Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the SAS role against Islamic State, and Podemos

November 20th, 2014

Could this news report serve to explain – in a nutshell – why Prime Minister John Key has not ruled out the SAS forming part of New Zealand’s contribution to the fight against Islamic State? From the New York Times a fortnight ago:

With relatively few Iraqi offensives to flush out militants, many Islamic State fighters have dug in to shield themselves from attack. The vast majority of bombing runs, including the weekend strike near Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, are now searching for targets of opportunity, such as checkpoints, artillery pieces and combat vehicles in the open. But only one of every four strike missions — some 800 of 3,200 — dropped its weapons, according to the military’s Central Command.

To repeat: only 25% of the US bombing runs are even managing to locate IS targets worth bombing. As the NYT explains at length, this underlines the need for better on-the-ground intelligence to direct the air campaign to where the bad guys have holed up. (After their initial flurry of success, the US planes are now only hitting “ pop-up targets of opportunity.”) Well, on-the-ground intelligence gathering is one of the things our SAS forces did in Afghanistan while operating in the south of the country, before they shifted to an urban ‘training’ (and combat) role in Kabul. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Andrew Little’s victory

November 19th, 2014

So Andrew Little has won the leadership – by the narrowest possible margin – from Grant Robertson, and has already been depicted by commentators as being simultaneously (a) the creature of the trade unions and (b) the most centrist of the four candidates, which would be an interesting trick to see someone try in a game of Twister. The centrist tag was being applied to him as a compliment, and is MSM code for “not leftist”. Personally, I think it’s doubtful whether a lurch to the centre makes any sense at all – let alone any political sense – when applied to the Labour Party of late. Before people start booking a trip to Centreville for Andrew Little, we need to know more about who lives there these days, and what does that neighbourhood look like? Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the Australians scoring trade points against us with the Chinese

November 18th, 2014

It hasn’t been a great year for Trade Minister Tim Groser. The Trans Pacific Partnership deal has been deadlocked all year, amidst increasingly desperate attempts to jawbone it towards the finishing line. Secondly, we’ve just concluded an FTA with Korea that lacks adequate milkpowder provisions, which can only be read by the Japanese (in a TPP context) as a sign that we will perhaps settle for less. To top it off, Australia has just signed a FTA with China that has far better provisions on dairy exports than what New Zealand currently enjoys in our own FTA with China. This has not escaped the attention of the Japanese press, who reported the Aussie FTA this morning in this fashion: Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on our training efforts against fundamentalism

November 14th, 2014

As New Zealand scopes out the training role that we’re likely to play in Iraq next year against Islamic State, we should perhaps be keeping in mind the last time our troops got involved in a training and support role against Islamic extremists. That would be in Afghanistan. Over a year ago, Afghan forces stepped up to take over the leading role in the fight against the Taliban. How’s that been going? Not so well, US commanders recently conceded. In fact…the current casualty rate among the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) cannot be sustained, according to a top US officer within the international coalition. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Labour’s next leader, and Putin’s problems

November 12th, 2014

Now that the Labour leadership pageant has finally ground to a halt, the voting (and the guesswork about the likely result) can begin in earnest. At this point, no one really has a clue as to who will be announced as the winner next Tuesday, but the most common speculation around the traps is that Andrew Little seems the most likely victor – if only because of his CV. Little, now 49, has been head of New Zealand largest union (the EPMU) and is a former president of the Labour Party – and he’s generally regarded as having made a fairly good fist of both those jobs. While the affiliated unions and party members do not vote monolithically, they do account for 60% of the vote. Within caucus, Little could also reasonably expect to pick up most of the enemies of the old Anyone But Cunliffe bloc, obviously apart from Nanaia Mahuta. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the unravelling of the government’s responses to Islamic State

November 10th, 2014

Despite having had months to prepare its story about the threat allegedly posed by Islamic State, the government’s rationale for its line of response is looking increasingly shabby.

1. We’ll maybe be training their troops, but not any time soon, and not in any part of Iraq where things might be risky. Such pre-conditions would seem to (a) rule out most of the currently contested territory of Iraq and (b) be too little, too late given that a visible IS presence is currently being reported in Abu Ghraib, on the outskirts of Baghdad. Currently, we’re sending a scoping mission on whether (and where) we might safely play a training role sometime next year – assuming that the government in Baghdad hasn’t been over-run by then. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on our IS counter measures, Forbes’ hostility to the TPP, and CNBC’s idiocy

November 6th, 2014

There are two dimensions to the security measures announced yesterday: (a) the deployment of New Zealand forces in ‘training” roles inside Iraq, and (b) the expansion of SIS powers to monitor and intercept any budding jihadis here at home. It seems unlikely that any Islamic State fighters will be quaking in their boots at the added threat New Zealand will now pose to their actions on the battlefront, or to their recruitment activities on the Internet. Given that the overall aim of these measures is the one announced weeks ago by President Barack Obama – to contain and eventually destroy the Islamic State – it’s doubtful that a handful of Kiwi trainers will make any noticeable difference to the outcome in Iraq, even while it creates a more tangible risk to New Zealand, now that we’ve signed up to the coalition of the willing. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on Greens MP James Shaw, and the prospects for ecumenical politics

November 4th, 2014

Every now and then Parliament gets an MP who is regarded kindly by those in the opposing ranks as being a basically good sort who, if only given the proper life chances, could well have ended up on their side of the House. You could have called it the Katherine Rich Syndrome, circa 2005 at least. Theologically speaking, it is what the Catholic Church call the Baptism of Desire, whereby lifelong good intentions can qualify one for de facto membership of the club of the saved: “An heathen, believing, even though in a confused way, in a God whose will should be done and desiring to do that will whatever it may be, probably has Baptism of desire.” Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the links between bad labour laws and poor safety practices

October 30th, 2014

By co-incidence, one of the prime dangers of the government’s new employment relations law has been underlined by the release of the death and injury statistics among workers at New Zealand ports. These are highly profitable enterprises for the port owners. The Port of Tauranga for instance, is expecting its current full-year profit to be between $78 million and $83 million and other ports are enjoying similar boom times – but they are also highly dangerous places for the people who work on or around the port premises. At the Port of Tauranga, there have been 26 serious accidents since 2011, and two deaths. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Campbell on the TPP finishing line, and Amazon’s woes

October 28th, 2014

If the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal wasn’t such a serious matter, this would be pretty funny. Here’s Trade Minister Tim Groser on RNZ this morning:

The finish line for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is in sight after talks in Australia over the weekend, Trade Minister Tim Groser says.

And here’s the Japanese media report on the very same TPP meeting in Sydney:

After meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Monday morning on the margin of the plenary session, TPP minister Akira Amari said the finish line for their bilateral talks is not yet in sight…

Clearly, if these guys can’t even get their clichés in order, no wonder they’re having trouble around the negotiating table. Oh, and that old standby ‘significant progress’ was made on the weekend at the Sydney talks, says Groser. A while ago, I summarised the number of times that ‘significant progress’ has been made, even though – like Zeno’s arrow – things never quite reach the target. Read the rest of this entry »