War Is Good For Business
As the old saying goes, “What if they gave a war and nobody came”? Fat chance. Let’s face it, our species loves war. Certainly George W. Bush loves war because so far it has saved his bacon since he was selected President.
ABC gave a demonstration in Blenheim in January 2003 and, “thanks” to the then impending war on Iraq, it was an unprecedented success. Plenty of people came to demonstrate against the war in conservative and booming Blenheim. In years past our efforts to stir up the passions of Blenheimites over the issue of Waihopai have drawn limited support. That’s understandable because Waihopai is not an easy topic to explain. Perhaps the most negative local reaction has been caused by the look of the place, rather than by what it does. The huge domes don’t exactly blend into the bucolic viticultural landscape.
But this year was different. The course of events was pretty much as in past years, with the exception of the brilliant local turnout, of course, and a first-ever visit by representatives from our sibling group across the Tasman, the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition (AABCC). Seasoned (to put it mildly) activists Hannah Middleton and Denis Doherty flew over to Christchurch specially to join us for the weekend. Hannah spoke at the Blenheim festivities in Seymour Square and Denis regaled the masses out at the spy base later in the afternoon. And they camped with us at our now traditional site at the Pleiades Vineyard just down the road from the base.
Activities were held on Saturday, January 25th, beginning 11am at Seymour Square in beautiful weather (following a cold rainy night in camp). Our beginning speaker was Marlborough District Councillor, John Craighead. A large and enthusiastically anti-war crowd had assembled to hear John and join in the march that followed. Over 200 locals marched peacefully through the streets of downtown Blenheim for about 30 minutes carrying placards and banners. As far as we know this was the first peace march in Blenheim’s history, and it was also a first in the long history of demonstrations against Waihopai to have a district councillor as a speaker.
We arrived back at the Square just before noon and heard two more speakers, Hannah from Sydney, and Mike Treen, the Alliance foreign policy spokesperson, from Auckland. The links between the spying at Waihopai and the operations of the American war machine, gearing up to pulverise Iraq, were made clear in the speeches. Waihopai is New Zealand’s most important contribution to the US global intelligence system that underpins the waging of war. Australia plays a much larger role of course by hosting the giant spy base at Pine Gap and at Geraldton, Waihopai’s sibling station in Western Australia.
ABC then hosted a sausage sizzle in Seymour Square, including the much-sought-after vegetarian variety that have become so incredibly popular at ABC events.
No day of protest would be complete without a visit to the base itself. We arrived, still with good numbers of supporters, at about 2 pm. We had received prior permission to proceed to the inner high security perimeter. We were met at the farm gate by Jeff Holmes, the Government Communications Security Bureau’s new Officer in Charge of Waihopai, who reluctantly welcomed our promised peaceful protest. After due processing of our specially printed passports to enter the Undemocratic Republic of UKUSA *, Uncle Sam (fresh off a Starlifter flight from Washington DC) escorted us to the base. Various speeches were made with the effervescent Murray Horton presiding. Denis Doherty from Sydney AABCC again described the intelligence and military links among the UKUSA partners, Australia, NZ and the US, that make Australasia a key component in the US system. * The UKUSA Agreement, which shares global electronic and signals intelligence among the Intelligence agencies of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and NZ. Ed.
We were back at the farm gate by 3:30pm. After rest and a good meal at camp we had a debriefing session at the Community Centre in Blenheim and were then disappointed to find that we could not find a good late night cup of coffee in town.
The routine of breaking camp on Sunday was briefly interrupted by a friendly visit from two cops. In an unprecedented move that was undoubtedly designed to make us love the Police, they carted away our rubbish.
It was a great boost to our efforts and morale to have the Australian delegation with us this year. As a van driver on the long haul along the coast between Blenheim and Christchurch I’ve never had time pass so quickly with Denis and Hannah spinning out tale after graphic tale of Aussie anti-bases demos to make your hair curl. Australian police are just not very nice guys apparently, especially in the Northern Territory where Pine Gap is located, and under a broiling outback sun. I was just ever so slightly embarrassed to have the Aussies find out just how pleasant it can be at a demo in Aotearoa. Of course it hasn’t always been thus. There have been exciting times in the 15 years of actions of Waihopai, and plenty of arrests. You never know what we might get up to in 2004.
- Murray Horton
Winston “Olly” Oliver has been the genial host for the Anti-Bases Campaign’s last three protests against the Waihopai spybase. He and his wife Maggie own Pleiades Vineyard, in the Waihopai Valley and they have been happy for ABC to camp on their land. Previously we used to camp on the Wairau River bank (among other places) and getting from camp to the base was a major logistical exercise. Now it is a short walk. And Olly is proof that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), which runs Waihopai, hasn’t been able to softsoap all the neighbours of the blot on the Marlborough landscape.
Now, Olly has gone one further. In late 2002, he produced a limited run of “Big Balls”, named in honour of the biggest balls in the country. The label on the bottles made plain his disgust at the millions of taxpayers’ dollars spent on the spybase every year. “What angers me is that we are now part of America’s war machine but the Americans choose what we see. That is what gets up my nose” (Marlborough Express, 4/2/03; “A wine made from the grapes of wrath”, Sophie Wilson). Olly was kind enough to supply Big Balls to the ABC committee at cost – some of my colleagues bought it as a souvenir, but I happily confess that I drank my two bottles. I’m usually not partial to reds but this was rather a nice drop. Apparently the spies agreed too – Olly was tickled pink that he sold at least two bottles to spybase staff.
- Murray Horton
Just when the build up to the US invasion and colonisation of Iraq was at its most frenzied, in the middle of the whole showdown between the Americans and the United Nations, came the revelation that American Intelligence was spying on the UN. The British newspaper, the Observer, published a leaked memo from Frank Koza, the head of the Regional Targets section of the US National Security Agency (NSA), the biggest US spy agency. The NSA is the major partner in the top secret UKUSA Agreement, which brings together the electronic intelligence gathering agencies of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Their most notorious project is codenamed Echelon, which trawls billions of intercepted electronic communications for keywords (dictated by the Americans).
Koza’s memo, dated January 31, 2003, “requested a ‘surge’ of surveillance activity against the diplomatic communications of UN Security Council (UNSC) members, such as Angola, Cameroon and Guinea. It also requested ‘attention to non-UNSC members’, specifically all ‘UN-related and domestic communications’ containing anything relating to the Security Council” (Listener, 22/3/03, “Spies Like Us”, Nicky Hager). Nobody doubts that the US routinely spies on its allies and friends, but it is unusual to have it confirmed in writing.
Of course, this was all part of the numerous Intelligence scandals surrounding the Iraq War. President Bush has now admitted that he shouldn’t have claimed that Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy uranium from Niger (West Africa) when that was known to be false. Not only false, but an outright forgery. Tony Blair is in all sorts of strife regarding the calibre of intelligence that he used to justify Britain riding into Iraq on America’s coat tails.
In this country, the revelation was seized upon by Green MP, Keith Locke, as proof that the Waihopai spybase is part of a global network which spies on fellow UN members. Coincidentally, it happened just as Parliament was putting the Government Communications Security Bureau Bill through its final stages (the GCSB had existed, by Executive fiat, since 1977, but had no legal status until 2003. You can read ABC’s submission on this Bill at http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/gcsbsub.html
Nicky Hager’s Listener article said: “I’ve talked to GCSB staff whose daily job was scrolling through the intercepted communications of UN agencies based in Suva (Fiji), forwarding them to the NSA, CIA and other allied Intelligence agencies. That’s right, they routinely spy on the UN”. It’s all part of the job of being the most junior sub-contractor of American Intelligence.