Hit and Run: war, history and white supremacy

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s new book, Hit and Run, which details the horrific and murderous raids by NZ Special Air Service (SAS) troops in two Afghan villages in 2010, is creating shock waves across the country as we learn details about the suffering and gruesome death of 6 people, and the wounding of 15 others. The raids were essentially in retaliation for the killing of a New Zealand soldier. Hager has said cautiously in legalese that, “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that war crimes were committed.

No doubt there will be considerable political fallout, but the main players – John Key and Wayne Mapp – have already sung their swan song, so the government may or may not be able to wear this debacle through to another success at election time. We can be sure they will use their frequent refrain that “Labour did it first”, and indeed, they would be right.

New Zealand’s role in Afghanistan began on October 8, 2001 when Helen Clark committed Navy frigates and Air Force Orion’s to the US’s Operation Enduring Freedom. Secretly, SAS were also deployed at that time for “long range direct action missions.” Our knowledge of what that deployment involved has been carefully stage managed, but there have been some significant fractures in the domestic “hearts and minds” campaign. In particular, Jon Stephenson’s investigation of the raid on Band-E-Timur which resulted in the death of one child, and the handing over to US forces some 50-70 Afghan men, was a serious fracture in the positive narrative of “reconstruction” and “peacekeeping” sold to us at home. The Afghan men were subsequently sent to Bagram, a notorious US torture facility. Those raids occurred under Helen Clark’s government, and Stephenson was slandered by the government for daring to air the military’s dirty secrets in his excellent “Eyes Wide Shut” article for Metro magazine.

But this post is not a retelling of the past 15 years of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan or the NZDFs raids there. It is a post about another raid and slaughter: one committed by New Zealand and Australian troops in Surafend, Palestine in 1918.

On 9 December 1918 outside the Palestinian village of Surafend, Leslie Lowry of the NZ Machine Gun Squadron was awoken from his sleep by an intruder in his tent. The soldier pursued the man, and was subsequently shot dead. Despite the fact that an enquiry later found that Lowry had been shot with a standard issue service revolver, suspicion immediately fell on the local Arab village. The following evening, two hundred soldiers of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and Australian Light Horse entered Surafend, first expelling all the women and children. Then using pick handles and bayonets New Zealand soldiers murdered between 40 and 120 men before torching their huts. The flames lit up the countryside for miles around. They then moved on to a neighbouring Bedouin camp, which they also burned to the ground.

Despite initial disavowals by Australian troops, recent evidence has implicated them in the massacre at Surafend along with the New Zealanders.

During an investigation into the murders, the Anzacs refused to name any individual soldiers responsible. No one would ever be charged or disciplined for the massacre.

There is a very long historical tie that binds these wars, and these raids together: one of “ours” dead, a revenge raid, and lots of “them” dead. In some respects, it is the very same war that is being fought 100 years on. Just as New Zealand troops were deployed across the Middle East in WW1 in order to secure oil for the British Navy, and more colonial possessions for Mother Britain, so too, the War on Terror is the US’s strategy for imperial conquest of the Middle East and Central Asia. Certainly those on the ground are making the connection. In 2014, ISIS said that it would “erase” the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a reference to the post-WW1 secret agreement between the English and French which carved up Ottoman territory into new colonial possessions for the victors.

The victims of those wars are the same, too. Muslim men, women and children, ordinary people living very ordinary lives, have been and continue to be on the deadly receiving end of Western imperialist violence. It is, as Edward Said so poignantly documented, our processes of “othering” which makes it possible for us to see these people as somehow less human, less worthy of living than ourselves. This “othering” of the “Orient” is a strategy of control so that when our governments and our soldiers kill these people, we can justify it. There is another name for it. It’s called white supremacy. New Zealand is not involved in some humanitarian project in Afghanistan: it is involved in an imperial occupation.

For 15 years, parts of the peace movement have been calling for an end to New Zealand’s involvement in the War on Terror. We have been calling for an end to the deployment in Afghanistan.

So it is with heavy hearts and deep sadness at the horrors unleashed on Afghan people that we say that at the core of any investigation into these contemporary raids there must be a rethink of New Zealand’s entire military project. We must stop being duped by the public relations of “humanitarian aid” and realise that the New Zealand military and intelligence agencies are in the service of a campaign of global terror.

And we must stop it.


