Hit and Run – time for an inquiry

Written By: - Date published: 10:37 am, March 22nd, 2017 - 21 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, afghanistan, books, International, john key, national, Politics, same old national, war - Tags: , , ,

Hager’s latest book has now been released. My very initial response when I saw the subject was a slight degree of disappointment.  I was wondering if it would reveal the reasons why John Key resigned. It was about a military cover up, no overt politics, no salacious details of the evil things that National’s operatives have been doing.

But after a very short while it started to really hit. According to Hager, and I have many reasons to respect his judgment, New Zealand SAS forces were involved in the killing and wounding of innocent civilians. Men Women and Children.  People living in a land where New Zealand forces had travelled to and were meant to be engaged in the rebuilding of.  And then according to Hager they covered it up.

From the Hit and Run website:

The book describes a series of operations which proved to be ill-conceived, tragic and disastrous. These included an SAS attack on two isolated villages in Afghanistan’s Baghlan province where they mistakenly believed they would find the insurgents who’d attacked a New Zealand patrol 19 days earlier in neighbouring Bamiyan. SAS officers commanded and led the attack, supported by US and Afghan forces.

The insurgent group wasn’t there. Instead, at least 21 civilians were killed and injured – many of them women and children – and the SAS and US forces burned and blew up about a dozen houses. The SAS also failed to help the wounded. The defence force and government then tried to keep the whole thing secret. They have never admitted nor taken responsibility for what they did.

In a second raid on one of the villages about 10 days later, the SAS destroyed more property. When they eventually caught one of the targeted insurgents in Kabul he was beaten before being handed to the Afghan secret police and tortured.

Fragments of the story have reached the public before but the vast majority has remained secret until now. It is much worse than anyone knew. As former chief human rights commissioner Margaret Bedggood says, there needs to be a full, principled and independent inquiry into the actions described in this book, which, if confirmed, would seriously breach international law.

Pundit has very well informed take on the issue.  Its group of authors coincidentally include Wayne Mapp, Minister of Defence at the time of the incident as well as Nicky Hager.  I wonder if their authors ever meet?

Tim Watkin has written this post where he concentrated on what the Government knew and what they had previously said about the incident.  He records this interaction between Guyon Espiner and Mapp back in 2011.

GUYON There’s an Associated Press report around that time that contains a claim that a number of civilians were killed during that operation.

DR MAPP And that’s been investigated and proven to be false.

GUYON So no civilians were killed in that? You’re satisfied about that? You’ve seen some reports on it?

DR MAPP I am satisfied around that.

GUYON Only insurgents were killed in that operation?

DR MAPP I am satisfied around that.

But this was subsequently contradicted in 2014 by then Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman.  He was asked about the incident and did not deny that civilians had been killed, only that the SAS was not involved.  From Stuff:

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman has categorically denied New Zealand troops were involved in the deaths of Afghan civilians in a 2010 raid.

But he could not rule out that deaths did occur at the hands of foreign forces.

Andrew Geddis has written passionately about the book and the incident.  His must read post starts off with this:

Think of a three-year-old girl. Maybe she’s your daughter. Maybe she’s your niece. Maybe she’s your friend’s child. But think of her.

Now think of her screaming in terror as her mother carries her from her home while helicopters pour 30mm exploding cannon shells into it. Then think of her screams ending as a piece of shrapnel from one of those shells smashes through her skull and kills her.

For Nicky Hager and John Stephenson’s book, Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour, tells us in horrifying detail that this is what happened in a small Afghanistani farming village called Khak Khuday Dad early on the morning of 22 August, 2010. What sets this story aside from all the other sad, cruel deaths in that country is this small child – Fatima was her name – died because of us. Or, rather, she died because of the plans and actions of soldiers wearing our flag on their shoulders and our Kiwi on their vehicles.

