Emergency workers carry the body of one of the people killed when Flight MH17 was shot down
A Gallup poll, of Americans by religious affiliation, about whether it’s ever justified for “the military” to target and kill civilians
The same poll, posing the same question about individuals or small groups
Israeli and Palestinian soldiers and civilians killed in the Gaza conflict, as at July 31
Palestinian and Jewish/Israeli-controlled land since 1946
A 4-yr-old Afghan boy killed in January by US Marines, who said the weather was “dusty” and they assumed he was an enemy.
John Key and the New Zealand Parliament are right to condemn the killing of 298 civilians on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, and the impeding of investigations into it by Ukrainian separatists, and to express condolences to the victims’ families. Assuming it was a “tragic blunder,” it reminds us of the risks unrelated people are exposed to whenever anybody goes to war – a similar blunder was made by the US military in 1988, killing 290 civilians.
It’s a pity our government is not so decisive and unanimous in condemning the slaughter of civilians by our allies (or “very very good friends”).
The most obvious example at the moment is the Gaza conflict, in which over 1000 people (and counting) have died, mostly Palestinian civilians killed by our new allies, Israel. This is nothing new: since 2000, Israel have killed one Palestinian child every three days on average. The latest slaughter includes potential war crimes from Israel, such as deliberately targeting schools, hospitals, power plants and homes.
Here, Key has condemned the violence from both sides, pledged $250,000 humanitarian assistance for Gaza, called for a ceasefire and called the death toll “a blot on the world.” This is a good start, but his refusal to focus criticism on who’s doing most of the blotting (unlike Labour’s David Shearer or the Greens’ Kennedy Graham) makes his response ultimately inadequate.
Language like “Israel and Palestine have to learn to live side-by-side with each other” makes it sound like Israel and Palestine are two naughty kids who can’t stop fighting in the back seat of the car, rather than acknowledging that this is a situation of oppression and resistance (if that’s not clear to you, this video is a good, clear intro). Trying to be “balanced” or “neutral” on Israel/Palestine is exactly like being “balanced” on Australian colonial genocide or “neutral” between blacks and whites in apartheid South Africa. Israel bear the vast majority of responsibility for all those killed on both sides, because they’re in the position of the oppressor, coloniser and aggressor. Without acknowledging Israel’s occupation and domination of Palestine, we cannot understand the Israel-Palestine conflict, and without addressing it, we cannot genuinely hope for peace.
(Please note that I also oppose Hamas and Palestinian rocket attacks, for both ethical and tactical reasons. But it’s also vital to remember that in normal situations, people don’t elect governments like Hamas, or fire rockets at their neighbours. As Shearer, who worked for the UN in Israel, said: “It is not normal for 1.6 million Palestinians to be blockaded into a narrow strip of land, a situation that aptly fits its description as the largest prison camp in the world” and “These conditions will inevitably sow the seeds for further conflict if they’re not resolved.”)
Even worse is Key’s attitude to the killing of civilians by the United States, such as the hundreds of thousands (at least) killed by Bush’s war in Iraq, and the hundreds of children killed by Obama’s drone strikes. Even though Helen Clark ostensibly kept New Zealand out of the Iraq war, and drone strikes are contrary to international and NZ law, New Zealand assists with both of the above by providing intelligence gathered by the GCSB.
On this, we see nothing like the righteous indignation our Prime Minister expressed at the shooting down of Flight MH17, nor even the half-criticism of the Gaza slaughter. Key complained that we were “missing in action” in Iraq, has never bothered investigating whether drone strikes are compatible with international law (hint: they’re not), and is “totally comfortable” with GCSB data being used for drone attacks, even though they sometimes mistakenly kill the innocent, because they target “very bad people.”
If Key was “comfortable” with the killing of 298 people on Flight MH17, we would be appalled – we are rightly extremely uncomfortable with this act. We should be every bit as uncomfortable with the killing of civilians in “conventional” warfare by our powerful allies. In fact, we should be even more uncomfortable with the latter: as the Israel-Gaza example shows, our allies’ military superiority and position of dominance means they are able and willing to inflict far more damage on civilians, even if our media and politicians treat those people as less important.
Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, are the epitome of what John Key, Steven Joyce etc. think the world needs more of – competitiveness, innovation, profit maximisation.
