Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp: “As a nation we owe it to ourselves to find out”

Written By: - Date published: 12:26 pm, March 30th, 2017 - 45 comments
Categories: accountability, afghanistan, war - Tags: , ,

Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp, who was one of the sources for Hit and Run, has written more on Operation Burnham on Pundit this morning:

Operation Burnham
by Wayne Mapp

We can honour both our soldiers and the Afghans, but only by finding out what really happened on that August night in 2010… though that may not require a full inquiry

I have no doubt that New Zealand soldiers act to the highest ethical standards. That is why it has always been clear to me that the actions of our soldiers on the operation were done with honest intent and professionally. Lt Gen Keating’s press conference on Monday 27 March more than amply confirmed that.

But that is not the end of the matter. I knew that the operation had not achieved its stated aims of arresting or otherwise dealing with the people who had been identified as leading and organising Taliban operations against the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team). I knew this because I was formally briefed on that fact at the time. I also knew that other people had been killed. As I have said in interviews, these people were acting as insurgents, in effect acting as enemy combatants.

As in all guerrilla war, it is often a case of villagers by day and insurgents by night. It was a reasonable and appropriate decision to engage them as they looked to be attacking the New Zealand soldiers on the ground. In such a case we have an absolute right to defend ourselves.

But it became clear later that it was also possible that were other casualties. In particular, the death of a three year-old girl.

This emerged in a television documentary in 2014. Stephenson also told me enough about what had happened for it to be believable that this could have occurred, even if it was not fully proven.

The law of armed conflict accepts that civilian casualties might occur in military operations, and in many cases there is no legal liability for them, particularly if they were accidental.

But for New Zealand, is that the end of the matter? Do we hold ourselves to a higher standard?

For me, it is not enough to say there might have been civilian casualties. As a nation we owe it to ourselves to find out, to the extent reasonably possible, if civilian causalities did occur, and if they did, to properly acknowledge that.

This does not necessarily require an independent inquiry, such as lawyer Deborah Manning wants. In fact we are most likely to get this sort of information through diplomatic approaches to the Afghan government, and trusted NGO’s on the ground.

Part of protecting their reputation is also finding out what happened, particularly if there is an allegation that civilian casualties may have been accidentally caused. In that way we both honour the soldiers, and also demonstrate to the Afghans that we hold ourselves to the highest ideals of respect of life, even in circumstances of military conflict.

Read the full piece on Pundit, and further coverage on The Spinoff.

45 comments on “Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp: “As a nation we owe it to ourselves to find out””

    • reason 1.1

      Wayne has been far to vocal in his Pro war history for the ledger to be anywhere near paid on his part ….

      When watching Dirty Wars again I noticed something both chilling and so very very sad at the ending of this documentary movie …….

      At 1 hour 18 mins I believe we get a brief glimpse of the poor little girl who is the little sister of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki …… the 16 year old boy killed in the documentary.

      Making her the 8 year old girl murdered by one of Donald Trumps first goes in charge of green lighting of these special forces assassination teams ….

      Its so far beyond wrong to see a beautiful but sad child destined for death because of where she was born.

      Why do we let politicians like Mapp, Key etc get away with their warmongering ??

      Wayne was call us “standardistas” the other day … guess what the Contras did to them.

      Salvador option …

  1. bwaghorn 2

    wow well done Mr Mapp

    • Thinkerr 2.1

      “The true sign of a [person of integrity] is how [they] treat someone who can’t possibly do [them] any good”

      Can’t remember who said it, but it’s true.

  2. McFlock 3

    Yeah I thought it was a good, well-considered article

  3. One Two 4

    Our spieces must demand ‘truth’ on each and every aspect of ‘life’…

    Anything less forces each and every soul to live inside of a manufactured lie

  4. SpaceMonkey 5

    I agree. Well done Wayne Mapp and I agree with his overall stance here. But I read that he is still referring to the villagers “acting as insurgents” and that they “looked to be attacking” our soldiers.

    This runs counter to what Hager and Stephenson have recorded and I accept that this may be what Mapp believes, I assume based on his briefing from his Defence officials, which suggests that the NZDF may have misled their Minister.

    This further underscores the need for an inquiry. And it is simply due to the nature of the allegations and the Ministry at the centre of those allegations, in what is looking more and more to be a political cover-up, that the inquiry be full and independent.

    • John up North 5.1

      Yes! there needs to be a full and independent inquiry. I’m sure we’ve all seen enough of the current govts pretend inquiries with shoulder tapped members and terms so restrictive as to hobble and predetermine the outcome from the get-go.

      Full and Independent inquiry or we’re just getting more shit shoveled our way.

  5. Bill 6

    For me, it is not enough to say there might have been civilian casualties. As a nation we owe it to ourselves to find out, to the extent reasonably possible, if civilian causalities did occur, and if they did, to properly acknowledge that.

