Last week the NZDF admitted they were wrong about claims the photos used by Hager & Stephenson were false. Today they have now admitted that they conducted a military operation in the exact same place Hager & Stephenson claimed war crimes were committed…
Satellite imagery obtained by the Herald shows that villages pictured in the book Hit & Runare the locations where Operation Burnham took place.
A new NZ Herald interactive details the geographic location in which the authors of the book and the New Zealand Defence Force argued where the infamous Operation Burnham took place in Afghanistan.
Last week the NZDF confirmed the photos in the book were in fact the same location where the mission took place.
…the week after the book was released, Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating fronted the media and told the country Hager & Stephenson were wrong…
“The central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book, Hit & Run, is incorrect …”
“NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book as having been the scene of combat operations and civilian casualties,”
…is the Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating a manipulative liar?
Let’s remember the context.
Months before the 2017 election, Hager & Stephenson detail a revenge raid by the SAS that was poorly planned with wrong intel. Instead of catching insurgents, the NZ SAS killed and wounded 21 mainly women and children Afghan civilians while burning down their village.
The entire fiasco was personally signed off by Sir John Key.
The NZ media are still missing in action on this story and its legal ramifications which leads to the question, can the mainstream media in NZ ever hold the NZDF to account?
Based on our recent past, the answer to that is a resounding no.
If we look to Nicky Hager’s previous work, Other People’s Wars, the insidious ability of the NZ Defence Force to manipulate and co-opt mainstream media into being their propaganda tools is well researched, and unsettling.
Take for example ‘Kiwi Camp’ in Afghanistan 2011. It was sold via the embedded mainstream media as some type of Engineering peace corps rebuilding schools, bridges and wells. Independent reports citing the work we did for the locals called our efforts “poorly planned” and “wildly exaggerated”. Embedded journalists Guyon Espiner and Vernan Small both visited Kiwi Camp and later noted (after being outed by the book) the CIA were using our base as a cover, yet both failed to mention that as anything worth informing NZers about. The CIA were using our base as a front because Provincial Reconstruction Teams don’t get attacked the way Forward Operating bases do, but neither journalist thought that manipulation was news worthy at the time.
The media’s self censoring compliance with the NZDF and their willingness to don flak jackets and helmets to play the intrepid journalist shtick is actually part of the problem.
From Other People’s Wars…
having CIA operatives inside the Kiwi base fitted poorly with the deployment’s stated goals. Why would the New Zealand authorities risk the New Zealanders working at Kiwi Base, and the credibility of the New Zealand peacekeeping mission, by mixing them up with a CIA operation? After the suicide attack on the FOB [forward operating base] Chapman, the issue of CIA operations inside a provincial reconstruction team was widely discussed. The Times wrote that “PRTs have been criticised widely for endangering civilian aid workers by blurring the line between development staff and the military.
…John Armstrong probably summed up the media’s inability to look past the war PR spin best with his 2011 column on the book, ‘Candyfloss’ PR exposed in all its cynicism…
Those who think Nicky Hager is just another left-wing stirrer and dismiss his latest book accordingly should think again.
Likewise, the country’s politicians should read Other People’s Wars before condemning it.
Whatever Hager’s motive for investigating New Zealand’s contribution over the past decade to the United States-led “war on terror”, it is pretty irrelevant when placed alongside the mountain of previously confidential and very disturbing information his assiduous research and inquiries have uncovered.
With the help of well-placed informants and thousands of leaked documents, Hager exposes the cynical manner in which the Defence Force has purposely misled the public by omission of pertinent facts and public relations flannel.
This is particularly the case with regard to the “candyfloss” image the military has built around the deployment of New Zealand soldiers in the Bamiyan province of Afghanistan.
That image is of our soldiers acting more like peacekeepers armed with nothing more dangerous than a shovel.
…what was more concerning than our media’s embedded compliance was that the NZ military lied and deceived our own politicians…
Defence Force staff responsible for the deployment of Orion aircraft and Anzac frigates to the Gulf in the “war against terror” ignored instructions from then prime minister Helen Clark to keep their operations separate from those being conducted by the United States against Iraq. The book quotes unidentified officials and former diplomats as agreeing that Clark – lacking a strong defence minister – fought a lone battle against never ending efforts by the Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries to rewrite Government policy and buy military equipment which would enable New Zealand to build bridges with the United States.
New Zealand diplomats resorted to underhand tricks when they did not get their way with the last Labour Government. For example, when Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials did not like a particular Government policy decision, New Zealand’s ambassadors in Washington and Canberra were told to sound out the views of the local bureaucrats. The ministry would then tell Government ministers that the Americans and Australians had made it known they were very concerned and there could be “relationship implications”.
…and what of the allegations that NZ SAS were involved in war crimes for handing over civilians to known torture units in Afghanistan? Well, the Journalist who broke that story, Jon Stephenson, was blacklisted and had smears spread about him by the NZDF in an effort to discredit him. So good was the smear and spin, Stephenson shockingly had his defamation case against Lieutenant General Rhys Jones halted by a hung Jury in 2013.
Our media have a sorry history of being played like propaganda sock puppets by the NZDF. Here they are with full and undisputed evidence that the NZDF lied again and where is the wall to wall media focus demanding accountability?
Did NZ military forces commit a war crime, and if they did, then surely the Prime Minister who personally signed off on it must be held to account in front of the UN.