And his conclusion is flawless in its logic:

Why, then, does any of this matter to us some seven years down the track? It matters first because we don’t yet know the answer to the most important questions: who ordered the U.S. Apache helicopters to fire into Khak Khuday Dad and why? Who fired the sniper shots that appear to have killed two unarmed civilians fleeing the burning village? Those matters require an urgent inquiry, for if it was New Zealand soldiers on the ground who did so, then our SAS actually has directly killed non-combatants. And directly killing non-combatants can be a war crime.

Second, the fact we as a people have been systemically lied to over what our soldiers do in our name is intolerable. Back in 2013, when it was revealed that the Defence Force included investigative journalists on a list of “hostile individuals” that threaten “subversion”, I said this:

If me, or people like me, finding out what it is you are doing in places like Afghanistan mean that the Defence Forces can’t do its job, then you shouldn’t be in those places in the first place. End of story. And if you can’t accept that these are the conditions under which you operate, then you shouldn’t be running the show. End of story.

I say that again now. If our SAS must dissemble and lie by omission or commission to those for whom they fight, then it should not be fighting. If military leaders and their political masters are complicit in those lies, then we should follow the German example and require their resignations.

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson should be congratulated in their work.  Their resilience to the attacks that this Government had made on both of them over an extended period of time is legendary.  They have performed a vital role in our democracy, they have refused to be silenced even though the full force of Government has been thrown against both of them and they have insisted that the truth is made public.

There needs to be an inquiry.  Call me old fashioned but I have always taken the view that if members of my country’s military have engaged in war crimes then they should be tried.  And if there has been a cover up then those responsible should be held accountable.

Hager’s book is going to cast a very dark cloud over John Key’s valedictory speech.  Rod Emerson’s brilliant cartoon from this morning sums up why.

21 comments on “Hit and Run – time for an inquiry”

  1. Philj 1

    Sums up John Keys performance as NZ’s Pry Minister, “Hit and Run”. Our cartoonists and comedians are doing the best job of exposing the reality. NZ journalists have been turning a blind eye. How will the MSM treat this story?

    • John 1.1

      Don’t think its a good idea for English to give Key a knighthood until this is sorted. Could end up having to take it off him

  2. adam 2

    Oh look a conspiracy.

    A real one.

    Time to unravel it.

    But, and here I disagree with you mickysavage, I don’t we can do the inquire in New Zealand, I think this is somthing we hand over to someone/somewhere else to look into.

    Preferably someone/someplace who has nothing to gain by telling the truth.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      International Court of Justice?

      • adam 2.1.1

        I think the only option.

        It’s one of the times when we are so small. it counts against us. So yeah might be best place to get a clear cut result.

  3. Adrian 3

    Is this why the Police came down so hard on Nicky and his computers etc.
    Were they on a bigger hunt than just the DP stuff.
    Shit if they are complicit in the continued coverup then that is huge.

    • Indeed. Good point.

      It would appear we have a network of self protecting bully boys/ girls at senior levels in this country , all quite happy to act in unison and in collusion with each other to protect … what exactly…

      The political/economic staus quo.

      Certainly not the established common laws of this country when inconvenient.

      Just ask Mr Kim Dotcom about illegal spying , warrants, raids and state freezing of his assets and retrospective law changes designed to cover these bully boys/girls rear ends when they realized they screwed up.

    • mickysavage 3.2

      I could not believe how much was thrown against Jon Stephenson.

      Lots and lots of the state’s resources were basically thrown at him to hopefully make him fold. I am really pleased that he did not. And this book will probably result in more state resources thrown against him but I think that all of us need to rally behind him and Nicky and make sure they can do their job which is to let us all know what is happening.

  4. bwaghorn 4

    Best case scenario for the nzdf is that the yanks did the killing and then pressured the gov and df to tow the line , it would be very hard to stand up to them.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1

      IIRC, there were allegations (from individual members of the SAS) at the time that US troops were deliberately provoking villages into exchanges of fire, and following up with overwhelming lethal force.

      Rolling Stone published The Kill Team in March 2011.

      Last week, on March 23rd, Morlock was sentenced to 24 years in prison after agreeing to testify against Gibbs. “The Army wants Gibbs,” says one defense lawyer. “They want to throw him in jail and move on.” Gibbs insists that all three killings he took part in were “legitimate combat engagements.” Three other low-level soldiers facing murder charges – Winfield, Holmes and Wagnon – also maintain their innocence.

