Labour’s mistake on US bombing in Iraq


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It was good to see two of National’s allies, the Maori Party and United Future, coming out against New Zealand’s military contribution to the US-led coalition in Iraq. Interestingly, United Future’s Peter Dunne took a stronger antiwar stand than Labour in Tuesday’s parliamentary debate.

Unlike Labour’s Andrew Little, who is supporting US air strikes in Iraq, Dunne highlighted the problems with Western military intervention, arguing that “when one looks at the history of engagement in the Middle East, over a long period of time… one constant has been that external intervention has inevitably produced failure. “ The “consequence [of military intervention] has been an ingrained 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. So 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.”

Later in the debate Green co-leader Russel Norman made a similar point, that “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.”

If Andrew Little studied the history of US bombing missions in the Middle East he would have to admit that Dunne and Norman are right.

For example, Libya is now a total mess – just four years after US, British and French planes came to the aid of the anti-Gaddafi forces. Yes, Gaddafi fell but what message did the rebel factions take from the victory? That military power is everything. Now the armed rebel factions (including IS) have filled the political vacuum and are fighting among themselves. The result has been a social and economic catastrophe for the Libyan people. In 2011 peace was never given a chance, even though the African Union was deeply involved in negotiations for an orderly transition from the Gaddafi regime to more democratic Libya. America, Britain and France ignored the African Union initiative and began the disastrous bombing.

As in Iraq today, the bombing of Libya was explained as urgent and necessary to prevent a massacre. We were told that Gaddafi’s forces were at the gates of Benghazi. No one doubts that the battle for Benghazi could have been bloody, but the overall result of the bombing that year was more people dying, right across Libya. The killing has continued, in one form or another, to the present. The nation is now fractured in a manner that is going to be difficult to rectify.

Similar fratricidal killing followed the US bombing of Iraq in 2003, with the more extreme Shia and Sunni militias attacking each other’s communities. The more recent US bombing against IS targets is probably increasing communal revenge attacks, from both IS and the Shia militias. Such communal hostility is also helping IS recruit Sunni youth.

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In his speech to Parliament Andrew Little recognized that IS recruited from the “dispossessed” and the “marginalised”. Unfortunately the number of marginalised and dispossessed youth is growing as US bombing destroys oil installations and other economic infrastructure in the Sunni heartland.

US bombing has also increased the flow of IS recruits from Western countries, some of whom seem to have been radicalised by the suffocating attention paid to them by intelligence agencies. In the highly publicized case of Mohammed Emwazi (“Jihadi John”) the effort to stop him leaving Britain seems to have made him keener to leave. He earlier told the human rights group CAGE the he felt like “a person imprisoned and controlled by security service men, stopping me from living my new life in my birthplace and my country Kuwait.”  The increased surveillance powers granted to Western intelligence agencies can be counter-productive.


  1. Bombing is a phenomenally ineffective military strategy – though it is devastating for civilian populations. Guernica did not surrender, and Hiroshima did not precipitate the Japanese surrender (it was Russia’s penecontemporaneous refusal to contemplate a conditional surrender). Smart bombing hasn’t proven particularly smart, with 1500 pounds of high explosive a smart bomb destroys an entire apartment building, not merely a suspected terrorist cell – and thus antagonises civilian populations.

    Had we a security council seat, and person better equipped than the frankly stupid Murray McCully we might expect some constraints on such activities – not under these buffoons however.

    • Murray McCully – one of the most stupid guys around in politics. What was the Margaret Thatcher joke about vegetables? Our troops can’t even catch a recidivist fishing poacher under his command, how is he going to bring down ISIL?

      What a joke at the security council with him sitting there.

  2. Not to disagree with all the arguments in this piece, but it would have helped if Gaddafi had actually resigned in good time. It’s horrible what happened to him at the end but he carries a lot of responsibility for the present situation in Libya. I seem to recall Obama wasn’t keen to get involved in Libya at the time.

    • So you know what the situation was like when G was leader? Much better than it is now.Free education, highest literacy rates, free medical care, substantial sum of $ towards a new house etc etc. His biggest sin was wanting to move away from the petro dollar. So no it wasn’t a democracy but don’t blame him for the state Libya is in now because he chose to fight for his country.

  3. Is this ‘New Labour’ all over again. Its very sad to admit that our current political system is a direct reflection of the people’s greedy Neo Liberal mindset. For the rest who are more interested in a clean green healthy happy society where all kids from all families get 3 meals a day. The corporate/business virus has attached itself so deep into the political structure it is rotten to the core. The only party interested in the wellbeing of all NZers seems to be the Greens – A big well done to them.

