Why the NZDF ruling matters


Operation Burnham: What happened with the SAS during a deadly incursion in Afghanistan

A civilian child was killed during Operation Burnham in 2010, but an inquiry has found their death was justified under international law.

Four others died, but the Burnham Inquiry couldn’t determine if they were civilians or insurgents.

So let me see if I can get this completely straight.

The NZDF, after having John Key sign off an a revenge attack for the death of a NZ soldier, oversaw an operation that allowed civilian deaths because of an American Attack helicopter displaying all the restraint their domestic police force does when killing unarmed black civilians in their own country and then the NZDF proceeded to lie, manipulate and deceive every attempt to uncover the truth.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Comparing the ruling to the Hit and Run book it inspired, Nicky Hager makes the following comments…

Ultimately this ruling demands answers to the bigger issue that is clearly in front of us here.

Who does the NZ military answer to?

The NZDF frustrated every attempt by the civilian Government to uncover what the fuck had happened, AFTER the NZDF had sought legal sign off from then Prime Minister, John Key.

The NZDF used the civilian Government to indemnify their actions and then did everything in their power to deceive and manipulate the civilian Government when we attempted to find out what had actually happened.

This isn’t the way a Military is supposed to behave in a bloody Democracy!

State violence with military grade hardware is the most coercive power the State has, that is why in a Democracy the Military has to answer to the civilian Government – that’s the check and balance to that level of State power, yet in this case the NZDF did all it could to deceive those requests for the truth.

The inquiry finds no conspiracy to purposely white wash these deaths, but the defence mounted by the NZDF to explain why secret evidence was locked away in a safe and the incredulous explanations as to how their investigating officer misinterpreted an offical report which he was reading over the shoulder of another Officer are just simply not believable.

They lied, they lied again and then continued lying and their explanation for why they lied is simply not credible and everyone reading the report knows it.

Why does anyone believe what the NZDF has to say? They’ve spent years lying to NZ, they attempted to smear Jon Stephenson and they were outed last year using the SIS to illegally spy on Nicky Hager.

This entire fiasco shows how little actual control over our own armed forces we have.

Heads should be rolling. This is atrocious and a stain on our collective honour.

We may have gone to Afghanistan under some false pretence that we were stabilising a proto-democracy, but our involvement has brought terrible dishonour on our military, our military leaders, our political leaders and ultimately as us as a people.

We didn’t pull the triggers that killed those civilians, but we ordered it and we involved Americans whose nuance in war is as grim as it is for their domestic policing.

This ugly incident is a moment of collective shame and a reminder of why being dragged into other peoples wars is a recipe for abuse.


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  1. When one has done something bad, it is usual to apologize to the person or people who have been wronged. In this case, firstly the Afghan villagers of Tirgiran who were the victims of the action and the cover up, and secondly, the people of New Zealand who the NZDF consistently lied to over a period of three years, and thirdly the journalists, Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager who revealed the truth and who the NZDF set out to systematically defame and destroy.
    But the head of the NZDF apologised to none of these. Why not? Because Jon Stephenson, Nicky Hager, the people of Afghanistan and the people of New Zealand are the perceived enemy of the NZDF, and one should never apologise to the enemy. Instead, Air Marshal Short apologised to the members, friends and collaborators of the NZDF. He had, he confesses, let them down.
    Now we might think that he had let them down by lying, dissembling, plotting and scheming over a period of many years.
    Or we might think that he was apologising for failing to succeed in his mission to deceive.
    I think the latter is the case. The pattern of deception, far from being over, has been ramped up a notch. The NZDF is now saying “We don’t do bad things. Except this once, bad things happened. Then over a period of many years we tried to cover up what happened, and to punish those who were telling the truth. Now, finally, we have been forced to concede wrong-doing. But this is not us. We do not normally behave like this”.
    That plea would be given short shrift in any court of law. So many lines have been crossed over such a long period of time that it is vain to say that this behaviour was in any way out of character for the NZDF. An army that adheres to the rule of law may lapse or transgress on occasion. But when that happens, it’s immediate reaction will be to investigate, punish the wrong-doers, remedy the offence and compensate the victims.
    The NZDF took the path of an organisation which is well used to concealing crimes. The harsh truth is that murder and torture are the modus operandi of the NZDF. It is a very nasty, brutal organisation which would be a disgrace to the people of New Zealand if they had any degree of democratic control over its actions. But they do not. The NZDF is a law unto itself. It takes instruction from its Five Eyes “partners” and not at all from the people of New Zealand, whom it treats as an unreliable or even hostile force.
    So the NZDF is beyond reform. It is an evil which must be destroyed.

