Peace Researcher 28 – December 2003
These are the relevant extracts from Murray Horton’s annual Organiser’s Report, presented at the September 2003 Annual General Meeting of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa – CAFCA.
I am co-employed by the Anti-Bases Campaign, which takes up less of my time than CAFCA. The busiest part of my ABC work occurred in January 2003 when ABC held its first Waihopai spybase protest in two years. We’d taken a break the previous year to organise the national speaking tour by the former Canadian spy, Mike Frost (see my 2002 Report for details). ABC has been protesting at Waihopai since 1988 and I’d have to rate the 2003 effort as one of the most successful ever. By a coincidence of timing it happened during the huge global upsurge of protest against the impending American invasion of Iraq. So, for the first time ever, we held a specifically anti-war protest, in central Blenheim and at the base itself, stressing our key point that Waihopai is New Zealand’s biggest and most important contribution to all of America’s wars. It was phenomenally successful, drawing out 200+ locals on a march through what is a very conservative provincial city. We got the front page lead and the billboard in the local paper, the Marlborough Express, which went on to describe the march as the biggest in Blenheim since the 1981 Springbok Tour protests.
For the first time ever we had local speakers, both in town and at the base – I particularly want to single out John Craighead, the Marlborough District Councillor, who agreed to speak at our Blenheim rally, at very short notice (we invited him, a total stranger to us, after reading his earlier comments in the Express) and he made a major effort to get as many locals as possible out on the street with us. At even shorter notice, we were joined by Denis Doherty and Hannah Middleton, the two leading figures of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, who flew to New Zealand for just a few days, especially to join us at Waihopai. They both spoke and added a whole international dimension to the protest (they were amazed that we could get right up to the gate of “our” spybase – the huge US spybase at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, is surrounded by kilometres of no-go areas and is guarded by a variety of police and security forces, who use violence against any protesters. Denis and Hannah were speechless – so were we actually – when the cops came to our camp as we were packing up and voluntarily undertook to dispose of our rubbish for us. Maybe they wanted to search it for vital information). People came from all around New Zealand to take part. Due to an unfortunate clash, Green MPs weren’t able to join us. But plenty of flaxroots Greens were there, and the Alliance (which is now an extra-Parliamentary party) contributed a speaker from Auckland and plenty of participants. The Blenheim march really was unique – in the subsequent ferment of the Iraq War, peace groups sprang up in all sorts of provincial cities and small towns. But not in Blenheim.
My Waihopai work is primarily organisational, handling all aspects (right down to booking the Portaloos) and ensuring that it happens. In 2003, I had a much smaller media role than previously. My colleague, Bob Leonard, was the real hero at Waihopai. He performed so many roles that he could win an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon. There was his usual starring role as Uncle Sam, which he throws himself into with ferocious relish; he was a featured speaker and MC; he did a lot of media interviews (being driven mad in the process by one of those newfangled cellphones); he was our photographer; and he was the sole driver of our rental van, up and back, from Christchurch. All this, the day after he had a tooth pulled in emergency dental surgery and was told by his dentist to go nowhere and do nothing strenuous over the weekend! I shared a tent with Bob that weekend and witnessed how he suffered.
My regular ABC work is as editor of Peace Researcher. It used to be a co-editorship but Bob resigned in 2002, after nearly 20 years as editor. So now I’m flying solo. I’ve made some changes (such as the printer) but otherwise I strive to maintain the high standard that Bob set. I can only commit to get out two issues a year (a far cry from PR’s original frequency) and even that is proving a struggle. It’s a job that involves me doing much more actual writing than for Foreign Control Watchdog (the other publication that I edit). PR is a much smaller undertaking than Watchdog, with a smaller mailing list. The two publications used to have different emphases but there is much more overlap now, what with the Iraq War and the “war on terror”. As with Watchdog, PR is online and Yani Johanson does an excellent job as ABC’s Webmaster. Check out www.converge.org.nz/abc. Unlike the CAFCA/Watchdog sites, it has lots of photos.
The first few months of 2003 were the busiest for ABC in years. Bob presented our submissions to Select Committees on a couple of Bills (he did it by videolink and phone). These were two more in the package of repressive security laws being rushed through by the Government in the hysterical “war on terror” atmosphere that has prevailed since the September 11, 2001, atrocities in the US. I travelled to Wellington and spoke at a seminar organised by the Pacific Institute of Resource Management (PIRM), which was a first for ABC. PIRM also invited Bob to write an article for its Pacific Ecologist magazine. In my 2002 Report I said that Bob and I had both made complaints to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security about our well-founded belief that the Government Communications Security Bureau (the NZ spy agency which runs Waihopai) is spying on us. Bob’s was rejected, in 2002; mine took nearly a year longer for the Inspector-General to remember where he put his rubber stamp. I am responsible for our international links, such as with anti-bases groups, and have been doing plenty of that (as the Bush Administration forges on, invading countries and building new US bases all over the place, there is a corresponding global anti-bases movement developing to oppose it). And I do the ABC’s regular media work, such as it is.
ABC was involved in all the anti-war protests earlier this year, joining thousands of others on the streets of central Christchurch and at the US Air Force base at the airport, which had been neglected by the protest movement for years. Bob was our speaker on several occasions, both in town and at the base; we made special banners and I wrote a leaflet especially to distribute to those taking part. It was wonderful to see the rebirth of a major anti-war movement, both globally and in New Zealand (thanks George, you’re our best recruiting sergeant), with a whole new generation of young people organising and energising it. That’s the best thing to have happened in years.
Balance on 27/03/02 (cheque account) = $2818.89
Balance on 31/03/03 3581.29
Murray’s pay $17,743.40
Cash to Murray 200.00
Other cheques 219.50
One-off donations $8,141.00 (44%)
Cash to MH 200.00
Pledges** 10,584.30 (56%)
** 27 pledgers as of March 2003 with slight increase to 29 by August