    • mickysavage 4.2

      Yep it is a case of pass the blame.

      The burning question is who was in charge of the mission.

  5. Keith 5

    About now and until the dust settles the Nats will be polling their little arses off. None of their MP’s have the brains or courage to think independently nor will they want this looked at, much less objectively.

    I see the Deputy PM has made a very early call and is now siding firmly with the military possibly confident information from them and her stone walling government is impenetrable. She’s too dumb to pull a Key on this. He would have been in denial mode, attacking the man and yet being vaguely non committal for as long as it takes to get the polling numbers in and the results of focus grouping to formulate a survivable response and way forward.

    Bennett on the other hand just panicked.

    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/they-have-great-integrity-bennett-backs-defence-force-after-claims-civilian-deaths-in-sas-operation

  6. Adrian 6

    I recall Key being criticised for not being at a military funeral because he was watching the over indulged one, Mad Max, play a baseball game.
    Was he already distancing himself from the Army because you know what he’s like when somebody pisses on his parade, they are treated like lepers.
    What I can’t recall is whose funeral it was or when, can anyone else do so.

    • DeadSmurf 6.1

      August 2012 Key missed a memorial service for Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer for the baseball game.

      From memory a serving soldier came out strongly against Key, who was killed a few weeks later serving over there.

  7. Cinny 7

    I want an independent inquiry.

    Am troubled by what I’ve read so far. So anti deaths of innocents and was so proud of our SAS helping to rebuild and assist those who have suffered, compared with other military who seem infested with blood lust.

    Makes me question the authorities who gave the orders, who gave the commands. There is video footage of it tucked away somewhere, time the public was able to view it, and any audio as well.

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, isn’t that correct Mr English? Then why not have an independent inquiry?

    • GregJ 7.1

      was so proud of our SAS helping to rebuild and assist

      Cinny you should note that the NZSAS deployments were essentially separate from the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Teams (NZPRT). NZSAS had different tasks from the NZPRT. We don’t really know all of what NZSAS did in Afghanistan because the NZ Government & NZDF don’t discuss operational matters with respect to NZSAS deployment except in very general terms. We can probably assume they were engaged in more “active” operations than reconstruction work of the NZPRT. We know for example that they “mentored” and trained the Afghan Crisis Response Unit (CRU).

      http://www.army.mil.nz/about-us/what-we-do/deployments/previous-deployments/afghanistan/default.htm

      • Cinny 7.1.1

        Thank you for the link GregJ and for explaining to me about the different deployments, much appreciated.

  8. invisiphilia 8

    “Second, the fact we as a people have been systemically lied to over what our soldiers do in our name is intolerable. ”

    One of my earliest experiences with not trusting the government and the media occurred back in 1982 when I learned that NZ had troops in the Falklands. This was not common knowledge and I only knew via a close friend whose best mate was sent there to lead the SAS. A few years after the end of that conflict I saw a tiny piece in the NZ Herald admitting that we had troops there as “observers”. This was also false as they were involved in active combat.

    We will always be denied the truth in the name of “national security”.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1

      Truth is the first casualty of government.

      Memo to National Party followers: that doesn’t mean that embracing dishonesty is a virtue.

    • mickysavage 8.2

      Yep lets use the resources of the state to feed kids and make sure that families have homes. Sending soldiers overseas to kill kids and families is so wrong …

      • WILD KATIPO 8.2.1

        Yeah , agreed its totally wrong , – but your talking about Mr ‘ GET SOME GUTS ‘ Uncle Sam sycophant , here… him and his veiled Joseph Frank version of Zionism and the little globalists New World Order Good Times Big Band ….

        You get the drift… they don’t give a damn how many they slaughter ,… just how fat the bank balance is and how much power they can exert over the population. Yet most of them are just pallid fickle nerds who would scream the loudest if it was their own blood they saw flowing…

        Gutless tapeworms .

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