25 Feb 2015

Bulletin: So we're going to Iraq

10:59 am on 25 February 2015

New Zealand’s government is sending 143 troops to train local security forces in the fight against Islamic State, with the first officers leaving for Baghdad next month.

When Prime Minister John Key confirmed the deployment in Parliament yesterday he faced a storm of criticism from National’s opponents and allies who’d called for a parliamentary vote.

“I will not, will not, stand by while Jordanian pilots are burnt to death, when kids execute soldiers, when people are out there being beheaded,” Key vented in the House.

“I'm sorry but this is the time to stand up and be counted. Get some guts and join the right side.”

New Zealand soldiers taking part in a military exercise in California in 2013.

New Zealand soldiers taking part in a military exercise in California in 2013. Photo: NZ Defence Force

Here are seven reactions to the PM’s announcement:

Labour leader Andrew Little said troops were being sent into danger in Iraq with little hope of making any difference, The New Zealand Herald reported.

"They will not just be behind the wire, they will be exposed to the much wider conflict. It will not be just soldiers we send to Iraq - it will be Kiwis travelling around the world."

The Opposition leader is instead urging more reconstruction work.

"We will not defeat - no one will defeat - Islamic State through the Iraq Army."

Even ACT MP David Seymour had reservations but backed the decision in the interest of collective security and New Zealand’s relationships with its allies.

“Even if I may be sceptical about how much good can be done intervening in such a theatre, we have to take seriously the fact that so many countries, including all of our closest allies, are committed to intervening and standing up to the bullies in this theatre.”

The decision was this morning being criticised by some Iraqi New Zealanders as “pointless”, Radio New Zealand reported.

Auckland Refugee Council member Manjit Umara arrived in New Zealand from Iraq in 1999, having lived through the Gulf War.

He said sending troops to Iraq would achieve nothing, describing the deployment as a "waste of time, and a waste of money”.

"(It's) just propaganda that we support the American policy and the British policy. It is political, it is not our war. Those responsible must resolve it – the American and British, they did it, and they must suffer for that."

Dr Saad Abdul Sattar, an economist and researcher based in Palmerston North, said the New Zealand Government was making a serious mistake and to make any kind of difference, efforts had to be made to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.

“People today are dying of poverty. Once you feed them up, you have to educate them. The illiteracy level is quite high, so you're talking about a society which is illiterate.

“The fundamental issue is the basic needs. Once you provide the basic needs, believe me, they look after you.”

International relations expert Professor Al Gillespie, of Waikato University, told TVNZ that “something needs to be done” to help fight ISIS – who he believes will soon turn their interest to New Zealand.

“There is no crime against humanity, nor crime of war that this group has not caused or done yet.”

However, Gillespie is questioning what that something might be.

While sending troops is all very well, there needs to be a focus on making sure the current Iraq Government doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, he told TVNZ. “Right now, it’s not just about fighting ISIS but supporting Iraq.”

The debate might still be raging, but the decision has been made.

Writer and commentator David Slack offered up a few suggestions for a few other things the New Zealand Government could teach Iraq.


While comedian Sanjay Patel had this to reveal.