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Key owes the families an explanation

Written By: - Date published: 10:33 am, August 23rd, 2012 - 53 comments
Categories: afghanistan, john key, war - Tags: ,

Afghanistan is turning into a nasty mess in more ways than one. My heart goes out to the families of all of those who have been killed in the conflict, especially those of the ten Kiwi soldiers so far.

I have a certain sympathy for Key in dealing with this situation. He inherited it, and it’s a no-win situation for him. But in my opinion he should stop talking tough, and get the troops out of there now. The hope that they would serve a useful purpose in Afghanistan has proved in vain.

If he’s not going to pull out now, then at the very least he owes the families an explanation. He is being actively criticised by soldiers on the ground, including, tragically, Corporal Luke Tamatea who was killed last Sunday. At least one family is calling for NZ to pull out. So far Key has refused to comment on these criticisms. I think that he owes it to the families to provide them with an explanation as to what purpose remaining in Afghanistan serves.

(I am sure that I will be accused of “politicising a tragedy”. But there has been ample coverage of these issues in the media, including Armstrong’s nakedly political analysis, and Gordon Campbell’s perspective from the left which said everything that I might have wanted to say on the matter and more.)

Of the Vietnam war Senator John Kerry once famously asked: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”. It is a question that John Key should be asking himself every day.

53 comments on “Key owes the families an explanation”

  1. gobsmacked 1

    I agree with the OP, except for the “useful purpose … in vain” bit. The PRT did good work in the province, but they were 0.1 % of coalition forces in Afghanistan, and it’s delusions of grandeur for NZ to think that “we” are able to determine the outcome of the overall war. The Americans are in charge, they’re going to leave, so are we, it’s just a question of how long we wait and how it’s spun. And how many lives it costs.

    And really, it hasn’t been “politicised” enough. Debate is shut down by cliches and emotional blackmail. The quality of media coverage on the whole mess has been very poor. No reporters in Afghanistan from NZ TV, radio, press – and one (John Stephenson) who gets slagged off by the PM for doing his job.

    It would be good to hear from those who favour our troops staying in Afghanistan – with a rational argument. If you don’t want them brought home, then how long should they stay, and why? (note – “because people have died” is not an answer.)

  2. shorts 2

    how can war not be politicised… politicians decided to send our troops there… and they will decide when to bring them home (excusing a total defeat and forced retreat)

    its a political issue – the whole disrespecting the dead line only works if you care not for the sacrifice they have made and the reasons for it

    all the good work our troops do or have done will be undone once gone – some schools, irrigation etc. will not make Afghanistan any better than it was prior to our arrival – its just propaganda to support the folly of being there – something both our major parties NEED to believe in, we the voting public don’t

    Labour should not have put us there and National should not have turned that fact into a hollow PR exercise that is costing us the lives of people that actually serve our nation

    bring them home now

    • Tigger 2.1

      I hate to +1 as it feels lazy but totally agree.

      There will be more Kiwi deaths. Anyone want to guess how many will die before Key grows a pair? Not being blasé, but honest. Key will pull us out when politically it suits him. I think he can sustain one more incident where someone(s) die. Any more and he will act.

  3. joe90 3

    Fortunate Son.

    Some folks are born to wave the flag,
    Ooh, they’re red, white and blue.
    And when the band plays “Hail to the chief”,
    Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,

    It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son.
    It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no,
    Yeah!

    Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
    Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh.
    But when the taxman comes to the door,
    Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes,

    It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no.
    It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no.

    Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
    Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
    And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
    Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! yoh,

    It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no military son, son.
    It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, one.
    It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no no no,
    It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate son, no no no,

  4. DH 4

    I think the left have politicised it far too much. The way people have been carrying on you’d think getting out was just a matter of putting our troops on the first plane home.

    When NZ put the PRT team in there we accepted a whole bunch of responsibilities & obligations and the longer we stayed the more the burden grew. In order to leave we have to unravel all those responsibilities; pass them on to others or close them down. We can’t just walk away and leave Aid teams stranded with no security. We’ve got Kiwi businesses over there building infrastructure in Bamiyan, do we walk out on them too? Do we just abandon the Afghanis who worked for the PRT; the interpreters & guides whose lives will be at risk? Whoever replaces our troops need to be bedded in.

    These attacks on our troops could have happened any time in the PRT deployment. We were just lucky up until now, living in a fools paradise back here. The situation over there hasn’t just gotten worse, it’s been a toilet right from the beginning and people like Goff know that damned well.

    Yeah we need to get out. But anyone with half a brain can figure out that withdrawing is a complicated process that will take months and with winter coming over there it may not be possible until the spring. (Which is pretty much what the Govt have been saying.)

