New Zealand will end a 20-year military deployment to Afghanistan, withdrawing its remaining forces from the long-running conflict which claimed the lives of 10 Kiwi soldiers.
“After 20 years of a NZDF [Defence Force] presence in Afghanistan, it is now time to conclude our deployment,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement on Wednesday morning.
There were six personnel still in Afghanistan: three deployed to the Afghanistan National Army Officer Academy, and three to a NATO mission headquarters. The deployment will now end by May, Ardern said.
“The deployments to Afghanistan have been one of the longest running in our history, and I wish to acknowledge the 10 New Zealanders who lost their lives in the line of duty, and the more than 3500 NZDF and other agency personnel, whose commitment to replace conflict with peace will always be remembered.”
“There are a bunch of situations where it is perfectly rational to believe in a theory about a conspiracy,” says Dr M R.X. Dentith, a research fellow at Waikato University who studies conspiracy theories.
“The question is, at what point do we say what’s going on here is irrational, and the conspiracies people are putting forward are unwarranted.”
New Zealand has been a popular destination for conspiracy theorists. In 2009, US conspiracy theorist Richard Gage – a prominent figure among those who claim the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre were orchestrated by the US government – visited Wellington and spoke to a crowd of more than 600 people at Te Papa.
So many people turned up, the meeting had to be broadcast on screens into a spillover room. Gage later said it was the largest crowd he had drawn in his years of speeches on the topic.
From the Statement of Jeanette Fitzsimons, Co-leader of the New Zealand Green Party since 1995, and member of the House of Representatives since 1999
There is so much that does not make sense about the official version of 911. I have read all 600 plus pages of “Crossing the Rubicon” and it appears to me to be well researched, though I still have an open mind on the matter of what exactly did happen. It is time we knew the truth one way or another, and an independent enquiry is the way to achieve this. If we do not know the truth of our history it will compromise our future.
Perhaps, it was reading Mike Ruppert’s examination of 911 and the geo-political relationship to Peak Oil in his book Crossing the Rubicon that may have lead her to be one of the first signers of the Political leaders for 911 truth petition. I remember that when Jeanette Fitzsimons met with Richard Gage, AIA in Wellington in November 2009, she had with her Ruppert’s book Crossing the Rubicon which was open at the appendix where the document Operation Northwoods was displayed. One of her first questions To Mr Gage was “Tell me is this document true?”
We thank Jeanette Fitzsimons for her courage and leadership in giving her support to a new 9/11 investigation and for her service to Aotearoa, New Zealand. May she rest in peace.
Last month the coalition government declared the end of New Zealand Defence Force deployments in Iraq. The announcement was silent, however, about the future of another deployment of New Zealand personnel, to a U.S. military base in the Middle East that has attracted controversy thanks to its role at the center of a large proportion of U.S. bombing missions in the region.
The base is called the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) and it is located at the Al-Udeid airbase in the small Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. Bombing missions that have been controlled from the base – where aircraft take off and land every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day – are implicated in large numbers of civilian casualties.
A recent issue of Air Force News revealed that a senior air force officer, Group Captain Shaun Sexton, served a six-month posting at the Qatar base; placing New Zealanders at the heart of the main targeting and bombing center in that region. The presence of New Zealand staff at the base has been kept largely quiet by the New Zealand military before now.
Last month, the New Zealand government delivered its decision to withdraw NZDF personnel from Iraq by next year. But what of Qatar? A spokesperson for NZDF told the Spinoff that “NZDF personnel based in the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) operate under a separate mandate to the NZDF personnel in Iraq. This mandate has been approved until 2020.” Whether they intend to maintain the postings to the Qatar base after 2020 remains unclear.
Opinion – How can New Zealand claim to have an independent foreign policy when it won’t even criticise America’s assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian leader? The furthest foreign minister Winston
Peters went was to express “strong concern” at the “heightening tensions in Iraq and the region”.
Peters’ statement could also be read as a justification for the drone killing when he acknowledged “strong US concerns about Iran” and said “the US took action on the basis of information they had”.
In fact, the assassination took place against a background of falsehoods, reminding us of the lies previously peddled to justify the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. President Donald Trump even blamed Soleimani for “terror plots as far away as New Delhi and London” while Vice President Mike Pence fancifully claimed Soleimani “assisted in the clandestine travel” of those involved in the 11 September, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
All we have from the United States are vague assertions that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on US interests. More credible is the assertion of the Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi that Soleimani was in Bagdad at the invitation of the Iraqi government – for negotiations. His visit was apparently not a secret and he was at Baghdad airport in the presence of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a pro-government Iraqi militia leader, who was also assassinated.
