Winston Peters’ response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq

Ministerial Statements

Iraq— Deployment of Troops

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First):

On this day in 628 BC a coup deposed the Persian shah; he was shortly murdered and his son was installed, who died weeks later. On this day in 1991 there was the attack to defend Kuwait and rid that country of the Iraqi occupation. It seems that some people have a very poor grasp of history.

It is an affront to our democracy that the Prime Minister long ago has done a deal over deploying troops to Iraq, then obtained Cabinet’s rubber stamp , then bypassed Parliament, parliamentary sanction, and a vote. If they are so right—as Mr Key concluded that it is the right decision—then why not trust the peoples’ institution called Parliament?

Canada did. The other 60 countries did. Why not you? Or is he special when it comes to these decisions where we go to war, not as a people or a country but as a Government—because it is a minority decision? It is not going to get parliamentary sanction and the Government never contemplated it.

Why are we heading into a conflict that so predictably will not end? Twenty-five centuries ago a wise military commander said that there is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.

That is what we face in the Middle East. Parliament should have been given today not the jingoistic talk, belated patriotism, and the attempt to defend liberty and freedom all around the world—no, no, just in that part of the world, and all the rest does not matter whether it is in Indonesia or in Africa.

All of a sudden we have called ourselves into a debate to go to a war, and a debate usually ends in this Parliament by a vote. So why is the ACT member not having a vote like the rest of us? Why are the National Party backbench members not getting a say?

Or are they just cannon fodder for an executive that is so arrogant now, after 7 years, that it thinks it can get away with going to an election campaign and saying in June, as it did, that it was not going to go to war: “No, no, we won’t be engaged at all. I can’t foresee this.”, the Prime Minister said.

He gave every assurance, all the way to election day, and then hardly was the election over and all of a sudden he was deeply upset by people being the subject of atrocities.

So what was new back in June that we did not know about now, or vice versa? There are no new factors, and the Prime Minister’s excuse today, in one of the worst speeches I have ever heard on such a serious matter, is of grave concern, because of this we can be certain: we face military tragedy and we will soon face civilian tragedy.

I want to look into the faces of those people who thought that this was a fair prospect to take this country into. We are a special country—one of only nine democracies these last 157 years. That is why they want us, because we have got a record for being fair and for standing up for principles.

So when the Prime Minister says that this is a decision to stand up for its values, our values, what on earth did he mean?

Our values begin with being a democracy. Our values begin with Parliament deciding whether our people should go war—not Governments going to war against another people. He cannot even understand that most basic of principles, and yet he is the Prime Minister. He knew a long time ago that he was going to join the club. He now, of late, is saying: “Oh, it’s a club of 60.”

Well, as John Armstrong in the New Zealand Herald pointed out: “Oh, so you are joining the club of 60 by going there to join the club, but you weren’t a member of the 60 beforehand.” It is so incongruous, so illogical, so irrational, but that is the kind of weasel words and—how shall I put it—greasy behaviour that the Prime Minister has evinced for far too long, on far too many issues.

If you are a National Party supporter, then you should be seriously worrying about what this means—for you, for your country, and above all, dare I say it, for your political party. In the end, you will wear a minority decision and not be exonerated by the fact that you had this brief debate.

This move does not comply with our status on the UN Security Council. This move does not comply with our demand in the past for the UN to give us sanction when we went in, in 1991, and joined that war—all, of course, about oil and not too much else. We are not working under the legal umbrella of the United Nations, just on request from one of the Iraqi factions with a grudge against others.

The Prime Minister seems ignorant of the geography, the history, the diverse cultures, and the tribal affiliations and religions of this area that his club is dragging us into. This is the club, I might add, that will give a free-trade agreement to Morocco, but not us. It will give one to Chile, but not us.

What are the benefits of being in this club when we have a man travelling around the world on the greatest junket we have ever seen for the World Trade Organization and other negotiations, and not have anything to show for it all? We want to know what comes with membership of this club, because it surely cannot be misery, loss, and human suffering.

Over there, different groups have a longstanding term of fighting each other and regularly changing sides. Some of these groups have been fighting for centuries. Our men and women are being thrown into a snake pit, where the snakes are biting anything and everything.

I know that most of the people in the Middle East want an end to the war. They say they are sick of the war. But sooner or later the Middle East has got to own up to its own problem and start fixing up its own neighbourhood.

We have been to countless wars. We were there against the United States twice, and it was 2 years before they even came along in the First World War and Second World War.

So what is the price of belonging to the club that we should pay? If anything we are the prefects in that club, given our record of international responsibility.

But you have got to stand up for your country. This business of nod, nod, wink, wink—or as I saw with some of the old countries where they got the view: “Well, don’t worry about New Zealand. We’ll talk to them.” And then you get a novice for a Prime Minister, whose training is at Merrill Lynch, and he thinks that is the way you do international relations. Well, there is always a day of reckoning for that sort of behaviour, and it is coming soon.

I hope the Prime Minister, he and his colleagues, will have the decency to own up to the fact that they will have made a massive blunder here, again. Rumour and speculation and twisted facts are being used by all sorts of people.

You would have heard from the Prime Minister’s speech, and his face switch after the election, that all of a sudden he was horrified by all of the atrocities. Oh really? What about Boko Haram? Not a murmur, not a mutter, not a syllable, not a sound of concern at all. No, not a peep—nothing at all.

In fact, some of them are just flashing through their phones reading the latest news on Stuff . They are looking at the latest polls to see how it might affect them, Steven Joyce being the principal one here. He is so concerned about this country going to the war that he cannot even be bothered engaging in the debate.

This is a tragedy and it should stop. We want to say to the Prime Minister that the last time the National Party took that view—that is, it was to make a decision by lunchtime, then led by Don Brash—guess what happened? We were sucked into a war to end and find the weapons of mass destruction, only to find out that the pretext was totally dishonest and they were not there.

Denis O’Rourke: Illegal.

Illegal. And all of a sudden, from the mess and maelstrom generating from those events, we, just very recently on from that event, are going back again. Prime Minister, there is no containment when it comes to war. There is no behind the fence when it comes to war.

If, for example, he gives the assurance: “Oh, well, if the Iraqis are 500 yards down the street and fighting, we won’t be engaged.”, what if they are in the same room? Is he intending to hold a flag up saying: “Don’t shoot us. We’re here on a peaceful purpose.”? It is ridiculous in the extreme and no one believes it.

The Canadians are on a similar engagement are saying and proving this right now. If push comes to shove, we will be fighting all right, and fighting for our lives. What sort of respect will our soldiers have if that is the attitude that they take in the field? Thank God the soldiers of our country are not so gutless or lacking in fortitude to make that statement. I know that when push comes to shove they will put their lives on the line.

But I would have preferred, and my party, New Zealand First, would have preferred, that Parliament gave them a mandate so that putting their lives at risk for our country and for the sake of peace came with the support of all New Zealand people, not just an arrogant Government making a minority decision.

Leave a comment


  1. Ummm.
    Can anyone understand what Winston Peters said?
    I have no idea whether he is for or against.

  2. Kittycatkin

     /  25th February 2015

    Nor has he. He’ll decide later.

    I’ll take his word about the murder of the Shah in 628; he was there and remembers it.


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