Afghanistan – a failure of political and military courage



Most New Zealand troops will leave Afghanistan this month – 10 years, 10 kiwi soldier deaths and $300 million after then Prime Minister Helen Clark joined us to the US-led invasion.

It’s our longest ever overseas troop deployment and almost the farthest at 13,000km distance.

We should never have joined this imperial adventure. At the time we were told Afghanistan had become a terrorist haven harbouring Osama bin Laden and the whole world was under threat after the attack on the twin towers in New York.

This was largely a fabrication. Yes Osama bin Laden was there but evidence of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks was speculative at best and in any case Afghanistan’s Taleban regime had offered to give up Bin Laden for trial in a third country. The US ignored the offer. Like a playground bully with a bloody nose they wanted violent revenge and their leaders chose Afghanistan’s Taleban regime as the focus for bloodletting.

A more authentic target would have been Saudi Arabia which the 9/11 attackers called home and from where Osama Bin Laden also hailed.

It would have taken courage for the Labour government to say no to the US over Afghanistan but it would have been the right thing to do – particularly in the face of George Bush’s childlike blackmail where he declared we would have to choose to support the US or the terrorists.

So we joined the invasion and helped destroy the country – “bombing it back to the stone age” was apparently the military objective. It was never a popular war in New Zealand and Helen Clark downplayed our involvement. After the initial invasion New Zealand’s focus became setting up a PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) in Bamiyan province. This was largely a public relations exercise because the PRT was just a front for active military support for the occupation. Our troops were effectively under US direction as detailed in Nicky Hagar’s book Other People’s Wars.

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If reconstruction had been the objective our $300 million would have gone much further if it had been channelled through non-governmental organisations to build schools and hospitals. Afghanistan has always had enough skilled builders, plumbers and electricians to do the job – they only lacked the funding and $300 million would have gone a long way. Instead we sent New Zealand troops 13,000km to do the job and our modest projects are likely to be the most expensive buildings in Afghanistan.

Being seen as a loyal follower of the US was more important than building schools and hospitals for the people.

While the PRT were the public front our SAS troops were arresting Taleban suspects and handing them over to the US or Afghani authorities both of which used torture as routine. As one SAS soldier put it “we sort of knew what would happen – Americans being Americans” – effectively an admission our troops breached the Geneva Convention as a matter of course. Our Governor General Gerry Mateparae was in charge of the New Zealand Defence Force at the time and has always refused to comment on the raft of damning allegations about our role in the torture of Afghani combatants. A shameful lack of courage on the part of our military commanders and “don’t want to know” by our leading politicians has left this issue to fester. It’s a pity New Zealand journalists didn’t challenge Mateparae on this when he was in Afghanistan last week for the lowering of the New Zealand flag as the PRT prepares to leave.

So what do we bequeath the people of Afghanistan? A corrupt regime of woman-hating drug barons and warlords and a President who fraudulently “won” the last election.

Afghanistan before the invasion was a brutal place under Taleban rule. It’s now a brutal place under chief fraudster Hamid Karzai. The country is no more stable and we will blame the Afghanis when the inevitable happens following foreign troop withdrawal.

If Afghanistan were left alone then civil society groups would gradually find their feet and the extremists would be side-lined. Instead, repeated invasions and occupations strengthen the religious fundamentalists, the drug barons, the racketeers and the warlords. That’s the legacy we leave.

History will look on the New Zealand involvement in Afghanistan as an imperial adventure on behalf of the US Empire – similar to the First World War when we travelled to the other side of the world to support the British Empire’s interests.

In each case young New Zealand men died for no good reason while our military chiefs and our politicians suffered not so much as a scratch.


  1. Oh dear, despite all the evidence people still don’t get it. Steel columned concrete buildings do not fall down at free-fall speed as a consequence of low-temperature fires in the upper storeys. (And building 7 fell to the ground at free-fall speed when it wasn’t even hit by a plane!)

    Titanium alloy aircraft engines weighing several tonnes do not evaporate when they hit grass (as supposedly happened with the Shanksville incident, according to the official narrative).

    Off-course aircraft are not normally allowed to fly around for up to an hour-and-a-half in the most heavily guarded airspace on the planet. Except on September 11th. Where was the US air force? Over Alaska. Funny that.

    Put options on airline share prices falling do not suddenly surge by a factor of ten, except in the week before 9/11.

    And so it goes, on and on…… hundreds of items of evidence ignored or dismissed by the [rigged] 9/11 commission because any one of them would have blown a hole in the official narrative.

    9/11 was an inside job, orchestrated to demolish some troublesome buildings that contained much asbestos which would have been horrendously expensive to remove. Far better to take out insurance against the impossible, and then make the impossible happen by planting explosives in the right places. Collect the insurance. Collect the insurance twice because there were two planes!