    People seem to be drunk on moving up the status ladder…….. the promise of having more is intoxicating for them…… Look at the numbers people, that games leads to 10% winners 40% loser’s and 40% stuck in the middle being bleed to death.

    Bring on the Revolution……!!!

      • I’m ready when your ready – Just need about another 100,000 and were off and running…………!!!

        • Count me in. But please, it MUST be non violent.

          That’s way more likely to work than a violent revolution, and the aftermath is more likely to be nicer too.

            • Have you seen this talk from Erica Chenowyth? It’s pretty good.

              Turns out, contrary to popular belief, non violent civil resistance is actually MORE likely to succeed than violence.

              I think I’m perching to the converted here, but will leave this comment with the link just in case you’ve not seen her talk.


  4. Totally agree.

    The surveillance bill is going to turn NZ into a police state and as shown by the Johnny English style recruitment/harassment of Emwazi, security forces involvement clearly does not lead to a happy ending often having an opposite effect.

    If you push mentally ill people over the edge or harrass others there can be unexpected effects. We have laws for a reason and Stasi style surveillance does not work, either for security, social wellness or economic gain. We are going back into time taking away human rights and increasing our chances of radicalising others.

    As for sending troops to occupy Iraq – ludicrous. I just wish those politicians and advisers rah rahing it on, are the first in line to go. At lease it will increase the gene pool in this country.

  5. David Lange is a hero because of his Nuclear Free NZ stance. John F Kennedy is a hero because of his 1963, “A Strategy of Peace,” a rallying cry for an end to the nuclear arms race with the Soviets and a beginning of a new era of peace with all nations.

    With the specter of the Cuban Missile Crisis still hanging heavy over the nation, Kennedy’s speech brought hope that a real and lasting peace could be achieved. During the nearly 27-minute address, Kennedy called for the development of a test ban treaty, pledging that the United States would suspend nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other nations did the same. Kennedy also encouraged a respect and understanding of the Soviet Union, unfathomable just months before the speech. It was a watershed moment in the history of U.S.-Soviet relations.

    Kennedy’s speech, written by long-time advisor Ted Sorensen, was unprecedented in its dovish pursuit of peace. Few presidents before him ever spoke so artfully and passionately about the need to work toward unequivocal amity.

    This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s achievement and the profound impact it had on American University and the wider world. “A Strategy of Peace” is remembered as one of the president’s finest and one of the most inspiring commencement addresses ever delivered. Kennedy’s words ring as true today as they did 50 years ago as we continue building peace for all time.

    We can still learn a lot from these past great leaders.

    John Key is now referred to as Nixon. Who is Little going to be compared to?

  6. Daesh remind me an awful lot of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia which arguably was brought into being after the vicious bombing campaigns in that region.

    Funny thing is we didn’t feel the need to intervene in that murderous, cultish regime. I remember watching a documentary ( when we had such things on TV) where the Americans proudly explained their supporting of Khmer Rouge fighters based in the Thai refugee camps to go back and attempt to over through the post Khmer Rouge, Vietnamese supported government.

    We need to ‘get some guts’ and refuse to partake in this kind of brutal politics. We should prepare now to support and help the endless streams of refugees that continue to flow from the areas of the world devastated by power politics .. our army has an important role and experience in this kind of work.

  7. The bombing of Libya (and Iraq for that matter) was not a case of military strategy it was punishment pure and simple delivered by a combination of sabotage and terror.
    Gaddafi, oddly enough, was becoming a leader in African solidarity and posing a threat to the sovereignty of the US dollar.
    Human rights abuses, torture, repression, even annexing neighbouring land is tolerated: threatening the standing of the US dollar is not.

  8. I hear what your saying and I agree……..But its a scam……can’t be done, just more mind control ….. If you think your not Free your Not free. If 1000 people all emailed there friends and asked them to pass on that email to all there friends it be 100,000 ‘s in one day. If in that email your included 10 ‘hot’ words these spooks would run round in circles and not know where to start……….. The goal is for these creeps who want to control everything – (end result/money= power)

    People could take a breath and have a look at all these fanatics and ask the question……What was the incident that caused the power vacuum for these groups to take hold?

    Who is selling them weapons? etc etc ………. Look how many kids and civilians are being killed now since the mighty Weston Powers had to ‘save’ everybody…..!!!

