Iraq— Deployment of Troops
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green):
With today’s announcement, the worst-kept secret in New Zealand is out. John Key and his Government are dragging us by the bootlaces into another US-led Middle East war for an undisclosed amount of time, with a lack of clear goals and exit strategy and with no vote in this Parliament.
Yes, you heard it right: we are going to supposedly defend democracy in the Middle East, but the National Government has just now prevented Parliament from voting on whether New Zealand should go to war. Democracy, it seems, is a military export and is not for domestic consumption.
So why is John Key afraid to put it to a vote of Parliament? Is it because he knows that this Parliament and the people of New Zealand have little appetite for entering another bloody conflict that will only make things worse in the Middle East?
Is it because he knows that it makes no sense to enter another conflict that will simply endanger New Zealanders overseas and here?
Or is it because he knows that he could not get a majority of MPs in this Parliament to support his desire to send our soldiers off to war? The answer, of course, is all of the above—he does not have a mandate, and he knows it. This decision to go to war was, of course, a decision taken not in Wellington, but in Washington.
As John Key revealingly told us, New Zealand is going to war because that is the price we must pay to be a member of the club, and the club that he was referring to was the “Five Eyes” club, headed up by the United States and including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
I guess we always thought that the National Government had abandoned New Zealand’s independent foreign policy, but to hear the Prime Minister state so blandly that the decision to go to war was taken by the club and we simply had to follow suit to stay a member of the club.
I mean, why bother with Parliament when the decision is one for Barack Obama? So I do not address my comments to John Key, who is behaving as if he is the governor of the 51st state. Rather, I address my comments to the head of the club, Barack Obama, who actually made the decision to go to war, and I address my comments to the people of New Zealand in whose name more blood will be shed.
Mr Obama, after half a century of Western military adventures in the Middle East, many, if not most, New Zealanders now know that it has only made things worse. People in the Middle East understand this too.
It is hard to know exactly where in the history to start, but one obvious contender is when in 1953 the United States and the United Kingdom orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected Mosaddegh Government in Iran, because Mosaddegh threatened the flow of cheap oil to the West.
Through our actions in 1953 we told the people of the Middle East that cheap oil was more important to us than democracy. Following the history, notable mention should go to Madeleine Albright.
In 1996 the US Ambassador to the United Nations said in reference to the sanctions against Iraq that were killing half a million children: “We think the price is worth it.” We told the people of the Middle East through our actions that their children’s lives were of no value to us and can be sacrificed to foreign policy goals, and the people of the Middle East remember that.
Perhaps special mention should go to a more recent example, which was when the CIA used a fake vaccination programme in order to gather intelligence on Osama bin Laden quite recently. In the process they added to Pakistani suspicion of Western medicine, resulting in a dramatic drop in vaccinations in Pakistan and a rapid take-off in polio cases in Pakistan.
We told the people of Pakistan through our actions that revenge was more important to us that our medical science. Every Western bomb, Mr Obama, that has been dropped on the people of the Middle East over the last half century has only added to the ISIL recruitment queue.
Every time Western Governments have made grand statements about democracy and human rights while supporting some of the most brutal, most anti-democratic regimes in the world, that has only hardened the cynicism of the people of the Middle East about the West and driven them into the waiting arms of the appalling jihadis.
If you do not take my word for it, how about this. In 2004 Donald Rumsfeld, hardly a liberal, the US Secretary of Defense at the time, set up a task force to understand what the driver is for the rise of radicalism and terrorism in the Middle East.
The Defense Science Board reported to Rumsfeld duly in September 2004, and this is what it said: “American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists.” So that was the Rumsfeld task force conclusion—American intervention was adding to the stature of the radical Islamists, the jihadis, and adding to their support.
Then it went on to say: “It is diminishing support for the United States.” So it is producing the opposite effect of what we claim to be aiming for. Let us face it—killing hundreds of thousands of civilians tends to have that effect. The Rumsfeld task force went on to say: “Muslims do not hate our freedom but rather they hate our policies.
The overwhelming majority voiced their objections to what they see as one side’s support in favour of Israel against Palestinian rights and the longstanding, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably the Governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States.” That was the conclusion of Donald Rumsfeld’s own task force.
Western intervention was pushing people into the arms of the radical jihadis, which was the exact opposite of what we claimed we wanted to be doing, and here we are, in this House, about to do it once more. The report went on to say: “When American diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.
In the eyes of Muslims, the occupation by America of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, only to chaos and suffering.”
Therefore the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has, essentially, borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions have elevated the authority of the jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy amongst Muslims.
So the intervention, according to Donald Rumsfeld’s task force, that we’re proposing to do today is adding to the legitimacy of the jihadis amongst Muslims, doing the exact opposite of what we would like to be doing. The US defence force basically went on to predict the rise of the Islamic State.
No one is suggesting we should turn a blind eye to ISIL. The question is: will sending our troops there help? And the answer is clear: it will not. It will just become part of the recruitment drive for ISIL, and it will put New Zealand lives at risk.
It is also clear that there is not a shred of evidence that the military training will make a difference.
We must also ask if there is another way we can alleviate the suffering and misery of people in Iraq and the wider Middle East. What they want from us is support for humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction—a large-scale, international diplomatic effort to stop the flow of arms and cash to ISIL.
Did the New Zealand Government even raise this question in the discussion with the Saudi Government, given that a lot of the ISIL money comes from Saudi Arabia?
New Zealand holds a seat on the United Nations Security Council. That is an opportunity to make a difference and to use our diplomatic weight to try to find a solution not only to the ISIL crisis but the broader crisis across the Middle East.
Instead, we have another foreign intervention in Iraq, just like George Bush’s in 2003—another coalition of the willing, those who are willing to put their heads in the sand and their lives at risk. When it comes to Western military interventions in Iraq, New Zealand and the world has been there. We have done that. It did not work. It was a mess.
If we want to find lasting peace in the Middle East, we need to be a voice of justice. We need to be a voice for human rights and democracy.
This means we have to have the courage of our convictions, to tell the head of the club, the great nation of the United States of America, that it is time to wean ourselves off cheap oil and it is time to support genuine peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East. Thank you.