Norman right abour Middle East risks, wrong about solutions

There’s no doubting Russel Norman’s passion about what he believes in and stands against, and there’s no doubting that he means well. But his response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq prompted some pertinent comments here.

Alan Wilkinson points out that Norman was right and wrong:

The US has already weaned itself off Arab oil. Russel opposes fracking and drilling that would do the same for us and others. The UN is deeply corrupt and speaks only to elites. Nothing in the Middle East will change until the ordinary people want it and that can only happen by working on the ground with them.

Russel is right about the risks and wrong about the opportunities and solutions.

Goldie pointed out an idealitstic disconnect from reality.

So the Greens answer to Daesh is “What they want from us is support for humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction”

The world is confronting an apocalyptic death cult, and the Green answer is humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction?

And Missy pointed out a major flaw in his humanitarian approach:

So, Russel is against sending Soldiers into the Middle East and into danger, even though this is what they train for and joined up for, but he is willing to send in civilian humanitarian and medical workers with no protection.

Has he even been watching the news, humanitarian workers are one of the main targets of ISIS, and as ISIS has no respect for borders the aid workers would be more at risk than the soldiers.

What would his response be if one of those aid workers was captured and beheaded?

In Norman’s conluding paragraphs he said:

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.

It’s fair to ask whether New Zealand’s contribution will help. But the answer is not clear. There cannot be any evidence for something that has not yet taken place.

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.

As Missy pointed out it’s very difficult to provide humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction in an existing war zone. And it’s been starkly demonstrated that aid workers are at grave risk from ISIL, as are journalists.


The ISIL situation in the Middle East is quite different to 2003. They have made it clear they are intent on barbaric provocation, and peace promoting do-gooders are a primary target for their depravity because they have been  unprotected.

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.

This is another contradiction from the Norman speech. The UN is proven to be at least as ineffective as prior military engagement so why expect them to suddenly perform diplomatic, political and religious miracles when they have proven  ineffective to date?

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.

That’s boilerplate idealism. It’s all very well supporting genuine peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East, I’m sure most of Palriament and New Zealand would support that.

But waving a Green wand won’t magic ISIL out of existence.

Would Russel be prepared to go and speak peace abnd human rights with ISIL? They aren’t likely to be converted by a well meaning but very naive Parliamentary speech in New Zealand.

John Key sums up Statements on Iraq

Ministerial Statements

Iraq— Deployment of Troops

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister):

I take this opportunity to sum up the statements that have been made in the House. On Monday the Government made a decision to send New Zealand forces to train Iraqi forces. It made the decision to send 106 people to Taji for up to 2 years.

We made the decision to stand up to the evil and barbaric behaviour we have seen from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant .

I want to focus not on political parties that have either well-established positions or fundamentally not much to add to the debate, but I want to focus on Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition .

The interesting thing is this. Labour in New Zealand, when it comes to sending New Zealand forces for training says no—it says no.

But the interesting thing is that the Labour Opposition in the UK says yes. The Labor Opposition in Australia says yes, and the equivalent of the Labour Opposition in Canada says yes. So every Labour Opposition in like-minded countries says yes, but, apparently, the Labour Opposition in New Zealand says no.

But hold on a minute, the Labour Opposition, when it was the Government, said yes to sending 60-odd engineers to Iraq. No debate, no vote—“You’re going, boys.”

And the Labour Opposition, when it was in Government, said yes to the combat forces of the SAS , and it did not tell the country; it just said yes.

I listened to Andrew Little’s speech, and here is the bottom line: he did not believe it, and I do not believe him because he knows that these people are barbaric and evil.

He knows that there are 35 to 40 New Zealanders at risk of a domestic threat. He knows, like I know, that the number of people on the list is growing to 60 or 70.

He knows, like I know, that New Zealanders are in the region. He knows, like I know, that New Zealanders travel prolifically, and he says that he cares about New Zealanders and he says that he wants to stand up for them.

Well, in Government he would be making this decision. You see, the reason he is not is this. It is not that it is not the right thing, because Phil Goff, when he was the Minister of Defence, used to do all this stuff with bells on.

The reason he is doing it is that he wants politics to win over what is right for the people. I will not—will not—stand by while Jordanian pilots are burnt to death, when kids execute soldiers, and when people are out there being beheaded. I am sorry, but this is the time to stand up and be counted. Get some guts and join the right side.

More responses to the Prime Ministerial Statement on Iraq

Ministerial Statement – Deployment of troops to Iraq

Part 9 Gerry Brownlee

Part 10 Annette King

Part 11 Kennedy Graham

Part 12 Ron Mark

Part 13 Christopher Finlayson

Part 14 David Shearer

Part 15 Phil Goff

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery):

I want to speak in support of the statement made to the House this afternoon by the Prime Minister. I want to acknowledge some of the contributions that have been made by party leaders as we have gone round the House, but also take issue with some of the points that have been made. Can I also, as Minister of Defence, thank those who have spoken in support of the individual soldiers who will be part of the contingent that deploys to Iraq.

I appreciate that, although the political sentiment may not lead to support, the individual support for those soldiers is very much appreciated. I thought the analysis of what the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)— Daesh, as it should more correctly be known—is, given by the Leader of the Opposition, was quite correct. I thought he did, in fact, sum up exactly what the problem is. This is a mercurial enemy, a Stateless enemy, an evil enemy that knows no bounds for where it would perpetrate its evil. It is arguable that it does not even find its moral authority inside the Koran, and there will be tens of millions of Muslims who agree with that. It is worth noting too that, although we get moved by the high-profile beheadings and other atrocities committed upon their high-profile hostages, there are thousands of Muslims who are receiving exactly the same treatment from this evil outfit. If there is a theme that has come through even from those who are opposed to this action, it is that the solution to the problems that we currently see and the threats that the world faces from this particular evil have to come from the Muslim world. I am encouraged that when we met Dr al-Jaafari, the Foreign Minister of Iraq, he stressed that point with us. In recent weeks I have met the Foreign Ministers and defence Ministers from a number of other countries in that part of the world and they have similarly have expressed that view. That, I think, is one of the most significant differences between this and any other interventions in that part of the world. We certainly respect that desire from those countries to lead the fight against this particular evil. When it comes to the suggestion that we should somehow be concentrating our efforts entirely on improving civil society in a country like Iraq it denies the fact that that is a country pinned down by the evil that it faces every day—a country that has not got a capacity to reach out to someone who is opposed to them and somehow come to a point where you could shake hands and move on. They are facing an evil. As Andrew Little so clearly pointed out, Daesh wants to set up a medieval-type arrangement across borders that have been respected for centuries. The only way forward is, firstly, to be able to tackle that particular evil, Daesh, with military action. Iraqis are prepared to do that, but they have said to us very clearly that where they can get help to assist with training their very large military force—some 40,000 soldiers—then they would accept that willingly. I note that every one of the civil interventions that have been raised as prospects this afternoon by the Labour and Green parties occurs outside the so-called wire: beyond a military camp, beyond a boundary that can be protected, just out there in the ether offering good advice to people about the best way to run things. Well, that lies completely counter to everything that Winston Peters had to offer and that Peter Dunne had to offer. There are times when evil simply has to be put down and this is one of those occasions. The suggestion was that we can contribute more if we help a country like Iraq diversify its economic base, particularly in agriculture. But when you have a country where its most fertile regions are beset by daily improvised explosive devise tragedies, kidnappings, and other just general lawlessness, then it will not matter how many field advisers with clipboards and UN hats we put in the field, there will be no change. There has to at some point be a Government that is supported to take control of its country and we observe that the arrangements that were in place from a Government perspective between those at the beginning of 2014 to now are quite different.

