Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The long road to Hit and Run

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    that raises legitimate concerns about institutional adoption of a culture of cleaning up messes in secret rather than the exposure-to-sunlight appropriate to the military of a democracy.

    Nicely phrased, thanks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Stephen R,

    Does the irony meter of anyone else trigger on this sentence? Or is it just me?

    Yep. My scepticism meter shot right off the scale.

    David Fisher has further confirmation that everyone in the SAS was aware of the civilian deaths, and the fact that "a number of those involved in the raid had received medals for their roles" sat uncomfortably with many.

    When the true facts were widely known, it beggars belief that various defense ministers and even the PM were kept in the dark. Which suggests that they may have been complicit in covering up a serious war crime.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1437 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Alfie,

    Which suggests that they may have been complicit in covering up a serious war crime.

    You cite to Fisher’s piece and then use that wording? Really? Killing non-combatants is a war crime if they’re killed despite it being known that they are non-combatants. From what Fisher describes, with a source who should be considered credible, the snipers engaged what they reasonably (in the circumstances) believed to be combatants. There are probably legitimate questions about their target validation, but that’s not the same as deliberately targeting non-combatants.

    What’s described is a cluster-fuck of confirmation-bias-gone-rogue (seeing people who intelligence says are combatants, behaving in a manner ascribed to combatants), rather than an active targeting of non-combatants. Which, unfortunately, happens in wartime. It’s one of the consequences of spec ops fighting largely in the dark. That doesn’t make it a war crime, though. The problem is not particularly that non-combatants were killed by mistake (and I have seen zero credible evidence to suggest otherwise), but that their deaths were covered up all the way up to the political civilian level. That is a real problem.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alfie,

    When the true facts were widely known, it beggars belief that various defense ministers and even the PM were kept in the dark. Which suggests that they may have been complicit in covering up a serious war crime.

    It's particularly stark in the printed paper this morning. Fish's story is on pp 1-2, facing the page 3 lead, English poo-pooing Mapp.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    You cite to Fisher’s piece and then use that wording? Really?

    My understanding is that nobody from the village was returning fire, which would surely have raised an immediate alarm within the SAS group. Note also that no weapons were discovered in the aftermath.

    But the soldier’s account also conflicted with claims in the book that the NZSAS were motivated by “revenge” over the death of O’Donnell.

    He said the NZSAS soldiers would have been “angry” over the death but “revenge” had no part to play in how they did their jobs.

    Then how do they explain the second raid several days later where our SAS used explosives to destroy the houses which were in the process of being rebuilt. Revenge wasn’t a motive? Sure thing.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1437 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Alfie,

    My understanding is that nobody from the village was returning fire, which would surely have raised an immediate alarm within the SAS group.

    Maybe it did. We have insufficient detail on that. It wasn't wholesale slaughter so someone stopped the shooting.

    Note also that no weapons were discovered in the aftermath.

    Well, yeah. There were no combatants there. But that's the detail you find out after you've attacked the wrong people, not before.

    Then how do they explain the second raid several days later where our SAS used explosives to destroy the houses which were in the process of being rebuilt. Revenge wasn’t a motive? Sure thing.

    Actually, if they believed insurgents were going to be using it as a base of operations, that's a prudent tactical decision.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to ,

    It’s a stupid tactical decision if you can think beyond your own immediate interests.

    Maybe, maybe not. Neither you nor I has the first idea about the understanding of the tactical situation on the ground at the time.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to ,

    No, we don't. Not really. They can editorialise about what it might have been, but they weren't there. The people who know the understanding of the tactical situation on the ground at the time are the officers who were there at the time. Nobody else.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    No, we don’t. Not really. They can editorialise about what it might have been, but they weren’t there. The people who know the understanding of the tactical situation on the ground at the time are the officers who were there at the time. Nobody else.

    Can I take it you've read Nicky Hager's book then? The bulk of the information was gleaned from SAS people who were on the ground, during the raid. And from detailed research conducted on the ground by Jon Stephenson.

    To describe this meticulous journalism as editorialisation is disingenuous at best.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1437 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Alfie,

    To describe this meticulous journalism as editorialisation is disingenuous at best.

