Notwithstanding the adolescent handwringing by New Zealand journalists and politicians over the "quest for a national identity" there are two days in the calendar which they solemnlly promote as celebrating the supposed basis of that "national identity" which they are otherwise at a loss to define. Those days are February 6, the anniversary of the day on which there was an act of cession of sovereignty to the British crown (Waitangi Day) and April 25, the anniversary of the day on which, in concert with Australian and British forces, New Zealand colonial troops invaded the territory of a people living on the other side of the world who had never by the wildest stretch of imagination constituted a threat to New Zealand's security or legitimate national interests.
Two decades ago relatively less importance was attached to Anzac Day celebrations, and relatively more to Waitangi Day. That has now changed because the regime has come to accept the futility of trying to build a domestic political consensus around the theme of a benevolent relationship or "partnership" between the British Crown and its Maori subjects. After the predictable failure of attempts at domestic "nation building" on the basis of British sovereignty and a special status for Maori, the regime now chooses to focus the question of "national identity" upon New Zealand's external role as a small and subordinate player in the Anglo-American imperial order.
The precise nature of this "New Zealand identity" is made manifest in the Anzac day celebrations. In public discourse, all crucial political and moral context of the Gallipoli landings is carefully is removed. There is talk of "courage" and "sacrifice" at Gallipoli, Malaya, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, but no discussion of the morality of "carpet bombing", chemical warfare, abduction, torture, reprisal killings and mass execution of prisoners, which have become the modus operandi of the imperial forces in every conflict since the Vietnam war.
There is some mention of New Zealand involvement in South Africa's Boer war, but virtually nothing is said of the New Zealand role in the British invasion of Palestine and Mesopotamia (now Iraq) because the bloody consequences of those wars of conquest and occupation are too obvious and painful to the present day. The history of New Zealand's invasion of Samoa, and the subsequent savage repression of Samoan nationalist movements remains etched in stone on New Zealand war memorials, but receives no public mention simply because Samoa is now an independent state whose people are of crucial importance to the New Zealand regime's economic and political interests. However, now that the My Lai massacre, saturation bombing, and use of napalm, phosphorus and chemical weapons have begun to fade from popular memory, the regime has decided that in 2008 the time has come to attempt to "rehabilitate" its unconscionable role in the Vietnam war. April 25, then, is a day on which the history of New Zealand's imperial involvements is sanitised, distorted and selectively presented so as to foster acceptance of, and indeed enthusiasm for, New Zealand's role as a defender of Anglo-American global hegemony.
Much of the propaganda surrounding Anzac Day is cant and hypocrisy. Journalists and politicians sanctimoniously speak of New Zealander soldiers who "gave their lives for their country". Television presenters flaunt synthetic poppies which, like the patriot pin beloved of the shallow and shameless among American politicians are intended to convey the self-contrived image of courage, compassion and deep devotion to the national interest.
The reality is that journalists and television presenters are for the most part shameless egoists whose principal loyalty is to the regime which pays their exorbitant salaries. Their compassion for the "ordinary Kiwi soldier" is feigned, and their depiction of the motivations of the New Zealand forces designed to mislead. Very few if any New Zealanders could be said to have "given" their lives in any theatre of war. If a sacrifice was involved, it was not self-sacrifice. New Zealand produced no suicide bombers and no kamikaze pilots of whom it could legitimately be said that they "gave" their lives for their country. For the most part the lives of New Zealand troops were violently taken as they attempted to conquer countries and dominate peoples far removed from their own. The politicians and journalist talk of "our troops" fighting for "freedom, justice and democracy" yet these values were never counted among New Zealand's war aims. The Boer war, and the first and second world wars were explicitly fought out of a perceived duty of loyalty to the British empire. The Vietnam and Korean wars were fought in defence of totalitarian military regimes which supported, and were supported by, New Zealand's surrogate imperial power, the United States of America.
From its inception the New Zealand state has seen itself an outpost and instrument of empire, ever willing to suppress insurrections against British or American rule in Africa, Asia, the Middle East or the South Pacific. Beneath all the posturing over Anzac Day, it becomes clear that the present regime's sense of a New Zealand "national identity" is primarily based on a long history of abortive attempts to deny non-European peoples the right to sovereignty and national independence which the New Zealand state has itself so cravenly relinquished. What the broadcasters and newspapers choose to call "national identity" is in actuality a craven, pusillanimous and morally reprehensible colonial identity.
Almost without exception New Zealand's imperial adventures have been bloody affairs, and, not surprisingly, most have ended in humiliating failure. The failures have been due partly due to imperial military inadequacies and partly to New Zealand's own military incompetence, but mainly due to the fact that New Zealand's enemies have always occupied the moral, as well as the geographic, high ground. The Turks outfought the New Zealanders at Gallipoli because they were defending their homeland from invasion. Fifty years later, New Zealand troops were defeated in Vietnam for exactly the same reason, and fifty years on again they will be defeated in Afghanistan by a proud, determined and capable enemy who have never accepted that European powers have a God given right to rule over the people of central Asia.
The good news is that while ten, twenty or thirty thousand may turn out for the regime's stage-managed commemorations on Anzac morning, the majority of New Zealanders remain unmoved and unimpressed. They correctly sense the shallowness, the dissimulation and the hypocrisy of the officially sanctioned cult of the Anzacs, and will have nothing to do with it.
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