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War and Climate change: two sides of the same coin

ipcc-report-climate-change-mitigation-fossil-fuels-coal-oil-decarbonization-unfccc-722x509THIS month in Taranaki, the annual Petroleum Summit is happening. This is a meeting of major oil and gas corporations with government ministers and officials to discuss current and new fossil fuel exploration. At this event, vast areas of land and sea will be offered up for exploration in the 2017 Block Offer.

In response to that, a large coalition has come together calling for a blockade of the Summit. Auckland Peace Action will be there blockading in solidarity with our allies and comrades in the Climate Justice Movement, because we see war and climate change as two side of the same coin.

Imperialism, war and oiL

Wars are primarily waged in order to acquire resources. With more resources, nations or groups become both richer and more powerful. All sorts of reasons are used to justify war, like terrorism, religious and ethnic differences, and territorial claims, but when the dust settles, the reality is that war is about getting resources (access to them & control of them). Modern warfare is almost all about control of oil and natural gas. Foreign intervention is 100 times more likely if oil reserves are present in a country experiencing civil war.

The current struggles in the Middle East – and the involvement of both the United States (and its allies) and Russia (and its allies) – are predominately about oil and gas. They are not new struggles, nor are they primarily about religion. They are really about strategic control and who has it. Religious and ethnic tensions are manipulated and exacerbated by those with specific economic interests. We, the public, are sold emotive narratives that cloak the real economic drivers of this continual war and vast human misery. In the midst of all of this, oil and gas corporations reap record profits

Similarly, at home, indigenous peoples are resisting the relentless grab for oil and gas on their lands and their waterways. When they resist, they are criminalised and, of late, called “terrorists”. From the gargantuan tar sands on the lands of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in occupied Canada; to the Dakota Access pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation; to the poisoned waters of the Ogoni Peoples’ Niger Delta compliments of Royal Dutch Shell; to aggressive oil drilling in the wilds of Mapuche land in Patagonia; to unconsented oil and gas exploration on Māori lands and seas across Aotearoa, unwanted fossil fuel projects are proceeding protected by the state’s military arsenal.[1]

The push for war is primarily the desire for oil and gas resources. The cause of climate change: the use of those very same resources. The US military is the world’s largest consumer of oil; it is also overwhelmingly the largest and most active military on the planet with involvement in most of the globes’ current major conflicts.

So the world is locked into fighting these endless “wars on terrorism” (or whatever word is useful at the time) for resources that if used will cause rapid catastrophic climate change. It is, quite simply, insanity. War causes climate change.

And, the opposite, too

The causal effect also works in reverse. Along with rising sea levels, crop failures, massive biodiversity loss, and extreme weather events, wars will be one of the effects of climate change. As resources become scarcer, and millions (perhaps billions) of people are forced to migrate, those with power in society will seek to exploit divisions in order to retain their positions of domination and control over these diminishing resource bases. Similar attempts to maintain power by divide and rule have historically been very successful.

We are already witnessing the rise of fascism across the globe. The politics of fear, terrorism and “national security” dominate the global political agenda.

Many people seek comfort from the enormous challenges that we are confronting. They are seeking easy answers to very difficult questions. In our society those with power are quick to blame the most powerless: the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, the Māori. These are time-tested strategies for maintaining control. They are also the strategies of global horror and genocide.

Build Solidarity Now

We can see the picture before us: our world in ruins with a collapse of the global ecosystems that keep us alive. It is not a nightmare, but one clear possibility.

There is, however, another possibility. And each and every one of us has a role to play in making it a probability. It is called solidarity, and it isn’t just an idle word. It means taking action.

One side of that action is joining together to collectively support each other, the people in our immediate communities and across the globe. That is one way we can transcend the tactics of divide and rule. By building understanding, relationships, trust, and confidence across struggles, and building networks of mutual aid to improve our real material conditions, we can create a different future.

The other side of solidarity is taking action to dismantle the systems of oppression, of violence, of exploitation. For Auckland Peace Action, that means taking to the streets, and taking non-violent direct action. We will not be idle while those who profit from war, climate change and human misery conduct their businesses. We will confront them, and do our best to stop them.

Its time for you to take action, too. So we hope you will be on the streets 21-23 March in Taranaki. We’ll be there with you!

