Beware Americans Bearing … Well, Anything

There are lots of reasons for New Zealand to keep a very wide berth of anything and everything to do with the American Military – like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the ‘War on Terror’, etc. etc. But of course we somehow can’t help ourselves in desperately wanting to play with the Big Boys. That’s the message that comes through very powerfully in Nicky Hager’s 2011 book, Other People’s Warswhich meticulously chronicles how our military, over and over again, subverted the instructions of the Government in an effort to suck up to the Americans and British. Not that the politicians come out of it so well either. 

So, here we are again. Being courted by the U.S. for some military build-up in the Pacific. I rather like how the Washington Post reports that U.S. Defence Secretary Panetta, just back from an Asia-Pacific swing, “assured his hosts that U.S. plans to add troops, ships and a new missile defense site in the region are not meant to threaten China”. Troops, ships and missile defense sites? Threatening? Whatever makes you think that?

I tend to think the Americans are hunting around for an adversary more appropriate to an annual defence spend of $NZ 800 billion than the Taliban. Otherwise, in times of “austerity”, how can you justify it? On the other hand, have they ever needed to justify it?

If there’s one thing I heard recently that I consider the best evidence for keeping clear of the Americans, it was an interview with NYT reporter Kurt Eichenwald about his new book “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars”

It was on Democracy Now! and the full transcript is here. But I’ll just attach the really scary bit (Nermeen Shaikh is the interviewer):

NERMEEN SHAIKH: One of the most interesting accounts in your book is of President Bush trying to persuade—then-President Bush trying to persuade French President Jacques Chirac to support U.S. military action in Iraq. You write that Bush said to Chirac, quote, “Jacques, you and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we are both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord.” Bush goes on to say, quote, “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East. Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins,” end-quote. Can you elaborate on that exchange? [emphasis added]

KURT EICHENWALD: That was a very interesting day when I heard that. This was a phone call—at that point, Chirac had been expressing a great deal of doubt about the intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. His doubts obviously were well placed. And Bush was trying to get a unified—you know, unified effort behind getting a resolution from the U.N. and then for military action. And Chirac was not being particularly cooperative, for the very reason he didn’t trust the intelligence. And so there’s this phone call, and Bush is, you know, giving many reasons why France should become part of a—why Chirac should be joining in. And he’s not having a lot of success. And suddenly you shift into this religious conversation.

And Chirac’s response to this was, you know, he gets off the phone—and other people had been—you know, had been in on the call, and he looks at his staff and says, “Does anyone know what he was talking about?” And they—his administration, someone there reaches out to an expert on the Bible in Switzerland, and this person—because it’s like, what is Gog and Magog? And this person writes up a report for—I mean, I just say this, and it’s surreal. He writes a report for the French president explaining these biblical terms that were cited by the president of the United States in this national security conversation. And Gog and Magog are two—are from two the books of the Bible, one the Book of Ezekiel and one the Book of Revelation. And it is central elements in, you know, the apocalyptic—you know, the Armageddon concept. And so, Chirac’s response when he reads this is, “I’m dealing with a fanatic, and I’m not going to make, you know, national security decisions for France based on someone—you know, the president’s interpretation of the Bible.”


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