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Goff: Bombs/Food; Making The Rubble Bounce

Kia ora,

we've had a number of enquiries about yesterday's questions and answer session in parliament relating to the war against the people of Afghanistan. In particular, Phil Goff's offensive comments in response to a question asking if the bombing will stop soon "there is no point in making the rubble bounce. You eventually run out of targets"; and on cluster bombs and the one-person ration packs being the same colour "This is a bad slip up that needs to be addressed."

The two sets of questions and answers are included below. If you want to follow the Q & A sessions in parliament, one way of doing this is via Scoop. Thanks to all who sent the text below for circulating.

31 October 2001, NZ parliament

*** Question 9. Keith Locke (Green MP) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Question - In light of her reported statement yesterday that bombing raids inevitably cause civilian casualties, is she concerned about the increasing numbers of civilians being killed by the bombing of Afghanistan and will she support the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson's call for a halt in the air strikes?

Answer - (Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Minister of Justice - on behalf of Helen Clark) The Government is concerned with any loss of civilian life. Every casualty represents a human tragedy. The government is also worried about the larger losses of life due to civil war in Afghanistan. Everyone would support the general thrust of Mary Robinson's comments.

Question - What then about the likely deaths of hundreds of thousands of people by starvation?

Answer - The latest information from the BBC is that 80% of the bombing is taking place on the front line. Mrs Robinson's comments refer to starvation in areas well away from the bombing. I also note that it was the Taleban itself that has prevented food going into Afghanistan even before the bombing started. It is vitally important that humanitarian action take place and some credit should be given to the US for committing $700 million for humanitarian assistance.

Question - If the PM's statement this morning was not intended to indicate that bombing will stop soon, then what did she mean?

Answer - To quote Richard Armitage again, "there is no point in making the rubble bounce. You eventually run out of targets." That is what the PM was referring to.

Question - Will doing nothing encourage or deter terrorism?

Answer - I do not think doing nothing is an option. And nor, to be fair to the Greens, do I think that is what the Greens are advocating. I regret to say that force is likely to have to be part of any campaign.

Question - Does the Government support the use of cluster bombs by US forces, given that they are the same colour as food parcels?

Answer - I myself also heard this news. This is a bad slip up that needs to be addressed.

*** Question 8. Lockwood Smith (National MP) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Question - On what information did she base her statement this morning, about the war on terrorism, that "I wouldn't expect the campaign to carry on in exactly the form it has for the long term. I think it will enter other forms where perhaps, you know, intelligence, financial measures, diplomatic action, etc come to the fore more than the military campaign has just recently."?

Answer - (Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Minister of Justice - on behalf of Helen Clark) On the basis of information provided by coalition partners and by common sense.

Question - Can she point to any statements by defence staff or officials or politicians from the UK or the US?

Answer - I will quote directly from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, military force may be an important factor early in the campaign but it will not be so important in the long term.

Question - What other actions are being taken?

Answer - Those mandated and required by the United Nations. They include ratifying international conventions. They include strengthening military capacity. They include eliminating nuclear and biological substances.

Question - Given the cautions made by US and UK politicians and officials that this may be a long term war, can the Government give an assurance that its commitment too will be long term?

Answer - Yes.

Question - Keith Locke (Green): Will the government be bringing back the SAS in light of the fact that a majority of Labour/Alliance voters are opposed to their deployment as shown in a recent NBR poll?

Answer - Look again. An overwhelming majority is shown supporting military action against terrorists in that poll.

Question - Were her comments designed to give the impression that bombing would soon stop? And is this because she is worried about civilian casualties undermining support for the war?

Answer - What they meant was that the PM did not expect the campaign to carry on as it is for very long. There wouldn't be any member in this house that is not worried about civilian casualties.


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