[1] In 2012, the NZ Navy was deployed to protect Brazilian oil company Petrobras against Bay of Plenty iwi Te Whanau Apanui who mounted a flotilla in opposition to oil exploration in their customary waters.

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Stand against fascism

imagesAuckland Peace Action stands in relentless opposition to any attempts by neo-Nazis to organise at the University of Auckland. The European Students Association was nothing more than a thinly veiled white supremacist club that decided the time was ripe to recruit more hatemongers to their cause on the back of the election of US president Donald Trump. It should have been banned from the University campus.

The group used well-known white supremacist imagery and has borrowed a modified version of a slogan from Hitler’s SS: “our pride is our honour and loyalty.” The people involved were hiding behind pseudonyms and attempting to cloak their racism and fascist beliefs with claims of only wanting to celebrate European culture. We are not, however, misled. Nor have we “misunderstood” the group.

While the European Students Association people remain hidden, their social media presence said a lot about who they are and what they think. On Twitter, Caitlin Duncan (@cduncs42) notes that the first and second “likes” of the group’s facebook page were Milo Yiannopoulos and Nigel Farage, respectively. These two men have been advancing the ugly resurgent racist ideas that now dominate much of the political debate in the US and UK.

Across the globe, white supremacists and fascists just like these are re-grouping and attempting to gain credibility by moderating their outward appearance. They don’t carry Nazi flags or salute “Heil Hitler.” Instead, they have refined their image – they carry New Zealand flags, dress in suits or “smart casual” and talk about wanting to “celebrate” European culture – in order to mainstream deeply racist, misogynist and hate-filled ideas.

Let’s make no mistake – in providing a space for these people the University was prepared to provide a platform for racism; a platform for anti-intellectualism; a platform for hate to incubate. In the process, the administration made the choice to make the University a distinctly uncomfortable and potentially dangerous place for thousands of students and staff. Such reckless behaviour by an institution of higher education is reprehensible, and quite frankly, confounding.

To be clear, Auckland Peace Action will stand strongly against any and all attempts at fascist organising anywhere in the city. If necessary, we will join our friends at We are the University to ensure that neo-Nazis are not safe to organise at the University of Auckland. This is our City of Peace, and there is no room for racists here.

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Drone Awareness Week

headlineimage-adapt-1460-high-droneart_03312014-1410532432837DRONE ASSASSINATION AWARENESS WEEK

Catholic Workers, together with friends from various social justice traditions are mobilising for six days and nights of fasting and prayer in solidarity with drone assassination victims and families.

U.S. drone strikes have killed thousands of innocent civilians in 7 Muslim majority countries. The killing continues. Our NZ Defense Forces (GCSB) are helping the killer drone programme, by giving signals intelligence to the U.S.


  • Witness to the killings
  • Vigil and pray for the dead
  • Pray for the perpetrators
  • Call on the GCSB to end all assistance given to the Killer Drone programme
  • Call on the GCSB to release all historic files
  • Spread the word about Drone Assassinations.

Find out more or download/print out our flyer. You can also download the programme for the week here.

Auckland Peace Action stands in solidarity with the Catholic Workers and peace friends who are undertaking to bring the war home to those who are explicitly providing material support for the illegal and immoral US drone wars.

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Solidarity with Niki Rauti


Auckland Peace Action stands in solidarity with Niki Rauti as she opposes her eviction from her home of several decades, an act being perpetrated by the Tāmaki Redevelopment Company in order to sell the land.
The Tāmaki Redevelopment Company’s policy of evicting people from their homes and selling the land to property developers is a grotesquely unjust act.
This forced displacement of people from their land to make way for the inhabitation of the land by wealthy people of the hegemonic ethnic group has a long and sordid history. From the Israeli occupation of Palestine to the mass resettlements in Eastern Europe during the World Wars, destroying the houses of resisting populations, forcibly resettling them and stealing their land has been a popular method of quelling resistance and destroying the society and culture of the resisting peoples. It is beyond belief that the New Zealand Government is willing to treat its own citizens as if they were an enemy to be eliminated.
The fact that this is taking place in New Zealand is particularly galling, as it represents nothing more than a direct extension of the colonial government’s policies of theft and repression that it now seems have remained unchanged since the 19th century. In effect, the government is still fighting the land wars, which is equally mad.
Finally, one has to ask why the government is selling state housing in Auckland in the middle of a serious housing crisis. The only conclusion that can fairly be drawn is that the government is either delusional, malicious or both. Notwithstanding which explanation holds, if the government is using wartime tactics on its own citizens, then as a peace group we must oppose it. We will stand in solidarity with Niki and the others who have been involved in the ongoing campaign against here eviction.
The Tāmaki Redevelopment Company will attempt to gain another possession order on the 21st of February. The occupation of Niki’s home to protect against eviction attempts will begin on the 19th of February. Stand for basic human decency and oppose this war being waged by the government on the people of Glen Innes.

