OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Other People's Wars

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  • George Darroch,

    Ah fuck it, enough of the reserved moral equivalence, and failing to pass judgment til knowing all the facts. I'm going to come down on the side of harsh condemnation of all those who've expressed non-concern today. Not having followed the media extensively, my list has only two people on it. Mr Key, and Mr Goff.

    ‎"It is important that we do not mistake this as necessary operational security. The result of the PR strategies was shutting the media and public out of information about the wars and closing down discussion about New Zealand being part of an increasingly confused, counter-productive and ultimately failing war."

    As one of the people interviewed is quoted in the book saying,


    ‘People assume that politicians make decisions, but often they’re busy, ill-informed or actively excluded.... The worst decisions were made by senior officials and military officers, often without [the ministers’] knowledge’ — senior New Zealand government official'"

    "The public servants (military and civilian) seemed to believe they could go to war but only had to tell the public and politicians the things that suited them. When they see what is revealed in the book, politicians from all parties should be very unhappy at being misled and sidelined," Nicky Hager said. "The book reveals a military and foreign affairs bureaucracy that need to be brought under control."

    Press release.

    If even the prospect of having an army going to war, without the permission of Parliament, without the knowledge of the Prime Minister, and hidden from Cabinet does not overly concern the PM or Leader of the Opposition, then they don't deserve their fucking jobs.

    Or, maybe Mr Hager just made it all up. Maybe the documents are fake along with the interviews, and the whole thing is just an extremely inventive creative writing exercise. If so: give him a Booker Prize.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Duane Griffin, in reply to George Darroch,

    If even the prospect of having an army going to war, without the permission of Parliament, without the knowledge of the Prime Minister, and hidden from Cabinet does not overly concern the PM or Leader of the Opposition, then they don’t deserve their fucking jobs.

    It seems more likely to me that Key, Goff, the Cabinet and pretty much anyone else who cared knew at least roughly what was going on. If they were mislead then it was because they wanted to be. Their crimes are willful blindness and complicity in misleading the public rather than incompetence and gullibility. The response so far is in keeping with that.

    Use of the NZ military and intelligence services seems to me to be one area where both major parties are in substantial agreement and largely at odds with the wider public.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    Problem: the US wants us in their pet war and the people here don't. Normal enough, the people in the US don't want the wars either.

    Solution: send our regional team of murder specialists over, with strict orders to not murder anyone. Wink, wink, nudge nudge. Like those English paratroopers sent to Northern Ireland back in the day.

    Requirements: orders not to murder anyone, plenty of murdering, and confirmation that no one is murdering anyone. Lots of winking, guided tours for the tame journalists, guided missiles for the native ones.

    No problem. Quite why anyone expects the corporate media to tell us different escapes me. They never do that, not unless someone high up in the bureaucracy has an axe to grind, as one does here for some reason.

    Since Nov 2006 • 480 posts Report Reply

  • Paul G. Buchanan,

    Having read some extended exceprts of the book, which is richly documented, I am not surprised that the collaboration between the NZDF and GCSB and the US and UK counterparts was much more extensive than publicly revealed. But the deliberate misleading or obfuscation by the NZDF and GCSB brass to the civilian political leadership on what exactly its personnel were doing in Afghanistan strikes at the heart of democratic civil-military relations and should be cause for serious alarm because it is evidence of praetorian tendencies within the security apparatus. That is anethema to democratic accountability and governance.

    There is a saying in the intel business that some things are too important to be left to politicians. In order to reconcile the need for operational secrecy with democratic accountability, security leaders brief the civilian leadership on the broad generalities of the mission without getting into specifics unless the latter ask for them. This allows the civilian authorities to practice plausible deniability if things hit the fan, which in turn permits the security leadership to make excuses based on mission creep, rogue elements, etc.

    Either the NZDF and GCSB leaders did this and the politicians played (and are playing) along, or they lied. I am hoping that the former is the case. But the fact that Hager was given reams of govt documents and other sensitive material, coupled with his use of confidental informants, suggests that all is not well within the ranks of these two agencies (to which we can add the SIS leaks about the suspected Israeli spies).