Reaching out across the sectarian differences and factions in that country is something that we should be supporting. This contribution from New Zealand is very well considered. The ridiculous suggestion from the Green Party that this was somehow a deal cooked up in another country and imposed upon us is just that—completely ridiculous. We did not make any commitment at any point, anywhere, until the Iraqi Foreign Minister sat in front of us and said: “We want your help.” No one should be surprised, though, by the reaction from the Labour Party and the Green Party. On the one hand they will stand up and they will say: “We should be supporting a United Nations resolution here, and if the United Nations is not telling us to go there, we should not be there.” Well, they are the two parties that defeated motions in this House to support United Nations Security Council motions in 1998 and then again in 2003. They want to have it both ways. On the one hand they say: “We will support the United Nations motions.”, but when it comes right to it, no, they do not do it. And what is worse, going back to 2003, and all this business about: “We have got to go to the House and get a mandate.”—well, where was the mandate for the intervention of 2003? Where was the House mandate for the 63 engineers who were sent to Iraq as part of the reconstruction in a war? There are some things about this whole involvement that give everybody cause for concern, but if anybody sits in this House and thinks that there is no threat on a daily basis to New Zealanders, they are seriously deluded. I will ask one question that I think everyone should reflect on: if we were to have New Zealanders or a New Zealander somewhere in the world grabbed by this outfit, put into the hostage block, and paraded in front of us, where would we go for help? Would we simply say: “Well look, don’t pick on us because we’re just civil advisers. We are just here to help with the agriculture.”? They will not make that decision, and New Zealanders are at risk just as much as anyone else in the world.

I think it speaks volumes for the decline of the Fairfax newspaper that, apparently, no one on the other side of the House read in this morning’s paper of the threats posed to New Zealand. This is not something that we can just walk away from—not something that we can turn a blind eye to—and, I am sorry, but simply saying that there are other ways of doing it does not face the reality of daily life in Iraq for a people who are doing their best to overcome the evil of Daesh.

Hon Member: What difference are they going to make?

People over there can say: “What difference does it make?”, yet I know that in other circumstances they will come in here and talk about how one person can make a difference, in all number of other cases. Well, what we are doing here is simply sticking our hand up and saying: “We want to get rid of this. We do not see it as being legitimate.” It is not about saying that there is a divide between the Western World and the Muslim world because, as I said before, the Muslim world is suffering from these people as much as anybody else is, if not significantly more. Our troops will go into this mission with the appropriate protections. We have said that we will make sure of that. They will make a contribution to the security of not only the future of the Iraqi Government, which is legitimately in place, but also to New Zealanders, who travel so much around the world, and we are making a statement about what we are prepared to tolerate on our own shores. This is not a huge intervention; it is a modest intervention. Our people have the expertise to make a difference, and we are very pleased to be supporting them in this endeavour.

Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour):

This is probably one of the most important debates that this House could have. Sending New Zealanders to war is a decision that should not be made lightly, and it should be seen to be made with broad political support. On 18 March 2003 the then Prime Minister Helen Clark initiated a debate on Iraq. President Bush had just issued his final ultimatum.

Diplomatic negotiations had failed, and to correct Mr Brownlee, Labour had supported the UN resolutions of 2003, including Resolution 1441. Helen Clark said at that time: “Our position on this crisis has at all times been based on our strong support for multilateralism, the rule of law, and upholding the authority of the Security Council.” We refused to join the “coalition of the willing” and we took a principled decision. It had integrity, and it was understood by our international friends. We were independent and we did not hide behind the club. On that same date in that same debate, Bill English, the then Leader of the Opposition, stood and his opening words were: “The National Party will be supporting the coalition of the willing.” National was wrong with that decision then, and it is wrong now. The intervention in Iraq, the National Party said at that time, was in the interests of global peace. That did not come to pass, Mr English. It said that the threat posed to the world would be removed if we went to Iraq. That did not come to pass. What we saw was over 10 years of fighting, training Iraqi soldiers, the spending of $25 billion of US money, and we did not remove the threat to the world. On 18 March 2003 the Labour Government allowed a vote in support for the position we had taken. National and ACT voted against the Labour Government. They voted against it and they voted in support of the “coalition of the willing”. John Key was part of that vote and he has never resiled from that position. In fact, he said that we missing in action in Iraq. Labour, New Zealand First, the Greens, United Future, and Progressive voted against sending troops to Iraq. So I say to the Prime Minister today: put the vote to the Parliament. Let Parliament decide. Show fortitude and ask the people’s representatives. All the parties are represented here—allow us to tell you what we think about the decision to send 143 personnel to Iraq. Show leadership, show courage, show statesmanship, and show moral leadership here in this Parliament. I would say that, once again, the vote would be from National and the one little lonely vote from ACT, who props ups this Government. Then I ask this: did the Prime Minister and his Cabinet allow his own caucus to vote on whether they should send troops to Iraq? The answer is no. Do you know when their caucus found out about this decision? After the Australians and after Baghdad—they found out at their caucus this morning. They were told this morning. Like cannon fodder, they just go along with the decision. The Labour Party is in favour of being a good international citizen. We have a track record. We have a highly regarded reputation on the international scene, built up over many years. In fact, it was that track record internationally and our reputation that got us on to the Security Council. We were seen to have independent thinking—it won us the support because our pitch was “peace and security” and we pitched it to the small nations. I say to the Government, and to Nick Smith who constantly interjects: what are we going to do differently now? What are we going to do differently under this Government, with what it is proposing? We are not doing anything different from what we promised the people who voted for us for the Security Council. In fact, we are going down the same old line the National Party has always gone down. John Key said that this is paying the price of being part of the club. Is that a good enough reason to commit our troops to Iraq, dressed up as trainers to train Iraqi soldiers that we have been trying to train for 10 years with no results?

