Keating and English’s colonial response to the SAS raid


A feature of colonialism was the marginalisation of the colonised people in any political discourse. Their views didn’t really matter.

This is still a feature of world politics even if colonialism has largely been replaced by a new form of imperialism, whereby the major western powers, particularly the United States, still determine much of what goes on in the less-developed world.

Nobody asked the Afghani or Iraqi people before the United States invaded their countries in 2001 and 2003. The US then decided how the wars would be fought, with little reference to the local people. In Afghanistan civilian casualties in the war went largely unreported. The first official American reports on any raid were all about the number of insurgents killed. Only later would the US military reluctantly admit that some civilians might have been killed.

The NZ Defence Force reporting on the SAS raid on two Afghan villages in August 2010 follows the US pattern. First the NZDF said that no civilians had been killed in the raid. Now it says it is possible civilians died.

In terms of confirmed deaths the NZDF says nine (unnamed) insurgents were killed. In Hit and Run Nicky Hager and Jon Stevenson say no insurgents died but six (named) civilians were killed. Their information comes from the villagers.

I support an inquiry to sort out what really happened in Operation Burnham. But with or without it, surely a path to the truth lies in evidence provided by the affected villagers, some of whom appear to be accessible via cell-phone or email – or face-to-face in Afghanistan. The villagers are now represented by Kiwi lawyers, who are in touch with them.

Defence Chief Tim Keating and the Prime Minister exhibit the “colonial” reflex in completely ignoring the villagers as a source of information. Bill English looked at a few American videos of the battle and considered that to be enough to reject any inquiry. Keating didn’t consider evidence from the locals as relevant enough to mention.

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Keating and English also didn’t think it important to respond to evidence that an SAS soldier beat one of the Afghan locals, Qari Miraj , who was then passed on to the notorious torturers in the Afghan National Directorate of Security. I can’t help thinking that the beating and the torture may have been relevant to Mr English if Qari Miraj had been a Westerner, rather than an Afghan.

While Keating and English may be displaying their “colonial” bias, others in the Defence Force were not. The Hager and Stevenson book was made possible by some SAS soldiers, upset at what they saw, coming forward with evidence of what went wrong.


  1. You have potential triggers to an International Criminal Court ( ICC ) investigation and / or trial from several sources.

    1 ) The villagers themselves

    2 ) Participating SAS soldiers who gave testimony in the book ‘ Hit and Run.

    3 ) Official Afghani accounts as well as documentation in the form of death certificates administered.

    Any one of these can trigger ( as a complainant ) an ICC investigation. Furthermore , the destruction of property without a military objective is in itself a war crime, – as is not rendering assistance / medical care to injured civilians.

    In a RNZ interview with a lawyer that works for the International Criminal Court , it was stated that evidence contained in the book ‘ Hit and Run ‘ is admissible evidence.

    It was also stated that an investigation and possible trial can also be triggered if the ICC observed that a government was simply conducting a sham trial and using it as a shield to prevent full disclosure.

    Here is the link to that :

    • I think you will find that they were actual real people. And by the sounds of it at least one, Qari Miraj, was indeed flogged. By our military. So quite appropriate to continue on and on without letting up until it is taken seriously and the truth of the whole grisly affair is acknowledged.

    • Wont take much to bring that horse back to life and return as one of the four horses complete with riders…

      ONE complainant , Dave…

      ONE complainant….

  2. I am continually amazed that those who spend so much energy slagging off those who put their lives on the line to protect us can not find any time to give a bit of praise for all the good work they do, whether it be army, fire service, ambos, police and so on. Their agenda seems to be just to moan.

    • Dave, this is NOT slagging off, it is an expectation for due transparency, where serious questions deserve to be asked. If the SAS soldiers, the NZDF and government have nothing to hide, they would agree to an inquiry of sorts with no concerns. The fact that they refuse to have one, that makes them appear like they have stuff to hide.

      So stop making such simple, silly comments, expecting blind loyalty to our soldiers, no questions asked.

      • bad arses, fire, terrorists, floods, natural disasters, who comes looking when people get lost in the bush, or who so we call when someone has a fall or a hart attack or a car crash. these moaners spend not one second praising these people, they just want to moan all the time, probably because they are not capable of anything else.

    • Last time I looked, dave, ambos didn’t raid defenceless villages, shooting unarmed civilians. Maybe you come from a nastier, more violent world.

    • Precisely because of those who put themselves on the line, should this situation be cleared up.

      Our servicemen and women need to be protected from being in a Defence Force where bad decisions are made, and covered up – as seems to be the case. Otherwise, it is they who are most likely to pay the price when they are deployed in other countries – for “training” purposes.

      We have a responsibility to all those in the defence forces to ensure that their leadership is of the highest integrity.

      The issue of humanity in terms of addressing the harm done to those villagers is one you should find hard to deflect, without a misguided attempt to do so by referring to our service men and women.

  3. Oh, but we cannot have an ‘inquiry’ in an election year, which may shine some light on what our NZDF gets up to, as it happened under a National led government. Also bear in mind, Teflon Key, no harsh scourer is allowed to scratch beneath his surface, it may expose some embarrassing truth, at least a person also prone to make mistakes, or being responsible for others who made mistakes.

    • John Key was very much in “Rambo Mode” early in his political career, flying around in military helicopters with military escorts.

  4. Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager must charge Bill English with Deformation after he said so many defamatory remarks about them.

    Then he will go the same way as Andrew Little onto the slow legal roster leading to the election also.

  5. “Deformation” CleanGreen? Yes the SAS have left innocent people injured people and some may be deformed.
    How is the Afghani Qari Miraj, now faring after being beaten and tortured?

    I think this statement of Keith’s is important, as it sums up the mentality of those defending the raids.
    “Keating and English also didn’t think it important to respond to evidence that an SAS soldier beat one of the Afghan locals, Qari Miraj , who was then passed on to the notorious torturers in the Afghan National Directorate of Security. I can’t help thinking that the beating and the torture may have been relevant to Mr English if Qari Miraj had been a Westerner, rather than an Afghan.”

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