    Acknowledge. Is that it?

    Maybe I missed something, but to call for ‘acknowledgement’ is a big fat zero in terms of accountability, reparation, or potential culpability.

    Am I right in getting the sense, that the minister of the time saying some nice sounding stuff is enough to mollify people?

    • DoublePlusGood 6.1

      Well, he doesn’t want to end up in the Hague now, does he?

    • bwaghorn 6.2

      no but it’s a good start , how many nats have you ever seen show even an ounce of courage.

    • Wayne 6.3

      Bill,

      You should read the full item on Pundit. Only part of it is included in this “Notices and Features” article.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 6.3.1

        It was a reasonable and appropriate decision to engage them as they looked to be attacking the New Zealand soldiers on the ground. In such a case we have an absolute right to defend ourselves.

        I’ve read the whole article and various bits stick out – the above for example. I understand that the rules of engagement were such that “anyone who isn’t us” could be considered an enemy and engaged without further orders.

        Rules of engagement (pdf).
        Before each deployment the New Zealand Defence Force establishes rules of engagement, which set out when and to what extent force can and cannot be used. These rules are based on principles of New Zealand law and New Zealand’s international treaty obligations.

        The NZDF and SAS are fully aware of their obligations.

        SAS commanders warned the troops leaving for Afghanistan to obey the law. “Just because there’s a war,” one said, “doesn’t mean there are no rules. Whatever you do on the ground, imagine there’s a New Zealander over your shoulder looking at that.”

        For troops going into an area where the enemy mix with civilians, at night, with the acknowledged limitations of night-vision equipment, the rules of engagement in this case strike me as taking a cavalier attitude towards the safety of non-combatants.

        • exkiwiforces 6.3.1.1

          Welcome to my to world OBA, there has countless night raids that been conducted in Gan and they are still happen at this very moment. They are night time ops in a urban environment of any type of operation is most complex operation that anyone like me to going to experience in his or her (yes women are now in All Arms units) military career.
          I Can a sure you WE DON’T HAVE “a cavalier attitude towards the safety of non-combatants” it a risk we have take in knowing we must face in a urban environment and we must have a plan in orders to deal possible non-combatants.
          Each building, door, room etc we face we don’t know what’s on the other side and we have split seconds to decide what course of action to take. Once the shoot starts it fast, violent, incredible noisy and lots and lots yelling. Its the quick or the dead this isn’t door knocking for a election or asking a donation here, this is close and personal as you get to see the eyes of your enemy/ foe/ enemy combatant.
          You can have all the night fighting gadgets in the world on hand, but you always going to have the risk of non- combatants regardless where you are on this planet.

          • Cinny 6.3.1.1.1

            Question please ExKiwiForces

            If a person were to be taken down, no matter if they were a combatant or non combatant. Would the unit upon securing their own safety, go to assist the injured? And does that actually happen please? Thank you

            It would be very difficult to have control in such a stressful situation, control of ones reaction in split seconds, life or death moments. I guess that’s the reason they send in the elite, the SAS, because they would be trained to have such control. I still don’t understand why we have been in Afghanistan for so long.

            There seems to be major blurred lines between whether those killed/injured were combatants or not. By doing such it changes the narrative as to what is acceptable to the public. Another reason for an independent inquiry,

            • exkiwiforces 6.3.1.1.1.1

              To answer your first Question: Yes and its after the event/ operation and if its me it’s find cover if possible, apply self aid, if your buddy is close and is not too busy he might come over and help you or else you are on own until the area is secure. Please Note: I’m only using our units TTP’s or in old money SOP’s and i’m not speaking on behalf of anyone else’s TTP’s.

              Afghanistan was your classic COIN operation and this type of warfare by nature if its done right from the get go is a long one about 10 to15 yrs plus and if you balls it up during any part of it then becomes a right mess. Best way to describe COIN I’ve found its like playing chess as you have to think 3-4 moves ahead of your opponent. Peacekeeping is the same approach its a long game not a short one. Everyone need to understand from the get go, you need to be in it for the long haul and if you are not committed for the long haul don’t do it as you are wasting time, putting peoples lives at risk and above all taxpayers money which could better spent on something else.

              I think I’ve mention it here on the Standard before or somewhere else a long time ago. The United States Military did not have a Counter Insurgency doctrine/ manual since Vietnam and from what David Kilcullen has said the US Military wanted to avoid this type of warfare since Vietnam. David has also said they were making Counter Insurgency policy up as they went all trial and error stuff.

              • Cinny

                Thank you ExKiwiForces, much appreciated, helps me to get my head around things. Thanks again for your insight.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 6.3.1.1.2

            I understand that there’s a risk. I’m saying the rules of engagement for this op made civilian casualties inevitable.

