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Greens Support a Ban on New Zealand Mercenaries
. Speaking on April 16 in support of the Mercenary Activities (Prohibition) Bill, which aims to bring New Zealand into line with the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, returned from the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, Keith Locke warned New Zealanders contemplating ‘security’ work in Iraq that active involvement in the conflict for money will soon be a criminal offence under this bill.
“This Bill should make New Zealanders think twice about chasing $1000-a-day jobs in Iraq; as should their local recruiting agents who could qualify to up to 14 years imprisonment,” said Keith, the Green Party Spokesperson on Defence.
“The Bill now uses the term ‘take part in hostilities’, rather than ‘fighting’, which means that if a New Zealander is effectively supporting the US occupation by, say, guarding military facilities or convoys, they could be deemed to be a mercenary and be prosecuted upon their return. This is an appropriate distinction, as the privatisation of military operations in Iraq is setting a worrying precedent.
“The NZ Herald reported on Wednesday that there are “18,000 mercenaries” in Iraq, which makes them the second largest military force present, more than even than the British army. These ‘contractors’ are not subject to normal military conventions and are not accountable to political authority.
“The Washington Post reported on 6 April that an attack on the US military headquarters in Najaf was initially beat off by Blackwater Security Consulting staff, who used their own helicopters to ferry in ammunition. New Zealanders need be clear that if they get involved in that sort of activity after this legislation is passed, they will be breaking the law,” Keith said.
— and see the links to more information on the worsening mercenary situation under Analysis, below.
Sign on to Support the Hikoi
. A hikoi opposing the government’s foreshore and seabed legislation will wend its way to Parliament in the first week of May. If you oppose the legislation and want to support the hikoi, Peace Movement Aotearoa has prepared a statement you can sign on to which will be posted to all Labour, Progressive Coalition, and NZ First Members of Parliament (who support the legislation) to arrive on the day the foreshore and seabed hikoi reaches Wellington.
The statement is online at
Sign on to the Pakeha / Tauiwi statement on the foreshore and seabed legislation
and a print off form will be available there soon. Paper copies are available from Peace Movement Aotearoa, (04) 382 8129, email
xtra [dot] co [dot] nz
or PMA, PO Box 9314, Wellington – please provide your postal address and let them know how many copies you would like. Final deadline – all sign ons must be received by PMA by Friday 30 April 2004.
For information about other ways to support the foreshore and seabed hikoi,
Support the foreshore and seabed hikoi
The statement includes these paragraphs:
”…The foreshore and seabed legislation is a confiscation, no different than the confiscations inflicted by colonial administrations in the nineteenth century. The harm caused by those past confiscations has been acknowledged in recent years, apologies have been made, and settlements have been negotiated in recognition of those historical injustices. Repeating the mistakes of the past cannot be a productive way forward.
Furthermore, the legislation violates basic human rights including the right of access to, and protection of, the law; the right to own property and not be arbitrarily deprived of it; the right to freedom from racial discrimination; the right to enjoy one’s own culture; the right to development; and the right to self-determination.
The legislation is a serious breach of Articles II and III of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is a violation of domestic law including the Bill of Rights Act and Human Rights Act; and of international human rights standards and conventions including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It clearly goes against developing international human rights law with respect to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, as articulated for example in General Recommendation XXIII of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination…
We call on you to vote against this inherently unfair, unjust and unnecessary legislation. Its fundamental flaws are clearly outlined in the Waitangi Tribunal WAI 1071 Report. We urge you to read the Report and to follow the Tribunal’s “primary and strong” recommendation – go back to the drawing board and engage in proper negotiations with Maori about the way
. The US is increasingly contracting out the conduct of its wars. In ”
Mercenaries ‘R’ U.S
” Bill Berkowitz of WorkingForChange reported on 4 February 2004:
“Private Pentagon contractors are paying soldiers of fortune from Chile and South Africa up to $4,000 per month for stints in Iraq.
“On March 31, four retired Special Operations forces employed by the private security firm Blackwater Security Consulting were ambushed, killed, and their bodies mutilated in Fallujah. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an estimated 15,000 “private security agents” are currently operating in Iraq.
“With the U.S. casualty toll ticking ever upward, and its troops stretched thin on the ground, the Bush administration is looking to mercenaries to help control Iraq. These soldiers-for-hire are veterans of some of the most repressive military forces in the world, including that of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and South Africa’s apartheid regime…”
For background on how long this has been going on, and what the extent of it is, read the see ”
Soldiers of Good Fortune
” by Barry Yeoman in the May 2003 issue of Mother Jones.
