The Green Party is opposed to New Zealand army personnel serving in Iraq under British and American command, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke said today.
He was commenting on the announcement that a group of New Zealand army engineers would be sent to Iraq to operate within a British force, under British command.
“It would be much better to build on the good work in Iraq we are already doing in the UN-run de-mining programme and through the Red Cross,” said Keith Locke. “The Greens also welcome the scholarships for Iraqis and our help to rebuild the Iraqi agriculture ministry announced today.
“Of course we should help the Iraqi people rebuild after the devastation caused by Saddam’s brutal regime, two US-led wars and a decade of economic sanctions. What concerns us is how Iraqis and people throughout the Muslim world will view a contingent of New Zealand soldiers serving under the command of one of the occupying powers.
“Joining the British force will discredit us among the Iraqi people. America and Britain are perceived by most Iraqis as conquerors, rather than liberators. Their credibility has been further eroded by the crooked way in which reconstruction contracts have been awarded to ‘friends’ of the Bush administration and control of Iraqi oil has been commandeered by the US and Britain.
“New Zealand’s credibility as an opponent of the war goes out the window if we are seen to be riding around with British occupation troops.
“To make it worse, we are currying favour with the United States by committing more military personnel to Afghanistan. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams we’ll be a part of are presented as community-builders, but they are really just an adjunct to American units. If the government wants to do real community development in Afghanistan it should send civilian aid workers, not join these US-led military patrols.
“The Labour government was brave in opposing the Iraq war and standing up for the United Nations and multilateralism,” Keith Locke said. “The respect it gained us has been undermined by the military commitments announced today.
“The Green Party supports moves to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people, but if New Zealand is to retain its credibility in the world, our people cannot be seen as part of the British occupation force.”