When Did NZ Start Supporting Torture?
When Did We Start Supporting Torture?
I've been generally supportive of the deployment of New Zealand army engineers to Iraq, on the basis that their primary task is rebuilding things rather than oppressing the locals, and they've never had to fire their weapons in anger. I've changed my mind. Why? Because the Iraqi regime has become so odious that we cannot morally support it any longer.
One part of this is the Iraqi regime's reinstatement of the death penalty for murder, drug dealing, and "endangering national security". New Zealand has consistently opposed the use of the death penalty, and I do not think that a country which institutionalises murder is worth risking a single New Zealander's life. But more importantly, there's this story documenting the Iraqi regime's use of torture:
The national guardsman peering through the long-range scope of his rifle was startled by what he saw unfolding in the walled compound below.
From his post several stories above ground level, he watched as men in plainclothes beat blindfolded and bound prisoners in the enclosed grounds of the Iraqi Interior Ministry.
He immediately radioed for help. Soon after, a team of Oregon Army National Guard soldiers swept into the yard and found dozens of Iraqi detainees who said they had been beaten, starved and deprived of water for three days.
In a nearby building, the soldiers counted dozens more prisoners and what appeared to be torture devices -- metal rods, rubber hoses, electrical wires and bottles of chemicals. Many of the Iraqis, including one identified as a 14-year-old boy, had fresh welts and bruises across their back and legs.
The soldiers disarmed the Iraqi jailers, moved the prisoners into the shade, released their handcuffs and administered first aid. Lt. Col. Daniel Hendrickson of Albany, Ore., the highest ranking American at the scene, radioed for instructions.
But in a move that frustrated and infuriated the guardsmen, Hendrickson's superior officers told him to return the prisoners to their abusers and immediately withdraw. It was June 29 -- Iraq's first official day as a sovereign country since the U.S.-led invasion.
There are photos too:
(More pictures here if you can stomach them).
Just to make this crystal clear, we are supporting torturers. Is that what our country now stands for?
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs overview on human rights,
New Zealand is strongly committed to the protection and promotion of international human rights, as embodied in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and in the key human rights treaties.
It's time we lived up to that statement. Our active support and assistance of a regime which uses torture is grossly incompatible with our values and with ordinary human decency. The government should communicate its utter disgust to the Iraqi government, and we should withdraw our troops immediately. Otherwise our country's reputation - and its soul - will be tarnished for good.