    Check out the people behind Capt Cook and his ‘New World’ buddies and join the dots to this new set of greedy pricks……!!

    The US and UK and a few others besides have War economy’s – which means with out a War they go broke……….. money scam

    As for Fear ……….. I’m not buying into it………. ‘they only have the Power WE give Them……….

    Power to the PEOPLE…… (end of rant, climb down off soap box)

  9. I’m going to cause a bout of eye rolling so dramatic that it might effect the rotation of the earth . Don’t blame me if the sun starts rising in the West .

    If a Labour Government doesn’t bring the farmer over to stand shoulder to shoulder with the urbane Unions to function as one entity then we will never know peace and security and our wealth will continue to be siphoned off-shore and our few traitors will grow ever more rich at the expense of us all . No if’s or but’s . No arguments . No compromise .

    You will know if a Labour Government is genuine or not by that premise . So there .

    How often has andrew little mentioned the importance of NZ agriculture to our economy ? Not once , I think is the answer .

    And listen to this interview . National Radio .

    Andana Shiva – Towards Agroecology .

    It would appear that andrew little is yet another stupid man trying it on . Trying to be the Big Guy . Mr Six Figure . Running defence for jonky-stien and the Great New Zealand Institutionalised Lie .

    Another laugh might be to listen to alan gibb on National Radio next Sunday , brought to you by Lies and Deceit Co Ltd, a Division of New Zealand Corporation . Family Owned and Operated since 1872 .

    You might be thinking ” What the fuck’s this got to do with Labour bombing Iraq ? ”

    An answer to that might be to follow up on deposits into Swiss bank accounts ?

  10. Oh if everything was this cut and dried. These are actually difficult questions and the only viable answers are nuanced and contingent rather than based on a priori moral absolutes.

    As a wise man once said, Mel Gibson was smart enough to see that The Singing Detective was worth making into a film, just not smart enough to realize that he was the wrong person to do it.

    ISIS should, of course be opposed. Unfortunately the Western powers are the last people to do it.

    It is (very slightly) encouraging to see that Barack Obama, largely, gets it. This is why he has been so determinedly trying to involve Middle Eastern nations in the fight. One problem is the massive American Military-Industrial-Political complex which has a tendency to encourage a view which confounds being a superpower with being Superman.

    It is an error which will almost inevitably suck them back in. It looks like we will be going down the same gurgler.

    It has been a shame to see how many people are giving John Key a pass, when he so obviously has almost literally, no idea what he is letting himself – and us by extension – in for.

    • You are absolutely right, there are no moral absolutes here. Gaddafi was ousted by the U.S., not for being a tyrant, but for being an effective leader in the region (and for threatening to drop the petro-dollar).

      It’s not that the U.S. superpower sees itself as Superman, or even a mortal hero, it see itself as God, and acts with absolutely no morals.

  11. I’m no Labour fan, but I heard Andrew Little saying exactly the same thing as Russel Norman on the TV news immediately after Key announced his unilateral decision.

  12. One day the conversation is going to have to turn to the information/evidence/History of western intelligence (‘deep-state’) CREATING the terror groups we are to ‘help’ chase about in this PNAC long war. Creating, funding, transporting.Deploying.
    Mujahaden became AlQaeda. AlQaeda, alNosra. AlNosra, ISIL. Covert war using proxies. When communism fell to Mujahaden in Afghanistan, that force was a known and successful creation of CIA/ISI.(osamaBL:) who then redeployed to NATO illegal war in Yugoslavia. Kosovo. NATO aircraft transported them as Wikileaks exposed. Turkey gave them new identities -Turkish passports. Arms : just as Turkey issued the Uygur (USAID/Ghulen) ‘separatists’ suspected of strategy of tension terror attacks in north China and arrested in Indonesia a couple of weeks ago. Mujahaden became alQaeda after FF911, as exposed by the great FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds; and the global war of terror or GWOT, began. Complicity between western deep-state and allies in the region creating ISIL, is all over the internet.begin @ Voltairnet. Boilingfrogspost. Corbettreport. Wesley CLARK, ex-NATO chief said exactly on CNN Feb 17th. ISIL funded by friends and allies in the region to kill Hezbollah. “A Frankenstein”, disingenuous in that it was created at behest of Washington. To break the region apart.
    That this army should so suddenly appear on superstate radar screens is totally ridiculous, especially since these well armed and funded mercenaries control the very corridor between Syria and Iran advantageous to US geostrategy. Even ISIL leadership Batirashvili’s Father stated the sons were trained by US specials in Georgia. This is ‘backdoor’ getting ASSAD and then Iran and Russia. Just as FSA disappears to arm ISIS. John McCain sorted that out.