    I guess we can be thankful that Mr. Hager did not uncover evidence of NZ involvement in illegal rendition, black sites and sending people to Guantanamo Bay. But then again, perhaps this is only the tip of the iceberg. One thing is certain: there is a culture of impunity within certain sectors of the foreign policy and security community that sees public concerns about NZ's acitivities in those areas as a small nuisance on the way to currying favor with larger partners (hence the emphasis on PR spin). That much is amply evident in the book.

    Singapore/NZ • Since Apr 2011 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to tussock,

    Solution: send our regional team of murder specialists over, with strict orders to not murder anyone. Wink, wink, nudge nudge. Like those English paratroopers sent to Northern Ireland back in the day.

    Requirements: orders not to murder anyone, plenty of murdering, and confirmation that no one is murdering anyone. Lots of winking, guided tours for the tame journalists, guided missiles for the native ones.

    From both a strict legal viewpoint and a common-usage one, repeated use of the word "murder" here is...not entirely accurate.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to George Darroch,

    George, you state:

    In this context, the knowledge that the NZDF is acting in an aggressive capacity, well outside its stated mandate is open insider knowledge, but nobody feels like challenging the government on misleading the public. Except Nicky Hager.

    What evidence do you have on this? The trouble is every one labels missions like Afghanistan (and early Timor Leste) as peace keeping missions when in fact they are peace-enforcement missions.

    Sorry but Hager is looking like a twat using ill-informed snippets to come up with wild assertions e.g. command relationships.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to George Darroch,

    .

    If even the prospect of having an army going to war, without the permission of Parliament, without the knowledge of the Prime Minister, and hidden from Cabinet does not overly concern the PM or Leader of the Opposition, then they don’t deserve their fucking jobs.

    The command structure of the NZDF is quite clear. No one deploys on operations overseas without the direct approval of the Government (Cabinet really). It is also the Government which approves the Status of Forces agreement (SOFA) and Rules of Engagement (ROE) for each and every deployment.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Paul G. Buchanan,

    John:

    It is precisely the SOFA and ROE authorised by the respective governments of the day that was systematically violated by the NZDF (the authorisation of the GCSB to detail personnel to front line positions is more murky). The evidence in the book is pretty damning on this point.

    And well documented and voluminous the evidence is. As I said in my prior post on this thread, the material Mr. Hager has gathered is extremely rich and detailed, comprising a mix of government documents, interviews, wikileaks material, secondary sources and even Facebook records. They are not mere snippets, but are, in fact, near encyclopaedic.

    This leads me to believe that your assertions are made without having read the book and instead are made from having read newspaper reports of its contents. That is no substitute for a full read, and opining without having done so leaves you vulnerable to accusations of being ignorant of the material you comment about. Not a good look.

    I hesitate to use rough language in mixed country, but you sir, appear to be what you you label Mr. Hager to be.

    Singapore/NZ • Since Apr 2011 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to John Holley,

    Sorry but Hager is looking like a twat using ill-informed snippets to come up with wild assertions e.g. command relationships.

    How about you read the book before you make judgments like that, John?

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    From both a strict legal viewpoint and a common-usage one, repeated use of the word "murder" here is...not entirely accurate.

    Yes, sir, control your language. There is a well known precedent of describing murder in the context of international toadying as "national defence". Because NZ is in dire risk from peasants and war lords and jihadists in Afghanistan - several NZers have been killed already (in Afghanistan).

    However, if Gaddafi is ever caught, it will be imperative to change the usage and try him in a kangeroo court for mass murder, and war crimes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8587 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    ''That sort of notion just doesn't sit with being a New Zealander and the constitution that we follow.''
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5551661/Governor-General-attacks-Hager-book-claims
    The GG says we follow a constitution?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Paul G. Buchanan,

    I will be reading it, but some of his statements about command relationships would effectively bring into question every contingent commander's integrity (and senior subordinates). The NZDF is rigorous in training and enforcement of SOFA and ROE for missions and commanders know that any alterations require approval from JFHQ and the Govt.

