Prolongation of Dutch mission in Iraq out of the question

30 December 2004

Prolongation of Dutch mission in Iraq out of the question

The SP sees no reason why Dutch troops should stay in Iraq longer than scheduled. In line with earlier statements from Minister of Defence Henk Kamp, the government should end the military presence in Al Muthanna by 15th March at the latest.

Maxime Verhagen, parliamentary leader of the centre-right CDA, the largest party in the governing coalition, has stated that the Netherlands should allow her troops to prolong their stay in Iraq “if this would aid reconstruction.” At the same time Mr Verhagen stated that he would consider this a gesture of goodwill from the Netherlands to the US, which should be willing to a greater extent to involve her European partners in policy formulation in relation to Iraq.

The SP, which has always opposed the US-British war on and occupation of Iraq, completely rejects Verhagen’s proposal, for the presence of western soldiers has contributed to Iraq’s becoming the setting for bloody attacks and battles. Occupying troops must be withdrawn and replaced by a defence force under UN auspices and made up of soldiers from countries which played no part in the invasion.

The government’s policy on Iraq is a humiliating spectacle. Originally Prime Minister Balkenende declared that the Netherlands supported the war politically, but would not do so militarily. When Weapons of Mass Destruction proved unforthcoming, the government refused to amend its position. Finally, it emerged that the governing coalition parties had fallen out over whether the Dutch military mission should or should not be brought to an end. The government would do better to come clean and admit that opponents of the war and occupation have been right all along when they said that the vacuum created by the fall of the Saddam dictatorship would be filled by terror and chaos. In addition, the Iraqi war has soured relations between western and Islamic countries and between Muslims and non-Muslims here in Europe.

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