No Country For Dishonourable Men

By   /   October 16, 2018  /   21 Comments

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NICKY HAGER’S latest revelations concerning the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) could not be more timely. In the year of #MeToo, he has exposed a culture of toxic masculinity extending from the top to the bottom of New Zealand’s armed forces.

NICKY HAGER’S latest revelations concerning the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) could not be more timely. In the year of #MeToo, he has exposed a culture of toxic masculinity extending from the top to the bottom of New Zealand’s armed forces.

Although it is clear that Hager’s North & South article merely scrapes the surface of the NZDF’s moral turpitude, the crimes he has brought to the public’s attention: breaches of the Geneva Convention, dishonesty and cover-ups, sexual assault and torture; are more than enough to force the Coalition Government’s hand. Anything less than a full Royal Commission of Inquiry into the institutional integrity of the NZDF will be seen, quite rightly, as a failure to grasp the full seriousness of Hager’s exposé.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry must, moreover, be explicitly empowered to set aside any attempt by NZDF to sweep its actions under the highly embroidered carpet of “national security”. This is precisely what has been happening in relation to the official investigation ordered by the Coalition Government into the allegations contained in Hit & Run – the book co-authored by John Stephenson and Nicky Hager, published in March 2017.

No more than the law firm Russell McVeagh, should the NZDF be permitted to position itself above and beyond the reach of either its victims or the New Zealand public generally. In fairness, it is important to note that Russell McVeagh was willing to subject itself to the inquisitor’s scrutiny. What Hager’s article makes very clear, however, is that penetrating the veil of secrecy in which the NZDF has swathed itself will not be so straightforward. Great care will have to be taken to prevent the NZDF from doing what it has done so often in the past: offer the public fine words and phrases – which change nothing.

A very heavy burden thus falls upon the shoulders of the Minister of Defence, the Hon. Ron Mark. The inclusion of the honorific is deliberate. Because nothing comes closer to the heart of the matters exposed in Hager’s article than the concept of honour. Hager understands this well. It’s why he and his co-author made Hit & Run’s subtitle: “The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour”. As a former soldier, Mark needs no instruction in the meaning of honour. Nor does he need to be told that what Hager’s North & South article has exposed is an NZDF which has deliberately, repeatedly, and as a matter of conscious policy, dishonoured itself.

Enormous pressure will be brought to bear on Mark by the officer corps of the NZDF. He will be urged to protect the reputation and integrity of the armed services. He will be told that Hager is the sworn enemy of the brave men and women who stand ready to give their all – including their lives – for their country. That he cannot, therefore, be allowed to win. More darkly, the NZDF’s friends and allies in the “Intelligence Community” will warn Mark and his Cabinet colleague, Andrew Little, that New Zealand’s allies will look askance at any inquiry which threatens to breach the security undertakings given to and received from New Zealand as a member of the “Five Eyes Club”.

But, is it honourable to lie? To deliberately cover-up the truth? Would a man of honour, upon receiving complaints of sexual assault, repeatedly refuse to take the appropriate action? If there was the slightest possibility that a young, gay enlisted man was being subjected to unrelenting bullying and abuse, would not immediate remedial action be the only honourable course to take? And if a failure to take such action contributed in any way to that young man’s brutal torture and eventual suicide, what honourable officer, overcome with guilt and shame, would not step forward to acknowledge his part in the tragedy?

Because, in an army, honour and courage cannot be separated. An honourable officer follows the code of military conduct – even if, in doing so, he or she may incur a senior officer’s displeasure. An honourable officer will refuse to abandon that code, even when his country’s allies ask him, just this once, to look the other way. A medic does not join in the fight: lest, when his non-combatant status is most in need of respect, the recollection of two 12-13 year-old boys shot dead in defence of their village, causes our enemies to set aside their obligations under the Geneva Convention – just as we did.

Doing the honourable thing requires bravery. Any coward can behave dishonourably.

