Brownlee’s Iraq comments not credible

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee’s claim that training underway for deployment of New Zealand troops to Iraq "does not pre-empt any Cabinet decision" is not credible, says Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff.

"The Government decided to send troops to Iraq long ago. Gerry Brownlee’s office admitted on 2December 2014 that contingency training was already underway.

"The pretence that no Government decision has been made just isn’t honest.

"The reason the Prime Minister gave today for taking that decision isn’t honest either. This isn’t about the need to protect human rights and fight evil. It’s about, as he admitted earlier, the price of ‘being in the club’ led by other countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"Human rights abuses are prolific, including the atrocities being committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, President al-Assad in Syria and in the beheadings carried out routinely in Saudi Arabia. We have heard little from the Government on these issues.

"The real question we need to ask is whether there is an achievable objective in deployment of New Zealand troops to Iraq that justifies putting our people in harm’s way. I don’t believe there is.

"New Zealand cannot do for the Iraqi Army what it cannot and will not do for itself. Over $25 billion has been invested by the United States over the past 10 years in training and equipping them. That investment has made practically no difference.

"Our efforts can do very little to help with the real problems of persistent corruption, deep sectarian divisions and poor leadership which lie behind the incompetence of the Iraqi Army.

"We would achieve more by investing resources in providing humanitarian help to the millions of refugees caused by conflict in the region," Phil Goff says.