            • exkiwiforces 6.3.1.1.2.1

              Rules of engagements when operating in a urban environment at night such as that SAS raid are real bitch because there is one thing you can’t do is predict human reaction. Having all the night fighting gadgets in the world on hand doesn’t make it any easily and some guys will say it makes life harder for them.

              Depending on the type of mission you are on civilian casualties are going to inevitable if the civilians haven’t moved out regardless if day or night. For example just look at the fighting in Mosul ATM.

      • Bill 6.3.2

        Fair enough. I’ve just this minute read it.

        What I’m getting (correct if I’m wrong) is an attempt to reify this thing we call New Zealand. That may be entirely unconscious or ‘natural’ on your part. But the effect is to ‘shield’ or distances soldiers from their actions and likewise politicians from their decisions.

        So right from the get go, we are being asked to consider (in relation to military conflict) – that New Zealand’s “conduct is weighed in the balance” …not soldiers and politicians either individually or collectively.

        From that starting point, you then go on to…well, I’ll just quote you (and add reasonable emphasis)

        I have said in interviews, these people were acting as insurgents, in effect acting as enemy combatants.

        Also noting the use of the pejorative or dismissive phrase “these people” in addition to stating as a fact that NZ soldiers were confronted by people acting as an enemy.

        It was a reasonable and appropriate decision to engage them as they looked to be attacking the New Zealand soldiers on the ground

        Again the bias. The claim is being made that soldiers thought they were under attack. It’s not an established fact. (I’m sure you can see the same ugly path opening up before us as I can if that claim happens to be false)

        Interestingly, when you move on to the killing of a wee girl, your language changes. Now it’s all couched in qualifiers like “possible” and “believable” and “could have occurred” being stacked against “even though not proven”.

        So villagers (these people in you words) were acting as enemy combatants. That’s presented as a bald fact.

        A wee girl is dead and that’s a humming and harring ‘possibly maybe’ slipped between gooey wrappers of apparent reasonableness. To be honest, that’s where my sense of disgust kind of rears up.

        And then your ‘piece’ wraps up nicely with reassurances of NZ’s higher or superior morality and its sense of ‘fair play’ (the reification again)….before pointing to out to any remaining skeptics that the evil the soldiers faced…well, and this doesn’t actually make any sense, but you wrote “The risk of capture of our soldiers by the Taliban would be beyond contemplation.”

        So I could look at all you’ve written and reasonably conclude (not that you’d want me to conclude this) that villagers got shot up in the middle of the night because NZ soldiers couldn’t contemplate being captured by Taliban, and that level of fear and paranoia turned every Afghan into a Taliban combatant (and all combatants always attack) and it’s not any NZ soldier’s fault that a wee three year old lass was ‘possibly’ or ‘believably’ or ‘perhaps just maybe’ in the vicinity of NZ soldiers’ imaginary bogey men and women who were, rather incidentally as it turns out, real people…villagers…these people.

        And anyway, what the hey, it’s all about this thing called New Zealand and nothing to do with soldiers and guns and orders and dead people.

        That’s my first impression. I may go back and give it a closer second read. I doubt it though – feeling like I’ve read enough.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 6.3.2.1

          “…villagers were acting as enemy combatants.”

          According to the rules of engagement for Operation Burnham, potential threats were considered real per se.

          People moving into ‘strategic positions’ at night are indistinguishable from civilians fleeing for their lives.

          Once the villagers fled their homes and moved for better cover, they were inevitably targeted by the troops following the rules of engagement. It’s one thing for civilian casualties to be inevitable in war, it’s quite another to plan an operation that makes them inevitable.

          Underlying this fiasco is another issue: Parliament put our troops in harm’s way, lacking a clear military objective, and reliant on dubious “intelligence”.

          War! What is it good for? Several things, but not this crap.

        • In Vino 6.3.2.2

          Well said, Bill

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.4

      It makes a change from the combination of denial and personal attacks from the NZDF and the National Party.

      It’s encouraging rather than mollifying.

  6. xanthe 7

    looking back now that the dust has settled a bit is it fair to say that the only confusion around which villages comes to their “geolocation” ie lat and long on whatever earth model is accepted. not which villages actually were attacked.?

    or is the idea that the “NZDF wasnt at the villages named in the book” still being promoted?

  7. ianmac 8

    I suppose polls are showing largely disinterest from the population. So English has decided to sit tight and let it fade to be overtaken by more pressing matters like who is more popular than Andrew, or will we buy more tanks, or how swimmable water is in NZ, how Labour caused the Wellington fog or…….

  8. Anne 9

    Thank-you Wayne Mapp. You’re showing a level of sophisticated thinking that has yet to be accomplished by most of your former Govt colleagues – including Prime Minister, Bill English.

