Small on the Nats’ Key deficit on Hit and Run

Written By: - Date published: 7:53 am, April 6th, 2017 - 24 comments
Categories: accountability, afghanistan, bill english, war - Tags: , , , ,

Vernon Small thinks the B Team is missing Key:

English’s Monday performance shows just how much National lost when Key quit

If nothing else Bill English’s long – and frustrating – press conference on Monday showed just what National lost when John Key headed for the hills.

For about 45 minutes, give or take a couple of diary items, the prime minister tried to explain why he had decided not to launch an investigation into the 2010 SAS raid in Afghanistan that was at the centre of the book Hit and Run.

But the crucial new evidence was a video he had been shown by Keating that morning that satisfied him that the troops had not broken the rules of war and had complied fully with their rules of engagement.

A brief selection of carefully edited “highlights” shows exactly nothing about anything that might have gone wrong with the mission, I’m not sure why Small regards this as “crucial” evidence. Unless English saw all the footage (he didn’t) he saw nothing useful. Anyway, having described how Key would have let some concrete details slip to appease the press:

In the Hit and Run case, in contrast, English has been over-cautious in keeping the military sweet, leaving too many questions unanswered. Add to that his extraordinary claim that Keating was “independent” and was not part of the operation. He was in essence saying “trust me, because I trust Keating”.

It would never do in any other Government department and should not do for the military either, especially if English is genuinely interested in seeing off the issue and silencing the critics of the raid.

On reconciling the different versions of events:

After all, since shortly after the raid coalition and Afghan authorities were allowing that some civilians may have died (despite Keating coming late to the realisation that his insistence the claims were “unfounded” did not mean the same thing as “possible but unproven”).

But it will require the Defence Force and English to stop game-playing about the affected villages, Khak Khuday Dad and Naik..

Hager and Stephenson made an error locating them on the map – which they have acknowledged – and other location errors in the book flowed from that.

But it is clear they are all talking about the same raid on the same villages. For the Government to say the SAS did not go to the villages identified in the book – but to a village called Tirgiran – is just flam.

You can see why they might be reluctant. Having achieved headlines saying Hager and Stephenson had the wrong location for the villages, they will fight to the last spin doctor standing to avoid a headline that reads: “Defence Force confirms its attack was on the villages of Khak Khuday Dad and Naik identified in Hit and Run”.

In the larger scheme of things it may seem a minor point. But it is that default to “spin” and a reliance on cute semantics that undermines English’s case – and his reliance on the Defence Force.

A “default to ‘spin’ and a reliance on cute semantics” sounds to me like English has learned Key’s lessons just fine.

24 comments on “Small on the Nats’ Key deficit on Hit and Run”

  1. SpaceMonkey 1

    English may have learned the lesson, but he’s far from proficient in their use. He is an amateur when compared to Key. And he doesn’t have any charisma to pull off a “trust me”.

  2. The exact names of the villages really alters nothing at all.

    It would be a simple matter of correlating the testimony of several groups involved to ascertain the exact vicinity of the where the incident allegedly took place . And as was stated time and again yesterday , the actual practicality’s of the case would not rest on mere obvious semantics as far as the International Criminal Court would be concerned either.

    One only has to listen to this RNZ interview of a lawyer who has/works for the ICC.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201837511/war-crimes-specialist-says-nz-could-face-problems

    And here we can see there are mechanisms to ensure a govt does not conduct a sham investigation to use it as a shield to protect its own interests , either ,… as far as triggering an investigation / trial by the ICC , – it only takes ONE complainant to do so. And that is to encourage participation in the process, – and to encourage witnesses to come forward.

    So we have :

    1 ) The villagers themselves

    2 ) The SAS members involved

    3 ) The Afghani Officials who administered the original death certificates.

    In the above interview it is also stated that the evidence contained in the book ‘ Hit and Run’ would be considered admissible evidence in either an ICC investigation or trial.