Join the occupation this week at 14 Taniwha Street, Glen Innes, to stop #NikisEviction.

Protest at Tāmaki Redevelopment Company’s “public” meeting at Glen Innes Primary School this Saturday 9am.


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We support No Pride in Prisons

tumblr_ol6uyjgryk1ucdt0mo1_1280Auckland Peace Action today marched alongside No Pride in Prison’s 10,000 TOO MANY March against Mass Incarceration, and as an anti–militarisation group it may not be immediately obvious why we are doing so. Make no mistake: this is a war. A slow, inexorable war waged by our ruling classes on the poor, people of colour, immigrants and all marginalised groups in our society. Prisons are one of the most potent weapons of the ruling classes in this conflict. They systematically persecute, humiliate and permanently damage the most vulnerable among us. They are used as a source of slave labour in order to enrich our rulers. They cause far more criminal activity than they prevent, and New Zealand’s policy of mass incarceration disproportionately targeting poor, predominantly Maori and Pacific Island communities is nothing less than an attempt to destroy those communities. Mass
imprisonment breaks families apart, destroys social cohesion and creates poverty by removing wage– earners from these communities. Prisons have no right to exist.

Auckland Peace Action is thus proud to stand in solidarity with No Pride in Prisons to call for an end to mass incarceration. We wholeheartedly support their demands for an end to new prison construction and a reform of bail laws to put an end to the mass incarceration of people on remand, wherein people are imprisoned for extended periods without having been found guilty of an offence. The struggle for peace will not be one until our governments stop waging war on their own citizens as well as those of other nations.

Down with the prison state! Victory to the abolitionists!

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Taking on the war at home: work for the peace movement in 2017

drookerHistorically, the peace movement has been focused on global issues of nuclear disarmament, land mines, cluster bombs, and of course, war – primarily the wars of others. New Zealand’s peace movement has much to be proud of in this respect. It has made sustained and significant contributions to these struggles, not only domestically, but also in the international arena, including the landmark 1974 International Court of Justice ruling that banned atmospheric nuclear testing and a 1996 World Court decision vis-a-vis the illegality of nuclear weapons. Throughout the 1990s, there was a successful campaign targeting Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor; today, there are ongoing local campaigns that seek to target the military occupations in Palestine and West Papua.

While all of this work is important for global peace and security, there is important work to be done here at home; it cannot be ignored by anyone who is genuinely interested in genuine peace and justice. We refer, of course, to the continued struggle against New Zealand’s brutal colonial practices that are perpetrated through the two main institutions of “legitimate”, i.e. state, violence domestically: the police and the prison systems.

We know the statistics: New Zealand imprisons its indigenous population at a rate that is at least three times higher than that for non-Māori; further, the system is demonstrably racist at every step from arrest to conviction to sentencing. You only have to visit your local court to see that those prosecuted are overwhelmingly brown. Clearly, something is seriously wrong with the criminal justice system in Aotearoa.

You may legitimately ask, what does crime and punishment have to do with the peace movement?

It is the people and institutions with power in our society that determine what we define as “crime”. By way of illustration, the deaths of those 29 men at the Pike River Mine weren’t labeled “murders” and no one was punished. Interestingly the spokesperson for the miners, Bernie Monk, called the mine entrance a “crime scene” – and indeed it is – in an attempt to illustrate what had actually happened. The total Pike River management failure to adhere to safety standards and to provide a safe, adequate workplace went unmentioned and unpunished.

As another example, consider how we deal with drugs and alcohol. In NZ alone, alcohol causes between 800-1000 deaths per year and alcohol-related harm has been estimated to cost $5.3 billion per year; meanwhile, it is legal and acceptable to sell as much alcohol as the market can be stimulated to demand. By contrast, the possession of any amount of cannabis is totally illegal, despite its medically demonstrated therapeutic effects.

