Don  Franks

Well done the three antiwar activists from the Ploughshares group, and the jury who found them not guilty of burglary and intentional damage in the Wellington District Court. The not guilty verdict relates to charges laid when the men deflated one of the domes at the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim two years ago.

The three freely admitted they did the damage claimed but argued that their illegal action was taken to prevent much greater crimes against people. The Christian activists told the Wellington District Court they acted to save the lives of those who are endangered by United States intelligence gathered from the base. Dominican friar Father Peter Murnane explained how the international communications network “Echelon”, which includes the Waihopai installation, had been used to track individuals and then subject them to “extraordinary rendition” by secret flights to other countries where they were tortured. He also described how depleted uranium munitions used in Iraq since the first Gulf War and targeted by satellite intelligence are contaminating the soil, vegetation, food and people in Iraq. Waihopai’s activity threatens peace around the world by providing information for imperialist aggression. Most recently it assisted the US strategy to help justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed as a result.

The three activists have helped focus public attention on the immoral work of Waihopai. Waihopai is the New Zealand state’s greatest ongoing participation in US global strategies. The spy base is nominally run by the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) but is – in all but name – a government sanctioned United States spy base operating on New Zealand soil. It is clear from research here and overseas that it is operated in the US national interest – both militarily and commercially. Other similar bases are operated around the world with Waihopai being part of this secret global surveillance network set up after WWII under the UKUSA treaty which involves the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Now that the trial is over, where to from here? Neither Prime Minister John Key nor the US embassy would comment. Leading capitalist paper the Auckland Herald editorialized: “Various wishy-washy defences have proved sufficient to befuddle a jury in the Wellington District Court, leading to the trio’s acquittal. … The acquittal will not set a legal precedent. That is the domain of judges, not juries. But it will probably encourage others who have attacked public property to mount the same defence. The widespread disbelief that has greeted this decision means any such attempt will surely fall on stony ground. Clearly, that should have been the case this time, as well.” It’s a sure bet that the capitalist state will take steps to contain and curtail any similar antiwar action. There is a job remaining to be done; the dome was momentarily deflated, but continues its predatory operations. The best response for antiwar activists is to revive and build a mass movement, directed first and foremost at our own capitalist state. There has long been a tendency in the New Zealand anti war movement to counter pose the supposedly peace loving anti nuclear Kiwi nation to the evil US military. Activists should remember that our enemy is at home. Waihopai’s initial construction was authorized in 1987, by the then Labour Prime Minister David Lange.

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