Hunkered down Kiwis heading home

By Geraldine Sealey

Published September 16, 2004 2:40PM (EDT)

An article in the New Zealand press adds some perspective to the slow reconstruction of Iraq, which U.S. senators are calling pitiful, embarrassing and dangerous. A Kiwi contingent of military engineers is heading home after being hunkered down in Basra for the last five weeks unable to do their work restoring water treatment plants and fixing infrastructure such as schools, police stations and bridges as violence escalated throughout Iraq.

The engineers' commitment was scheduled to end this month -- but they've been holed up for weeks, unable to get anything done other than protect themselves.

"Former defence chief Air Marshal Carey Adamson said 'everyone will be pleased to see our troops come home in one piece.' The situation in Iraq was very different from a year ago. Our troops were sent in a non-combatant role 'but what's happening now is that everyone's a combatant whether they want to be one or not. As time has gone on the situation has become much more lethal and no one can guarantee their absolute safety.'

"He said if there was to be any further New Zealand military commitment to Iraq, things would have to change  they would need to be combat-ready forces and probably well-equipped special forces who could be useful in this war with no front line. 'Obviously it is going to be a much more warlike situation for some time to come so any military involvement has got to be with force of arms.'"

It's not only a "warlike situation," it's war -- getting more deadly all the time for U.S. and coalition troops. The Iraq Coalition Casualties site shows that on average, 3 U.S. troops a day have died this month in Iraq -- the highest rate since April.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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