Monday, December 20, 2010

Blood for butter

Back in World War I the New Zealand government made a cynical decision to sacrifice kiwi lives on the altar of empire for the sake of trade - a decision referred to by critics as "blood for butter". Now it seems Helen Clark (of all people) made exactly the same cynical decision over Iraq - literally:

One of nearly 1500 secret US cables obtained from WikiLeaks details Cabinet decisions in which Helen Clark's government did an about turn on sending troops to Iraq because of fears Fonterra would miss out on lucrative Oil for Food contracts.


"Senior MOD officials (strictly protect) tell us it was not until Finance Minister Michael Cullen pointed out in a subsequent Cabinet meeting that New Zealand's absence from Iraq might cost NZ dairy conglomerate Fonterra the lucrative dairy supply contract it enjoyed under the United Nations Oil for Food program, that the prime minister found a face-saving compromise and sent combat engineers in a non-combat role to Basra, where they were embedded with British forces.

Fortunately Clark's decision worked out rather better than Massey's. But the mere idea that we would risk lives for the profit of a few farmers is utterly abhorrent, and Labour should be deeply ashamed of itself for doing so.

Meanwhile, the fact that senior MOD officials were secretly briefing the Americans on the inner workings of our Cabinet is deeply disturbing. And when you combine it with all the other secret briefings mentioned in the cables, you have to ask: is there anyone in our public service who actually works for us, as opposed to a foreign power?