Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Debating Afghanistan

Parliament is currently having an urgent debate on the SAS deployment to Afghanistan. From the look of it, the entire National front bench, and most of their back-bench, are absent.

Shows how much they are interested in democracy.

(Oh, and Goff just said outright: he does not think New Zealand should be propping up with combat troops a corrupt narco-state which allows a man to starve his wife to death for refusing to have sex with him, and which jails people for apostasy and blasphemy. Nice of him to join the party, but shouldn't the same argument apply to the Provincial Reconstruction Team as well?)

Update: Sod it - instant liveblog:

(Speakers missed: Keith Locke, Murray McCully)

Hone Harawira: "Afghanistan is not our war, and the SAS should not be going". The US strategy is "based on overwhelming and indiscriminate firepower" which unnecessarily kills civilians. "Why would we want to be part of that"? Fighting in Afghanistant invites retaliation by terrorists. "Again, do we really want to be part of that"? This is a war against innocent people. Supports civil aid and the PRT, but not a combat role.

(ACT don't seem to be there either. Or Peter Dunne. Guess they don't care about the prospect of sending NZ troops overseas to fight and die in an immoral war either)

Jim Anderton: Acknowledges his party's messy history on Afghanistan, and has changed his mind. In 2002 supported combat role "because the situation there presented a clear and present threat to the civilised world". But things have changed; now the combat forces are taking sides in "feudal infighting". Supports continued presence of PRT, as it is effective and consistent with our values. Does not support a combat role.

Wayne Mapp: Waves the flag. Praises the troops. Hides behind the guy with the VC. Key question is what role we should play. Need to remember the reason NZ went to Afghanistan in the first place: to fight Al Qaeda. Need to deal with the sources of terrorism. Claims falsely that operation has UN sanction (but that sanction is specifically for the reconstruction effort, not America's dirty little war). Aim is to "prevent the country reverting to Taliban control" (So, he actually thinks that the US can win where the UK, Russia, and everyone else has lost before). Need to reconstruct country, train police etc to build a stable Afghanistan in the long-term (which is obviously why we are withdrawing the PRT which does these things and replacing them with killers). Actually uses the term "surge". Acknowledges that New Zealnders expect to see an improvement in the next 12 months, but does not say what will happen if there is no improvement. Scaremongers with threat of terrorists in Afghanistan threatening the world. Claims that deployment protects "ourselves and our values".

Pete Hodgson: Attacks government for refusing to give reasons for its decision or set aside time in Parliament for it to be debated (this urgent debate was allowed by the Speaker). McCully claimed deployment "was in the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders", highlighting that kiwis "stay in hotels all around the world" and that one had recently been killed in Indonesia. Hodgson thinks this gets things backwards - terrorism has spread from Afghanistan and gone global. Labour decided not to redeploy SAS and focus on reconstruction in response to this fact. Everyone agrees PRT is doing a great job - so why run it down? Attacks process, highlighting that last three deployments (Gulf war I, Timor Leste and Afghanistan) have all been specifically debated in Parliament (and last time they even got to vote on it). National has refused to debate its policy in the House, and Prime Minister will not stand up and say why he is sending kiwi troops into danger. Also concerned about international pressure. Highlights Key's past comments that New Zealand was "missing in action in Iraq". Says no kiwi blood should be spilt in the name of a free trade agreement. Says our foreign policy must be independent and decided here, not overseas. Speech cut short by the bell; debate ends.

And that's it - one hour, no vote, and the Prime Minister refuses to front up to say why he is risking people's lives. One of the most important decisions a country can make, and the government refuses to front up on it. Our democracy should be better than this. Its time we legislated to require all future military deployments to be debated and voted on by Parliament.