New Zealanders deceived over engineers’ Iraq military role

Green MP Keith Locke has accused the Government of deception over the role of our army engineers in Iraq, following revelations by Nicky Hager in the Sunday Star-Times today that New Zealand defence personnel in Iraq are in fact assisting British military forces in the Basra area.

“New Zealanders thought we were just helping rebuild bridges and schools,” said Mr Locke, the Green defence spokesperson.

“Now we find out our soldiers are also repairing British military equipment, building road-blocks and fortifications and doing general logistics work for the British.

“It is also concerning that the Rules of Engagement give New Zealand engineers the right to use ‘deadly force’, not only to defend themselves but also British military property and other ‘designated’ people.

“It’s no wonder that last week the US Government listed New Zealand as a ‘force contributing nation’ and therefore eligible, unlike France and Germany, to bid for major reconstruction contracts in Iraq.

“We shouldn’t be shaping our contribution to please the likes of US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, who made last week’s announcement.

“Clearly, the reason we made a military rather than civilian contribution to the reconstruction of Iraq was to win brownie points with the Americans and the Brits.

“Today’s revelations show that we are involved in a lot more than reconstruction. We are complicit in the increasingly dirty war being conducted by the US and British occupation forces in Iraq. Many civilians are dying, and resentment is building up in the population.

“Not many New Zealanders want us to be a part of such a conflict.

“We don’t just have to trust Nicky Hager’s sources. The November issue of Navy Today navy officer Daryl Roberts explains how they build fortifications, take turns to guard the British compound, and repair British military craft, including the Rigid Raiders and the Combat Support Boats.

“It’s time we ended this charade, withdrew the New Zealand military unit, and replaced it with a major new contribution to the civilian reconstruction effort in Iraq,” said Mr Locke.