Nothing the insurgents admitted today detracts from the fact that 21 civilians were wounded/killed


Nothing the insurgents admitted today – that they were near the village when attack helicopters turned up – detracts from the fact that 21 civilians were wounded/killed in an SAS revenge attack personally signed off by John Key.

Some on the right have attempted to hold up Jon Stephenson’s admission that insurgents acknowledge  they were in the vicinity of the attack as proof positive that Hager lied and has besmirched the reputation of our soldiers.

While it is true that there is clearly some bitter disagreement between Stephenson and Hager in terms of the journalistic standards used to write the book (The legal team for the Afghan villagers had no idea Stephenson was going to make this statement today), I think that journalistic difference of opinion between the two authors doesn’t in fact change a god damned thing.

The Right are trying to claim this little girl was an insurgent…

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…the book was wrong in the location and naming of one of the villages and after the book was published found out two of the insurgents were near the village when the attack begun. None of that detracts from the reason for the attack (a revenge attack), that it was personally signed off by the Prime Minister, that we called in an apache attack helicopter that killed and wounded 21 civilians and that we burnt the village down as pay back.

Trying to claim 2 wanted insurgents being near a village when SAS turned up somehow justifies what happened next is like trying to defend Police shooting dead & wounding 21 innocent people after the criminals run away from a crime scene.

The lengths some will go to paint Hager out as a bad faith actor and defend the actions of our own troops, even if those actions were war crimes, are extraordinary.


  1. oh yes, nothing like a literary “spat” to get people going–but of course it is way more than that–NZDF went to extraordinary lengths to nail Jon Stephenson previously and missed despite a huge legal line up and hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars spent.

    The cops went after Nicky Hager likely on political instruction and too failed. So the authorities want them bad.

    The NZDF is basically saying the villagers were classic collateral damage. Insurgents could have been hiding out there for a number of reasons like in any war zone. And there may have been mixed feelings among the villagers just like with collaborators and resistance in other conflicts.

    I agree with Martyn, this does not let NZDF of the hook at all re their revenge raid. Really it makes them look more opportunist and dishonest than before.

  2. All things considered, it is a war crimes. The Provincial Reconstruction team should never have been out into this situation in the first place with the legal protections they had. The Coalition Forces had an invite from the Afghan Government that was installed by coalition forces themselves. So the Afghan Government was okay with the US killing there own civilians. Again this is a situation our soilders should not have been put into.

  3. Interesting to know if there were any political directives involved in this incident. War is ugly and a lot of innocent bystanders get tangled up in these very messy affairs ?

    • Nearly everyone who comments on, ‘Hit&Run’ has not read it.

      Political directives ? Perhaps read this book – and, unfortunately it is not about an incident.

      It was prolonged activity over several days, including return trips to smash up at least one farmer’s house – and to burn one man’s one shelf of books.

      War is a very messy affair ? Innocent bystanders lying asleep in bed at dead of night, and dead next morning a messy affair ? Yes, I would say so. Wounded people left lying on the ground unhelped, and unattended, in pain, messy ? The dry alpine soil would soak up much of the blood.

      If ‘Hit&Run’ were regarded as the report that it is, instead of being referred to as a ‘book’, it could give a perspective to this tragedy which seems to be lacking in media comments.

      It is very easy for commentators to try and trivialise the actions of the SAS in Afghanistan as if it were all some minor echo from a remote past, but many of the NZDF themselves want this issue addressed, and they are good people.

      But given that we lead the world in battering and killing our own children and babies and women, then it may be a big ask to expect Kiwis to be concerned about what we do to others elsewhere – but we still have to obey the rules of war.

  4. Sadly, the days of accountability are long gone in New Zealand. Innocent people suffer because noone is prepared to say ‘ Sorry I/we stuffed up.’

  5. The NZDF handled this issue incredibly badly right from the beginning.
    Mistakes and unintended consequences are alway highly likely in war zones.
    The NZDF went into outright denial.
    As I recall their initial response was “We were not there, just in the neighbourhood”.

    Somewhere up the “chain of command” responsibility for denial and cover up should fall. As it is SAS footsloggers are going to cop all the blame.

  6. Warfare decisions, like any other decisions can have unintended consequences.

    The higher levels of the NZDF need to be held accountable, not just those on the ground.

    As I recall The DF response was something like “it was not us, we were not there”. This changed to “actually we were nearby,like in the next suburb, but it wasn’t us”.

    Ground troops react to what they see and their orders.

    Some remote desk driving brass hat(s) back in Wellington is (are) involved in blame denial.

  7. What astounds me most about all this, is that New Zealand troops in full body armor armed with machine guns and helicopter support stormed these hamlets to kill these insurgents and in doing so wrought terrible destruction and cost in innocent human lives, when an unarmed reporter was able to go into Afghanistan and simply go and talk to them.

    Maybe the SAS should have tried that first. Innocent lives could have been saved.

    Maybe they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

    In the same vein I see that the US is now holding talks with the Taliban.
    Maybe they should have tried that first 18 years ago instead of invading their country and overthrowing their government.

    The lesson here is that New Zealand armed forces should never again, in any capacity, be allowed to blindly rush off to support the next US bloodbath.

    Officials from the United States and Taliban representatives have held six rounds of direct talks since October in Qatar’s capital Doha in a bid to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

    The talks hope to preserve the post-2001 progress made in the country after the Taliban government was overthrown by a US-led military coalition for sheltering al-Qaeda, the group blamed for the 9/11 attacks.

    The Afghan government, however, is not involved in the talks as the armed group has refused to negotiate with it, deeming it illegitimate and a “puppet” of the US.

    After the latest round of negotiations with the Taliban ended on Thursday, the US envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad announced that “faster progress” was needed as “the conflict rages” and “innocent people die”.

    Analysts say peace has never been closer in Afghanistan since the talks with the US to resolve the conflict began.

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