    • aerobubble 2.1

      Relevance to average voter? Most understand war aint pretty, mistakes mean deaths.

      Hagers book is badly timed as he once again targets the govt during election time, maximizing interest that would be give over to the opposition.

      Each time Hager provides an issue that the govt of the day can use to distract from most kiwis real concerns, re their democracy.

      Hager is a flop at knocking off sitting govts. And worse, given this story is into its second week,boring as hell, it does not help the opposition. Security types who vote Nation are put on the defensive and the rest of us want to talk about real issues.

      At worst someone overreached in the militrary, court marshal… …so the best outcome for English is this issue ticking over in the background and then English having an inquiry.

      • WILD KATIPO 2.1.1

        On countermanding what you state , English displaying integrity in holding a legitimate and open inquiry. He has chosen not to do that.

        The ‘ ticking over’ which you say English could do , could all be overturned rapidly if a complainant were to come forward.

        You state ” someone ‘overreached ‘ in the military , court marshal ” ,… but it doesn’t end there. To date there have been no signs of that happening at all . You are alluding only to local govt jurisdictions and their dept’s , worse yet – the insular confines of the military.

        We are not talking either.

        We are talking the International Criminal Court.

        Irrespective of Hager or anyone else.

        Forget Hager. We are now talking the International Criminal Court – with far more clout than either this govt or its military have – and far more powers of investigation as we are signatories to that organisation.

  3. Keith 3

    If English had learnt from the master of deception he would have:

    Called for an independent inquiry but ensure it is anything but, by…..

    Setting the parameters so tight no new information could possibly come out.
    Ensure that those parameters look like they are doing something but know they are not.
    Pay off some old duffer or friend of the National Party to run it.
    Know what the result will be because he wrote it in the hopelessly limited terms of the inquiry.
    Give the inquiry 12 months to investigate taking the matter off the front pages, taking the moral winds from the sails of the books authors and making the whole mess go away pre election.

    He has done none of it. Could it be because of Nicky Hager’s name being associated with this?

    Instead I will bet he is relying on Curia polling and focus group results that says the public don’t care. And hoping 3 months of further focus groups will give him some key phrases to throw to the media to shut them up.

    Or he could have simply done the right thing. But he didn’t!

    • It doesn’t matter how many polling groups or focus groups are run on this issue.

      It only takes ONE complainant to the International Criminal Court to trigger an investigation / trial.

      And even if this government or any other government tries to rig things as a sham investigation , – the ICC has mechanisms in place to deal with that also.

      • Sacha 3.1.1

        This govt may be cynically calculating that any ICC proceedings would take until *after* our election.

        • SpaceMonkey 3.1.1.1

          Possibly but how will that help? If that seriously was part of their reasoning, it’s another indicator of amateur-hour thinking from the B-Team. If ICC decide to proceed with an investigation, anyone relevant to the case could be called to testify.

  4. Johan 4

    “English’s Monday performance shows just how much National lost when Key quit”.
    Are you suggesting that Shonkey would have handled the grilling better? The reason for the former prime minister jumping ship so abruptly was undoubtedly that the above scenario would surface. Double dipper Bill, will do just fine, he’ll go to confession, say a few Hail Marys and that will see him through, the fuck with morality.

    • Which makes us wonder if Winston Peters had his suspicions when asked in an interview on RNZ why Key left,… with Peters stating :

      ” the reason Key left was because of certain administration and accountability issues which we will all be hearing about over the coming weeks and months” …

      • RJL 4.1.1

        I think that is merely idle (but very safe) speculation by Peters.

        If Peters knew about a specific issue he wouldn’t be coy about being the first to raise it.

  5. ianmac 5

    “But the crucial new evidence was a video he had been shown by Keating….”
    I think that Small meant it was crucial for English rather crucial for the credibility of the events.

    And now English is cornered. He cannot do an about face and order an enquiry so the story will fester until a complaint is laid with the Criminal Court. In principle is the SAS attack outcome potentially as serious as the gas killing of children in Syria?

