OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Other People's Wars

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  • Sacha, in reply to DeepRed,

    Armstrong comes to Hager's defence.

    Seems a clear enough summary of some key issues (without me having read the source).

    Hager has cut through that pretence with the evidence to prove what has always been surmised - that the real reason for such deployments was not to help the inhabitants of Bamiyan but to impress the hawks in Washington.

    While the information flow from Afghanistan has marginally improved of late, the public's trust in the Defence Force has largely been reciprocated with obfuscation and obstruction.

    The lack of transparency and accountability reached its nadir in the blanking out of large portions of a Government review of the Bamiyan operation sought by Hager under the Official Information Act. This was done on the grounds that revealing those sections would prejudice the security and defence of New Zealand.

    A complete copy later showed the only thing at risk was the credibility and reputation of the Defence Force, so damning was the review's findings.

    When it comes to a political response, however, Hager's efforts are likely to fall on stony ground.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16755 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Only a few pages in, but I liked this quote from the introduction:

    Military soldiers should not talk about soldiers dying to protect freedom and democracy on the battlefield if they are not prepared to defend those ideals when they brief politicians, take a call from a journalist or receive a request under the Official Information Act.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 902 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, 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.

    It remains a fact, though, that we have the term murder as a specific descriptor for unlawful killing, and we can have an all-day argument about the lawfulness of the war in Afghanistan - and the necessity of New Zealand having an SAS-style group, or a military, at all - but describing the SAS offhand as "murderers" is both incorrect and hyperbolic. "Killers" would be entirely accurate. That's quite often their job. But murder, sort of by definition, isn't.

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

  • Hamboy,

    Who's selling the book?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 162 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Dawson, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    It remains a fact, though, that we have the term murder as a specific descriptor for unlawful killing

    Fair. The whole thing is massively tangential to the point of this thread anyway (which I shouldn't have encouraged).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 277 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to 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?

    Well, that raises an interesting question. Let's flip the point around: if you were a military commander, would you want to divulge all your plans to a greenie tree-hugging unionist proto-commie, just because they happened to be PM, or in cabinet as defence minister?

    There are plenty of current politicians who cut their teeth in radical movements back in the 1960's and '70's, several of whom have accumulated quite extensive Intellegence Service files.

    So: when, if ever, is it appropriate for the military to act independently and withold information from the government of the day?

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

  • Paul G. Buchanan,

    Answer to Rich's question, succinctly: never. It is the defining attirbute of democratic civil-military relations that, for better or worse, the security agencies subordinate themselves to the government of the day, everday, even if speaking in generalities as I have mentioned above. Misleading and lying to the civilian elected leadership strikes to the heart of democratic governance.

    I have personal professional experience with this issue at some length, and must say that comments like Rich's make me dispair over the quality of democratic knowledge in NZ society. Plus, here again, it is clear that Rich has not read the book so is allowing his ideological prejudices to speak for him. To which I say: forget the messenger, concentrate on the facts as outlined in the book that you have not read. Geez.

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

  • Rich Lock,

    A little harsh, Paul. Asking a question to which you personally already have an answer is quite a well-known rhetorical device intended to provoke thought in the mind of the one or ones to whom the question is addressed. It does not necessarily indicate that the one asking the question wants or requires an answer.

    For the record: Personal answer = never.

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

  • Paul G. Buchanan,

    Ok Rich. Understood now. Given the vilification that Hager is being subjected to bythe government and its lap dogs like Espiner and Small (who seem to think that their all expenses paid PR junkets to a secure bubble in Afghanistan qualify them as war correspondents), I feel compelled to jump in to defend what is a meticulously researched book. And again: I do not share, by a country mile, Hager's ideology. I just repsect honest reporting (sans the editorialising).

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

  • Stewart, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Sorry, Rich, I should have been a little clearer and appeared a little less partisan.
    I was more rejecting of John Key's smiley-wavey dismissal of the book's claims (I haven't read the book yet) about the apparent systemic disconnect between what the NZDF has been getting up to and what they have been telling their 'political masters'.

    Not really limiting it to the incumbents as I am given to understand that there have been both army and navy actions that were taken against the express wishes of the current National and the previous Labour governments.

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

  • Stewart,

    And agreeing that it is never appropriate for the military to act independently and withold information from the government of the day.

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

  • Angus Robertson,

    But the twist is that the source of the deception/obfustication (depending on how generous you are) wasn't politicians, but the military itself. That it "blurred" reports which went up the chain of command, kept ministers in the dark and undermined or ignored government directives.

    Because politicians are always honest brokers in how they present controversial actions in unpopular wars. Yeah right.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Dunster,

    Looking forward to how Metro magazine joins their campaign to this one.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to George Darroch,

    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.

    Except Hager doesn't challenge the government, he's apparently written a book (I haven't read it) blaming the Defence Force.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    Good point, very telling the responses from the Govt. and the military hierarchy.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Except Hager doesn’t challenge the government, he’s apparently written a book (I haven’t read it) blaming the Defence Force.

    I'm challenging the Government, for waving it away, and Phil Goff, for soft-pedaling everything. Neither wants an incident, neither wants the heat to come on this particular area of civil-military relations, and we can only speculate as to why.

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

  • Ian MacKay,

    Thinking of places like Egypt. (Or USA?) Was that a good example of the Generals being the decision makers with or without the oversight of the politicians? Is it therefore wise to have autonomous Armed Forces in a Demoracy?
    Maybe the answer is to stick to the problems that a tiny South Pacific country can handle effectively.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    Regarding murder, yes, war is. Can't see how such a notion is off-topic in a discussion of how soldiers are behaving in a war. Seems specifically on-topic when said soldiers are disobeying the proper chain of command in order to get some more murder done; because they were embarrassed about not having killed enough people yet.

    Just wars? Please. Wars are fought over resources, not justice.

    Since Nov 2006 • 480 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews, in reply to Hamboy,

    Who's selling the book?

    In Christchurch, Scorpio. Bought one there on Friday.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 642 posts Report Reply

  • Brian Murphy, in reply to philipmatthews,

    Who’s selling the book?

    Whitcoulls in St Lukes, in New Zealand books, not big promo.

    And yes it is an interesting book given the lack of media inquiry about what goes on.

    I think Mr Hager is right, East Timor, the Solomons and Bosnia were involvements where us NZ public had a feeling we were contributing to the greater good. Despite having great people on the ground, this does not seem to be the case in Afghanistan.

    A bit of up front honesty from the pollies would be great.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    been there, drone that...
    Here's a glimpse of what the Aussie soldiers do 'over there' in other people's wars, from the Sydney Morning Herald

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5046 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Brian Murphy,

    Who’s selling the book?

    Unity Books, in Wellington (of course).

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 662 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Dunster,

    Having now read the book (bought from Parsons Art Bookstore by Auckland Art Gallery) the main thing I take away is Nicky's assertion that the defence area is a law unto itself, which includes the civilian aspects of the 'industry.' With an election looming it behoves us all to think long and hard about whether we, as citizens, are happy with the way the country is behaving. I don't agree with every aspect of Nicky's perspective but there is more than sufficient documentation for us all to remember to take personal responsibility for the way we vote, at the very least.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    A song...

    Masters of War. Pearl Jams version....

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1497 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Graham Dunster,

    I agree, and there is also the question of considerable expenditure, the influencing of considerable expenditure. Can we afford to play war with USA? How much are we spending on these reconstruction events?
    For example using our frigates without authorization (alleged), how much did that cost to deploy?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

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