Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on drone strikes and Judith Collins‘ last stand

April 17th, 2014

Reportedly, US drone operators refer to their kills as “bug splat” – mainly because when the carnage is viewed on their screens thousands of kilometres away at home, it looks like an insect strike on a windscreen. The name has even been bestowed on the software used in the system. Since at least 900 innocent citizens in Pakistan have been killed in drone attacks, one of the local responses has been to create a huge art installation work called “Not a Bug Splat” that – if seen from the air – would require US drone operators to see the face of a Pakistani child killed by their activities.

The news that a New Zealand citizen was killed last November in a US drone attack in Yemen brings the drones controversy closer to home. To the US, drones are a legitimate response to the threat posed by the al Qaeda organisation and its franchisees, which have declared war on the US and its allies and attempted to kill them wherever it can, including Yemen. To the US, the drones carry the added advantage of not putting US troops at risk on the ground, and minimises the need for putting them in large numbers in bases in the countries concerned, always a politically sensitive point. The counter-argument, well articulated by security analyst Paul Buchanan on RNZ this morning, is that this particular drone attack can be said to amount to an extra-judicial execution of a New Zealand citizen by one of our military allies, in circumstances where the person concerned posed no threat to New Zealand’s domestic security.

Reportedly, the person concerned was (a) not the main target of the drone strike and was (b) previously the subject of a surveillance warrant by New Zealand intelligence agencies. Assuming that the US has not been given a blanket authority to kill any New Zealand citizen who ventures into a war zone, that surveillance warrant takes on added weight. Does it constitute a de facto signal from the Minister responsible for authorising such warrants that any subsequent killing of such people overseas will be deemed legitimate by the New Zealand government? If that’s not the case, by what means do our citizens cross the line to where they are considered fair game, and as potential bug splat?

Arguably, US drone attacks are conventional war by other means. Yet if other countries flew weaponry across international borders and eliminated their dissidents and opponents at will, one can imagine the outcry.

Judith Collins At Bay, Baying
The claims by Justice Minister Judith Collins that no preferential treatment has been extended to the Oravida firm (for which her husband is a director and which has been a major National Party donor) are looking less and less credible. Her continued refusal to name the Chinese border official who attended the infamous private dinner with Oravida bosses looks like another example of self interest at work. Clearly if the official was to be publicly named and linked to dodgy activities, the blowback on Oravida by an angry/ humiliated Chinese bureaucracy would more than cancel out any advantages to the company from its close connections to Ms Collins.

As usual, Collins is unrepentant – despite there having been dodgy evasions and half truths ever since her original tale of merely dropping in for a cup of tea on the way to the airport, a visit that required a circa 60 kilometre round trip. Unfortunately, she can hardly be sanctioned now, given that the Prime MInister has turned up in advertisements for the same lucky company.

Prime Minister John Key says Oravida’s scampi is “tasty” but the company’s use of his photo in advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the product and does not breach any rules. Oravida, which is owned by Stone Shi, a substantial National Party donor and close personal friend to Justice Minister Judith Collins, is using a picture of Mr Key in an ad in a Chinese magazine…

However, advice received by [Key’s] office on Oravida’s use of his picture in its advertising was, “it wasn’t promoting or endorsing the product”.

Right. So if you sample a company’s product, declare it to be “tasty” and they run an ad with your picture…that doesn’t constitute promoting or endorsing the company’s products. Same way that when Oravida runs on its website a photo of Key playing golf with the company president…. that also shouldn’t be taken to suggest there is any special relationship between senior National Party politicians and this particular company. No, of course not.

True Detective, Revisited
This is Thursday of Easter Week. So today is – more or less – the anniversary of when the founder of Christianity waited in the garden of Gethsemane for His arrest and crucifixion to commence. Fans of this year’s True Detective television series will no doubt remember that Christ’s willingness to wait and accept one’s fate was a meditation point for detective Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey. Rust also believed that we’re all trapped in the meaningless prison of our own bodies, imagined that he saw relief in the eyes of murder victims, and figured that collective suicide could be the only hope of escape for humanity – thereby enabling us to check out on what has been a raw deal, all things considered. Rust spells out his bleak view of life in this conversation here.

Cheer up, though. Some Internet genius has managed to combine the nihilistic sayings of Rust Cohle with the kind of bubble headed comic strip panels of yesteryear. The results are amusingly off kilter. You can check them out here.

Rust, one imagines, would probably nod and agree that this is all pretty f***ed up. Have a happy Easter break.

ENDS

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    1. 8 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on drone strikes and Judith Collins‘ last stand”

    2. By hank on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

      Hey Gordo, have you read this?

      http://exiledonline.com/feature-story-the-case-for-nuclear-winter/
      from the article…

      That’s what suffering is: going over the edge one at a time. The experience of individual death while the world grinds on. What would happen in the Nuclear Winter scenario is utterly different: all jump into the meatgrinder at once. No one is left to suffer or mourn. When some die and some live, there is suffering; when all die, blown out like a candle, there is no suffering. There is something else, something for which we have no name. But one thing is clear: it is not suffering. “We shall not suffer, for we shall not be.”

    3. By Rex on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

      Thanks for bringing the “Not a Bug Splat” installation to my attention Gordo. One note: you describe the piece as forcing drone pilots to behold the face of one of their victims, but the linked piece says the child depicted is an orphan of drone strikes — not a drone casualty herself. Anyway great piece, keep it up.

    4. By Kat on Apr 17, 2014 | Reply

      Collins now says the whole affair has ‘humanised’ her!

      How long to Sept 20 again?

    5. By Ivan on Apr 18, 2014 | Reply

      Apart from the ameriscumbags disregard for international law,has no-one noticed the complete cowardice of the drone drivers and their enablers (are you there obama?).

    6. By f dx on Apr 18, 2014 | Reply

      You can’t humanise a reptile Kat, especially a snake.

    7. By clairbear on Apr 18, 2014 | Reply

      The New Zealand Government safe travel advisory has Yemen down as an Extreme Risk, and has additional advice should you choose to ignore their primary advice. This is in a similar level of deciding to get into a car when you can see the driver is obviously fall down drunk. People have personal choices and there is a lot still wrong with the world.

      I can see a lot of maybe’s and conjecture in this Collins saga; Nothing that would hold up in a court of law;

      What it does do is show up the level of confidence that the opposition parties have in their capability to form a government.

      6 months out from an election they should move to a government in waiting mode highlighting their alternative policies, and how they would/could operate in Government. They are still in opposition mode where they are focusing on attacking individuals with rumour, innuendo, maybes.

      At a worst case scenario should it be found that Collins personally received payment for her advertising efforts and a personal payment to lobby on behalf of this company, then there might be a point, however in all likelihood this seems to very a very casual situation of careless thought that might if anything have helped NZ in some way.

      It is a clear case though of conflict of interest for the opposition parties as they seek to gain from this level of conjecture.

      So, which is worse naivety and carelessness, or a premeditated programme to use parliamentary privilege for electoral gain.

      The longer they bang on against Collins, the more I am thinking that is all they have to offer, and shows that they are more comfortable in opposition mode than government mode – this is a good thing for voters to know and understand a few months out from an election.

    8. By Kat on Apr 18, 2014 | Reply

      Hows the milk and cookies clairbear, all tucked up in your cot?

    9. By rendrag on Apr 19, 2014 | Reply

      Collins now says the whole affair has ‘humanised’ her!

      Begs the question, what was she before?

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