    • ” In principle is the SAS attack outcome potentially as serious as the gas killing of children in Syria? ”
      —————————————

      It is if we want to maintain the integrity of our armed services and indeed our government by conducting a genuine inquiry .

      So yes, … it is.

    • Gristle 5.2

      If you want to make a complaint to the ICC then use this email address,
      otp.informationdesk@icc-cpi.int.

      Apparently all communications are subjected to analysis by the OTP, the more detailed and substantive the information received, the better the Office is able to focus its analysis n how/if to proceeded with an investigation.

  6. ianmac 6

    Raybon Kan on TV close watching of golf players ball placing, has a nice line at the end:
    “Imagine if the Hit-and-Run video from Afghanistan was played to worldwide audience of golf enthusiasts, instead of just to Bill English.

    I’m not sure we’d be saying decisions should be left to officials on the day.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11832483

  7. left_forward 7

    A very funny article with the sobering lesson at the end.
    Brilliant writing.

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    But it is that default to “spin” and a reliance on cute semantics that undermines English’s case

    Call it right.

    That is a default to lying.

    But, then, National always lies and the MSM don’t call them on it.

  9. greywarshark 9

    True-blue moneyed Gnashional oldy waved a celebratory arm in the air when
    Tv news showed English firmly denying the book’s accusations. The view is shared by their group that Hager is just making a political move, a scam attempting to dirty the National Party and is disgraceful. One comment, ‘It all happened years ago, we should be thinking about the future’.

    Chris Trotter described in his recent post how the Florida government handled a claim that didn’t reflect well on the integrity of their voting practices. Denied by the person at the top. End of story. No follow up to investigative journalist by media initially eager to run the story. It’s a demonstration of how to shut out information and the truth from the public showing the method that is being followed by English.
    https://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2017/03/nothing-to-them-tim-keating-hits-back.html

  10. adam 10

    I’ll say it again – In a post truth environment – It seems reasonable to me Keating came into Bill’s office, and sucked him off, to make this all go away.

    It’s as rational an argument as smalls. If we accept a post truth world as fact.

  11. Skeptic 11

    Despite the obfuscation from the Army COS and English, as the comments and interviewed lawyer make clear, it will only take one complaint and NZ SAS are in deep shit.

    While they might get away with saying a mishap with a gunship’s cannon caused most of the casualties, the fact remains that at least two people died from sniper fire/rifle fire, who were unarmed and out in the open at the time of being shot. The fault lies squarely with the trooper using the rifle and he/she will have to answer for that/those murder(s). A complaint will also expose who issued the ROE, who signed off authorising the mission, and who was the commander on the ground in charge.

    The SAS will be required to provide all official information for cross-checking against definitive reported facts because the Official Secrets Act doesn’t cover War-Crimes and as NZ is a party to the ICC and – if it wants to remain so, or become a pariah state like Nth Korea – so full disclosure of all material both leading up to (including intelligence), during and after the raid will have to be made public.

    We will then know if the Army lied to the politicians, or if the politicians lied to the public. Whoever lied should be made accountable along with the guilty parties causing civilian deaths. NZ isn’t Nazi Germany, nor is it Syria or USSR. We hold ourselves to a higher standard and demand that same standard of our elected representatives and their Servants – be they military or civilian. No-one is above the Law, and thankfully the gods of justice grind slowly, but exceedingly small.

  12. ianmac 12

    Great column by David. Keating cannot have it both ways – can he?

    “Hit & Run: Why doesn’t NZDF start by answering this question?
    by David Fisher

    NZDF has changed it’s position on civilian casualties and never explained itself. It has two ministers with different versions. How does any government agency get away with this?”

    http://www.pundit.co.nz/content/hit-run-why-doesnt-nzdf-start-by-answering-this-question
    and in the Herald:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11832645

  13. Greg 13

    This ad out what the national party voters want Nobody is above the law not even national perverting the course of justice is corruption at the highest level

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