    • I agree with you Geoff
      The only thing unusual about this tiny piece of the ongoing war in Afghanistan (and everywhere else the US is making war) is that Nicky Hager chose to do a forensic search of it.
      This is what war is . Against “insurgents” (who have lived in the area for as many generations as history can record) determined to protect their homes and livelihoods.
      The constant use of that term “insurgents” as a constant lie in itself by which we all should realise that the whole of any war story that is using it is bound to be false. It is us who are the insurgents in Afghanistan. And everywhere else we follow the US into to save from their elected government and rescue them from their natural resources.
      D J S

    • A very worthwhile summary Geoff and your conclusions are not only fair but probably understated.
      Insurgents may well be natives of the area who may or may not have been resisting the invading forces.
      As far as I can tell NZ has never declared war on Afghanistan so what the hell is this aggression towards folk in a foreign land.
      The USA may not care about human rights and sovereign nations borders but NZ has no place being a lap dog breaking international laws and assisting illegal invasion and subjugation of Afghan civilians or soldiers defending their homes.
      Since the USA has been in Afghanistan, for nearly 19 years, they have fostered record opium poppy crops and there is evidence the opium trade is through American channels. The Taliban had stopped the growing of opium poppy crops.
      NZ is covertly supporting US occupation and the opiate damage done by these crops world wide.

      It seems obvious that NZ Defence is taking orders from US command. Is this John Keys doing or has it been the case since WWII.
      So how much of our parliamentarians and senior public servants are also under US direction.
      Remember the TTTP the public were not allowed to see or know the details of before it was signed.

  2. Whereas I’m less sure a witch hunt in these circumstances is helpful.
    It’s extremely sad civilians were killed.
    War is hell, we send our soldiers in to harms way for political reasons good and bad, civilians get hurt in wartime.

    We sit comfortably at home and complain of the injustices being done to enable our lifestyle.

    Where is the witch hunt for kiwi bomber pilots in the bombing of Dresden? Many more civilian deaths there.

    • What a tosh led, failed attempt at distraction! 1st the strawman – you call a reasonable inquiry from kiwis into what the overgrown ninnies attracted to ‘the army life’ were getting up to in the name of all of us, the citizens of Aotearoa, ‘a witch hunt’ yet you provide no evidence of this.

      In fact if you know the history of this issue you would already be aware that Hager & Stevenson only made a public issue of the murders after they had attempted to get at the truth via official channels for years & were met with deliberate deceit – lies time and time again.

      Any unwarranted negatives are totally the fault of the army & defence department who chose lying & prevarication ahead of the truth which they are constitutionally bound to tell.
      As for the ludicrous furphy, that shout out to unreason about Dresden, once a fool tries to connect an issue to irrelevancies we know he/she is acknowledging their idiocy with one last attempt at diversion.
      The blokes who were ordered to bomb Dresden are long dead so what else can this piss weak attempt to shift the discussion be, other than a worthless attempt at clouding the issue.
      Study a little rhetoric before you have to wipe mud off your nose again.

    • For goodness sake stupid buggers going into the army. The endless lies from the defence force. I knew as soon as Keating resigned that he knew at least some of the truth would come out. I do not sit comfortably at home while they do this shit. I am horrified by it all. We are so tied up with the Yanks and all their dumb wars.

    • Right on Keepcalm.

      And we who have never had invading armies rape our women and murder of kin.
      We who send troops to foreign field at the behest of America to deliver freedom and democracy denied Chlesea Manning and Julian Assange – and spend days off in bars and brothels.

      Helen Clark had it right when she was PM : An independent foreign policy.
      So! The sooner Winston is out of the foreign affairs chair – and hopefully not Ambassador in Washington, the sooner NZ might start putting its international interests FIRST.
      That means trade which means jobs back home and that, mean Hello China.

    • Keepccarryon – You must be the only New Zealander to read “Hit&Run”, and then describe what happened at Naik and Khak Khuday Dad as a mere injustice. Shame.

      You must be the only New Zealander to read “Hit&Run” and then sit comfortably at home afterwards.Shame.

      But you are certainly not the first person to justify war for enabling your lifestyle.Shame.

      Don’t think that spouting “war is hell”, or referring to “our” soldiers, makes you look in any way simpatico or decent. Big miss.

      • Forgive my amusement at the actual flagellation in your post.
        I think you are reading my post wrong but never mind, puritans gotta Puritan.

