Green MPs and US ‘influence’

It was news on the Stuff website today that Russel Norman took a State Department-sponsored trip to the USA in 2009 and that our MPs have contact with the US embassy in NZ.

Apparently it was news because you can find a record of it in US embassy cables available on Wikileaks.

Never mind that Russel blogged about his US trip at the time with observations on: climate change legislation from DC, light rail from Denver and parking issues in San Francisco.

Russel’s trip was paid for by the US State Department, as part of a long-standing exchange program for New Zealand MPs and parliamentary staff.

Today’s article surmises that this contact –together with meetings between MPs and the embassy — has ‘blunted’ Green Party political positions. In fact, we are sometimes highly critical of US policy and sometimes in favour. For example:

We’re opposed to New Zealand’s support of the US-led war in Afghanistan.

We are in favour of green collar jobs initiatives from the US federal government.

We’re opposed to ‘free’ trade deals that favour US interests at the expense of New Zealanders.

We like it when the US president acknowledges an imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner and wish our PM would do the same.

We’re opposed to US corporate interests dictating legislation in NZ like Warner Brothers has.

… this list could go on at great length.

Newspapers aren’t always accurate. It was a sensational intro to the Stuff story today – Greens ‘seduced’ by US Govt – but not substantiated in anyway.

So if you want to know where we stand on any issues, come to our website, or call a Green MP.

You also don’t need Wikileaks to know that our  MPs meet with diplomats on occasions.

Among others, our foreign affairs spokesperson Kennedy Graham has met with officials from the US Embassy in Wellington.

As a former diplomat, Kennedy is well aware of the normal protocol for these meetings and the need to keep in contact with foreign government officials.

A lunch is not a policy change and a meeting is not a sign of anything other than that the Greens are a mature political party that meets from time to time with foreign embassies.

Rather than being judged on a sensationalised account of a US officials views in a Wikileaks cable,  we’d prefer to be judged on our actions.

We are pragmatic enough to know that we can’t simply ignore the US and , but principled enough to not be bought off when we meet with them.

27 Comments Posted

  1. Hmm, not sure why my comment above appeared here, it was supposed to support Catherine’s last post….

    [frog: shifted now]

  2. You asked, Drak, and I answered politely I thought. Of course I know of the MAI, but it has nothing to do with this so didn’t mention it.

  3. Yes Valis I fully realise that GNZ is the gOVT OF NZ and in case you were not around in the 90’s there was such a proposal as the Multilateral Agreement on Investments that was endorsed by the Shipley Nat government.
    So there is no need to give me a history lesson!!!

  4. “…then when it happens anyway to support reconstruction (even if it is by the army)”

    What reconstruction? The PRT are there to do security work, they do very little reconstruction, and do it very badly according to locals (no offence meant – it’s a job they’ve never been trained to do) the SAS do none.

  5. Hi Bryce may help

    It seems sensible to me to oppose the war initially, then when it happens anyway to support reconstruction (even if it is by the army) and at the same time oppose offensive units like the SAS

  6. LucyJH – I’m very ready to be corrected about the Greens’ support for military intervention in Afghanistan if I’ve got it wrong – because it’s become a bit more difficult to follow their changing stances. Certainly the Greens used to have a very black-and-white stance against the war, but it became a lot more fuzzy in recent years and the party decided to give the war/intervention some support instead of just blanket opposition. I guess this was part of the Green strategy to appear more centrist, moderate, and mainstream. So, yes, like Labour, the Greens seem to differ with National about exactly what sort of NZ military troops should be in the war and when they should pull out, but in general the Greens seem to have dropped their total opposition to the troops being there. So you’ll notice that Keith Locke et al only focus now on opposing the SAS being in the war. I’ve personally heard Keith Locke directly say in 2008 that the party changed their position and now agree with military intervention on some sort of scale. I’ve never seen a good justification for this however (apart from ridiculous and refuted line about soldiers being there to “do good”).

  7. Dear Greens,

    I just fell in love with you all over again!

    Thank you for giving an explanation with no delay, no BS, clear, concise and to the point. It’s been a while since I payed much attention to you, although I voted for you in the last election. I’ve been paying attention to the big boys, trying to get Labour to stand for something (other than asset sales – one tiny piece of the whole NZ pie) and fretting over what National’s doing to us as a country.

    I’m sorry for my neglect. You guys are awesome. You have strong policies, you make them heard, you are reasonable people who will listen to opinions and then make up your own mind, and you have solid morals and communication.

    Great to have my eyes reopened – thanks. 🙂

  8. Rimu – yes, you’re quite right. So it appears that Norman’s US-funded junket wasn’t anything to do with the Greens softening their positioning on the US war in Afghanistan. But I’d be interested to know why you think that the Greens shifted to its support for NZ military intervention in Afghanistan. Or have I misunderstood that policy shift?

  9. It is a lot less useful when the Labour party can’t get past the notion of being tories in drag, and can’t get enough voters to really challenge anyone as a result.

    Being all alone is a weak position.

    I am comfortable being left of center and strong on the environment. That IS the correct positioning for the party. We can work with Mana. We are left of center. We are not wild-eyed radicals. We have social principles and most of them are enough left to keep National from ever asking us for partnership. I am comfortable with being the “last-cab” for John Key

    That positioning should give us double digits in the election… a percentage that is NOT ignorable. Particularly combined with Mana (which I suspect is going to do unpleasant things to the current Maori party).