To this end, Nestlé have been tireless advocates for water being treated as a commodity, not a human right. Not coincidentally, they’re one of the biggest sellers of bottled water in the world (along with Coke and Pepsi).
These companies are notorious for dodgy arrangements with local authorities to pollute local water sources and/or monopolise public water, so people can’t get safe water for free, they have to buy their own water back in bottles.
This is great for profitability but horrible for people. Access to clean, safe water is one of the main reasons infant mortality and life expectancy in the West have improved so dramatically over the last few hundred years. Nestlé are only interested in providing clean water for the rest of the world if it’s in one of their bottles, with the appropriate market value.
Let’s not forget the sinister combination of dirty water with aggressive marketing of infant formula in place of breast-feeding: Mothers who want the best for their kids aren’t educated enough to know the Nestlé marketing people aren’t the best source of that knowledge. So they buy formula they can’t afford, mix it with dirty water, and 1.5 million babies die needlessly every year (I’m guessing these figures don’t appear in Nestlé’s annual reports).
This is why I think Nestlé are the best argument against free-market capitalism. The theory is that when people have needs, someone will realise they can make a profit off meeting needs, so they’ll meet people’s needs and make their profit… win-win. The reality is companies like Nestlé have discovered you can make more profit selling a temporary solution (bottled water, infant formula) than a sustainable permanent solution (free public water, breast-feeding). And it’s even more profitable to create a ‘need’ you can sell a temporary solution to (a.k.a. ‘marketing’). Basically, psychopathy is more profitable than philanthropy.
This is just one way capitalism under-develops the world.
SumOfUs are running an online petition against Nestlé destroying Pakistan’s natural resources and stealing their water. The petition text, describing what they’re doing to Pakistan, is shocking, yet well-referenced and unsurprising for this company. Please read and sign. SumOfUs have had some wins before – but so have Nestlé.
Labour leader David Shearer has paid brief tribute to Margaret Thatcher (no tribute to Chavez of course).
It reads like the minimum tribute a ‘major’ party leader feels he should make; it says he didn’t agree with many of her policies, but nonetheless finds complimentary things to say about the divisive figure (“a strong and decisive leader with unwavering principles” sounds pretty good coming from Shearer’s party).
I’m not against Shearer doing this; it’s nice to remind ourselves that even our political opponents are human. I certainly don’t support the other response of celebrating anyone’s death, whether it’s Gaddafi, bin Laden, Pinochet or Thatcher.
But I do note that Labour’s limp opposition to the current government’s Thatcherism is a lot more in line with “We join with political leaders around the world in remembering Margaret Thatcher’s service to the people of Britain and her significant impact on the global political environment” than “I didn’t agree with many of her policies”.
Have you noticed that every time someone confronts National with a statistic showing that things aren’t going well (it’s happening increasingly often), they have the same cryptic response? They feign disbelief, and reveal that according to “The figures I’ve seen,” or “the numbers [Key] had seen,” or “The advice his government had received,” or “some of the other indicators,” exactly the opposite is true!
Whatever this alternative information source is, it has such a powerful effect on the government that they were “very surprised” that unemployment rose again last month. According to the information available to the rest of us, of course, this is no surprise – it’s been rising all year. But apparently when you have “the information WE’RE seeing”, the job market is “jumpy” or “bouncy” or “grumpy” or some other anthropomorphic euphemism to render statistics, truth and accountability completely meaningless.
So, I’m really curious to know: What is this mysterious “information WE’RE seeing” that the government are getting their ideas from?
Or these – National Party Pills?
Everybody knows that a two-state solution is the best way forward for Israel and Palestine; that’s why even the US pays lip service to it. But in practice of course they and Israel are committed to gradually colonising, blockading and bombing Palestine out of existence.
So it’s great news that the UN has voted overwhelmingly in favour of upgrading Palestine from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state” (like the Vatican). It’s a small victory but it’s a step in the right direction for the legitimacy of the Palestinian nation, the two-state solution and – hopefully, eventually, maybe – peace.
Congratulations to Murray McCully for the pleasant surprise of putting New Zealand’s vote in favour of the resolution, rather than opposing like the US, Canada and of course Israel, or abstaining like the UK and Australia.