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Don’t put more Kiwi troops at risk

Don’t put more Kiwi troops at risk

The Green Party is delighted by the safe return of the New Zealand army contingent from Iraq but is calling on the Government not to put more Kiwi lives at risk just to shore-up relations with the White House.

“Our engineers deserve praise for the good work they did in Iraq,” said Green Co-leader, Rod Donald. “They carried out their reconstruction tasks in a thoroughly professional manner that will have impressed those Iraqis they came in contact with.

“But to the vast number of Iraqis in Basra they will have been just another unit in the British force that invaded and now occupies their country. The irony is, our engineers have been busy reconstructing the very infrastructure that their British and American colleagues blasted to smithereens.

“The New Zealand Government tried to placate George Bush for not backing his illegal invasion, by joining his ‘coalition of the willing’ after the event. It provided Mr Bush with some much-needed international support and it keeps alive our Government’s hope of an invitation to future trade talks.

“Unfortunately it also presents al-Qaeda with another potential target in this part of the world. When Iraq’s interim prime Minister, Iyad Allawi warned that Iraqi terrorists would ‘go to New Zealand’ he wasn’t suggesting they’d drop by to offer us flowers and thanks for all the help in rebuilding Basra’s water supply.

“To Mr Allawi, to al-Qaeda, to the people of Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world, New Zealand’s presence in Iraq was a military one. Our unit, however small and however well-intentioned, was a component of the British army of occupation, itself just a part of the hated US military machine.

“This Government’s desperate search for favour with Washington has already involved us in the increasingly dirty war in Afghanistan. Again, the great work of our reconstruction team in that country is being undone by the involvement of our SAS troops in brutal US military operations.

“The Green Party supports our highly skilled and dedicated carrying out reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan at some time in the future - but not as part of an army of occupation, but rather as invited and honoured guests of the people they are there to help.”

Green health spokesperson, Sue Kedgley also welcomed back the Iraqi engineers, but offered a note of warning about their possible exposure to depleted uranium.

“Basra has some of the highest exposure levels in Iraq, dating from the time of the first Gulf War,” said Ms Kedgley. “The Government is to be commended for offering free tests for the returning troops, but these tests have to be on-going as the horrible effects of depleted uranium can take many years to surface.”

Ms Kedgley called on the Government to offer the same free treatment and monitoring services as that made available to Vietnam veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange.

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