Iraqi Foreign Minister (and cause of Iraq's current woes) Ibrahim al-Jaafari has given New Zealand a formal invitation to join the "club" of countries propping up his corrupt, torturing regime. Because it will please the US and get him another golf invite with Barack Obama, John Key will probably accept. But before he does, I think he owes us answers to the following questions:
- What will be done to protect New Zealand troops from attacks from the soldiers they are supposed to be training? "Green on blue" or "insider" attacks were a problem in Afghanistan, and in Iraq before the US pullout; they're considered a significant risk to Australia's training mission there. How will NZ forces be protected from this, and why do we want to train people who want to kill them?
- Will NZ troops be subject to Iraqi law? The government says it will have to negotiate a satisfactory Status of Forces Agreement, and this normally means exemption from local law. But another word for exemption is "impunity" - and the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan showed us the dangers of soldiers who enjoy impunity for killing and torturing the locals. Being subject to Iraqi law is vital to ensure accountability of our soldiers to the people they're supposed to be helping - and if this isn't acceptable, they shouldn't go.
- Will NZ troops be turning over captives to the Iraqis? The government wants them to provide their own "force protection", which means that contrary to all public assurances, they'll be shooting people and taking captives. But the Iraqi government uses torture. The NZ Army has been in trouble before for turning over captives to torturers - both the US and the Afghan regime. Are we going to repeat that mistake, and expose kiwi troops to prosecution for war crimes, or are we going to ensure that any captives are detained humanely by New Zealand, rather than turned over to countries with a known record of war crimes?
These are just a few of the most obvious questions a deployment to Iraq raises, and there are no doubt more. The government owes us an answer to them. And the best way of getting answers is by requiring them to address such issues in Parliament before any troops can be deployed.