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To The Front: Torture, Terrorism and Tuhoe

To The Front: Torture, Terrorism and Tuhoe

Column - By John Minto.

Whenever we see a concerted government attack on a messenger then more likely than not the message is accurate and embarrassing for politicians. This is the case with the malicious attack on journalist Jon Stephenson by Prime Minister John Key at his post-cabinet press conference early this week.

Stephenson has been a frequent visitor to Afghanistan in recent years and has reported extensively on the New Zealand SAS troop deployment. These reports include details of SAS snatch-grab raids to detain suspected "insurgents" who are handed over to US or Afghani authorities. From 2001 to 2005 they had detained and handed over 50 to 70 suspects for what New Zealand troop knew would be torture.

In an earlier newspaper report Stephenson quoted one SAS soldier saying "we sort of knew what would happen to the prisoners, Americans being Americans".

In a comprehensive Metro magazine article this month Stephenson questioned the New Zealand government's commitment to the Geneva Convention which prohibits the torture of captured prisoners or the handing over of prisoners to any group where torture is suspected.

This has stung the government into a knee-jerk attack on a journalist who has dared to report the facts behind our troop deployment and the officially sanctioned hypocrisy which goes with it.

Torture has been the modus operandi for the US and Afghani authorities in Afghanistan.

In March 2003 the death of two detainees at the Bagram Airbase (Afghanistan's Abu Ghraib) was confirmed as homicide, contradicting earlier false US military reports that one had died of a heart attack and the other from a pulmonary embolism.

The death certificates showed that one suspect, known only as Dilawar aged 22, died from "blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease" while another suspect, Mullah Habibullah aged 30, suffered from a blood clot in the lung that was exacerbated by a "blunt force injury". These men were beaten to death during interrogation.

New Zealand had military officers at the base but Prime Minister Helen Clark turned a blind eye. She was specifically asked to protest the torture and murder of these young men but refused.

Defence Minister Phil Goff later said that "We from quite an early stage have made it clear that our expectation is that all detainees are treated humanely and in accordance with international law".

This was worthless political drivel just as are the assurances Prime Minister John Key says he has. But to try to avoid political embarrassment New Zealand troops now take Afghani officials with them to officially detain prisoners so New Zealand can wash its hands of responsibility for what John Key, Defence Minister Wayne Mapp and army commander Jerry Mateparae know will be torture and murder.

The lack of moral courage is obvious. Key, Mapp and Mateparae prefer to defend, with New Zealand lives, a woman-hating, medieval regime of war lords and drug runners who torture and murder at will.

Equally unbelievable are John Key's comments that the world is a safer place with the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.

It's been obvious for many years that Al Qaeda has ceased to be capable of mounting terror attacks. It was always a small network which was marginalized and neutralized many years ago. However Bin Laden remained the much-needed face of evil who, after fighting against the 1979 Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, made the mistake of resisting US foreign policy in the Middle East.

However the jubilant crowds which cheered and partied outside the White House and across the US were giving vent to their belief that the murderer of almost 3,000 New York citizens in 2001 had been "brought to justice". We will never know for sure Bin Laden's involvement aside from his videoed bravado but the US would prefer its public enemy No1 to be dead rather than having to bother proving his guilt. It could yet be an election-winning strategy for Obama.

The world is not a safer place. The main driver of terrorism in the world today is the same as always - American foreign policy which sees control of resources - oil reserves in this case - as its key objective. Murder, assassination and military coups are used to subvert democracy when US interests are threatened and in the Middle East the heart of the problem is US support for Israeli apartheid and the brutal oppression of the Palestinian population.

None of this changes with the death of Bin Laden.

Back here in New Zealand this week a gleam of light shone through in our own little side branch of the war on terror.

Wikileaks reported that the New Zealand police told US government officials they expected those arrested in the so-called Tuhoe terror raids on October 2007 would not go to jail but would most likely face fines.

This frank admission brings the police view up to date with the public view. The charges should be dropped and an inquiry held into how the police got it so wrong.

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