John Key has been softening the NZ public up for sending troops to Iraq for a few months (BLiP on The Standard). He looks to have made the decision a while ago. He has opted for the dodgy categorisation of sending troops for training, and providing intelligence support for bombing. This is clearly because polling shows New Zealanders do not want NZ troops to be sent to Iraq in a combat role.
Nicky Hager explains, on Radio New Zealand this morning:
What we’ve hear with John Key at the moment – is he’s very keen to say that we’ve got a non-combat role. It’s coming out of every interview, which means that I think that their polling is telling them that many New Zealanders are uncomfortable with going into that – another war over in the Middle East at the moment, in a combat role. As soon as you get to intelligence, it’s definitely a combat role.
we’ve got 10 years of experience of watching what New Zealand did in Afghanistan in an intelligence role […] what we found there was that there were New Zealanders who were being continuously posted into the main US Intelligence Centre, north of Kabul at Bagram.
We also had people being posted into the main off-site intelligence centres in the Middle East, which is, of all places, in the American south in Georgia […] what they were doing day by day, was helping to track down mobile phones being used – putting numbers of mobile phones on maps – helping to supply the day-by-day lists of targets of special forces in bombing raids. In other words, part of the non-combat, was at the heart – the bloodiest heart – of the fighting in Afghanistan.
All over the country it is being debated. Why are we going to this war? Is it because they just want to help the Iraqi military? No – It’s because there’s a strong diplomatic pressure on New Zealand to follow the 5 Eyes partners in there. But what New Zealanders need to understand is that that doesn’t mean we set our terms very easily – and this is where the intelligence role is – really comes into special focus – and that is that we won’t be doing what New Zealanders think we should be doing. And we won’t be helping people cross the road or doing friendly things in a very nasty internal war.
We will be helping to fight the internal war, which means all the follies of it and all the things that go wrong. New Zealanders will be a part of- the New Zealand military and Intelligence people will be helping.
It sounds like it’s a clean kind of a job. It sounds like you can find out where the bad people are and drop some bombs on them and everything will be alright. By why didn’t that work in Afghanistan? Why is it actually worse in Afghanistan and more dangerous than when we started? Why didn’t it work in the first invasion of Iraq, where it seemed like everything would be alright? And that is, that when you’re trying not to have your own troops hurt, like you were discussing earlier on the programme, and doing it by bombs, you’re bombing into people’s – accidentally, over and over – accidentally with the wrong targets, with families, with people who are going to remember and have revenge. You can’t actually do nation-building, and solve problems, without going into an area and just by dropping bombs.
And that’s what New Zealand’s going to be involved in if we have an Intelligence role. We are going to be trying to solve a problem from 10,000 feet with thousand pound bombs , or with special forces raiding huzzas [?] in the night.
And we should be at this laughing at this at the moment, because we just had a whole decade of experience in Afghanistan and Iraq where that was shown to not work.
John Key has been very slippery over this issue:
Leaders and/or spokespersons for opposition parties, and United Future explain why they are opposed to NZ troops being sent to Iraq, as quoted by Radio New Zealand:
Labour Party defence spokesperson Phil Goff said it seemed the public had been the last to hear Mr Key’s decision.
“It’s abundantly apparent that he’s told leaders in Australia, in the United Kingdom and in the United States that we will be sending 100 trainers to be ground troops in Iraq.
“Why did he tell leaders of other countries that before he took New Zealanders into his confidence?”
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the West waging wars in the Middle East created the conditions that gave rise to Islamic State in the first place.
“We’re basically putting people in harm’s way; some of our troops will be putting their lives in danger and for what?
“For adding to the problem of Western intervention in the Middle East, which in the past has solved nothing and in fact has made it worse,” Dr Norman said.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the Government decided to go to war long ago.
“No matter what your political perspective is this is an extended exercise in deception, this decision was made a long time ago.
“All you’re seeing now is the choreography of propaganda to try and prop it up,” Mr Peters said.
United Future leader Peter Dunne was disturbed to hear the Prime Minister say there was also a role for intelligence operatives to play.
“It confirms my fears that this is an escalating situation and that the 100 people that we’re sending are going to have a much broader role than we might first have imagined,” Mr Dunne said.