Thursday, 17 November 2016

So why are they protesting a US ship?


If you’re wondering about the point of the protests in Auckland at the presence of a US nuclear warship, and an accompanying “defence industry expo,” then you are not alone. “Pablo” at Kiwipolitico is sympathetic to their cause, but just as bemused: “What is the point of the protests?” he wonders.

There seems to be several different elements in the protests. There are pacifists who are against the presence of warships of any sort as well as those who profit from the misery of war. There are those who are against the so-called “death merchants” but who do not necessarily object to naval forces (perhaps seeing them as a necessary evil). There are those who are anti-nuclear. There are those who are anti-imperialist. There are those who support indigenous sovereignty. There are those who are anti-American. There is some overlap between these factions but the core appears to be focused on two things: the defence industry Forum and the presence of the USS Sampson as symbolic of conjoined war-mongering evils.

He points out that the overwhelming number of expo participants are not Bob Dylans “masters of war,” but “logistics and support providers who often also have civilian branches to their businesses … At worst, one might consider them “enablers” rather than direct purveyors of instruments of death. Be that as it may, it is easy understand why pacifists are opposed to the Forum.”

Yet as David Farrar notes at Kiwiblog: “I find it interesting that peace protesters invariably have violent protests.”

The protesting against the US warship is less complex. There are “other nuclear powers represented at the celebration,” including “China and India (and France and UK in lesser capacity), as well as a host of regional navies including Australia, Indonesia, Japan and several Pacific Island states. Ships from Singapore, South Korea and Canada will also participate.”

Yet as he points out, the anti-nuclear protestors

seem to have given a pass to the Chinese and Indians [and others] while focusing on the US boat. The same is true of the anti-imperialist crowd, who also are concentrating their attentions of the USS Sampson but seem unconcerned about the neo-imperialist ventures of other countries represented… So that basically means that much of the protesters are anti-American more than anything else.

Any reason to be anti-American, and these folk will grab it. And yet they do have every selfish reason not to be:

That stance has been made a bit harder to justify now that the USS Sampson has been diverted to do earthquake relief duties in Kaikoura. After all, it is hard not to look silly when the focus of your protests is on a ship that is involved in humanitarian relief operations on your home soil and yet you ignore the authoritarian and often repressive histories of other countries represented in the visiting fleet. This is particularly true if the crowds at the naval expo, watching the fleet review and waiting to board the ships on open house day are larger than the number of demonstrators. Clearly they are not getting the message the protestors want to impart on them.

So could it be possible then, helped perhaps by the very visible support being tendered by a US ship, that thirty years after ANZUS was ripped up and nuclear ships banned from entering New Zealand waters, that New Zealanders in general are finally becoming more adult about the American defence umbrella that helps protect us down here in the Pacific (because Galt knows our own navy and air force are barely capable)?

The irony, however, is that as we finally become more adult about that whole relationship, the President-elect has been talking about withdrawing from it.

Nice timing.



  1. Interesting that they are not protesting the navy, army and air force giving massive help in the earth quake relief. There is a streak of anti-American sentiment that runs through NZ. I often wonder why. Is it jealousy, envy or stupidity. With every major disaster anywhere in the world it's the US who arrives first with the most people, aid and equipment. They also give the most financial aid.

  2. You would not know that from the experience of the Haiti after the earthquake, when concrete plants were shuttered because of US investors' decisions. Port au Prince remains a wreck. The US kept a French hospital ship from port after the earthquake so they could 'shoot looters' i.e. people taking supplies to survive loss of infrastructure. Water was wrecked by UN troops from Africa spreading cholera.
    The notion of humanitarian aid is a laudable one - but looks to provide cover for mischief like destroying local food sources by long term imports of subsidized/free food from US farms.
    Take a look at what happened to all the US investment 'rebuilding' Iraq. Water treatment remained unavailable and projects were either not finished or took forever.


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