More to planned US warship visit than mere celebration

Nicky Hager writes “Let the US send a warship” to be part of the NZ Navy’s 75th birthday in November because the Nuclear-Free Act will not be threatened by such a visit.

The response of Auckland Peace Action is that it is not okay for any warships from anywhere to come to New Zealand, nuclear-armed or not.

The aspirations of the nuclear-free movement of the 1970s and 1980s did not come from a selfish desire to be safe from nuclear war and fallout. It was a powerful political movement that demanded a different kind of world: one entirely free of nuclear weapons, and one in which New Zealand set an example as a neutral, non-aligned, peacemaking country.

What Nicky Hager failed to mention and what people need to know today about the proposed visit of some 30 navies (including the US Navy) is that this event, billed as a “celebration”, is part of an enormous arms fair sponsored by the world’s largest weapons manufacturers – including nuclear weapons makers – and a military recruiting and public-relations campaign that will involve New Zealand in future wars.

The week of events planned for Auckland in November is sponsored by many companies who directly profit from war, including Lockheed Martin, Thales, Babcock, ThyssenKrupp, and Cubic Defence (all in the top 100 list of international arms companies), along with the NZ Defence Industry Association, itself an industry trade promotion group consisting of another 60-odd members involved in weapons and military-related production. Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest weapons manufacturer and supplier to such regimes as Saudi Arabia, a country that today stands accused of using these very weapons to commit war crimes.

Along with the “International Fleet Review” which is essentially a parade of military hardware, a two-day arms fair at the ANZ Viaduct Events Centre is planned. Lockheed Martin is the principle sponsor and more than 500 delegates and weapons company representatives are expected. Here, military men can make deals to buy all the naval hardware and other weaponry on display.

Unsurprisingly, Lockheed Martin currently has a $446 million contract with the NZ Navy to upgrade New Zealand’s two frigates, Te Mana and Te Kaha, boats the Government has already indicated it plans to replace as part of its $20 billion boost to the NZ Defence Force announced as part of last week’s Defence White Paper.

This enormous injection of cash into the military is happening despite the NZDF’s own evidence that “the country does not face a direct military threat in the foreseeable future”.

The NZDF and those who support New Zealand’s involvement in US wars, however, clearly do see a threat – a threat to their public support and, thus, continued operations. This is the real reason behind the Navy’s 75th birthday.

Their “celebration” is a stage-managed marketing event to secure public support for future wars, ever-increasing budgets and the recruitment of young men and women to fight and die. The Navy says so itself: its four goals for the event are “reputation, relationships, retention and recruiting”.

The New Zealand military has been continuously at war in Afghanistan alongside the US for 15 years; it is conducting regular training with the US Marine Corp, and it participates in the largest maritime war exercises in the world, the US-led Rimpac.

Instead of leading us to complacency because the Nuclear-Free Act is still intact, Hager could have taken the opportunity to encourage a redoubling of the efforts of the thousands of people who worked to make New Zealand nuclear-free and the necessity of expanding that position.

That movement was brave, capable and courageous 30 years ago. It is a movement to truly celebrate, but its work remains unfinished.

It is that work that is now urgently necessary.

By Valerie Morse

NZ Herald

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