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NZ military escalation in Afghanistan

9 March 2004

Kia ora,

This alert relates to yesterday’s announcement of the escalation of NZ military involvement in the ‘war on terrorism’ in Afghanistan. It has five parts: background information; where you can get more information; contact details for government politicians, and ‘Letters to the Editor’ of nationally distributed print media; and a reminder about the Global Day of Action on 20 March.

  • Background information
  • On 8 March, Helen Clark and Mark Burton announced that around 50 SAS troops will be deployed to Afghanistan, and the frigate Te Mana will be sent to join the Maritime Interdiction Operation in the Gulf region, in April. Two non-commissioned officers will provide "command and leadership training" to the Afghan National Army until June 2005, and if required an Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft will be sent to the Maritime Interdiction Operation in July 2005. These deployments are additional to NZ armed forces already operating in Barmian province who will be there through to September 2005.

    This will be the second deployment (so far as is known) of SAS troops to Afghanistan; the previous one was shrouded in Prime Ministerial secrecy, but apparently took place from December 2001 to December 2002.

    Yesterday’s announcement came just days after the release of a Human Rights Watch report on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated on the people of Afghanistan by the US military. The Report begins:

    "Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States went to war in Afghanistan in the name of national security and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, and with a stated secondary aim of liberating the people of Afghanistan from the cruel and capricious rule of the Taliban.

    Yet today, on Afghan soil, the United States is maintaining a system of arrests and detention as part of its ongoing military and intelligence operations that violates international human rights law and international humanitarian law (the laws of war). In doing so, the United States is endangering the lives of Afghan civilians, undermining efforts to restore the rule of law in Afghanistan, and calling into question its commitment to upholding basic rights.

    This report, based on research conducted in southeast and eastern Afghanistan in 2003 and early 2004, focuses on how US forces arrest and detain persons in Afghanistan. It details numerous abuses by US personnel, including cases of excessive force during arrests; arbitrary and indefinite detention; and mistreatment of detainees. The report also details the overall legal deficiencies of the US-administered detention system in Afghanistan, which, as shown here, operates almost entirely outside of the rule of law." Extract from ‘Enduring Freedom:’ Abuses by US Forces in Afghanistan.

    By increasing NZ military involvement in Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’, the government is once again demonstrating its contempt for international law.

    If you are intending to convey your views on this latest NZ military deployment to government politicians, you could perhaps include a comment on the particular offensiveness of such an announcement being made on International Women’s Day - a day commonly associated with international solidarity among and with women, as well as exchanges of messages of peace and hope; not with the unleashing of additional armed forces into areas where women have been, and continue to be, devastated by war. If you are interested in further information about the particular effects of war on women, see ‘Women, War and Peace: The Independent Experts’ Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women’s Role in Peace-building’.

  • Where you can get more information
  • Articles which may be useful to put this into context include:

    * ‘Empire games: New Zealand forces face a high risk of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the goals of those missions clear enough to justify our involvement?’, Gordon Campbell, September 13-19 2003;

    * ‘Our secret war: What the government did not want you to know’, Nicky Hager and Mike White, 16 February 2003;

    * ‘Special operations - just another definition for terror’, Nicky Hager, 16 February 2003; and

    * 'Alert! stop all NZ military cooperation with the US and British armed forces’, Peace Movement Aotearoa, March 2003, has a section with information about how military cooperation with US and British armed forces breaches the government's Defence Policy Framework (June 2000) and the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act (1987).

    ZNet has an index page of articles on ‘The War Against Afghanistan'.

    The government media release ‘Further NZ contribution to Afghanistan, international campaign against terrorism’has a link to ‘Defence - Enduring Freedom deployment’ Questions and Answers.

  • Contact details for politicians
  • Contact details for the relevant politicians are: Helen Clark, Prime Minister, Parliament Buildings, Wellington, email, tel (04) 471 9998, fax (04) 473 3579; Mark Burton, Minister of Defence, Parliament Buildings, Wellington, email, tel (04) 470 6564, fax (04) 495 8465; and Marian Hobbs, Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, Parliament Buildings, Wellington, email, tel (04) 470 6566, fax (04) 495 8467.

    You could also send your views to Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Parliament Buildings, Wellington, email, tel (04) 470 6553 (04) 495 8444 - pointing out that military deployments are not the way you wish either Foreign Affairs or Trade to be conducted. Phil Goff incidentally, you may recall, was the winner of the ‘Most clever dick remark about the death of civilians’ DICK NZ 2001 Award (in the Special 'Guided Missiles and Misguided Men' category for government politicians) for saying in parliament in October 2001 "there is no point in making the rubble bounce. You eventually run out of targets" in reference to the bombing of the people of Afghanistan at that time. The other Award winners in that category, including Helen Clark for involvement in acts of terrorism by her support for the US led war against the people of Afghanistan, are listed here.

    It would also be useful to let your local MP know what you think about this deployment, especially if s/he is a government politician - MPs can be contacted at their parliamentary office by telephoning (04) 471 9999 and asking to be put through to the respective MP; by contacting their electoral office; or via the on-line MP directory.

    It is very helpful if you can send a copy of any message, fax, or letter you send (and of any replies you receive) to: Peace Movement Aotearoa, PO Box 9314, Wellington; fax (04) 382 8173; email.

  • Contact details for ‘Letters to the Editor’ of nationally distributed print media
  • Otago Daily Times, email, or fax (03) 474 7422; Christchurch Press, email, or fax (03) 364 8492; The Dominion Post, email, or fax (04) 474 0257; New Zealand Herald, on-line, or email, or fax (09) 373 6434; Sunday Star Times, email, or fax (09) 309 0258; and Listener, email, or fax (09) 360 3831.

  • Global Day of Action, Saturday 20 March
  • Yesterday’s announcement is another good reason for you to involve yourself in events on the Global Day of Action, Saturday 20 March. Details of what is happening around the country, and links to overseas events, are on the Global Day of Action web page. New events will be added to that page later this week - if you have something planned for the day which is not included there, please email the event details, together with a contact telephone number and/or email address, to Peace Movement Aotearoa without delay.

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