Is it good enough to follow the lead of others and not have our own response? No, it is not. To set out other alternatives—where are the other alternatives? Do you know that the total contribution in humanitarian aid to Iraq is $13.5 million? That is less than we were going to spend on Skycity , or hosting America’s Cup—less than that, and that is what our humanitarian aid has been to Iraq. John Key gave New Zealanders a personal assurance during the election campaign that we would not be involved in sending troops to Iraq. That is 8 months ago, and, I have to say, 8 months ago we knew of the evil of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) . We knew what it was doing, how it was spreading its tentacles around the world. John Key made that promise to New Zealanders back then, 8 months ago. Over the months we have had the dance of the seven veils by the Prime Minister, as he slowly exposed what his real thinking is, softening us up, priming New Zealanders to send troops to Iraq. He said that he has been open with New Zealanders. If that is open with New Zealanders, I do not know what openness is. I believe we have been taken as fools by the Prime Minister. I believe Andrew Little when he said that this decision was made a long time ago. It would have been made at the little side-meetings the Prime Minister has with his club in the so-called coalition. It would have been made as they had little chats after the golf. It would have been made in different places, where we did not know what was going on but the nods and the winks were taking place. I think the announcement today has raised more questions than answers. The Prime Minister said that we are sending force protection for our troops. Who is the force protection? Where do they come from? How are they going to protect our troops? How many of them are there going to be? He said that the SAS are going to be going for only a short time. What is a “short time” for the SAS to go? They are going to go when there are high-profile visits, I suppose, of people parading around Iraq and Baghdad . He said that they are going to be behind the wire. Where is the wire? Where does the wire sit? How do we know if they are behind the wire? He then said it is going to be a 9-month deployment, then a review, and then a 2-year commitment. And then he went on to say, in the other breath, that New Zealand has got to be there for a long time. What are we going to be doing? Are we there for 9 months with a review, 2 years, 10 years? We did not get that answer. We believe that we ought to be part of rebuilding Iraq. We ought to be part of ensuring the things that we can do best. What does New Zealand do best? It is not sending 143 personnel to Iraq.

It is the things that we have strengths in. We do have strengths in rebuilding. We do have strengths in humanitarian aid. Why are we not sending humanitarian aid to Jordan where all the refugees are flooding and they are having to feed and house them? Why are we not providing that support? Why are we not providing support in terms of medical personnel for those who are wounded and hurt and need hospital assistance? Why are we not involved in rebuilding that country in the way that we have done in many other countries? But what do we get from this Government? We get that it is making a major contribution to its friends by sending 143 personnel to Iraq. We do not believe it is justified. We do not believe the case has been put. We do not believe that we will make an impact, but we could if we looked at other alternatives. The Government has been blind to other alternatives. It has not put the case.


Today the Prime Minister has let this country down. He has prevaricated for 5 months, softening up the public, during which he has said various things to different people.

He has cheapened New Zealand by commercialising the issue of war and peace, pricing the item in terms of club membership. He has flouted our constitutional integrity, advising the world of the decision before advising the people of the country he purports to represent. He has displayed contempt of Parliament by refusing to allow a debate to be held before the decision or a non-binding vote on the question of war and peace. That compares with the United Kingdom, the source of our constitutional heritage, which called Parliament back under urgency not long ago to debate the use of force in Syria. In that case the Government respected a parliamentary majority not to send forces, even though that parliamentary view was non-binding. The military personnel will be sent to Iraq to do four things: to train the army, to protect the trainers, possibly act as spotters, and gather intelligence. As the Prime Minister’s list of things to do in Iraq has lengthened, it has become disingenuous to harp on about staying behind the wire. The wire has become a mockery—a hollow symbol of false reassurance. The wire will become something you step around as you exit the compound. It is an insult to the intelligence of the public. Nothing is more certain or at least inevitable than that Kiwi soldiers and the SAS will be moving around the Iraq countryside in due course. How could it be otherwise? How could New Zealand stay behind the wire, when other nations are not? We would look craven. The Prime Minister just advised that the SAS could be deployed for force protection and high-profile visits. How will they do that from behind the wire? The wire has become a conscious deception. It implies that the critical consideration is individual safety. It deliberately misses the point. In a conflict zone there is always personal risk. Safety issues are critically important, but they are an operational responsibility. The criterion for decision is not personal safety. It is the legality and the wisdom of the decision to deploy or not to deploy. It is not personal safety and the wire. It is an insult to send military people, in whatever capacity, in the garb of diplomats. Because the Government cannot determine the status and role of our troops in a 21st century conflict zone, it will give them diplomatic passports. How stunningly irresponsible. The Prime Minister’s notion of 21st century diplomacy is to send soldiers to train to kill. For 300 years the profession of diplomacy has been exclusively civilian—to negotiate and dialogue; reach consensus for passive settlement. It is the antithesis of violence. The job of soldiers is to fight and, if necessary, to kill. Military attaches in embassies have diplomatic passports because they operate as diplomats, not soldiers. Australia has done the same. It has already garbed its soldiers as diplomats. So it is clearly the hallmark of the lawbreakers’ club. Mr Abbott and Mr Key are betraying the history of centuries of international law and politics. The reasons given for sending the troops are threefold. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has emerged as a threat to the world, including New Zealand. It engages in unprecedented brutality. It proclaims a universal caliphate that threatens the national sovereignty of all countries. These reasons are valid for discussion, but they are contestable. They are not a sufficient argument for New Zealand to engage in Iraq militarily. ISIL is a threat to international peace, but not to our immediate national security. The situation requires New Zealand to make an input into the Security Council, but not necessarily to send troops. ISIL engages in brutality of a kind not seen in Europe since the Catholic Inquisition. But Saudi Arabia does the same. The challenge of ISIL requires economic and financial sanctions, including of member States supporting it. It then requires arrest and prosecution in The Hague of its leaders.