    In the meantime the call should be for the Govt to take whatever means necessary to ensure the safety of our troops until they can withdraw. If they are being targeted they’re in a very dangerous position, spread out over a wide area in small bases with low numbers and not a lot of combat trained troops.

    • gobsmacked 4.1

      No, the Govt has been saying that troops will be there until 2014. Then it changed: late 2013. Now it’s changed again: early 2013.

      Those changes are not logistical, they are entitrely political. Public opinion creates pressure.

      Or do you think they should stay until 2014?

      • DH 4.1.1

        “Yeah we need to get out.” <——— what part of that are you having trouble understanding? Would you like me to type it slower?

        • gobsmacked 4.1.1.1

          So you agree that they are coming out soon (exact date unclear), and that this is good.

          Why are they coming out 18 months early? Only because of public opinion. Or “politicising”.

          Cowed silence (i.e. “not politicising”) is not the right response in a democracy, and the media and opposition parties are doing the right thing in speaking up (albeit late). It may save lives.

          • DH 4.1.1.1.1

            Of course it’s good. And you ignore the fact that the Govt has agreed to an earlier pullout and the political jibes continue.

            You need to bone up on your reading comprehension. I said “I think the left have politicised it far too much” Do you know what ‘too much’ means?

            • gobsmacked 4.1.1.1.1.1

              It means whatever you want it too mean, because “the left” is a meaningless term. Who? When? Judging by comments on here, people on the “left” have a great range of views, especially on this war.

              So, specifics. e.g. Gordon Campbell’s several pieces on Afghanistan (linked in the OP) provide a detailed background. Which ones would you take issue with?

              • DH

                Usually I find Campbell eminently readable but that article was ill-informed and ignorant. It’s knee-jerk soap opera.

                The Talban who attacked our troops weren’t in the hills to shag the local mountain goats. They were looking for a fight. If our troops stop patrolling and withdraw to their bases the Taliban will follow them. And each night they’ll lay IEDs on the roads outside the base. And start attacking more with sniping, rockets & mortars.

                Campbell might want our troops to re-enact the Alamo but I’d like for them all to come back alive and well.

    • Colonial Viper 4.2

      DH said

      These attacks on our troops could have happened any time in the PRT deployment. We were just lucky up until now, living in a fools paradise back here.

      Are you that ignorant? “Lucky”???

      Our soldiers became targetted after the NZ SAS became involved in some very high media profile offensive actions in Afghanistan, actions which were neither humanitarian nor rebuilding, in nature.

      In the meantime the call should be for the Govt to take whatever means necessary to ensure the safety of our troops until they can withdraw. If they are being targeted they’re in a very dangerous position, spread out over a wide area in small bases with low numbers and not a lot of combat trained troops.

      This is the classic call to increase a pointless and increasingly dangerous deployment with no achievable military aims.

      When NZ put the PRT team in there we accepted a whole bunch of responsibilities & obligations and the longer we stayed the more the burden grew.

      False call to a misguided sense of responsibility.

      We cannot be responsible to our dead by creating even more dead. Our obligations are to the living and not putting them in harms way for John Key’s pride and military objectives which – no one even understands or thinks is achievable.

      • pukakidon 4.2.1

        The SAS were called to the aid of civilian diplomats that were being attacked by Taliban. They were assisting the police to stop murder. Where do you get this nonsense from Colon Wiper.

  5. BM 5

    Of the Vietnam war Senator John Kerry once famously asked: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”. It is a question that John Key should be asking himself every day.

    How about Helen Clark she signed us up for 10 years, Key just inherited the problem.

    • gobsmacked 5.1

      Clark has not been Prime Minister since 2008.

      When does the current Prime Minister take responsibility for his decisions?

      Key has changed many things done by the previous government. Why is this any different?

      Of all the arguments for staying in Afghanistan, “the other lot done it ya boo ya boo” is the most desperate. Do better.

      • BM 5.1.1

        Clark is the one who signed on the dotted line so should cop half the blame at least.

        Who knows what conditions Clark agreed to or what was given in exchange to us signing up and joining the coalition.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.1

          Update for BM: Helen Clark is not PM. She has no power to pull our troops back. Key does, but won’t.

          • BM 5.1.1.1.1

            Of course she’s not
            But what did we gain by joining up and what will we lose by leaving?

            • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.1.1.1

              But what did we gain by joining up

              Multiple and increasing fatalities amongst our armed forces

        • gobsmacked 5.1.1.2

          BM – So is your position now that the PRT shouldn’t be in Afghanistan? Or the SAS shouldn’t have been, or shouldn’t return? You were making very different noises on here a few days ago.