    However I disagree with you on two points:

    First, the Chief of Defence Forces, Tim Keating came across to me as obfuscating and attempting (subtly) to discredit the painstaking work of the two authors who put the story together in what was an exemplary fashion. He was also unable to acknowledge the fact that both of these authors are internationally highly regarded for their journalistic work. He even went so far as to suggest (sarcastically) there must have been two raids that night… one which the NZSAS were at… and another one which ‘goodness knows who’ were at. (I paraphrase.) A rather silly approach in my view when it is clear there was only one raid.

    Second, any investigation most definitely needs to be independent of all the parties involved. They can be called as witnesses etc. of course but neither they nor the govt. should be setting the terms of references. The reason is simple. None of them can be trusted to be fully impartial re-any Inquiry. And I would be saying the same thing if a Labour-led government was in power!

    • the pigman 9.1

      Obfuscating is putting it lightly, Keating was treating the media who were asking him legitimate, truth-seeking questions with utter disdain. Like naughty schoolchildren while he pulled his stern headmaster routine.

      If people would take off their Wayne-tinted glasses for a second, you’d realise that Wayne is engaging in more obfuscation by rubbishing the idea that an independent inquiry is necessary. The fucking eyewitness whisteblowers need to be spoken to by a judge-led inquiry knowing they’re not going to get the same treatment from Keating.

  9. millsy 10

    Should never have gone there in the first place. Only way to not get incidents like this.

    • In Vino 10.1

      Despite claims that Iraq/Afghanistan was “nothing like Vietnam”, it appears that none of these idiots learnt anything from Vietnam. Neither Kiwis nor Americans.

      “We learn from history that no one learns from history.” Hegel, I think.

  10. the pigman 11

    Total whitewash. More undeserved praise.

    Wayne expresses total pre-determination as to the issue of whether those killed were distinguished as enemy combatants/illegal combatants rather than civilians. The information is that one of them were fucking armed, for a start.

    As for putting the need for an inquiry on the Afghan government, my understanding is (and I haven’t got my copy of the book in hand yet) is that the local government already records these as civilian casualties.

    There are eyewitnesses who have dispelled the official NZDF/Keating account and spoken to Hager. They need to be spoken to by an NZ-led independent inquiry.

    The fawning and slobbering over Wayne’s 1-inch compromise is sickening. Gessumgussuhngetontheroightsoide.

    • Bill 11.1

      Guessing that last bit isn’t an articulated ‘doffing of the cap’ then pigman? 😉

      • the pigman 11.1.1

        The Right Honourable 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand came out with some good stuff occasionally 😉

        I was disappointed his frothy warmongering and throat-slit performances didn’t make it into any of the Keys “best-of” retrospectives. There’s always time for that at the John Keys: This is Your Life dinner.

    • Anne 11.2

      Yes I, for one, may have been too lenient… Time will tell the pigman. I hope you’re wrong but fear you might be right.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 11.3

      “sickening”

      Will you be ok?

      After all, it’s the first public indication that anyone outside of the SAS is prepared to stand up and be counted at all. To put it military terms, Mapp brings actionable intel from the enemy* camp and you want to punish him?

      *the enemies of human rights and the rule of law: that camp.

  11. Anne 12

    You won’t find a better overall view than this one from Paul Buchanan.

    Recorded on Morning Report:

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201838494/security-analyst-paul-buchanan-sifts-through-hit-and-run-claims

  12. Sacha 13

    http://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/30-03-2017/as-a-nation-we-owe-it-to-ourselves-to-find-out-former-defence-minister-wayne-mapp-admits-he-was-a-source-for-hit-and-run/

    “He goes on to argue that irrespective of fault, compensation should be paid by New Zealand to the Afghan victims”

    Good suggestion but does not remove the need for a proper inquiry.

  13. xanthe 14

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1703/S00363/further-information-on-operation-burnham.htm

    well this is the latest position of the lawers acting for the victims. would seem to show the NZDF position to be simple obfustication (but hey they held back the tide for a few hours so i guess thats a sucess in their books)

  14. Tamati Tautuhi 15

    At least Mapp has an open mind on NZ’s operations in Afghanistan, if you do not look at the past you do not understand the future. After all he was Minister of Defence.

    Obviously some questions need to be asked and clarification sought. Fighting in these countries is extremely difficult especially when it is difficult to distinguish who the actual enemy is. They don’t have fluoro jackets on with Taliban written on them in black writing?

  15. esoteric pineapples 16

    The problem was that this was a “revenge” mission. Before it ever happened I remember the government/military talking about revenge and thought this was wrong at the time. What happened next was that innocent people died, just like they usually do when people take revenge.

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