On the 25th of March 2002, former NZ PM David Lange made the extraordinary claim that the former US Vice-President Dan Quayle, threatened him with "liquidation" [assassination]. The general response so far has ranged from out right ridicule, "did he mean 'liposuction'?" to " substantiate or shut up" as made by most political commentators. "Preposterous" said the US embassy in Wellington.
"A juicy anecdote of history, but little more" was one opinion being pushed by the editor of the Evening Post-INL [29th March 02]. Total ignorance of the story by the pro-US NZ herald-W&H immediately the day after Lange's claim was revealed, and only as a side comment day's later in an article about Helen Clark's trip to the US, only added to the attempt to put a dampener on the issue. Indirectly, Lange's claim was made to the Australian Govt. cabinet by Dan Quayle during a US state visit in April 1989, and only relayed to him through a phone conversation by one of the cabinet ministers present at the meeting. Lange himself plans to give substance to the allegation in a book to be released at a later date. Lets take a closer look at the issue and decide if there is substance to the claim.
When New Zealand declared itself "nuclear free" in 1984, it was at least a minor victory for a major player in the Pacific region where attempts to throw off the last vestiges of colonialism by smaller nations was being thwarted by the big powers by violent means wherever they thought they could get away with it. The difficulty with dealing with New Zealand was the fact that it was a predominantly Anglo English speaking and populated country with a long tradition of supporting imperialist causes everywhere. A "military solution" would quite easily have been the answer had this not been the case.
In anticipation of the likely backlash from the imperialist powers, principally the US, the peace movement was monitoring all attempts to undermine the no-nukes stand taken by New Zealand. Already it was revealed that a CIA plot to wreak economic sabotage on NZ was being hatched by operatives in Hawaii. The US ducked for cover as soon as the plot was made public; refusing to comment once they were put in the spot light. All eyes were on NZ, so the US had no chance to attempt any kind of covert action away from the prying gaze of the worlds media.
As a "power" in the region, NZ gave confidence to struggles in other Island nations similarly holding views against nuclear colonisers. Principal among these small Island nations was the Micronesian Republic of Belau [ Palau], which was the first nation in the world to declare a nuclear free constitution in 1979. With the blessing of the UN, the US became the island groups administrating authority in 1947. The "No-Nukes" constitution of 1979 was arrogantly considered a bit of a joke by the US and so was not adversely acted upon until NZ entered into the picture in 1984.
At Suva Fiji in April 1975, a draft Peoples' Charter for a Nuclear-Free Pacific was produced to become the basis of the charter adopted at the first South Pacific Forum in 1975. As a part of US Micronesia, Belau was directly affected by US nuclear testing. Names like Bikini Atoll, Kwajalein and Enewetak to name but a few, have become synonymous with this nightmare with many of their populations being displaced to Belau and other islands, the result of their home islands being destroyed because of US nuclear "FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY" Bullshit.
As background to the US involvement in the affairs of Belau, it is important to look at the so-called "Compact of Free Association." It stated that the US would retain control over Belauan military and foreign policy while being allowed to operate nuclear capable and propelled vessels and aircraft, and to use fully one third of its land for military purposes. The problem for the US has been an overwhelming rejection on seven occasions by the Belauan people not to recognise the "compact", Two attempts by the US to overturn Belaus anti-nuclear constitution were also rejected by the people during a forced vote contaminated by US threats of economic blackmail and violence.
For the US, there was only one course of action left to take against those who dared to defy their interests. In 1985, just days before the Greenpeace vessel "Rainbow Warrior" was sunk in Auckland harbour by French state terrorists killing Fernando Pereira, the first President of the Republic of Belau, Haruo Remeliik, was assassinated. Voted into office on a very strong anti-nuclear ticket, he more than most represented the symbol of his nations struggle against US imperialism.
Immediately, the finger was pointed at the United States. Anti-nuclear supporters in Belau were swift to lay the blame at the hands of the CIA. The response typically from the US was that Remeliik's death was the result of an internal struggle within his own political party. Given the history of the official policy of the CIA to conduct political assassinations, it seemed more than likely that the US was up to its old tricks. The murder of Bedor Bins, the father of two leading opponents of the "compact", in 1987 and the fire bombings of the homes of anti-compact supporters, all pointed toward an orchestrated campaign by pro-US/compact forces.