It does not require aerial bombing. With the passage of time, you can get to individuals without pulverising the countryside. The proclamation of a universal caliphate is as meaningful as the accreditation of the Holy See to the United Nations. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a threat to peace, but its ideological excesses are the subject of dialogue not mutual killing. In Iraq, today’s problem is the child of yesterday’s mistake. ISIL is the current errant sibling of Al-Qaeda. Its rise is the direct result of the chaos that derived from the illegal invasion in 2003 by the law breakers club—the United States, Britain, and Australia. That disastrous decision by the club to proceed with the UN if possible, but without it if necessary, is the direct result of a strategic miscalculation to regard 9/11 as a matter of international security rather than international criminality. The invasion of Afghanistan to root out terrorism, to drain the swamp, has set the international community on a wrong course ever since. We are still paying the price today—morally, politically, legally. The decision to send troops is an illustration of how intelligent individuals can do collectively dumb things. I call on the Prime Minister to table a written paper by his Attorney-General, laying out the legal case for sending troops to Iraq with the bilateral request. We can then debate the legality of the decision and then its political wisdom. Just a few hours ago a news item reported Professor Stephen Hawking as saying that the one human failing he would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, he said, but now it threatens to destroy us all. I remind the Prime Minister that before long, perhaps in 2017, aggression will be an individual leadership crime in international law. Cabinet members will be held accountable in our domestic courts and before the international criminal court. It is a salutary indication that future leaders, whether National or Labour or the Greens, will be taking these decisions with more seriousness and less impunity than they did in this one today.

RON MARK (NZ First):

In rising to take this call on behalf of New Zealand First, I want to start by talking about some people who have not even gained one mention from the Government to this point, and they are the defence force personnel who will be deploying, the defence force personnel who will lay their lives on the line to do what this Government has told them they must do. Let us be very clear, our defence force personnel will be just like typical Kiwis—soldiers, air force personnel, and sailors—the likes of whom we have come to know, love, and honour. They will be chomping at the bit to get to grips with this mission. That is their nature. That is the way we are. If either I or Darroch Ball were back in uniform again, I would say, without a doubt, should we have been asked to do this mission, that it would have been an emphatic “Yes, sir, when do we go?”. But it is not their job to determine whether or not this deployment is appropriate. That is the job of this Government. Ideally, it should have been the job of this Parliament. Ideally, this Government would have gone out of its way to consult with all political parties to get as wide a level of consensus behind our defence force personnel as was possible, so that might they deploy, and in the worst case not come home, they would know that the job and the duty that they performed had had the support of the majority of this House. This Government has instead chosen to embark on a misinformation campaign, a spin campaign, the like of which I cannot recall in this country’s history. Prior to the election it was politically inconvenient to have the question put; there was an assurance we were not going into combat.

During the election campaign there were more such assurances and in December we had the Minister of Defence denying that troops were undergoing training. Well, look at the facts as revealed here today. When New Zealand First said that there 130 to 140 personnel training and preparing to go, the Minister denied it. Today, we are told that 130 personnel are likely to go. When we said that the deployment was likely to occur and that decisions would be made in February or at the start of March, guess what? It is late February, and we are heading to March. When we said that there are troops going from the second and first battalion, from one battalion from Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles, the Minister scoffed, made light of it and joked. What do we now know? The second and first battalion, one battalion and the Mounted Rifles are going. It begs the question: who knows more about defence than the Minister of Defence—clearly, everybody. And he made jokes about it. This is the Minister of Defence whose biggest whine and bitch was that he could not understand the acronyms and that the Defence Force really needed to stop using them because he could not understand. We need to think about these personnel and privates who are earning, what, $44,000 a year—$44,000 a year. There are second lieutenants who are likely to be platoon commanders—what are they on, $50,000 to $60,000 a year? We need to think about the large numbers of troops coming back from Afghanistan and other deployments who will be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and the trials and the rigours that they have gone through to try and get assistance and help. Think about that now, Government, Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, and Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, because one thing that I know from my past military experience—and Darroch Ball knows—is that as an army officer you certainly do not think about it when help is being asked for them. Think about what they are being paid and what they are being asked to do. Let us not give any more of this illusionary rhetoric and gloss about the safety of the mission. What do we know about Taji? We know that it was the centre and hub of death squad killings by al-Qaeda and that it still seems to be that way. We know that there is a mix of Shi’a and Sunni there and if that mix exists in the training base, there will be inherent risks of green on blue. We know that they are poorly paid in the Iraqi defence force and therefore—and Mark Mitchell knows this—they are open and subject to threats, bribery, and all of those other things that occur inside of corrupt organisations where you have the very wealthy and the very poor and disempowered. We know that these people, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are very well trained, and we know that they study the responses of forces to ambushes and to other interdictions. We know that they go back to study the tactics and prepare for the next time, so that they know precisely what the drills of the battalion or of our soldiers might have been and that they know how to counter it. They know about secondary ambushes where they seek to make the biggest strike. We know that this mission is high risk. There is no behind the wire when you have defence force personnel who will take a bribe, who might find that their family has been threatened, and just leave the gate open, or shoot the guard to allow an entry to happen. All the rhetoric, all the chest-thumping, and all of the carry-on actually does our defence force personnel a disservice. They will go loyally where they are sent. They deserve to know that the majority of this House supports them and to know that this Government has done everything it can not to politick around the fringes, not to minimise the risk to the polls, not to avoid having to answer the horrible question at the most awkward of times. They deserve to know that our Government would have actually spent time with other political parties, gone through the issues and risks, and worked to garner wide consensus and support, and that did not happen. That saddens me greatly. We need to know about the training and activities that these people, our defence force personnel, are going to be involved in. We have heard a lot, but we have heard nothing. Are we training raw recruits? Are we training Iraqi special forces personnel? Are we training their officer cadets? Are we training them to be leaders? Are we training them not to be corrupt? Are we training them to look after their personnel? And precisely who is training us in how to train them—because we have not been there. Well, not quite. Actually, there have been a hell of a lot of New Zealanders in Iraq for the last 13 years.

Some of them are back home now. Some come and go; they go to other countries all over the world. In fact, if you look at what the Prime Minister has talked about today, you could have given this work to a contractor to do, a contractor that has the sanction of the club members, because those club members have many such companies engaged in this precise work, and we as a nation might well have chosen to focus instead on humanitarian aid like sending a Defence Force field hospital. Oops, sorry, I think we sold that, did we not? Yes, we probably sold that. Maybe, actually, if we had maintained the promise that the National Party gave to re-establish our air combat capability we might have been able to send that, but, oops, there goes another promise made by Simon Power and Don Brash, supported by half the people who sit in the front benches of this Government. Oops, just forgot that one. So we do not have those options, but while we are thinking about these personnel who are about to leave, let us think about the position that we put them in over Christmas, where they could not tell their mum and not tell their dad and not tell their grandparents or their uncles and aunties “Yes, I am going to Iraq.” They could not confide in the detail. Just think about that. Just think about the effect on those young people and those families. I know families who have spoken to me, under my guarantee that I would not mention their names, obviously. Families are, naturally, worried, as they should be. Our young men and women are ready to go and do the Government’s job, as we knew they would be, but I want this House to think carefully about the way it has treated Defence Force personnel. Look at what is happening in Linton. We are selling off defence houses that soldiers and their families live in, and throwing these very same soldiers from 1st Battalion and Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles out into the free-market forces: “Oh, go fend for yourself. This country loves you so much we’re going to send you to Iraq and give you a medal, and, by the way, we’re taking your house off you and you’re going to be subject to some landlord ripping you off for rents that we know you can’t afford because you’re being paid only $44,000 a year. Don’t worry; we love you. We’re going to give you an operational deployment.” Well, now is the time—now is the time—for this Government to think seriously about some of the things that are happening inside the Defence Force, some of the things that it is not doing to support our Defence Force personnel. Do not sit there, beat your chests, and tell me how wonderful you are as a Government because you are taking on these nasty, brutal ISIS people, because the truth of the matter is that your focus as a Government should be on looking after our Defence Force personnel whom you are about to deploy into Iraq to do your job.


