of, including Samoa, had a stand, we didn't.

    AusAID does have an impressive Indonesia dossier

    That's the tip too as various Australian government departments do their own thing outside AusAID. The Oz tax dept built a whole IT infrastructure for the Indonesian tax dept, Australian customs have revamped the entry procedures and infrastructure at every point of entry, the Federal Police are bashing their heads trying to help reform the notoriously corrupt and broken Indonesian equivalent and so on.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I'm beginning to wonder if you read not only the information that is presented to you by others but also the stuff you write yourself.

    People can consider the same information and reach different conclusions.

    My views aren't that result of having less information than you. I could, off the cuff, give a reasonably historically detailed account of the mis-use of US power in Nicaragua under Reagan if there's some need to prove moral and historical credentials.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    I could, off the cuff, give a reasonably historically detailed account of the mis-use of US power in Nicaragua under Reagan if there's some need to prove moral and historical credentials.

    And I could provide a passable blow-by-blow account of the Punic wars. Too bad that's not the topic. The topic is the continuity in American foreign policy under the Democratic and Republican administration since at least Vietnam. You see a discontinuity under "good" democrats such as Carter and Obama that doesn't appear to be borne out by the evidence. Given your completley uncritical praise of Holbrooke, it doesn't seem possible to take the discussion any further, since you choose to respond to historical facts with moral assertions, as if your opinion of somebody could change the things that they actually did.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Bady is at it again (I know, I know, I should just turn my PAS account into his RSS feed), this time specifically on the fissures in the debate on the merit of the charges against Assange. He concludes thusly, although as always you have to read the whole argument.

    One thing the case has clarified, then, is the extent to which a different worldview shapes the “progressivism” that Sadie Doyle and Michael Moore might ostensibly seem to share. L’Affaire Wikileaks has revealed so very much more than what was in those cables, and — as Millicent put it on twitter — here “it’s exposed the tacit faultlines we knew existed between many male progressives & feminists.” Those who attack the corporate state and those who attack our rape culture are not necessarily doing the same thing, from the same place, or sharing the same presumptions. The fact that George W. Bush was everybody’s enemy has left us ill suited, again, for thinking about politics in an era of the neo-liberal security state Democratic president. And being both a feminist and a leftist, for those of us who want to be both, requires us to merge both these worldviews, a task which many of us are not doing very successfully (to the extent we’re trying, since, as usual, the fairly empty category of “progressive” does a great deal to obscure real political fault lines). So let’s try harder.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    I could, off the cuff, give a reasonably historically detailed account of the mis-use of US power in Nicaragua under Reagan if there’s some need to prove moral and historical credentials.

    I don’t doubt that you could, but you appear to be almost willfully ignorant of events in that part of the world during Carter’s term. If you’d like an example of a US diplomat with a pretty much proactive and unblemished record on human rights you couldn’t do much better than Lawrence Pezzullo, who was moved from Uruguay to Nicaragua as the hideously corrupt Somoza regime collapsed under its own weight. Although probably self-serving to some degree, Pezzullo’s account of the Carter administration’s ineptitude as it struggled with the realisation that the despot must go and its distaste for the Sandinistas makes edifying reading.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    I think there’s very good reason why Obama’s team is made up of people like Holbrooke

    Zbigniew Brzezinski ?
    and David Axelrod ?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Brzezinski is only there for his point-value, actually. Obama hates losing at Scrabble.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

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