The Middle East has been in the news recently for all of the wrong reasons.
Syria has been disintegrating as the the effects of a brutal civil war become more pronounced. It started in March 2011 after protests against President Bashar al-Assad, inspired by uprisings in the wider Arab world, were met with extreme force. The cost, 160,000 deaths and over a million refugees in Lebanon is mind numbingly huge. It is difficult to imagine how life can return to normal. The country itself has divided into two areas, one controlled by the President’s forces and the rest controlled by a variety of warlords. Starvation and Chemical Weapons are amongst the methods used to maintain control. The flood of refugees has the potential of undermining the surrounding states.
Next door in Iraq things are potentially more dire. The group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has overrun large parts of the country despite being poorly equipped. The vacuum in power has raised hopes amongst the Kurds that the long desired state of Kurdistan may become a reality. Already parts of Northern Syria are in Kurdish control.
Recent events made the administration of Nouri al-Maliki appear to be largely irrelevant. The Iraqi Parliament recently failed to obtain a quorum to discuss the extreme threat that ISIS poses to the country. Unbelievable.
Iraq has for many decades been a play thing for the Americans. Saddam Hussein’s Baath party gained power with CIA assistance in the 1960s. It then engaged in a reign of terror on its people and built a powerful grip on the country through the nationalisation of oil wells and banks. Hussein’s behaviour became more extreme and brutal. The Americans and English eventually invaded on the pretext that Iraq was holding weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.
If there is a general lesson here then it is that Military intervention into a country does not work. If you want to effect change then diplomacy, aid, and the provision of education are much more likely to work than violence.
I was interested to see what John Key’s views to the military intervention in Iraq has been over the years. And having had a look through I must say they leave something to be desired.
There is this Herald report summarising two earlier articles as follows:
The first story stated that Mr Key and Rodney MP Lockwood Smith could support a war against Iraq without United Nations’ support, and carried a paragraph indirectly quoting Mr Key as being “prepared to commit any support requested by the United States for a war against Iraq, including SAS and combat troops”.The second story carried a direct quote in which Mr Key said “blood is thicker than water and we should stick with the family which has supported us in the past”, in reference to traditional allies the United States, Britain and Australia.
In Parliament on September 10, 2003 Key said this about an international proposal to allow ships to be boarded and searched for weapons of mass destruction:
What sorts of countries are in that agreement? I look down the list and I see Australia; yes, the roos are there. So is Britain. So is the United States. Our traditional allies are in this agreement. Where is our name? Missing! It is “MIA” just like it was during the war in Iraq—missing.
This country will pay for that—members need not worry about that. There will be no US free-trade arrangement with New Zealand.
It appears that Key was in support of following the United States and the United Kingdom into a war that was frankly insane. The search for weapons of mass destruction has still not turned up one weapon.
Rather awkwardly Key then said that the National Caucus did not support sending troops to Iraq. Read the above and make your own mind up. It was reinforced by Simon Power who on May 1, 2004 said “[w]ithout reservation we will support our close allies Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States when and wheresoever our commitment is called upon.”
TV3 coverage of the issue and Labour’s sustained attack on Key for his duplicity was fascinating.
And in Parliament Michael Cullen showed his biting wit after the onslaught on Key by asking “[i]s it fair to conclude that Mr Key has finally been the first person to find a weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, and it blew up in his face?”
Key’s position now is much more cautious. He was interviewed this morning on Morning Report by Guyon Espiner who unfortunately did not ask him the hard questions. But it is relevant for us to know when and why did he change his views on Iraq?
And for those interested Labour’s position is that a Cunliffe led Government would not contribute combat troops to Iraq under any foreseeable circumstances and that New Zealand would consider other ways to contribute to multilateral action only if there was an appropriate resolution by the United Nations Security Council.