I was disappointed in that snarky and, frankly, underwhelming contribution from Mr Mark. He is capable of better, and I think that on this important day the House deserves better because today the Prime Minister has announced that New Zealand military personnel will fulfil a non-combat, behind-the-wire mission to train Iraqi security services so that they are better prepared to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or, as Mr Brownlee calls them, Daesh, in their region. The Government has very, very carefully considered options to expand the New Zealand contribution to the coalition beyond the humanitarian assistance that we are already providing. Today’s announcement is in line with a fine New Zealand tradition of providing this sort of support where we can. As the Prime Minister has said, we have an obligation to support stability. We have an obligation to support the international rule of law. And it is exactly the same obligation that Helen Clark relied on when she sent 70 engineers to Iraq. It is, quite frankly, lazy thinking to believe that New Zealand sits in some kind of benign environment due to its distance to the Middle East. We do not. In a practical respect, of course, there are hundreds and thousands of New Zealanders who risk being directly affected by terrorism, but, more than this, New Zealand is a global citizen. We are not insulated from events in the rest of the world. I was interested to hear Mr Flavell talk about the three most peaceful nations on Earth: Denmark, Norway, and this country. Well, look at what has just happened in Denmark.

Just a few days ago Norway’s police security service advised that a terrorist attack is likely in the coming year. Who is immune? No one. As the Prime Minister has said, we cannot stand idly by while these extremists throw people off buildings because of their sexuality, burn people alive, rape and torture women, behead civilians, and turn children into killers. As a distinguished commentator said recently it is no mere collection of psychopaths and adventure seekers; it is a group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. It is simply not good enough for people like Kennedy Graham to say it is not our problem—of course it is our problem. The world has seen groups like Daesh emerge before, though not at the same speed and to the same extent, at least not in recent history. But there are too many examples from history for us not to have learnt that when others stand by and do nothing we pay the consequences later on. All of us have watched in horror at the rise of this death cult. It follows a perverted interpretation of Islam that labels anyone who disagrees with them as an infidel and inflicts extreme terror and violence on others. Just this afternoon we have seen videos of Kurdish fighters being paraded in cages throughout streets. It is extremely well funded, extremely well organised, and highly skilled at recruitment. It has been labelled the best-resourced terror organisation in recent history. It obtains its money through extortion, oil fields, looting, and smuggling. It has an active bureaucracy. It is attempting to function like a State. As of today Daesh controls territory in Iraq, Syria, and eastern Libya, an area similar in size to New Zealand. There are 8 million Iraqis and Syrians living in areas controlled by Daesh. Its self-declared goal is to form an Islamic State; to establish itself as a caliphate with absolute authority and power. We are all too acutely aware of the terror and the brutality that Daesh is inflicting on the people of Syria and Iraq. I remind Mrs King of the suffering of her constituents in the Assyrian community in Miramar as they learn what is happening to their relatives in Mosul. There is no argument that the actions of Daesh are to be condemned, but condemnation, I say to Mrs King, is easy; the question of action is a more difficult one. A range of opinions has been expressed in the House today about how New Zealand could contribute. What the Prime Minister has announced is very strong and sensible. Currently, 62 countries are part of an international coalition against Daesh. New Zealand will bring significant expertise to the training of Iraqi soldiers. Our reputation for this sort of work is very good, and with reason. We have heard the concern raised today that standing up to Daesh through a training mission increases the risk to New Zealand. But, quite frankly, it is naïve to think that the status quo guarantees our safety. We are—and rightly so—concerned about our safety. It is not an isolated threat. We are well aware—all of us in this House—about the attacks on Ottawa, Copenhagen, Paris, and Sydney. All of them were either directly or indirectly linked to or inspired by Daesh. There is no guarantee that New Zealand will stay off this list. It is not a matter of being alarmist; it is a matter of facing reality. The fight against this evil organisation will not be a straightforward one. It will be difficult and it will be dangerous.

But today’s announcement gets the required level of intervention right. Deploying a non-combat training mission to Iraq will help promote stability in the region, it will degrade Daesh’s strength, and will reduce the threat that it poses internationally. I say this to Kennedy Graham about his suggestion as to how we could help: quite frankly it is foolish; it would expose New Zealanders to a far greater risk of injury or death than what is being proposed now. Let me in closing remind the House of the well-known words of that fine, young, brave supermarket employee when giving his reasons for hiding Jewish customers during the recent terrorist attack on Paris. He said: “It’s not a question of Jews, or Christians, or Muslims. We’re all in the same boat and we have to help each other to get out of this crisis.” Exactly.

DAVID SHEARER (Labour—Mt Albert):

The decision made today has meant that our troops will be going to Iraq, and I do not think there will be anyone in the Labour Party who does not wish them well, and hope and pray that they come back safely. In 2003 New Zealand was under extreme pressure, like today, to send troops to Iraq. We had the courage to say no. I do not believe there is a New Zealander around today who does not believe that that was the right decision to make. The National Party wanted to go. Here we are, 12 years later, and it is in Government and it is sending our troops into an infinitely more complex situation to do an even less exact and understood role in Iraq. This decision is one that we will regret. It was a decision that was made months ago by John Key when he was talking to his allies. It was a decision that we already knew about, if not just because we knew that the military had been training for all of that time. Since then we have had a huge number of justifications of why this is necessary, and some of those have been rehearsed out again today. Going to war is one of the most difficult decisions a Government can make. The acid test is, if there are going to be casualties, we can honestly look those families and the country in the eye and say that their lives were not lost in vain.

