Gordon Campbell on Crimea, Paula Bennett, Dotcom and the uses of history

So the US wants Russia to be banished “indefinitely” from the G-8 club for its actions in Crimea. Talk about gall. Astonishing to watch the US lecture Russian leader Vladimir Putin over its breaches of international law in the annexation of Crimea, given that the US trampled all over international law in its invasion of Iraq in 2003. In its own defence, Russia could at least argue that the outcome of events in Ukraine/Crimea has security implications on its borders, and e.g. would affect the ability of its Navy to be deployed. That defence was not available to the US, which faced no comparable threat from Saddam Hussein.

Typical. In politics, history is a blank slate, where events can be rewritten at will, without comment. Republicans for instance, are blaming President Barack Obama for the fact that Iraq is “unravelling” – without any hint that Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush carries any responsibility for….invading and occupying Iraq in the first place, with far worse consequences for its citizens and far greater instability for the region than anything we have seen so far in Crimea. Cole tots it up:

Let’s see. The American administration of Iraq fired 100,000 Sunni Arabs from their jobs, abruptly abolished the whole Iraqi army, closed all the major state-owned factories, coddled corrupt Shiite politicians, and generally plunged the country into a massive civil war, which at its height was killing 3000 civilians a month and was responsible for 2 million being displaced abroad and 4 million internally, in a country of 26 million. So Iraq is unraveling *now*??

Unfortunately, the inability of politicians to look in the mirror is evident close to home as well. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s recent description of Kim Dotcom as a “fat German” is a crass and obvious example. Bennett would be better advised to address the culture of cruelty that she – and her Labour predecessors – have fostered within Work and Income offices. Routinely, WINZ abuses the people who seek the welfare support to which they are perfectly entitled, as taxpayers and citizens. The courageous, eloquent accounts of her experiences at WINZ by sickness beneficiary Sarah Wilson have gone viral in recent weeks for a reason. Clearly, this is not the way that New Zealanders want to treat each other when they’re in need. Bennett and her colleagues should be ashamed for enabling such a culture to exist, and for making political capital out of it. At the same time, if Labour MP Maryan Street really is going to take up the challenge and address the issues that Sarah Wilson has exposed, we need to know that a Labour government would act differently on welfare issues. Is Labour for instance, still fully committed to making Working For Families available to beneficiaries – or has that policy gone down the memory hole?

Thankfully, Rust Cohle was wrong. Time is not always a flat circle, where stuff repeats itself over and over again. Very hard to imagine any current Minister getting away with this kind of publicity shot, from the files of the NZ Herald – exactly forty years ago, this month.

Click for big version.

If this is one example of innocence we can well do without, so is the Crown’s attempt this week to silence the tweets by Kim Dotcom about the court proceedings in which he is involved. The thought that the purity or integrity of the courts can somehow be maligned by Dotcom’s 140 character observations (and links) seems a pretty absurd contention. Get real. These are proceedings in which someone’s liberty is at stake, and where the climate of public opinion may be crucial to the final exercise of ministerial discretion. If the man feels he is being railroaded by the extradition process, surely our court proceedings are robust enough to withstand him saying so on Twitter.