          You “blame” Clark for a deployment you support?

          • BM 5.1.1.2.1

            No, I don’t blame Clark at all for signing up, I think we’re doing a good job over there.

            I’m finding all the Mud slinging at Key a bit one-sided while Clark seems to be getting off scot-free.

            • gobsmacked 5.1.1.2.1.1

              So do you think troops should be withdrawn, or should remain?

              • BM

                I think we should honour the agreement Helen Clark signed us up to.
                What ever that was.

                • gobsmacked

                  Cop-out. The Prime Minister has been in the job for four years. His job is to make decisions. If he can’t face that, he should resign.

                  On here last week BM said : “The deployment finishes September 2014″.

                  Have you changed your mind? If so, why?

                • r0b

                  Clark signed us up until September 2008 from memory. It was Key that renewed the deployment after that. The first NZ death occurred in 2010. We’re up to ten now on Key’s watch. How many more?

                  • Enough is Enough

                    Clark was still in office in Septemeber 2008 so who deployed then until Key came along r0b.

                    This is Clarks war. She should be aplogising for this to the Afghan people and families of slain troops.

                    Key should resign.

                    It was only the Alliance that opposed Clark’s war. Only those MP’s can hold their heads high today.

                    • r0b

                      OK, found the actual dates and history here:

                      New Zealand’s initial deployment was of our Special Air Service (SAS) in December 2001, under the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. The SAS redeployed to Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005.

                      New Zealand agreed to take over the Bamyan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) from the United States in 2003 to free up US resources to replicate the PRT in another region and to contribute to the internationalisation of the PRT efforts. New Zealand military deployments in support of the international assistance effort in Afghanistan have also included naval and air patrols in the Gulf and contiguous waters.

                      The non-military international assistance effort in Afghanistan is coordinated by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Before 2005, New Zealand made a number of one-off grants through NZAID to Afghan agencies, NGOs and multilateral funds under UNAMA. In 2005, New Zealand established a three-year programme of development assistance, targeting sustainable rural livelihoods, education, health, governance, women and human rights, with a focus on Bamyan Province. The programme was renewed in 2008 and aligned with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS).

                      New Zealand Police (NZ Police) initially deployed to Bamyan in 2005 as part of the German-led Police Project. Since late 2007, NZ Police has operated within the European Police (EUPOL) Afghanistan Mission, which took over the German-led programme. NZ Police leads the EUPOL effort in Bamyan Province.

                      New Zealand reviewed its commitments to Afghanistan in August 2009. The current mandate for New Zealand troops in Afghanistan expires in September 2011.

                      Review of New Zealand’s commitments to Afghanistan

                      Cabinet has approved the mandate for New Zealand’s deployments to Afghanistan annually since 2001. In February 2009, Cabinet approved a roll-over of New Zealand’s commitments in Afghanistan until September 2010, and asked for a review of New Zealand’s commitment to Afghanistan beyond that date.

                      A group of government agencies involved in Afghanistan or with a direct interest in New Zealand’s commitments in Afghanistan undertook the review. Cabinet approved the review and its recommendations in August 2009.

                      We exceeded the Clark / Labour commitment to Afghanistan long ago.

                • Bastables

                  PRT teams were a US conceit, on paper they concerned with centralising civilian aid under military leadership in order to win hearts and minds and extend Afgan Government control.

                  In 2011 the Afgan President has stated “Afghanistan clearly explained its viewpoint on Provincial Reconstruction Teams and structures parallel to the Afghan government – private security companies and all activities or bodies which are hindering the Afghan government’s development and hindering the governance of Afghanistan,”

                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12400045

                  So the stated purpose of extending afghan government control is paradoxically undermining Afghan control.

                  That Kiwi soldiers have gone from initially driving around in Hi Luxs performing CMA(civil military assistance) to having LAV III’s mounted QRF (quick reaction force) Infantry sections indicate a major change in Mission from 2008 to now.

                  That the afghan government itself feels PRT are undermining their authority indicates the PRT’s concept has failed. That we are losing soldiers now as opposed to the start of the mission indicates pacification is not occurring. Never mind the larger issue of Green on blue thing, utterly unheard of historically the closest thing is the Sepoy rebellion where entire units rebelled as opposed to the almost individual occurrences in Afghanistan.

                  The ARVN did not blue on green us, the Malayan Police did not blue on green us, the South Koreans did not blue on green us, the Timorese did not blue on green us. We’re losing.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    The ARVN did not blue on green us, the Malayan Police did not blue on green us, the South Koreans did not blue on green us, the Timorese did not blue on green us. We’re losing.