  3. Hear hear …….and the 95+% of NZ media (that are owned by right wing big money) say???????
    TraitorKey yet again screwing NZ !! Well done all you idiotic moronic red necks that voted for him and his corrupt Natz

  4. Agree 100%. Thanks for emphasing what liars they all are, so did I on my Facebook posting on this. I asked if NZ males will ever stop lying. It’s inter-generational in my white milieu – intelligent and educated so-called men accommodating lies as mere bagatelles, a comfortable convenience. Couple of months ago a high ranking rtd naval officer chided me about ‘that Nicky Hager’ having the nerve to criticise the NZDF.

    NZDF didn’t attempt to smear Stephenson, they did smear him, and I think it took two separate legal actions for them to retract. Key also labelled Stephenson a liar, without offering any evidence. The NZDF Stephenson payout and apology are meaningless in terms of stress and reputational damage – mud sticks, fairly or not.

    Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’ was published three years prior to ‘Hit & Run’, and by and large had little impact, with Key successfully labelling Hager a conspiracy theorist; it suited fawning media generally, to go along with the glib man’s verbal dribblings.

    I don’t know what effect Hager’s ‘Other People’s Wars’ had in 2011, but with John Key and his cohorts extricating themselves fairly easily from the slime and stench exposed by ‘Dirty Politics’ in 2014, they may have assumed that they’d get away with it again in 2017; we owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the good people who campaigned for an investigation into the events in the Tirgiran Valley.

    ‘Hit&Run’ is a well referenced, patently well researched, well documented, easy read, albeit a truly shocking one. I will never forget reading it the week it came out, immediately rereading it, finishing on Saturday evening, then going online and seeing that the little pipsqueak from Dipton had travelled up to Auckland to see an Adele concert. Plumbing the shallows per usual.

    Wayne Mapp had to make a few admissions, as he’s already on record as describing it as a fiasco. Jerry Mateparae watched it all, at least on that first black night raid, in real time; I always assumed that’s why he got his knighthood, g-generalship, ambassadorship etc – mouth buttoning.

    Compensation yes, but again, the two main villages may not even still exist. At the time the SAS Apache helicopters did their terrifying Dresden-bombing-dead-of-night pitch, the peasants’ humble dwellings were occupied primarily by the elderly, with women and children. Some of the women left, unable to never to return; God knows the impact on the children – but children are often collatoral damage for the missteps of adults- even up in the beautiful remote Hindu Kush. Shame.

  5. The invasion of Afghanistan is a war of aggression. The Nuremburg convention says all participants in such a war are war criminals including NZ soldiers. If there were a higher enforcing power they’d all be in the dock not least kiwi military.

  6. +100 great Post !…and why cant we be truthful about war?….and what courageous men Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson are for insisting on the truth!

  7. I really do wonder as to the pre keyboard beverages some of your commenters ingest.
    It seems to generate irrational and factually incorrect statements.
    But enough of that.
    The armchair warriors amongst you. Sitting in a comfortable relaxed environment have no idea of the situation whether in informal warfare/combat conditions(ie Afganistan) and seem to think that everthing is perfect every time.
    Sorry to say. Just like some police situations. Time to contemplate, reflect and consider appropriate actions is not a luxury front line people(yes they are humans like the rest of us) have at their disposal.

    While I agree that the seat shiners in Defence headqaurtesr are to blame for obfusication.

    I would expect the authors of this book will also admit that they “”got some things”” wrong!
    Yep they are human beings as well.

    • Indeed.
      I have respect for the authors of the book for real journalism, and we need it but what’s the goal here, to make our armed forces as scared of fallout at home as they are of the enemy they fight?
      How is that in the national interest or are we just out to destroy more live? It’s pretty trendy with the woke at the moment.

      Our existence as an independent nation and the reason we arent speaking Japanese is only thanks to thousands of American lives, we hid behind the skirts of America through the Cold War while playing politics at home with nuclear free. But now America bad.
      How ironic is it these brave keyboard warriors here decrying our armed forces -who are just doing the best they can- would be the last to answer the call to fight for their country and they still know best about what’s morally right.
      Oh to be a hair shirted leftie and be so virtuous.

      • Kpcalmcarry – Many of the brave keyboard warriors whom you decry, are serving or ex-serving NZDF personnel who have communicated with Nicky Hager and/or Jon Stephenson. I would not describe them as scared people, nor should you see the issues as personal attacks on the soldiers who were not calling the tune; you are confusing the issues with the players; people function at different levels.

