We “share values” with people committing genocide

May 18, 2024
USA and New Zealand flags with Speech Bubbles. 3D Illustration

Western leaders like to talk about values, shared values, common values. They talk about this a lot. America itself is obsessed with two things: conflict resolution through violence and moral preening. Nowhere is this contradiction more glaringly on display than in the genocide being committed in Gaza. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) says the US and Israel have a partnership based on shared values. I believe them.

Before New Zealand decides, by joining AUKUS Pillar 2, that we want to be America’s Friend with Benefits (cyber warfare tools, missiles, etc), we should at least pause for a moment and consider who we are getting into bed with. Australia also has time to reconsider its hasty AUKUS tryst.

A few days ago Responsible Statecraft posted a video clip of General Mark Milley, until recently the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States. In a blood-chilling talk to his audience at The Ash Carter Exchange on Innovation and National Security, Milley said:

“Before we all get self-righteous about what Israel is doing, and I feel horrible for the innocent people in Gaza dying, but we shouldn’t forget that we, the United States, killed a lot of innocent people in Mosul, in Raqqa; that we, the United States, killed 12,000 innocent French civilians … We destroyed 69 Japanese cities, not including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We slaughtered people in massive numbers, innocent people who had nothing to do with their government – men, women and children. War is a terrible thing. But if it’s going to have meaning, if it’s going to have any sense of morality, there has to be a political purpose, and it must be achieved rapidly with the least cost and you do it by speed.”

Were decades of butchering innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam examples of this moral purpose and speed? Little wonder the article was entitled “Mark Milley throws US military under the bus for Israel”.

Sitting right alongside Milley was tech executive Alex Karp whose company, Palantir, is making massive profits from ‘software-centric targeting systems’, including artificial intelligence to make kill decisions. Karp, a cheerleader for the Military Industrial Complex, went full Orwellian: “The peace activists are actually the war activists, and we’re the peace activists.” Palantir’s company founders include New Zealand citizen Peter Thiel (thanks, PM John Key). Karp went on to say the US campus protesters were “an infection on our society”. Milley chimed in:

“They [the pro-Palestinian campus protesters] are out there supporting a terrorist organisation [Hamas] whose very written charter calls for the death of all Jews, not just in Israel but worldwide.” I assume Milley knew he was telling a monstrous lie. I’ve read the Hamas Charter and it contains nothing of the kind.

US Green Party candidate Dr Jill Stein was one of the campus protesters arrested last week – in her case for assault on a police officer after she was assaulted, on camera, by police officers. She says Genocide is on the ballot in the Presidential elections.

“We have an empire that has gone totally ballistic. Empire, oligarchy and climate change – they are taking us down. We need to fight for a world that works for all of us,” Stein told The Hill this week.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister and Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs have told us that AUKUS not only looks good for the region but would be an expression of our shared values with the USA.

Asked in a recent NZ Herald interview if he feared retaliation by China if New Zealand attached itself to Aukus, Luxon said: “It’s about a principled basis of believing in some values … You need to be able to talk to your values and take action.”

The issue of whether AUKUS makes sound strategic sense – and security trumps morality in most cases – is of great importance. The US was, is, and will almost certainly remain a good friend and ally of New Zealand – whether we join the military pact against China or not. Joining Aukus at this moment in US adventurism, however, fails on both moral and strategic grounds.

US Ambassador (ret) Chas Freeman told me recently:

“New Zealand faces a bigger threat from rabid penguins than it does from China, so I don’t understand what’s in it for Wellington to sign onto Washington’s anti-China hysteria.”

The Biden administration has created a bonfire out of the international rules-based order and is undoubtedly guilty of massive crimes against humanity in Gaza. At home, they are shredding the democratic freedoms entrenched in the first amendment: the right to free speech. According to Bernie Sanders, a Trump victory will spell “the end of democracy” in the US. And, according to the sharpest defence analysts in Australia (Pearls & Irritations is an excellent depository of analysis), the US could be leading us into World War III with an ill-considered attempt to maintain primacy in East Asia.

I have paid careful attention to former PM Helen Clark who has emerged as a leader and a voice of caution in the Aukus debate.

“Our job, if we intend to maintain an independent foreign policy, is to navigate between the two powers,” Clark says. “We need to advocate for a region that is at peace and always pursue dialogue and engagement. We need to be a voice for de-escalating tensions, not a contributor.”

That is a statement of values I can sign on to.

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