                    Thanks for the historical comparison. Thought provoking.

                  • Wairua

                    RE. the Sepoy rebellion .. something like that could still happen.

                    There is a long history in Afghanistan of allies turning into enemies, going back to Alexander the Great having to fight previous allies in Bactria and Sogdiana.

            • r0b 5.1.1.2.1.2

              What mud slinging? As stated in the post (which acknowledged the role of the previous government) I have some sympathy with his position.

            • prism 5.1.1.2.1.3

              BM
              Clark had plenty of mud slung at her, usually with very little rationality or fairness. It is entirely fair to criticise Key. He has linked us in firmly with the USA paint ball franchise now which won’t be to our advantage.

            • bad12 5.1.1.2.1.4

              What job are ‘we’ doing over there,i bet you cannot even quantify what exactly the Kiwi PRT is actually ‘doing’,

              You, and, all the other week-end warriors demanding more blood be spilled havn’t got a damn clue,

              On the road that the explosives were used to kill the latest 3 New Zealand soldiers there are regular checkpoints set up, not by the Kiwi PRT team who are supposedly in ‘control’ but by armed Afghan civilians not in the employ of the Kabul Government,

              Unsurprisingly when the armed convoys from the Kiwi PRT are out of their base patrolling these ‘armed check-points’ are nowhere to be found, when the Kiwi’s return to base the check-points reappear, people are stopped on the road by these checkpoints and those thought to have sympathy or dealings with the Kabul Government are taken away at gunpoint,

              So, exactly what ‘good job’ are ‘we’ doing there, the fact that the Kiwi PRT has not suffered even worse casualties is more down to the ‘locals’ accepting their presence in their area than anything else…

                • Colonial Viper

                  If the NZDF cannot ensure force protection how is it going to ensure the security of the entire province.

                  Do you advocate the increasing of troops and resources in Afghanistan in response to the heightened level of casualties in the last year.

                  Or do you advocate “business as usual” resourcing despite a clear change in threat level.

                  • BM

                    I think we have to see if these causalities we have taken are a blip or if this is a co-ordinated effort by the Taliban to attack and kill our soldiers.

                    I wouldn’t be surprised though if it is actually a coordinated attack on our troops. The Taliban aren’t dumb, no doubt they have internet access and have seen the reaction to the deaths of the kiwi soldiers and the shrieking and ranting from certain sectors.

                    Kill a few more soldiers, more ranting and shrieking, more pressure applied to the PM, maybe NZ troops get pulled out a bit earlier

                    PR win for the Taliban.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      So BM, the more that New Zealanders show concern about their soldiers and whanau dying unnecessarily and pointlessly, the more the Taleban “win”?

                      You are a sick fuck

                      I think we have to see if these causalities we have taken are a blip or if this is a co-ordinated effort by the Taliban

                      10 dead Kiwi service personnel are a “blip” according to you. I see.

                    • gobsmacked

                      BM, that fails a basic logic test.

                      Key has insisted all along that NZ is there to fight terrorism (he invokes the Bali bombings, London 7/7, etc – even though that has nothing at all to do with the PRT’s situation in Bamiyan, and even though terrorism is continuing around the globe).

                      If Key sincerely believes that, he should address the nation, say “Our troops must stay, because this is the right thing to do”.

                      But if his “commitment” disappears at the first hint of unpopularity (and even now, he’s still doing well in the polls), then it’s really no commitment at all, and just shows that he didn’t really believe the BS he fed the rest of us. How could he justify withdrawing, if the job is so important for world security? Because some people on blogs told him to?

                      Of course he never believed it in the first place, but he got his photo with Obama. Mission accomplished.

                    • Pascal's bookie

                      I think you are bit off there BM.

                      You are right that the Taliban are not stupid, and that these attacks are strategic, rather than opportunistic.

                      But consider the broader well known facts.

                      Everyone knows ISAF is pulling out. Not just us. We were going to pull out late next year, and we’ve moved that forward. The US will be pulling out in 14. Everyone knows this. The Taliban certainly know it.

                      The difference between us pulling out late next year, or early next year, is nil militarily.

                      The propaganda value for the Taliban of us pulling out early is marginal, because, again, everyone knows we are pulling out, and why.

                      They aren’t targetting us because we are NZers, or because they want to change what us at home think. Why would they give a shit? Remember. Everyone knows we are pulling out. The precise timing of that pull out doesn’t matter much.

                      What does matter to the Taliban is Afghanistan after ISAF pulls out. They want ISAFs failure to look as bad as possible to the Afghan people. That’s who this propaganda is aimed at.

