Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Way Down Upon the Waihopai River....

I heard today that Simon Power, the Minister for Justice, has started a review of the “Claim of Right” defence that the Waihopai Wonks successfully used. It seems he’s a bad loser.

This review is unfortunate. Of course, many things that the Nats do is unfortunate, but this one’s going over the mark.

The problem wasn’t the law. The problem was the ineptness of the Police Prosecutor. S/he should have known that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The moment this shabby trio started claiming to know that the Waihopai base was being used to support the killing and torture of innocent civilians in Iraq, and that they therefore had a moral duty to disable or destroy it, they should have been asked to provide proof. They can believe all they want, as long as they can back their beliefs up with a few facts. They can say they know all manner of things – as long as they can prove that knowledge.

Remember: the older meaning of “prove” is this: to test. I cannot find anywhere that their knowledge / faith / belief / ravings were tested in any way.

This doesn’t stop them being sincere in their beliefs. But nobody should take their beliefs seriously without some form of proof or sensible justification.

Be that as it may. The prosecutor failed in his duty, and a jury made a bum decision because of it. The law didn’t fail me as a citizen of this fair land: the lawyer did.

I think the law is a good one. If I believe that someone’s about to hurt my wife, I would feel quite justified in using force in stopping them – as long as I could later demonstrate to a reasonable degree that my fear was justified.

Simon Power, against all appearances, didn’t come down in the last shower. He is motivated by a desire to limit of your freedom. Far from Labour being the “Nanny State” that the Nats and ACT were constantly wittering on about, we are now finding that it is the Nats who are prepared to ride rough-shod over your hard-won liberties.

I know it’s a cliché – but there are foreign graveyards filled with young New Zealand men who fought to the limits of their lives for our freedom. And while I don’t necessarily see Rhymin’ Simon Power as having a hidden desire to grow a toothbrush moustache, I am convinced that if he railroads through a revision to a perfectly good law simply because he doesn’t like a decision that 12 jurors made… then he’ll soon be goose-stepping his way over other fundamental freedoms that you and I enjoy.

I met a grand old lady the other day. 96 years old, spry, physically active, and a razor sharp mind. Funny as a bottled fart. She wasn’t a member of the Library, but did want to borrow a book, so I had to sign her up. She looked a little askance at that.“But what if my prayers work?” she asked. “What prayers,” I asked in return.

It seems she prays every night that she will wake up dead the next morning. “I’m sick of life,” she told me. “Just want to die. Seen to much life, too many deaths. Just want to die.”

She then told me that one of the staff tries to jolly her out of this mind-set. “Keeps on telling me I’ve had a good innings. But I never played cricket. Soccer was my game.. and any game that lasts for 96 goals is one that’s gone on too long.”

I can’t fault her reasoning.

Listening to: Cream, "Wheels of Fire".

Reading: Nothing. About to start a new book, but I don't know which one yet. I'm tempted to re-read an old Nelson de Mille book, "Word of Honour". His best one. Along with his other two best ones...

Watching: Hmm. Watched "The Pacific" last night. They've left great huge bits off the front of the story, but the shoot 'em up was spectacularly trippy.

Paper Heroes.... now, where were we? Oh, yes....

If the light had been better, neither man would have died. As it was, it was the cold turning point of the dawn, when furtive figures are simply shapes in the grey, where the Devil’s purpose can be hidden in shadows.
But on this morning, the morning after a great and decisive battle, the morning’s thousand shades of grey hid no evil spectres: just four young and very frightened French soldiers. The previous day’s battle had been their first, and would be their last. The noise and terror and confusion of the fight had seen them separated from their comrades, and they had hidden through the night, listening to the after battle noises: the cries and groans of the wounded, the scattered shots as the red-coated goddams killed wounded horses – shots which they believed were actually aimed at French wounded. All they wanted was to get home, and they believed with all their hearts that if they were caught, they would die.
The occasional flat clap of a musket being discharged was ignored by the two English-speaking men. They were accustomed to this sound – the sound of troops finding wounded horses and killing them with a single shot, or of clearing their musket’s load after a few hours on the picquet-line.
Camp followers, women and children, would be on the field of slaughter also, cutting the throats of men too weak to protest, and then rifling their pockets for their pitiful treasures. Some officers may be helped back to the doctors, but it was too late for most now: the battle had been won and lost hours ago, and their wounds had begun to fester.
Private soldiers were left to die. That was the way of it. If they hadn’t been on the Surgeon’s butcher’s block already, then they would perish in pain and in fear and with the blood gurgling in their throats and lungs and ears.
Neither man noticed the hurried whispers from behind the hedge. Blunt’s ears, which had saved his life on more occasions than he could count, failed him on this occasion. Sean Whistler, the friend he had fought beside in more battles than he had fingers, raised the brandy barrel.
“There’ll be no more fighting for us now, Sir. No more fighting.”
Whistler opened the spigot, and let the last mouthful of the raw spirit to pour into his mouth. He shut his eyes, lest the brandy splash into them, but the flash of the two muskets being fired still registered red behind his eyelids.
The first shot killed the dog. Then Blunt was down, a ball as wide as his thumb deep in his belly, but he had still managed to draw his brutally heavy sword as he fell. A scream was leaving his lips as the pain struck home.
“Christ,” roared Whistler, and with the word he shrugged the huge seven-barrelled gun from his shoulder. It was a gun that only an immensely strong man could handle, with recoil that would throw smaller men to the ground. Whistler thumbed the hammer back, and squeezed the trigger, aiming the gun at the four black shadows that erupted through the hedges. The powder was wet as porridge; he had been walking in the rain for an hour, and as the sound of the gun’s hammer falling impotently onto the frizzen-pan reached his ears, a 17-inch long French bayonet was thrust into his chest.
Blunt’s belly was on fire, and he still hadn’t managed to draw a breath when he swung the sword. Razor sharp, it ripped through a Frenchman’s Achilles tendon, and the man fell, leaving his bayonet buried deep within Whistler’s lungs. Blunt slashed the sword back, whimpering now, for he knew that he was going to die stupidly on this muddy path. He drove the sword up, taking a second man under the chin, the blade spearing through tongue and gristle and bone to shatter into the soldier’s brain.
Blunt was already too weak to keep hold of the sword, and the last thing he saw before a darting bayonet found his eye was the puzzled look on Sean Whistler’s face as a knife sawed at his broad Irish throat.

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