Our forces will be going to Iraq to make no appreciable difference to the situation there. Any assessment—and I know as well as anybody else—knows that is the case. So the only reason I can see for us being there is to be part of the club, as it is called. For me, that does not stack up as a sufficient and adequate reason. There is a time to stand by our allies but we should make that decision independently on the basis of the difference we can make and how effective we can be. Sending our people into harm’s way to be part of a club is not sufficient for that sacrifice. “It is about doing something.” this Government says. Doing something even if it is stupid—that is what it is all about. Our troops will not enter under any conventional status of forces agreement, under which we have always sent our forces away in the past. We will be carrying diplomatic passports. It is a shonky deal—a ruse—to get around the fact that the Iraqi Government is so divided that it would be unlikely to agree to a status of forces agreement. That gives you some idea of how universally appreciated our presence will be in Iraq. The troops they will be training are likely to be heavily infiltrated by radicals. We have just heard today that on Camp Taji itself there will only be 16—one six—specialised trainers available on that base. So you can imagine that after $25 billion of US investment, hundreds of US lives lost, and 10 years—10 years—of training, this is what we will contribute and we believe that risk is appropriate. And what will they seek to achieve? Well, hopefully a better equipped army. But we know that the Iraqis can shoot straight; that is not the issue. The problem is with the officers who have been withdrawn and plucked out of the Iraqi army and replaced by relatives and friends of those in power—the corruption; the militias who are now more in control than conventional forces. And how are we going to fix that? Quite simply, we are not. We have never been afraid to go into a conflict, but Iraq is a situation where we cannot make a difference, yet we subject our troops and New Zealanders in this country to increased risk from engagement. This will be a decision we regret.

Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill):

There is no decision more serious for a Government to make than to commit its personnel to a war conflict zone where some may not return. Yet this decision is being made in the House today without a vote—without a vote because there is no majority in this House to support the deployment of troops to Iraq. In fact, if there was a conscience vote on the National side, there would be a minority in this House in favour of deployment, because that decision in the National caucus was not a unanimous one. Just 8 short months ago—8 short months ago—John Key issued this statement. It is headed: “No New Zealand Forces to Iraq”—“No New Zealand Forces to Iraq”. He said there would be no boots on the ground, not even in an advisory capacity. He said that New Zealand did not take these actions without a United Nations sanction. Every one of those comments made before the election represents a broken promise. The reason that we are going to Iraq is because after the election, when a little bit of pressure was put on by the Australians, the British, and the Americans, John Key courageously said: “I will deploy, but don’t tell New Zealanders. I need a length of time to soften them up. I need distance from this promise here, before the election, that we would not be doing it.” There is no doubt that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a brutal and a barbaric organisation, but, in that sense, it is not that much different from the regime in Syria of President al-Assad, who has slaughtered 100,000 of its people. It is not much different from the Shi’a and the Sunni militias who have committed crimes against humanity and committed war crimes. The one difference is this: ISIS sets outs out deliberately to publicise its actions to shock and to lure the United States and its friends deeper into committing military forces, and the Government needs to think about why it might be doing that and what the consequences might be. You see, this Government has not thought through the consequences of its actions. It did not when John Key and Bill English supported committing New Zealand troops to Iraq in 2003. They said we should be there, and any analysis of why ISIS has thrived—has thrived in Iraq—relates to the National Party’s support for an invasion, which failed in its objectives and actually made the situation much worse than it was. We are doing the wrong thing today for the wrong reason. It is for the wrong reason because we are doing it—as Mr Key said in one of his more honest moments—because we are part of the club. It is not like he told the press at yesterday’s press conference that this was the club of 62. Read the Key statement; it was nominated members of the club. It said who they were: the Western nations. And we are doing the wrong thing because when you put people’s lives at risk there must be achievable objectives. There must be achievable objectives otherwise the sacrifice that you might indulge in is going to be futile. And we know this. We know that of the 143 people we are putting in harm’s way, just 16 will be there to train—just 16 of 143. We know that in the last 10 years the Americans have put thousands and thousands of trainers into the Iraqi army.

They have spent $25 billion in arming and equipping that army to no effect. We know it will not succeed because that army is deeply corrupt, it is highly sectarian, it is incompetent, and it has no morale. There is no way that New Zealand can do for the Iraqi Army what it cannot and will not do for itself. We do not support sending the troops, but our thoughts and prayers will be with them for a safe return home.

Peter Dunne’s response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq

Ministerial Statements

Iraq— Deployment of Troops

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future):

The activities of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) over the last year have brought a new meaning to that longstanding phrase “man’s inhumanity to man”, because we have seen new levels of barbarism, new levels of violence, and a pervasive stretch of campaign unlike any we have seen in the past.

The issue is not whether as humanitarians we should do anything; the issue is what we can do constructively to both assist those who are struggling against that yoke of oppression but also to change the circumstances that gave rise to it in the first place.

So this is not a debate about whether to Iraq or not Iraq; it is about what we can do that will be effective. And when one looks at the history of engagement in the Middle East, over a long period of time—far longer than the 50-odd years referred to earlier—the one constant has been that external intervention has invariably produced failure.

Whether it be from the splitting up of the boundaries under the so-called Balfour Declaration earlier in the 20th century or whether it be the overthrow of the Mosaddeq regime in the 1950s or the attempts by the West after the various Middle East wars to try and reimpose a sense of order, the constant has been failure, and the consequence has been an engrained and increasing sense of disillusionment and bitterness that gives rise to the next form of expression we might regard as extremist and unacceptable, and which we recognise today as ISIL.

We can go on doing what we have done. We can go on repeating the mistakes of the past. We might feel good that we are making a contribution, but we will not be fundamentally changing anything.

The issue the House should be debating is what the most effective form of response is.

We are an isolated democratic country. We in this country believe in the institutions of our State, our courts, our independent legislatures, and our judiciary to deliver certain rights and freedoms to New Zealanders.

Although the form will differ from country to country, those basic tenets remain in all countries, so to deliver basic freedoms and rights and opportunities to the people of Iraq and beyond comes through ensuring that the institutions of their State are capable of living up to the expectations that their public have of them to be able to provide quality health and education services and to be able to provide law and order and good civilisation.

And how can we contribute to that? The historical record makes clear that external intervention over a long period of time has not made a positive contribution in that respect.

When this House debated the intrusion into Kuwait in 1990-91—and I recall the House being recalled early in 1991 for a special debate on that matter—the same points were made. Was New Zealand’s limited military involvement going to make any great difference without any efforts to satisfy some of the more fundamental problems of the region? The answer then was no.

When we debated the intrusion into Iraq that led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the same questions were raised. They were raised in a peripheral way about Afghanistan, and they are being raised again today.

New Zealand has a proud reputation, earned over many years, and for many reasons the point we were elected to the UN Security Council was for being a beacon of humanitarianism and common sense in the international arena.

People remember the role we played in the Rwandan crisis, for instance, where a similar regime of horrific slaughter was in place, where the world felt powerless to cope with the forces that were at play in Rwanda, but where New Zealand was at the forefront of a sensible outcome for which we are still lauded today.