The final straw came in 1988, with the death of Belau's second President, Lazarus Salii. "Death by suicide, the result of an internal financial scandal", was the official position taken by the US State Dept. Extreme pressure by the US on Salii to sack government workers unless they voted in favour of the "compact", was more likely the reason for his demise, together with having to be forced to compromise the Constitution. Before his death, he was forced to lay off two-thirds of workers. He could no longer live with the shame. At the same time, several plaintiffs in an anti-compact lawsuit were threatened with death and fire bombings including a judge who had presided over the case by pro-US/ compact supporters. [see Overreaching in Paradise by Sue Rabbitt Roff.]
When the newly elected Fiji Labour government of Dr Timoci Bavadra declared that it was going to initiate a similar anti-nuclear policy to that of NZ, measures were taken by conservative pro-US forces in Fiji to undermine that policy. However as history shows, the pretext for the coup of 1987 was to be a perversion of indigenous struggles happening elsewhere in the Pacific. [see Class Struggle #33] The complete removal of a government as in the case of Fiji showed that an anti-nuclear policy could be reversed by forcibly overthrowing a democratic government by appealing to reactionary chiefly structures and vested financial interests. Those interests of course would have to be US.
During this period, much attention was focused on the no-nukes debate, with NZ leading the vanguard and this brought about a close political scrutiny. The US was very careful to watch its step, aware of the accusations flying around about its conduct in Micronesia. For there to be a change in Fiji's anti-nuclear position, it would be necessary for the US to shift the focus away from the nuclear issue to something completely different - INDIGENOUS RIGHTS! The world attention focused on Fiji would also have been a problem for the US to deal with at the time. The CIA's killers decided for now, "we'll hold fire."
In other Pacific territories, the anti-colonial struggle for independence has by implication also been anti-nuclear. The struggle for the people of Kanaky [New Caledonia] against French rule is a good example. Never known to shy away from pretentious PR like the US, France made sure that Kanak blood flowed with the assassinations of all of the FLNKS top leadership, including Eloi Machoro who was killed only months before Haruo Remeliik in Belau, the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, and the killing of Jean Marie Tjibaou in 1989 by a pro-French reactionary. The massacre by French troops on the island of Ouvea in 1988 of Kanak liberation fighters, was the single most bloody outrage committed by imperialist forces during the whole anti-nuclear/ colonialist period of the 1980's. [See Blood On Their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific by David Robie.]
Half a world away in far off Sweden, the 1986 killing of Swedish Socialist Prime Minister Olaf Palme, also had an anti-nuclear component to it. In the 1960's, he took a very strong line against US aggression in Vietnam with Socialism, Peace and Solidarity as his main themes. He sheltered many Vietnam draft dodgers from the US. A position the US was never going to forget or forgive. Speculation still abounds about his killers. One suggestion is that he was the victim of a South African hit squad operating as part of " Operation Long Reach", the apartheid era's attempt to eliminate key opponents to its regime. Quite plausible, considering he was killed only one week after giving a speech at an anti-apartheid rally. Whatever one chooses to believe, the forces of money-grubbing imperialism were no doubt implicated in the Palme assassination.
The mainstream media in NZ, while being entranced by the over flowing hype of "Lord of the Rings", has decided to align itself with many on the right -wing and give the benefit of the doubt to the US. Unfortunately, much of the comment from other quarters supposedly more progressive, have tended to dismiss the Lange comments without any recognition being given to the historical context and personalities involved during the period in which they were said. Recent comments by ACT leader Richard Prebble that the threats were "all in Mr Lange's mind", only add to the "preposterous" line taken by the US Embassy. While in Washington to meet US President George W Bush, NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark said the alleged threat to David Lange was "pretty unlikely" and had no intention of raising the matter again.
Unfortunately for the forces of opposition to US imperialism in Aotearoa/ NZ and that includes the Peace Movement, the issue has passed without even the slightest serious consideration being given to making this an important issue. There is every likelihood that the US under the present climate, will actively re-ignite some of its more direct action against those seeking to challenge its interests and that the "veiled threats" that Lange spoke, will become open and explicit.
A so called secret report made to the US Congress on January 8th 2002, that listed unsurprisingly countries that are officially designated for nuclear attack and include China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya, and Syria [genocide by another name], shows quite openly the US intention to commit the most unbelievable crimes. Why should the NZ public balk at the idea that its former Prime Minister "is a bit gone in the head?" Think about it!