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The NZDF’s transparent fig leaf

Written By: - Date published: 7:23 am, April 23rd, 2017 - 18 comments
Categories: accountability, afghanistan, war - Tags: , , , , ,

The NZDF account of Operation Burnham has many gaps and inconsistencies. It has changed over time from civlian deaths being “unfounded” to “may have occurred, but not corroborated” (not corroborated by anyone except the Hit and Run sources and other locals that is). On civilian deaths the main fig leaf that the government and the NZDF has hidden behind has been the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) investigation. Brownlee:

“There have been several investigations including by ISAF itself and the allegations that are made simply have not been substantiated in any way whatsoever.”

This was always a terrible fig leaf. Hager, rebutting Keating:

5. An ISAF investigation has already occurred, there is no need for another inquiry: A WEAK SELF-SERVING ARGUMENT

First it is important to explain about the investigation done in August 2010 by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition headquarters, which was cited repeatedly during the NZDF press conference. In 2010 the subject of civilian deaths was very sensitive in Afghanistan and so ISAF was attempting to investigate all suspected cases of civilians being killed by ISAF forces. But these “assessments” were very far from being full or independent.

The ISAF investigation into the 22 August 2010 raid was completed in less than a week and did not involve anyone going to the area or talking to the affected villagers. It included a review of attack helicopter weapons system video and concluded that several “errant rounds”, caused by a gun sight malfunction, “may have resulted in civilian casualties”. However reports from SAS members and local people interviewed for the book describe multiple heavy attacks that wounded and killed civilians in different locations. Thus the hastily-conducted ISAF review appears far from being adequate. It is silent on most of the allegations in the book.

There is no need for New Zealand to rely on the brief and inadequate ISAF review. Most of the information needed to confirm whether or not the allegations in the book are correct is located here in New Zealand, in the SAS files. The best option is an independent inquiry where this information can be gathered and assessed.

The “report” was based on an “investigation” that didn’t involve the people affected. What a joke:

We know, thanks to a United Nations report in 2010 that ISAF never made it to the grave sites in Talah wa Barfak, let alone interviewed victims. Is the NZDF really satisfied with that report?

How would they know – turns out they haven’t even read it! Just the “executive summary”. Nor have they conducted their own investigation. David Fisher (following up last month’s NZDF evasions) reports in The Herald yesterday:

The military’s briefing to its minister on the deadly ‘Hit & Run’ raid by the NZSAS

NZDF has confirmed it has never carried out its own investigation into allegations civilians were killed during an NZSAS raid in Afghanistan.

It also received only a summary of the official inquiry that was carried out – one of the key pieces of information used by Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating to rule out any inquiry.

Receiving only a summary of a whitewash report and refusing to look further is the behaviour of an organisation with plenty to hide. Hager and Stephenson have facts, the NZDF are hiding behind a transparent fig leaf of deliberate ignorance.

He [Keating] told the Minister: “The information I have seen

(a summary of a whitewash report and curated video snippets)

clearly shows Defence Force and coalition personnel involved in the Operation taking deliberate steps to ensure the Operation was conducted in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict and the Rules of Engagement. “This includes ensuring the positive identification of individuals as lawful targets and taking all feasible precautions to minimise potential civilian casualties.”

I’m sure that all that is true, “deliberate steps” and “feasible precautions” were taken. And shit went wrong anyway and civilians died. And the NZDF doesn’t want to know, and the government doesn’t want to know. And neither of them want we the people to know.

18 comments on “The NZDF’s transparent fig leaf ”

  1. Heather Grimwood 1

    Your last sentence the most chilling. Hopefully its import will be / is being realised.

    • bwaghorn 1.1

      ”And neither of them want we the people to know.”

      na most people that have followed this will know it happened and just think it’s just those in power lying to us as usual.

      • Heather Grimwood 1.1.1

        To bwaghorn at 1.1 : c.f. and relate your comment to the message in Raymond Briggs’ “When the Wind Blows”. I think you are much too confident.

  2. Anne 2

    A couple of points to add:
    1) The official investigation was a joint effort between two Afghan ministries and ISAF which, I understand, is dominated by the US. Bearing in mind US Apache helicopters played a major role in the operation, does that not constitute a massive conflict of interest? In addition, the NZDF received a summary only of the full ISAF report and that is what they are basing most of their claims on.

    2) And isn’t it convenient the only video imagery captured during the operation is held by the US and has not been released even to the NZDF for perusal. I guess they’ve got to have time to edit out the bits they don’t want anyone to see?

    • dukeofurl 2.1

      I thought the ministers and a few others had seen ‘parts of the video’ from the Apaches.

      But they would never get to see the whole uncut footage as that might show the cannon fire not affected by any faults ?

  3. ianmac 3

    It is the blatant disregard of honest appraisal that is so frightening. How can those responsible for us just slam the door on enquiring further? If they can do that then what else is hidden?

    • Anne 3.1

      As Laila Harré said on Q&A this morning:

      The government relied on “focus groups” for their response and when it told them most people didn’t care (or more likely were ill informed and didn’t understand) they “slammed the door” on a proper investigation.

      Ethical behaviour by our Defence Services and their political counterparts goes to the very heart of democracy yet they don’t bat an eyelid. And watching Gerry Brownlee lying through his teeth this morning caused me to reach for the off switch.


      Discussion on Hit a& Run starts 04:00.

      • Heather Grimwood 3.1.1

        LIkewise Anne.

      • Incognito 3.1.2

        It is hard to know how much the Government really relies on those so-called focus groups (and lobby groups?). They may have their place in research but they should never replace the proper functioning of an open and transparent and truly representative democracy.

        But how would we know? The very fact that we have to ask this pertinent question is already reason for concern that not all is as well as it could & should be in our democratic political system here in NZ.

        Focus groups cannot deal with matters of justice, never ever. Imagine the admission of court cases would be decided by focus groups (or popular appeal). It would be disastrous; it would a step towards lynch mob rule. So, why would it be o.k. for our Lawmakers then?

        The only way to counter any hidden unaccountable influences is to make our politics as open & transparent as possible. Our society would be better for it.

        • ianmac

          David Farrar has grown wealthy on canvasasing the people. Remember when Key chose to give Farrar a hearty thanks to on his acceptance speech after winning the 2014 Election? His first and primary thanks for David. Then all the workers.
          David must be doing more that make the tea.

          • Incognito

            Focus groups, lobby groups, pollsters, and MSM & DP all exist and influence politics because they can. They can because politics is too far removed from the people and there is not enough transparency & accountability. Take the OIA, for example; it is a joke that its main function now seems to be to protect Ministers from embarrassment!? MBIE is sitting on HAM because of similar reasons. Which party has made it a core policy to open the lid and let the sunshine in? They all try to score points off each other on the same old same old.

  4. Tamati Tautuhi 4

    Government, transparency and honesty are mutually exclusive?

    • xanthe 4.1

      of course they are not mutually exclusive!
      We just don’t have that sort of government now.

  5. greywarshark 5

    I think it is appropriate to run this pearler again.

    Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.

    But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.[1]

    Donald Rumsfeld past USA Secretary of State

    Rumsfeld used it at a time when there was ‘incoherence’ in international matters.
    Similar to today? Some terms never go out of date because of recurring events, unfortunately as below. North Korea, oday?
    The term was also commonly used inside NASA. Rumsfeld himself cited NASA administrator William Graham in his memoir; he wrote that he had first heard “a variant of the phrase” from Graham when they served together on the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States during the late 1990s.[3]

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