We should be using our role on the Security Council to, first of all, insist that any action that takes place against ISIL is UN mandated—and this is not—and, second, focus on the areas where the most positive construction can be made: humanitarian aid ensuring that the children who are being maimed, slaughtered, and violated routinely are protected; aid that ensures that the various States of the region, Iraq in particular, have the opportunity and the chance to rebuild their institutions of State to deliver fair and democratic outcomes for the people they serve; and aid that ensures that the experience that countries like us that have a longstanding parliamentary democracy have in issues of good and fair governance is able to be brought to bear to assist the people of that region.

The concern that I have about the deployment of now nearly 150 New Zealand personnel into the area is the escalation effect. They are going as trainers and advisers.

President Kennedy sent a few trainers and advisers into Viet Nam in 1961. That culminated in the deaths and injury of up to 220,000 American troops over the next 15 years and 220-odd New Zealanders similarly suffered in that conflict.

The point is that it is very difficult to control these sorts of incursions to protect just the goal that we had to start with. Inevitably, people in military uniforms will draw attention—terrorists do not distinguish between whether they are advisers or other personnel, and conflicts occur.

We would expect in those situations for people to defend themselves, and suddenly the situation has escalated far beyond what we originally intended. The tragedy then becomes the loss of innocent blood, of young New Zealanders in that situation. It is very easy for these things to move very quickly.

A limited engagement in Afghanistan that this House agreed to many years ago saw us ending up spending more time in that country than our combined input into World Wars I and II. There is no reason to think that the challenges that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses will be dealt with quickly, expediently, and that it will be all over in a couple of years.

We are committing New Zealand personnel for what will be a long-term engagement. We have to be prepared to face the consequences of that and the risks to those soldiers. We need to equip them well—and we have had issues in the past about how well equipped our forces have been in such situations—and we need to be prepared for the long haul.

The question I think many New Zealanders are asking is whether we actually know what the game plan is and how the exit strategy is to be developed. We do not want to see what, in effect, becomes an open-ended commitment made. There are, as I have said, many other avenues that we can be pursuing.

I believe that as a country that espouses the democratic tradition the forefront of what we do ought to be about encouraging other countries in a similar way and ensuring that they can benefit from the institutions of democracy and deliver safe and fair environments to the people that they serve.

I recall a representative of the African National Congress telling a meeting at this Parliament shortly after President Mandela came to power in 1994 that when people accused Mandela of being a terrorist they had it wrong because what Mandela and the African National Congress were about was respect for the institutions of the South African State, but they wanted to control them. They wanted to control the Parliament, they wanted to control the courts; they did not want the white minority to continue in the apartheid regime.

It is the same principle here.

Most people value democratic institutions. Most people value representative government and the opportunity to participate. They do not like having things imposed upon them. What our challenge is in this instance is to ensure that the people of Iraq can take control of their own destiny; the people of Iraq have the confidence in the authorities to deal with these violent, despicable people in ISIL; and the people of Iraq know that that is wrong, unacceptable, and unbelievably bad behaviour, and they take charge of responding to it.

They do not react well to the people of the rest of the world telling them what they have to do. I think New Zealand is making a sad mistake. But I just want to say one other very quick thing: those troops who go do go with this Parliament’s blessing for their safety and for the challenges that they face. I hope that they come back safely in due course.

Te Ururoa Flavell’s response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq

Ministerial Statements

Iraq— Deployment of Troops

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader—Māori Party):

On behalf of the Māori Party I think it is fair to say that few would disagree with the opening statements today by the Prime Minister and, indeed, some of the statements made by Mr Little, in respect of the discussion that pretty much every New Zealander would feel collectively around the activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) .

We understand the desire to do something to assist. The question is what.

In my discussions with my people and the constituents I represent, I have to say that most have real concerns about our soldiers going off to war. Having said that, they are hugely proud of the efforts of all of those people who put their lives at risk.

As I consider the decision to deploy New Zealand armed forces to Iraq, I need to put it in context. As we approach the centenary of Anzac Day we once again reflect on New Zealand’s involvement in overseas conflicts.

Since our involvements with the allied forces at the ill-fated campaign at Gallipoli, generations of men and women have served our country in combat and non-combat roles. Our tūpuna were inspired to volunteer for the First World War effort by Māori politicians such as Sir Apirana Ngata and Te Rangi Hīroa , who argued that Māori involvement in the armed forces was “the price of citizenship”.

Since the First World War and the formation of “Te Ope Tuatahi” , the Māori Battalion , Māori have been prominent in the armed forces and have never shied away from active service overseas. The legacy left to us by Māori involvement in conflict and peacekeeping missions is absolutely etched in our whānau , hapū , and iwi histories.

In fact, in most meeting houses throughout the country, hanging on the walls are pictures of those who have passed on and paid that ultimate price. There are stories of immense pride and valour, such as the deeds of the Māori Battalion and, indeed, our contribution to peacekeeping in East Timor.

There are stories of immense loss and suffering from the death of so many young men killed in their prime—indeed, women killed in their prime—from active combat and suffering from campaigns like Viet Nam, which scarred whānau for generations.

Last year I was present at Rotorua Airport as one of our young men was brought home from overseas, returning back to his whānau, who lived in a little town called Kawerau. They felt their pain on that day, as did I.

So as we reflect upon almost 100 years of involvement in international conflict, we need to ask ourselves what is the best contribution that Aotearoa can make.

The Māori Party believes that sending New Zealand soldiers to train troops in Iraq for combat is effectively the same as sending New Zealand soldiers to war. The normal conventions of war, as has already been stated, are not observed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and any military involvement by New Zealand will be regarded as an act of aggression.

The Māori Party believes that sending intelligence personnel into the region places them at great risk. Undoubtedly, they will be placed in the line of fire. So let us be under no illusion that by sending training troops and other personnel to the region we are not effectively raising our heads above the parapet.

This decision increases the chances of Aotearoa being a target for rogue ISIS attacks. In 2007 New Zealand was regarded as the second most peaceful nation in the world, behind Norway and just ahead of Denmark. At the time Iraq was regarded as the most dangerous country in the world.

Our consistent message since entering Parliament 9 years ago is that manaakitanga and rangatiratanga dictates that it is not our place to be intervening in the decisions of other nation States but we could play a constructive role in peacekeeping and providing humanitarian aid.

Despite the best intentions of the West by sending in the planes, sending in the tanks, and sending in the soldiers, all that inevitably happens is that everyone packs up and walks away, and for what real gain? Not a lot. New Zealand has earned the respect of the international community for its peacekeeping and humanitarian support.

We have shown our mettle in hotspots like Afghanistan and East Timor. We fully acknowledge the courage and intelligence demonstrated so ably by the provincial reconstruction team and other groups working throughout Afghanistan. There is a large-scale humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, including thousands of whānau surviving and dying in refugee camps, fleeing the terror of ISIS.