‘At a camp in North Carolina, a private firm called Blackwater USA is training the U.S. Navy to fight terrorists, taking the place of military officers who used to fill such roles…
‘… When Blackwater opened in 1998, the business of war didn’t look like such a sure bet. “This was a roulette, a crapshoot,” recalls Jackson, a former Navy Seal. During the Gulf War, the Pentagon had begun replacing soldiers with private contractors, relying on civilian businesses to provide logistical support to troops on the front lines. Blackwater’s founders were banking on predictions that the military was eager to speed up the process, privatizing many jobs traditionally reserved for uniformed troops. Their investment paid off: Since the attacks of September 11, the company has seen its business boom — enough to warrant a major expansion of its training facility this year. “To contemplate outsourcing tactical, strategic, firearms-type training — high-risk training — is thinking outside the box,” Jackson says. “Is this happening? Yes, this is happening.”
As the U.S. military wages the war on terrorism, it is increasingly relying on for-profit companies like Blackwater to do work normally performed by soldiers. Defense contractors now do more than simply build airplanes — they maintain those planes on the battlefield and even fly them in some of the world’s most troubled conflict zones. Private military companies supply bodyguards for the president of Afghanistan, construct detention camps to hold suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, and pilot armed reconnaissance planes and helicopter gunships to eradicate coca crops in Colombia. They operate the intelligence and communications systems at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, which is responsible for coordinating a response to any attack on the United States. And licensed by the State Department, they are contracting with foreign governments, training soldiers and reorganizing militaries in Nigeria, Bulgaria, Taiwan, and Equatorial Guinea.
In recent months, private military companies have also played a key role in preparing for a war with Iraq. They supply essential support to military bases throughout the Persian Gulf, from operating mess halls to furnishing security. They provide armed guards at a U.S. Army base in Qatar, and they use live ammunition to train soldiers at Camp Doha in Kuwait, where a contractor, whose company ran a computer system that tracks soldiers in the field, was killed by terrorists last January. They also maintain an array of weapons systems vital to an invasion of Iraq, including the B-2 bomber, F-117 stealth fighter, Apache helicopter, KC-10 refueling tanker, U-2 reconnaissance plane, and the unmanned Global Hawk reconnaissance unit. In an all-out war against Saddam Hussein, the military was expected to use as many as 20,000 private contractors in the Persian Gulf. That would be 1 civilian for every 10 soldiers — a 10-fold increase over the first Gulf War.
Indeed, the Bush administration’s push to privatize war is swiftly turning the military-industrial complex of old into something even more far-reaching: a complex of military industries that do everything but fire weapons. For-profit military companies now enjoy an estimated $100 billion in business worldwide each year, with much of the money going to Fortune 500 firms like Halliburton, DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon. Secretary of the Army Thomas White, a former vice chairman of Enron, “has really put a mark on the wall for getting government employees out of certain functions in the military,” says retired Colonel Tom Sweeney, professor of strategic logistics at the U.S. Army War College. “It allows you to focus your manpower on the battlefield kinds of missions.”
Private military companies, for their part, are focusing much of their manpower on Capitol Hill. Many are staffed with retired military officers who are well connected at the Pentagon — putting them in a prime position to influence government policy and drive more business to their firms. In one instance, private contractors successfully pressured the government to lift a ban on American companies providing military assistance to Equatorial Guinea, a West African nation accused of brutal human-rights violations. Because they operate with little oversight, using contractors also enables the military to skirt troop limits imposed by Congress and to carry out clandestine operations without committing U.S. troops or attracting public attention. “Private military corporations become a way to distance themselves and create what we used to call ‘plausible deniability,'” says Daniel Nelson, a former professor of civil-military relations at the Defense Department’s Marshall European Center for Security Studies. “It’s disastrous for democracy.” ‘
The War on Iraq is a Nuclear War
. Stephanie Hiller’s interview with independent nuclear scientist Leuren Moret on the dangers of Depleted Uranium (DU) used in Iraq, first published in Awakened Woman e-magazine, April 10, 2004, is reproduced below, along with URLs for more websites with information on DU. Lobby groups on DU have formed in the UK and Germany, to get their governments to take action to stop using it, get it declared internationally illegal, and to stop its use in Iraq and start the clean up as soon as possible. As with stopping nuclear tests, we need a strong lobby group in NZ and every other democratic country before change will happen. Could helping form such a group be what you have to offer towards a better world?
”In May, 2003, the United States dumped 2,200 tons of depleted uranium on Iraq, according to reliable sources, and it’s logical to assume that more depleted uranium is being employed in the current attacks on Faluja that began April 8 to put down Iraqi resistance to the American presence there.
According to independent geoscientist Leuren Moret, the war on Iraq – like the war on Afghanistan – is a nuclear war. “Depleted uranium is a nuclear weapon and it is a weapon of mass destruction under the U. S. government’s definition of weapons of mass destruction,” Moret says.
The Pentagon has repeatedly denied that DU is harmful, despite the symptoms of half the returning veterans from the first Persian Gulf Wars who are now disabled. But researchers have shown that the Pentagon has been fully aware of the consequences of what is called “low level radiation” since 1942, when depleted uranium was first suggested for development as a military weapon under the Manhattan Project.