As a further illustration, consider fraud: in this case, the way in which crime is defined and dealt with unevenly. There is an estimated roughly $2 billion a year in tax fraud –largely practiced by those who have income to hide, i.e., white collar crime, while benefit fraud — by comparison — is thought to be about $80 million, roughly 1/25th of the former. Tax fraud costs every person in NZ about $1500/year, compared to $5/year for benefit fraud. Tax fraud by any measure is a far greater social harm, yet those convicted of benefit fraud are much more likely to go to prison, and experience ongoing social opprobrium.

By the State’s definition, it is not a crime that the nation’s indigenous people have been systematically robbed of their lands, resources, culture and language. It is not a crime that they are subjected to a system of social control that they did not create and did not want, while their own functioning system was destroyed. It is not a crime that Māori are more likely to die earlier, be less educated, be poorer, receive worse healthcare, be imprisoned and live in substandard housing. In the same vein, it is not a crime to profit from exploiting the work of people for a minimum wage on which they cannot survive, nor is it a crime that 250,000 children live in poverty.

Crime is what the powerful say it is. This is not to say that all “crime” is subjective. Rather, it is to say that the greatest social harms in our society are not defined as “crime” and typically are not punished at all. In his seminal book that is now in its 11th edition, The Rich get Richer, and the Poor get Prison, Jeffrey Reiman explains how society has been conditioned to see individual acts of immediate harm as the most serious crimes, while widespread, long-term, systemic social harm with the same effects (death or injury for example) are not treated as crimes at all. This is because typically the latter are done by people with power, while the former are (largely) done by the disenfranchised, the powerless.

So if most major crimes aren’t being punished, what are the institutions responsible for “crime” control and punishment doing?

The police and prison system are, along with the military, the legitimate forces of violence in New Zealand. This means that they are legally empowered to commit acts of violence against the people of New Zealand and in the case of the military, against others. This power potential ranges from arm-twisting and pain-compliance techniques to the act of “tasering,” to that ultimate act of violence, killing. In a democratic society, it is understood that some violence is necessary to keep the peace, but such “necessary” violence should be proportional. Typically, those three state agencies define “proportional.”

Historically, what that “proportional” violence has meant in the NZ reality is the invasion of lands, the killing of women and children, the burning of houses and possessions. The police, court and prison systems were essentially founded to execute the will of those with power, i.e., the confiscation of resources by any means necessary. The police for example, were initially founded as the Armed Constabulary in 1867. They were formed to subdue Māori, to destroy their resistance to the theft of their lands and resources. Today, the police, court system and prisons as designed and run by Pākehā continue to serve the same functions.

The token funds given as Treaty settlements are intended to act as reparation for the gaping wounds left by colonial pillage and plunder. In fact, they have the precise value of a band-aid for a gunshot wound.

The stark reality of NZ’s incarceration numbers contradicts the State’s promise of equality before the law: overwhelmingly, our prisons overflow with Māori. This systematic racism isn’t some imaginary idea; it is a documented fact that even the NZ Ministry of Justice and Department of Corrections admit. At every single step of the criminal justice system, it is biased against Māori. Why is it racist? Because it is a system designed to protect those who came to colonise, the Pākehā, and those who committed the most massive widespread criminal act – colonisation. Today, it continues to serve and protect those who benefit from that colonisation, at the expense of those who were here before their arrival.

We am not suggesting that we should do nothing about people who cause individual direct harms in our community like rape, murder, child abuse, etc. Rather, those social harms should not be dealt with as in the past (arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning people), because if anything, those ways are actually causing more problems – and more crime.

Make no mistake – this is war. It is the continuation of a long war. Cloaked in the language of crime and punishment, it is easy to dismiss the horrific violence, lasting wounds and trauma being inflicted upon Māori. There can be no real peace and no justice while the structures of violence and racist repression that keep people from living a decent and free life continue to exist.

So as the prison population tops 10,000 and the government plans to invest $1 billion into building a new facility to add more “capacity” to the failing prison system, we must urgently confront this profoundly unjust and violent system that is so disproportionately terrorising Māori.

This year, Auckland Peace Action will stand alongside our friends and allies in No Pride in Prisons to call for an end to the prison-industrial complex. Please join us on the streets in Auckland in February to work for peace – March for justice on Saturday, 11 February at noon from Aotea Square & say 10,000 TOO MANY.



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