Aotearoa has much to contribute to eliminating the threat of ISIS, but it is not by sending our troops and military personnel into the te mura o te ahi.

Our own people are also asking us why the New Zealand Government remains silent on humanitarian crises such as that happening in West Papua, New Guinea, where thousands of innocent Melanesian people, Papuans, have been slaughtered by the Indonesian Government. This is a conflict filled with similar atrocities of kidnapping, rape, and murder as those inflicted by ISIS, and yet it is far closer to home.

Yet, as Mr Peters alluded to, we do not say too much and we have not done too much about it.

Having said all that, now that the decision has been made, and despite our views, from the Māori Party’s perspective, as I am sure from the House’s, we do wish our forces well, and those who are deployed overseas. They will make us proud. We pray that they will be looked after and returned home safely to their friends, partners, and tamariki. Tūmatauenga, kia kaha.

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.

Russel Norman’s response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq

Ministerial Statements

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.

Andrew Little’s response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq

Ministerial Statements

Iraq— Deployment of Troops

ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition):

The decision of any Government to send troops to a conflict zone is a very serious one, and it is right that this House takes time and is detained in its usual duties to consider it, to debate it, and, ideally, to vote on it, but we will not have that chance today. We will at least have a chance to talk about it today, but the truth is this decision was made some time ago.

The Governments of Australia and Iraq were told about the decision last night, and the people of New Zealand have been told about the decision and the details of the deployment of New Zealand troops to Iraq this afternoon. But as I say, it is very clear: this decision was made some time ago, and I venture to suggest it was made for a range of different reasons that have not been outlined today.

Labour’s position is clear: we should not send troops to Iraq. There is no case to do so. We have all seen the images coming out of Iraq, the images from the Islamic State, its barbarism, its brutality, and its evil, and there would not be a New Zealander sitting in their home who has seen those images whose stomach would not have been turned and who would not have been impressed upon in a very nasty way by what they have seen.

But let us be clear about what we are dealing with. They call themselves Islamic State, but they are not a State.

They want to establish a caliphate, a medieval form of social organisation and control, but they are not within a single border; they run across borders. They are cultural, they are ethnic, they are religious, and they are driven by a number of different motivations. They are not a nation State in the way that we typically recognise; they are a grouping, an organisation, a movement, and they draw their support accordingly. Islamic State is not confined to Iraq.

It is in Syria, it is Libya, and—as we know, and as the Prime Minister acknowledged—it is adherents can turn up anywhere in the world. Islamic State is a repository of the dispossessed, the marginalised, the fanatical, the extreme, and, yes, the evil, but it is not a conventional enemy and the circumstances in which we are being asked to fight it or train others to fight it in Iraq are not conventional.

We are told we are sending troops to train the Iraqi army. The Prime Minister says they will be behind the wire but we know they will not be. They cannot stick there, they cannot stay there, that is not all they will do. They will not just be behind the wire; they will be exposed to the much wider conflict and it will not be just the soldiers we send to the Iraq, it will be Kiwis travelling around the world.

So we need to ask ourselves—and a Government exercising this decision in a responsible way will ask itself—what it is that we are being asked to do, or that our people are being asked to do, that will put our people at risk that has not been tried before. What are they being asked to do that has not been done before? What is it about what they will do that will succeed where others have failed?

After 10 years of training of the Iraqi army by the US army, after $25 billion of assistance to the Iraqi army, what impact will we have, what can we hope to achieve? In the weeks that the Prime Minister has been talking about this issue since his speech at the end of the last year the case has not been put. New Zealanders are none the wiser and we do not support the decision.

Where does Islamic State come from? It comes from a number of factors. The first is the failure of the Iraqi army—an army that is demoralised, that is poorly led, poorly organised, riven with corruption, and it has been like that for 10 years, and we think that by sending a very modest force as part of a multinational group we are going to achieve what the US army has not been able achieve for 10 years.

Islamic State comes from the failure of Government—the Iraqi Government, which has struggled to come to terms with the responsibility of being an open and transparent and diverse Government. It comes from the failure of Government to change Iraq as a nation State and rebuild its economy.

So young Muslims are shut out of a future, shut out of a livelihood, and they retreat to the hands and the arms of Islamic State. We will not fix the Iraqi army and those whom we join up there—and it will not be the soldiers of 62 other nations; it will be five nations—will not fix the army.

It is disorganised, it is broken, it is treacherous, and it is corrupt. I take the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Dr al-Jaafari, when he says that the request for assistance is not just for military assistance; in fact, it is not even the priority. He diplomatically told us that civil reconstruction is equally important if not more so, and it is clear to me that that is what is more important. We will not defeat—no one will defeat—Islamic State through the Iraqi army.

We will deal with it when we deal with the underlying causes and we will deal with the underlying unrest that is spread across that region. There is something useful we can contribute and it is about turning Iraq into a functioning, viable nation State.

To do that, they need an effective Government. Dr al-Jaafari was very clear. They need advice on good Government and we will help them when we assist them with economic reconstruction. They know that they need to move away from dependency on oil. They know that they need to build an agriculture sector. They know that they need to build horticulture and industry.

Those are the things that will last a long time, that will build a nation State, that will give confidence to a people and enable them to take back their land and control of their country. New Zealand has a reputation abroad as an honest broker.

We have not won our seat on the United Nations Security Council for no reason at all. We won it overwhelmingly in the first ballot, hands down, because of our reputation as a responsible, reputable global citizen. We have the opportunity to provide leadership in a way that we have not for a long time before, and we should do that.

We should do that on this issue. We should do that on this issue to help rebuild Iraq. We should do that on this issue to turn back the militants, the extremists, the fanatics who pose a threat to world peace. That is what we can do when we provide assistance with civilian reconstruction to countries like Iraq.

It is wrong to say that the only request for assistance was for military assistance, because that is not where the request stopped. There is another point: when we send our troops to this conflict zone without clarification, understanding, or certainty about the status of those troops in that country, we are exposing them to even greater risk.

If we cannot achieve a status of forces agreement with Iraq, then that says something about that country and the support for this mission by those people, and we should not expose our troops to that risk and to that threat.

We have a unique opportunity for moral leadership to show that there is a different way, a long-term way, and a lasting way to address the conflicts and the hatreds that exist in the world and in that region, and that is through supporting nation States—fledgling nation States, in some cases—to come to terms with their responsibilities, rebuild their economies, rebuild their communities, and give themselves the confidence and the means to repel the evil that is represented by Islamic State . We have turned our back on that option. Labour is opposed to sending troops to Iraq.