  10. Drak, ‘GNZ’ is Government of NZ. GP has nothing to do with the decision and has stated it is against the USG’s request.

    “Multilateralism” means acting with others, specifically via the UN, and is opposed to US “unilateralism”, i.e. acting on your own regardless of what the world thinks.

  11. Having expressed my doubts above I do support Kennedy’s bill making war unsanctioned by the UN illegal.

    Well who is going to manipulate whom?

  12. I am afraid that Bryce has a point, we should never be in anyone’s pocket or beholden to any foreign power.
    I have just read the cables and there are some things that I am not easy about.

    “The GNZ is presently considering whether to accede to a USG request to send additional forces to support combat forces in Afghanistan.”
    It doesn’t say who in the GP accedes to additional forces.
    I thought the Green Party’s stand was perfectly clear ‘US GET FU[KED’

    “That KG is likely to become one of nz parliament’s strongest advocates of multilateralism.” What does this mean? Multilateral Agreement on Investments?

    “Remains to be seen how much influence KG has on his party” Someone ought to tell KKKeegan the author of that cable that the Green Party never belonged to KG and never will any more than I would own the Green.

    This could be KKKeegan putting his spin on this, trying to persuade his boss that he is subverting the left.
    However if he really is subverting the party then how would he go about it?

  13. And who on Earth needs to be reminded that the US does things for it’s own reasons? If Russel were concerned about that, he’d not have publicised his trip so much.

    The most interesting part of NoRightTurn’s post is this:

    Those views – a strong commitment to human rights and international law – are the real problem for the US given its recent behaviour and desire to make everyone complicit in their crimes. And there is not the slightest indication that they have changed. And while the US may consider it a victory to swap Keith Locke for Graham, I’m not so sure about that either.

    He’s referring to Kennedy’s bill that would make the PM a criminal in NZ for breaking international law. It’s just hilarious that US embassy staff would see this as progress and Kennedy a moderate. Someone got seduced, alright – remember, Kennedy’s a diplomat too!

  14. “the media has been FALSELY painting us as wild-eyed radicals from the beginning of time”

    Quite right – the media can’t seem to get it into their heads that Greens are moderate social democrats. Which is a perfectly respectable position. Mostly useless, but respectable.

  15. Frog says that the Greens have not blunted their criticism of the US as a result of receiving funding or whatever from the US Government. This might well be the case. But after Russel Norman’s trip to the US, the Greens did in fact change their policy on NZ’s cooperation with the US war against Afghanistan didn’t they? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I recall, initially the Greens were opposed to any military intervention in Afghanistan, but at the 2008 election the policy was changed to favour NZ’s military presence there (going along with the myth that NZ troops were there to reconstruct Afghanistan). There might be no connection at all between these two things, but as long as the Green MPs go on ‘education’ junkets to the US, there will at least be the perception of US Govt influence over the Greens policy stances.

  16. No Right Turn comments insightfully on the topic, saying that the ‘US operates those visitor programs for a purpose, and they expect, on average, to get something out of them. Norman may not like people being reminded of that fact, but it is the truth. And if he didn’t want it to sully his reputation as a critic of US policy, then perhaps he shouldn’t have gone’.

  17. I can’t claim to know much detail about exactly what’s happened here, but my first impression was a storm in a teacup.

    Earlier Wikileaks releases have shown that the candid impressions from US embassy staff about events around them don’t always reflect reality, and sometimes they’re politically skewed or blinded.

    If US diplomatic staff think they’re cuddling up to and influencing someone like Kennedy Graham then good for them. Potentially they could be right, but I’d take it with a grain of salt until there’s reliable evidence that they’ve actually made a difference. Until then, it’s just someone at a low priority remote outpost trying to justify to their bosses back home that they’re doing something useful and worthy of promotion.

  18. The real problem is that the media has been FALSELY painting us as wild-eyed radicals from the beginning of time. They have been lying about our politics systematically and portraying us as extremists because that is what they do.

    The revelation that no few of us are amenable to reason and actually are rational people is a massive surprise to the press here AND to representatives of the USA who are less than perfectly aware of any reality they have not invented.

    The problem isn’t with the meetings or our reasonableness, it is with the characterization of us that preceded them and the subsequent insinuations that by being reasonable we are somehow traitors to our own causes.

    It is of course, the LAST thing that the media want to hear about. It is so hard for them to let go of their lies.

    Fnck them with a fork… sideways. We should take their sorry butts to the press tribunal and make them squirm.


  19. I read that cable is (like many such messages) as aiming to put the best possible spin on the senders activities for their management back home. I’m sure our diplomats and spies do exactly the same thing:

    “A confidential source in the newspaper industry indicated support for John Key’s visit to the UK” = “our paper boy, who is from Whakatane, wasn’t entirely negative when told that Key was visiting”.

  20. Surely any of our MP’s are right in pursuing a free and robust conversation with our US cousins.
    We have more in common with the US than most Kiwi’s could guess at – I’m biased though – having travelled there extensively, I found a Country and a People who were entirely loveable!
    And Dr Kennedy Graham is one of our more distinctively eminent Representatives – would, imo, make a good PM!

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