We know from the sheer number of serving and former military personnel who have found the courage to speak to journalists like Hager and Stephenson that our armed services are not without brave and honourable men and women. The great tragedy, of course, is that the very people who possess the courage to do the honourable thing are the very people whose careers in the NZDF are the most likely to be ruined. Worse still, it is clear that in the NZDF dishonourable scum rises. That, instead of a stronghold for brave and honourable soldiers, the NZDF is rapidly becoming a fiercely defended sanctuary for dishonourable cowards.

Our Minister of Defence cannot allow that situation to continue. Our soldiers, sailors and aviators are supported by the taxpayers to defend their nation from harm. That mission cannot be accomplished by people who lack the courage to conduct themselves ethically. Nor can it be fulfilled by people who are afraid to speak their minds; to take unpopular positions; to warn against the inadvisability (or, more importantly, the immorality) of a proposed course of military action. An army that is not composed of brave, upright and honourable personnel not only offers its nation’s citizens inadequate protection, it also constitutes a deadly threat to their rights and freedoms.

Dishonourable men do dishonourable things. Which is why New Zealand’s armed forces must be purged of them – immediately.

 

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21 Comments

  1. Tiger Mountain says:

    NZDF spent large sums previously trying to nail Mr Stephenson and Mr Hager, and they usually manage to successfully cultivate a hands off aura that keeps transparency well away

    really, if Charter schools can be ended largely on the basis of non accountability for the tax payers funds they receive, why not the NZDF too? Soldiers have the authority to dole out lethal force, and present an impression of this country wherever they operate, the least their funders can expect is some honesty and basic decency from them in return

    at root these “standing bodies of armed men” as Karl Marx described them, do help enforce the bourgeois state and the scabby 5 Eyes, but with a truly independent NZ foreign policy, they could do positive work as has been glimpsed on various peace keeping missions, the NZ armed forces coast on an ill deserved ANZAC/WWII reputation, while supporting US imperialism

    • Sam Sam says:

      When ever I see recruiting ads for NZDF with nice soft music and a deep glorious narrator whispering sweet nothings into people’s ears I think bullshit and straightaway remeber the video of the battle of Baghak and every one freaking the fuck out.

    • G.A.P. says:

      I could not have put it as accurately and precisely myself TM,our tin soldiers get to play war games and kill people who are defending there own country, and the us military industrial complex gets to list nz in the coalition of the stupid. The Valley – Stuff.co.nz by Paula Penfold and Eugene Bingham (still available at the Stuff website), should be compulsory viewing for all keyboard warriors dreaming of a well oiled fighting machine??

      • Sam Sam says:

        All military commanders know for every year of experience gained in combats conditions it takes 10 years of simulating combat conditions just to give the guys a fighting edge and prevent a lot of unnecessary casualties. We’re only giving them 5 years training on most cases. This isn’t the soldiers fault it’s all political bullshit. Soldiers are not meant to be pussies and you should all respect that.

  2. CLEANGREEN says:

    Chris we are waking up to the fact that several instances of the Vietnam and now in the Middle East wars are displaying such a horrible sight today that we have now seen didn’t we?

    Similarly now we are seeing the same horrible aggressive bullying inside the “cycling” fraternity now too.

    We communities who are within the transport industry who are fighting to save the public owned Kiwi Rail services, we now also being bullied by the cycling industry!!!!!

    These advocates fronting as “cycle enthusiasts are flooding the social media with false claims about the demise of rail and using false examples that support their own views that cycling is being the best way to use our rail network now!!!!!

    Our family witnessed this after I spent a day in hospital last week and met a cycle industry person who showed arrogance to the notion that saving rail services was a lost cause and we were left with a notion that this person was educated to refuse any support for rail.

    We now believe that the ‘road freight industry lobbyists’ are now using the cycling industry to get rid of rail in NZ as the road freight industry seem intent to want only road freight in NZ’s future.

    The sooner the Government move to secure all our regional rail services the better we will be.

    You are right Chris, there is a presence of pure arrogance within our country today like we saw with our NZ Defence industry, and the cycling that is becoming endemic.

  3. Afewknowthetruth says:

    ‘Our Minister of Defence cannot allow that situation to continue.’

    But he can. So he probably will.

