Friday, April 6, 2018
Fake News to support RNZAF arms deal has begun
In the paid adnews links on Stuff.co.nz a link to Kiwireport.com with an article about "Chinese superweapons that the world needs to know about" by Ethan Gorstein. The amazing image of a catamarran aircraft carrier is typical of those clickbait stories designed to get people to follow links in that it is clearly the work of an illustrator than any naval architect. It features an RNZAF roundel as the firm's mini icon.
Naturally Responsible Defence was immediately drawn to the story which was basically a breathless parade of Chinese military developments which were largely misleading if not untrue. The interesting thing about Kiwireport.com is that it is a two year old domain held via "Registration Private Domains By Proxy, LLC", and previously "Gil Bar Tur Pesto Media Shemesh LTD" an Israeli firm. It is about as Kiwi as an Indian made tiki.
So how is it this firm has the money to place an ad on Stuff? And more to the point why would it bother? Well, the answer to that is pretty easy to guess. Right now the RNZAF is in the market for replacements for the P3-K Orion anti submarine warfare aircraft. As this blog has noted many times there is no justification for ASW aircraft in New Zealand at all but military forces do not give up capability easily and defend their budgets ruthlessly. There have been numerous speculative news reports about possible replacement aircraft but especially the US made P8 Poesidon which would cost about $1.5 billion.
However the sudden interest of Israel in New Zealanders' perceptions of a Chinese military threat might suggest that the Israeli military industrial complex has an interest in pursuing the contract as well. Israel Aerospace Industries has developed a suite of ASW technology which can be retrofitted into any long range business jet. [http://www.iai.co.il/2013/32981-46349-en/MediaRoom_News.aspx]. Israel is also known to operate a sizeable and sophisticated cyber warfare system [ https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/208126 ] and troll armies [ https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/nov/06/troll-armies-social-media-trump-russian].
Israel is not the only nation in the world to offer this technology. SAAB of Sweden also offers this kind of integration using the Bombadier Global 500 platform and the Leonardo radar https://quwa.org/2017/03/05/profile-saab-swordfish-maritime-patrol-aircraft-mpa.
While I initially favoured a business jet platform for maritime patrol (not ASW) over time my view has changed significantly. I now believe it would be better to combine the transport airlift capability of the RNZAF with the maritime patrol capability effectively reducing two squadrons down to one. Transport aircraft such as the Hercules C-130J or the KC-390 are used as maritime patrol aircraft (by adding additional radars, and imaging stations) and can there is no reasons taxpayers should pay for two squadrons when one would do.
While the RNZAF can probably claim 'plausible deniability' relating to the paid story on Stuff it is probably only too happy to see Israeli agents doing its propaganda work for it. After all, few New Zealanders are particularly interested in or aware of the capabilities of Chinese submarines. The prospect of Kiwis supporting an investment of billions in ASW aircraft while their hospitals are full of mould is rather unlikely so the RNZAF certainly won't want to own any of this obvious "Yellow Peril" nonsense.
However the Israelis would surely be incredibly naive to think that New Zealanders will be
keen on an arms deal with their country which they are currently engaged in gunning down unarmed Palestinian protesters who simply want the same 'right of return' that Israel offers any Jew in the world. The simple fact is Israel's racist and apartheid policies stink to high heaven, leading even the National party to side against Israel in the UN.As one of the many who stood against a simple Rugby game with an apartheid state in a protest movement that split the country nearly in 1981 I rather doubt the Labour party would be at all keen to put its fragile coalition to the test by spending several hundred million on Israeli arms - especially when there is a Swedish alternative.
Even more to the point I cannot see any strategic reason why New Zealand would want its maritime security to depend on Israeli technology. For as we have seen time and time again in the aerospace sector those that sell technology can stop supporting technology for any reason they care to think of.
But the Israelis are not naive, and they probably realise this. This makes me think that an Israeli Aerospace connection is probably a ruse by a somewhat naive organisation that thinks it can get away with this kind of stunt: The New Zealand Defence Force.
Why do I think this? It's as simple as the detective work in most murders. In most murders it is the spouse or partner that did it. Why? Because nobody else cares enough. This is exactly the same rationale.
Nobody else cares enough about New Zealanders perceptions of a "yellow peril" threat from China as those whose jobs depend on it. Israel can find other, much easier customers, but the NZDF is stuck with the public it has. And as it has repeatedly demonstrated a profound contempt for the economic welfare of the taxpayers that sustain it, combined with a tendency to place very fast and lose with the truth, it would seem the NZDF would be the obvious suspect in this fake news attempt.
I certainly urge my friends and colleagues still in mainstream journalism to investigate.
The NZ Herald followed this rather smelly ad with a story [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12029995] lifted from the Sydney Morning Herald quoting un-named official sources suggesting that Australian defence officials were concerned that the Chinese were seeking to establish a Naval base in Vanuatu.
It was a classic "Yellow Peril" story that racist elements of the Australian media and political life revel in. NZ Herald ran the story, practically verbatim.
It took the BBC (half a world away in another time zone) to call the Vanuatu government and check. The answer? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-43707975 No. Vanuatu doesn't want any military bases, thank you very much.
The Chinese government carefully referred reporters to Vanuatu officials. However anyone with half a military brain can see that a Chinese base in Vanuatu would be logistically very vulnerable. While the Chinese have militarised an island in the Spratley chain 5,000km away in the South China Sea the logistic link back to China is within air cover range of China. A base in Vanuatu would be completely on its own. So if there were any hostilities a Vanuatu base wouldn't be worth anything.
But that isn't the point. The point is "Yellow Peril". It's all they have to sell the public the notion that they need billions of dollars worth of anti-submarine aircraft. And it's not just crap, it's pretty racist crap at that.