        The answers to your questions are to be found in , “Hit&Run”, or the Sermon on the Mount.

        Your love for the USA is yours – and I’ve not known an unpleasant American on their own home soil- but again, I rather think that the heroic contribution of the Russian people to the defeat of Nazism in WW11 played a big role in NZ remaining more or less independent post that time.

        There are ‘virtuous’ people of every colour and creed right here in New Zealand, and you err in assuming that ‘the right’ have no concern with moral issues – not all are licentious Libertarians running around Parliament grounds at night looking for skirts like Roger Youknowwho RIP.

        It’s quite interesting that Hager’s folk originally hail from Austria, just like John Key’s,
        but whereas Hager is patently a good man, I rather think that Key would be insulted to be described as such – the word simply aint in his lexicon.

        But the dialogue triggered by the NZDF Inquiry findings has shed some light for me, on why so many Kiwis like PM Ardern – she’s seen as a good woman – and we’re not used to that; it might be better not to disparage or categorise it – anything can be channelled for the greater good -even virtue.

      • Our existence as an independent nation and the reason we arent speaking Japanese is only thanks to thousands of American lives,

        New Zealand soldiers don’t count to you? (My uncle lost his life fighting them; my mum never really shook off her grief at the loss.)

        We are not in a World War now. The fighting in the M.E. is nothing to do with “defending our shores” for example.

        • Not sure how you got that from my post Kheala.
          What I’m saying is “we” are being hypocrites hiding behind the safety of other nations or soldiers including our own and taking potshots at them because war is messy.
          How incredible our freedom to discuss these things, won by the sacrifices of imperfect brave soldiers in messy wars overseas.

          My grandfather flew planes for the RAAF against the Japanese in Australia but it was mainly the American naval victories in the Coral sea and Midway that swung the pacific war. Not many kiwis in the pacific theatre.

          • Thanks, KC&CO. I do agree with much of what you are saying there.

            and… the situation could arise again where we (AO/ NZ) get ourselves into trouble and look to some of our longtime allies for similar kinds of help.

    • I would expect the authors of this book will also admit that they “”got some things”” wrong!

      They have but they were so very minor!

  8. Just two of them that were named are still in the force I think. Their heads should definitely roll. But there will be lots of others that knew and did nothing!

    The NZ government should have to shell out dosh to people who lived in that village any reparation would be good.

    • Michal – “But there will be lots of others that knew and did nothing!”

      In the week or two following ‘Hit&Run’ being published, two separate tradies told me they had mates in the NZDF, who’d been sworn to secrecy about happened up in the Tirigan Valley. It’s a hell of a position to be put in, and heavy burden of guilt for some to carry, so Hager and Stephenson have done them a favour too. I think a support group was set up specifically for those ex-Afghanistan soldiers up around Porirua way – voluntarily, by a veteran; “our soldiers” can be the ones who come home… go up north… top themselves, not the John Key’s screaming like fishwives for other people’s kids to get some guts and go where the USA beckons.

      • the John Key’s screaming like fishwives for other people’s kids to get some guts and go where the USA beckons.

        And then to dishonour those men who gave their lives, to stick it to them even in death, by choosing instead to hop off to watch his precious son’s precious baseball game in the US rather than to attend the memorial.

        (and they knighted the bugger???????????????????)

      • ” not the John Key’s screaming like fishwives for other people’s kids to get some guts and go where the USA beckons ”
        Yes Snow White i remember that appalling performance in parliament by Key and how it was ” marketed by the MSM ” that somehow yelling ” get some guts ” made him an exemplary leader yet had he had real courage he would never had to lie or cover up serious crimes and told the country the truth and faced the consequences.
        That’s my interpretation of guts.

        • OMG I remember that performance too! Sickening from one so spineless so cowardly so utterly vile. A slithering, serpentine, lying, sneering, slime ball. You forget these days despite the pandemic how truly destructive Key’s leadership was.

          • Key’s fury frightened people that day. English bent his head reading (but we now know what bent-head Southlanders might be doing); the nondescript pollie sitting behind Key looked really scared. Key showed how ugly he can be, but we didn’t need telling.

  9. Afghanistan is rich in fossil fuel resources. Natural gas, oil and coal are present in commercial quantities. Metal resources include copper, chromite, lead, zinc and iron ore. Industrial minerals include talc, barite, sulfur, salt, precious and semiprecious gemstones.

  10. Interesting exposure.

    Deep in the Forest – of police or military – similar outcomes.

    How did this ‘exposure’ happen, given the compliance requirements of survival midst the minders of our security and salvation?

