Saturday, 27 October 2007

Towards a tipping point

The reactions of various factions of the left to the Urewera raids (1) has been interested and varied. Some of it has been entirely predictable - cries for revolution and racial violence (2)from subversion addicts who don't seem to realise this sort of thoughtless extremism is what prompted the police to act in the first place, through more thoughtful condemation (3) of police use of terror legislation, to wary support (4) of the police action as a response - perhaps in appropriate and over the top - to a genuine perception of real risk.

The latter have been given a pretty thorough going over. Chris Trotter has been branded a coward, Bomber Bradbury a scab (5). McCarthyite calls to bar Trotter from meetings of the Auckland Defense Committee, and veilled threats against him, have been bandied about (6). It is a glum truth that the left doesn't need a rightwing opposition. Internal, factionalised squabbling will can render the left ineffective far more quickly than the right could hope to.

I've stated my support for the actions of the police, but it is qualified and limited. I do not believe that New Zealand police are arrant fools, nor that they would spend eighteen months and eight million dollars (7) on an operation if they did not have credible evidence of a threat, nor would they arrest 17 people across the country, and subject many more to stress and disruption, in some sort of show of force for the Hell of it.

Idiot/Savant takes a different approach, but he/she is busy re-fighting the Ahmed Zaoui battle with the SIS. Because the security services were in the wrong then, and behaved like incompetent fools, it does not mean they must be doing so again. The fallout of the Zaoui affair, and the Haneef affair in Australia, will have been in the minds of the police before they launched the raids.

As will the risks, beyond the damage to the police's credibility if the raids were a half-cock beat up. The reverberations will be felt for years to come. It isn't something that the police would have undertaken lightly. Contrary to what some of the more paranoid voices on IMC believe, the police are not simply the fascistic arm of a state intent on smashing all opposition. Things would be a lot more simple if that were the case.

So, qualified and support to the police. I'm not comfortable with the use of the misbiggotten terror legislation. Not because I believe those arrested are all blameless and innocent of any wicked intent, but because it is bad law and should be scrapped. So I hope that the terror charges are dropped in favour of more sensible charges.

Also limited support. I believe that there is a period of grace where a reaction - not matter that it be wrong headed and over-the-top - can be supported. When Ahmed Zaoui arrived in New Zealand, detaining him was justified, so that the security serivces could assess whether or not he posed a risk to the people of this country. Everything that followed was wrong, bordering on wicked, but initial detention and investigation was merited. I've ranted and raved extensively about the treatment of Mohammed Haneef (23 posts, to be precise, all of them condemning the cowardly, venal behaviour of the howard government (8)) but my first post on the matter was not until 13th of July, where as he was initially detained on the 2nd of July. Arresting the cousin of a terrorist as he tries to leave the country is a valid response. Detaining him for weeks, on trumped up charges, some of that time in solitary confinement, while leaking lies, misrepresentations and spin about him is not. So my support for the actions of the police in the current raids won't spring eternal.

1 - Termed such for simplicity.
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
3 - Idiot / Savant has argued that the terrorism charges are bunk on No Right Turn. An example:
4 - Messrs Bradbury, Trotter and myself. See for further consideration.
5 - A comment made on Aotearoa AMC:
6 - Both on IMC Aotearoa. The implication that Trotter should be
barred from Defense Committee meetings is here: ("I didn't think he was involved in teh actual committe - just that he gets let through the door too much. How disgusting though! He should be ashamed.") and the implied threat of violence here: ("It's good to have the coward Trotter there so he can see an activist community united against the likes of him. The last meeting he didn't dare open his mouth, and if he had said anything stupid with the actual family members of his imaginary terrorists present, there were "bouncers" present to deal with him.")
7 - 'Top Maori were terror targets,' by Joseph Lose in the Sunday Star Times, 21 October 2007. (
8 - Not a good word for poor old John Howard, Mick Keelty or Kevin Andrews anywhere:


Idiot/Savant said...

Idiot/Savant takes a different approach, but he/she is busy re-fighting the Ahmed Zhaoi battle with the SIS.

Well, more that I have an attitude of healthy distrust towards the police and security services (one I think that is entirely justified - quite apart from their past misbehaviour, institutionally it's why we have courts). And I find Ross Meurant's statement that the police have insufficient internal checks and balances and end up believing their own bullshit all too believable.

If the police have screwed up, gone wide and arrested on tenuous evidence, and inflated some wild talk into a "terrorist" threat, then it'll all come out in court. But at the moment we're just being told to trust them. And given what we know about some of the suspects and the police's insistence on doing everything in secret, that's just not something I think we can or should do.

(Quite apart from the facts of case so far, when someone with power says "trust me", it ought to sound warning bells. Democracies are not built on people trusting their governments. They are built on people observing their governments and seeing that everything is done properly).

If people have been conspiring to murder or playing with firearms without a license, then I want them charged with it. But its very difficult to believe that of many of the suspects. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and its high time the police provided it (if only by ensuring their next hearings are held in the open rather than behind closed doors).

lurgee said...

I'm glad to see you noted my little tweak.

I agree with you, absolutely, but I'm just giving the police a little bit more credence than you. But not a whole lot more.

Song for Georgia