    Politics is all about denying there is a problem, and then doing as little as possible when cornered.

  4. countryboy says:

    “That, instead of a stronghold for brave and honourable soldiers, the NZDF is rapidly becoming a fiercely defended sanctuary for dishonourable cowards.”

    You could be writing about our general political structure, specifically the last National Government’s term of office.
    And isn’t there that old Maori saying?
    ” The rot in the fish starts from the head down.”
    Hager and Stevenson make our politicians look like the devious cowards they are by, in themselves, being brave and honourable. And as is clearly evident, we see the taint of political cowardice in WINZ, the prison system, the education system etc and now in the NZDF.
    A Royal Commission of Inquiry armed with a very broad broom would be required to sweep the greedy, gutless, dirt out of our government. Clean out every nook and cranny. ( A personal dream of mine would come true. )
    Excellent Post @ CT.

  5. Andrew says:

    Armies that don’t have “toxic masculinity” lose wars

    Quite frankly, Hagar’s endless whining is wearing thin. Most think he needs to get a real job.

    • Snow White says:

      You sound like such a brave soldier, Andrew.

      And most do not think. If they did think, Andrew, then everyone would be able to differentiate between toxic masculinity, and what constitutes a real man. And one doesn’t find out just by looking in the mirror, did you know ?

      And if you are suggesting that America lost the Vietnam War because of insufficient toxic masculinity, then I suggest that you pull back a bit here, Andrew.

      New Zealanders fought in that brutal scenario forced upon Vietnam by what ? Toxic masculinity ? And the Vietnam vets littering the streets of US cities as homeless and beggars and amputees and nutters – too much or not enough toxic masculinity, Andrew ?

      Why don’t you write a book about it, Andrew ?

      You’ve managed to encapsulate how to lose a war into two words. Write a book. Sun Tzu did it and Hager does it and you can do it too. Not like it’s a real job. Easy as. And your book only needs two words.

      Autumn leaves and flutes in the bamboo grove – can you hear the drums Fernando – words flying like birds in the air : Toxic Masculinity. Write it.

      Peter Jackson might film it – The Art of Losing.

    • David Stone says:

      Politicians without toxic masculinity don’t start wars.
      D J S

    • John W says:

      Andrew do you support war.

  6. Exkiwiforces says:

    Mr Hager, probably needs to understand the difference between a combat medic and your bog standard medic that you would see in Regimental Aid Post/ Casualty Clearing Post at A Echelon or B Echelon. The days of a medic armed with his Red Cross and his medical gear running around a battlefield ended around the latter stages of WW2/ Korean War due to a number of Nations had a habit of shooting Medics on the battlefield.

    A Combat Medic is an Infantryman within a section, a Tankie within an Armoured Vehicle Crew, A Gunner within a Gun section, a Field Engineer within a section, Airforce Gound Defence Section (Airforce Infantry) and in Special Forces Ptl or Section etc.

    A Combat Medic role is a secondary role within the Fighting unit/ Combat Platoon/ Team. As a result some Combat Medics are more highly trained than others within the Combat Medic role. For example some Combat Medics can perform basic minor surgery on the casualty and are trained similar to that of a Para Medic, A&E or ICU Nurse. My case as a basic Combat First Aid I was taught how to with trauma wounds, Minor first aid injuries, using drugs/ drips, stabilise the casualty IOT safety move the casualty back to the A Ech or help other Medics at a Cleaning Station or during clinics at local villages etc. One last thing I also delivered two babies in East Timor, as I was only the only medic around be it a Combat Medic trained (note delivering babies wasn’t part of my Combat Medic Training) until the real medic’s turned up.

    So in my humble opinion, I don’t think it would be Vampire (Military slang for a Medic) running around battlefield kicking doors in and shooting up the place. Or else this person is in the wrong job for starters, as all the medic’s (Navy, Airforce and Army) I’ve come across or worked alongside do take their Red Cross, Geneva and LOAC obligations quite seriously which is more than I could say about some Medical NGO’s over the years.

