Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Parliament must vote on any SAS deployment

The government is currently considering whether to bow to a US request to send the SAS to fight and die for US interests in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, as Gordon Campbell reports, the Prime Minister is refusing to give any hint as to when the decision will be made, and has ruled out saying anything at all:

Mystifyingly, Key replied that as Prime Minister, he would be continuing the policy of not announcing anything about the deployment of our SAS troops. Which, like his position on Dr Richard Worth, could mean almost anything. It could mean that we’ll tell you once we’ve decided, and the SAS are already in combat. Or, that we have said “yes” to the Americans but the fact of deployment – if not the detail - will be released later. Or, that they’re there already but we wouldn’t tell you if they are. Or, tune in again sometime later, and we might/might not have made a decision and might/might not tell you what it is.
This isn't good enough. We are talking here about a decision to wage war. And in a modern democracy, that is not a decision which can be allowed to be made in secret.

Back in 2001, when the government first deployed the SAS to Afghanistan, the decision was not only publicly announced - Parliament got to vote on it before a single soldier left the country (the motion passed 112 - 7, with only the Greens voting against; the debate is here). That is a democratic way to handle overseas deployments, and it is the model we should follow in the future. The decision on whether to send kiwi troops overseas to fight and die is one that should be made openly by Parliament - not behind closed doors by a secretive executive.