On Sunday, April 6, the New York Daily News reported that nine soldiers who returned from Iraq last summer had symptoms typical of DU poisoning. The News arranged for them to be tested by Asaf Duracovic, a former colonel in the Army Reserves who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the medical effects of radioactive weaponry. Depleted uranium was found in the urine of four of the men – Sgt. Hector Vega, Sgt. Ray Ramos, Sgt. Agustin Matos and Cpl. Anthony Yonnone – the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict
Recently completed laboratory analyses show two members of Uranium Medical Research Centre’s (UMRC) field investigation team are contaminated with Depleted Uranium (DU). The two field staff, one from Canada and the other, Beirut, toured Iraq for thirteen days in October 2003; five months after the cessation of Operation Iraqi Freedom’s aerial bombing and ground force campaign. Using mass spectrometry, UMRC’s partner laboratory in Germany measured DU in both team members’ urine samples. (Please see
Uranium Medical Research Centre Information Bulletin
If short-term visitors and soldiers have been so affected, what of the people, living near bomb sites, breathing the air every day, drinking the water? What of the children who play in these sites and collect pieces of exploded materiel to sell so their families can eat?
Using figures developed by Japanese physicist, Professor Yagasaki from the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, and explained in his presentation at the World Conference on Depleted Uranium Weapons held in Hamburg last October, the radioactivity of 2,200 tons (or 440,000 pounds) of depleted uranium together with some 1,000 tons used in Afghanistan, is the atomicity equivalent to 400,00 Nagasaki bombs.
Depleted uranium is cheap and plentiful. When uranium is processed for fission bombs or fuel rods for use in power plants, only U-235, about half a percent of the total, is used. Most of what’s left over is U-238, so-called “depleted” uranium. The US has over a million tons of the stuff, and storage is becoming a serious problem.
Though less radioactive than U-235, DU is still highly radioactive – and chemically toxic as well. “There is no allowable level of risk,” says Moret. Nearly twice as dense as lead, DU is used in tanks and airplanes, as well as bullets, handguns, cannons, all the way up to large bombs weighing more than 5,000 pounds.
It’s not dangerous until it blows up.
Depleted uranium is pyrophoric. Relatively innocuous as a metal alloy used in planes, tanks, missiles, bullets and rounds, when depleted uranium burns, it releases a radioactive gas. Larger particles may settle to the ground, but winds blowing across the desert may carry the fine particles to locations in a 1000-mile radius from the explosion. As a result, areas as far west as Egypt and as far east as India are likely to be contaminated. “The U.S. has staged a nuclear war in the Middle East, from Iraq and Central Asia, to the northern half of India. Half of Egypt, Israel, the Saudi Arabian peninsula, Turkey, Iran, the Russian oil-rich states, the Caspian oil region, and northern are now, or will be, all contaminated.”
Depleted uranium – U-238 – has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Its effects will be with us forever. It is in the soil, in the groundwater, in food, but the worst of all – it is in the air. When inhaled, it enters directly into the bloodstream. One uranium particle behaves in the body like a tiny nuclear bomb, sending out alpha and beta particles and gamma rays to adjacent cells. These are permanently damaging to the cells and chromosomes and lead to a host of deadly diseases, including cancer and leukemia. They also cause mutations of the genetic material that will show up in subsequent generations as terrible birth deformities, weakened health, and infertility.
Moret says the fallout from these foreign wars is headed our way. Spread by powerful desert winds, the fallout will be carried certainly as far as Britain (where dust storms from the Middle East commonly leave residual dust) and then across the Atlantic Ocean. It will also travel across Asia and the Pacific Ocean and be slowly and silently deposited across the North American continent.
American citizens have already been exposed to radiation from a variety of sources including malfunctioning nuclear power plants, the disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, aboveground bomb tests conducted from 1957 to 1963, and the enormous existing pile of depleted uranium, about 1 million tons, poorly stored in the United States. Radiation has caused the geometric rise of cancers in the US – 1 in 3 Americans compared to 1 in 20 before the Second World War. It is also responsible for the rise in autism, learning disabilities, chronic immune deficiency disorders (chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein-Barr and so forth), higher rates of infant mortality and the general weakening of the public’s health.
Leuren Moret was formerly employed at the Lawrence Berkeley Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley, and the Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons lab. Since walking out on her job to become a whistleblower at Livermore, she has devoted her time to the study of the effects of nuclear radiation. She has worked with scientists like Dr. Ernest Sternglass, Marian Fulk, Dr. Asaf Durakovic of the Uranium Medical Research Center, Dr. Doug Rokke of Traprock Peace Center and many others. Her testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan held December 13-14, 2003, in Tokyo was largely responsible for the unanimous verdict on depleted uranium, and that the President Bush and the United States is guilty of war crimes against that country.
More information on DU and its hazards is available at:
The Traprock Peace Centre
The Uranium Medical Research Centre
World Uranium Weapons Conference 2003
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