    And 9/11 provided a pretext for an invasion of Afghanistan, to restore the opium trade the Taliban had nearly brought to a standstill, upsetting a large portion of the CIA drug laundering funds. And, of course, to make Afghanistan a safe place for American corporations to operate their loot-and-pollute agenda, following the failure of that particular project in the mid-1950s.

    9/11 was also an inside job to provide a pretext for the invasion of Iraq, to take out Saddam Hussein (previously an ally of the US) because he would no longer play the US hegemony game and started trading oil in Euros. Also, there was the small matter of building bases in Iraq in order to threaten Iran. ….. the really ‘bad boy on the block ‘ that had thrown out the US-installed dictator (Shah Palavi) and had successfully resisted reoccupation via the proxy war Iraq fought on America’s behalf in the 1980s, using American weapons paid for with American money.

    As George Carlin so succinctly put it, “Anything the government tells you is a lie.” And, “The last thing governments want is people who can think for themselves.”

    Professor Guy McPherson summed up US government policy in five words. “Oppression abroad. Obedience at home.”

    I see that Tony B Liar isn’t serving a long jail term as a war criminal or hanging from a piece of rope. Funny that, especially when you consider what happened the German fascists after the Nuremberg trials, where not charged with killing Jews but were charged with starting a war.

    Of course, Anglo-American fascists (and their co-conspirators) are free to walk the streets because they run the system.

  2. There is a good deal in what says. But there is also in John Minto’s substative argument.

    Touching upon , his ‘conspiracy theory’, bear in mind that the U.S. Government expects us to believe the conspiracy theory it came up with. I was astonished at the time how they hit upon Osama bin Laden, who at the time denied any involvement. He changed his tune later, which might mean, ‘Yep: I planned the whole gig as part of my terrorist programme’; or ‘I didn’t really, but if my ‘confession’ will take the heat off the real person… if there was one.’ Who knows?

    But in this country, the lightning speed with which the Labour adminstration enacted laws curbing my personal liberties was unseemly (and unnecessary) to say the least of it. As if L’il Ol’ Kiwiland could ever be a target for terrorists. Oh… yeah… the French…

    One of the dreariest things about the ongoing Afghan War is that it has already doubled the duration of World War Two: waged by the richest and most powerful nations on the planet against one of the poorest. It says something about the resilience of Afghans that they still haven’t been beaten.

    New Zealand’s involvement has been that of an occupying power. Therefore it has to take the consequences of an occupying power. That may include being sued for reparations some time down the track.

    But the pusillanimity of New Zealand’s foreign policy is becoming legendary. Recall the tough line they took against Indonesia over the decades long genocide in East Timor? When Indonesian excesses, at the time of the Pacific Leaders’ gathering in Auckland in the late 1990s, became to ovious and brutal for Pres. Clinton to stomach, at least he did something about it. But do you remember our then PM, Jenny Shipley, after trying so hard to shovel the mess under the carpet, then tried to claim credit for New Zealand’s leadership in pushing for East Timor’s liberation?

    It was one of the most laughably cynical examples of tergiversation I have ever seen in my life.

  3. One thing is for sure, conspiracy or no conspiracy, Afganistan, and most definitely Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, just a handy excuse. The plans for both invasion (definitely Iraq) were pretty much worked out already.

    The notion of a “war against terror” is a totally obvious piece of rubbish. This official “war” has allowed the United States military/spies/etc all sort of powers including the military putting in prison indefinitely anyone it wants and even assasinating its own citizens. It’s a war that has no objective that needs to be fulfilled. It is against an enemy that isn’t clearly defined. So it is practically a war that can go on indefinitely against any target whatsoever whom is considered a “terrorist”.

  4. Afghanistan was largely left alone after the Soviet backed regime collapsed in the early 1990’s. It descended into the chaos that eventually led to the Talisman taking over. As much as the Kazai govern.ent is corrupt and abusive they gave nothing in the Taliban.

    It Is good to see this article bringing to the fore the wacky conspiracy theorists that lurk in the darkest intellectual reaches of the left..

  5. It’s disappointing to see that people who will always pick and choose facts, supposition and rumour in such a way as to support their pre-determined perspective, whlst ignoring the great preponderence of conflicting evidence. 9/11 – ‘an inside job’….really? George Bush couldn’t organise the proverbial piss-up in a brewery and yet (a very few) people would have us believe he oversaw an impossibly large and complex conspiracy, one in which a large number of people would have had to be party to (not just those directly involved in preparing for and doing it, but also the airlines, families of the victims etc).

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