    It is precisely the SOFA and ROE authorised by the respective governments of the day that was systematically violated by the NZDF (the authorisation of the GCSB to detail personnel to front line positions is more murky). The evidence in the book is pretty damning on this point.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    How about you read the book before you make judgments like that,

    No. I was judging him on his comments yesterday and today on the command status of NZ forces. Status of command is one of the most fundamental principles a commander must maintain and his comments appear to show a fundamental misunderstanding of how it operates.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Solution: send our regional team of murder specialists over, with strict orders to not murder anyone. Wink, wink, nudge nudge. Like those English paratroopers sent to Northern Ireland back in the day.
    Requirements: orders not to murder anyone, plenty of murdering, and confirmation that no one is murdering anyone. Lots of winking, guided tours for the tame journalists, guided missiles for the native ones.

    From both a strict legal viewpoint and a common-usage one, repeated use of the word "murder" here is...not entirely accurate.

    Whilst I mostly agree with the original comment, I agree that use of the word 'murder' is emotive and entirely counter-productive.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Martin Roberts,

    Peacekeeping is a great use of troops, but reconstruction may not be. Troops are not neutral, and once they undertake humanitarian work then the neutrality of NGO teams is thrown into question.

    Slightly off-point, but much the same argument is made very compellingly by James Fergusson in his study of the British army in Helmand. Short version: if you make the decision to deploy a bunch of people trained as hammers, then don't be surprised if they end up telling you they have to deal with a lot of nails in their area of operations...

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Paul G. Buchanan,

    John:

    Hager's beef (as was that of Jon Stephenson) is not with the field commanders or the troops but with the HQ brass. Hager editorialises a bit too much to my liking since I do not share his ideology, but he has been pretty clear about where the blame for the disjuncture between the NZDF rheotric and the reality regarding Afghanistan (and the War on Terrorism) really lies. What is alarming is that PM Key appears to not be concerned that there has been a decade of PR lies and spin coming out of HQ regarding the mission (as defined in the SOFA and ROEs that both Labour and National agreed to at the point of deployment).

    Singapore/NZ • Since Apr 2011 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Dawson, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Whilst I mostly agree with the original comment, I agree that use of the word ‘murder’ is emotive and entirely counter-productive.

    Assuming everyone agrees that there is such a thing as just war, and that it is possible to have such in a war of invasion.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 277 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Don't ever underestimate Nicky Hagar. His books usually have far reaching and significant effects on the New Zealand political scene. I hope this helps NZ get out of this current US war mess and makes us wary of being involved in the future.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2096 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Greg Dawson,

    Assuming everyone agrees that there is such a thing as just war, and that it is possible to have such in a war of invasion.

    That's a whole 'nother oil drum full of off-topic worms...

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Paul G. Buchanan,

    Her Paul, let me get that for you

    the reality regarding Afghanistan (and the War on Terrorism) ARE really lies.

    There, fixed.
    +anyone who thought we sent the SAS there to help build houses is seriously deluded.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4869 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    anyone who thought we sent the SAS there to help build houses is seriously deluded.

    Did anyone think that? I really doubt it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 902 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    Let's be honest - if you were a military commander (Mr Mataparae, for instance) would you want to divulge all your plans for the NZDF and its deployment to a slack-brained lightweight like our current PM?

    He comes across as a glove-puppet with all that "I'm very relaxed about it actually" b/s. And I wonder how much seething Helen Clark is doing these days?

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I hope this helps NZ get out of this current US war mess and makes us wary of being involved in the future

    But who's going to make that happen?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4351 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Paul G. Buchanan,

    Hager editorialises a bit too much to my liking since I do not share his ideology

    He did that a bit in The Hollow Men too -- not everyone regards economic neoliberalism as axiomatically bad -- but there, as, it appears, here, there can be little quarrel with his claims of fact.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18961 posts Report Reply

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