Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Our government wants us to be a rogue nation

Assuming the government doesn't pull urgency (and I have my suspicions), Kennedy Graham's International Non-Aggression and Lawful Use of Force Bill is back before the house tomorrow for its first reading vote. The bill would make it a criminal offence for any New Zealand political leader to "plan, prepare, initiate or execute an act of aggression" in violation of the UN Charter - effectively, putting our money where our mouth is on our commitment to a peaceful, law-based international order. But while the government pays lip-service to those ideals, it will be voting against the bill. Why? In his first-reading speech (scroll down), Defence Minister Wayne Mapp gave two reasons:

  • "it would effectively hand our foreign policy to the whims of a United Nations Security Council veto"; and
  • it would "deeply divide our nation" if the conduct of the government in waging war could be legally challenged in court.
The second is simply old-fashioned aristocratic authoritarianism and unaccountability dressed up as concern. War is the sport of kings, and we plebs need not concern themselves with anything other than dying in it to advance the struggle of their betters. We can dismiss that in an instant by saying that we are a democracy now, not a C18th absolute monarchy. But the first reason is more troubling. The UN Charter outlaws war, except in individual or collective self-defence, or when authorised by the Security Council (either as a response to an act of aggression, or, in theory, to prevent serious and ongoing human rights abuses such as genocide). While the Security Council does not always function well, the fact remains that under international law, any non-defensive war waged without its approval is illegal and a crime. So when Wayne Mapp says he doesn't want our foreign policy to be subject to a UN veto, what he is really saying is that he wants to wage war in contravention of international law and the UN charter - in other words, he wants us to be a rogue nation, just like the US...

Which seems to me to be a perfect example of why we must pass the bill.