    I had a few sessions with Wayne Mapp when this matter was dissected.
    I also hosted Jim Blackwell to diner at Botswana.
    Interesting contributions.
    I must write a book one day.

    Meanwhile for exposure of corruption in the police and politics try; Out Of the Inferno.
    As Christ Trotter commented: The only way Meurant can tell the truth is to write fiction”

    Or, are you afraid of the light? (to quote Plato).

  11. It was a typical event of the times. The US just executed whoever they wanted without trial. And NZ was under control of Shonkey and the gang who just kowtowed to the CIA as long as Shonkey got to tee off with POTUS (=Obama) and looked so good golfing on the whirled stage. They were sick times where men like Dotcom had their houses invaded (at Shonkey’s command) with helicopters, armed men and meanies and their obsessions impounded at the request of the USA) because it was the request of US big IT noters who didn’t like what Dotcom was doing, wanted him gone, and were funding Hillary Clinton. Sick times and we are well rid of them. Dirty politics. Rule Jacinda!

  12. Awesome comments. Thanks to you all Geoff, David, debisdead, Snowwhite. Makes me feel real good to hear such heartfelt empathy.

  13. It all comes back to two simple facts. John Key SIGNED OFF on this !! and his government and the NZDF suppressed the truth.
    Hagar and Stevenson risked a great deal to investigate and release this appalling crime and cover up.
    Any New Zealander that believes a child’s life is precious should be rightly outraged and seriously concerned that our people have been involved in this at the highest level.

  14. One day, Nicky Hager’s books could be texts in our schools’ history classes. Other People’s Wars is one such.
    Other People’s Wars is about the importance of accountability. It demonstrates that the New Zealand Defence Force’s actions in foreign theatres have been presented differently to the New Zealand public and government from how they have been described internally. Scoop, Other Peoples Wars

  15. Not only NZ, there’s a clear pattern over many years of Special Forces Units operating as autonomous units, accountable to no-one. The real danger of Forces that think they’re not accountable to their elected civil society is that the West can then claim no moral high ground as it tries to speak for human rights & democracy.

    I won’t bother with the USA, who’s long history of conflict abuse speaks for itself, as does their refusal to ratify their membership of the ICC. https://www.google.co.nz/search?source=hp&ei=ZA0mX6agHICc4-EPls6k4A4&q=usa+refusal+to+ratify+war+crime&oq=usa+refusal+to+ratify+war+crime&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQAzIHCCEQChCgAToFCAAQsQM6CAguELEDEIMBOggIABCxAxCDAToFCC4QsQM6AggAOgoIABCxAxBGEIICOgcIABCxAxAKOgIILjoKCC4QsQMQChCTAjoECAAQCjoECAAQDToGCAAQDRAeOgYIABAWEB46CAgAEBYQChAeOggIABAIEA0QHjoICCEQFhAdEB46BAghEBVQ2xRYmFdg02FoAXAAeACAAZkCiAGiL5IBBjAuMjUuNpgBAKABAaoBB2d3cy13aXqwAQA&sclient=psy-ab&ved=0ahUKEwim4uiOpvvqAhUAzjgGHRYnCewQ4dUDCAc&uact=5




    Anyone who’s read the history of say the last couple of hundred years knows the West shouldn’t have gone into Afghanistan in the first place because it wouldn’t solve anything.

    • Robbie – The SAS’s lack of accountability is addressed in ‘Hit&Run’ – if you’ve not read it – as is their shopping themselves around like mercenaries – fairly big tax payer dollars spent in search of wars.

      If I recall correctly, there were USA trips, proffering the sort of lavish hospitality probably first publicly seen here in New Zealand with the creation of the SOE’s in the late 80’s, when ostentation and vulgarity became the gods of a public service whose values were totally rewritten, crazily.

      Like Kheala, I think Hager’s books could be a valuable educational resource, but wonder now why I bought,’Hit&Run’ in the first place – so much has haunted me about it – and these guys are not emotive writers.

      But having read ‘Hit&Run’, I simply do not see how someone like Bill English, even with half a brain, could read it and fail to recognise its essential truth, and I appreciate that cerebral Geoffrey Palmer was on the Inquiry; Justice Arnold looked ok too.

  16. …”could be texts in our schools’ history classes.” SHOULD be now! When HART was formed long before the ’81 Tour Trevor Richards came and spoke at our school assembly. We were allowed time off school to go on protest marches against the Vietnam War. But that was the ’70’s. How NZ has changed.


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