David Shearer’s hypocrisy on Iraq

David Shearer got a few headlines this week by saying that the danger around John Key’s visit to Taji in Iraq has been exaggerated by the media.

Unsurprisingly, people paid attention to what Shearer said. After all, he’s been to Iraq since the U.S. invasion and has a long career working in conflict zones, so you’d think he’d know what he was talking about.

Interestingly enough, Shearer’s claim that Iraq wasn’t that dangerous is a relatively new claim by him. You see, back in May, Shearer claimed that Kiwi troops in Iraq were at quite high risk, pointing out that it would be easy for ISIS to fire rockets  at planes coming in and out of Taji, as well as the base itself. In fact, back in 2008 a rocket attack hit a compound he was in, killing two of his colleagues.

Taji base is big enough to have a landing strip, which is the preferred mode of transport given how vulnerable the road network is.

Kiwi troops would have several rings of security around the base – a level of security that is intense but necessary, Shearer said.

In Taji rockets would be getting fired at planes and because of the size of the base it’s an easy target to fire rockets at and then disappear, he said.

“The third threat would be the people you are training turning on you and the fourth one, my understanding, is that there’s likely to be militia coming onto the base as well.”

“Although they’re fighting the same fight that we are, they’re not necessarily very welcoming of foreigners being in Iraq.”

“I’d say it’s a very dangerous situation.”

Shearer said the situation had been made worse by Prime Minister John Key advertising that troops are there working alongside the United States and Australia as part of a “deal with the club”.

But it goes back further than that, where Shearer got his bodyguard to train him to use a Glock on a trip to northern Iraq, in case Shearer was the last man on the team. Shearer proudly boasted then that “the guy said I was good enough to be in the team”.

In Iraq, he had a constant armed guard because he was a target as head of the United Nations mission, and had to travel in an armed convoy, but even then, he was far from safe.

“So it was Humvee, Humvee, white car, red car, white car, Humvee, Humvee. You wouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out where the target was – I was in the red car.”

JERUSALEM-BASED Adam Hinds, who worked alongside Mr Shearer, travelled to northern Iraq with him to negotiate border disputes.

“He actually got a reputation – every time he’d go out, he’d be diverted inadvertently in the UN or coalition military planes. He ended up in strange situations travelling though strange countries he didn’t need to. It was because he was always getting out and about.”

At one stage he persuaded his escort to show him how to use a gun, in case he was the last man standing.

Mr Shearer said: “Actually we did the first one at night – of course, I’m going to tell you the good story – and I had a Glock handgun and the guy said I was good enough to be in the team. I was really pleased actually.”

Given that the security situation in Iraq, having briefly stabilised after 2008, has deteriorated markedly, it really beggars belief that Labour’s foreign affairs spokesperson would try to play games with the security risk in Iraq, just to get his name in the headlines.

It is like his mango story in South Sudan…it doesn’t add up when you know the facts…or Google is available.

Labour has developed a habit of negatively commenting on everything, but Shearer, I should have thought was smarter than all that. He now looks silly by claiming something in direct opposition of what he has said in the past.

 

– Fairfax


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