The Labour government is clearly embarrassed by its participation in the war in Afghanistan. There was no reference in either the Speech from the Throne or the Prime Minister’s Address and Reply speech to the presence of New Zealand’s SAS troops in Afghanistan.
It is a war that no one dare speak its name. For Helen Clark’s government that is understandable. Because by sending the SAS to fight in the US-led war in Afghanistan it is associating our nation with war crimes.
The August 26 issue of Newsweek reports the death of around 1000 prisoners of war in northern Afghanistan, suffocated to death in containers. In other incidents, wedding parties have been strafed, and innocent villagers bombed.
Our SAS may have been associated with some of these deaths, but we can’t find out because the government will not tell us anything about what the SAS is doing in Afghanistan.
The reason Helen Clark gives is “security”, but that won’t wash because the United States and Australia tell their people something about the operations of their special forces. The New Zealand public has the right to know what the SAS is doing in its name.
The Green Party in this Parliament will campaign against New Zealand’s participation in George W Bush’s so-called “war against terrorism”. We will demand not only the withdrawal of SAS troops from Afghanistan, but no New Zealand support for the looming United States invasion of Iraq.
Not only must New Zealand keep out of that war; it must campaign in every world forum against it, because an American invasion would be the biggest challenge to international law and peaceful relations between nations for many years. Many thousands of innocent Iraqis would die.
The so-called “war against terrorism” is, by and large, a war against innocent people. As such it tends to foster anger and hostility towards America and its allies, and, unfortunately, make the ground more fertile for terrorism.
The so-called “war against terrorism” is also a war against civil liberties, in the United States, in Britain, in Australia – and in New Zealand.
The Green Party will try to stop the passage of the major amendments to the Terrorism (Bombings and Financing) Bill, which would criminalise those New Zealanders supporting new liberation movements or a modern day Nelson Mandela.
We are also very concerned about the content of a new anti-terrorism bill of the type the government says it will introduce. Overseas, such bills have increased surveillance over our lives, given police more powers to detain suspects, and undermined due process in the courts.
Those most targeted are generally people from Islamic countries, or asylum seekers in general. In this country, after September 11, the government adopted a practice of almost blanket detention of asylum seekers, which Justice Baragwanath has now ruled was in violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
To its discredit, the government is appealing this ruling, and appears to be defying the judges ruling by continuing to detain most asylum seekers arriving at our airports.
In this Parliament, the Green Party will be the foremost defenders of civil liberties in New Zealander and around the world.
We celebrate diversity and the contribution every culture makes to our society. We totally oppose the hostility towards non-European or non-Maori people expressed in Winston Peters speech today when he implied that non-white people from other lands were not New Zealanders.
Last Saturday I marched through Christchurch with some very fine New Zealanders, who were associated with the local mosque. We were marching against any United States attack on Iraq. The man leading the march was an Iraqi, and opponent of Saddam Hussein. Already many of his family have died because of the harsh sanctions against that country which have so drastically affected ordinary Iraqis but, of course, not Saddam.
An invasion of Iraq could be a disaster for the rest of his family.
Together with people and governments of other nations, we must stop this war. We want a world governed by international law and the United Nations charter, not a world where the most heavily armed nation holds sway, and uses its military might to advance its own economic and politicalagenda.