In addition to talks with the New Zealand Government, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in for a surprise when the Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) announced a $5,000 reward for any student who makes a citizen's arrest on the visiting official. The reward has since been withdrawn and according to Press reports, AUSA had said the arrest would be for Dr Rice's role in “overseeing the illegal invasion and continued occupation” of Iraq, and crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act 1958, and the Crimes of Torture Act 1989.”
Writing on the Kiwiblog, David Farrar points:
AUSA has retracted its $5,000 reward for anyone who makes a citizenâ€™s arrest of Condoleezza Rice. I suspect someone pointed out to them their liability if a student trying to â€œwinâ€ the $5,000 got seriously injured doing so.
The AUSA President, David Do, who offered the reward is an active Labour Party member and a former Princes Street Branch Chair. Maybe a journalist can ask Helen her view of her party members trying to get the US Secretary of State arrested? [UPDATE: David Do tells me he resigned his Labour Party membership last year]
The post has generated 54 comments so far, ranging from those who are angered by the arrest call to those who see it justified. For instance, reader Glenn says:
Thereâ€™s probably a place for wrong-headed, dopey political activism that re-enacts the 60s, but not one that should be occupied by
student associations. The Canterbury folks are quite right; this would do nothing for student interests â€“ in fact, it works against them: the parties that student associations should legitimately negotiate with (University, government, etc.) view this kind of activity with something between disdain and contempt, undermining their negotiating power. Fine for a radical fringe group, idiotic for a President of an association that claims to represent a cross-section of students.
And in response, another reader Pete asks:
If itâ€™s not the business of the studentsâ€™ associations to point out that war criminals should be arrested, then whose is it, and why arenâ€™t they doing it?
Following Rice's visit, Farrar notes:
Rice even referred to NZ as an ally. Now that may not be a change of policy, but it still has some significance. As we fight with the US in Afghanistan it is ludicrous we can not officially train with them, and it is time for the US to drop the silly little ban which is against their own interests.
Less likely is significant movement on a free trade agreement. Rice has just six months left in office. Obama appears to be against free trade, and even if McCain wins the new Congress is looking to be highly protectionist.
The comments section to this post too is active with 30 comments so far, discussing US-New Zealand relations, including one by Paul G. Buchanan which says:
The visit was a nice gesture but I do not read too much into it. Ms. Rice was fulfilling a promise she made in 2007 to visit NZ before her term in office expired, and this is the follow-up (and farewell). No agreements were signed (although I would not be surprised if we hear that NZ will increase its troop commitment to the ISAF project in Afghanistan come the renewal date in September for the Bamyan PRT. What will be interesting is whether NZ re-commits front line combat troops as opposed to combat medics and engineers such as in the PRT given the deteriorating situation on the ground there). The US executive waiver on joint military exercises has been granted extensively since 9/11, and has not impeded a number of joint operations in a variety of theaters. In fact, it is the Labour government that prefers to avoid large public displays of military-to-military cooperation because of (perceived) opposition to closer military ties with the US on part of its left wing and potential coalition partners. The US military is not fussed either wayâ€“they and their NZ counterparts just quietly get on with their mutual business. The anti-nuclear stance is, according to Ms Rice last year, a â€œbump in the roadâ€ that does not impede further progress in the US-NZ security relationship. The point about Chinese and other warships from nuclear states making port visits is well taken because, like the US surface fleet, they are all nuclear capable (with proper modifications) but conventionally armed. Only the US gets asked about its weapon status on-board, which is a bit silly since it is widely acknowledged that the surface and logistics component of the Pacific Fleet do not carry nukes and are not nuclear powered (save the carriers). US subs are another matter, but given the state of NZâ€™s ASW capability, they can do as they please anyway when it comes to patrolling in NZ territorial waters, and that in fact may be of benefit to NZ in ways largely unseen and thus unspoken about by the governments of the moment.
Buchanan, who is in the US, concludes his comment by saying:
At the end of the day the visit was a nice â€œfeel-goodâ€ moment for NZ, but received no serious coverage in the US (where I am located at the moment) other than the limited focus accorded the side-shows by certain right-wing outlets. The day that the Washington Post or NYT has a front page story on NZ-US relationsâ€”now THAT will be significant.