Speech: The Worst-kept Secret – NZ Forces to Iraq
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 no clear goals or exit strategy, with no vote in Parliament.
Yep, you heard it right, we’re going to, supposedly, defend democracy in the Middle East but the National Party Government has prevented Parliament from voting on whether New Zealand should go to war. Democracy it seems is a military export not for domestic consumption.
So why is John Key so afraid to put it to a vote? Is it because he knows that this Parliament and the New Zealand public have little appetite for entering another bloody conflict that will only make things worse in the Middle East?
Is it because he knows it makes no sense to enter a conflict that will further endanger New Zealanders overseas and here? Or is it because he knows he could not get a majority of MPs or the public to support his plan to send our soldiers off to war?
The answer is, 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 not a decision taken in Wellington but in Washington. As John Key revealingly told us, NZ is going to war because that is the price we pay in order to be a member of the Club, by which he means the Five Eyes club headed up by the United States, including Australia, Canada and the UK.
I guess we always thought that the National Party had abandoned NZ’s independent foreign policy but to hear the Prime Minister state it so blandly that the decision to go to war was taken by the Club and we simply had to follow suit to stay in the Club. Why bother with Parliament when the decision making power sits with Barack Obama.
So I don’t address my comments to John Key, who behaves as the governor of the 51st state, rather I address my comments to the head of the Club, Barack Obama, who actually made the decision that the Club was going to war, and to the people of New Zealand, in whose name more blood will be shed.
Mr Obama: After half a century or more of Western military adventures in the Middle East, many if not most New Zealanders now know it has only made things worse. And people in the Middle East understand this too.
It’s hard to know exactly where to start. But one obvious contender is when the US and the UK orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected Mosaddegh government in Iran in 1953, because Mosaddegh threatened the flow of cheap oil. We told the people of the Middle East through our actions that cheap oil was more important to us than democracy.
Notable mention should go to Madeleine Albright. In 1996 the US Ambassador to the United Nations said in reference to sanctions against Iraq killing half a million children: “we think the price is worth it”. We told the people of the Middle East that their children’s lives are of no value to us and can be sacrificed to our foreign policy goals.
And perhaps special mention should go to the CIA who used fake vaccination program to gather intelligence on Osama bin Laden. In the process adding to Pakistani suspicion against Western medicine resulting in a dramatic drop in vaccinations and a rapid takeoff off of polio cases in Pakistan. We told the people of Pakistan that revenge was more important to us than our medical science.
Every Western bomb 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 anti-democratic regimes in the world it 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.
And, if you don’t take my word for it how about this. In 2004 Donald Rumsfeld, then US Secretary of Defence, set up a task force to understand what is the driver of the rise of radicalism and terrorism in the Middle East.
The Defence Science Board duly reported in September 2004. Here’s what they said:
American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.
So it is producing the opposite effect of what was supposedly intended. Killing hundreds of thousands of civilians has that effect.
Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.
The Muslim world hate our policies, our callous disregard for the suffering in Gaza, our support for tyrannies.
Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.
Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more 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 among Muslims.
What was a marginal network is now a wide movement of fighting groups. Not only has there been a proliferation of “terrorist” groups: the unifying context of a shared cause creates a sense of affiliation across the many cultural and sectarian boundaries that divide Islam.
It’s as if the US Defence Science Board predicted the rise of the Islamic State. They simply extrapolated from the effects of existing Western policies in the Middle East.
No-one is suggesting we turn a blind eye to ISIL. The question is, should we be sending our troops there, when it’s clear that doing so will put New Zealand lives at risk and help ISIL recruiting?
It is also clear that there is not a shred of evidence that military training will make a difference. The United States wasn’t able to train the Iraqi army in over 10 years.
We also must ask if there’s another way we can alleviate the suffering and misery of those in Iraq and the wider Middle East. There is, but John Key and his ministers have closed their eyes and blocked their ears to it.
The people of Iraq and Syria and elsewhere need millions of dollars in humanitarian aid and a large-scale international diplomatic effort to stop the flow of arms and cash to ISIL. Did the NZ Government even raise this issue with the government of Saudi Arabia in its recent discussions, give that a lot of the ISIL money comes from Saudi Arabia?
New Zealand proudly holds a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Why aren’t we using that to find a meaningful and lasting diplomatic solution to the ISIL crisis?
Instead, we have yet another foreign intervention in Iraq, and just like under George W Bush in 2003, this is indeed another Coalition of the Willing: a Coalition of those who are willing to put their heads in the sand and lives at risk.
When it comes to Western military interventions in Iraq, New Zealand and the world have been there and done that. We know just how bloody and awful and pointless they can be.
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.
And that means we need 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’s time to wean ourselves off cheap oil and time to support genuine peace and democracy in the Middle East.