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Greens outline position - NZ role combating terror

30 September 2001

Greens outline position on role in combating terrorism

The Green Party has written to Prime Minister Helen Clark outlining the party's position on the role New Zealand can play in the efforts to combat terrorism, following the recent tragedies in the USA.

The letter is timely following Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff's offer of SAS troops to the United States and Helen Clark's indication that she intends to review the resourcing and roles of the Government Communications Security Bureau.

The letter from Green Party co-leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons, Rod Donald and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke was delivered to the Prime Minister's office on Thursday.

The text of the letter follows:

"The Greens appreciate that you have urged the United States to act with caution in its response to the horrific bombing of the World Trade Centre.

It is our strong view that we owe it to the 6500 people who are believed to have died so far to act in a way which brings those responsible to justice, but which does not produce more innocent victims. The motivation for any action must be justice rather than revenge.

Joining with Greens from around the world, we express our alarm and concern that the United States is preparing for substantial military strikes - most likely on Afghanistan. Such action will almost certainly result in the deaths of more innocent people, and cause destruction in a country which has already been devastated by civil war and the disastrous and oppressive policies of the Taleban regime.

Therefore, the Green Party believes that any offer of military assistance to the United States at this time is inappropriate and may encourage the Bush administration to launch military attacks on Afghanistan or other countries suspected of being involved.

The military strike against Afghanistan would also increase the level of terrorism by creating more anger in the Islamic world towards the United States and countries associated with the military attacks. It would fuel a new cycle of hate and violence when the opposite is what is so badly needed.

The Middle East is a breeding ground for much of the terrorism we see in the world today, largely because of the frustration of many in the region that the world community has failed to end the suffering of the Palestinian people, or to remove the sanctions regime against Iraq which is responsible for many deaths.

Many Arabs, and others throughout the Islamic world, see the United States as a major part of these problems, as the prime backer of Israel and the strongest advocate of sanctions against Iraq, which have led to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

The Green Party urges you to withdraw your offer of SAS troops for the military response which is currently being planned and coordinated by the United States. We ask that you commit New Zealand armed forces only once you have confirmed that the action:

* is in accordance with international law; * is under the clear command of the United Nations; * has a clear role for our troops in apprehending terrorists and bringing them to trial, not for revenge or retaliatory action * is accompanied by clear evidence showing who was responsible for the terrorist attacks in the United States.

New Zealand has a role to play in bringing justice both to those who masterminded and implemented the attacks, and for those who died and suffer as a result of them.

There is a range of non-military options available to the world that will place pressure on other countries to cooperate in the eradication of terrorism. These measures may require patience. It took time to get Slobodon Milosevic in the dock, but he is now there.

An effective and immediate contribution would be for New Zealand to offer investigatory officers and international lawyers to assist both in the detection of those responsible, and in bringing them to justice in the appropriate international forum.

Political and economic pressures can also play a role in forcing nations to give up terrorists who may be sheltering there. Sanctions are an effective political tool but they must be properly targeted so as to hinder and disadvantage a regime or government rather than starve the people they rule.

New Zealand could also contribute to fighting terrorism by acknowledging and confronting its root causes.

We believe opposing the existing sanctions against Iraq and placing more pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank would be good first steps.

We know your Government is engaged in such action through the United Nations. This is valuable work and it must continue and grow. We believe that putting more resources into this work would bear more fruit in combating the rise of terrorism than taking the short-term view and offering assistance to a United States armed strike in the region.

The Greens believe strongly that any military strike will inevitably create more terrorists and more terrorism.

The United States has a long history of inappropriate military interventions, be it in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s or its air strikes against Iraq which continue today. In its own geopolitical interests it has fostered dictators like Saddam Hussein when he was useful to them to combat Iran, and Afghani fundamentalists like bin Laden, when Russia was seen as the enemy.

We acknowledge that the people of America have been dealt a huge blow in the terrible attacks of last week and that they are hurting and angry.

But we must learn from the lessons of history and make sure we do not support any action which may, down the track, be seen as having escalated terrorism.

The appropriate use of aid can play an important role in helping remove the threat and the causes of terrorism. More development aid and assistance to refugees from the international community would also help to bring stability to the Middle East.

There is considerable truth in the letter that appeared in the Herald of 25 September titled 'Bomb them with butter' which argued that spending the huge amounts of money that military strikes against Afghanistan will cost on food, medicine and other basics for the civilian population instead, would have the best chance of weakening the Taleban's grip on the country.

We agree with you that New Zealand must cooperate with the United States and other nations in the sharing of any information we may have that might be useful in helping to apprehend those responsible for these crimes and detecting anyone who is planning further attacks.

However, given the failure of the signals intelligence gathering network in which New Zealand plays a significant role, we disagree with the value you place on this network. The intelligence network of which New Zealand's Waihopai surveillance station is a part was of no value in pre-empting and preventing last week's tragedy. We believe it would be foolish and dangerous to continue with this system in the future given the spectacular failings of the past.

Terrorists, like a range of other criminals around the world, know how the global signals intelligence network operates and they now know how to avoid it. We cannot rely on this system any longer.

The massive interception of phones, faxes and emails that goes on every day gives authorities a false sense of security when what is needed is more practical intelligence gathering on the ground.

We believe information on terrorists can be more effectively gathered through the traditional investigation and surveillance of networks of known terrorists and following up these leads on the ground.

We know you are under pressure to satisfy those who want to hit back at something - anything. We remember your past commitment to the causes of peace and disarmament and offer you all the support we can to take this road again.

To support unilateral military action by America and a few allies would be to undermine the authority of the United Nations, and the rule of international law.

New Zealand is a small nation. But we can do our bit to combat terrorism as a peacemaker and a champion of social justice, not as a war maker."

Yours sincerely

Jeanette Fitzsimons, Green Party Co-Leader
Rod Donald, Green Party Co-Leader
Keith Locke, Green Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson


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