    No, haven't read the book. But my specific comment related to conveying the overall understanding of the tactical situation as it related to the wisdom of a decision to demolish houses.

    And Hager is known for his editorialising. Informed editorialising, to be sure, but still editorialising. Unless he explicitly asked officers about their tactical (and strategic) knowledge and understanding of the wider situation, and relayed nothing more than their responses, it's still editorialising.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    ...it’s still editorialising.

    Let's see. John Key, Bill English, former defence ministers Jonathan Coleman and Wayne Mapp (the latter has since recanted) and a few other Nats are furiously spinning this story as a mere conspiracy. We can hardly expect Gerry Brownlee to vary from the party line when he returns from playing soldiers in Afghanistan.

    On the other hand a number of SAS troops who were present at the scene have spoken to Nicky Hager and David Fisher and say that's not true. Writing in the Herald Isaac Davison quotes two military sources as saying:

    "They knew they had committed an atrocity."

    "it was definitely a revenge raid".

    Mapp is on record describing the raid as "our biggest and most disastrous operation". The book states that he called the raid "a fiasco".

    This is an important story and demonstrates excellent work from some of NZ's most highly respected journalists.

    Then today RNZ is reporting that human rights lawyer Deborah Manning along with Rodney Harrison QC and Richard McLeod have agreed to represent the residents of the two villages that were raided.

    Playing devil's advocate has its place, Matthew. But unless you apply a decent measure of common sense, you run the risk of ending up on the wrong side of history.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1437 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    Matthew. If you are serious about this discussion you really need to read the book, as I have done. My twitter point, to you and other scoffers who probably didn't check #HitandRunNZ, was that I was tweeting page numbers and points from the book. Editorializing and supposition without reading the book is wearing thin. I can't think of a single point you have raised, including the tactical and strategic questions (not to mention the problem with having a politically powerful war-lobbying SAS) that hasn't been covered in the book. QED.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    It was the Reconstruction Team that had been attacked a number of times with one of their personnel killed.

    It wouldn't have made any sense to allow that risk to continue. There's no way one would expect people to be building infrastructure if they weren't provided with adequate protection.

    Characterising that as revenge seems to be a bit of a judgement call.

    Not that that justifies what took place just that some action against those attacking the PRT was called for.

    Since Nov 2016 • 380 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Neil,

    Attacking the wrong people, and demolishing their houses, is such a perfect fit for a reconstruction team's work, and is absolutely guaranteed to make them safer while doing that work. Nah. It was such ill-considered overkill that it has to be classed as revenge.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1940 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Colin Peacock examines media coverage of Hit and Run on this morning's Mediawatch. Those of us who don't follow right wing pundits like Hosking and Leighton Smith might be surprised at the disservice NewstalkZB offers its listeners by providing both men with a platform to spout world class ignorance and misinformation.

    I'd recommend listening to the full version of the programme if you can, as the top of the story is unfortunately missing on the shorter clip.

    Kudos to Mediawatch for producing consistently excellent journalism in an increasingly Breitbartish world.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1437 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/327488/afghan-raids-nzdf-rubbishes-claims-in-book-hit-and-run

    Lieutenant General Tim Keating said New Zealand troops never operated in the two villages, Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, which are named in the book.

    The statement said the authors appeared to have confused interviews, stories and anecdotes from locals with an operation conducted two kilometres to the south, known as Operation Burnham, which focussed on a town called Tirgiran.

    It said the villages in the Hager and Stephenson book and the settlement which was the site of Operation Burnham were separated by a mountainous and difficult terrain.

    "The ISAF investigation determined that a gun sight malfunction on a coalition helicopter resulted in several rounds falling short, missing the intended target and instead striking two buildings.

    "This investigation concluded that this may have resulted in civilian causalities but no evidence of this was established," Lieutenant Keating said.

    Also:

    In the letter responding to the Human Rights Foundation's request, the Defence Force chief of staff Ross Smith also said NZDF did not have a copy of the official investigation by the Afghanistan Ministry of Defence and the International Security Assistance Force into the raids.

    That is truly beyond belief.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to nzlemming,

    That is truly beyond belief.

