Nicky Hager’s Other People’s Wars and the Urewera ‘terror raids’ fiasco raise, once again, serious questions. Are the security agencies that are meant to protect our society from threats, themselves operating outside the law and democratic control? Not according to Key. And he knows because he got advice. From whom? Why the security agencies of course.
No-one is saying that security agencies don’t have a valid role to play in protecting our society and our economy from international and domestic threats. The question is why they keep stuffing up or going beyond their legal and political mandates: have they been hijacked by personnel who want their agencies to play ‘war on terror’ like their bigger brothers overseas, or they are simply incompetent?
Someone ought to be guarding the guardians, checking that they are performing their role properly. Those who watch the watchmen should be independent of them and accountable to the public. Who does that sounds like? It sounds like the elected government’s job, eh?
Well, they’re not doing it.
Collins repeats the Police line that the impact of the raid on Tuhoe should not be confused with the legal process and is refusing to compensate the wrongly accused or even apologise to them. In other words, ‘we were right to assault your communities with armed officers and we still think you’re guilty, we’re just too incompetent to prove it’. Actually, it’s their continued belief without evidence that’s the incompetence.
When asked if she would still refuse to apologise if the remaining charges are dropped, Collin’s replying was telling:
“we are not apologising for the work of New Zealand Police”
National wants to be seen as ‘tough on crime’, which means being seen to be ‘on the same side’ as the Police, which means that whatever the Police do, the government will never let itself be seen to be pulling them into line.
Then, there’s more zen of Key. The Herald ran an article on a defence report uncovered by Hager (all the typos are the Herald’s, not mine):
“The projects overseen by the [NZDF] through the PRT do no appear to be sustainable in any way and anecdotal evidence is that some have already failed,” the report said.
Among the failures were a road through a marketplace that had to be fixed within six months, and a school that was “built in the middle of a dry river bed”.
It concluded that the Defence Force was “not an effective aid provider”.
“Contractors are not well supervised, projects are not monitored (and often not visited) and security issues outweigh development … [There are] no mechanisms in place to monitor the impact, effectiveness or sustainability of projeccts.”
The review also questioned the PRT’s ability to provide anything beyond “minimal” security outside of the PRT compound.
Serious allegations that our purported purpose for being in Afghanistan is a farce, which fits uncomfortably well with the other evidence that we’re in fact there to provide a base for the CIA and that defence staff’s objective is to win the favour of the US, not to filfull a UN-mandated role helping the Afghani people.
Mr Key did not deny the report existed.
“I have no recollection of reading it,” he said.
But he strongly disagreed and described the aid work as “very effective”.
But how does he know if he hasn’t read the report?
“Our people have been actively been engaged in that reconstruction work – schools, hospitals and the like – provided support for the police force, [and] they’ve also proided some military capabilities to allow others – particularly NGOs – to get on and carry out their work.
“The feedback I had when I was in Bamiyan was that they were much loved for what they were doing and highly respected.”
Ah, ‘feedback’. Not from the Afghanis I presume, but from the Defence Force.
He also took issue with the main claim in the book – that senior Defence Force and Minsitry of Foreign Affairs officials were cosying up to the Americans against Government instructions, and keeping ministers in the dark.
“In terms of whether Defence or Mfat follow their mandate, as best as I can possibly judge that – of course you rely on the very people you’re talking about – I accept that they have followed their mandate,” Mr Key said.
He was totally confident the departments were following Government policy.
“I have no reason to believe otherwise.”
Well, when all you do is ask the people who are accused of going off reservation and making up their policy if that’s what they’re up to, they’re not going to say yes, are they?
So, on what basis does Key dismiss Hager’s book?
He said his officials had read the book and advised him
Hmm. Anyone else see a pattern here?
Who will guard the guards themselves if our elected officials either can’t be arsed doing their jobs or don’t think it’s in their political interests to be seen to be exercising oversight on our security agencies?