                      They are attacking us, because we are in a province that has been traditionally not a strong point for them. It’s worth their while to expend forces fighting in that province to demonstrate their national strength to Afghans and to the Government. They are saying ‘We can attack everywhere, you did not defeat us’.

                      I have a huge respect for our military. I know that they will do bloody good work wherever we send them, and they’ll do it largely without complaint.

                      This war was sold to the people of NZ on different terms to what it actually was. That’s why the shock at the recent events. There’s been a lack of knowledge about the dangers and the situation. And it’s not just here. It’s been similar, (though not as bad) in Australia and in the US. These are political failures that have led to to the military failure.

                      The Powell doctrine consist of a list of things politicians should have before deploying forces. If they do not, Powell suggests the mission will fail. I think the doctrine stands up. I don’t think we met those conditions for this mission.

                      1.Is a vital national security interest threatened?
                      2.Do we have a clear attainable objective?
                      3.Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
                      4.Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
                      5.Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
                      6.Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
                      7.Is the action supported by the American people?
                      8.Do we have genuine broad international support?

                      Specifically, I think the AfPak mission fails on 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 for various reasons. most of it is cascading failure. What I mean by that is that because the mission wasn’t clearly defined, we couldn’t analyse the costs, or think about other means. Because the mission was poorly presented to the population at home, the support for it was based on a lie. The people didn’t know what the mission was. The support was for a mission with lower costs, so the politicians couldn’t provide the tools needed to do the job.

                      That’s not a failure of the military it’s a failure of the politicians in the first instance, and of us as citizens for not holding the politicians to account. It’s up to us to support thr troops by protecting them from stupid orders from politicians.Clapping politicians does not help our troops.

                      I know that the military will be doing ‘lessons learned’ excersises about this. I am way less confident that us civilians will be half as honest with ourselves about this clusterfuck.

                    • bad12

                      Aha, the Taliban are not the only people upon the planet that have access to internet,

                      The Slippery little Shyster that you have as Prime Minister openly questioned the bravery of the Hungarian PRT who serve in the Baghlan Province next to Bamyan where the Kiwis are,

                      So, seeing as YOU are wont to speculate, consider that the roadside explosive that killed the latest 3 Kiwi soldiers was said to have come from sources in Baghlan Province where the Hungarian contingent is stationed have a wee think about that,

                      And,while your at it advise the Slippery little Shyster with the big mouth that you call the Prime Minister to shut the f**king thing, the mouth that is…

                    • Colonial Viper

                      John Michael Greer publishes a (spookily) timely post on why advanced militaries fail.

                      http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.co.nz/2012/08/the-monkeywrench-wars.html

                      Worthwhile reading the Arthur C Clark story JMG links to at the start as well.

                • bad12

                  Ah and it responds with the party line PR smarm, that may be all well and good for the armchair advocates to enable a hurumph and carry on old boy, but it’s hardly the reality,

                  The party line is being played out upon a field where there’s an active civil war occurring and where while the Taliban might be a major player it aint the only major player among any number of groups, some tribally based,some religiously based,

                  Mixed in with the ongoing civil war is the ongoing drug war, a vicious intercine battle for control of the Afghani Heroin trade where the players in the drug war,extending right on up to the brother of the Afghan Prez, might also at anytime be also involved in the civil war,

                  And you really think that the Kiwi PRT is going to make a lasting difference is such a mess???…

              • fnjckg

                Ah! The Fog of War

  6. The U.S. is great. Why on earth would you not want to be linked with the U.S. Unless you’re a sad little comie country wannabe like Cuba. Armstrong and Campbell are wowsers.

  7. tracey 7

    Surely a photoshop of the grieving families of the two soldiers with a picture of the pm clapping in his baseball hat would speak volumes…

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Too personal and manipulative IMO…however a satirical cartoon sketching out the scene would be quite permissible.

  8. tracey 8

    Hungary has come out and said j key is wrong about his statements about its troops.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7540573/Keys-troops-claims-incorrect-Hungarian-defence-minister

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    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    5 days ago
  • Failure to diversify puts prosperity at risk
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    5 days ago
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    6 days ago
  • Bill English’s face is redder than his books
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    GreensBy Kevin Hague MP
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    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    6 days ago
  • Irresponsible tax cuts lead to seventh successive deficit
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    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    6 days ago
  • Minister closes down dissent on climate change
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    6 days ago
  • Heartfelt sympathy for Sydneysiders
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    6 days ago
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    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Farewell at Phillipstown
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    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • The CIA Torture Report
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    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
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    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    1 week ago
  • Haere Rā 2014
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    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
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    1 week ago
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    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
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    1 week ago

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