Our political leaders wet themselves with excitement when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's offsiders signalled we were officially forgiven for refusing to host their nuclear ships in our city harbours.

Ever since we snubbed visiting friends arriving in nuclear warships, our country's elite (who believed we had to be footrests for the American military), were forced to settle for small occasions when one of our political leaders got a "door stop" conversation with a senior US politician.

Such trysts made front-page news and media analysts pored over the hidden meanings of any utterances.

We were persona non grata in the Lange era. But over the years we've done our best to make it up. Eventually, we charmed our way back and were thrilled when then US secretary of state Colin Powell anointed us "very, very, very good friends".

The reason we had to wait so long for forgiveness is that the US didn't know how to get over their humiliation. I was at the State Department in Washington a few years ago where a senior official just couldn't understand why New Zealand would risk US displeasure over a nuclear ships ban.

She said what really rankled was the way we crowed about our anti-nuclear stand to the world, and didn't we realise the US couldn't let us be seen to get away with it?

We've tried to make up for it for 20 years. You can count on one hand the times we weren't in the front row of loyal supporters whenever the US needed it. Even when we disagreed we muzzled ourselves. Hardly a whisper about Palestine or Iraq.

And when we got a chance to earn US favour after 9/11, all our political parties (with the honourable exception of the Greens) enthusiastically supported the invasion and continuing occupation of Afghanistan.

Even when John Key increased our numbers of soldiers, the mainstream opposition was silent. That's truly amazing considering the Afghan people don't want us there and no one thinks we have any chance of "winning the war".

But then, it's not about the Afghans, it's about us being friends again with the US.

This weekend's planned visit was about having a love-in with Hillary, a free-trade deal and the thrill of being in war game exercises with the US and Australian armies. Clinton's New Zealand counterpart, Murray McCully, proudly pointed out we were so high up the best-friends list she was staying for two whole days.

Even the activist-left community was pleased. After Obama was inaugurated, an unofficial protest truce was in place around the world while people waited to see if Obama's soaring rhetoric was real or just election speak.

The consensus now on the left is that the tone of Washington has softened, but the reality hasn't changed much. Iraq is still occupied.

The Israeli state is still building illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian land; Gaza is still imprisoned from the rest of world by land, air and sea; an illegitimate regime drowning in drugs and corruption is still propped up in Afghanistan, and all other rogue states (whether US allies or enemies) remain as bold as they were.

After we announced we were nuclear free more than two decades ago, we were tossed out of the Anzus military alliance.

We were to be left unprotected and vulnerable to international threats.

Well, the sky didn't fall in.

In fact, not being part of Anzus has arguably made us safer and we have been treated by other countries in the world as an honest broker.

Clinton rightly cancelled her trip because of the catastrophe in Haiti. When she comes back, I hope our fawning politicians don't get carried away and start talking about returning as junior military buddy to our new American allies.

Then the activist left will really be needed to be out in force to welcome her.

It'll be just like the old days.