    And shameful. Nicky Hager easily demolished the NZDF's latest spin on Morning Report.

    It was a different operation, with the same name, at the same time, on the same night, but 2km away?

    Seriously? When you're in a hole, it's best to stop digging. Let's see if Bill English & Co attempt to repeat the NZDF lies today.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1437 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    I spoke too soon. English also appeared on Morning Report attempting to continue the spin of "unfounded allegations". It's looking like a coordinated defense was planned yesterday, according to this Stuff report.

    English, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Tim Keating met on Sunday afternoon to discuss allegations raised by Hit and Run.

    Hager's suggestion that the SAS have virtually taken over our Defence Force holds water. Note that Keating is a former NZSAS Commanding Officer who has served in Afghanistan.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1437 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Alfie,

    Those of us who don't follow right wing pundits like Hosking and Leighton Smith might be surprised

    .. at being fed snippets of their proud ignorance on RNZ. Yuck.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Here's a very good overview of the facts so far from Dave Armstrong in the DomPost.

    ...if Hager's only motive is money then surely he would have co-written it with Lorde or Richie McCaw rather than the lesser-known, though internationally respected, journalist Jon Stephenson?

    Nicholas Jones reports that an inquiry is unlikely.

    English told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning that an inquiry into any of the claims was "unlikely", now the NZ Defence Force had told him its troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book Hit & Run.

    Expect Hoskings to repeat the party line. Nothing to see here folks... moving right along.

    Also in the Herald and following three years of battling with the OIA, David Fisher reports what appears to be yet another NZDF coverup... Our faulty war: the Afghanistan report they fought to keep secret.

    A damning NZ Defence Force report on our largest commitment to Afghanistan is hugely critical of politicians and senior commanders, along with many other aspects of our decade-long deployment to the country.

    But it was shelved after being deemed "insufficiently accurate", a decision made by a commander who oversaw one of New Zealand's six-month deployments to the country.

    There's that SAS connection again.

    While Key is implicated in the failed raid, Bill English has had clean hands until now. Why he would choose to become part of the cover-up in an election year is anyone's guess.

    This story is too important to brush under the carpet.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1437 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Here's a cynical variation on John Key's multiple hats sleight of hand from David Fisher's story.

    Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee refused to be interviewed about New Zealand's time in Afghanistan, as did his predecessor Jonathan Coleman and generals at the NZDF.

    Brownlee - whose job it is to guide the military's path - said: "I became Minister of Defence quite some time after the last deployment left Afghanistan so I haven't handled issues relating to the Provincial Reconstruction Team."

    Coleman, who was minister during the time the eight personnel died in Bamiyan, said he wouldn't comment because he was no longer minister.

    Passing the Defence Minister's hat.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1437 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Alfie,

    Note that Keating is a former NZSAS Commanding Officer

    As I pointed out last week he's one of at least three senior officers across the Army/NZDF who have held the post of CO NZSAS, and the highest-ranking enlisted soldier is also a former member of the Regiment (though not an operator).

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Alfie,

    But it was shelved after being deemed “insufficiently accurate”, a decision made by a commander who oversaw one of New Zealand’s six-month deployments to the country.

    There’s that SAS connection again.

    Que? The officer in question was either Air Vice-Marshall Kevin Short, who by definition of his branch of service could not have been a member of NZSAS, or Major General Tim Gall who has no listed service with NZSAS in his biography.

    ETA: From the article:
    OIA material supplied shows it was “drafted” in early 2014 and then “shelved” by the Commander Joint Forces “at the time”.

    The Commander Joint Forces until March 2014 was Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short, currently Vice Chief of Defence Force, commander of Crib 9 of the PRT in Bamiyan from July 2006 for six months.

    He was succeeded by the current Commander Joint Forces, Major-General Tim Gall, who was the Land Component Commander at the time the review was “drafted” and directly responsible for our deployment to Bamiyan.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    Jon Stephenson provides a detailed rebuttal of Keating & co at the Spin-Off website.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to simon g,

    After reading that, I think some comms idiot gave Keating appalling advice. JS makes it clear that the two villages named in the book are part of the area that Keating names. Someone's in trouble at NZDF...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

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