The politics of death | The Jackal

22 Aug 2012

The politics of death

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

On the whole, MPs deliberately kept politics out of that "debate" out of respect for the fallen soldiers.

Even more bizarre was his suggestion that MPs talk about the rights and wrongs of the Afghanistan deployment during the House's consideration of an Imprest Supply Bill, a debate where, Smith noted, there were virtually no restrictions on what matters could be raised.

Smith's refusal of a snap debate might have had some small justification on grounds of technicality, particularly on the question of "recent occurrence". The Cabinet had yet to make a decision on the date of the withdrawal of New Zealand's provincial reconstruction team, while questions about the adequacy of the troops' equipment might be considered ongoing matters, rather than something needing the urgent attention of the House.

But to rule in such a fashion is to ignore one of the fundamental roles of Parliament as the voice of the people.

It denied elected representatives the opportunity to provide catharsis for a shocked nation.

If the Opposition cannot secure a snap debate on something as momentous as five New Zealand soldiers being killed on active service in the space of two weeks, it may as well give up hope of ever getting a snap debate on anything of importance. And that simply is not right.

Many on the right of the political spectrum have said the deaths of New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan should not be discussed in political terms out of respect for the deceased soldiers families. I find this concerning, mainly because it's politics that has led to New Zealand's involvement in Afghanistan and it's a political decision that will ultimately mean the difference between life or death.

It is therefore respectful to discuss that political process that has led to five Kiwi soldiers dying in Afghanistan within the past two weeks. It would be disrespectful not to try and resolve the politics of the matter, especially when such a debate will not cause further anguish to the families involved.

The other bit of propaganda that has been used by National to try and dodge flack is their claim that it's impracticable to leave. This is simply incorrect and shows that John Key has no understanding of what a modern army is capable of. Just to make things clear, warfare is built around an armies ability to effectively maneuver. Claiming otherwise shows John Key is not basing his argument on the facts.

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The Government is now claiming New Zealand troops can not leave Afghanistan before April 2013, even if they wanted to. "The problem is we can't get out sooner, that's the whole point," admitted Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman on Morning Report yesterday. He said it was a "big logistical operation" and that "once the winter starts we can't pull out ... it takes months to pull out."

As for the decision to bring the departure date forward to April when the Government had previously been talking of later in the year, that too was purely logistics, and has nothing to do with the death of five soldiers in two weeks.

It's all about fitting in with the Japanese timetable for rebuilding Bamiyan airport. Dr Coleman said that was planned to begin in April and once completed, "the airstrip there won't be able to take the size of the aircraft needed - it won't be able to take the [NZ] Hercules once it's been rebuilt, we've got to get in and out before the reconstruction starts."

So, on the one hand, we're being told accelerating our troops' departure from Afghanistan to save them from further attacks from the roaming Taleban guerrillas would be to disrespect the 10 New Zealand personnel who have been killed in the conflict, but to speed up our departure to accommodate the rebuilding of the airport is all right.

Worse yet is the way many rightwinger's have politicized the issue themselves by attacking the left and those who want to have a responsible discussion on the matter at hand. It is assuredly a tragedy that our soldiers are dying, but this should not limit the political discussion that needs to take place to ensure solutions are found.

Apart from leaving a force that is outnumbered and under-resourced in harms way, these are the only options available:

1 Leave the area in a timely fashion that ensures the safety of other coalition troops.

2 Consolidate forces in another area where the reconstruction objective can be achieved.

3 Increase the number of Kiwi troops in Bamiyan and ensure they are properly equipped.

In my opinion, option 1 is the only tactical and responsible answer and I don't think it's insensitive to say so... I am being practical and hopefully such practicality will lead to lives being saved.