Considering New Zealand has soldiers in Iraq, you would think Peters might have shown some interest in what his counterparts in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry thought about the assassination. They said it was “a flagrant breach of Iraq’s sovereignty and of all international laws and norms that regulate relations between countries and prohibit the use of their lands to carry out attacks on neighbouring countries”.
The Iraqi Parliament followed this up with a resolution calling for an end to “the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil”, a resolution targeted particularly at the US military presence.
If he respects Iraqi sovereignty, our foreign minister should set in motion the quick withdrawal of New Zealand soldiers from Iraq. Or will he be supporting Donald Trump, who says that if US troops are forced out he’ll slap sanctions on Iraq, which will “make the Iranian sanctions somewhat tame”?
Add to that Trump’s repeated threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites, which is a clear war crime. How can New Zealand withhold criticism of such madness?
Nearly 18 years after the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, a battle is being waged to replenish the fund to support emergency responders and their families.
The existing $7.5 billion fund is in danger of running out of money and there are still some 19,000 unpaid claims. Many of those who worked at Ground Zero in the days and months following the September 11 attacks have developed serious or terminal illnesses due to the toxic chemicals they were exposed to.
John Feal was a 9/11 responder who was injured at Ground Zero and has set up the FealGood Foundation to help those who went to help others in the aftermath of the attacks.
Of the tens of thousands of first responders who worked at Ground Zero, more than 32,000 have since developed respiratory or digestive diseases, more than 700 have died of these. Cancer has affected almost 9,000 people and 600 of them have died. Feal has lost a number of close friends.
“This is now going to last a generation until the very last 9/11 responder that passes away.”
The FealGood Foundation also fights for volunteers who were at Ground Zero, for the people who lived in lower Manhattan, the children in the geographic impact zone and people who worked at the Pentagon. There’s 90,000 people in the World Trade Centre health programme across the US.
“The weight of the world is on our shoulders.”
Feal recently met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to push him to get the September 11 Victims’ Fund renewed.
“On 11 September, 2001, people were told the air was safe to breathe and the water safe to drink, says Feal. “We’re fighting the very people who lied to us for legislation for their lie.”
Compensation was granted in 2015, but only for five years and Feal says he knew that it wouldn’t last until 2020. He says now the fund is running out of money and there’s more than 19,000 people who have to wait to be compensated, with another 20,000 people expected to come forward in the next few years as more and more people are diagnosed.
“We’re truly racing the clock but while we’re still going to get this done, it doesn’t save anybody’s life anymore.”
we ate there, we worked there, we slept there, we cried there, we went to the bathroom there…we did everything there 24/7
What it does do is offer the comfort and relief of financial assistance when people lose loved ones, he says
Feal says the government’s first responsibility is to serve and protect its people and if it cannot do that it shouldn’t be in a position of power.
He describes the cancers that people in the 9/11 community get as “being on steroids”. He says brain cancer usually gives someone a life expectancy of 7-10 years, but for this community it’s a year and a half.
“I know people who have been diagnosed with cancer and died 2 weeks later, they were supposed to die 2 years later.
“What we’re seeing now is that 18 years later they already have a compromised immune system, their body’s not working at 100 percent because the toxins have already crushed their insides, then these cancers pop up and it just destroys them immediately. The absorption through the nose, mouth and skin, has literally killed these men and women, we ate there, we worked there, we slept there, we cried there, we went to the bathroom there…we did everything there 24/7.”
Feal lost his foot while working at Ground Zero.
“I don’t have cancer yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to get cancer.”
By 2025, 30,000 people will have cancer because of 9/11, he says.
At first they were begging officials for change, now Feal says, they shame them.
“I think the elected officials in New York City, New York State and D.C know we’re not playing games anymore, they work for us.”
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“In the 1970s, I met Leni Reifenstahl, close friend of Adolf Hitler, whose films helped cast the Nazi spell over Germany. She told me that the message in her films, the propaganda, was dependent not on “orders from above” but on what she called the “submissive void” of the public. “Did this submissive void include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked her. “Of course,” she said, “especially the intelligentsia…. When people no longer ask serious questions, they are submissive and malleable. Anything can happen.”