  13. So – just south of the US is a nation (Mexico) where terrorism is fairly rife. Beheadings. Burnings. Mass hangings. Disappearances. Torture. Smuggling. People smuggling into modern slavery north of the border.

    Now why isn’t the Great Policeman dealing with the mess on its own doorstep?

    Because it’s profitable just as it is?

    Any connection to NZ? Possibly. Part of the conduits bringing drugs to NZ? It may be so. Get involved? Oh, but Uncle Sam mightn’t like us…

    And, for all those ‘Oh Daesh is EVIL and Islamic’ – is it somehow OK when the same crimes are being perpetrated by ‘Christians’ and ‘business people’ on both sides of the border? (Not to mention the good ol’ boys hunting down illegal immigrants and tipping out the water caches so those travellers die of thirst. And Daesh is Evil???)

    It’s about time we learned to choose our missions and our friends better.

    PS How come the Canadians are in Nigeria helping the locals with Boko Haram? Don’t we Commonwealth people stick together any more?

  14. There is something else Mr Little and his advisers may want to look into.

    FARS news agency reported Feb 23rd [no reports in western media]
    “The Iraq Parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee has access to photographs of two BRITISH planes shot down by Iraq’s army, that have crashed while carrying weapons FOR the ISIL” said committee head Hakem al-Zameli – According to a Monday report in the Arabic-language information center of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Iraq Parliament has asked London for an explanation.
    He also reported the government in Baghdad is receiving data and evidence [being collected] of daily reports from people and security forces in al-Anbar province, on numerous flights by the US led coalition planes that airdrop weapons and supplies for ISIL in terrorist-held areas.
    The Fars report also quotes a senior Iraq provincial official lashing out at the western countries and their regional allies for supporting Takfiri terrorists in Iraq, revealing that US and Israeli made weapons have been discovered from the areas purged of ISIL terrorists .[ Same too in Ukraine BTW. NATO arms cache found Donetsk’s airport]
    Al-Ahad news website quoted Head of Al-Anbar Provincial Council Khalaf Tarmouz as saying “We have discovered weapons made in the US,European countries and Israel from the areas liberated from ISIL’s control in Al-Baqdadi region”. Also in Ramadi.
    Hakem al-Zameli also disclosed in January the anti-ISIL coalition planes dropped weapons and foostuffs for ISIL in Salahuddin, Al-Anbar and Diyala provinces, underlining that the coalition is the main cause of ISIL’s survival in Iraq.
    These reports are emanating FROM Iraq. Are they being given due diligence by our Government agencies; by the Opposition and by our MEDIA before minds are ‘made up’ in this fight against whatever and whoever ISIL actually are?

  15. It is sad watching an ally of National put up better arguments against being militarily involved against I.S.I.S. than Labour. But Labour is a pretty sad party on the whole.

    Andrew Little might have passed his first hundred days, but he does not strike me as a real leader yet. And some of those knives look like they have not been sheathed yet. It is almost like Labour is having its own civil war.

    • Perhaps Peter sees the writing on the wall where National is concerned and is carefully edging towards the left.

  16. Enough with the anti-semitism. This blog will not be turned into another anti-semitic hate-site. – ScarletMod

  17. Wow, this writer is plumbing new depths.
    Does he really agree that Jihadi John is the creation of MI5?
    That is a disgraceful implication.
    MI5’s interest in him was piqued because of his dubious associations with extremist-type groups.
    He was already on the path to radicalisation.
    Is this writer suggesting that if MI5 hadn’t approached the dubious figure that is now Jihadi John, he would’ve gradually distanced himself from extremism?
    This is ridiculous.
    It’s one thing to apologise for a jihadist. It’s another to apologise for one who beheads Westerners for no good reason, who laughably attempts to shift responsibility for his heinousness onto an agency whose duty is to defend against crime. Imagine a journalist then choosing to buy this rubbish.
    Shame on you.
    Disagreeing with military tactics, and prospects for military success doesn’t imply that you need to try to build a feeble case for simply excusing
    But I can see the link. Because the former without the latter does imply culpability in inaction. But if the matter can be made as simple as charging intelligence agencies with blame, then there is no moral responsibility to combat vicious fanaticism. Which is convenient and cowardly.

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