Asylum for Ahmed Zaoui, 'Terrorist' or not!

Green Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke went on Auckland 1ZB radio station recently to talk about the Ahmed Zaoui case. Locke correctly called for Zaoui to be granted asylum in New Zealand, but the arguments he used on behalf of Zaoui can only be criticised.

Locke defended Zaoui by comparing him to Helen Clark, saying “Helen Clark is known around the world as a peacemaker, and so is Ahmed Zaoui - throwing Ahmed in jail is just as absurd as throwing Helen in jail would be.” Locke went on to differentiate Zaoui from members of groups which use armed struggle against oppression - he contrasted Zaoui the man of peace with the Algerian armed resistance and with the IRA, saying “there's no excuse for violence, whatever the circumstances.”

Yet the modern IRA was built originally as a self-defence force, and fought against Military occupation by an imperialist power, and the armed groups in Algeria are resisting a military dictatorship backed by French and British imperialism. Obviously there are many political criticisms that can be made of both the IRA and the Algerian Islamists, but equally obviously both are national liberation movements with wide support and many just demands. To support their suppression, as Locke implicitly does, is reactionary in the extreme.

What Locke's 'defence' of Zaoui actually does is (a) whitewash Helen Clark's and Labour's role in the ongoing War of Terror, and (b) reinforce the efforts of the White House to run together terrorism and national liberation struggles (think of Colombia, where Bush is calling the leftist guerrillas 'narcoterrorists', or the Philippines, where the Communist Party's New People's Army and the large Muslim insurgent groups are tarred with the brush of Abu Sayaff and Al Qaeda). We should support Locke when he calls for asylum to be given to Zaoui, but we need to accompany our support with criticism of the continuing rightward drift of the Greens and some other parts of the peace movement.

We have to take aim not only at the surface absurdities of Green and liberal arguments, but also at that their underlying view that the state and armed forces of Western countries can be 'turned' by the left and made to act for progressive ends in the Third World.

It is this underlying belief which has many Green supporters happily going along with their party's support for the invasion of the Solomons, and unconcerned about the way their party jumped into bed with the emerging Euro-imperialist bloc by backing a Franco-German occupation of Iraq under the banner of the UN back in March.

Trapped in their reformist illusions, the Greens and organisations like Peace Movement Aotearoa tend to hold back the anti-war movement by advocating forms of protest designed to 'pressure' Labour to act progressively on international issues. PMA, for instance, is now calling for letters to be sent to Helen Clark demanding the release of Zaoui.

The truth is that Labour will never be pressured into changing direction and dropping its support for US and European imperialism. Labour is dedicated to administering capitalism, and at the dawn of the twenty first century wars of recolonisation and rollbacks of civil liberties are the survival mechanism of capitalism. The War of Terror is a necessity, not some mistake a few well-worded letters can persuade honourable politicians to put right. We need organized workers' action, not symbolic pressure protests, to counter the War of Terror and help its victims like Ahmed Zaoui.

The absurdity of the Green-liberal position on the capitalist state and army was shown up by another part of Locke's performance on 1ZB. Locke condemned the SIS as an untrustworthy player in the Zaoui case, pointing out the closeness of the organisation's ties to the CIA and MI5. Where, though, does Locke think the information being used to justify the invasion of the Solomons comes from? If the SIS is not to be trusted over the facts concerning one man, how can it be trusted over the fate of a nation?

Locke also pointed to the role of French security services in helping the Algerian regime demonise opponents like Zaoui. Of course, France has a long history of acting against the interests of Algerians - in the 1950s and early 60s it killed tens of thousands of Algerians in a futile effort to defeat an independence movement in its biggest colony.

Closer to home, the French state has an appalling record in Pacific colonies like New Caledonia, where it killed a quarter of the Kanak population in the nineteenth century, and French Polynesia, where it tested nuclear bombs as recently as 1994. And then, of course, there's the role of French security services in the Rainbow Warrior bombing in 1985. Why, given this record, does Locke think that France offered a progressive alternative solution to the crisis in Iraq last March? Why did he trust the French army and security services over the Pentagon and the CIA? Why does he continue to advocate Franco-German occupation as preferable to US occupation? It is questions like these that rank and file Greens should be asking. 

From Class Struggle, 52 September-October 2003

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