  7. Christine says:

    Talk of honour may be the speech of poets. But had everyone in NZ read ‘Hit&Run’, in it are the seeds of possibility for transforming the NZDF.

    Similarly, ‘Dirty Politics’ could have helped cleanse our self-serving venal political mire of its smelly sociopaths.

    Both books were instead used as ammunition to vilify the authors.

    Rather than read the books, idiots believed a bigger idiot who did not even read them himself. Hell, we have a current MP in his 40’s who says that he’s only ever read 12 books. That’s part of the problem.

    “Hit&Run” shows the SAS as seemingly accountable to no-one.Shopping itself around – guess to whom – like a band of mercenaries – or a desperate whore – my words, not the author’s. The book should be read.

    NZDF personnel now telling their stories to Hager may be the groundswell to help clean it up. Couple of years ago I got an unusual telemarketing p/call from a guy who said he’d been Ron Mark’s parliamentary press secretary. He criticised Helen Clark, made assumptions about my opinion of her, and described Nicky Hager as a choir boy. It was a bona fide call – another marketeer from the electricity company concerned later pulled up my file and said that he was no longer with them.

    Lying, unfortunately was publicly normalised by the Key govt. A lot of bad stuff was. Hager’s information always checks out and he has revealed truly shocking behaviour in the NZDF. I hope the whistle-blowers are safe, and that they stay safe, and are well supported.

    • John W says:

      Christine.

      When NZ sent support soldiers to bolster the illegal war launched by the USA, Kiwis were told “our Boys” were a reconstruction team.
      Lies roll out of them.

      Sadam had weapons of mass destruction
      Lies roll out of them

      We have and independent foreign policy
      Lies roll out of them.

      • Christine says:

        Yes, John. But the lies here can’t be blamed on the NZDF, they start at govt level, and to some extent we all become part of an unacknowledged conspiracy until the Hagers and Pilgers et al are able to publish truths – and get crucified for it.

        And I have no doubt that our troops heading off overseas do so with the best of intentions.

        Afghanistan is just one of the many tragic countries serving as an arena for outsiders’ systemic self-serving agendas; these are human tragedies of horrific proportions, generations of ordinary people permanently terribly damaged, and sickeningly trivialised by the creatures who say that Nicky Hager should stop whining, Hager is a conspiracy theorist etc, and by other individuals up there in the Hindu Kush whose stature would suggest that they would be persons of integrity, simply failing to show any.

        It takes courage to go into battle- but the WW1 poets didn’t exactly write it that way – but it can also take courage to tell the truth; lots of us have learnt this the uncomfortable way while just growing up,and that we also have a moral obligation to ourselves,so how come so many individuals with life and death powers appear to be such craven gutless wonders ?

  8. Alex says:

    SAS soldiers who have specialist medical training are not medics, they are special forces soldiers with an additional skill set – other SAS supplementary skills sets in each small SAS operational team include demolitions, forward air control, signals etc. These soldiers don’t wear the red cross on their sleeve and they are combatants under the Geneva Convention.

    • Exkiwiforces says:

      Correct Alex, it’s all about the Cap Badge. In this case it’s safe to say this chicken straggler is a shooter with a secondary role as the Ptl Medic IAW Grp’s and the same goes for the Arm’s Corps TTP’s or in old money SOP’s.

      All is information is available from open sources and I would thought that Nicky would’ve crossed check the information before jumping to conclusions as there is a big difference from a Army Medic (The Blue Beret) to a Combat Medic which is a secondary role in a Arm’s Corp Unit who’s primary role is Combat aka Fighting henceforth they don’t wear the Red Cross etc.

  9. garibaldi says:

    Christine @ 11.55
    Very well expressed Christine, I couldn’t agree more.

  10. sumsuch says:

    Poor Nicky, having to read all that military bureaucratese. Anyone else’s eyeballs would have fizzled long since.

    Can’t believe the sexism was that bad given our culture. Tho’ that’s opposed to military culture. Why do people like us in our international expeditions? Our fairness, despite the 84 coup in favour of the powerful. That indicates respect for women. Or, just, much, much better than Australians.